Your Rental Home Wants You to Wait Until It’s Ready

Every client we’ve ever had has wanted as little vacancy time for their rental as possible.  Zero days are optimal; every day after zero winds up costing them money in utilities, mortgage payments, and maintenance.  Not wanting to lose any money leads to a mentality of getting the home on the market as soon as possible, regardless of condition and resident situation.

So some clients want us to put their homes on the market prior to them being ready for occupancy.  What I mean by this is that the home has not been completely repaired and there are still personal items in the house.  They (or their current tenants) also are within the process of moving.

The rationale, by itself, is sound.  The greater the length of time the house is on the market, the greater amount of potential tenants that can see it.  If more potential renters see it, the law of large numbers would dictate that someone at some point would love it and want it.

However, does this really work?  I would argue it doesn’t.  Huh?  Why’s that?  Isn’t it common sense?

Simply, the American consumer’s mind works differently now.  There is an inundation of information being flung at them on a constant basis.  Most of it is ignored; however, there are some marketing messages that get through (like a rental listing).  If the consumer takes the time and makes an inquiry to visit the property, there is typically one shot to get them.  Their attention span is limited.

This one shot means that the house has to look perfect.  This visit needs to conclude with the prospective tenant loving the house.  If they see or feel something they don’t like, it will probably turn them off and they will want to find another home.  And there are many other rental houses on the market that look very similar.  The competition is fierce!

 

So why does this matter?  Maybe the diamonds in the rough that aren’t turned off by the home’s uncleanliness will be unearthed and they’ll take it.  It’s certainly possible.  But are renters who don’t care about the condition of the home desirable?  If so, there may be disappointment when move-out time arrives and the home doesn’t look so great.  Clean people typically want clean homes.

The other main reason is that once the marketing of the property begins, momentum is started.  The rental is on the top of all the searches from rental websites, people who are waiting for a rental are told about it by their property managers, and it is fresh.  This is when things typically happen for an average rental home- the first two weeks.  Interested calls, inquiring e-mails, and subsequent showings come quickly.  They need to be harnessed and converted into applications and security deposits.

But when the rental house isn’t up to the task, momentum is stunted.  Interested, potential renters see the property in less than ideal shape and compare it to better kept homes on the market.  The home loses out.  Or the current tenant in the home is packing boxes to move and glares at the renter who is interrupting their evening after work.  The house looks horrible and the vibe is bad.  Potential renters flee to the next home.  Can you blame them?

With rental homes, it’s more about quality time on the market and less about total time.  Make sure the rental home is ready and most inviting when the most people want to look at it!

Rental Home Walk-Throughs: 4 Ways to Protect Yourself

“You know you have a good compromise when both sides are slightly unhappy.” (Many Authors Credited)

As a Charlotte property manager, my least favorite part of the job are the end-of-lease walk-throughs; that is, when the tenant moves out, and we visit the property to check out its condition. If there are damages, we need to decide whether they are “normal wear and tear” (no charge to the tenant) or damages that need to be repaired from the tenant funds. It’s very subjective.

There are three scenarios when it comes to these property manager walk-throughs. The house is left in:

Great condition: The tenant gets their security deposit back and the owner doesn’t have to pay much to get the home in market shape. Everyone is happy. Mediocre Condition: Some of the damage is normal wear and tear, and some of it was caused by too much rough play by the tenant. This is where the greatest conflicts occur between owner and tenant. Poor Condition: The security deposit is basically conceded by the tenant. They know they don’t deserve anything back and hope that there is no future contact concerning the property. The owner is able to use the security deposit to mitigate repair costs.

 

I’m going to focus on the most challenging situation, the home left in “mediocre condition”. This can elicit two different responses from the same walk-through report:

Owner: “You’re killing me! That tenant treated my home like a kid’s tree house and they are only being charged $500 for damages? Add a zero please! They should be put in jail! Did they ever think to cover the food in microwave so it didn’t erupt all inside of it? Did they decide to save money on towels and wipe their hands on the walls? The carpet was new when they moved in! You’re being easy on them! You represent me, remember? Why do you like them so much?”

Tenant: “You’re killing me! I treated that home like my own! I cleaned it daily. We took our shoes off when we were inside (which we shouldn’t have even bothered with, being that the carpet was shoddy-looking when we moved in- I told you this!! Remember??) There might have been a couple things wrong, but I could have fixed them for like $50! $500? Are you crazy?? I thought you liked me! This is highway robbery! You’ll be hearing from my attorney!”

Property managers are really trying to do the right thing, but are stuck in the middle of competing interests. It’s sort of like being friends with both the wife and the husband when they are in the midst of a divorce. You want to be friends with both (like usual), without either of them feeling slighted. Practically-speaking, that can be tough to do!

To make this experience as clean and easy as possible, I’d offer the following four suggestions to landlords:

Trust your instincts- there is no “right” answer and it is usually impossible to make both parties entirely happy Be specific on damages and document repair costs Have a consistent methodology on how costs are assessed Take pictures or use video during the walk-through so tenants can see the damages they are being charged for

Though rental home walk-throughs can’t always be pain-free, there are ways to limit potential fall-out from this necessary part of the property management business.