Real Estate

Screening Tenants – Advertising And Showings

This post is part of a five-part series about tenants leaving a condo and finding and screening the new tenants:


I’ve touched on this in previous posts, and on comments on other blogs, but I’m a big believer in free advertising when it comes to renting out apartments in Toronto (other markets may be different, but in Toronto, for apartments, you can get enough applicants on the free sites).  I recommend posting ads on Craigslist (in “apts/housing for rent“) and Kijiji (in “apartments for rent”).  Both sites have filters to prevent you from reposting the same ad in a set period of time, but they’re pretty easy to get around (just make some superficial changes to your ad).  Worst case scenario, if it matches the ads together, take down the old ad and re-post a new one every few days.  The reason why you want to repost (and fight the system to do so) is that people will just look back through a certain number of ads and you want your apartment to be in the part they look through (the first ones!  they’re ordered reverse chronologically).

Kijiji sells “priority placement” and will also sell you the ability to move your ad back to the top.  I’ve never used either of these features (if anyone has and they care to comment I’d love to hear your experience).

In terms of the ad, there aren’t any limits to space (that I know of), so there’s no reason to use the crazy newspaper short forms:  e.g. “2 br, 2 ba, part furn”).  Both sites allow pictures, so it’s well worth including some!  I can never understand why some people leave out information (like the rental price!).  I include EVERYTHING I think might be relevant:  pictures, extensive description, all amenities, map of the area, rental price, nearby stores, etc, etc, etc.

Typically I also make up a website which I can direct people to from the ad (officially you aren’t supposed to do this with Kijiji, but again it’s pretty easy to get around).  I’ll copy and past from the website when I’m re-posting ads to one of the sites.

You may feel more “bound” by the sites’ terms of service than I do, in which case feel free to only post once, don’t link to an external website, etc.

There are a number of other sites, some for pay and others that are free.  I posted on all the free ones I could find, but I still found all my leads came from Craigslist or Kijiji.  Doing a Google search on “toronto apartment rental” will probably turn up most of the other sites if you decide it’s worth advertising as broadly as (freely) possible.


When showing the unit, at first I felt a bit weird walking around, gesturing grandly and saying “now please turn your attention to the lovely Corinthian banister”.  In part, because I don’t think Corinthian banisters exist, in part because even if they do exist my unit certainly doesn’t have one and in part because that it just isn’t my style.  When I was first showing my unit, my friend suggested that I feel free to point out any nice features of the apartment, and limit my “selling” to that.  I would have a standard walk around the building pointing out amenities, then I’d show them around the unit and do the same thing there.  I learned a few set responses to common complaints / criticisms such as:

  • “No, there isn’t central air conditioning, but you’re welcome to put in window air conditioning, and since you don’t pay for utilities, there won’t be any monthly fees”
  • “No, there isn’t a dishwasher, but you’re welcome to hook up a portable dishwasher to the sink”
  • “Yes, it is an older building.  Typically you either get a new condo with small units and fancy amenities, or older building with lots of space and fewer amenities.”
  • “No, there isn’t a second bathroom” (I could never think of a better response to this one”)

I foolishly would make appointments with individual applicants when I rented the first time, and it was madness (I spent a couple weeks constantly running back and forth to the condo).  This time I set out a 6 hour block, and told people that’s when they could come.  People who couldn’t make it, I told them I’d keep their contact info and let them know if I arranged another showing.  I did it over a weekend, got a good applicant, had them fall through (more about that in a future post), then did showings over a 2nd weekend and got another good applicant that stuck.

Two Wise Acres (which sadly has become defunct) has a hilarious post “How to manage prospective tenants efficiently, effectively and without killing them“.  I think I got every one of these other than the murderer (which, if you’re going to avoid one of them, that’s the one to avoid).

One thing that is AMAZING to me is how cavalierly people will not show up for appointments, and never call to say so.  My only theory is that it’s a chance for people to “stick it” to a landlord with no fear of repercussion (or maybe people are just ruder than I believe).

Sometimes I’d get phone calls or e-mails from people with INCREDIBLY complex lives and problems, (e.g. I’m moving back to the country and don’t have any rental history, I’m in Edmonton and need you to hold the apartment for me for a week while I book a flight to come see it, I’m going to start school near Casa Loma – which is NOWHERE NEAR the condo you’re renting, but for some reason I’ve decided to move to your part of the city instead).  On other rental issues, Alexandra and Rachelle had each summarized their feelings as “that’s not your problem” when I was asking how to deal with awkward situations with tenants and applicants.  I’m not sure if these people were scam artists or genuine people in a difficult circumstance, but I only went out of my way to a certain limit to accommodate people who had a unique situation and wanted to view the unit.  I think “it’s not my problem” is a reasonable mantra when people start trying to suck you into their drama.

Thanks again to Rachelle and Alexandra ! More details in future posts…

10 replies on “Screening Tenants – Advertising And Showings”

“Corinthian banister” – Lol.

One answer for the 2nd bathroom query could be “You should be happy with one bathroom” – or “Be happy you have one!”

You say you show the unit over a six hour period…I do something similar. I book all my showings for exactly the same day and time. I do this for three reasons:

*respect for my own time (as you pointed out, it’s amazing how many people will arrange an appointment and not show up or even bother to phone)
*concern for my safety (I am a woman and usually attend showings alone)
*to create a ‘buzz’ so that potential tenants will see there is demand for the unit and will be more likely to fill in a rental application before they leave.

I have used Kijiji, Craigslist and local newspapers (expensive) to advertise available units. By far the largest response usually comes from Kijiji and I have never paid to incresase the visibility of my ads. I always post as many photos as the site will allow – people really want to see pictures of the place.

@Dana I really like your idea of scheduling everyone at the same time. Most people don’t really need a guided tour, plus people will arrive at different times anyway.

I too, have used Kijiji and Craigslist in the past…worked great for us. Photos of the place are huge, otherwise, you’ll get thumped by the competition.

I’m not too surprised that people don’t show up for appointments, I’ve had that happen to me. These people are renting after all and looking out for themselves; not you Mr. prospective landlord. It doesn’t make it right, just disrespectful and reality. *sigh*

No, there isn’t a second bathroom, but how can you be in two places at once?

Good luck, I hope you find a good tenant!

I use a combo IQ test and time saver. Potential tenants must call and confirm one hour before the appointment. If they don’t call I won’t go. I prefer to meet people individually so I can get to know them better and check them out.

I also use use craigslist, hate kijiji for their incessant spam. Posting photos is a good way to get more visibility. For paid ads, View-it is the best. A professional photographer comes to take pictures and they look much better than the ones I take. Then I link the craigslist to viewit. It’s only $60 per month.

Next time your place comes up for rent while the tenant is still living there you already have good pictures. So you have a better chance of renting it without any vacancy.

Unless the property has current tenants stuff in it, I let people walk around on their own. I use in-house advertising in the property instead of highlighting things. On yellow paper in large letters I post information about the property (Check out the view from here – Cetral Air Conditioning – etc etc) and then use sticky tack to put them up. I also setup more than one showing at the same time or within 5 minutes, and use a phone confirmation method. The in-house advertising works well for open house method of showing properties or multiple showings.

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