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How to Find a Great Rental Property

Looiing to find a great rental property? There are several methods to help you achieve your goal of finding a profitable investment property. Some you probably already know of; others may come as a surprise. For this blog, I interviewed six veteran property investors who shared their methods of finding residential rental properties. The overview includes:

  1. Realtors & the MLS
  2. Direct Mail
  3. Distressed properties
  4. Distressed landlords
  5. Real estate meetups, real estate forums, real estate networking groups
  6. Kijiji, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace
  7. Word of mouth/referrals

1.      Realtors & the MLS to find a rental property

The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is available online and displays all homes listed by realtors Canada-wide. Before you get all excited about shopping online, the Canadian Real Estate Boards and Associations own the listing service. You will need to go through a realtor to access the information. You can do that by choosing a realtor, provide your criteria, and they will send you links to comparable properties. Or, you can get your real estate license – some property investors go that route. From there, crunch your numbers and create a shortlist. Then call your realtor and set up showings.

Alvin C, Calgary, owns 8 doors in Calgary, Alberta

“I don’t really trust realtors, so I found the properties on my own by looking through listings.”

If you want to bypass working with realtors and check out properties on your own, several real estate sites allow you to access MLS listings – is one such site. If you’re wondering what the difference is between MLS listings and realtor sites that include MLS listings – here is’s direct explanation;

“MLS® Systems are cooperative selling systems operated by real estate Boards and Associations in Canada. They are accessible to REALTOR® Members of those Boards and Associations who have agreed to represent your interests and share remuneration from the transaction with a cooperating REALTOR® Member. MLS® Systems contain detailed information and numerous search tools, all designed to match people with the properties that fit their exact requirements.”

What’s the difference? displays residential and commercial listings from REALTORS® across the country. It is important to note that is not an MLS® System. It is an advertising website that The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) created to give REALTORS® across Canada greater listing exposure to a national and international audience.

The listing content advertised on comes from the various MLS® Systems operated by Real Estate Boards and Associations across Canada. is paid for by REALTORS® and is owned and operated in their interest by CREA.

Other popular Canadian real estate sites include;

Stephen from Vancouver owns 6 properties, 7 doors in Alberta and BC.

“I used a realtor and chose the location based on Don Campbell’s (REIN ) advice of where to buy in Edmonton.”                                                  

Connie and Dave from Red Deer, Alberta, own one 4-plex and 2 duplexes’ in Red Deer, Alberta

“We looked on the internet but also had a really good realtor, an acquaintance, who knew the original builder of the 4-plex. He was motivated to sell. We also bought our duplexes from the same realtor.”

Dan from Calgary owns 3 doors in Calgary.

“Originally, we went through the MLS, and when we found the property we wanted to buy, we called the listing realtor.”

Tim from North Vancouver owns 7 doors in Calgary, Alberta, and Fernie, BC.

“I do work with a realtor but look them up on my own first with, then tell the realtor which houses I want to see. When I come into town, I look at 4-6 properties and buy one.”

2.      Finding a rental property with direct mail

Have you ever gotten a letter in your mailbox or a card attached to your doorknob asking if you wanted to sell your house from one of those “we buy houses” type businesses? Those are direct mailouts. Typically, direct mail targets people in a financial crisis. Selling their house provides a solution to their problem (motivated sellers). Direct mail is a technique wholesalers and house flippers use. Direct mail is like cold marketing – done frequently and over time it makes people build up enough trust to call you or remember you at the precise moment they choose to act.

3.      Driving through neighborhoods to find a rental property

A couple of years ago, I attended a Rent-to-own workshop. The instructors at that workshop recommended driving through neighborhood  where you want to buy a rental property. Then  you find the worst house on the best street. When they found these types of houses, they got out of their car, knocked on the door, and talked to the owners to see if they were interested in selling. Or, they left a note on their door or mailbox. Door knocking works well for people who want to deal directly with the property owners and want to find less conventional buying/selling methods.

4.      Distressed landlords

Unfortunately, there is no distressed landlord directory. You probably knew that already. Finding rental properties these poor own people falls into the word of mouth/referral category. However, there are landlords (many!) who had terrible experiences with tenants and want to get out of the business. Some landlords do not have the skill set to find qualified tenants, and they’re worn out from trying. These folks are motivated to sell.

5.      Real estate meetups, forums, networks, marketplaces that focus on rental properties

More than one of our investor friends has found a rental property through real estate forums, networks, and meetups. Many of these groups have online bulletin boards where members post listings. During the actual meetings, members exchange information about listings. There are always people wanting to sell properties or partner to buy properties.

6.      Kijiji, Craigslist, FB Marketplace

Shelley, the investor we interviewed who owned 150 doors, bought some of her first rental properties by posting ads in newspapers. These days, people post ads online. Some sites are more popular than others. Poke around online, ask other investors, and you’ll find the right places to advertise for a rental property.

Shelley Hagan owned 96- 150 doors in Las Vegas, Phoenix, New Orleans, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Quebec

“Initially, we started posting ads in newspapers (in Canada), and also worked with a real estate brokerage that specialized in investment properties/investors.”

7.      Word of Mouth

Tell everybody what you want! You truly never know how or where you’ll find a great rental property deal. Most investors said they looked for deals for their first houses. After people found out they were buying, deals found them. Tell people at work, tell your family, tell your BNI members, your Rotary buddies, your dog walking meetup, your hiking buddies, and your book club. People don’t know what you want until you tell them, so tell them you’re looking for a rental property.

Shelly Hagan,

“Our lawyer helped us find sellers who wanted to do vendor takebacks. We started buying packages of houses. As soon as we paid off the hard money lenders, he began sending friends who sent us more vendor takebacks.”


There are many ways to find great deals on rental properties including these seven. Here’s the summary of the seven most common methods:

1. Realtors & the MLS

2. Direct Mail

3. Distressed properties

4. Distressed landlords

5. Real estate meetups, forums, networks

6. Kijiji, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace

7. Word of mouth/referrals

These seven methods for finding a rental property are a good starting point, and keeping your eyes and ears open will help you discover your ways to find great deals on rental investment properties.

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Nelda Schulte is a property investor who is passionate about helping investors who self-manage have profitable investment properties through resources and education.  If you struggle with the wrong landlord forms, or worse yet, no landlord forms check out Nelda’s 10  Essential Editable Landlord Forms that help you separate the good tenants from the bad and increase your property’s profitability.

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