Categories
Landlords

Should You Allow Tenants with Pets?

Pet-owners are everywhere in the U.S., where roughly 68% of households have a cat or a dog. Yet a recent survey by Avail showed that only 55% of landlords allow pets in their properties. 

Even if you’re a pet-lover yourself, you may be hesitant to allow pets into your rental properties. This is understandable – but are there situations in which it’s okay to allow tenants with pets?

First, let’s consider the pros and cons of allowing pets in your rental:

Cons:

  • Hard-to-eliminate pet odors
  • Noise from barking, etc.
  • Pet-related damage to your property
  • Possible physical injury or accidents involving neighbors, guests or yourself 
  • Remnants of allergens (saliva and fur) that get in the air ducts, carpet, etc.
  • Fleas and other pests

Pros:

  • Increase in size of tenant base
  • Higher rental rates or fees
  • Possibility of tenants signing longer leases due to limited pet-friendly rental options
  • If you allow pets, there are fewer chances of tenants smuggling them without permission 

At the end of the day, it’s up to you whether you’re willing to accept pets in your rentals. But if you do, here are some guidelines for safeguarding your properties:

Decide What You’ll Allow

Pets come in all shapes and sizes: dogs, cats, birds, fish, rabbits, gerbils, small-scale reptiles, etc., and some have a much higher potential for causing damage than others. So decide which types of animals you’re willing to allow, as well as the number of each and the total number of pets permitted. Will you allow more than one dog? How many cats? Would ten guinea pigs be too much? Put all of this in your lease agreement, as well as: 

  • A statement that allows you to forcibly remove any pet that becomes aggressive or dangerous. 
  • A clause that gives you the power to change your rules on pets, if it’s done with a proper notice period (in case you decide not to allow pets in your properties anymore).
  • The consequences for violation of these rules, like additional fees or eviction.
  • Lastly, you should have a “pet addendum” attached to the lease. This includes specific details about the pet that you are allowing in the rental, and states that any other animal that isn’t registered in the lease is considered an illegal occupant and a breach of contract. If they get an additional dog or replace a previous pet that passed away, they need to have their new pet cleared and registered again. 

And make sure it’s clear what you expect from the pet owner in terms of responsibility for taking care of their animal. So also consider adding these provisions to the lease or pet addendum:

  • They must keep up with the required shots, licenses, and tags for the pet.
  • They must register any pet with you, the landlord, prior to taking them in.
  • They must resolve and pay for any harm done to anybody or anything by the pet.
  • They must take care for and clean up after the pet on a daily basis.
  • When outside, they must keep the pets on a leash or in a cage (depending on the animal).
  • They must acquire insurance with liability coverage for their animal.

Check Your Insurance and Liability 

Check the coverage of your insurance policy before considering tenants with pets. What is the amount of liability coverage in the policy? Are there any limitations, exclusions, or requirements for this coverage? Will they use the list of “dangerous breeds” as a basis for breeds that aren’t included in the insurance?

Charge Additional Fees

Since there is more risk involved when renting to pet owners, you can either add a pet fee on top of the monthly rent, or simply increase the monthly rental fee. Some landlords charge anywhere from $25-$100 per month, per pet, on top of the rent, and they also sometimes charge a pet processing fee (up to $500) when screening applicants with furry friends. Just be careful not to charge anything for emotional support animals. 

Some states also allow you to collect a separate security deposit, called a “pet deposit.” In some states, there is the option to make the pet deposit non-refundable. However, there are states, like Michigan, where the maximum security deposit is only two months’ rent. You need to know the maximum allowable amount of your state and evaluate if this will be enough to cover for pet-related damages which could occur in your property. 

Decide Case-by-Case

Just like any other tenant, make sure you screen the tenant’s background thoroughly. Apart from their financial and credit history, also check their references and ask about their experience with how the tenant managed their pet. Not all pet owners are equally well-trained and equipped to look after their pets!

When interviewing them, make sure you ask: 

  • Does the pet have the proper vaccinations and licenses? Is it neutered or spayed?
  • What breed and how old is the pet?
  • Has the pet ever caused damage to items or bitten anyone?
  • Who will be responsible for caring for the pet?
  • How do they plan to take care of the pet on a daily basis?
  • What is their occupation? (A doctor would have to leave their pets unattended for longer hours than a stay-at-home mom would)
  • Who will care for the pet when they’re not home?

You should also request a recent photo of the animal to keep for your records, and can even ask to meet the pet in person prior to approving their application. 

So, now that the risks, benefits, and processes for allowing tenants with pets have been laid out, it’s your time to make the decision. Will you open your doors to the pet-loving community? 

As a final thought, be mindful that a Fair Housing Law protects disabled people who need an animal for their emotional wellbeing and/or physical safety. The term “disabled” now includes not only the blind or paralyzed, but also those with clinical depression and post-traumatic stress. You can request a note from their physician to verify their condition and need for animal assistance to keep things documented. 

Do you allow pets in your rentals? Why or why not? 

Image Courtesy of Dominika Roseclay

Categories
Flipping

Time vs. Cost: What Jobs are Worth Doing Yourself?

Don’t you love it when people watch house flipping and renovation TV shows and say, “wow, it looks so easy to flip houses for great returns”? But the reality is that flipping is a risky business that requires a lot of hard work, excellent project management skills, and savvy budgeting in order to succeed. 

One of the most important parts of flipping houses is the way you restore it for reselling. Some flippers like to do nearly all the renovations themselves to save on costs, but others would rather pay contractors to do it to save on time. Many also opt for a mix of DIY and professional contractors, but in this case, which jobs should you handle yourself, and which are best left to the pros? 

While it’s generally cheaper to DIY, those savings could be nullified if you do it wrong and end up with expensive corrections. And while some tasks might look easy, you need to give up significant hours of your own time to learn and accomplish them. So if we look at the time/cost benefit analysis, which jobs are worth doing yourself?

PLAN OUT THE RENOVATION

Before you start swinging a hammer in good faith, go over the whole property and list down all the repairs that it needs, taking into account the cost and lead times for each. If you’re going to DIY, you have to be able to accurately calculate their costs and realistically estimate the time it will take to complete, as well as the order in which projects should be carried out.

DO WHAT YOU KNOW, HIRE WHAT YOU DON’T

SKILL REQUIREMENTS

Fixing high-ticket areas like the roof, floors, and kitchen areas yourself can save a lot of money, because professionals usually charge a premium for these services. However, the reason for that is these tasks require a high level of expertise to do them well. When done poorly, constantly repairing them will outweigh the money you supposedly saved by doing it yourself. 

You might be charged anywhere from $300 – $10,000 for a professionally installed drywall, while you can do it yourself for significantly less. Similarly, painting will cost you $2-3 per square foot if you get it done professionally, whereas you can do it yourself for just the cost of the paint – it also has a low skill requirement, so not much can go wrong if you DIY. 

So if you have experience in doing these, by all means, DIY. But being inexperienced will only leave you with wasted time, accidents, more repairs to fix, and a lower flipping profit.  

PAPERWORK REQUIREMENTS

Some repairs require specific building codes, permits, and inspections, like removing walls or installing new bathrooms. Better steer clear from DIY-ing these, unless you plan to leave your full-time job to be a contractor yourself. A professional will help you with the paperwork required and provide knowledge if the wall is load-bearing, or if you’d need more space for a bathroom. Their work is also insured, so if anything does go wrong, you’ll know that it’s covered.

A GENERAL GUIDE

Which jobs you do yourself should be based on your skillset and condition of the house, as well as permit requirements. Some jobs will require a licensed professional, like installing complete new plumbing, which you need a permit for, unless you want to get a citation from the city. A homeowner can pull their own permit in most states, without a license, because the homeowner is the one taking the risk. But if you do it wrong, you could have an electrical fire, etc., or end up failing your building inspection and being told to redo it.

However, this list should give you a general guide on when to DIY and when to hire a professional:

DO IT YOURSELF

  • Fix an outlet, doorknob, lights
  • Painting
  • Install baseboards
  • Install laminate flooring or luxury vinyl
  • Insulate open walls
  • Install a toilet (bowl)
  • Install minor PEX plumbing

HIRE A PROFESSIONAL

  • Additions
  • Replacing sidewalks and driveways
  • Replumbing the whole house
  • New electrical service panel and circuits
  • Replacing windows
  • Install solid hardwood flooring
  • Installing a furnace or central AC

Timing is everything with a flip, so work within your set of skills. Consider splitting the workload between you and a contractor who can compensate in places where you struggle. That way, you can focus on the things you know how to do, and still save yourself some money. At the same time, you’re not being slowed down by more complicated projects which will take you as a DIY-er much longer than a professional team to carry out.

What are the fixes you DIY when you flip a house, and which do you always leave to the pros?

Image Courtesy of Laurie Shaw

Categories
DIY

Landlords: Tenant-Proofing your Rental Properties

Tenant-proofing your rental properties is kind of like baby-proofing your house–it saves both of you from unnecessary headaches. The key when tenant-proofing is to identify the things that get abused the most, and think about how you can minimize damage to these areas, or eliminate them altogether. This is especially true for properties in low demographic neighborhoods, whereas problems like these rarely occur in higher-demographic areas.

Here are some other things you should avoid if you want to minimize the risk of extra damage costs:

  1. Avoid Garbage Disposal – Have you ever watched a movie, and the characters threaten to drop something meaningful into the garbage disposal by the sink? Yes, it’s true, people love to put all types of things down that drain. It’s handy–but also very easily clogged. It’s a piece of high-failure, time-consuming equipment to fix.
  1. Avoid Air-Conditioning Units – This may seem necessary, especially during the sweltering summers in Michigan, but AC units are not a requirement. Repairs are pricey and window-mounted models often disappear in the hands of thieves. Leave it to your tenants to buy one for themselves!
  1. Forbid Wall-Mounting – People like putting up decorations on their walls, but strictly avoid any nails or screws that put ugly holes in the walls. There are plenty of adhesive hooks in stores that tenants can use as an alternative, and walls with adhesive residue are easier to repair than those with holes. If you do allow nails, plan on deducting repair costs from the security deposit, because most tenants won’t repair the holes themselves (even if it says so in the lease).

Instead, install features that can help keep your rental properties clean and easy to maintain:

  1. Install Durable Flooring – Vinyl flooring is your best bet here, as it’s affordable, durable, simple to install, and it’s easy to remove any stains that a renter would leave. Although having carpet is a preference for some, it gets old and stained easily, with some stains refusing to come out at all, and absorbs odors from pets and smoke. Similarly, hardware floors – while a great feature to have when selling a house – can easily get scratched or damaged, and cost thousands to replace. With vinyl floors, all you need is a mop and bucket of soapy water, and you’re pretty much good to go. 
  1. Install Door Stoppers – Doors swing open and close multiple times a day, and many people (especially kids) won’t care if the doorknob puts an indent in the wall. Installing door stoppers is a must-have in rental properties, as it will save both your walls and your doors from unnecessary damage.

There are a surprising variety of door stoppers on the market, from baseboard stoppers and ones affixed to the back of the door itself, to wall-mounted handle stoppers and magnetic stoppers. One of the best options is the hinge pin stopper, since it has less chance of getting overworn through constant use (or played with by children).

  1. Install Window Coverings – Blinds, drapes, or curtains might seem like an added expense (and another thing to replace if damaged by a tenant), but it’s a good idea to install some kind of window covering to avoid giving thieves or squatters a clear view inside the property. Cheap coverings will do the trick, and if they’re damaged when the tenant moves out, you can deduct the replacement cost from their deposit.
  1. Opt for Durable Fittings – Some things, like faucets, can be bought as cheap plastic pieces, costing in the region of $40. While this may seem like a good cost savings in a lower-demographic rental, these cheaper fittings usually break down quickly and will need to be replaced every 2 years, on average. Investing in a more expensive, more durable option, like a $120 metal faucet, will mean that fittings can last for up to a decade before wearing out, saving you more money in the long run.
  1. Keep Pests Out – When doing property turnovers, consider conducting routine checks for pests and take preventative action, if necessary. Pests and insects hide well, and pest control services can add up to a fortune if the problem is left to worsen. So better to discover any potential infestations early, and fight back with rodent traps, chemical-free solutions, and an exhaustive scrub-down between rentals.

Follow these tips, and you should have a property that’s as tenant-proof as it’s possible to be. Of course, there will always be repairs and maintenance that need to be carried out at the end of every lease, but by planning properly, you can minimize the chance of incurring additional expenses for damages that could have been easily avoided.

Image Courtesy of: Ksenia Chernaya

Categories
DIY

How Long Does It Take To Fill Rental Vacancies in Metro Detroit?

The amount of time it usually takes to fill a rental vacancy varies from area to area

Rental vacancy rates are an important indicator for investors to judge the strength of individual real estate markets, because these shows whether or not there is an adequate demand for the number of rental properties available in a given area.

Rental vacancies are also one of the biggest impacts on landlords’ net operating income (NOI) each year, so, apart from retaining tenants, having a short turnover time is crucial for minimizing losses. According to SmartMove, vacant rentals cost landlords in the US $1,750 each month, on average, so investing in an area with lower vacancy rates and quick turnover times is essential for maximizing the return on your rental investment.

Vacancy rates in Metro Detroit

Vacancy rates across the country reached their peak in 2008 and have been steadily decreasing year-on-year ever since. According to FRED, the average vacancy rate in the US in Q1 2020 was 6.6%. Census data for 2019 shows that rental vacancy rates in Michigan were at 6.8%, and 6.2% in the Metro Detroit area, down from a peak of 12.8% in 2010.

According to the most recent data from HUD, Oakland County has an overall vacancy rate of 4.68%, although apartments are in even higher demand, meaning complexes have only a 2.4% vacancy rate. By comparison, Wayne County has an average rental vacancy rate of 6.7%, with apartment vacancy rates at 3.4%, Midtown Detroit has a vacancy rate of just 1.9%, and the highest rates in Metro Detroit are seen Detroit, sitting at 5.3%, on average.

However, in the Metro Detroit area, vacancy rates have been steadily declining, due to population growth and the corresponding increase in rental demand. There’s been an increase in the number of rental home developments in recent years, but it’s estimated that the current planned construction projects in Oakland and Wayne will only account for roughly 20% of the new rental homes that will be required to meet this demand, boosting competition for existing rentals on the market.

This is good news for landlords, as prices have been going up, while turnover times are getting shorter.

You can find vacancy rates for the 75 largest metropolitan areas in the country at cccensus.gov, but this data won’t tell you what the average rental turnover time is for each specific neighborhood. The best way to find out how long it takes to fill a rental vacancy for your property type in your area is by talking to local real estate agents, landlords, and property management companies. They will be able to give you an insider view into the current rental demand in your market, the amount of time a typical turnover process takes, and the kinds of issues which generally slow down or speed up the process in your neighborhood.

Rental turnover times in Metro Detroit

So how do vacancy rates translate into turnover times? Higher vacancy rates in an area means less demand for rental properties, which in turn creates longer turnover periods for landlords looking for new tenants. In Metro Detroit, rental homes on average remain vacant for 52 days, and turnover times can reach up to 90 days, depending on several conditions.

The amount of time it usually takes to fill a rental vacancy varies from area to area, with rural properties generally experiencing longer vacancy periods than urban rentals. The type of property also has an impact on vacancy rates – for example, student rentals have longer turnover times, owing both to the summer holidays and more intensive repairs requirements. Single and multi-family rental vacancies also experience seasonal swings, with turnover periods taking longer during the winter months than in the summer, when rental demands for family homes are 51% higher, on average.

In Metro Detroit the tenant turnover process is particularly fraught with difficulties: finding quality tenants can be a challenge, meaning there is a greater risk that landlords will have to deal with evictions or time-consuming and costly repairs between tenancies. All of this can drive up the number of days your rental sits empty throughout the year. The best way to combat these issues is to be highly selective when choosing tenants and to manage your rentals well to avoid unforeseen issues when the lease ends.

Pricing is also a key determinant of rental turnover times. Interestingly research indicates that, across all rental property price brackets, slightly lowering your asking rent correlates directly to a shorter turnover time. On the other hand, overpricing a rental and later reducing the asking rent leads to properties spending longer on the market and achieving lower rents. Ultimately, pricing your rental competitively will lead to a shorter turnover time and drive up competition for your property, letting you be more selective when it comes to choosing the best tenant.

Working with a good property management company, having a solid rental marketing strategy, and carrying out thorough tenant screening are the best ways to ensure that the turnover process goes as fast and smoothly as possible for your Metro Detroit property. Vacancy rates in the area have been steadily decreasing, so if you’re still experiencing longer-than-usual turnover times, it might be worth talking to your property manager, or revising your pricing, advertising, and tenant selection strategies.

Image Courtesy of Sarah Trummer

Categories
DIY

Keeping It Legal for DIY Landlords

A legal hammer.

ALWAYS have everything in writing. Specific terms should spell out exactly what is expected and legal from all parties involved

Working through the web of renting your properties can be mind boggling when you realize the details involved with signing a tenant. Knowing federal laws and local regulations will help keep you in business and profitable. Working from a template and a detailed checklist is a good way to keep everything legal from Day 1. If properly thought out, it can save you from the high cost of defending yourself in court.

Proper Documentation

ALWAYS have everything in writing. Specific terms should spell out exactly what is expected from all parties involved. Have a lawyer draft your lease agreement to help avoid the pitfalls of cookie cutter online forms. Rental agreements are legally binding contracts, know the rights tenants have and familiarize yourself with the Federal Fair Housing Act.

Advertising, Showings & Applicant Screening

You must study, and pretty much memorize, the Fair Housing Act to avoid discrimination violations. Your advertising, how you handle inquiries, showings and applicant screenings must all conform. Make one mistake and you could wind up in court.

Don’t forget about the Fair Credit Reporting Act and what your required to do if you deny an application or an applicant disappears.

Once you figure out how to legally operate — be consistent! Avoid potential discrimination lawsuits by treating everyone the same and avoid shortcuts — even when you know what the outcome will be.

Deposits and Fees

Check your state and local requirements regarding application fees, pet fees, security deposits, etc. Decide what you’ll charge and again, be consistent to avoid discrimination claims.

Keep In mind a security deposit is just that, a deposit, so it technically still belongs to the tenant, you are just holding it. Don’t go out and spend it. You may want to keep it in a separate account to make it easier to keep track of and explain when needed. Remember, the security deposit is used as a guarantee against possible damages or unpaid bills, but even during an eviction proceeding, it still legally belongs to the tenant.

Required Disclosures

Federal law requires disclosure to a tenant about potential lead-based paint issues. Make sure this disclosure is included in your lease and that you also have the government required lead-based paint pamphlet to hand out.

Your tenants may also have the right to disclosures regarding building ownership, landlord, or management company that acts on behalf of the landlord. Provide them with proper contact information for rent collection, complaints, maintenance issues, etc.

There’s also required disclosures like the Move-In Checklist, specific tenant notifications required in a lease like; Truth-In-Renting Act, Security Deposit Rights, Domestic Violence and Senior Living clauses. All are another reason to engage an attorney to at least review your lease annually.

Property Maintenance

Check your local ordinances for landlord obligations regarding property maintenance. Many cities consider it illegal to collect rent if a property hasn’t passed a city inspection. In addition to issuing tickets, they may also arrest an owner who fails to comply.

Know Your Landlord Rights

When dealing with landlord-tenant issues, there is usually more focus on protecting the tenant. As we all know, there are two sides to every problem, and as a landlord, you have rights, as well. Though not a complete list, here a few biggies:

  • Eviction – Depending on your lease agreement and state & local laws, you have any number of valid reasons for choosing to evict a tenant.  Keep it legal here, abide by all local laws and ordinances to prevent making the situation any worse.
  • Home Entry – You certainly don’t have unlimited access to a tenant’s home, but with proper notification to complete repairs or an emergency the law allows entry as needed.
  • Rent Increases – Many states and cities are passing laws limiting rent increases. Be sure to check and conform as needed. If there are no laws, you can legally raise the rent as much as you want, as often as your lease allows.

Housing is a highly regulated industry and need to be clear on fair housing laws and other local ordinances that affect your business. Pleading ignorance will not keep you out of trouble. Of course, you want your real estate investments to be profitable, but ignoring the laws set in place to protect the landlord-tenant relationship, will only do more harm than good in the end.  Before making any legal missteps, consult your attorney for clarification for any landlord-tenant issue.

Categories
DIY

Why Do I Keep Attracting Bad Tenants?

 Cops outside a house.

In the landlord sewing circle, conversations have a way of moving toward bad tenants.

No matter where your properties are located or how high your rental rates are, you’re bound to come across some bad renters — it’s just part of the business. Bad tenants affect more than just your bottom-line, they can wear on your sanity as well. If you feel like you’re attracting more than your fair share of “slumtenants,” maybe you are. Before things get any worse, take an introspective look at your policies and evaluate your business model.

Where Are You Purchasing Properties?

If you own properties in rougher neighborhoods, expect more problems and repairs. Lower demographic areas have lower income levels, higher levels of illegal activity, and many residents have a criminal past. Many will not have the decency to respect you or your property.

How and Where Do You Advertise?

If you’re nailing hand-written flyers to telephone poles, you give the impression that you’re desperate and probably will take anyone just to fill the vacancy. But if you take the time to take hi-def photographs and/or professionally made virtual tour videos to post on your site, you will attract a different type of renter. By including the rental rates in your marketing material and your website, you will instantly narrow the number of potential applicants. By charging higher rates, you’ll weed out much of the riff-raff.

The Application Process Is Your First Impression

Was the potential tenant on time for appointments? If they showed up late without calling or just blew you off with no consideration for your time, they’re probably not going to have much respect to your property either. Were they courteous and neatly dressed? If their appearance is sloppy, imagine what the inside of your rental will look like. 

For starters, charge an appropriate application fee. If prospective renters can’t scrape together the fee, how are they going to come up with the rent? Also, it’s smart to present a lengthy application, people who aren’t serious won’t bother to take the time to fill it out. Was the application written legibly, fully completed, and signed? Texting is ruining people’s penmanship, so that’s not the perfect marker, but if vital information or sections are left blank, you have to ask yourself, “What are they hiding?” These are some early red flags, though it’s not foolproof, it does you give an idea of how they will act as tenants.  

Don’t Skimp On Lease Details 

Sure, you can go online and just print out a lease, but be careful with cookie-cutter contracts. You want to be confident that every one of your required terms is in the lease. You’re better off getting an attorney to draft one for you, the initial cost will more than pay for itself when problems arise, or you find yourself in court. Make sure all tenants are listed and sign the lease. Once presented with the contract, many tenants will try asking for amendments, resist the urge to negotiate the terms of YOUR LEASE. By doing so, potential tenants will feel like they found themselves a “pushover,” you’re setting yourself up for problems in the future. 

Get The Scoop From Past Landlords

Your application has a section for references for a reason, make sure you contact previous landlords. A little extra time now doing basic research will save you the trouble of having to deal with the aftermath of damages or missed rent payments. Be glad to get the bad news early and weed out any subpar tenants. Past behavior is a good indicator of how they will treat you and your property. 

Max Out The Deposit

For the same reason it’s smart to charge appropriate application fees and rents, get as much of a security deposit as the law allows. It will weed out bad tenants that may have trouble coming up with cash on the 1st of every month. 

Don’t Be Lenient With Your Policies

Bad tenants are like sharks, they can sense prey in the water. You have a business to run and bills to pay. It is vital to be firm and consistent with all of your policies. Being passive about tenant screening, rent collection, and other house rules only cause more problems throughout their tenancy.  

You can’t always spot a problem tenant. Someone is bound to sneak through eventually. But with due diligence and proper screening, you should be able to limit your liability. You want to stay on top of your rentals and arrange for periodic inspections so you won’t get surprised when they move out. Finally, don’t rush the process just to fill a vacancy, if there’s any doubt, then there’s no doubt. 

Categories
DIY

Tips for Novice Landlords

People dream of becoming landlords, how hard can it be to walk to the mailbox every month, and cash rent checks?

 Tips for Novice Landlords.

Let’s get it out of the way early — making money as a DIY landlord is NOT going to be as passive you envisioned. Expect to spend many of your evenings and weekends dealing with property and tenants issues.

The whole point of investing in rental housing is to collect monthly rent payments, yet this can be one of the most challenging aspects for a newbie landlord. There will be times when you have to hound tenants for the rent. Be firm about rent payments, you rely on them for running your business. Being lenient with your tenants will open the door to a slew of problems. If they don’t pay, follow your state’s laws, and if needed, start the eviction process.

So you’ve got your first rental ready to go. You’re eager to start renting and making some money. Resist the urge to rent to just anyone because you’re concerned with vacancy. Make sure to stick your plan — be vigilant about screening new tenants. Leasing to a tenant that doesn’t meet your standards will only bring more problems than it’s worth, it’s better to be patient and wait for the right candidate.

Fair housing laws are in place to protect the tenant — they are a big deal. Don’t put yourself in a position where you’ll have to defend yourself in court. If you’re not sure about something, consult an attorney, or better yet, read up and educate yourself, it’s bound to come up again.

You want your rentals to be the best they can be to attract prospective tenants, but remodeling to your (expensive) tastes is not a good business decision. It’s fine to remodel but resist the urge to go overboard. Unless your property is in an area where you can charge appropriate rental rates, it will be difficult to recoup your investment.

The right marketing strategy will make a world of difference. Make sure to use the right avenues to market your vacancies. Newspaper ads are on life support. You need to place your ads where the right clientele will see it.

Place online ads and use dedicated web sites to find great renters. To entice prospective tenants, pay a professional to take brilliant photos and create a virtual tour. This will save you tons of time by not showing your property to people who aren’t that interested or can’t afford it.

First impressions matter, don’t underestimate curb appeal. Always keep your property looking good — inside and out. Prospective tenants will never get to see how beautiful the new kitchens and bathrooms are if they pass on your property because it looks dingy from the outside. 

BONUS: Stay Organized

You may be surprised how much work is involved with your rental property business. The mountain of paperwork alone can be daunting if you’re not prepared. Paying attention to details and staying organized will help you to stay focused and promote success.

Just because you’re starting a “side business” to produce a passive stream doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy —  this is not a hobby. There is a learning curve to honing the skills needed to run your rental property, but things get easier to manage with every new tenant and each additional property.

You will face challenges, you need to treat your new venture as a “normal” business. Plan on making mistakes when you’re starting out, but expect those growing pains to wane as you acquire experience and grow. Stay positive and focus on your goals. 

Categories
DIY

Low Cost / High Return Remodeling Tips

A row of houses.

If you’re not getting the quality of renters you want, it may be time to do some remodeling.

There are plenty of low budget upgrades you can do to add value to your property while adding eye appeal. The perceived value will allow you to get the rental rates you deserve and attract the tenants you’re looking for.

No matter what market you’re in, chances are if you’ve decided it’s time to remodel, you’ve probably got your sights set on the kitchen and bathrooms. Those are the best areas to start but don’t overlook other tasks that will impress and delight a prospective tenant.

In the Kitchen

  • Remodeling a kitchen brings you one of the highest ROI.
  • Upgrade the appliances to energy-efficient, they will last longer, save you money, and tenants are starting to expect them.
  • Cabinets, like appliances, are the face of the space.If they’re worn and dated, you can save a lot of money by refurbishing/refacing them instead of replacing them. 

Bathrooms

  • Again, like kitchens, bathroom remodeling produces a high ROI.
  • You don’t have to go all out here, but sometimes it’s makes more sense to replace instead of refurbishing. The vanity, for example, is easy to replace and will bring a fresh look for not much money. Big-box retailers will have plenty of low cost, quality options. 
  • New faucets and energy-efficient low flow showerheads will give the space a modern, updated feel. 

Painting

  • A fresh coat of paint is arguably the best and easiest way to freshen up your rental. Don’t get too racy here, keep the transformation subtle by sticking to neutral tones. 
  • An inexpensive way to get a good return on your investment by appeasing more potential tenants.

Outdoor Improvements

  • To ensure that they make it past the driveway to see what you’ve done inside, don’t overlook curb appeal.
  • No need to go crazy here either, keep it clean, neat, and low maintenance. 
  • Keep a well-trimmed lawn, replace the mailbox if looks worn or install sensor lighting for safety.
  • Give your front and garage doors or shed a facelift with a clean coat of paint. 

Things To Be Aware Of

  • It can’t be overstated enough, do not over remodel for your market, you’re renting a house, not creating your dream space.  
  • Plan to exceed your budget and time frame. Keep vacancy in the front of your mind. If your projects will make your property unrentable for too long, break it up into smaller jobs that can be done between tenants.
  • You may like being a DIY landlord, but don’t exceed your abilities. There are laws and ordinances that you need to abide by. It’s best to contract work you are unqualified for or feel uncomfortable doing. 
  • Make safety a priority. Before you start doing cosmetic upgrades, make sure the structure, electricals, and plumbing are in good working order and up to code.

Higher Rental Markets

If your property is located in an area that demands higher rental rates, you might be able to get away with a bit more luxury. Understand your particular market and see what comps in the area are offering. Accents like crown molding or upgraded countertops will add perceived value to the space. As always, don’t over-renovate, do as much as you are sure you can recoup in rent. 

As a landlord, you want to keep your expenses manageable while offering a clean and pleasant home to your tenants. As a DYI landlord, you understand your property better than anyone, repair what you can, replace what’s needed, and upgrade when it makes financial sense. 

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DIY

And You Thought Being a Landlord Would Be Fun and Easy

That dream of living off “passive” income, however, takes a lot more work than you think.

Can landlords be available 24/7?

You’re tired of your 9 to 5 grind and figure buying real estate and renting it out will be a low-stress way of making a living, so you can eventually quit your day job. Rest assured, there’s more to that story. Yes, real estate can indeed be very lucrative — the world’s supply is limited, after all.

Rent Collection

Monthly rent checks are probably one reason you decided to get into the rental business. Collecting the rent is not as easy as walking to your mailbox on the first of the month. Though most renters are good at paying on time, it’s the inconsistent tenants that will cause you to gray prematurely. When the time comes, be ready to change your hat from the nice welcoming landlord to the merciless rent police. If you stay in business long enough, you’ll hear enough creative excuses to write a book.

How Hard Could It Be?

Any job is easy and enjoyable when things are running smoothly. But when the A/C goes out in August, a pipe burst in January or a tenant trashed the place before moving out, that’s when you will find out if you truly love your new job. All these things, and much more, will eventually happen. You need to be mentally and financially prepared to deal with them. 

For example, replacing the section of a frozen pipe is no big deal and relatively inexpensive, any plumber can do that. With the service call, drive time, and the hourly rate, you should be able to get it for around $250. Remember though, a frozen pipe doesn’t leak. What if it thaws at noon when the tenant is at work? They come home to water spraying out from under the sink or in the basement laundry area.

The area is flooded, the carpeting is soaked, and it’s Friday evening. Now you’ve got a mess, water damage, you may have to replace the carpeting, or least hire a professional cleaner. Wait, there’s more. The plumber is charging double or triple time because it’s after hours and a weekend. Don’t be surprised if you’re flirting with $1500 when all is said and done.

Managing Problem Tenants

No matter how vigilant you are with tenant screening, sooner or later, someone will sneak through that can summon your Satan. You may have heard all the horror stories, but you say to yourself, “I wouldn’t let that happen to me.” Oh, don’t worry, it will.

It’s Time For You To Go!

Evictions get ugly, are time-consuming, and the bills add up quickly. First, you’re not collecting current rent due. Then there are court filing and attorney fees. Chances are the property is going to be a mess or worse yet, damaged. If the tenant left a bunch of stuff behind, you may have to pay to store it. Then, of course, you’re not able to rent to other tenants until you bring it up to standards. And finally, you have to find a new tenant. If you’re lucky, you’ll only lose two or three months’ rent. Including court costs, your final bill could easily hit $4000 to $6000.

What’s A Balance Sheet?

If you’re the kind of DIYer that doesn’t mind getting their hands dirty but hates numbers, sorry but you’re going to have to learn. Oh sure, you can “just pay someone else to do it,” but an accountant or CPA doesn’t come cheap. Even if you can afford to hire it out, you should at least become familiar with bookkeeping and the finances of your new venture. You expect complications with your tenants, you don’t want to get ripped off by some bookkeeper.

You Need To Be A Good Banker

Hopefully, your properties are fully occupied, and you’ve got plenty of cash flow to meet expenses, and you’re stashing some away. For most landlords, the reality isn’t so dreamy. That’s why you need to stay on top of finances and bank some cash. 

Tenants come and go, but your fixed costs don’t go with them. You’ll have times when money is rolling in, and then you’ll face spurts of vacancy. It’s vital to put some money aside to keep as a reserve to get you through the dry times.

Property rentals can be very profitable, but as with any business, it’s not all peaches-n-cream. Real estate is not for everyone. There will times when you’re ready to sell the farm, followed by times that make your investment and hard work all worth it.