My name is Anita Charles and I'm a Realtor and Property Management Specialist here in Gulfport. As part of my job, I work with a lot of property owners, some of which do their own management. Some do it well, and some, not so much. This series of blog posts is about how to be an effective landlord. Being effective means not only maximizing your return on the investment, it also means having happy tenants and happy tenants are repeat tenants. In this 24/7, social networked world, word gets around fast when a property is poorly managed or the landlord is hard to work with.
I'll be discussing a wide range of subjects from understanding fair housing laws, to lease preparation, to even how to handle (gulp!) an eviction. As we go along if you have questions or feedback, please use the comments form at the bottom of the page.
First, if you're not already a landlord, are you ready for the responsibility involved? The benefits of renting are numerous, including the ability to potentially generate income that covers the bills and possibly creates a profit or potential tax benefits. Even if you intend on selling the property at a better time, having a tenant can help deter risks of having an empty home. However, being a landlord is also one more responsibility you'll need to fit into your life, and it's safe to assume that things will sometimes fail to run smoothly. You'll need to stay on top of repairs and maintenance, collect rent, dole out potentially more for your home insurance policy and keep an eye on your tenant's housekeeping skills to keep the value of the home up.
So assuming you are ready, is your property "Rent ready"?
“Rent ready” means the property has been cleaned, repaired, or remodeled and that it’s in rentable condition for new tenants. Think of what you would do if you were selling your property. Sales appeal and rent appeal are really very much the same. The better maintained and the cleaner the property is, the quicker it'll rent, the highest value will be obtained and the better it is likely to be maintained by the tenants. Handing over a professionally cleaned property gives you the right to get a professionally cleaned property back. A well maintained property also helps with avoiding unnecessary costly maintenance, for example regular servicing of the air conditioning keeps it clean and in good working condition and is something that is difficult to ensure a tenant will do.
What You Can Do
Inspect and clean windows and sliding glass doors. Windows and (especially) sliding glass doors can easily build up dirt. A good cleaning will not only let in more light (making interior more attractive), but may help them work better. A build-up of dirt may prevent a door from operating properly, become jammed and become a costly repair for you. Clean, repair or replace screens. Torn screens can allow pests into your property, so repairing or replacing screens may save you money (less visits from your pest-control company) and give you peace of mind. Handing over a property with all screens in good condition makes it easy to enforce the tenant handing it back that way.
Spruce up the yard. Cut the grass, trim the bushes, prune the trees, pull the weeds, fix broken sprinkler heads, replace dead or dying shrubbery, and add some new flowering plants (if it’s the season) to flower beds. Remember to remove flower pots, yard furniture and garden decorations; and don’t forget to spray any dirt from the cracks in the sidewalks and patio. If your yard is in good condition consider hiring a yard company to maintain it and reflect that in the rent, it is difficult to monitor and ensure tenants keep the yard to your expectations.
Spray for pests. It’s better to have the property sprayed on a regular schedule than to wait until there’s a pest problem. You’ll definitely want to hire a professional pest control company to give your property a full treatment for all of the common bugs in your area.
Paint, repair and fix. Fix any holes in the walls before applying a fresh new coat of paint. Repair or replace any carpet that shows signs of damage (or doesn’t come clean after a professional carpet cleaning). Fix or replace any damaged tiles. Make sure all the appliances work properly. You want a prospective tenant to know you really care. The more attention you give the property, the better you'll find tenants will care for it as well.
In our next posting, we'll talk about how to find tenants and what you need to know about fair housing laws.