How to Become a Landlord

Here are five best practices to consider before listing your property for rent.

U.S. News & World Report

How to Become a Landlord

modern architecture, new empty house, room

Fresh paint, recently finished hardwood floors and a professional cleaning job will help renters feel confident about signing a lease.(Getty Images)

First impressions are lasting. If you're becoming a landlord for the first time, know that in order to secure a tenant quickly and obtain the highest possible price, it’s important to take certain steps to prep your rental property before it hits the market.

Since COVID-19 entered the picture, we’ve observed a significant shift in the rental market across the country. More and more, homeowners in densely populated urban cities are listing their properties for rent instead of selling in an effort to avoid taking a big loss in equity.

Places like New York City and San Francisco have experienced a significant softening in the housing market as an increasing number of people have decided to move out of big cities. On the other side of the coin, as renters leave cities for suburban areas or warmer destinations, homeowners who have never rented out their homes have taken this as an opportunity to charge a premium and make some extra income.

Whether you’re a homeowner or investor, here are five best practices to consider before listing your property for rent:

  • Make cosmetic updates.
  • Deep clean and sterilize.
  • Get everything in working order.
  • Build a roster of helpful contacts.
  • Work with a real estate agent.

Make Cosmetic Updates

Painting is essential. Renters always want to know that their new home has been freshly painted before they move in. Stick to neutral shades like white or pale gray, which will serve as a blank canvas for a tenant to decorate and make the home their own. Be sure to get every surface including moldings, ceilings and the insides of the closets.

Refinish the floors. If wood floors are scuffed or damaged in any way, it can make the space look and feel run down, so refinishing them before listing your property is always a good idea. If any of the floors are carpeted, hire a professional to steam clean them or replace them altogether, if necessary. Many renters dislike wall-to-wall carpeting for hygienic reasons. In areas like bedrooms where it can be removed, it may be wise to consider ripping it up and leaving wood floors so tenants can lay their own area rugs if desired.

Replace any hardware and light fixtures that feel dated. This is typically a relatively inexpensive way to give the space a facelift, and make the decor feel more relevant.

Deep Clean and Sterilize

The coronavirus pandemic has made us all more conscious than ever about hygienic practices. A professional cleaning of the property is essential before putting it on the market and welcoming new tenants.

Be sure to do a thorough cleaning of the grout in the bathrooms and in between backsplash tiles in the kitchen. Clean inside cabinets and sterilize the inside of the refrigerator and freezer, as well as the dishwasher and clothes washer and dryer. Replace the filters in the air conditioners and clean all of the air vents. Mold and bacteria can build up in these areas, so keeping them clean on a consistent basis is crucial.

Get Everything in Working Order

When they get the keys to their new home, tenants want to know that everything is in working order. Test all appliances in advance of the lease start date to ensure you’re not scrambling at the 11th hour to get things repaired.

If the property has electric shades or any audiovisual equipment, make sure everything works properly and the remotes are easy to locate. If the bathrooms have radiant heated floors, test those too. Make sure any gutters or chimneys are cleared out and replace the bulbs in ceiling lights.

Build a Roster of Helpful Contacts

Particularly if you’re new to being a landlord, you’ll want to build a roster of professionals who can remain just a phone call away if complex issues arise. You'll want a go-to electrician, plumber and roofer, or a general handyman that you can trust to take care of potential problems. Check out online resources like Nextdoor or Thumbtack to research top-rated local businesses, and find the pros that will work best for you.

Work With a Real Estate Agent

Hiring a real estate agent to help you list and market your property once it’s ready for potential tenants will greatly increase the prospect of renting it out quickly and for the highest possible price.

A real estate agent will take care of photography, showing appointments, the lease signing and have the support of a brokerage firm’s marketing capabilities to make sure your listing reaches the largest pool of potential tenants, as well as the brokerage community.

Whether you’re a seasoned landlord or this is your first rodeo, making sure your rental property presents itself well and is properly prepped to welcome its new tenant is essential. If you put in the work ahead of time you can more likely guarantee a seamless transition and a happy tenant during the term of the lease. Don’t hold out in the beginning – crossing these to-dos off your checklist from the onset, and doing them well, will set the stage for a smooth tenancy.

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