How Solo Landlords & Managers Can Automate Like Larger Management Firms
One of the biggest complaints solo landlords report is the never-ending work week, the difficulty in taking a vacation from the madness of managing residential rentals. If you are one of those landlords who hasn’t had a vacation since taking on rental properties, this article is for you.
Thanks to the Internet and a few trusted contractors, your mom-and-pop home rental business can be run much like a large corporation in no time with some careful planning and a few practice runs.
Unfortunately, most landlords spend their time showing properties, responding to maintenance requests and tracking down rental payments unnecessarily. Most of the daily operations of maintaining rental properties can and should be automated the same way the big boys do it. Here are four ways solo landlords can leverage their resources to make it feel like they’ve switched management over to a large company.
Use centralized contact numbers. Rather than have tenants use your direct home or cell number as their only point of contact, consider utilizing a centralized (800) or local number for that purpose. There are plenty of choices around for free or low cost service for either (800) or local numbers. Google Voice provides one such free service for local numbers. These numbers can be placed on all of your correspondence with tenants as well as any or all of your ads. The calls to those numbers can then be forwarded to any phone you’d like. Whenever you need to be away, no more worries about your tenants blowing up your phone, simply have the number transferred to a trusted friend, relative or one of your best contractors. Your residents will never feel your absence, but you won’t get their phone calls – during your vacation, that is.
There are several call forwarding merchants who offer multiple extensions. RingCentral has an excellent and affordable service, but is just one of the many companies offering such a service.
You can have an extension for each of your contractors and others who assist you. For instance, if tenants are calling for an electrical emergency, they would press extension 1. All calls for plumbing would press extension 2, and so on. Of course, you would have an upfront agreement with your contractors that they would take these calls directly in your absence. You would also need to provide them with a pre-approved service amount limit as well as your definition of what constitutes an emergency. This agreement should be in writing and signed by both parties before utilizing it. It should go without saying that the contractor should also be one who has been carefully vetted by you.
Another option would be to have another central person identified who would take all calls as you would and then field the calls to the appropriate contractor(s). Either way, the tenants have one central number to call and never have to know you’re on vacation. More importantly, tenants will never be able to complain that their service calls went unanswered while you were away funning in the sun.
This contact number can be introduced at any point so don’t worry that you started out using your cell or home phone number. The introduction of this new system should be communicated to your tenants in writing as soon as you decide to utilize it. The tenants should be made aware of its effective date in that communication as well.
Delegate Tasks. Some states have no licensing requirement for property management which means you can have someone other than yourself or a licensed real estate agent show your home(s) for you. A great resource for this task is trusted relatives and/or friends who are already familiar with the layout and amenities of your home(s). Another good resource is college students (preferably seniors or graduate students) who are always eager to make extra money for college. A quick tour of the home to help familiarize them with the home’s best features and small details is all that is needed here. One precautionary measure would be to have an inexpensive camera installed, like a nanny-cam setup that can be easily monitored. Make everyone aware there are cameras in the house as well, just in case. An inexpensive combination lockbox can be left on the door for easy access. It is also a good idea to have a backup person on standby to change the code during your vacation if necessary, as a safety precaution.
Automate everything. If you haven’t already learned the lesson of not showing up at your property to pick up the tenant’s rent, you need to learn it now. This should never be a part of your practice; it’s unprofessional, not to mention potentially dangerous. From PayPal to ACH bank account withdrawals to automated rent deductions from tenants' payrolls, landlords and property managers have many options available to collect rent electronically. Not only will this automated system be convenient for everyone involved, experts say it could easily increase your compliance rate with most or all of your tenants paying in a timely fashion.
Hire an eviction service. Did you know that you can hire someone to handle your evictions for you without costing you the farm? All you need is excellent documentation, the fees charged by the court to process your eviction, and a nominal fee for a representative to actually present your case in court. This service is provided in most U.S. states for landlords and property managers, and the good news is its affordable. Whenever you’re unavailable for an eviction hearing or would just prefer not to go, you have services available to do it for you. A few options include Nationwide Evictions and ClickNotices.com; check to see if they service your area.
Now that you know you don’t have to always be present for your rental business to run smoothly, get your paperwork in order, line up all of your resources, and start packing for that much needed vacation you’ve been avoiding for years.
What’s in your automation plan that’s not included here?