Meeting and keeping a good tenant for your investment property is a lot like the trials and tribulations of dating. There’s the initial nervous anticipation as you set out to find someone, the excitement of getting to know them, the dizzying highs of finding “the one”, and – if you’re lucky – the satisfaction of a long and happy relationship.
BY SHANNON MOLLOY
My first foray into the role of landlord was a whirlwind romance. The sign went up out the front of my first property after I decided to move on to a new renovation project. Within 24 hours, I’d found my perfect match.
We were deliriously happy. Then, five months later, I fell out of love when a buyer came along. Like dating, sometimes you just get a better offer you can’t refuse.
When I found myself back on the scene a year later, searching for a tenant for my now-renovated second place, things were grim. It didn’t take long to meet someone, but the honeymoon was over quickly.
First, there was the businessman who neighbours described as “that odd man with no furniture” who rarely left the apartment. I don’t know what he was doing in there, but the strange noises at all hours were apparently unsettling.
When he left, along came the clutter-loving banker who literally never cleaned. The thick, black grime only came off the bath after several dousings with industrial strength descaler.
After that, I took my time, listened to both my head and my heart, and sought the advice of trusted confidants. When I was sure, I leapt in. Things seem to be going well so far.
As in the dating world, there are some tricks when it comes to finding a good match and making the wild ride a bit smoother for both parties.
The fix up
Managing your own investment property can be tough. It’s time consuming, there’s a raft of regulations to comply with and you can’t do things by halves. If that sounds like too much, ask people you trust to recommend a good matchmaker in the form of a managing agent. When you find one you like, be specific about what you want and expect.
Making a good first impression
In some areas, demand for rentals is so high that landlords don’t have to make any effort to land a date. But if your heart isn’t in it, why would theirs be? Make some effort – dress to impress, spray something nice and put on a big smile. If several prospective tenants fall in love with your property, you’ll have plenty of candidates to choose from.
Getting to know them
Ask lots of questions, take a glance at their past relationships and follow your matchmaker’s suggestions. They’ve seen this all before and probably have a decent gut instinct. Job type and salary don’t necessarily equal a hot mate.
Remember the very messy banker? He was on a pretty decent packet…
Sealing the deal
Make sure you’re on the same page in order to avoid nasty surprises. You don’t want to discover you’ve hooked up with a smoker (or worse).
Treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen?
Respect is a two-way street. Legitimate maintenance requests should be actioned. Good landlords always follow the rules. Don’t call too much or you’ll scare them off.
Listen to your friends
I think it was Socrates who said, “If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends”. Keep in touch with body corporate committee members, neighbours or anyone else who sees your tenant. No one likes a snoop, but ask for a heads up if something isn’t quite right.
We need to talk
There’s being picky, and then there’s looking after your best interests. Ask your managing agent for advice if you have concerns.
Breaking up is hard to do
Ending a relationship before its due date is hard. A managing agent will be well versed in the proper procedures, but if you’re going it alone, seek advice from the relevant authority in your state. Even if they’ve done the wrong thing, your tenant still has rights that need to be respected.
Do you have any tips on finding the perfect tenant? What about rental horror stories?
Shannon Molloy is the deputy editor of Australian Property Investor magazine, www.apimagazine.com.au