Mini-Guide to Real Estate Investment
The pathways to real estate investing and rental housing are as varied as the people who own real estate. Everyone has a story. Some people started very young because their parents were landlords. They grew up collecting rents and doing move in-move out checklists with their parents. Other people read online about opportunities in real estate; still others saw market opportunity after the recession, and others become accidental landlords because they cannot sell a property or they have inherited real estate and rent it out for sentimental reasons or just to have extra income.
Whatever your story, if you are reading this then you are either currently in the rental property/real estate investment market or are trying to dive into it.
Here are our thoughts about getting started in real estate investing and being a successful, long-term landlord. We hear stories and help people every day with various problems ranging mold mitigation, to tenants who are hoarders, to helping members with our forms and publications. Our members are a cross-section of America. We have men and women, young and old, and a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Real estate is a very rewarding business. As with any industry there are stories of challenges people face and you might have heard a few from friends and others. Most of the problems stem from people not knowing or understanding the laws, not treating their real estate investment as a business or just not mitigating risk.
We complied some best practices on getting started in property investment and management.
Making Best Use of your Time
Many of our members have other jobs and obligations besides running their rental properties. You can easily find a way to both run your rentals and have a day job. It's all about scheduling and balance. Weekends are a great chance to have open houses. Meeting with applicants and tenants after work and dealing with paperwork at that time can also be a good use of time. Schedule 1-2 hours a day to work in your rental business and you can manage your business without feeling like you have no time and feelings of overwhelm. Keep RHAWA's vendor directory handy – hard copy or online - for professionals who can help you make repairs and solve other business problems.
It's a business, act like a business person
One of the most important things people forget is that rental housing is a business. This attitude will save you lots of pain and heartache throughout your rental property ownership. From writing good criteria, to following the rules in your lease, to treating your rental like the asset of a business; professionalism will save you time and money in the long run. Many of the most interesting questions we get on the Resource Desk here at RHAWA have to do with landlords not treating their properties like assets and the relationship with their tenant as a business relationship.
Learn about your market
Many questions people have are simply market research questions. "How much rent should I charge?" "How much should I increase the rent and when?" This is where keeping a close eye on the rental marketing in the neighborhood of your property is important. This will help you set prices, see how your unit compares and when to consider what upgrades or amenities you might want to to stay competitive in the rental market. Remember, rental housing market is an open and free market. The best qualified tenants have options. You can position yourself as a great option and attract some great tenants that you will love for years.
Get Sharp; Stay Sharp
As a new landlord, it's important to keep the learning going by understanding your city’s landlord-tenant laws and how rental property marketing works. Rental housing is a complicated business. It's not as easy as it seems. Taking classes here at RHAWA is a good way to learn about the latest changes in laws, landlording basics, and tenant screening. Rental housing is the type of business that a wrong decision, no matter how accidental can end up costing thousands or even result in legal problems. Being successful means you do your best to understand the landlord-tenant laws and your responsibilities as a landlord. Learning is also an active process. When you need a vendor, whether it is for insurance, or a new roof, or a HVAC system, ask lots of questions so you have no surprises later on.