First time landlord. Any advice that I NEED to know

9 Replies

I recently bought my third rental property. The other two are currently managed by my PM. My wife and I want to attempt to manage this one by ourselves. Personally, I want to hand it off to my PM but she really wants to gain the experience of managing on her own. This is an out of state deal. Parents live in the state where this house is located. I have a reliable HVAC and plumber. The house is in good standing condition. I wanted to write a post to get some suggestions or advice before attempted to self manage. I'm using Zillow to advertise as well as running a background check. Using Cozi for collecting rent. My lease I bought from BP. What are some rookie mistakes that are made and how can I prevent them?

Thank you,

To start, sit down and list all of your policies and rules.  Will you allow smokers?  Will you allow pets?  If so, what kind?  What kind of deposit do you want for them?  Pet rent?  Do you allow short term leases (under 12 mos)?  Do you allow felons?  What is your credit policy?  What is your income to debt ratio?
You get the idea.  By listing these things, you have a guide for when they come up.  DO NOT BREAK YOUR POLICIES!!!  If you do, it is always the one Tenant that will be your problem Tenant.  It always bites you in the end.  So, just stick with your policies.  IF you see a trend that requires you to change your policies, that is okay.  However, don't make exceptions for 1 Tenant here and there.  That is when you get into trouble.

I would also suggest that you create a Tenant binder that provides the Tenant with the contacts for who to call for things.  If you have boots on the ground there, add them to the binder.  A good handyman is a must.  Emergency services is a must.  If a pipe bursts in the middle of the night, you want them to call the company YOU have already vetted, and not some random contractor off the Internet.  Give the Tenant instructions for making their rental payment to you.  Include their move in inspection, and their move-out checklist so they know the expectations, as well as the initial condition that will be used to compare to their exit condition.  I would also suggest providing some contacts for landscaping/snow, even if it is their responsibility.  If they decide not to do it themselves, they can call your contact.

For marketing, Cozy.co is a great resource.  Did you know they take apps and run background and credit as well?  They also allow you to create a landing page for the property with pix and info so that you can send the link to anyone interested, and it has a link to the application process. 
Redfin also allows you to post, and they seem to have better lead generation than Zillow (at least that I have seen).  You can include your Cozy link there as well so that it points people to the application.
Consider a smart lock that can allow for self guided tours of the property if you don't have anyone to show it for you.  There are some good ones out there that you can control from your phone for single entry access.

Research a good eviction attorney.  Hopefully you NEVER have to use them, but better to already have a good relationship with one than to be fumbling later to find one who can jump on your case right away (time is crucial in this process).

Self management is doable if you have all of the necessary pieces.  Best of luck to you!

Find out what online platforms work best in that area for advertizing.  It differs between towns.

Make sure you know the local tenancy laws and see if there is a standard lease you can download and modify.

Trust, but verify when it comes to tenants.  Many are good, but a few will try to take advantage of you.

Hi Cara,


Going through policies, you brought up many great points of things to include in the listing. Is there a breed of dogs that you will absolutely not accept and if so, how do you proceed with notifying/denying a tenant? I also made sure to include that a minimum credit score of 600 is a must. 

Love the Tenant binder idea. Never crossed my mind. I think that's huge and will also reduce the numbers of times my phone will ring. I definitely need an all around handyman. This is something I'll need to work on asap. 

A problem I find while advertising on Zillow is that when potential Tenants apply for my listing, they apparently pay a $30 fee for using Zillow. This allows them to apply to as many properties as they want within a 30 day period. If I use Cozy.co for the background and credit check, then they'll need to pay the $40 in order to run those reports. So i'm think of keeping Zillow to find a Tenant but also list the property on Cozy.co and run all managment through Cozy.co. What are you thoughts? Why would I want to have Tenants who uses Zillow more now to use Cozy.co. Seems like they'll just ignore the listed due to the added expense UNLESS they're really interested in the property. Does that make any sense? 

Hi @Nadir M.

Brandon Turners, "Book on Managing Rental Properties" is filled with helpful information and I'd highly recommend it. 

I'm sure you might know this but BiggerPockets has a landlord resources tab. You can find the landlord resources tab by hovering over the "tools" bar and clicking "Landlord Resources". Some of the companies on the resources page offer free forms and other resources for landlords. Some of these resources might make self managing easier for you!

Best of luck! :) 

You may decide to rent to someone with Section 8.  I made a playlist on Youtube which is basically how I trained my staff on just how to work with Section 8 successfully.  Search for Section 8 Secrets Revealed.  I have tips in there too on phone screening and running someone's background.  These tips work whether your tenant has Section 8 or not.  Best of luck!  

Originally posted by @Nadir M. :

Hi Cara,

Going through policies, you brought up many great points of things to include in the listing. Is there a breed of dogs that you will absolutely not accept and if so, how do you proceed with notifying/denying a tenant? I also made sure to include that a minimum credit score of 600 is a must. 

Love the Tenant binder idea. Never crossed my mind. I think that's huge and will also reduce the numbers of times my phone will ring. I definitely need an all around handyman. This is something I'll need to work on asap. 

A problem I find while advertising on Zillow is that when potential Tenants apply for my listing, they apparently pay a $30 fee for using Zillow. This allows them to apply to as many properties as they want within a 30 day period. If I use Cozy.co for the background and credit check, then they'll need to pay the $40 in order to run those reports. So i'm think of keeping Zillow to find a Tenant but also list the property on Cozy.co and run all managment through Cozy.co. What are you thoughts? Why would I want to have Tenants who uses Zillow more now to use Cozy.co. Seems like they'll just ignore the listed due to the added expense UNLESS they're really interested in the property. Does that make any sense? 

You are correct  each platform charges for app/screening.  The tenant can use their app/screening the same way on cozy. They can pay for it once and send it to anyone on cozy who they want to consider them.  Since it’s free to post your rental listing, there’s no harm to you to have it on both platforms.  The Tenant’s looking on Zillow will use that app.  The Tenant’s on Cozy will use that app (and my guess is those will be stronger tenant apps).  
Consider Redfin as well.  That is a growing platform with some good traffic to it.