Tenants moved out. Now what?

Hello Baron Readers:

With Elections, COVID-19 and an economic crisis happening all at once, it’s easy to become confused about the basics of tenant-turn over. Best of all, all of the ‘turn over’ can be done remotely. Here is a quick summary:

  • Pre-Inspection – Once you know the tenant is leaving on a specific date, arrange to inspect your property (if possible) 30 days out. To help you, have them take photos of each room and tell you where the issues are. Give the tenants a check list. If possible, incentivize their quick clean-up in exchange for, say speedy return of their deposit. Ask tenants if they would not mind new applicants to view the home during this phase. Advertise early, and often. Free services like those in a previous article are well-tested.
  • Transfer utilities back to you – Your preference involves no periods of outages for gas, electricity, internet, garbage etc. Baron strongly suggests the official transfer day is hand-over day. Also, make arrangements to paint and re-carpet/re-tile yearly rentals. Schedule handymen/landscapers to coincide with hand-over day.
  • Hand-over Day – On this day, do a final walk through of your house. Quickly negotiate problem areas ‘on-the-spot’ with the tenant-be lenient. Collect the keys, garage door openers, locks etc. Change your home internet password, reset Google Voice/Alexa, change the combo to electronic locks. Hire a locksmith to change out all of the physical ‘real-world’ keys. Secure your home. Your home should have no furniture. If you have a good relationship with your tenants-and you are not present, have them mail you keys back.
  • Make-Ready phase begins – Painting should be done first, then carpeting/tiling. Finally, a deep cleaning maid service. Line up contractors to work side-by-side if possible. Other area property managers while have the best people, so do ask. In the event you have no vetted pros, Barons suggestions are (in this order): Thumbtack, Home Advisor, Craigslist/Angie’s List, Home Depot/Lowe’s. Opening and locking the front door remotely comes in handy if you are physically not local. Home cameras also help. Phone call to people performing services, to provide you eyes-on reports are invaluable. Keep in mind this ‘make-ready’ phase usually takes 2 weeks before the home is ready for move-in. If you are squemish about being remote project manager, see if you can hire a local property manager for this phase only in exchange for one month’s rent (they will of course want you to give them a recurring monthly fee, but simply refuse.) Now is the time to upgrade your home with screens, home speakers, cable internet boxes, and other perks. The total cost for the entire ‘make-ready’ should be divided by 12 (one year) and this amount added to monthly lease payment. Most contractors accept (might I even say, prefer) mobile payments.
  • Showing – your property should only be shown to serious tenants. Run a credit report first (RadPad provides this service free). Yes, strangers blindly traipsing your property is not ideal, but go ahead and allow them access to your home if you are not there – if you have cameras and wi-fi enabled door locks this will provide some peace of mind. In fact, prospective tenants may prefer to explore solo given COVID-19 issues. Remind the tenants to close and lock the door when they depart. Have them call you afterwards to confirm all is well with the home. If you have wi-fi lighting, garage doors, blinds, etc, you can also do some of this remotely. As an owner of properties in with hot/humid summers, a remote thermostat becomes indispensable.

That’s about it.

You will likely be nervous. You will likely want to do more via the phone/text/email. However the basics of tenant turn requires a bit of talking to complete strangers and trusting them to do the right thing with your property. Come December, I’ll be doing many of these things again for property at least 4 States away.

Stay safe.

Feel free to leave any comments or suggestions for future articles.