Spring is the calm before peak rental season. Most Americans move between late spring and early fall—when the weather is milder, kids are out of school, and college students are graduating—so these next few months are crucial to your bottom line. If the goal is to quickly turn over the properties you manage and avoid lost rental income, use this time to prepare your units for spring showings. Here are the the best steps to take now.
It’s hard to efficiently manage applicants, showings, and current residents’ needs when things behind the scenes are in disarray—not to mention the fact that you may be losing money due to disorganization or inefficiencies. Start by auditing your utility bills to determine whether you can negotiate any of your contracts to lower costs and improve service, especially with your business’ internet service provider.
Next, invest in software upgrades, including your management and accounting platform and social media management tools. Last, declutter your paper and digital files, and consider going paperless in your office.
You can make as many improvements as you want to the properties you manage—but if you can’t get prospective tenants in the door, those upgrades won’t matter. Buildium allows you to post vacancies to Lovely, Apartment List, and the Zillow Rental Network; and you can use Facebook, Craigslist, and local classified sites to promote available properties.
“The spring market brings out competition,” says Denise Supplee, a realtor and property manager in Hatboro, PA. “In order to outwit your competitors, you must get in front of your audience as much as possible.”
Winter is not kind to most properties. Have the roof inspected for leaks, loose shingles, and gutter damage. Repairs may be costly, but roof damage caused by snow and ice can lead to long-term problems for you and your residents if they aren’t addressed.
Your property’s HVAC system may also need attention. Ensure that each unit’s air conditioning functions properly before you host showings, and undertake any necessary repairs.
The first things that prospective residents see are the property’s exterior and entryway. Initial impressions matter—so if porches, doors, and halls are run-down, this will color their perceptions for the rest of the showing. Break out the pressure washer for sidewalks and walls, tighten up door handles, dust off porch furniture and windowsills, and deep-clean and declutter common areas.
Part of curb appeal is lawn care. Even if you are still experiencing winter weather, begin to think about landscaping and planting for spring. Put down fresh mulch and remove weeds. Even a new flower bed or bushes near the front door will make any rental property more inviting. Once you’ve landscaped, ensure that the lawn is maintained regularly.
You will discover creative ways to identify and eliminate routines that are no longer benefiting your business.
Prospective residents know that rental properties turn over often, and they’ll likely notice excessive wear and tear. Deep cleaning and cosmetic repairs are crucial in preparing for showings, and these small improvements can go a long way toward attracting renters.
Start by scrubbing smudges off of walls, repairing holes or dents, and repainting walls in a neutral color like eggshell white or light gray. Switch out faded, scratched, or chipped toilet seats. Clean every surface, especially in kitchens and bathrooms, as well as wood floors, tiles, and carpets. Consider hiring a professional cleaning service to help out—and if carpets are retaining smells or beyond help, replace them. Floors in common areas and entryways are especially prone to damage from snow, salt, and ice tracked in over the winter months.
Some property managers recommend significant repairs or upgrades only if they will improve your bottom line. Units must be safe and habitable for tenants, so it’s up to you to decide which additional features—new appliances, for example—will be worth the investment. If repairs are looming, make them now, while units are vacant, so that you won’t have to inconvenience your residents later.
Open blinds and shades, turn on all the lights, and make the property feel warm and welcoming. If you are showing vacant units, bring in a few pieces of furniture to help prospective tenants to visualize their own belongings in the space, says Chris Taylor, a broker and property manager with Advantage Real Estate in Boston. If units are currently occupied, let your residents know what to expect.
“It doesn’t hurt to prepare a checklist of what you’d like your tenants to do for showings like general tidying and stowing away certain items to showcase the space when prospective tenants are coming through,” he adds. You may want to consider offering incentives that encourage residents to clean their units before showings, such as a small gift card or break on rent.
Not all properties attract the same type of resident, and you should prepare your units for the people who you aim to rent to. Young professionals are likely to care more about new appliances or smart home upgrades than college students looking for affordable and functional spaces with plenty of storage. 55+ renters or families with children may require different kinds of units altogether. Highlight particular features in your listings and showings that are important to specific residents.
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Which steps do you take to prepare your rental properties for showings? Share your advice and experiences in the comments below!