It is true that some tenants are better than others. However, no matter how good the credit score, rental history or fancy car, at some point the tenant vacates the property. Property owners then encounter the ‘make-ready’ for the next occupant.
The purpose of this blog is to reduce both the frequency and severity of this inevitable event. Knowing that make-readies happen and intervening at specified time frames provides both advantage and costs saving.
Although some landlords hold properties for less than eight years, in which much of the following will not apply, Baron recommends long-term property owners recruit and retain tenants at least 24 months. After the first year, the make-ready expense should be completely absorbed. Any extension thereafter becomes profit. The 1-year lease, standard in many jurisdictions, is hopefully a starting point for a long-term relationship. Annual make readies are clearly not cost effective and easily strip equity from your rental.
- Reward the good: Notify renewal tenants offering them a choice of shorter and longer terms 60 days prior to the end of any lease. Offer renewal tenants desiring a shorter rental period a higher rent increase and longer terms with a reduced rent increase (or no rent increase). Baron Property Management is not a fan of popular ‘month-to-month agreements’ at the end of leases. Have renewal tenants re-up or ‘extend’ for at least another term of the same length.
- Charm tenants: Everyone likes to feel wanted. Remembering birthdays or holidays with Starbucks or Amazon electronic gift cards may go a long way towards keeping tenants. It’s also not a bad thing in its own right! I am aware of one property owner who combines the ‘gift’ with something benefiting the house–such as stove filters, magazine subscriptions about homes, free cleanings, etc. Happy tenants tend to stay.
- Home warranties: When repairs are required, putting the tenant in control of ‘how quickly’ and ‘when the repair/service arrives at the home’ provides peace of mind. Prompt professional repairs also are a reason to stay. Generally, tenants don’t wish to bother you whenever they need a repair if there is an alternative. (Landlords also do not desire calls at odd hours of the night) One main reason why tenants may choose to leave at the end of the lease term is for faulty maintenance. Is it worth losing a tenant quibbling over a 100 dollar repair? Your make-ready will cost you many times more. In fact, most home warranty costs are easily incorporated into the rental expenses.
- Upsell the long-term option at lease signing. It’s completely fine to drop the idea you are looking for long term tenants.
The day will come when your tenants vacate your property. Plan for this early. Here are a few ways to mitigate both the downtime between leases, as well as the renovation costs. The key is to make the process as efficient, and with few surprises as possible.
- Advertise your unit on (at least one) real estate platform early. A new tenant ready to move in reduces the interim period and thereby increases the value of your property.
- Contact your utilities and transfer them once the tenant moves out. You’ll need these functional to show the house, as well as perform maintenance.
- Schedule repairs, maintenance and large renovations. Replace old appliances. The sooner repairs are scheduled the shorter the interim period.
- Purchase a lockbox. See article on ‘going remote.’ Service people are familiar and responsible. Affords property owners the resource to not be present as they complete their work.
- If you plan on replacing carpet and painting (Baron strongly urges this as a minimum–this 1x cost should have already been ‘baked into’ the annual lease amount), don’t quibble about minor repairs. It is important to not/not let the tenant know you really won’t sweat the small stuff. Rather keep this knowledge to yourself, and exchange it for benefits the tenant may offer you during the transition. You ask, “What possibly can the tenant offer me?”
- Ask the tenant to allow new tenants to view the house while it is still occupied. Of course, they are not obligated to do this, but if they are inclined, it only helps you.
- Ask the tenant to allow repair personnel to inspect the house. Also, schedule a pre-inspection about 30 days prior–giving the tenant a copy the original checklist. If you give them the checklist, they may begin fixing some of their repairs early.
- If dogs were allowed, and you collected a dog deposit, consider a conversation with the tenant to clean the carpet or tile with the deposit. Often, the tenant is so busy with moving they will agree. In so doing, you now control the quality and timeframe of this repair–as well as how it will be spent.
- Estimate the current and future utilities amounts owed by the tenant which have not yet been billed. Reach an agreed price for their repayment. This calculation will be used for the final balance. Reach an agreed price for tenant-owned repairs. If you can pay the outgoing tenant their security deposit on their move out date, this will also incentivize the tenant to ensure the house is in top form. It also gives you a bit of leverage for the final inspection.
- The disaster cometh: You need to make an insurance claim with your carrier. Keep in mind that carriers consider ‘hard-living’ different than vandalism-which is intentional destruction. Insurance Carriers only consider the former a ‘trigger’ for a covered loss. Example: Hard living resembles extreme normal wear & tear. It may include broken sink/toilet fixtures, defaced cabinets, crayon marks on walls, human/animal wastes on surfaces. On the other hand, vandalism, which is intentional destruction, would include political etchings in glass or spray painting on walls. Consider your deductible to determine whether it is even worth filing a claim. Note: — As the property owner, you should control tenant move-outs by working with them before they become a disaster. It requires a bit of diplomacy and psychology. Offer unstable tenants incentives to leave. Even during evictions, it is possible to gently help them decide to vacate. Is it worth angering non-paying tenants and provide them a reason to destroy your property? If you pay for a U-Haul van for one day, would that reduce your make-ready cost–and get them out sooner?
What are your experiences with make readies? Is there something that might be added to this list. I look forward to your responses.