Realtors are in the business of selling homes, but occasionally our Sellers become fatigued or just something changes that makes them want to switch to being a landlord… here’s some tips by Melissa Rayworth, published in TheStarPress.
Cynthia Kent and her husband, John, didn’t set out to be landlords, but career choices made it necessary.
“We have rented out our home in Florida for nine years because we move all over with the military,” says Kent, who recently relocated her family from Nevada to Alabama for yet another posting.
Some people become accidental landlords because of a job change or difficulty selling a house. Others find they need to rent out the home of an elderly parent who has moved into a care facility. More than 3 million owner-occupied homes were converted to rental properties between 2007 and 2011, according to a 2013 report by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.
Some advice for those taking on this challenging new role:
• A credit check and legal background check can help you find reliable, honest tenants, says real-estate agent Gail Carpenter of Northwood Realty in Pittsburgh.
“Sometimes a credit check alone” will rule out an applicant, she says.
Personal references can be useful if the applicant is local and you have mutual acquaintances. Otherwise, be wary.
“Do not take ‘personal’ references too seriously,” says New York City condo owner Sharon Lynch, who rented her home to tenants while spending a year in California. “Anyone can get a friend to write something nice about them.”
Lynch suggests using an online directory to search for an applicant’s current address and get contact information for their neighbors. “Not only can these people tell you if your applicants are good neighbors, but they can also supply you with the landlord’s contact information,” she says, “just in case your potential tenant is faking you out, pretending a friend was his or her landlord.”
Meet applicants in person and really talk with them, Carpenter says.
• Once you’ve found your tenant, clean your home thoroughly and “make the property as safe as it can be,” Carpenter says.
You may also want to tackle any looming home improvement jobs now, rather than leave your tenant to handle (or ignore) them when they become larger problems.
• “It helps to take pictures of the house inside and out,” Kent says, to document its condition.
Don’t skip anything, and don’t assume one panoramic shot of each room will do. If you’re leaving furniture, also photograph the condition of each piece.
When Lynch returned to find her tenant had damaged the kitchen countertop, such “before” photos were key in being able to use the tenant’s security deposit to help pay for repairs.