Clients often ask me for advice on being a landlord, so I've put together a some helpful tips and a short summary of what I've learned. This is not intended to replace the expertise of a property manager or attorney. If you don't have time to manage your own property, hire a professional! But if you want to save a little money and don't mind the legal risks, here are a few basics:
How to Advertise Your Rental
In King County, Craigslist is still the best place to market your rental property. Savvy Seattleites are using CL primarily to search for rentals, so make sure you start there. Clean up, open the blinds and take some good photos (not with your phone) during the day.
Once you've posted your rental on Craigslist, add it to Zillow as well. These two sites alone should ensure that you're reaching the majority of serious prospective tenants.
I collect rent payments through a great free service called Cozy. Cozy acts as a middle man between you and your tenant so that you don't have to use paper checks or send payment reminders to your tenants. Cozy lets your tenant securely connect their checking account and create automatic monthly payments. And, again, it's free for both parties!
Cozy offers other services for landlords, too, including help with pricing your rental, tenant screenings and more.
Setting a Price
Setting a rent price is tough because you can't see what previous rentals ended up going for. In the weeks and months before listing your home for rent, scour Craigslist and Zillow weekly. Websites like Zillow and Rentometer will give you an automated value for your rental, too. Find comparable homes for rent and see how yours stacks up. Keep in mind that if your rental sits empty for an extra month, you may lose all benefit of a higher price due to the month of missed income. Don't be greedy.
Choosing a Tenant
Before listing your rental, research local landlord-tenant laws to make sure you are playing by the rules. In Seattle, new laws require landlords to go with the first tenant that meets their requirements. Tenants are often informed of their rights, so you should be too. Personally, I require criminal background checks and credit histories during the application process. If you set your requirements at a high standard, you can always choose to make an exception if you choose to, but I think it's important to have a tenant with a good credit score and gross income that is at least 4x the rent amount.
This is a good segue to...
Being a landlord involves risk. Your tenant could stop paying or trash your house. Hire an attorney to put together a lease for you. It shouldn't take long if they have a basic lease with which to start. Don't get one from the internet!
That's it for now! I'll revisit this post periodically if I discover new ways to make life better for your landlords out there! Comment below with your favorite landlord hacks!