How Far Should I Walk My 4 Month Old Puppy Don’t Leave It To Faith When Investing In Real Estate!

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Don’t Leave It To Faith When Investing In Real Estate!

Well, let me tell you that becoming a landlord could be the best financial investment you’ve ever made, or your worst nightmare. Having invested in several rental properties myself, I have learned a few things over the years that I would like to share to help novice investors who lack the resources to hire professional property management services. Topics covered in this post include marketing your property; tenant screening; insurance, repair, and maintenance; prices; rent and eviction.

Marketing your property:

Marketing is an important component of finding tenants. Without tenants, you cannot collect rent and profits from your RE investment. Therefore, you must ensure that you use effective media vehicles for marketing your property. Media vehicles that are not only cost-effective, but also effectively reach their target audience. Here are some avenues to consider for marketing purposes:

  • Online – Post your rental property ad on free platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Trulia, Zillow, Craigslist, and local RE agencies.
  • word of mouth (WOM) – Talk to friends, family, and colleagues to find out if they know someone who is looking for a good place to rent.
  • Journal – Buy ads in your local newspaper, including any other paper in your town that deals with real estate. According to a recent landlord survey, the 3rd Sunday of the month is the best possible day to advertise, especially since most people search for rental listings over the weekend.
  • Open House – Do your best to set aside a few hours a week, preferably on Sundays, to hold an open house to meet potential tenants face-to-face. Before opening the house, make sure the property is clean, in prime rental condition, and that you have copies of flyers available for visitors on the property itself.
  • Signs & Banners – Display as many signs and banners as possible, especially in your front yard and neighborhood bulletins. Since many people are walking around, you readers, looking for a good place to rent, you don’t want to miss an opportunity when your unit is available.

Remember, the more media vehicles you use to market your property, the greater your chances of reaching your target audience. Since most people often look for the size and location of the rental unit first, it might be worthwhile to highlight these areas in your ads. Of course, you should also point out any other features and benefits about your rental unit that help it stand out from the competition. Before posting any ad, please be sure to put yourself in the tenant’s shoes and comply with all laws, especially fair-housing and equal-opportunity laws.

Tenant Screening:

Tenant screening is also important to successful RE investing. Failure to carefully vet potential tenants can cause irreversible damage that can ultimately put you out of business due to unnecessary costs incurred. Here are tenant screening tips to help you determine the best tenant for your property:

  • Screening list – Make a checklist with additional information to help you easily filter through potential clients to determine which tenants are actually serious about the property. The list should include information about the lease application, rental fees, pet policy, payment terms, background and credit checks, move-in schedules, deposits, etc. Be sure to include questions to help you get information, such as names, phone numbers, email, number of tenants, moving schedule, length of rental period, pets (if applicable), etc. By using a checklist, you are guaranteed to treat every request equally, as well as get important information to help you screen potential tenants.
  • Before the appointment – Before showing the property, make sure potential tenants pass background and credit checks. Have them call you a few hours before the appointment. By doing this, you will be able to see if the tenant is responsible, serious about the rental, and you are wasting your time with no-shows!
  • Property shown – Ensure that your property is in “open-house” condition and that you have everything necessary for the tenant to complete the lease application on site. Make sure they really understand the rental application before signing it, including the fees and penalties for breaking the rental agreement.
  • Processing and sorting – Inform the potential client that you have their application now and will contact them shortly to let them know if they have received the property once you have met all the candidates. The process should not take more than 2 weeks and rank each candidate according to your visits and evaluations.
  • Record Preservation – For liability concerns, I recommend that you keep a paper trail of each client that you meet. Please keep these files safe, private, and you can always refer to them later if you have other properties with vacancies.

Trust me, you want to put in the energy and effort to find the best possible tenant for your property. Renting to the wrong tenant could be detrimental to your property and business. Not only will it cost you more time and money, but also give you a big headache because of all the unnecessary damage caused by bad tenants.

Insurance / Repair / Maintenance:

To protect yourself, it is important to obtain “non-owner occupied” insurance for the rental unit. In general, this means insuring your property even if you don’t live there. Although insurance coverage may vary between insurance companies, be sure to include the following:

  • General Liability – Protect you from claims by third parties, such as tenants, visitors, or anyone else who may want to file a lawsuit because of your property.
  • Flooding and Water Damage – Insure rental units against most water damage, such as plumbing malfunctions, storms, hurricanes, floods, etc. Please note that most carriers do not insure water damage caused by back-up sewers.
  • P&C (property and casualty) – Protect your rental against vandalism, fire, smoke, lightning, broken glass, and even loss of income if your unit is unlivable.
  • Umbrella – Cover against catastrophic events that exceed the general liability insurance and apply once the maximum limit for basic coverage is reached.

As for repairs and maintenance, I would recommend building a professional team of contractors who complete high quality work. Get references, check online reviews, and most importantly, make sure they are insured and licensed. Obtain a signed letter of agreement for all contract work that highlights details, such as expectations, pricing, fees, timelines for completion, etc. Please note that the majority of expenses related to repairs, maintenance, and even improvements are tax deductible.

Price:

One of the most important tasks of being a landlord is determining the “fair-market” rental price. If your unit is priced too high, it is more likely to be unoccupied. Considering that, pricing it too low will cause you to lose income that is vital to the success of your RE investment. Personally, I recommend asking a real estate agent what the “fair-market” rent is by checking rental listings such as the “Multiple Listing Service (MLS).” At the very least, you must cost your rental unit at the break-even point including mortgage, insurance, association fees, and even advertising costs.

Once the price is finalized, you must ensure that the payment options, including fees for violations, are clearly indicated to the tenant(s). This includes how you want to pay the rent; where payments should be sent; name displayed on payment line; fees for bounced checks and late payments. Whether you’re using check, credit card, cash, or wire transfer, you should always log and keep a receipt for all payments just like any other business.

Another important consideration is rent increases. With inflation rising, it is inevitable that the cost of home ownership will increase. Rather than absorb the price increase yourself, each owner must increase the rent and the tenants are aware of this. To me, the best way to raise the rent is during lease renewal and you should only raise the rent a little (~5-10%). Remember, have some sympathy for your tenants and don’t be greedy when raising rental prices. The goal is just to keep up with inflation so that you have the necessary resources to repair and keep your property in good condition. Make sure you follow all laws in your city/state when raising the rent and always give your tenants advance notice of such increases – usually 3 months in advance.

Rent and Eviction:

There are many websites that offer you a free template for creating a rental agreement. If you are using an RE agent for pricing, they can also help provide you with a general lease template to use. Remember to clearly highlight on the lease the rental property’s address, price, name of tenant(s), contact information, as well as the renewal and violation policy.

The goal is to find great tenants who want to continuously renew their contracts because they are completely satisfied with the way you have managed the property during their tenure. Of course, not all tenants are perfect and you will eventually run into tenants who don’t pay rent, violate rules and agreements, or even refuse to move out when the lease is up, so ask to be evicted. Although you should always do your best to address concerns out of a courtroom, there may be cases that may require government intervention. I would recommend getting a lawyer if you are planning to evict anyone. If you lack the resources to do this, you can do additional research on the Internet, as well as obtain the necessary documents from your local “Justice of the Peace”.

Essentially, you must always give advance notice before any eviction that includes a grace period for tenants to respond. Once the grace period expires, you can file suit and the court will issue a summons and trial date. If the judge rules in your favor, the tenant will be evicted and forced to leave the premises. If the tenants do not leave, government officials, such as peace officers and sheriffs, will step in and remove the tenant’s property themselves.

Speaking from experience, my number one piece of advice for any RE investor is to not leave it on faith when investing in real estate. Like most things in life, there is a science and systematic approach that should be followed to improve your chances of success. Although it is not a requirement, I highly recommend that you also incorporate for each rental property for asset protection purposes and treat your rental unit(s) as a business. This involves doing a break-even analysis, profit and loss (P&L) statement, expenses, etc. To learn more about which business entity structure is right for you based on your current situation, please visit SuccessPenPal (SPP).

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