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Listen to manager’s advice about upgrading rental property

As a property manager, I’ve had many rental property owners who handle their property upkeep in different ways. I’ve had folks from both ends of the spectrum, from those who update unnecessarily to those who never fix a thing.

One of my favorite stories is about an owner who owned a house for decades. The outside had visible dry rot, and the landscape was overgrown and probably planted in the 1960s. The color of the house also was from that era. The inside walls had been repeatedly spackled and very poorly painted so the previous color showed through. Pieces of dirty popcorn ceiling would fall every time I showed the house and the carpet, every room a different color of brown, actually crunched and smelled like something died. Needless to say, I lost half of the interested parties when they drove by, not wanting to take a look to see the inside. For the brave of heart who ventured inside, they were sorry, as the smell from the carpet hit them upon entering. Many people wouldn’t move into the next room. To add insult to injury, they wanted a lot of rent for the condition of the property.

When I began managing the property, I let the owners know what needed to be done to bring the property up to date. They didn’t want to show it themselves because it seemed that the only people who were interested in the property were not the prospects they wanted. I said I would try, but after a couple of weeks, it was apparent that the reason it wasn’t renting wasn’t because of the market; it was the condition of the house. After two more unsuccessful weeks of trying, the owner finally conceded to painting and re-carpeting the house. It rented that week.

The moral of this story is, when you have a house that looks and smells clean and looks like somebody cares, it will draw in people who also care about the property. It doesn’t need to look like the Taj Mahal, but think about how you would like it to look if you lived there. Take a step back and listen to the comments prospects make. There are some things you can’t change, but other things don’t take much effort to make the house nicer. In the previous story, renting the house a month earlier could have paid the money the owners finally spent on the upgrades, besides being a tax write-off.

An owner I had who lived out of state would visit every year and we would do a walk-through of the property. We would make a list of things that needed immediate attention and a few things they wanted to do to improve the property. The list was put in order of importance. Some items would be pushed back to the following year, but they really knew what was going on with their property. As a property manager, I really appreciated their time and input. We were a team and keeping their property in good shape really paid off. Because we kept up on things, they avoided a lot of emergencies and the costs that can come with that. We also enjoyed tenants staying for years as they knew they were listened to and their needs were met.

If you have a property that isn’t renting, take a step back and see your property through the eyes of a tenant. Look at the paint and the landscaping. If you have the attitude of “it’s just a rental,” it could cost you in the long run.

Look at the other houses on the market and ask your manager his or her opinion on what they feel the rental amount should be for the property. Property managers understand the market and want your property rented. If you aim too high, you risk losing valuable time and good prospects. If the property is priced correctly, potential renters will be knocking on your door with applications. Getting your property rented at market rate right away could save you months of vacancy. The money you lose with vacancy time easily could have been made up if the property had priced correctly in the first place.

Listen to the advice of the professionals. They may have good ideas to help you improve your property and attract great tenants for top rent with shorter vacancy time.

Do you have a question regarding rental property as a landlord or tenant? Send questions to [email protected] or call us at 615.900.4067.

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