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It certainly is not easy to collect rent, repair the property, and maintain good communication with tenants when you’re out of town, or even out of state. Our simple guide on how to manage rental property remotely will equip you with all the tools and information you need to manage smoothly your rental investment as a remote landlord.
Let’s recognize it, managing a rental property is never an easy task, and trying to keep an eye on everything when you don’t have the boots on the ground is even harder. In recent years, we’ve seen more and more landlords manage their properties online, and even more join in as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the adjustment to a fully virtual property management style may take you some time, these simple tips we have prepared will bring you a step closer to mastering the management of your rental property remotely.
Let’s have a quick look at the main points of this article before we detail each of them. You can feel free to jump to each individual step if you like.
- Property security
- Rental Marketing
- Showing the property
- Tenant verification
- Managing the property remotely
Property Security – Install a Security System before Your Rent Out
Security should be your top priority when you are managing a rental property out of state or out of town. You won’t be able to be there every other day to solve problems that your tenants might encounter, and you simply don’t afford security breaches.
Installing a security system provides you and your tenants’ extra security and peace of mind. Home security systems are effective in preventing break-ins and vandalism, and you can also use them to monitor your property when it is vacant.
But there’s more to consider when talking about home security. Carbon monoxide detectors with digital alerts and smart door locks with digital keys are included in modern systems, providing the necessary safety features for landlords and tenants alike, and they are extremely popular among professional property managers as well. With smart keyless locks, you just have to change the combination when a new tenant moves in. You also don’t have to worry about tenants losing their keys, or having to change keys every time a tenant moves out.
If you are looking to add security systems to your property, you need to clearly communicate with the tenants the expectations. While you will be responsible as landlord for the upkeep and associated costs of digital security systems, you may need to discuss the phone numbers associated with the systems in case of an emergency, as well as who and when they have access to the cameras on the premises.
You should clearly state the above in the lease to avoid any confusion or legal missteps down the road.
Rental Marketing – Online Marketing is a Must
If you’re not already advertising online, we cannot emphasize how much you’re missing out on, as tenants search for properties mostly on the internet. Although a well-placed, corner-lot property is going to get a lot of street views and calls from curious potential renters, listing your property on a rental site will dramatically increase the number of tenants who actually browse through your listing, and therefore your number of applicants.
You can advertise your vacant properties in multiple ways, but some of these are:
- Directly in a rental listing portal
- Through your property management software, in case you use one, and that tool offers syndication options
- Freely on Craigslist, etc.
The list is truly endless for online rental portals to advertise on, with the convenience they bring to on-the-go search. Here are few popular ones used by today’s out of town landlords:
- Zillow Rental Manager – With a large database of houses and apartments, landlords will want to list their properties on this platform. The Landlord’s first listing is free, followed by a weekly cost of $9.99 for each additional listing.
- Trulia – This website is free to use for both owners, listing agents, and landlords.
- Apartment.com – This website is very user-friendly for first-time Landlords, it covers condos, apartments, houses, and townhouses. The subscription cost is $24.99 plus tax for up to 10 applications in a 30-day period.
- Avail.no – this website is free for Landlords and your rental will automatically appear on the top 12 rental sites, including realtor.com.
Once you’ve set up your profile on rental portals, you need to list the property, and here comes the tricky part: you need EXCELLENT photos, and we mean it.
Another feature that is becoming more and more popular among tenants in recent years is a video e-tour of the property. Pictures don’t always capture all assets that a property might have, and certainly don’t do justice to that top-notch, new HVAC you just installed a month ago. Out-of-town renters looking to move in usually don’t have the time and energy to view property after property before deciding to apply, and they often prefer to tour the rental from the comfort of their current residence. Taking a video of the property certainly helps you get more qualified applicants, faster, and eliminates many of the initial questions tenants may have, as they are already able to have a much better idea about the property that they’re applying for. Videos also allow you to highlight the best features of the rental.
If you are an out-of-state landlord, taking a video yourself is probably not the most convenient option for you. You will need to hire a local professional to shoot the video. A professional cameraman is guaranteed to record a scene that will capture several angles and a few “safety shots” with good lighting that will be edited to create your final cut. At HomeVault, most of our property videos are taken and edited by professionals. Feel free to have a look at one of our property videos, so that you get a feel for the final product. This will save you time and effort that you might otherwise spend on refilming and prevent you from settling for subpar shots that will make your work look unprofessional.
Showing the Property – Install A Smart Lock for Self-Showing
So your online marketing strategy worked and now you have many potential tenants interested in touring your property on the spot. Since you’re managing rental property from out of state, here’s how you make it happen:
We advise you to install self-showing facilities on the property. Don’t panic, we’ll explain in a second what these mean.
There are some companies specializing in remote viewing. The benefit of remote viewing is that potential renters can visit your property in person, even if there’s no one to show the property. Potential residents can register their information and schedule a viewing time online, and then walk themselves in by using a temporary code that changes immediately after they exit the property.
With smart locks, you can even get alerts or texts that show timestamps of entries and exits, so you gain a clear knowledge of who’s coming in and going out. Such systems also come with many other benefits. You can give your family and friends a set of “digital” keys. Plus, when your tenant decides to vacate the property you can program the smart lock to reset the lock combination, which means you never have to change locks or make replacement keys again. Imagine not having that large manila envelope or drawer filled with keys to every door and storage locker in your rental properties!
Thorough screening is key to managing a rental property out of state, as it increases the chances that your property will be inhabited by a qualified tenant, who will create less trouble and will not need you to be present on the property. In our most recent blog, we’ve talked in detail about tenant verification. In a nutshell, tenant verification involves background checks of potential tenants in order to make sure they fit your standards in terms of income and criminal history. It’s important to screen tenants as not doing so can result in troublesome tenants who can cause legal issues, monetary losses, and a bad reputation for your property. Tenant screening comprises credit checks, criminal background checks, rental history, and income verification.
As a remote landlord, we recommend that you observe fair housing laws. Most tenant screening services can be accessed in front of the computer, and don’t require you to interact with the provider or the tenant.
Leasing – E-signature leasing
Congratulations, you’ve selected the perfect tenant for the property, and now you need to sign the lease. As a remote landlord, e-leasing is your best option. Online lease signing tools utilize legally binding electronic signatures for your important documents. You can create a lease agreement and send it to your tenants electronically to be reviewed and signed digitally. You’ll also be able to track the progress of your online lease being signed, so you’ll know when to welcome your tenant once the process is complete.
This makes it easy and efficient for landlords and tenants to e-sign using different tools like Avail. Creating customized, branded lease/renewal offers and having an applicant quickly and easily e-sign it on the spot on any mobile device with the following:
- Avail: Avail offers a residential lease agreement; walking the tenant through the whole process on how to sign the lease and notify the landlord once it’s ready to be signed.
- Buildium: Buildium has a partnership with Adobe Document Cloud so you can collect e-signatures for every lease and addendum directly from Buildium’s software, a property management software landlords can use to manage their units.
- Rentec Direct: With Rentec Direct subscription automatically comes with a HelloSign account at no additional cost. You can begin sending documents for your tenants to sign immediately, for absolutely free.
- TenantCloud: TenantCloud only offers electronic lease signing to landlords with an upgraded paid subscription plan, E-signature tenants have access to the lease and can sign the form using their mobile phones or any other devices.
Managing the Property Remotely
When it comes to remote property management, the best tool that you can use is property management software. There are hundreds of options available for all types of landlords and all budgets and goals. Why is property management software so important? Because it provides you with all the tools to administer your out-of-state rental property from the comfort of your home. The list of features is really long, but these are some of the more important ones:
6.1. The Tenant Portal
Pretty much all property management tools out there come with a tenant portal, which is an online hub through which tenants manage their relationship with you, the landlord. That’s where you can post documents of interest, communicate with them, collect the rent, receive maintenance requests, and much more.
6.2. Online Rent Payment
Online payment is another common feature of property management tools, and that’s for a reason. Your tenants need an easy way to pay for rent online, as checks are less and less fashionable nowadays. Online rent payments are also the most convenient method for you since all payments are automatically tracked and populated into your ledger, streamlining your accounting process.
6.3. Online Maintenance
Some property management tools for landlords come with a system of rental maintenance management, where tenants submit maintenance requests online, through their tenant portal. This makes it easy and convenient for tenants, as they don’t need to wait to talk to you on the phone. It is handy for remote landlords as well, since most tools allow for photo and video attachments so that you have a clear understanding of what the problem is. With an online maintenance request system in place, you are in a position to evaluate maintenance issues and determine how they will be handled, without needing to first see the issue in person. You can review requests, assign requests to vendors, and track the request while keeping your tenant informed of its progress.
Although the property management tool’s maintenance feature will do wonders when it comes to recording and communicating maintenance issues, you’re still left with the heavy lifting, that is, solving the actual issue.
When owning rental property in another state, it can be a challenge to upkeep your properties, but being in touch with a reliable, local vendor is your key to success. Make sure you have a good, professional connection to a vendor specialized in the maintenance of rentals.
You will need to pay a lot of attention to selecting your local vendor, as this can result in many thousands of dollars lost down the road if maintenance work is not done properly. Check their online reviews and reputation, how many years they have been in business, what’s their work schedule and if they work over the weekends in case an emergency occurs, and most importantly – if they are licensed and insured.
6.4 Tenant Communication
When managing property out of state, there’s a good chance that you won’t meet with your tenants at all, so maintaining good communication with them is the key to a stress-free lease term. You must clearly state what your preferred methods of communication are and set the correct expectations as to what your response time will be. We cannot emphasize enough how important it is to respond quickly. Unresponsiveness is the most frequent tenant complaint and weighs considerably when it comes to renewing the leasing term. The longer they sit with complaints and issues, the more likely they are to find a new place.
As an out-of-state landlord, you may have a different perspective than the tenant as to what is really pressing, but consider that they are the ones paying the rent. At the end of the day, your job is to provide them with safe, adequate living conditions, so take any feedback or suggestions they may have positively. The best way to avoid misunderstandings is to outline what your relationship will look like in the contract:
- Open and clear communication
- A mutual trust for each other
- Always talk to each other about a situation before letting it aggravate.
As a remote property manager, showing your human side can go a long way to your tenants seeing you as more than just someone who collects the rent every month.
Clearly, owning a rental property in another state is not an easy task, whether you have one house or a multi-building apartment complex. There are challenges everywhere when managing remotely, and you feel drained. Take it lightly. It is important to surround yourself with the right people, and know the right systems and tools, and that will set you up for success.
Let’s sum up our advice on how to manage rental property remotely:
- Security – Install a security system before your rent out
- Marketing – Online property marketing is a must
- Showing – Smart lock systems are great of self-showings
- Tenant Screening – use online tenant screening tools
- Leasing – Use e-leasing tools
- Management – Property Management Software and a professional local vendor are your best investments.