Nobody becomes a landlord thinking, “I sure wish I had something else on my plate right now.” No … in most cases, people invest in rental properties with the dream of generating passive streams of income that require little work or effort.
But reality is often much different from our dreams. Without a solid plan in place, landlording will demand tremendous amounts of your time and energy.
The key is to streamline processes wherever you can, and to avoid making things more difficult than they have to be.
Six Tips for Easier Landlording
Being a landlord doesn’t have to be a difficult, time-consuming responsibility. If you’re strategic about how you handle certain factors and obligations, you’ll find you spend less time and effort putting out fires. After decades of experience in the industry, here are some of the top suggestions we’d make:
Don’t Buy a Project
It’s tempting to buy a fixer-upper home. You’ve seen HGTV and it can’t be that hard, right? Well, not so fast, my friend.
What these skillfully edited reality shows don’t show you is how much time, work, and funds go into fixing up a property so that it’s livable. Granted, you might find tempting deals on rental properties that need work, this is not the ideal path for someone who wants stress-free and hands-off.
More often than not, you’ll be better off paying a slight premium and buying a house that’s move-in ready. Not only will that require less work, but you’ll get a tenant in place faster. This means positive cash flow right away.
Use the Right Materials
You can save yourself a lot of future hassle by expending a premium up front and replacing cheap materials with more durable alternatives. For example, carpet might be inexpensive, but it wears out easily and may have to be replaced between each tenant.
It’s better to go with laminate, vinyl, or engineered hardwood; all of which can actually be installed fairly cost effectively. These materials will last for years.
The same goes for kitchen appliances. You can find a cheap dishwasher or refrigerator, but will it really be worth it? A cheap appliance will break down frequently and may even cause damage to the rest of the property. (Leaks can be costly!)
On a related note, never put a garbage disposal in a rental unit. If you already have one, go ahead and remove it.
These appliances cause nothing but headaches, and may even result in long-term damage to your plumbing. Renters don’t choose to rent (or pass on a property) based on the garbage disposal, so there’s almost nothing to gain from having one.
Get it Done Right the First Time
When something requires repair, it’s crucial to get the job done right the first time. In other words, don’t take a shortcut when it’s likely to lead you to the same situation down the road.
For example, let’s say the wood frame around one of your exterior windows is rotting. The quick fix would be to paint over the rot and make it appear new.
However, you’ll find yourself in the same situation in a year or two (which will require you to spend more time and money). The long-term fix is to replace the frame with a fresh piece of wood.
That may cost more now, but you won’t have to deal with the problem again, not for a much longer time.
Automate Rent Collection
Rent collection can be one of the most frustrating aspects of being a landlord. Some tenants will pay consistently on time, and many will miss a payment here or there.
Tracking down such payments can be a nightmare. You’ll hear lame excuses and/or gut-wrenching tales about why rent can’t be paid this month, which will place you in the precarious position of appearing to be a greedy person who cares only about money.
You can avoid the frustrations of rent collecting and chasing down late payments by automating rent collection from the start. The best method is to require tenants to set up automatic monthly withdrawals via an online payment portal. By automating the process, so there’s less room for error or manipulation.
Don’t Allow Pets
Regardless of how much you love dogs and cats, you should not allow pets in your rental properties. There’s simply too much risk and not enough upside to letting renters move in with furry friends.
“If litter boxes aren’t cleaned or pet accidents occur in the hallway, offensive odors can build up in common areas,” SmartMove explains. “Animals that aren’t properly groomed or bathed can cause other odors inside the unit.”
Then there’s damage that sometimes results from chewing on baseboards and scratching of floors. Barking dogs can become a nuisance and foster hostile relationships between neighbors. There’s even the risk that a dog will bite someone on your property and you could be held liable.
A no-pet policy will obviously reduce your pool of potential renters, but it’s not going to prevent you from finding a tenant at all. Be selective and don’t settle for further headaches.
Be Smart With Landscaping
If you own single-family homes as rentals, think strategically about landscaping. You don’t want anything that requires frequent maintenance.
Either you’ll have to pay someone to handle it, or you’ll have to ask tenants to tackle the work. (Spoiler alert: Very few will be willing to take this on.)
To save time on rental property landscaping, consider installing synthetic grass, using hardscaping, planting perennials over annuals, and applying ground covers to keep large areas in top shape.
Green Residential: Houston’s Real Estate Leader
At Green Residential, we understand the traditional challenges that come with being a landlord. That’s why we’ve developed our comprehensive property management services for Houston-area landlords.
When you work with Green Residential, you no longer have to waste precious time and energy dealing with mundane tasks. We take care of property marketing, tenant screening, rent collection, repair coordination, accounting, inspections, contracts, and more.
As a result, you’re free to focus on the big picture and enjoy a residual stream of income that helps you achieve financial independence. To learn more about our Houston property management services, please contact us today!