Renting out your real estate properties is a great way to make money – in almost any market. But if you’re just starting out, there are some pitfalls you need to be aware of. One of the costliest is tenant turnover.

To keep your units rented (and your cash flowing), you have to keep your tenants happy – and that starts with charging realistic rental rates. So before you place your “For Rent” advertisement, there’s some easy market research you can (and should) do.

To make sure you aren’t asking too much, or too little, learn what similar units are renting for within about a half-mile. Check for units that are of comparable type (condo, house, basement suite, etc.), comparable size (1 bedroom, 2 bedrooms), and comparable quality. To get these figures quickly and easily, check out:

  • Your local paper’s online classified section
  • Craigslist (craigslist.org)
  • Rentometer (rentometer.com) – an online rental comparison tool with great U.S. and Canada content
  • Viewit.ca in Canada

Craigslist tends to have the most rental units advertised at any given time. Because it’s free, just about every landlord seems to post ads on Craigslist these days. The problem with using Craigslist as a comparison tool – for landlords and for renters looking for a new place to live – has always been its simple forum-like format. It’s a pain to sort through the long list to find available rentals in a specific area.

But now that’s no longer a problem. A clever developer created a program that plots the local rentals on Craigslist onto Google Maps. MapsKrieg www.mapskrieg.com/view/) is currently limited to the major cities in North America – but for those cities, you can search a specific area and see all the Craigslist rental ads. No more scrolling through lists, cross-referencing with other maps to find comparable units on your street or on neighboring streets.

[Ed. Note: Renting properties is a great way to make extra cash in any market. For more strategies to make money with rental property, sign up for Internet Money Club member and real estate investor Julie Broad’s free monthly newsletter.]

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