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Deciding on tenants

New landlord here.  Just finished renovating basement for a studio/mother-in-law space with private entrance in Washington DC suburbs .  I have two applicants-  each with good credit and rental history.  How do you choose between two applicants that are equally qualified?   Since I am a first time landlord I am leaning to the mature woman going through a separation who is willing to pay 2 months in advance but the 24 year old college grad is fully qualified and feels to me as a good tenant.  Left brain/right brain kind of stuff.  My gut tells me the 24 year old because he was the first to reply but my brain tells me the mature woman because she is the better risk.  Any thoughts?

This is where Fair Housing can come into play. Make sure that the criteria that you use is not in anyway discriminating, especially based on age. I would go with job longevity, debt to income ratio. These are good factors to use when two applicants are so close.
Denise is right, you can't discriminate based on age etc (which it doesn't exactly sound like you are). You have the right to pretty much make the decision you want, just because one comes in before another doesn't give them the first right to the place. Other criteria you may want to consider - how long do you expect them to live there, employment situations (stability of the company can be big) and other financial factors. It sounds like you've already made the decision on who is the "better risk", as you said it yourself, the trick is to force yourself to accept that and make sure you have weighed out the applications as best as you can on the information presented. Then like any other business... roll with it and know you made the best decision you could have. Good luck!
Thanks Denise and Eric.  The job longevity was something I had not thought about.  Thanks.  And thank you Eric for the very helpful post.  You were absoluetly correct in the "roll with it".  As a first timer it is always difficult to know if you made the right choice.  but you were right in that I just have to make a decision and live with it. Someone will always be dissapointed.  Thanks again.    
I've been wondering about this too. Could you please take a minute to do this survey about selecting the right tenant?  Thanks!
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