We all know that being a landlord is a 24-hour job. And we also know that — according to Murphy’s Law — anything that can go wrong will, and if a series of events go wrong, they will do so in the worst possible sequence.
Wow, do I sound like a pessimist right now? Whoops. I’m not trying to be a downer, I swear. I’m just making the (obvious) point that landlording can be a stressful job, especially if you’re dealing with:
1) An older house and/or a house that needs constant maintenance,
2) A shaky neighborhood that tends to attract rougher tenants,
3) A demanding full-time job or other responsibilities
That doesn’t mean that you should avoid rental property investing entirely. It just means that one of your chief responsibilities as a landlord is to manage your own sanity.
With that said, here are some tips for avoiding landlord burnout.
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1) Get a Google Voice Number.
Set up a free phone number through Google Voice or a similar type of answering service. When your tenants call, let it go to voicemail. They’ll leave a message that you can deal with on your own time. Your tenants will learn that you won’t pick up the phone for every minor little detail.
Alternately, you can require that all service requests must be in writing, such as via email. Many people will hesitate to ask for something in writing unless it’s truly warranted. This also gives you a defense in case a tenant starts claiming that they made requests that you haven’t fulfilled.
One huge, huge caveat: if you do this, make sure your tenants have your “main” phone number that they can reach in the event of massive emergencies, like a burst pipe that’s flooding the house. You don’t want to delay learning about that problem for an hour or two!
2) Have a Short List of People to Call
Who do you call when the pipes burst? When the toilet overflows? When a squirrel punctures a hole through the drywall?
As the landlord, the tenant expects you to have all the answers and to know how to fix every issue. But you’re just a regular person. You don’t necessarily know-it-all. But you need to manage the situation as though you do.
Chat with other investors in your area to get recommendations on general go-to handymen, plumbers and other repair people that you can call when your tenants contact you. Keep this “short list” saved in your phone so that you can speed-dial help as soon as you need it.
3) Consolidate Showings
Sick of always driving to the property to do showings? Consolidate your showings to certain days of the week. When prospective tenants call or email to inquire about seeing the property, tell them: “I do showings every Wednesday from 6 pm – 8 pm and every Saturday from 10 am – 12 noon.” This forces them to adapt to your schedule, and allows you to squeeze a lot of showings into a narrow block of time.
4) Prevent Legal Hassles
You’ll sleep more easily at night if you know that you’ve followed legal procedures by-the-book. That means your leases, your security deposit handing and your tenant screening, among other things, should have well-documented (and defensible) procedures. Don’t forget to buy a nice umbrella liability insurance policy, as well.
Devote some time to learning the laws in your area — an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of peace-of-mind.
5) Hire a Great Property Manager
If the previous four recommendations stress you out, hand the job to a property manager. But beware: you can’t just turn over the responsibility to a manager and then forget about it entirely. You need to “manage the manager.”
You’ll need a competent, hardworking property manager who’s skilled at their job — otherwise you’ll lose even more money and time in the long-run.
Get recommendations from other investors in your area. See which managers they recommend. And don’t skimp on quality. I’d rather pay a high-priced property manager who is fantastic at her job than a cheap property manager who slacks off.
That said, don’t assume there’s always a direct correlation between price and quality. You might find bad managers who are also expensive, or you might find managers who work cheaply who are fantastic. But all other things being equal, choose quality over price when it comes to picking a property manager.
What other tips do you have for avoiding landlord burnout?