Business Management

The Secret to Managing Real Estate Investments While Being Away

Expertise: Mortgages & Creative Financing, Personal Development, Real Estate News & Commentary, Real Estate Investing Basics
46 Articles Written

While I often advocate investing in your hometown, investing in real estate does not necessarily mean you are forever locked into that one place. I have heard many stories of people not wanting to purchase real estate because they think they will be moving in a few years because of the fear of managing properties while away. Well, after experiencing managing properties while away for a certain period of time, I can say that it is actually not that bad.

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It has been a long time since I've stayed in my town waiting for the next crisis I have to resolve. I'd learned to start delegating a lot of my management responsibilities without giving my properties away to a property manager. I still personally think that a property manager does not really give that much attention to managing your property. I believe you can do a better job at managing properties on your own. On the other hand, to manage properties yourself does require a bit of work in the beginning.

I first started figuring out what are some of my main responsibilities when it comes to managing a property. It seems that I always have to solve a major maintenance issue or make sure the tenants pay rent on time. To alleviate my headaches, I have a few handyman, plumbers, electricians, and air conditioning repair guys in hand so I can quickly send someone over there to repair it even if I am away.

Whenever I get a maintenance issue, I just text these guys and send them over. I don’t really want to inspect the problems myself. It would take too much time. I also have tenants deposit the rent into an account I’ve set up. This way, I can see remotely whether they’ve paid or not without waiting around for a check to be mailed in. Sometimes they would do direct transfer, quick pay, or other ways to deposit more easily. The more automated the process gets, the better.

The last major issue is vacancy. This one I admit I struggle a little bit. I often rely on the MLS system to find renters. I have an agent who would put up a courtesy listing for me while I offer an above market commission for the agent who finds me the tenant. While I don't have to be there and agents do bring some higher quality tenants, it costs a bit more. I use other methods like signs and Craigslist, which also bring me tenants but I sometimes have to show them the properties myself. To solve that issue, I'd try my best to group them together around the same time and send a handyman over there to open the door for me.

I hope these tips will help you think managing properties is not as hand on as you think. Meanwhile, I’m going off traveling again. As long as I get some cell phone signal, I will be okay.

Photo: Luis Argerich

By Leon Y.
Leon Yang is an active real estate investor in Las Vegas. He is a buy and hold guy who also likes to flip from time to time. His main passion is to t...
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    Jerry W.
    Replied about 7 years ago
    Leon, I enjoyed your article. I have previously only owned rentals in my home town, but am seriously looking at out of state rentals due to the poor cash flow in my area. One thing I would add to your post is having a good handyman. I have one person who does most of the repairs I cannot get to. He fixes leaks, hangs doors, lays carpet, paints, fixes broken windows, helps me on big projects like concrete pours or roofing, etc. I often have have my tenants call him with any emergency. He can tell when he can fix it himself or if he needs to call an electrician, plumber, etc. This guy has his own business, but I have a standing offer that if he gets a slow time to call me and I find things for him to do He knows he can count on me for a certain amount of work every month, and I can count on him. When I begin getting out of state properties I am afraid I will be at the mercy of a property manager and their connections. Jerry
    Replied about 7 years ago
    My experience with onsite property manager, after few years, they know you do not have much control. Got phony receipts for repairs, and gave work to their friends, costing lots of money. But, if you buy single tenant triple net, no headache, toilets etc, is the best. In fact I got one for last 3 years, and have not even seen it!!! Auto deposit keeps coming in every month!! So very happy.
    Amie D.
    Replied about 7 years ago
    I don’t know how doable this is if you own property out of state or in multiple states. Showing the properties would be a hassle, if you had to fly in and do it each time until it rented, or did not have a friend that could list on the mls in multiple places. I also travel internationally and am not fully reachable at times. Still, if you live locally or not that far away, it could be a strategy that could work.
    Sharon Hiebing
    Replied about 7 years ago
    I do everything you mention with my Indiana rentals from Belize, except Leasing, for which I hire a property manager to ready the unit for rent again, advertise, show, screen, and get the tenant under contract. Works great for me!
    Cheryl Carrier
    Replied about 7 years ago
    Years ago I stopped going to my properties to fix anything, meet a contractor, etc. I have people in all trades that I trust and I have them contact my tenant directly to set appointments – and I live within 10 minutes of most of my properties. I find that most tenants want to be present when anyone enters their rental. Fine with me! These contractors either trust me to billl me or have my credit card (they only have to call if it’s over $200). Many times I can “walk” a tenant through a simple solution without needing to send someone over. Call me lazy, but I value my time and I’m not going to sit somewhere for a couple of hours while a professional fixes something. Now, in my 20’s, I was far more “hands on” – almost sliced a finger off replacing a garbage disposal and all my shoes were covered with paint spatter. There comes a time when you realize that time spent doing other things (finding deals) like getting a place rent-ready is far more cost effective.
    Brandon Turner
    Replied about 7 years ago
    Hey Leon, great article! I struggle with this one – as it seems like every time I leave town, something dramatic happens to my property. I think the key is being organized, like you said, with names and numbers of people who can fix things. Great stuff! Thanks 🙂
    ken lavoie
    Replied about 7 years ago
    I would think that having a prop manager for leasing but managing via handymen/contractors would be a good compromise for most. That’s what I would do. Currently I have a real “guy Friday” who is not only a competent handyman, general contractor, but also has management experience, so as we travel more, we will delegate this to him at a lower rate (hopefully!) than paying one month’s rent.
    Replied about 7 years ago
    Interesting. As of now the one thing I’m not hot to totally divest myself of on my local places in leasing. Have had little luck with others doing it. I have gotten people to open the door on the ones that are farther away (more than 30min drive), but I do the ads pre screen and set appointments. I actually have contemplated doing this to some extent on my out of state places too. Some have had much longer vacancies than I would have expected.