Category Archives: Renting My House FAQ

9 Tasks Every Landlord Should Be Prepared to Handle

The business of owning a rental property requires a diverse skill set. Before you can decide whether to manage your own rental or hire a property management company to take care of it for you, it’s important to have a solid understanding of what a landlord’s key tasks are. While you likely already have a general idea of what’s required, here’s a more in-depth look at the things you’ll need to be prepared to handle:

Getting the property ready to rent: This involves ensuring that your property is free from safety hazards; that all major systems are in good working order; and that the home is sparkling clean, with fresh paint applied and new flooring installed as needed. You may want to have your house professionally inspected, cleaned, and landscaped as part of this process.

    • Pricing the rental: Each time you rent your house out, you’ll need to conduct a market study to determine how to set the rent. This will involve visiting several comparable properties in your area to get a sense of how your property stacks up and how you should price it.
    • Establishing policies and procedures + writing the lease: Before you start advertising and showing your rental house, it’s important to think through how you want to structure your lease. The major items to consider include lease length, what deposits you’ll require, and whether or not you’ll allow pets and/or smoking. You also need to think through the details, such as when rent is due and when “late” fees apply, how long “guests” can stay in the rental w/o being added to the lease, who is responsible for repairs of various types, etc. If you’re not using a professional property manager, you may want to consult with a real estate lawyer to make sure your lease adequately protects your interests.
    • Advertising and showing the property: Once you’ve done all the necessary prep work, you’ll need to advertise your rental and be available to answer phone calls and to show the property to interested tenants. You may want to consider holding an open house to make showing the property more efficient.
    • Screening and selecting tenants: This step involves running credit checks, background checks, verifying employment/monthly income, and checking personal references in order to to select the best tenant.
    • Collecting rent: While this is most landlords’ favorite part of the job, things can get tense quickly if you have a tenant who frequently pays late or asks for special arrangements to be made. When you self-manage a rental property, tenants know that you can bend the rules for them at your discretion, which may lead them to try to negotiate their rent payment schedule with you.
    • Handling routine and emergency maintenance: As a landlord, you’re legally required to maintain a “safe and habitable” place for your tenants to live. You should be prepared to handle routine maintenance on your home’s major systems (such as changing furnace filters, keeping gutters clear, etc). You’ll also need to respond promptly to any maintenance issues that arise.
    • Dealing with any lease violations: Whether the neighbors complain about excessive noise, a puppy appears when the lease agreement specifies that no pets are allowed, or your tenant is late with the rent, you’ll need to be prepared to take corrective action.
    • Handling record keeping, accounting, and tax preparation: Owning a rental home is running a business. You’ll need to keep proper records of your revenue and expenses for tax purposes, as well as for your own financial health.
| April 24, 2012 More

How long will it take to rent my house out?

Happy renters riding bikesWaiting to fill a vacant rental can be a stressful time for a new landlord. Every day that your house sits empty is a day of lost rent…and those days and dollars can add up quickly. Still, it’s important to remember that vacancies are a normal part of owning rental property—and to of the have reasonable expectations about the length of time it will take to go from posting your “For Rent” sign to getting your rental house leased.

Depending on the specifics of your property and its location, property management companies can generally rent a house within 30-60 days. For DIY landlords, it’s not unusual for it to take up to twice that long to fill a vacant rental house. Regardless of which route you choose, here are some factors that will affect how long it will take to rent your house:

    • Location: Simply put, the more desirable the location, the more quickly your house will rent. Most locations have both positive and negative aspects, but in general, the relative ease of access to major places of employment, shopping, restaurants, and good schools—as well as the relative charm of the neighborhood—will have a substantial impact on how quickly you rent your house.
    • Price: If you’ve priced your rent at the top of the scale for your area, it may take you longer to find a renter. On the flip-side, slightly underpricing your rental will likely bring you renters more quickly (be careful with this tactic, though, as it may attract more under-qualified renters.)
    • Condition of the property: Properties that are in pristine condition with lots of trendy upgrades will likely be snapped up by eager renters much more quickly than the average property.
    • Terms of the lease: The less restrictive your lease, the easier it will be to find someone to rent your home. Allowing pets, smoking, and/or a lease term of less than a year may help you secure a renter more quickly.
    • Time of year: Most landlords schedule leases to end in the spring and summer months, as this is when most people prefer to move. With more people looking to rent during these times, you’ll likely rent your house more quickly during the warmer months of the year, especially if you live in a region that experiences harsh winter weather.
    • Strength of your advertising: The more aggressive you are with your advertising, the more likely you are to rent your house quickly. Mailing flyers to the neighbors, holding open houses, and putting the word out to your network while asking friends and family to do the same are all good ways to supplement your Craigslist ad.

Want to know more about how long it will likely take to rent your specific property? Consult with a property manager in your area.

| April 18, 2012 More

How much rent can I charge?

Setting rentPricing your rental house is one of the more important tasks you’ll face as a landlord. Getting top dollar for your rental is important when it comes to meeting your financial goals for the property; however, if you set the rent too high, you’ll likely have to weather longer-than-average vacancies—and you may also face high turnover rates as renters seek more budget-friendly options.

Many first-time landlords choose to consult with a property manager when it comes to determining how much rent to charge, as professional property managers often have deep insight into specific rental markets and know how a given rental house stacks up compared to others with similar features. Whether you use a professional rental agent or go the DIY route, you’ll need to know how to compare your property to others on the market in order to set the right price.

Here are some things to be sure to take into account when determining how much rent to charge.

Location and nearby amenities
For obvious reasons, the location of your rental house is one of the main determining factors in how much rent you can charge. The more sought-after the neighborhood where your rental is located, the more rent you can charge. While every desirable neighborhood has a unique mix of characteristics that make it a prime location, here are a few things that great neighborhoods tend to have:

  • Close proximity to employment
  • Good schools
  • Nearby shopping and restaurants
  • Ample parks or green space
  • Nicely maintained houses and landscaping
  • Overall charm

Main features
When pricing your rental, the first things to look at are the most basic aspects of the property such as:

  • Bedrooms and bathrooms: The number of bedrooms and bathrooms your rental has fundamentally affects how many people it can accommodate and how comfortable they will be.
  • Size and shape of the property: There can be vast differences between properties with the same number of bedrooms and bathrooms. A 900-square-foot two-bedroom, two-bath cottage is not the same as a 1500-square-foot house with additional basement storage space. Likewise, the attractiveness and practicality of your rental’s floor plan will come into play when it comes to how much rent you can charge.
  • Overall condition of the home: The closer your rental is to new condition, the more you can charge.

Finish levels
The relative level of luxury your unit offers will also impact the amount of rent you can charge. Most renters expect “standard” rental units to be well-kept, with reasonably up-to-date—if basic—interior finishes. If your rental house features tiles and cabinetry from the 1960s, you’ll probably need to charge a bit less than the average going rate for a comparable space. On the flip side, if your home is full of trendy upgrades, you may be able to command a higher than average rent price.

Here are some features that may allow you to charge premium rent, especially if you offer four or five of these items.

  • Wood and/or tile floors
  • Attractive cabinetry
  • Granite counter tops
  • New appliances
  • Dishwasher and garbage disposal
  • In-unit laundry
  • Spacious closets
  • High ceilings
  • Energy efficient windows

Professional management
Keep in mind that using a property management company is not only a major convenience for you, the rental owner—it adds significant peace of mind for your tenants, as well.  Renters are likely to pay more when they know that any issues that arise will be dealt with promptly and fairly by a dedicated professional manager.

| April 13, 2012 More