Can you rent out your property without using a real estate agent or a property management company? Absolutely, you can! In this article, I will tell you the exact steps you need to follow to rent out your property on your own. Of course, I will be highlighting some of the advantages and disadvantages along the way.
Steps to Rent Out Your Property
#1 – Prepare Your Property
Getting your house ready to rent it out is a given, regardless of whether or not you use a pro, you have to clear out your property (unless you are planning to rent it out furnished). This means removing all personal belongings, leaving only the appliances and washer/dryer.
Once you remove your personal belongings, walk through the property, and see if you need to address any issue. Typically, you will be doing things like making minor repairs, painting, and cleaning.
When I work with a landlord, I will do a walkthrough with the person and recommend local contractors, handyman, painter, and cleaner as needed.
#2 – Take Good Photos
One of the most important marketing tools is to have good photos. I have a professional SLR camera with a 10mm lens that takes wide-angle shots without distorting the images. If you’re doing it yourself, you can use your smartphone camera or a regular camera. Most smartphone cameras are excellent now with the ability to take HD 16:9 aspect ratio photos. You can even make brightness and color adjustments with the phone itself.
For photos, you want to take
- 2-4 exterior photos,
- 3-4 photos of the kitchen, and
- typically 2-3 photos for each room.
You can also take photos of your community, its amenities (e.g., pool, clubhouse, playground, etc.), and local attractions (e.g., shops, restaurants, town center, etc.).
#3 – List Your Property for Rent
When you’re not using a real estate agent or a property manager, you will not be able to list your property in the MLS. The advantage of listing your property in the MLS is being able to reach all the agents that are working with renters, and have your listing syndicated across all the major real estate websites.
However, you can still reach a lot of renters by listing your property on these four sites:
- Facebook Marketplace
- Zillow.com (Zillow will start to charge a weekly listing fee soon)
When you list your property, make sure you enter all the essential information accurately, e.g., # of bedrooms, # of bathrooms, and write a good description of your property. Second, you want to set a price that is reasonable and comparable to other similar properties in the area.
Here are additional websites where you can promote your rental listing.
Pro Tip: Offer to pay a fee to the real estate agent that brings a tenant will help you rent out your property faster.
#4 – Schedule Appointments to Show the Property
Showing the property is probably the most painful part of doing it on your own. If you did the first three steps well, you should be getting text messages, emails, and phone calls asking you to show them your property. When you list your property with a real estate agent or a property management company, you don’t have to deal with all the calls and messages, and you don’t have to drive to your rental to meet strangers.
If you choose to do it yourself, the best strategy to help you manage your time is to avoid making individual appointments for each person that wants to see the property. Instead, you should set up open houses, e.g., a window of time 1-2 hours long each, and let the renters know that they can come during one of the open houses. This way, you don’t have to make a trip for each person that wants to see the property.
Pro Tip: Put a combination lockbox with the front door key on the front door. If a real estate agent contact you, you can verify their credential and let them show the property without you being present. Even with a real estate agent is not working for you, they are bound by law and the Realtor Code of Ethics to protect your property.
#5 – Review Applications
When I work with a landlord, I manage all the applications, review them against supporting documents (e.g., proof of income, ID, etc.) to ensure accuracy, and organize everything for the landlord to review. We use standard forms provided by our Realtor association so that it is uniform.
When you do it yourself, I suggest you accept applications through Apartments.com. It is free for landlords to use, the application is standardized, and you can easily review all applications online.
#6 – Do the Credit and Background Checks
With Apartments.com, you can also ask the renter to provide you with a credit report and a background check. You can request these as part of the application (and you should request both), and let them pay for these reports.
Obviously, you want to deny applicants with bad credit (especially ones with late payments, accounts in collection, etc.) and applicants with serious criminal and/or eviction history.
Pro Tip: There are several things you need to do to avoid getting into legal trouble:
- Make sure you have uniform criteria for accepting or rejecting an application.
- Make sure you check with your local law regarding what you can and cannot use as a criterion.
- Understand both the Federal and State Fair Housing Laws.
#7 – Accept an Application and Set Up a Lease
Once you found the right applicant for your property, it is time to set up a Lease Agreement. If you worked with a real estate agent or a property management company before, you could use the previous lease as the starting point. If not, you might have to pay for a lease agreement template specific to your State. You can hire a lawyer or search online for a lease that you can use.
After you completed the lease, you can send it to the applicant for signature(s). You can either do this in person or use one of the online e-signature services.
After both parties sign the lease, the agreement becomes binding, and the applicant is now your tenant.
#8 – Collect Security Deposit and Rent
Next, you want to collect the security deposit and rent from your tenant. You can do this the old fashion way, or you can use Apartments.com to collect the security deposit, fees, and rent payments. It is easy to set up all the required payments through Apartments.com, and your tenant can pay directly from their bank account or using a credit card.
#9 – Proof of Renters Insurance
It is crucial for your tenant to have renters insurance. Your tenant can send you the proof of insurance through email, or you can use Apartments.com to make sure your tenant has a valid insurance policy in place.
Pro Tip: Remind your tenant that your insurance does not protect their belongings or liability damages. They need renters insurance!
#10 – Keys and Utilities
Once you complete the steps above, there are only a few things left to do. These include:
- Give your tenant front door keys, mailbox keys, and any other keys.
- Give your tenant garage openers, passes, fobs, etc.
- Verify all the utilities are set up in the tenant’s name.
#11 – Move-In Inspection (Walkthrough)
Do a walkthrough with the tenant to make sure the existing condition of each room and appliances are documented. In addition to notes, I suggest you take plenty of photos. You can upload the photos to Google Drive, where you can add comments to each photo. These photos can be shared with your tenant so that both of you have them handy. You will reference the notes and photos again.
Also, take the time to show the tenant maintenance items they are responsible for, for example:
- Change the air filter in the HVAC
- Adjust airflow for the HVAC system
- Program the thermostat
- Winterize exterior hose bibs
#12 – Property Management
Now that your house is rented, you have to manage the property. These include:
- Collecting rent
- Responding to questions and repair requests
- Inspecting the property (at least once every six months)
- Starting the eviction process (if it becomes necessary)
Typically, this is not the responsibility of the real estate agent who helped you lease your property. For this, you will either have to do it yourself or hire a property manager. A property manager will typically charge you between 6-10% of the gross monthly rent for this service. If you choose to do this on your own, you can automate rent collection and process repair requests through Apartments.com.
Pro Tip: It is beneficial to have a good handyman who can go to the property for a nominal fee and do repairs for you as needed. In the years that I have been a landlord, I have never gone to the property myself. The extra money you spend to have a handyman on call is simply priceless.
Can you rent out your property on your own? Absolutely! The steps above should help guide you in the right direction. Remember that I wrote this guide based on my personal experience as a landlord and also as a Realtor, but the guide is most accurate for Virginia. If you live in another state, be sure to look into your local Landlord-Tenant law for additional guidance.
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Pinyo is a full-service Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices PenFed Realty and an insurance agent with McEvoy Insurance & Financial Services. He specializes in representing clients in the purchase and sale of residential and investment properties throughout Virginia and Maryland areas around DC.