by Eve Pearce
With housing prices remaining relatively low, some are looking to rent out their existing property when moving on rather than selling at a price lower than the purchase while others are using this time of more affordable housing to buy an investment property as a provision for the future. Whatever the reason, becoming a landlord is not risk free and so it is important that you do your research and take the proper precautions to protect your investment and hopefully see a good return.
A Good Rental?
First things first, find out whether your property or prospective property will make a viable rental. This involves calculating total outgoings such as mortgage payments, insurance, maintenance and repairs and agent fees and researching typical rental prices in the same neighbourhood. Speaking to local real estate and letting agents and looking at online property rental websites is essential to finding the right rental price for your property. This is important not only for calculating the yield on your investment to check for financial viability, but also for setting an appropriate price that will attract tenants when you come to advertise. Whether or not a property will make for a good rental is not only about how the figures stack up. It is vital to consider the local market, the competition, and identify the type of tenants that are likely to be interested in your property so that you can make sure you tailor your rental accordingly. For example families will generally require a bath whereas young professionals are often fine with just a shower room. By understanding your market you can ensure that your property caters for the needs of prospective tenants and, in areas of ample competition, stands out from the crowd.
Let Your Mortgage Company Know
If you are thinking about renting a property which you previously purchased with a residential mortgage, it is important that you inform your lender of your intention to let. Some lenders might force you to change your mortgage to a buy-to-let which often requires a lower loan to value and charges a higher interest rate, so be sure find out where your lender stands when you are assessing the suitability of renting out your property.
Work Out Tax Implications
As with any income, money earned from rental of real estate is subject to federal taxation. It is therefore important that you understand the tax implications of becoming a landlord. When you start to receive an income from your property – regardless of whether you make a profit – you will need to declare this income on your tax return. However, there are a number of deductibles (for example repairs to the property) that can offset some of the income you make so it is important that you get into good record keeping habits from the start.
Get Rock Solid Contracts
Regardless of who you are letting your property to, a solid rental contract is vital. Even when you are renting your property to family or friends this is essential, and it is unfortunately often these situations that go wrong and so it is important that you are protected by a sound lease agreement or rental contract. It is worth seeking the advice of a real estate lawyer or attorney to have a contract drawn up to ensure it contains all of the proper provisions. Often new landlords are tempted to find a contract or template online or try drawing up an agreement themselves to save money, but this will be a false economy if your contract turns out not to be watertight if you have problems with your rental.
Vet Your Tenants
Although you will never really know how a prospective tenant will turn out until they are living in your property (or more often until they move out), but it is nonetheless vital to make the appropriate checks into their character and background before you hand over your keys. If you are using a rental agent to obtain tenants and manage your property, they will undertake such checks. However if you are choosing to self-manage, then conducting a credit check and obtaining references from employers and previous landlords is necessary. Another test not to be underestimated is simply meeting prospective tenants face to face. If their checks and references look good but you just have a strange feeling about them, trust your instincts.
Protect Your Property
As a landlord it is important to have the proper insurance in place to protect your real estate and any contents which you own by taking out appropriate landlords insurance. When moving out of and renting your own home, it is important to switch to landlords insurance rather than rely upon your existing policy as in the event of an incident for which you need to make a claim, you could find that your insurer refuses to pay out on the basis that you had leased the property without their knowledge. In addition to covering the property itself and any fixtures and fittings you have provided, it is possible to take out cover against loss of rental income or your liability as a landlord to ensure you are covered in any situation. Another way of protecting your property is by installing adequate smoke alarms and this is in fact a legal requirement in most states.
Know The Law
Another important aspect of becoming a landlord is being aware of all of the laws that protect you as a landlord, such as eviction procedures, and those which you are obliged to adhere to for the protection of your tenants. Understanding your legal requirements as a landlord is crucial to ensuring you don’t find yourself in a litigious situation and understanding your rights as a landlord before you lease your real estate to your first tenants will give you the confidence to act swiftly and appropriately should any difficult situation, such as non-payment of rent, arise.