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Ask Will: Self Managing My Rental Property

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A  column is written by Will Wiard, Arlington-based real estate broker, voted one of Washington’s Best Realtors of 2015 by Washingtonian. Please submit your questions via email.

Q: I’m planning to move overseas within the next few months and am interested in renting my condo for the first time. Do you have any tips to make the self-management of the property go more smoothly?

A: If you’re renting out your home for the first time and are not using a property management company or agent, there are some steps you can take to help prepare before you sign onto a lease agreement. The goal is to minimize property maintenance and rental issues during the term of the lease, and allow the tenant quiet enjoyment of the property.

Ensure solid leasing terms up front. There are a lot of places online that claim to offer fully enforceable lease agreements, but they can be risky. Depending on the state and jurisdiction, there are special modifications that need to be included to ensure you are protected. If you want to do rent your property on your own, without involving a management company or realtor, I suggest you consult with an attorney before finalizing the lease agreement.

Consider preventive maintenance. Before you rent, conduct a self-inspection of the systems and appliances in your home and consider replacing those that are in (or nearing) disrepair. For example, if your hot water heater on its last leg it may be time for an update. Making these updates can limit inconveniences for both your tenant and yourself if they were to fail while you are away. This can also help avoid any further damage that may come as a result (i.e., water damage). Keep in mind these updates can also be a tax write off (talk to your accountant!).

Discuss ongoing maintenance needs during a pre-rental walkthrough. Holding this in-person walkthrough with your tenant can help them understand how to conduct routine maintenance, such as replacing filters or the appropriate light bulbs, and identifying and operating shutoff values for plumbing, electric and appliances.

This may also be a good time to explore the condition of the property with the tenant so they can identify any imperfections in advance of signing the lease. Providing this opportunity can help avoid any issues that may fall beyond normal wear and tear once the tenant vacates.

Establish a system to receive regular payments. Whether you’re moving out of the area or staying local an automated monthly payment system can help protect against any hiccups with late payments from your renter. I recommend asking your tenant to enroll in direct deposit or e-checks that are automatically sent from the bank each month. This helps remove the anxiety associated with receiving the mailed payment, and the possibility of it getting lost in transit – especially if your are moving overseas.

Plan for emergency repairs. If you’re moving out of the area, make sure to have a system in place to ensure your property and your tenant are taken care of in the event of an emergency. Outside of property management companies, there are companies that offer 24-hour emergency services should your tenant have a last-minute issue and you’re not available.

While many homeowners in the area rent on their own, renting and property management are not for everyone. Should you find this situation daunting, property management is always an option. Many local brokerages offer this service, and I am also happy to make a referral for anyone interested.

I’m hoping some readers can share any additional advice they have in comments.

Thank you for this week’s question. Please keep them coming to [email protected]. This is also a great place to reach me for anyone looking to buy or sell a home in the Arlington area.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

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