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landlord/tenant Q&A

Broker-In Charge, Callahan Realty, Ltd.
Past President, Oahu Chapter
National Association of Residential Property Managers

Q. I seem to be having a harder time renting out my property lately. Can you give me some ideas on how to attract renters?

A. The rental market has gotten tougher especially in certain locations. Many properties managers I have spoken with lately are experiencing vacancies for the first time in quite a while. You always want to be sure your property is set at fair market value, that may not be what the cost of your mortgage, taxes and other fees are and the two truly do not have anything to do with one another. Review ads for other similar properties in the area, call the Landlord and inquire if you can just talk for a few minutes. Many times ads may be for a price but the actual price the property rented out at is different. It is always good to have your property show well and even more important when there is competition. If your property is vacant, be sure it is clean. I mean really clean; the windows sparkle, the faucets are shined, the sinks and tubs are scrubbed well. Make sure the floors are clean so the prospective tenant doesn’t leave with black sticky feet after taking their shoes off to enter your property.

Pay attention to little things to show that your property is well cared for; doing this will help give the tenant confidence that if something goes wrong, you will respond to their needs. We can’t always renovate and update a property each time it turns over; there would never be a profit or even a breakeven point. We can pay attention to cosmetics; things like paint, updated light and plumbing fixtures, be sure screens aren’t ripped, light bulbs are working, do the smaller things that are affordable but make the property show well. If you have a single family home, clean up the yard, have the trees trimmed and the grass cut, that first impression pulling up to the house can make all the difference, especially if it is a negative one. If you have a tenant in the property and it is messy and dirty that can make it tough. If you can’t tactfully talk to the tenant to straighten up and get it to show well, sometimes it is just best to wait until they are gone.

When advertising your property, be clear and thorough. As always, describe the property only, not the tenant you are looking to find. Make sure you state not only the price, but the pet policy, length of lease, utilities included and how to get hold of you. When you advertise on the Internet, be sure to include photos. Most prospective tenants will not even look at an Internet ad without pictures. If you aren’t a good photographer or do not have a good camera, there are companies that specialize in real estate photography. Many have very inexpensive packages and it can be well worth the small investment.

Be responsive and available. When someone calls or emails you, be sure to get back to them promptly. Make yourself available around their work schedule if at all possible. When you meet with them be sure to be clear about how rent is paid, how maintenance requests are handled, what the application process entails and how you choose a tenant. It is also good to discuss what you expect when they leave. Prospective tenants want to be assured that if they choose your property; they won’t just be forgotten or ignored once they move in. If they ask how the traffic is be up front. If asked if the upstairs gets hot in the middle of the day and you know it does, say yes. Be open and honest when answering questions, if something about the property doesn’t work for them, it is much better to have been honest and not have them move in. If they move in and are miserable, you will be too! In my experience prospective tenants not only choose a property based on the physical property but also the Landlord, they want to feel that they will be treated fairly during the lease and when they move out. You have to get them to the property, offer your product at a fair price and assure them you are knowledgeable and professional and will treat them that way!

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