From Pristine to Smithereens – What shouldn’t happen from Move-In to Move-Out to your Rental Home

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Keith Wood, Director of Property Management at ERA American Real Estate, walks you through three ways to avoid damage to your rental home investment.

Smelly trash, broken windows, animals, both alive and dead, rotten food, and everything else gross and disgusting that you can think of we have heard of and seen during our years in the rental business. There are thousands of horror stories out there of the condition of homes left by nightmare tenants. We have taken on the management of more than one or two properties that were already occupied by tenants who for no better reason than they were just too lazy to take the time to change the air filter or trim the hedge, let little things go and accumulate over time so that property not belonging to them had fallen apart.  The truth is not every tenant is going to treat a rental property with the love and respect that the property owner does.

Don’t look so glum! We’ve been in the business for 35 years. As experts in the property management field, we are pretty confident in saying that if you follow our suggestions you too can maintain your rental properties like a pro and prevent having rental horror stories. It just takes some planning, preparation, and action by the landlord, agent or property management firm. Do these and avoid a rental home from going from pristine to smithereens. Now, here is our advice:

Step 1: Make a Plan– Take some time to figure out what you need. You should figure out how you want to record the condition of rentals before they are occupied. Maybe you are already taking great pictures of homes for listings – this could serve a dual purpose, but only if they show the real condition of the home. So often, it is easy to not take fresh pictures for marketing (but let’s save that conversation for another day). Perhaps a walk-through with the new tenant before they move in is best for you. This probably won’t work if you do not have the time. There are many great apps and tools out there to record the condition. Most property management companies give new tenants a comprehensive checklist to fill out of what they see when they move in, giving them a short amount of time (usually 10 days) to return it. Just remember don’t rely on the tenant’s checklist only.  They may not turn it back in and of course, it will be their opinion of the condition.  Once you know what you are going to do before they move in, decide what the plan will be when they move out, and in-between. Your goal should be that you have detailed information of the condition after the tenant vacates to compare to detailed information of the condition before the tenant moved in. It does not hurt to have during tenancy condition checks either, as a matter of fact we consider it a must, so that you can take action on any issues or discrepancies.

Step 2: Prepare – Whatever you decided in your planning stage, make preparations to start doing it. Decide who, what and when the condition evaluations will be performed. Will there be multiple steps or just one? Keep it simple, but make sure you cover it all. You can use almost any software to create a condition evaluation form; many great checklists are free and downloadable on the Internet. Here’s an example of one that the University of California Santa Cruz uses when tenant move in: Move-In Checklist. Arm yourself with the tools you need, cameras, smart phones, iPads. The technology is out there for you.

Step 3: Action – Get started – just do it with the next lease you sign, the next property you list, the next keys you receive upon move-out.

Remember, at ERA American Rental Services, we have performed thousands upon thousands of property evaluations. We have been doing it since 1981. We will be glad to help you get started with your plan and share with you some of our recommendations for tools out there or maybe you are tired of the managing a rental, we can talk about that too.  Call us at (850) 609-6000, Ext. 104.

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