Way back when Nintendo Wii was cutting edge and The Pussycat Dolls were still relevant, my parents bought a condo in Florida. It was awesome. The building had great amenities and the beach was only a five-minute drive through scenic coastal landscape. Unfortunately, their timing on this purchase couldn’t have been worse. The housing bubble burst two years later. My parents would have to take a huge hit if they wanted to sell.
So they didn’t sell. They decided to look for a renter.
Naturally, I saw absolutely nothing wrong with having access to a vacant, fully furnished condo in paradise. In fact, my parents’ misfortune was a great situation for my friends and I. As you might guess, my parents didn’t see it this way. Every month that went by without tenants put a strain on their pocketbooks.
Luckily, the rental market is hot down in Jensen Beach, and my parents have enjoyed the luxury of playing “landlord” and having a consistent occupant over the last several years. But not everyone who owns an investment property is so lucky. A vacant unit is the bane of every landlord’s existence. After all, an empty property is an empty wallet when you’re counting on that income to pay your mortgage and, oftentimes, HOA fees.
So, how can you avoid this financial strife and reduce the vacancy rate of your rental property? Here are a few tips:
Know the local rental market. Your potential tenants have been doing their research and know better than anyone what fair rent is in your area. Find out what your competitors are charging and set your rental price competitively.
Keep up appearances. You don’t want to scare people away before they even walk through the front door, so it’s important to maintain the exterior of the building and the landscaping. The goal here is to make the property look as “homey” as possible.
Screen for long-term tenants. This is easier said than done in transient cities like New York and Los Angeles, but it is possible. When considering potential renters, think long-term by asking what their plans are. You may even want to consider offering a break on rent if someone commits to a two-year lease.
Stay on top of repairs. No one wants to move into a place where the central air is broken and the toilet runs nonstop. You’ll end up saving money in the long term by sucking it up and investing the time and cash necessary to keep your property operating in top condition.
Offer paid utilities. Offering paid utilities can be enticing to someone on a budget, or someone who simply doesn’t want to deal with the separate bills. But consider this option carefully. If you live, say, in a desert climate where it’s tempting to run the air conditioning all day, you might want to include gas and cable but not electricity.