Tag Archives: property management

Always Keep Learning

My Rental Property Coach-Always Keep LearningWhen you’re just getting started as a new landlord and buying your first rental property, the learning curve is very high.  There is an enormous amount of information to find, read and gather before you take the plunge.  Some examples include doing a property analysis before buying, all aspects of managing your rental and how to deal with problems as they arise.  All of the information you could ever need is available online but it’s time consuming to sift through it all to find the useful articles and true expert landlords that can help you along the way.   It took me many years to find everything I needed and create a system for myself to keep my rental property business running smoothly. 

What starts out as a difficult task though, soon becomes a joy as your confidence grows, your rental business grows and you see a significant increase in your net worth.  Eventually you will know more about buying and managing rental properties than you ever dreamed possible.  You might think at that point you’ll sit back and relax and let things take care of themselves for a while but that hasn’t been my experience at all.  Even after many years of being a landlord and managing my rental properties, I still visit rental sites and blogs regularly both to find information and opinions or offer my own.  I remember exactly what it was like when I was just starting out and all of the fear and uncertainty that I experienced.  Now I use that to help and encourage new landlords that are just getting started, just as it was done for me in the past.

My best advice to everyone reading is to always keep learning.  If you’re at the beginning of a new venture, it doesn’t have to be daunting.  Buy one book, take one course, visit one blog…eventually it will start to feed on itself and then watch out!  You’ll be unstoppable.

To your success!

It Doesn’t Have To Be A Real Estate Empire

New landlord,my rental property coachA lot of new landlords getting into buy and hold real estate try to acquire as many properties as they possibly can. They realize that real estate can be a lucrative business – especially over the long term and they want to capitalize on it as much as possible. More so once they’ve overcome their fears, gotten their feet wet by buying a rental property or two and feel more confident about what they’re doing.

A lot of “would be” landlords think they have to follow this philosophy too. Once they’ve decided that this is where they are going to invest some or all of their savings, they feel like they will need to acquire as many “doors” as possible to make it a worthwhile venture.

Let’s face it, this can be daunting to someone just starting out in real estate investing. Not only fear of taking the plunge and buying their first property but fear of then having to build a real estate empire.

Most people are also thinking, “I’m already so busy, how will I manage this all?” With kids, a job and a million activities, it’s hard to become a property manager as well. And unless you start off with a lot of positive cash flow (difficult), you will need to keep a day job and manage the property or properties yourself.

The point of all of this is – you don’t need an empire or the stress of thinking you need an empire. Even one rental property puts you way ahead of the game and on the road to financial freedom. Then you can decide if you want another or if you want to put other investment money elsewhere.

Managing 1 or 2 properties yourself is completely doable, even with a whole other life. I’m married with 2 very busy kids, a guinea pig and I work a lot. But I manage 2 residential properties and 1 commercial property with minimal stress and few issues. I started with one, figured everything out and then bought another one a couple of years later. A year after that I was approached about buying a commercial warehouse and I knew I could take that on as well. And to be honest, that’s good for me. I like having time to spend with my family and working on my other ventures and I feel GREAT having these 3 appreciating assets being paid off for me while I do that. You will too – so take the plunge and stay calm…it will all go great!

Tenant Screening is Everything

ScreeningNew landlords often feel overwhelmed when they get into the rental property business. Buying your first property might seem like a challenge at the time but it’s a cake walk when you start to delve in to what it takes to manage that property. From preparing your property, getting your forms together, doing market comparables to set the rent, advertising, putting your filing system together, setting up your accounting and just generally reading up on all there is to know – it’s a lot of information! Ultimately though, the most important part of property management is finding the right tenants. If you are successful in this step, the rest of your journey will fall into place.

Tenants mean the difference between a positive, profitable experience and a negative, costly experience. Having a system in place to do proper tenant screening will help you find those gems that will pay their rent on time and take great care of your property. Here are some tips to help you become a better screener in order to attract a better grade of tenant:

Write a great, detailed ad. It all starts here as this is the first thing a prospective tenant will see when looking for a property. For example, if you don’t want pets or smokers, this is a great starting place to weed them out. You can also paint a good description of the type of tenants you are looking for by the types of amenities you describe. If you want a family you can talk about buses, schools and parks. If you want older tenants with no kids you can describe a more senior living area. The more descriptive you are, the easier it is to hone in on your ideal tenants.

Have a list of screening questions. After people have read your ad and decided they fit the bill and are interested, have a list of screening questions ready when they call. For example, how long have they been at their current place? Why do they want to move? Have they given notice? How many people will be living with them? These are just a start and there are plenty more you can ask but these questions will arm you with more information and make your decisions easier as you set up viewings to see your property.

Use customized forms. During the tenant screening process, the most important form in your repertoire is the Application Form. Don’t use generic forms that you find online, use a custom form that asks about employment history, rental history, and allows you to perform criminal and credit checks. If you have a prospective tenant that you want to consider renting to, get them to fill out this form in it’s entirety.

Do your checks! Sure they’ve filled out the Application form for you but the next step is the most important. Call their old landlords, verify that they have a job, do a credit check and do a criminal record check. Do these checks EVERY TIME on EVERY PERSON that you want to rent to. Looks and first impressions can be deceiving so stick to your system and you will greatly increase your chances of finding a good, honest tenant.

Thorough tenant screening isn’t always foolproof but it greatly increases your chances of finding stellar tenants. Experience helps this process as well and the more tenants you meet and interview, the easier it becomes and the stronger your radar is. Remember – stick to your system and don’t skip any steps. To your success!

What’s in an Ad?

What’s in an ad?  Everything. Where you should you advertise for tenants? Online.Online-Advertising
When you advertise to find new tenants for your rental property, your ad accomplishes 2 things for you; first, it is a screening tool that let’s prospective tenants know what you’re looking for and second, it allows you to be very descriptive which brings more and better potential tenants to you.
When I advertise for new tenants, I use online sites exclusively. I have never advertised in the newspapers because it’s very costly for very few words. A typical newspaper ad might read “house for rent, 3 bdrm, $1000/mo + SD, avail Jan 1/14″. Depending where you live, this ad alone can cost a lot if you need to run it for a couple of weeks and it provides very little information to attract new tenants.
Online sites are cheaper (often free) and give you unlimited space to describe your property and provide multiple pictures. Prospective tenants are much more likely to look online for a property because it is more convenient and they also can find a better description before having to go and see a place. I’ve had people say, “well what if someone doesn’t have a computer?” and honestly, in this day and age, they would definitely be a very small minority.

Writing a great ad takes a bit of skill but if you’re successful, great tenants will always come in great numbers! Need some help? Just let me know.

Run It Like a Business

My Rental Property Coach - Run it Like a BusinessIn order to be successful in the rental property business, you really do need to be prepared. Putting good systems and processes in place will give you the confidence to get started and also keep things running smoothly as you acquire and manage more properties. This business like mindset is the key to success for a new landlord. On that note, here are a few things you should have in place before you start looking for tenants:

  • Rental property forms. Your basic collection of forms would include an application form, a lease, a walk through checklist and a landlord checklist. Store a few copies of each in a labeled binder and you’re good to go.
  • A prepared ad to attract quality tenants. I advertise exclusively online so I keep a copy of my ad with pictures in a folder so it’s easy to cut and paste on various sites. Later, if a tenant gives me notice, I can have an ad placed immediately to start looking for someone new.
  • A property information binder ready to go. There are a few items that you can personalize later when you find tenants but the bulk of the information can be prepared ahead of time. Once the information is stored on your computer, it’s easy to modify to create new binders for additional properties.
  • A filing system. This will already have some items in it such as mortgage documents, legal documents and insurance information. You can add more sections as you go to include tenant information and other paperwork you receive relating to your rental. This is also easy to replicate as you buy more properties.

As I continued to manage my first property, I added a few more organizational items to keep things in order:

  • A good accounting system. This is easy to set up, just a simple ledger to monitor what is going in and out of the bank account every month and a place to write in all of your rental related expenses. Don’t forget to keep track of all those receipts.
  • A list of reputable people or companies that can fix things. This list takes time to develop as you encounter certain problems that go beyond your own abilities. It’s a great list to have though and will become more valuable as you acquire more and more properties.

If you are just considering buying a rental property, I hope this list will help build your confidence to move forward. They’re fairly small steps to take, they’re easy to do and they set the stage for your future rental property empire.

The Easy Way To Get Your First Rental Property

My Rental Property Coach - The Easy WayIf you live in a city with high real estate prices like I do, it can be very difficult to find and buy a good rental property. If you can’t charge enough rent to cover all of your expenses, the property soon becomes a drain on your bank account. One of the easiest ways I’ve found to acquire your first property is to move and rent out the house you’re in. Here are the benefits:

  • Banks generally want to see a 25% down payment to purchase a rental property. Since you are now buying your principal residence, the down payment can be significantly less (generally 5%-10%).
  • You know exactly what the mortgage payments will be on the rental and they will likely be very manageable if you’ve been in the house a while.
  • You’ll know exactly what you need to charge in rent every month to cover expenses.
  • No need for a house inspection as you already know everything about the place. You now just need to clean and get ready for tenants.
  • You probably have a nice place so you’ll be able to charge higher rent and attract better tenants.

This plan worked well for us to get started in our rental property business but it might not appeal to everyone. Here are some disadvantages that might have come to mind (followed by my good reasons to just do it anyways):

  • You have to move! Yes, this is the big one – to leave your house and move to another. This might be bothersome for many reasons…you love your house and are too nostalgic to leave…it would take you completely out of your comfort zone to do something so drastic…it’s a very big job and more than you’d like to take on etc. etc. (Yes, all true but in the end it just depends what you really want. If your goal is to substantially increase your net worth with a rental property and financially it looks like the better alternative to buying a property to rent out – just keep the idea in your mind for a while. It may start to take root:))
  • Moving is expensive. (True but also a relatively minor expense in the grand scheme of things.)
  • If you’re putting 5% down on your next place, you will need to take out mortgage insurance which is costly. (I list this as a disadvantage but it is the reality for most people and really the reason for this whole plan. You can usually add the insurance on to your mortgage and it still makes a huge difference when compared with making a 25% down payment.)

We stayed in our next house for 2 years and then followed this plan again to get our second rental property. If you’re just starting out in the rental property business, I hope this plan will work well for you too.

Essential Rental Property Forms

In this day and age, there is a form to cover every possibility in the rental property Forms2business. From pet leases to utility sharing agreements, everyone will agree “it’s best to always get it in writing”. Making sure that all of the rules are clear before a tenant moves in leads to fewer disagreements and a cooperative landlord/tenant relationship. These signed documents can also protect the landlord if a substandard tenant should slip under their radar and take up residence.

If you are just starting out with one rental property, there are 5 essential rental property forms that you should have on hand before you start to look for a tenant.

RENTAL APPLICATION This is the first form that a prospective tenant will fill out for you during the first meeting if they are interested in renting from you. It covers the personal information of all the people that will be living there including their employment history, credit information and rental history. The best part of the application form is that it allows you to do a credit and criminal background check of a prospective tenant.

INSPECTION REPORT This is filled out before the tenant moves anything into your dwelling and again when they are ready to move out before you return their security deposit. There is a checklist for each room and describes the condition of each item on the list. I always back this form up with dated photos of the property and have the tenant sign both.

LEASE AGREEMENT This is the meat and potatoes of all rental property forms. It outlines the rent, security deposit, length of stay and also lays out all the rules and regulations of living in your property. You can start out with a generic form which can be changed and revised to suit your specific needs or you can use one from an experienced landlord. I like this option because it will already be much more specific based on the landlord’s previous experiences and you can still modify it as required.

DEPOSIT AGAINST RENT Once you have done all of your investigating and decided on a great tenant, it’s time to get a deposit to hold the place until move in day. This form is simply a receipt for that amount and also sets out what is still required as far as security deposit and rent before they take possession.

LANDLORD CHECKLIST Owning rental properties is a business and in order to run a successful business, you need to keep yourself organized. I created a landlord checklist that I use for each new tenant moving in to my properties. It reminds me of all the things I need to do including property fix ups, tenant checks and everything from moving in to moving out. I find this tool invaluable as I never miss a thing and it starts my relationship with my tenant out on the right foot.

These forms will get you started in your rental property business and should be considered your “core package” that you use for everyone. Depending on your needs or as your business continues to grow, you can introduce more forms to your repertoire. These might include utility agreements, garage leases, notices to enter the premises or eviction notices.

Missed Rent Payments – Use Your Head Not Your Heart

Head-Not-HeartEvicting a tenant can be a stressful, tedious process if you aren’t sure of the proper steps to take. There are all kinds of situations that can lead to an eviction but the most common one is missed rent payments.

If a rent check is returned to you NSF, meaning that there are non-sufficient funds in the tenant’s bank account, things can go one of two ways. They can go well (the tenant pays you for the missed rent and NSF charge in a timely manner) or not so well (the tenant misses this payment entirely and possibly more rent payments). If things go in the latter direction it is very important to act. The first step is to send them a default notice. If they don’t respond to that by paying you the missed rent, the second step is to start the eviction process.

This is where some landlords make the mistake of using their heart and not their head. You hear all the time that “tenants have all the rights” and “it can take forever to evict a tenant”. More often than not though, a lengthy eviction is a direct result of a landlord not starting the process soon enough. They listen to excuses and promises to pay, all the while paying rental expenses out of their own pocket while these promises continue to be broken. Suddenly they find that weeks or months have passed and they still haven’t taken the steps to formally evict the problem tenant.

Starting the eviction process sooner rather than later is in your own best interest because owning a rental property is a business. If the tenant comes through and pays you and you feel positive about having them stay on, you can cancel the eviction. If they don’t come through, you haven’t spent so much time and out of pocket expense waiting for a resolution, the eviction process is already in motion.

A final note for the kind hearted, and I’ll be honest I am one, is that ultimately bad things can happen to good people. If your tenant has had a good payment history and has hit a bump in the road, hopefully he’ll be able to catch up and set things right. If not you can look at this as a positive learning experience for you to learn the eviction process. Hopefully it will be an experience that you won’t have to repeat again.