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October 26, 2012


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This is such a timely article for me! I recently relocated to Va from cleveland, Ohio. We owned clear a big nice old house built in 1920. We set out to sell the property - in great condition- and the market is still very slow in Ohio. The realtor wanted to list it for 40k less than what we paid for it 12 yrs ago. We bought it before the bubble at a fair price. The realtor was saying the same things you said in your article about losing money on a vacant house and it seemed greek to me. Well we have decided to go ahead and rent it as we wait out the housing slump and we're kinda excited. My brother lives up in cleveland to kinda manage it and we have tenants lined up. Richard Bach said that renting your house was the way to go for boomers- we shall see. BTW we went through Dave Ramsey's FPU and thats why we are mortgage free. Loved the article- keep em coming.

Thanks for the kick in the pants! We now have all of our properties rented, but the most recent one did sit empty for 5 months after purchase! I never felt a huge amount of pressure due to the low carrying costs, though I did recognize that we were losing $X00 each month it wasn't rented...We let the [halfway inept] leasing service we use to show the houses talk us out of lowering the asking price for quite a while, as they kept saying it was the right price and that NONE of their units were signing leases and they didn't know why. Duh. Anyway, we'll do better next time!


The price is right on a commodity product but NONE of them are leasing. This made me laugh. I hope you are not using them anymore, or if so, not relying on their advice on price.

Apex, the latter...As we live 80 miles away from the neighborhoods we buy, it is not at all practical to do showings. But we will be far more proactive on making sure our properties are set up to succeed (i.e., pricing, advertising, etc.) in the future.

Another good article with good solid advice.

The problem I've had with my rentals during vacancies is being too slow to clean up and fix things. Time is money is very true here. I have a tendency to want to save money and do all teh work myself, but there isn't enough free time after my day job to get it done fast. Sure I can save a few hundred dollars painting and cleaning a unit myself but it might take me weeks to get it all done due to limited free time and I then lose that savings to lost rents. Its a hard lesson for a naturally frugal person to learn that paying someone else to do work can save you money.

Setting the rent at the right amount is also a very important aspect. I try to set rents on the lower side so its attractive to renters and will retain good renters. But you don't want to set it TOO low or you just throw away money and end up attracting only the less qualified renters. People will actually overlook a very cheap rental since they assume its a slum due to the price. Doing a fair amount of research on Craigslist or or similar resources is improtant to get a good idea on rents and set the rent appropriately. You want to make sure you do a true apples to apples comparison too.

Please tell us HOW you get it rented. Do you pay a realtor to list it? Do you advertise in the papers and then screen your tenants yourself? I am in MA. I am interested in renting out a condo for the winter season in Naples, FL after my mother is no longer able to winter there. I have the word out to many people but am wondering what the best process is. I love these articles because I am also selling my mother's condo in NH. Thank you


You will want to tune in next week as the column will discuss how to find good tenants and I will be taking a more in depth look at the process of how to get it rented.

I list it myself, exclusively on Craiglist, show it myself, take applications myself and run them through a screening service and then make a decision.

I cannot give you much advice on how to get it rented when you are 1000 miles away other than to say you need to have a service of some kind involved obviously.

Kathy, For a seasonal rental in another state I'd hire a property management company that deals with vacation/seasonal rentals. They'll know how to find people who only want to rent for a season and how to deal with shorter term rentals. Its a bit different market with some different issues than typical rentals.

There is no shortage of property management companies in the Naples area that would be more than willing to have your mother's condo on their rolls. If I were in your shoes, I'd check Angie's list for recommendations and give some a call. Also, I don't know what your plans are for the summer months, but depending on where in Naples the property is (ie further from the beach?), you may be better off with a long term lease than trying to do piecemeal winter leases. The lower rent is offset by it coming in for more months and lower management fees...
Best, Mrs. PoP

What medium do you use to advertise the property? Just wondering. We live in Chicago but have 2 rental properties in Florida. I was transferred, otherwise we would still be there. If anyone ask me I tell them to never long distant landlord, but I must say it has worked out surprising well for us over the years. One property has had the same wonderful tenant that takes better care of it than most of the neighbors do that own their own home. However we tend to cycle through tenants every 1 or 2 years on the other property.

I simply list the add on craigslist and filter the potential tenants through phone conversations. I they fit my criteria, I simply use the in-laws to show it to them. Them I take care of all the background screening from here. So far it has worked great. Does anyone use anything else or listing? The longest it has sit empty is 2 months, but if it was any longer I was going to look at alternative methods for advertising.

I have never understood how or why folks would let a rental property sit empty. There is really no excuse. There are tons of great tenants if you are willing to simply put a few hours of work in.

I am interested to see how handle the day to day business of real estate. I will have to check out the articles from the beginning as I really think Real estate is one of the best investments. Thanks.


As I was saying to Kathy, I use Craigslist exclusively. I have used some other services but have not found them to provide much if any value.

Next week's column will discuss the process of finding tenants in more detail.

I love this article. I just bought and rented my first property in Ann Arbor, MI, although I live in NJ. I used to live in the condo complex so knew how well it was managed. I essentially have no worries about the external maintenance, have a handyman (well recommended) on call for anything that comes up, and rented literally within 12 hours of closing because I had done an upper-scale rehab to the kitchen and bathroom. I clear $350/mo less the cost of the handyman ($800 but necessary things and nothing after the first month), and my tentant is a grad student who's parents pay the rent. Guess their business? Real estate investing in northern Michigan. I hope she stays forever because I do use the listing agency to check tentant's CR etc and that costs me one month's rent.

If I may ask, what is the typical duration of loans on your properties? Like 30 year or 15 years.


Every fixed loan I have is 30 years. I never do 15 year loans. I have not written my financing column yet but when I do I will go over why.

Great advice and much needed motivation. My apt has sat a few months. I'll follow your good advice right away and hope to rent it soon! Thanks!

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