For the last few years, I’ve been paving a path – just chipping away at the bit. Somewhere along the way, I saw a common theme with people gaining financial freedom. They were doing it much earlier than what is considered “normal” – and they were invested in real estate. This led me to list my rental on Zillow.
Choosing The Rental Property
I knew I wanted to try real estate at least once, but with no real experience and hearing so many horror stories – it seemed daunting. My first step was to choose an area that made sense. Then I lived in that property for two years instead of renting.
By moving 20 minutes away and not renting – I ended up saving quite a bit of money per month – going from a 1 bedroom for $1850 per month down to $1150 for a 2 bedroom condo (with a hefty down payment). Had I not put the down payment, it probably would have been closer to a $1350 range. These numbers include both the HOA fees along with mortgage and taxes.
Figuring Out The Listing Price
The property I bought was originally posted on Zillow – which is how I found it in the first place. Occasionally, I would look up the property value to see if it had changed. I decided to list my rental on Zillow because of the familiarity.
Looking in my desired area – I noticed properties with a range of prices. Since the listing was already previously on Zillow for sale – being an owner, you can claim the property. Then I had access to the listings pictures, description, and just modified it to fit a rental property instead of a sale.
Zillow provides you a general estimate of what it thinks you can get for rent – it’s called a zestimate. My property was estimated at $1500 rental price. The city documents said $1600 was a more reasonable estimate – but I’m not going to split hairs.
With the $1500 rental and the $1150 all in costs – the padding is roughly $350 a month. There is a tax hike for not living in the property so the padding ends up closer to $300 a month. Still, it made sense to rent out the property – have a $300 cushion – and still pay down the 15 year mortgage.
Using Zillow To Find & Screen Tenants
If you visit the Zillow homepage – you’ll see it has a “list your rental” option on the top right of the page.
If you bought your property and it was listed on Zillow, that information is already stored. Zillow allows you to use the listings photos and description. I did that and just modified pictures with any additional updates and modified the description to fit a rental.
After listing the property and setting a price – you’re pretty much set to go! There is an additional feature, when listing, to allow applicants to apply directly from the rental listing page.
Once activated – potential tenants can pay to apply and you receive their credit and background check. This means you don’t have to pay a service to screen them, which was super convenient. Just another reason I decided to list my rental on Zillow.
Choosing The “Right” Tenants
This was really tough because timing was critical on my end. At the time, I was moving and in order to make things seamless – had to have renters in by the time I moved out.
We screened several tenants and showed the place to a handful more. It ended up taking about 3 weeks to find the “right” tenants. Handling online appointments is tricky business if you’re not free to show your property. You’re likely lose out on a potential renter.
The renters moved in the day after I moved out , which was stressful, but worked out really well.
Walk-through And Rental Payments
Again, Zillow to the rescue! They include a free downloadable move-in checklist, which I used for the tenants the day they moved in. I handed them the keys once the papers were signed with deposit in hand.
What about payments then? Take a guess – Zillow!
We accepted first months rent and deposit by cashier’s check – but after that it’s just been online payments. Zillow allowed me to send an email to the tenants after filling out my bank information so that they could do the same and submit online rental payments. Seems to work like a charm. The only hiccup is that you have to wait about a week until the payments clear into your account – but hey, it’s free!
I know Zillow isn’t everywhere, but it definitely worked in the Chicago area. Where I had concerns or doubts – somehow Zillow had most of the answers. I have no affiliation with them. They made it easier to dip my toes into the rental property business.
It’s been a few months and there’s been no issues. For now, I’m going to call this a success story. Here’s to hoping it stays that way!
Be Sure To Check Out – I’m Finally Becoming A Landlord!