By Military-By-Owner; Dawn M. Smith
Dear About-To-Be Military Landlord,
As your PCS dates approach, I bet your anxiety and stress levels are mounting. There is so much to get done and approve before renters appear and live in your home as their own.
Whether you’ve chosen landlord life as a real estate investment or you’ve been given limited choice by military service obligations, it’s time to start checking off the lists of things to accomplish before your tenants arrive. A month by month guide of specific tasks will help stretch out the preparations into manageable projects.
Over the course of 3 to 6 months, you can expect to tackle items from these categories. Depending on your local rental market, you may have more or less time to work with.
- Organize and Research
- Update, Repair, and Clean
6 Months Out
Now is the time to start researching your neighborhood’s rental market. You might instantly assume that asking for a specific BAH rate or matching your mortgage payment is the best answer, but this may not be reflective of your local rental economy. You’ll have to consider a multitude of factors to tally a cost-effective payment amount that appeals to renters.
Regularly reviewing other local listings is helpful, but you’ll also need to calculate your costs to make sure your rental income will cover things such as additional homeowners/renters insurance and a sum of money set aside for the inevitable repairs that will occur while you are away.
Consider a Property Manager
Where will your PCS take you? Overseas? Just 2 hours away? You’ll need to decide whether you can afford a property manager to handle the day-to-day issues or if you’ll save money by attending to the problems and maintenance yourself.
A property management company will typically charge ten percent of the rent paid monthly and possibly have additional fees for rent collection and other services. Convenience and logistics will have the most influence over your decision. If your PCS destination is Korea, repairing a water leak in your home in Kansas will prove difficult even if you make the arrangements yourself.
Learn Local Landlord/Tenant Laws
Landlord/tenant laws will be time-consuming to fully read and understand, so it is helpful to make an appointment with a JAG office to hear the law interpreted. Each state has their own set of laws which may lead to more investigation and paperwork. While you are in the office, ask for their recommendation for obtaining a legal lease to use with your tenants.
You’ll have to know tenants’ rights. Eviction isn’t as simple as you might think. Although eviction is the worst-case scenario, there are plenty of other legalities in play, such as the correct way to hold the deposit, respecting a military clause, and property upkeep.
3 Months Out
Update the Property
Taking stock of the necessary repairs and updates needed to attract and maintain quality tenants is one of the most important components for preparing your home to be used as a rental. You can be assured your potential tenants expect and appreciate a fully functional, updated, and clean home to move into. Take these points into consideration; renters will notice.
- Safety first. Secure anything hazardous like banisters, stairs, and decks. Electrical issues you deem “quirky,” or “part of living in an old home” will frighten renters away.
- An inexpensive way to update the look of your home is to freshen the front door and entry area. New paint and door accessories are simple to install, and the supplies are readily available.
- Clean the exterior, including siding and decking. Professional power washers make quick work of grime and mold buildup. Attractive landscaping is also necessary. Neat and simple plantings are easy to maintain and add curb appeal.
- Neutralize paint colors. For some renters, room color is important. They’ll be turned off if the existing color is too specific to see their belongings work in the space.
Clean and Organize
It’s never too early to begin purging and discarding unwanted and broken items. As soon as possible, pick one room at a time to sort items to donate, trash, or sell. In the end, determine if it’s a wise use of time to have a yard sale before you depart.
Dirty or smelly houses do not rent to the tenants you’re hoping for. Ceiling to floor cleaning is of the most importance. Renters already have to push away the hesitation that they will inherit someone else’s lack of cleanliness. Don’t give them any more reason to think so. A thorough cleaning (including shampooing of carpets) should be done by the owner. It’s also a good idea to have a professional crew come in and complete what is known as a “move out” cleaning session.
Assemble Household Information
To avoid questions, mishaps, and unnecessary communication, set out to collect as much information about the house as possible for your future tenants. A binder or accordion envelope will work fine. Place manuals for appliances and other household gadgets inside along with a list of approved contractors to call in case of repairs. You’ll need contact numbers for a general handyman, HVAC company, plumber, etc. It would also be helpful to share local information about schools, parks and recreation options, and utility companies.
Begin Marketing Strategy
If you haven’t already, a marketing strategy needs to be planned. Choosing an advertisement mode like MilitaryByOwner is one option to get your home noticed quickly. But all methods of online advertising are going to require numerous high-quality pictures of clean and inviting rooms throughout the house. Renters want to imagine themselves in your home and cannot if the picture lighting is poor, or if the rooms are too dirty to look beyond the surface.
Your ads should also include key facts such as possible commute times, schools zoned for the area, and your pet policy.
Letting friends and family know of your house’s availability is a great start for looking for a tenant. Knowing your preferences, they may find the perfect family for your home. It’s always best to start with some sort of referral.
Regardless of who you rent to, it is a good business practice to conduct background and credit checks. These are in addition to the questionnaire you’ve created to find out more about the potential renters: names, children, pets, pertinent lease dates.
Military families are typically ideal renters because they care for and respect the owner’s property. It is also somewhat easier to use their chain of command or JAG office for legal assistance if needed. To attract and keep happy renters, the responsibility lies in the landlord’s hands.
Preparing a rental house is not easily accomplished. In-depth planning is required to start and maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with your tenants. As soon as the option to rent your home is a legitimate possibility, it’s time to start brainstorming your month-to-month guide for laying the groundwork for becoming a military landlord.