Making Your Home Rent Ready
Owners get anxious when they see their home vacant. Many want us to list the home before it’s ready to show hoping a prospective tenant will see past the mess in the house and have some vision. Unfortunately, this is one of the worst things an owner can do. Tenants don’t have vision and you end up losing great ones because they can’t see how nice the house is going to look. In some cases, it invites all sorts of issues with tenants wanting you to make decorating choices to fit their desires and later they come back with statement like “You said you were going to do this …”.
When your home is in great condition and is priced right, getting a home leased takes anywhere from 1 day to 4 weeks on average, and the process happens quickly. Tenants can fill out an online application and submit the required paperwork in an hour. Then, it only takes 1 to 5 days to qualify the tenant depending on how quickly their landlords and employers respond.
If you are leasing your family home, make sure you detach yourself emotionally as it will never be the same and you’ll open yourself up to undue stress. During the tenancy, don’t drive by and don’t expect a tenant to care for your home in the same manner you did. You can expect them to adhere to the lease but most of all, divorce yourself from the home.
- Paint. Ideally, you should choose a nice neutral paint color for all the walls to appeal to a broader market. We use a warm tan with white trim and ceiling in every single room, in every single home we have to paint. That way, it makes it easy for us to just touch up the walls when the tenant moves out – no searching to match paint and saves you tons of money.
- Cleaning. A complete and thorough interior and exterior cleaning of the property is mandatory. Getting all the dust and cobwebs from every area is a must as well as getting carpets professionally cleaned (skip the DIY Rug Doctor). Any lingering pet or cooking odors need to be cured and if odors are trapped in the carpet, replace it. You can bet it will negatively affect the rentability. An immaculate home will give the most positive impression, attract the best renters, provide the highest rent, and will be the easiest to evaluate when the tenants move out.
- Remove your stuff. Before one person walks into your home, completely remove all photos, pictures, furniture and personal property. Tenants are not interested in your decor and will balk if something is left behind. Put your stuff in storage – don’t be tempted to store your things in a locked basement room. Generally speaking, if your stuff is left behind, it is considered available for the tenant’s use as there is no way we’ll know what’s yours.
- Check appliances. Make sure all kitchen appliances are in place and in working order. If your microwave is not built-in, remove it. Our lease specifies that we will not repair or place microwaves, ice makers, or water filters. If you no longer need your washer and dryer, you can opt to leave it with the home. The more expensive the house, the less likely the tenant will need it and you will have to store or sell it. For low-end homes, a washer and dryer is an added benefit, a difference maker but will not increase rent. Just know that you could be on the hook for repairs.
- Check the systems. HVAC, all electrical switches and outlets, and the water heater should be tested. Change the furnace filter and have the unit serviced.
- Collect remotes. If you have automatic garage door openers, make sure you have the remotes or purchase them if you don’t. Change the batteries and program them to work. You’ll need the key for the gas log starter and any remotes for the ceiling fans.
- Windows. Install inexpensive blinds on all windows.
- Pest control. If you have regular pest control, determine if you want to keep it – and I would recommend that you do. It’s relatively inexpensive and is an added feature for a potential tenant. It’s often one of the last things a tenant wants to mess with and when they do, they buy products off the shelf that are not as effective as professional quality. Make sure you keep your termite bond in place.
- Lawn maintenance. Curb appeal is so important. It’s the first thing a tenant notices about a home but it’s the last thing a tenant attends to. An appealing yard it tells the tenant “this is a really nice home” and entices them to look further. Clean out the weeds from the flowerbeds and fence line, trim the grass, and wash the siding. We strongly recommend that the owner include lawn maintenance as part of the rent because this is the last thing a tenant is concerned about. Regular lawn maintenance will ensure your good standing with the neighbors – and you want to be a good neighbor!
- Utilities. Until a tenant moves in, keep the electric, water, and gas on. We’ll make sure the transfer occurs so you don’t pay extra and the tenant doesn’t allow the utilities to be turned off. A home without running utilities will often deteriorate at a quick rate and leave behind sour odors. You don’t want potential tenants using the toilet only to find out it won’t flush because the water is turned off.
When you are preparing your home for rent, just pretend as if you are looking for a rental home for your own family. Be as objective as possible and apply those standards to your rental.