Every once in a while I come across a blog post or an article or even a video that I think misses the mark so badly that I want to reach through the computer at the person who put it out and ask them “what are you thinking”? Not your usual disagreement or not understanding someone’s point of view, but actually wanting to ask why in the world they give the advice they are giving. I never do mind you. I think after 40 years I have learned it is much better to patiently respond to something instead of going off half cocked right off the bat. That has helped me stay out of trouble more than once!
But, and there is always a but, sometimes I read advice that is so contrary to my own experiences that I have to throw my .02 cents into the mix. I would never mention the blog, video or article of someone else because they may really believe what the advice they have given. I just simply go to work writing my own advice or in this case, advice on what advice not to listen to. With that being said, I came across a video of the Top Tips for landlords and thought to myself how awful some of the tips were and decided it was time to look back at some of the worst advice I have heard or read and write a few of my own “not to follow” tips.
1. Write the bedrooms/baths and price on your rental sign
Not only do I think this is an absolutely dumb idea, when I look at examples of signs that are placed in the videos or in the articles, there is no way someone can read the sign from a car at the curb. To hear the advice that one person gave in his Top Tips video, that is good thing. He believes that making people get out of their car has made them take action and now they are committed! I found myself actually yelling at my computer “Committed to what”? Committed to a bad memory from that house as the one where they had to get out of their car to go look at the small writing on the chloroplast plastic sign that we couldn’t read from the street.
For me, I say leave that information off of your sign. If you have a good looking property and are even halfway decent on the phone, list as little information as possible. Do not let a prospective tenant talk themselves out of your home by listing information on the sign. Give yourself an opportunity to “sell” your rental property to them so long as they are a qualified tenant. We have trained our agents to be very personable on the phone, but also how to use question based selling when talking to a prospective tenant. BY asking the right questions, in the right way, they are able to determine if a tenant will rent the house BEFORE going to show it and by making signs extremely simple with nothing more than a rental message and a phone number, we give our selves a great opportunity to “sell” prospective tenants on our property before they think about renting another one.
2. Put Your Sign In The Window So It Does Not Get Knocked Down
Now, I get it that some of this advice really pertains to the area of town that you have rental property. But, I have seen some people say, and have even read on blogs that this is a great tactic to use on any style home, but that could not be further from the truth! When you put a sign in the front window of a house, you are sending two signals to prospective tenants. One is that this neighborhood may not be safe. Why else would you put a sign in the window instead of on a stand? That question in the mind of a tenant has nothing to do with why you actually put it in the window. All that matters is why they think you put it in the window. The second signal you are sending is that, as a landlord, I am too cheap to do things first class and have a sign in the front yard for you to see from the street. Instead, I am going to make you get out of the car and not just walk to the yard, but walk all the way up to a front window. I can think of some worse ways to present your property to an interested renter, just not any that are actually advised by someone who calls themselves an expert landlord.
3. Do Not Put Blinds on Windows So That Interested Renters Can Look In the House
I cannot make this stuff up. I wish I were, but that is actual real advice and fits right inline with that phrase “rent ready”. My theory on rent ready is, that it was a term created by landlords to justify spending less money on a property. I hate that term and I think this piece of advice fits right into the mold of someone who would subscribe to my “rent ready” theory. How else could you justify not spending $150 TOPS to buy blinds for a house. If you are truly concerned about renting you property as quickly as possible, for the best rent possible, then your best bet is to make your property shine, and brand new blinds (with the tags left on the pull cords) is a great way to differentiate your property from others and show renters you care enough to take care of the details. This silliness about leaving the blinds off the windows is not only bad business advice, it sounds like the author could have voyeurism issues!
4. You Must Take Personal Checks If You Want To Collect On Time EVERY Month
I actually replied to this one and asked the guy to update his blog with one answer for me. I asked him how many bounced checks he chased a month? Of course, I am still waiting for a reply (this one was well over two years ago), the blog post was never updated, and my post was never allowed on the site. When I read that this guy actually only takes personal checks and that he was trying to build himself up as a rental guru, I had to stop myself from laughing and actually take a little action.
That piece of advice was crazy and anyone who has been in the land lording business for any significant amount of time will tell you that you raise your risk of default on rental payment significantly when you accept checks. The reasoning behind this guy’s advice was that you spend a lot less time chasing rents and collecting late fees when you simply let them write you a check.
What he failed to mention was the amount of time you spend dealing with your bank, picking up bounced checks (and let’s hope it didn’t cause you to bounce a check) and then chasing a tenant for the actual payment plus late fees plus a bounced check fee. Simply telling someone that you take checks WILL NOT reduce your late payments.
Be Careful Who You Listen To!
There are so many steps that you must follow as a landlord to reduce late payments and increase the number of days your property is occupied, and none of them are listed here. What happens much more often when someone is posting this type of ridiculous advice is they are trying to create content. You see, everyone tries to be original and put out articles or blog posts that have something new in them. Many times you can bet that the person producing this type of nonsense is trying to create filler – content for the sake of content. They are not trying to actually educate and help others, they are trying to create content to boost their website or to increase their profile, and often times they follow it up with a learn how to be like me offer.
The reality is that there is much better advice out there today for landlords and much of it can be found on the internet. As someone who reads this stuff on a weekly basis, I can tell you it becomes easier over time and even easier with a little experience of your own to tell the difference between someone creating filler and someone who knows their stuff. I can tell you one thing for sure, the places where the above four pieces of advice came from had more filling than a cream puff and following it will get you no where fast.
Photo: Bruce Toombs