There are few things worse than optimistically starting a new job only to find out you hate it.
Whether you’re considering buying your first rental property or deciding if you want to lease a property you already own, make sure you know what you’re getting into when you become a DIY landlord. If you’re not cut out for it, you’ll end up sacrificing both sanity and profit.
If you find yourself nodding along to these signs, you may want to choose another option for your investment.
1. You dread answering the phone.
Think about a tenant calling you to fix an issue or ask a question. Maybe a toilet isn’t working right, or the HVAC is messing up. Maybe they want to negotiate an item in their contract or are requesting special permission to change the property.
Do you grimace just picturing it? If so, the DIY landlord gig isn’t for you. Phone calls are inevitable — at all times of the day, about anything. If you have tenants, be ready to talk to them.
2. You can’t separate emotions from business.
Some people are blessed with a big heart. It’s an endearing quality in life, but not in the real estate business. Landlords need to follow contracts to the letter. Tenants shouldn’t get a free pass on rent because they’ve had a bad month. If you can’t separate your feelings of sympathy from the agreement, you’ll lose significant income. If tenants call in crying and asking us to waive their fees, it’s hard to refuse. Yet, our response is simple, “I’m sorry. We only waive fees if we made the mistake. Is there anything else we can help you with?”
3. You avoid hard conversations.
No one likes having “tough” conversations, but they still have to happen. You can’t be non-confrontational and effectively manage property. Sooner rather than later, you’ll have a tenant who breaks the contract or fails to pay. When that happens, you have to address the issue. These aren’t easy conversations, but they’re unavoidable.
4. You don’t budget for repairs.
It doesn’t matter how new a building is — something will break. Understand that you’ll need to fix things in the house and pay for it. Too often, people want to believe they’ll somehow escape the need for repairs. That isn’t realistic. So create a budget for repairs, and be ready for them when they’re needed.
5. You’re not available 24/7.
If you’re a landlord, tenants need to be able to contact you. So, if you’re not interested in working late nights and weekends (or taking those 3:00 a.m. emergency calls), don’t sign up to be a landlord. Most tenants aren’t available during the day so they try to reach you after normal business hours. That way you never get a real break.
6. You’re not consistent.
Be relentlessly consistent in enforcing terms of the lease. Tenants follow the expectations their landlords enforce. If you slack in one area of the contract, they’ll probably assume other parts of the lease are up for negotiation too.
After we lease property for years, always enforcing terms, it can almost seem easy to the owners. The tenants follow the contract and pay their rent, and very few problems come up. So some owners take back the management. However, as soon as the tenant finds out we’re gone, they start bringing excuses to the landlord again.
As another motivation for separating emotions from business, stay consistent with your answers. If you give in once, expect tenants to ask again. Consistent enforcement of the lease terms resolves current issues while it also prevents future problems.
7. You don’t want to deal with red tape and slow processes.
You have to go through a lot of red tape to lease a property. If you don’t have the necessary knowledge (or patience) to deal with the legal side of rental properties, use a property manager. Before you rent, you have to apply with the city for permission. Then you’ll have to follow the laws regulating processes like security deposits and inspections. Those are legal matters that you can’t afford to mess up.
8. You’re a hothead.
Most people don’t want to admit to being a hothead, but be honest. How well do you control your emotions? If you walk into a situation where a tenant has renovated or ruined part of your property without your consent, how will you react? Losing your temper and fighting with the tenant won’t help resolve the situation. In fact, it often just makes the resolution take longer. So, if you’re prone to losing it, don’t tempt yourself by being a DIY landlord.
If being a landlord isn’t for you, no worries. That’s what property managers are for. Some people enjoy the role of landlord, but if that’s not you, find someone who will manage your property with the professionalism it takes to make your rental successful.