New England vacancy in the winter -utilities draining my bank

46 Replies

Emergency!   Winter Is now here and I have 3 vacancies,,loss cash flow $3500 plus oil/ utilities   — I could use some advice to fix my problem now...don’t know how to get though this very tough patch .

I won’t be able to pay for all the utilities- mortgage- taxes without income coming in..anyone ever been here before and how would you correct the problem quickly. The tenant pool is not knocking on my door.  Any out of the box ideas are welcome 

I have a wifi water heater and wifi thermostats so I can cut back on utility costs when no one is here. I can turn up the heat or AC before someone arrives.

Try reducing your rent to get some income coming in to offset the utilities.

The idea is to cover expenses in the off season not make a bunch of money.

Thank you Russell and John,


I have it listed now that tenant pays first months rent two month security and all utilities how would you word it from this point on? I don’t want to promise to much and regret using the wrong verbiage. Maybe $400 off until March/April for 18months so I don’t have another winter move

Originally posted by @Jim P. :

Thank you Russell and John,


I have it listed now that tenant pays first months rent two month security and all utilities how would you word it from this point on? I don’t want to promise to much and regret using the wrong verbiage. Maybe $400 off until March/April for 18months so I don’t have another winter move

 How much is the rent?  If tenants need 3 months' rent up front, that is a lot of money.  Keep utilities in there, but why do you have 2 months' security deposit?  If that is the norm for your area, that's fine; but consider dropping the rent.

Right now, you are looking at having no money.  Take $50 off the monthly rent or offer 50% off the 12th month of rent.  Is the $400 off, per month?


@Jim P. I have filled several rentals in the Enfield area over the years and I think having a 2 month security is a major deterrent. Lower it to one month and see if that makes a difference.

Odds are you are priced too high though. That is always the issue if thing do not rent because the area isn’t holding you back. There is a big renter pool out there. 

How warm do you have the heat? Set it at 55. 

Theresa-$1550 mo 3 bedroom house,,I have been burned before and the 2 mo sec didn’t cover the damage. I received so many calls with just first name and #. Most are just kicking tires and wasting my time. It’s exhausting. I’d like to find a way to have as much information as possible about them before responding. Playing 20 questions on the phone is not for me. For me, screening is the one thing I hate the most. Reading people is getting more difficult. $100 off a month is doable. 

@Jim P. I have a duplex in Enfield and haven't had a problem with one month security and first month rent. If you've been burned before maybe screen better and make sure to check up on the property often. I also have required everyone to pay a 30 application fee, if they want to try, for a credit and background check. If they are serious they will pay it and it will help to weed out the tire kickers. Also I'm not too strict on a background check as long as people are honest and it's a few years old. But before people even show up for a showing I notify them of all of that.

Drop the price 10 - 20% and allow a month-to-month tenant through January or February. Your market should be heating up by then (pun intended) and you can find a long-term tenant at market rate.

Originally posted by @Jim P. :

Theresa-$1550 mo 3 bedroom house,,I have been burned before and the 2 mo sec didn’t cover the damage. I received so many calls with just first name and #. Most are just kicking tires and wasting my time. It’s exhausting. I’d like to find a way to have as much information as possible about them before responding. Playing 20 questions on the phone is not for me. For me, screening is the one thing I hate the most. Reading people is getting more difficult. $100 off a month is doable. 

 What about hiring someone to find a tenant?  How many times have you been burned in the past?  We all get bad renters from time to time.  Try lowering the deposit-even if it is to 1.5x rent.  Think of what the implications are if you don't get it rented for the winter.

you could also do a lower rent and shorter term for the winter and find a long term tenant in the spring.

If you get a lot of rental inquiries, you need to make a tenant profile document to email back to them after the first inquiry. I found that reduced my communications by over 90%. The tenant profile covers all the stuff like credit score, income, screening process, animal fees and rent, monthly rent, smoking, who pays utilities and so forth. Basically answer all the questions people ask over and over. On a typical rental, I'll get a 100 inquiries and two applications. That profile really helped a lot with people screening themselves out.

@Jim P. Now until January is the hardest time of year to fill a unit, as nobody likes to move during the holidays. What we do is create all of our leases to renew in the spring or summer but when we do end up with a vacancy this time of year we list it with rent set to just under market, and stick with a M2M lease so we can adjust rent back to market rate in the spring. If we don’t get any interest within the first few weeks after listing, we’ll offer a move-in promotion such as half a months rent off. I agree with others here that you may be scaring good renters away with the double security deposit. One months rent as SD is standard in most markets except high end luxury homes. In the spring with a high demand market you can command 1.5 mo. rent as SD but this time of year I wouldn’t risk it and I think asking 2 months is a deterrent any time of year. Just screen well and tenant proof your place with durable materials as much as possible. As far as saving on heating costs, if you haven’t already, tune up your heating system it will operate up to 10% more efficiently, and you might be able save more heat by weatherizing the building better: caulk any gaps causing drafts, insulate any uninsulated cavities where you may be losing heat especially between cold spaces like attics and under floors or in walls where the insulation has sunk down or never existed (you can find these poorly insulated areas with a thermal leak detector gun which are only like $30-50 these days), use weather stripping around doors and windows, use storm windows or the cheap plastic window insulating stuff, open any drapes to let the sun heat the home during the day, close closet doors, etc. and turn the heat down to 50-55 (I would get there early or use a smart-thermostat you can control from your smartphone to warm it up before showings though, as a cold house might turn off a renter). Also some heating fuel providers offer budget billing to spread the high cost winter months out over the year which might help your situation. Take a look at your advertising too maybe you can take some better photos or change the language in the ad to make it more appealing. Good luck!

Originally posted by @Jim P. :

Theresa-$1550 mo 3 bedroom house,,I have been burned before and the 2 mo sec didn’t cover the damage. I received so many calls with just first name and #. Most are just kicking tires and wasting my time. It’s exhausting. I’d like to find a way to have as much information as possible about them before responding. Playing 20 questions on the phone is not for me. For me, screening is the one thing I hate the most. Reading people is getting more difficult. $100 off a month is doable. 

 Why are you a property manager if you hate probably the most important part... marketing/screening potential tenants ?  Get an assistant or outsource...

I think having 2 months rent as a security deposit is deterring many potential renters.  You have to remember many of them don't have that kind of money laying around especially with Christmas only a month away.

I think your rent might be too high as well.

Your best bet is to get a property manager in there pronto and let them take care of it.  Sounds like you are just spinning your wheels in the mud.  If you don't like doing property management your time would be better served elsewhere.  Think of all the hours this week you have spent going through all this.  Instead you could have been looking for another rental property and while the PM does the work for you.  Time is money.  At least it is for me.

I am a firm believer in outsourcing the things you don't like to do or aren't good at and focusing on the things you do enjoy.  Less stressful too.

If you really believe you won’t find a tenant during the next few months you may want to winterise the pipes with antifreeze . 
a plumber will charge $180 but you can do it yourself for $20.  no winter bills . problem solved .

@Jim P. have you tried using Cozy or a similar product? Automation will help keep you from feeling like your time is being wasted.

If you feel like you’ve been burned frequently, then your screening process likely needs an adjustment.

@Jim P. I always ask for security deposit equal to one month rent and then collect the first months rent. Most tenants live paycheck to paycheck so you are cutting your tenant pool by 2/3 when asking for 3 months of rent and then more on top. Lower the rent update your listing with new pictures that are edited and top quality lighting.

John,

Getting this tenant profile document set up from beginning to launch is difficult for me


If you get a lot of rental inquiries, you need to make a tenant profile document to email back to them after the first inquiry. I found that reduced my communications by over 90%. The tenant profile covers all the stuff like credit score, income, screening process, animal fees and rent, monthly rent, smoking, who pays utilities and so forth. Basically answer all the questions people ask over and over. On a typical rental, I'll get a 100 inquiries and two applications. That profile really helped a lot with people screening themselves out.


The tenant profile is not difficult, just envision the questions that someone would ask if they called on the phone and wanted info on the property. I'll paste one in here that I just tweaked to accommodate a vacancy we will have starting this weekend for a Florida property.

Keep in mind this is not your contract, just lays out some of the essentials so that people can say, "oh, I'm good with all" that or they'll say, "Um, no sense bothering with applying to this place".

Here's the profile. (They all vary a bit depending on the specific property)

The tenant profile for Xxxxxx Drive, Milton, FL 32570 is as follows:

No smokers

No vaping in house

Credit score around 600

Minimum verifiable monthly household income of $2800 ($33,600 yearly)

No section 8 or housing vouchers

Some dogs allowed with $200 non-refundable fee. Additional animal rent of $20 per animal is required. breed restrictions. (any "support" dogs require documentation) No cats allowed.

All occupants age 18 or more must complete an application and background check. Application fee is about $30 and paid directly to the screening company. The background check is comprehensive and includes credit, evictions, judgments, address history, sex offender, criminal background, etc.

References will be checked.

Rent is $910 per month, $910 security deposit. The first month's rent and security deposit is required to be paid in cash. Subsequent rent can be paid by check, money order, bank check, direct deposit, etc. Animal fees (if any) required before move in.

If this profile fits you, please contact us to arrange a tour of the property.

Thanks for your interest in our properties.

Teachout Properties

(contact info here)

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