Even experienced landlords run into problems and make mistakes with the management of their rental properties.
If you’re a new landlord renting out your first property, you might think it’s as easy as finding a tenant and collecting rent. In fact, those things are rarely easy, and there’s a lot more than goes into the management of your investment property. It’s easy to make expensive mistakes, and they can usually be prevented. To ensure you have the best experience possible with your San Antonio rental property, do whatever you can to avoid these common mistakes.
Not Understanding the San Antonio Rental Market
Landlords make a lot of mistakes when they don’t know their market. If you don’t take the time to understand your rental rates, your tenant pool, and your advertising strategies, you’ll have a hard time finding and placing good tenants.
When it comes to the improvements you make to the property, they have to match the tenants and the neighborhood. If you don’t get to know what tenants are looking for and what they’re willing to pay, you’ll be stuck with longer vacancies and an empty property. Get to know the market trends.
If you don’t know your market, you won’t know whether a rental increase is appropriate at lease renewal time. You’ll be confused about whether rentals in an HOA community are permitted and common, and you won’t know how to reach tenants when you’re trying to market your home. If you get to know the San Antonio market, you’ll have a better chance of renting your property quickly and earning more rent.
Unprofessional Rental Property Marketing in San Antonio
Marketing is a key part of finding the best possible tenants for your property. You need to take every opportunity you have to present your property well and motivate potential renters to see it. Approach your marketing plans strategically and professionally. The mistake most landlords make is that they don’t market at all, or they simply post a sign or an ad on Craigslist. You need to do more than that.
Take outstanding photographs. The best San Antonio rental listings have professional pictures, and some even have videos. You don’t necessarily have to hire a professional photographer, but pay attention to the photos you’re taking. It’s a big mistake to simply snap a few pictures with your camera phone. It’s an even bigger mistake to try and market your home without any pictures at all. Most tenants won’t bother looking at a listing that doesn’t include photos.
Before you take your pictures, make sure the property is camera-ready. It should be clean and empty. Don’t take pictures of bathrooms with the toilet seat up. Remove all of the clutter from lawns, kitchens, and closets. Make sure you have good, natural lighting when you take the shots. Open doors and use a wide angle lens so you can really maximize every room.
Provide as many pictures as you can. The tenants you’re trying to reach want to see pictures of the exterior, the yard, the master bedroom, the bathrooms, the kitchen, and the living room. If the bathroom has a garden tub, include a picture of that. Show off fireplaces, walk-in closets, garages, and large, fenced yards.
Once you have your photos, write a description that is just as detailed. Don’t make the mistake of omitting relevant information. Your ad should state the rental amount, whether pets are allowed, and how many bedrooms and bathrooms the property has. Always include your contact information.
Online advertising is the most effective way to reach the maximum number of prospective tenants. A lot of landlords make the mistake of just putting up a sign. There is still a place for professional signage that’s easy to read, but to really reach large numbers of potential tenants, you need to post online on rental sites like HotPads, Zillow, and Rent.com.
Weak Tenant Screening Procedures
Tenant screening is one area where it’s very easy to make mistakes. Many landlords don’t have a process in place at all, and those who do have a process usually don’t do all the digging that’s necessary when it comes to screening San Antonio tenants.
Create a written screening process that includes your rental criteria. If you don’t have written criteria in place, you might screen each applicant differently. That can be a fair housing problem. You need standards that every applicant must meet in order to be approved for your property. Put those standards in writing. They might include a minimum credit score, a certain income, and a positive reference from a former landlord.
A few things should be non-negotiable for you when it comes to rental criteria. We recommend you don’t rent to anyone with a recent eviction, money owed to former landlords or property managers, or a violent criminal record. Check credit, but look at what’s important, such as whether utilities are paid. Verify a tenant’s employment and ask for proof of income. Make sure everything checks out, and don’t make the mistake of falling or sob stories. You’re running a business, and you must treat every applicant the same. If you look past an eviction for one applicant, you can’t deny another applicant because of a prior eviction.
It’s a major mistake not to contact current and former landlords. This is your best source of information about the tenant. You can ask if they paid rent on time, took care of the property, had any pets, left behind any damage, and gave proper notice. Do a little digging to make sure you’re actually talking to a landlord, and not a family member or a friend.
Deferred Rental Property Maintenance in San Antonio
Even if your San Antonio rental property is brand new and in excellent condition, it will need maintenance at some point. Your tenants will call you for something, and you’ll need to be prepared. It’s a mistake not to respond immediately. Ignoring small problems is a huge mistake that a lot of landlords make because they don’t want to incur the expense of fixing it. Deferred maintenance will actually cost you more in the long term.
When a tenant makes a maintenance request, respond quickly, and use licensed and insured vendors. If you hire some guy out of the Home Depot parking lot, you’re putting yourself at a lot of risk. You need affordable, high quality vendors who can do good work and be available.
Preventative maintenance not only keeps your tenants happy, it also preserves the condition of your home. If there’s a small leak, fix it right away. If you don’t, you’ll only end up with a larger and more expensive problem. Have your HVAC system serviced every year. This will extend the life of the system and give an expert technician the opportunity to make sure it’s running okay. The expense is worth it, and will save you from deferred maintenance costs and headaches.
It’s also a mistake not to budget for maintenance. Save a little of your rent every month so you aren’t surprised and unprepared when expenses pop up due to maintenance needs. Put together a maintenance budget and track your expenses.
Not Understanding Landlord and Tenant Laws
If you don’t know the laws in San Antonio, in Texas, and in the United States, you’re almost certainly going to make a mistake. The best places to start are with the Fair Housing Act and the Texas Property Code.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against seven protected classes. According to this federal law, as a landlord you are not permitted to deny someone housing based on:
- National Origin
- Familial Status
Most landlords don’t intentionally discriminate. However, mistakes can easily be made in advertising, screening, and lease enforcement. There is a lot to know. For example, do you know the difference between a pet and a service animal?
The Texas Property Code has its own set of requirements. Make sure you read it and understand it; otherwise you could make some major mistakes. Start by making sure your exterior doors have keyless deadbolts and peepholes. Change your locks between tenants and install proper smoke detectors.
Not Seeking Professional Property Management Help
It’s a mistake to manage on your own, unless you have the time and knowledge to do so effectively. You can increase your ROI and protect your investment when you work with a San Antonio property manager. You’ll also save yourself rom mistakes like these.
A lot of landlords want to manage on their own because they think they’ll save money on management fees. That may be true, but you have to think about the real cost of not having a professional property manager. Higher vacancy rates, terrible tenants, late rent, potential evictions, legal trouble. There’s a lot that can go wrong. With a professional manager, you’re protected. So are your property and your bottom line.
Your rental property is a business, and it has to be treated that way. Landlords can easily take things personally or become emotionally connected to their property and even their tenants. A San Antonio property manager can be your buffer.
If you’d like more information or you have any questions, please contact us at Specialized Property Management San Antonio.