As the height of PCS season approaches, military home owners are facing a difficult decision – whether to sell or rent their home as they move on to their next assignment. Navy spouse and home owner Kristin Beauchamp has offered AHRN.com and the National Military Family Association an inside look at her family’s choice to become a military landlord.
Like so many military families, my husband and I bought our first home in 2009, while the housing market was no longer at its peak, but still sat relatively high. At the time, we thought we were seeing the prices of property bottom out, and felt confident we could live in our house for four years, sell, turn a small profit and then walk away without regrets.
For better or worse, things don’t always turn out like we imagine, and our carefully-laid plans turned into an unexpected bump in the road.
For months, we prepped our property, fixed odds and ends and got ready for our emotional goodbye to our first family home before listing it for sale in the summer of 2013. Our house is very charming and the renovations were appealing to many people. It was priced fairly, and for the first few weeks we had a mind-blowing number of showings, and several interested parties.
Then, the government shut down.
Just like that, orders were put on hold, people weren’t sure when they’d be relocating and loans got complicated as people’s “official” income was in flux.
We held out hope for a few weeks, but with an upcoming PCS, a second baby on the way, and no chance of supporting a mortgage and rental home in our new duty station, we knew we were out of time and options.
So, as a last resort, we became self-managing landlords.
Since we would only be three hours away from our old home and I felt anxious but fairly confident I could manage the details. We’ve learned a few lessons along the way. If you’re thinking about renting out your property, perhaps you can learn from our experiences (and mistakes).
Then, visit the blog over at National Military Family Association for five more tips I’ve picked up along the way.
This is a business, think of it like one
Thinking of my beloved home as a business was a huge hurdle to overcome. Deciding on a fair-market value, and resisting the urge to price ourselves out of the rental market, was one of my first lessons. Reading up on writing great real estate descriptions and thinking outside of the box when it came to marketing my listing was also very helpful. I needed to understand the time line of preparing a house for a tenant and how long I needed to be prepared my home to be on the market during each turnover. After a year of being a landlord, it’s much easier to think of the venture like a business, as most of my involvement and upkeep comes in the forms of bookkeeping, phone calls and check-writing.
Treat tenants the way you’d like to be treated
This goes hand-in-hand with keeping perspective on your new-found “business.” I really do my best to treat my tenants the way I’d like to be treated in similar situations. I take care of issues as quickly as possible, honor reasonable requests and offer a friendly check in every once in a while. I’m willing to absorb small expenses as an occasional act of goodwill, and it’s paid off in the form of happy tenants who take care of my property like it’s their own. (Disclaimer: I know I’m lucky and circumstances don’t always work out this well.)
Find a supportive community
I received some stellar advice from a realtor who also owned and rented out her personal properties when I first started down the landlord path. It was by her advice that I decided to self-manage, and opted to use a handful of warranties and other services to help keep my property in check. Between her occasional support via email and a couple of Facebook groups filled with people who have been-there-done-that, I feel like there’s always someone I can turn to for advice.
Save everything – you’ll be glad at tax time
There are some financial benefits to renting the only home we own, rather than living in it. We can write off repairs, losses, one trip per year to check on the property and more. But, saving every bit of paperwork is the best thing I can do to track the finances of the property.
Get a local pair of eyes
Asking a trusted friend or neighbor to keep tabs on your property is a great help! Even an occasional drive by can help spot potential issues like un-declared pets, surprise roommates, trash, messy yards and more.
So, what do I do first?
It’s happening, you’re ready to rent your home. Now what do you do?
- You’ll need an application for potential renters to help you screen for the best tenant for your home. We recommend EzLandlordForms.com for a simple, straight forward option.
- Choose a method for conducting a background check on applicants.
- Decide if you will hire a local property manager.
- Create your listing on AHRN.com with a great listing description and good quality photos.
- Call your insurance company/agent. You will need to switch your home to a landlord policy.
- Set up a record keeping system – decide how you want to file and store all of your records.
- Ensure that your home meets your state’s requirements for rental homes.
- Start checking out your applicants!
Are you considering renting your home? Visit AHRN.com’s resources for military landlords!
Need more help preparing your home? We’re here to help:
- Resources For Military Landlords
- Rent your home fast with a great listing description
- How long will it take to rent your home?
- What is fair market value for your military community rental?
- Determining fair market value for your home for sale
- Prepare your home for sale