I have been on both sides of property management. I’ve been a renter on and off for the past 10 years, and a homeowner in those off years. I’ve worked for property management companies, and I’ve managed a property of my own. There is very little that surprises me anymore about owners, management companies, or renters. About once a year I hear of something that lifts my eyebrow.
Recently, my husband’s company once again is having us move. We were living in Colorado Springs, and we needed to live someplace temporarily before the cross-country move coming up in two-three months. The place we are temporarily living at has inspired me to write this piece.
Most homeowners whether it is a house, condo, apartment, multi-family dwelling, or loft, bought the property with the intention of building up their assets and using the property as a part of their retirement portfolio. Some folks in the last two years have found themselves in a unique situation stuck in a balloon mortgage or other unfortunate mortgage deal which left them with two choices; one of them being rent it out and wait for the market to improve before selling it.
If you are thinking about buying a property to rent, this is THEE time to buy. If you are currently a property manager single or working with a company, here are some things you need to know.
I will start with basic maintenance. No joke, it has to happen if you want to maintain your property and keep it rentable for years to come. What do I mean by basic maintenance? Here’s a list.
- When an old tenant moves out, verify that it has been cleaned to an acceptable level before returning a security deposit. What is acceptable? Lay down on the floor. If you are willing to do that, then it is probably acceptable. Think about the next tenant moving in. Will they have kids? Would you feel comfortable letting your kids play on the floor, touch the window sills, the blinds, or play under the cabinets in a game of hide-and-seek? If the answer is no, you have two options: hire it out to a professional cleaning company, or two, bring in your own cleaning supplies and spend a few hours checking everything.
- Have HVAC filters changed every 3-6 months. HVAC systems are expensive. Keep them running well, and providing clean air to the tenants living there. If you can’t get over there that often, leave some filters behind and show the tenants how to change them. Ask they do so in the timeframe you are asking.
- If you want to go above and beyond, install a water filter. Change the filter every 6 months.
- Have carpets cleaned once a year at a minimum. It is not uncommon for property owners to ask that when a tenant leaves, they provide a receipt for carpet cleaning, or understanding that fee will be taken out of the deposit. Let’s face it, stains happen. If stains have not come out with basic carpet cleaning, replace them. For the health and safety for your new tenants, and the overall appearance of your property.
- Go through after each tenant and fix nail holes, scuff marks, or other minor dings and dents with spackle and matching paint.
- Wash windows and mirrors.
- Dust and wash (if needed) light fixtures. Check all light bulbs and replace any that are out.
- If you have a cleaning company come through after a tenant leaves, do a walk-through of your own. Don’t get ripped off or have new tenants calling you because items still weren’t cleaned property. This is usually true of ovens, microwaves, light fixtures and blinds.
- Test the smoke detectors and carbon-monoxide detectors (required in Colorado). Replace batteries if needed.
- Own a ladder or rent or borrow one to get to high up places such as high windows, architectural soffits, eaves, and roofs.
- Have a lawn mower at the property so tenants came mow if that is expected of them, or hire a company to come by once a week or as needed to mow and maintain the landscaping. Curb appeal is everything in real estate, and as a investment property owner, this is no different.
Believe it or not, renters talk. If you are interested in keeping your property filled, you will do well to keep it well maintained. People moving in regard this as their home. With any home you want to invite friends and family over. With a well-maintained home you can really impress others who may recommend that property after the tenants move out.
The second largest piece to this is doing your due diligence and confirming the credibility of your future resident. Background checks, calling and verifying references, verifying funds for a security deposit or asking for first and last month’s rent is completely acceptable and can protect you in the long run. Trust your gut instincts, and if it feels fishy, don’t rent. You can not deny someone based on sex, race, creed, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation. That can land you in a court fast and you will lose.