Monday, July 1, 2013

Is it time to be a landlord? by Maggie Krainin

If you own residential property that isn't currently occupied, or soon won't be, the answer could be “yes!"

The Sebago region is growing. Families are moving into the area, executives overseeing projects and startups come and go, families who are already here go through normal life stages of up- and down-sizing and reconfiguring their households.

Your own housing needs may fit that pattern, too. If its size or location aren't currently convenient, if your work relocates you, or your family's needs are changing, you should consider renting your home. And if you've already moved out and are trying to sell it, renting your home could make a big difference to your finances until the market catches up.

In all likelihood, your property is already in condition to be rented – though you will probably need to make some preparations first, such as cleanup, minor repairs, painting, and of course you will need to decide whether all or partial furnishings will be included. Most year-round tenants are seeking an empty house.

The other rentability consideration is location. Naturally the market for convenient and short commutes to work centers is stronger than it is for properties far out in the boondocks! However, the great equalizer for inconvenience of all kinds is price. If your property is priced appropriately, not just for size and condition, but also for location, you should have no difficulty finding tenants.

So you know there is demand for rentals. And you know your property will likely be rentable. The question is do you really want to be a landlord all by yourself? It's definitely a commitment of not only your property, but your attention for a period of time -- like a job.

I like to say that every job is a service job, and every service is a human service – but it goes double for landlording! As a landlord you will be responsible for safe and decent conditions at the property, potable water, functioning equipment, and the peaceful, undisturbed use of a well-defined space by your tenants. It's important to formally acknowledge that commitment to yourself and everyone who will be assisting you (family, business staff, agents), before you begin.

You will need to advertise, show the property, screen tenants, negotiate leases and rental agreements, arrange move-ins and move-outs, process rent payments and sometimes deal with issues of nonpayment, and respond responsibly to both slow-moving and emergency maintenance situations.

If you know you want to rent but you also know you don't have the time or inclination to manage all these factors, hiring a rental agent is the answer. And if you also have urgency created by financial need, though it may seem less expensive to do everything yourself, it's faster, more efficient and ultimately more cost effective to hire an agent, because it's really hard to take on a project of this size in addition to all your other responsibilities, and especially when pressure is on you to get everything done fast.

TV programs about real estate show dramatic pitfalls and stress of property management and maintenance, and difficult experiences with tenants. These shows go looking for drama – the everyday truth is not so extreme. However, if you don't know what you're doing, trial and error, or learning as you go, can be very costly.

Now is the time of year when demand for rentals is highest in the lake region – people want to get situated while the weather is good and before school reopens. The other times when demand is high are after the holidays and nearing the end of winter.

If you've been thinking about renting your property, now would be a good time to take the plunge. And if you're not sure how to proceed, call a rental agent. They will be happy to visit the property with you and give you recommendations for work that's needed and price.

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