The Virginia Pilot - Realtor Q & A original article
Q. How difficult is it to rent your house in Hampton Roads when you’re assigned a new duty station elsewhere? We’re a military family and like this area and would like to return after our service is up. However, we’re worried about a lot of hassles while we live elsewhere. We know people do it, but HOW do you do it, and what kinds of things would we need to think about?
A. Renting out a home here in Hampton Roads can certainly be a rewarding decision for you as a military service member. With the military alone supplying roughly 10 percent of Hampton Roads’ economy, this area offers a consistent flow of people relocating both in and out of the area that’s above and beyond the average local renting population.
How is this important to you as a potential landlord? Having a larger-than-average pool of prospective tenants makes it easier for you to find a qualified tenant as well as the ability to experience less vacancy time and the ability to receive at- or near-market rent for your home on a fairly consistent basis.
On average, this area proves to be a more stable risk for landlords than others, which is the attraction most people have when considering owning a rental property here. Many people often think, too, that they may return to this area after a time, and consider then moving back into their property upon return, knowing that the home has been lived in, maintained and paid for while they were away.
These are all wonderful things. However, I encourage you to explore the following points so can consider your options. This is, after all, your investment.
Living out of the area makes it more likely you will need to employ the services of a professional property manager. Being concerned about the hassles of managing a rental property from afar is a valid one, but this is where selecting the right property manager comes into play. A quality property manager has the skills to market your home efficiently, to get it priced right and rented as quickly as possible, and also knows how to properly vet and qualify applicants to make sure you are leasing your home to a quality tenant. They make reasonable decisions to keep your best interests in mind, costs as low as possible, and include you on the bigger decisions on regular maintenance and on-demand repair items.
Reputable management companies should be able to share with you how often they’re in court dealing with evictions or unpaid rent. The more time they spend in court, the less time they have to successfully manage your home. Ask the management company how often it checks in with the tenant and keeps up on the condition of the home. This is usually spelled out in the lease. However, ask how often they find it necessary to do an interior inspection of the home.
Most management companies have a schedule of fees. Connect with a few different ones, preferably through a referral, to get their fee schedule and to learn how they operate.
Like so many things in life, it’s important for you to weigh which costs make sense to you.
These considerations should help you to engage them enough to feel like you can make a well-informed decision. Remember at all times that your home is your investment, and just assessing a management company on cost alone won’t necessarily be the smartest choice in the long run. With your home successfully managed, you will know how much rent you will collect, what costs to expect, what responsibilities fall on you, the tenant and the property manager and, also, what to do should there be an emergency or any issues with the tenant.
As an added note, I suggest speaking with a tax professional to discuss any tax benefits or liabilities on owning a rental property. And, if and when it comes time to sell your home or to buy another one, be sure to connect with a reputable Realtor. Last, but certainly not least, thank you to you and your family for your service to our country.
– Leigh Sturm, MRP, Realtor with the Hampton Roads Realtors Association and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Towne Realty, Chesapeake