Starting your rental business: What kind of landlord do you want to be?

I’m truly what you would call an accidental landlord.

Like many couples, my husband and I found ourselves with a one-bedroom condo unit that we decided to rent out.  We thought that we might make a little money, certainly at least break-even, and then sell the property for more money years later.

 

That was in 2004.  Forward to the spring of 2005, when I was working on our taxes, and noticed the tax break that came from owning a rental property.   I don’t remember the exact numbers, but I’ll never forget that feeling!   By May I had bought a rental house, and another that October.  A landlord was born.

If you’re reading this blog, you’re already way ahead of where I was!  I had never considered managing properties.  NEVER.   I did not have a plan, business or personal.  That of course is a mistake, but sometimes life just happens!

If you do choose to become a landlord, you need to ask yourself some key questions.  And be honest with yourself!  Once you have purchased a property, you’re in this for awhile.  Likely a long while.

Do you just want one property, for a nice tax break, and little interference with your life?   Maybe a couple of properties, but hire a property manager to handle everything from daily plumbing issues to depositing checks?  Or are you thinking of a career, owning enough properties to bring in the cash flow to live on?  Do you have a partner or spouse that’s working, who can bring stability through a difficult rental market?  Or is your family in this with you?  Will you do everything yourself?  Have professionals available when needed?  Or completely hand over control?

Do you like working with people?  Are you patient?  Or can you at least pretend to be patient when on the phone with a tenant, who of course wants your immediate and full attention?  Do you travel a lot, or have a job that would make you unavailable to a tenant desperately trying to get a hold of you?

Are you an organized person?  Will you be able to keep track of receipts, miles traveled, lease agreements, insurance policies?  Are you the type that can remember when a washing machine was installed, and what brand it is?  Or at least where you put that information?

You, of course, can change your mind.  You could go into this thinking that you can handle everything, but decide to hand your properties over to a property manager.  You might start out with a manager, and then decide that you do have the time and energy to go it alone.  This isn’t written in stone!  But I urge you to think about what your future is likely to look like.   Buying even one property is a huge commitment, and a costly one if you are not a born (or created) landlord.

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