My friends like to joke that my husband and I are on the path to becoming professional landlords. When we got married, we decided to buy a townhouse together and rent out the condo I lived in when I was single. But now that we have a one-year-old son and enough toys to stock the entire neighborhood, things are a little snug. If we sold our townhouse right now, it would be a miracle just to break even. So, we’re thinking of turning our place into a second rental property while we upgrade to something bigger.
Because we’ve been through this process before, getting ready to rent a property doesn’t seem so daunting. Here are a few steps we’ll make sure to take this time:
Before we rented out the condo, my first instinct was to post ads anywhere and everywhere — Craigslist, our local alternative newspaper, the coffee shop around the corner, you name it. But I soon realized that I wanted some connection to our renters. We began reaching out to friends who (we hoped!) would point us toward reliable tenants. When that didn’t work, we sent emails to coworkers and tapped into our social media networks to cast a wider net. Over the years, this strategy has worked fairly well. Also, the interview process and background checks are very important. Our tenants have been awesome, and we have yet to encounter major problems with rent payments or property damage.
As a landlord, you’ll have the inevitable leaky faucets and broken fixtures to deal with. But after weeks of tracking down a hodgepodge of electricians, plumbers, and miscellaneous maintenance workers, it became apparent that creating my own team of experts wasn’t the most practical approach. We’ve found it makes more sense to have one well-rounded handyman who can tackle a number of problems around the property. Since this person will be spending a lot of time at your rental, be sure it’s someone you can trust. Try asking around for recommendations or looking at websites like Angie’s List for local reviews.
When we first rented out the condo, I figured our homeowners policy would safeguard us in case of any damage to our place. However, I learned that there are specific policies tailored to the risks landlords face. Many of these policies not only cover property damage but can help you recoup rental income lost as a result of that damage. In addition, they can help financially protect you if someone gets injured on your property. We haven’t needed to make a claim yet — knock on wood! — but it helps us sleep at night knowing we’ve covered our bases.
Your renters may be very considerate, but they won’t care for your property like an owner would. Little things like a small leak may go unmentioned until they turn into a massive flood. That’s why it’s important to check in from time to time and see whether anything needs to be taken care of. While we never show up at the condo unannounced, we do make an excuse to visit at least once every few months. Our handyman replaces the HVAC filter a couple times a year, so my husband or I often accompany him so that we can take a look around. One time, we located a small mold growth that could easily have turned into something much worse.
Though being a landlord isn’t always easy, you can reduce your number of headaches with a little planning. While we know there’s anything but smooth sailing ahead, being a landlord isn’t nearly as hard as we thought it would be.