If you live in the US, you will do this 11.7 times in your lifetime. Usually once every 5 years.

If you live in the US, you will do this 11.7 times in your lifetime. Usually once every 5 years.

A mini moment of truth

Again, In the United States, Census Bureau estimates that 15% of American families move every single year.

During moves, property owners fear the worst damage will be uncovered. Conversely, the Tenant fears charges for which they did not cause. Property owners consider how to reduce the transition period between moves. Tenant’s concerns focus on moving their effects, and returning back the unit, receiving their security deposit, and moving on with life.

Since moving occurs regularly, the frequency of being a tenant, or a property owner/manager managing a tenant is not uncommon. The purpose of this article is to provide a few tips for both groups to demystify convention and in the process making the process smoothing out the process. Because it is both exciting and deeply personal moving is a mini moment of truth.

Knowledge of ‘The End’ is an often overlooked revelation.

When lease terminates on schedule, this makes everyone happy. Tenants and Landlords appreciate wiggle room allowing them to move up (or down) the final date if it is in their interests. Start preparing 45-60 days before you depart.


-Arrange for all effects to be out, 24 to 48 hours before the deadline. You will feel better. Allows you not to rush.

-Cancel all utilities, forward-cancel mail.

-Provide the property manager more than one day/time for a final inspection. Obtain a written verification of the final state of property on move-out-day (& keep this for your records)

-*Bonus: Request repairs of the property manager of items 45-60 days before departure. They will (usually) not refuse., and it keeps these shortfalls from reducing your security deposit repayment. Also, requesting self-applying touch-up paint for those wall-hangings may be advantageous for all parties.

Property Owners/Manager

-If the lease has a termination date, no need to notify tenant. However, if you’re envisioning a rent increase, or new residency rules/requirements, a lease extension & 30-day notice (in most US jurisdictions) is required.

-Terminating Tenant’s utilities should transfer to you at lease end. This includes notifying Home Owner’s Associations if this applies.

-Provide the tenant a copy of the ‘room-by-room’ check-in sheet 45-60 days before lease termination. This allows both parties to be ready for the final inspection. Be ready to negotiate. Don’t sweat the small repairs/stains.

-*If your tenant agrees, arrange for them to conduct ‘  next tenant. Also if your tenant agrees, have workers begin assessing and performing ‘make-ready’ work.

The cocoon phase

Just because the house is vacant and dark, it doesn’t mean anything is happening. Landlords make preparations (& upgrades) long before the next occupant signs a lease.  Renters should also begin looking for a new place, months before they start loading up their belongings. As someone who has moved dozens of time myself, including overseas, here are a few helpful hints.


-Marry the location before looking at the value proposition. Start in out-of-reach neighborhoods/locations first. You never know until you ask.

-Online resources are great, but no substitute for personal viewing. Of course, for shorter stays of one week or less, viewing property/room photos may be practical feasibility. After looking at the best and worst social media reviews, take an outing to place you will live. You won’t regret it. (Among other benefits, a tour introduces you to your landlord, and allows you to determine if your furniture will really fit into and match future room spaces)

-Be prepared to walk away from a property. Also, be ready to make an offer. Having options gives you an advantage. If you do not like what you see, it’s okay to count a personal visit as a ‘learning experience.’ However, it may be that the place is indeed perfect. If so, impress the manager by: 

a. bringing references;

b. Touting credit scores;

c. Dressing conservatively (Sorry. Am I right?);

d. Letting the manager know you (may) take the unit as-is, and can move in sooner rather than later (manager’s generally like to hear these words);

e. Follow up with a nice text/email.

-*Bonus. If the unit especially pleases you, ask for a longer lease term. This nifty earworm, if used,  sets you apart from other tenants, letting the manager know you are serious prospects. 

—Double Bonus. Ask whether the unit qualifies for a month free after 12 months. (the closes mouth never gets fed)

Property Owners/Manager

-Perform the needed, time intensive, upgrades to the unit. Do them simultaneously limiting the downtime. 

-Buy/ Renew a home warranty &/or termite-, lawn service. especially if you manage remotely.

-View online resources showing rental estimates in your area

-Talk to neighbors living near your house, use them to keep an eye on your place while it is vacant (and also occupied, sorry tenants). Provide them your contact info.

-*Bonus-experienced landlords -after functioning appliances, focus on the floors and walls. If you allow pets, replacing carpet and deep cleaning tiles is a must. Consider a separate pet deposit. Window coverings can be quickly installed, and window re-screening takes about one week at local hardware stores.

-*Double Bonus-With SmartHomes now out in the wild consider including basic internet letting the residents configure their own passwords—for liability reasons. Among the many benefits, it provides them text/email capabilities, any provides unimpeded operation of smart locks, thermostats and window blinds.

Decision Day. Do these early, and often.

In the past, managers and tenants completed the rigors of credit reports, criminal history, rental history, and income verification before committing to a lease term. Airbnb (and other services) substantially streamlined this still-used process by pre-screening, obtaining upfront funds, and allowing the parties to view the other’s rental history. Regardless, both landlords and residents should know the following lease signing.


-You should consider low-cost rental insurance. It protects your effects, and may also protect you from paying from liability from accidents during your rental period. 

-Complete and return the ‘check-in’ sheet early. If it is a short-term rental, notify the owner of all defects immediately.

-The first 30 days should go smoothly, but may also require some maintenance request. Observe how responsive this first request is resolved. Be flexible. Provide yourself and the LL options in case it does not go as smoothly as it ‘could.’ If it is resolved quickly and amicably, thank the LL for his response. (This will go a long way when the next request comes.)

-*Bonus. No matter how ‘perfect’ the place is, you will likely have a few suggestions after you move in. Upgrades that will give you a spark of joy, and can be undone upon your departure, are worthwhile. Unless the lease specifically precludes otherwise, by all means, embark on these (if they do not leave permanent marks)—making certain you let the LL know, and undo them to the satisfaction of both parties). It’s your place. You should feel at home.

Property Owners/Manager

-If you rented to someone one month, hesitate to perform your ‘inspections’ the next month. If you have a ‘reason’ for an inspection, it’s best to limit them unless absolutely necessary. If your presumption is wrong, the now-wary tenant will no longer be on your side, and not appreciate the ‘intrusion.’ Instead of an inspection, send them a friendly one-sentence hint/suggestion when giving them a receipt for the rent. Give as much notice to the tenant when you make inspections, offering them a choice of days/times.

-The house will be modified by your tenant, even if you rented to what you believed were ‘ideal’ tenants, and there may be a reason for this modification. Get over it. Instead, save the conversation for the final move-out negotiation. (or better yet, acknowledge it, and ask for tenant concessions elsewhere — especially allowing future tenant viewings or repair work while the unit is occupied). 

-Your goal is to have the tenant resign a second year. Most property managers break even after the first year and only reach profit after month 10. Your make-ready costs for repairs and the ‘down-time’ between rentals will easily devour the cost of small repairs. *Bonus: In the worst case scenario amortize a large repair over the next 12 months.

-Bonus: Nothing prevents you from not renewing with an existing tenant at lease termination. If you are friendly during the final 60 days, it will save you in the long run.

—Double Bonus: Evictions are hugely inconvenient. If the tenant won’t pay (the usual cause). You’ll need to keep good records, hire an eviction attorney, and be prepared to have them remain in your house for months longer than wanted. Instead of fighting them, another strategy is to ‘forgive’ all/or some of their late rent in exchange for leaving the premises. Yes, these situations involve you taking a personal loss. However, if they go under these circumstances, it is often a win-win.  You receive your unit in better condition and can begin to view a horizon where the cash flow is positive again. **If your tenant is going through unexpected financial difficulties, they probably feel bad.  Any small gesture may make you feel good about yourself. 

Tenant-led move-outs — or how to remotely manage in the Airbnb age

Remote Turn Overs

Your tenant’s lease ends next month. They’re moving. You’re thousands of miles away. What do you do?

Here are a few suggestions to minimize the transition period while quickly ushering in next occupant.

  • Advertise early —

Suggest to your existing tenant they consider allowing new prospective tenants to view the location during their final months. If your property sits in a hot market, new tenants will gladly rearrange schedules to meet the requirements of the outgoing tenant. However, there is a word of caution: Make it easy for the outgoing tenant. They are under no obligation to allow this. Also, be aware there may be a liability issue should the ‘showings’ damage their effects.

  • Leverage real estate platforms to facilitate correspondence (text, email)

Use one of many free online platforms to advertise the availability of your property at least 45-60 days before lease termination. Direct interested parties to email you (only). Arrange ‘showings’ all on one day, say on a Saturday. *note: very interested parties will make themselves known. Most individuals use smartphones, so communicating via text and email is a good option.

  • Update your monthly lease amount, for a one-year term

Again, many free online services guide the current range for your area if you are unsure.

  • Arrange a move-out inspection with the outgoing tenant.

It is best that you be present and lead this walk-through. If this is not possible, skip to letter ‘c’ below.

Either way, this final inspection is eased considerably by a. providing the tenant a copy of their ‘move-in’ inspection, and b: encouraging the tenant to be diligent by speeding up the return of their security deposit.

If you, a remote manager, are unable to be present for the inspection consider one of the following options.

a. hire a local real estate professional to do this. If this realtor is also locating your new tenant, the ‘cost’ for this should be about one month’s rent. The physical presence of a pro during the handover is essential.

b. if you have trustworthy relatives, friends, neighbors have them perform the inspection and sign off.

c. if you have the courage, have the tenant take several photos of the interior/exterior and perform their inspection. Your trust in this person is vital. Remind them that you will verify their assessment. Go over details with them, like shampooing carpets, cleaning ovens and ensuring functional and closed window coverings. Have them mail they keys, fobs & remotes back to you. I’ve done this before. In the world of Airbnb, self-evaluations of the property are not as ludicrous as they appear.

  • Set a lock box with a remote key.

If you’ve equipped your house with a smart lock, this step is already complete.

  1. Transfer the utilities to you. Inform the HOA. Set up/Reactivate internet and wifi.
  2. Hire a cleaning company

You are on the hook anyway to clean the house, so paying a few dollars for a professional are funds well spent. However, this company will also be a 2nd set of eyes for you as you will have them perform a room-by-room detail of the condition of the home. Tell them your intent, and have them take photos.

  • Have handymen, painters, and contractors perform repairs.

Filters need changing on HVACs, Range-top grease filters need replacing, basic landscaping can always enhance a unit, rooms may need to be re-painted, carpets need a deep cleaning (or replaced entirely). Some appliances may need replacing and serving. Allow entry via remote access verifies their arrival, and reference their invoices and photos for later.

  • Allow prospective tenants to view the home while repairs are underway.

Many landlords also require them to complete an application around the same time. Self-led viewings are also advantageous, with or without the contractor present.

  • Sign a new lease.

Have the new tenant perform a self-inspection and return it to you within one week of their move in. Once you have a confirmed move in date, transfer those utilities back to them. Many ‘State-specific’ templates exist online, and all smartphones allow users to sign documents. If the internet is included as part of your lease (which I recommend), be sure the tenant resets any routers and passwords.

Wella. What do you think? I’d welcome any comments.