Plan Your First Moves
You've been living in a townhouse or starter home in Richmond for a handful of years. Maybe you bought it shortly after finishing school and landing your first "real job." Perhaps you moved to the area for work and didn't want to deal with the hassles of apartment living. However you got there, now you're looking to move out. Whether you're getting married or are looking to size up to make room for a new child, you'll end up facing the question of what to do with your old home when you're gone.
Many people will sell their home off without a second thought. You've decided that you have a unique opportunity to get a start on what will hopefully become a long term investment. That's great! Chances are, though, that if you've found yourself in this sort of scenario, you never intended to be a landlord. You're sitting at square one, probably wondering how you even play the game. We'll offer you a few starting moves that you can make to be the best landlord that you can be.
1. Learn About Applicable Laws
Many laws exist that will have an impact on your experience as a landlord. Federal laws and regulations tend to be broad, but you'll need to be attentive to rules that apply to fair housing and the accommodation of disabilities. Pay special attention to Virginia state laws that address landlord-tenant relations. State laws will address items such as:
- Fair housing (from a Virginia perspective)
- Lease requirements
- Eviction rules
- Landlord and tenant responsibilities
- Security deposit rules
- Notice of entry requirements
While state law will probably be your bread and butter, learn Richmond city ordinances that will impact housing codes and other minor items. All of this information is a lot to take in, so seek legal counsel if you find yourself running into a roadblock.
2. Prepare Your Property
When you have a better sense of what you're getting into, it's time to prepare your property physically for occupation. You'll want your property to be habitable at worst, and ideally appealing and full of charm.
- Inspect your property for any issues.
- Clean it as thoroughly as you've ever cleaned it.
- Address any safety issues like non-functioning smoke detectors or fire extinguishers.
- Handle any sprucing up that you want to do, such as installing fixtures or repainting.
- Inform your mortgage and insurance companies that you are no longer occupying the home and that you'll be renting it instead.
3. Write an Ironclad Lease
Your lease is the keystone of your rental experience. This document spells out all of the terms of your agreement with your tenant from behavioral expectations to how long they can occupy the property.
- Be specific about your expectations and spell out what tenants can expect from you.
- Outline penalties as explicitly as you can.
- Make things as black and white as possible between you and your renters.
Write a good lease, and ideally, you can get ahead of any confusion or problems before they even begin.
4. Find a Great Tenant
Finding a great tenant can be easier said than done, but it's not impossible! If you can market your property well, you can attract an excellent array of potential renters. You'll have the chance to screen them thoroughly and find someone that's a good fit. Your tenants are the ones who ultimately pay into your investment, and without them, you aren't making money. It's worth the effort to develop the ability to work well with people and get a good read on whom you can deal with productively. Put the work into attracting and screening for the right tenants, and you'll have an easier time as a Richmond landlord.
5. Keep up with Maintenance
You finally have the right person in place. The lease is signed, and the keys are handed over. The moving van has pulled away, and you think that the hard part is finally over—then the water heater springs a leak. Unfortunately, managing a rental property isn't any easier than managing your own home. Even the best-built home will need upkeep and repairs every so often. It's trickier as a landlord because you aren't the one living on the property. You can easily lose sight of what issues might be cropping up and how well your tenants are keeping things in repair. Do regular inspections and try to address problems as early as possible.
6. Collect Your Rent
Now comes the payoff: collecting and depositing your rent checks. This is the reward for all the work you've put into getting this far—if your tenants have paid on time, that is. If you've done well with marketing your property and screening your tenants, you'll probably have a reasonably smooth experience. Even with advanced preparation and proper maintenance, you can't predict every problem; this is when the next point comes into play.
7. Consider a Property Management Partnership
If all of this sounds like a lot of work, you aren't alone! If you find yourself struggling to keep up with everything that you need to handle, seek out the services of an expert property manager. Mission Realty Property Management can take the burden of all those day-to-day tasks off your shoulders. Mission Realty can handle everything from marketing and tenant screening to maintenance and rent collection. If you're struggling with any aspect of property management—or don't know where to begin—reach out to Mission Realty Property Management and schedule a free consultation today!