If you're planning to become a long distance landlord, the rental business can be harder than usual. Because you can't be there to handle most aspects of rental ownership yourself -- emergencies, day-to-day management and vetting of renters -- it's important to know how to make it work best for you. Here are 5 tips to get you started off right.
Use Property Management. Unless you have a lot of experience in the landlord business and reliable help in the local area, it may be best to hire a property management company to handle a lot of the work for you. While it may cut into your profit margin, it also saves time, money and stress when problems arise.
Automate What You Can. Collecting rent from a distance can be a hassle, as can paying regular bills and keeping track of your business. Do yourself a favor and set up a way for your tenants to pay their rent online or through automated services. If you pay a property manager to collect the rent, organize your account so that money is deposited electronically as well. Many regular payments -- such as for HOA fees, landscaping services, utilities or even the management fee -- can be set up as recurring payments through your bank or other provider so nothing gets forgotten or delayed by the mail.
Make Local Contacts. While you're in town and during opportunities to have regular, non-emergency services performed, start forming relationships with local service providers. This should include handymen, plumbers, HVAC technicians, electricians and landscaping companies. Having the number of a contact handy -- along with an account already set up -- can make a huge difference when an emergency strikes.
Visit the Properties. While you may not want to spend the time and money, it's important to regularly visit your rentals. At least once or twice a year, conduct an on-site personal inspection. Visit with your property management company to ensure they're doing their job as well. Chat with neighbors and the renters to ensure a smooth experience for all.
Communicate. When you can't be there yourself, it's even more important to keep good renters and good service companies. The best way to ensure a good relationship with everyone is to be available to call and meet with them. Provide phone numbers, email addresses and other contact information to your renters and encourage them to call with any concerns. Check in occasionally yourself. This cements your reputation as an involved landlord who cares about your tenants' satisfaction.
By knowing how to set yourself up for success as a long distance landlord, you can help keep your rental business profitable and as low stress as possible. For assistance, talk to a professional like Management Services.