I bought my first rental property in 2003. It was a 3 bedroom townhouse in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood. I had shown it to a client who didn’t like the 50’s feel of it. She didn’t love it, but I did, so I bought it and became an instant landlord. My first challenge (and fear) was how to screen for tenants. A fellow realtor referred me to ACR-Advance Credit Reports (ACR) in Matteson. I set up an account with them, and they provided me with legally compliant tenant application forms that you can have tenants fill out. Simply fax the completed application forms and ACR will run a “Tenant Qualifier” in a matter of hours. It includes a credit report, civil records, inquiries and residence history. For a nominal additional fee they will call employers and former landlords. For an extra charge you can run a criminal background check.

In 2004, I added a new partner, when I married my husband Keith, and he joined me land lording. We purchased a second townhouse in the same complex as the first one. By then the marketing process had evolved, using a combination sources I found that good tenants come from a variety of places. Start the recipe with postings on Craig’s list, add Chicago Reader Classified, and for maximum exposure list the rental property with Keller Williams Realty, who automatically posts the listing to many, many rental websites, including Hot Pads, Enormo, Trulia, Zillow and Domu to name a few. All at once it is posted. My most recent tenants have come from HotPads and Domu. I always use professional photographs in my ads and even hired a virtual tour company to take the shots and draw the floorplans.

Maggie Finegan, ABR, Move with Maggie Chicago Real Estate Team