Remote connections are easier to maintain than ever, which makes managing your rental property long-distance a breeze.
Property owners can easily manage rentals, including rent collection, maintenance, leases, and more from a distance—as long as they know how to do it. Here are some of the basics for maintaining your rental without setting foot where it’s located.
Further Reading: Should I invest in local or long-distance rental properties?
Hire a property management company
At first blush, hiring a property management company seems like a no-brainer. Ideally, a team of competent agents work on your behalf to keep your property occupied, take care of repairs, and collect rent. Property management services often charge a percentage of the monthly rental value—between 8 and 12 percent—or a flat fee plus expenses.
Putting the cost aside, you might want to consider these reasons for avoiding property management services:
Overbooking—Some companies take on more contracts than they can handle. If you choose one of those, your properties—and your renters—won’t get the attention they deserve.
Communications can be spotty—Not every company maintains a sufficient office staff, and the staff they do hire may not make efforts to keep you informed when problems arise. This could expose you to unforeseen bills and complaints from renters.
Newer companies lack networks—A property management company that has been in business for some time has an established network of handymen and tradespeople. Their longstanding relationships usually means savings for you. A company that hasn’t been working in the community may have to shop around for repair people when problems arise, which means longer wait times for renters and bigger bills for you.
Do your homework
If you’re planning to hire a property management company, it’s worth the trip to do it in person. Count on spending several days to a week interviewing companies (interview at least three) then making a decision. Be sure to get referrals for each company that meets your criteria.
You can manage rentals on your own
If you decide to rent your house and relocate, you probably don’t need a property manager. Landlords with smaller portfolios can take care of most aspects of property management themselves. Here are six ways to do it:
1. Delegate responsibility
If you have a trusted tenant, offer a rent reduction or some other benefit to act as a go-between between you and the tenants in your other rentals. This can be a convenient way to manage rentals in a multi-unit dwelling, such as an apartment. Alternatively, hire a friend to check in regularly on your rentals. Make sure this friend has written authorization from you to act on your behalf.
2. Establish a repair network
It pays to make friends with repair people, especially plumbers and electricians. These are the people you’ll most likely need in an emergency. If you know at least one pro in each trade, that person can always refer someone else when the first choice isn’t available.
3. Stay in touch
Include a clause in the lease to require tenants to contact you personally whenever a problem arises. Make it clear that it’s inappropriate to conduct any repairs on their own without your authorization or that of your appointed representative.
Call your tenants periodically to check in and make sure everything is okay. Keep your lines of communication open so that tenants, repair people, and your designated representatives can get in touch quickly.
4. Automate payments
Use an online rent collection service such as Cozy. These services can handle regular payments and collect late fees. You can even advertise your rental and screen applicants through Cozy. You’ll still need a personal representative to conduct personal interviews and sign lease agreements. In many cases, a local Realtor can fulfill this function.
5. Make sure you’re covered
Your insurance policy should cover liability to protect you in the case of accidents. It should also cover equipment breakdowns, theft, and hazards, such as fire and floods.
6. Get video-messaging updates
As long as you can do it without violating the privacy of your tenants, it’s a good idea to get video updates of your properties using Skype, FaceTime, or some other messaging service.
Do a yearly visit
In today’s interconnected world, it’s easier than ever to manage rentals from a distance. Online services like Cozy make rent collection a snap. Moreover, staying in touch with renters is as simple as having a cell phone connection.
Even so, it’s a good idea to plan at least one trip every year to each rental for a quick inspection and check-in. A personal connection keeps you firmly in the loop and, by keeping you abreast of problems that may develop in the future, prevents unpleasant surprises.