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Get Your Home Ready to Rent

Illustration about a building full of condos for rent
May 20, 2019

Are you moving and considering renting out your home rather than selling? Or have you just purchased or inherited a rental property? With the multitude of details to consider before you hand over the keys to your home or investment, it can be hard to know where to start.

These tips and links can help you navigate the process, from initial timelines to signing on the dotted line. Here are 10 things you should do to get your house ready to rent.

  1. Start the process at least six weeks out. Start even sooner if you’ll need to have some work done to make the home ready for tenants. You’ll want the home to be at its best before you start showing it to tenants, and many tenants start looking for a home four to six weeks before their move date.
  1. Spruce it up. Spend some time and money to give your property a coat of fresh paint, plant some flowers, de-clutter, and clean thoroughly. Quality tenants want a clean home that makes a great first impression. This guide offers more tips you get your property ready to rent.
  1. Change your insurance. Your homeowner’s policy isn’t enough to cover you when you become a landlord. Before you sign a lease, be sure to consult with your insurance agent and get a landlord’s policy, also known as a dwelling policy. Find out more about the landlord’s policies.
  1. Get Legal. Research the laws in your area and obtain any required licenses and inspections. In most jurisdictions, being a landlord is considered a business that requires a license, even for a single property or basement unit. Like Washington, D.C., some cities require inspections and a certificate of occupancy before you can legally rent out your home. Learn the requirements for becoming a landlord in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C.
  1. Decide if you’ll accept pets. You’ll have a larger pool of tenants if you’ll consider furry companions, but make sure you have strong tenant and pet policies in place to prevent costly damage, noise, and other pet-related problems. Determine whether to charge pet rent or pet fees. You’ll find information to help you decide and develop good pet policies in this article.
  1. Figure out how much rent to charge. Research the market for homes or units similar to yours in size, location, amenities, and condition. See how much those comparable homes are charging and whether they rent quickly.
  1. Create a marketing plan. Think about your likely renters and decide where to post your listing to attract the largest pool of qualified tenants. Write an ad highlighting your property’s best or most in-demand features and take high-quality pictures that show it in the best light. Learn more about how to market your rental property.
  1. Develop a comprehensive tenant screening process. Thorough screening is the key to making sure you get a great, qualified tenant instead of a nightmare. Screening should include pulling a credit report, criminal history, and eviction history, as well as verifying employment and checking references. In addition, having a systematic process that you use for every applicant will help you avoid potential discrimination charges.
  1. Have an iron-clad lease. A lease outlines rights, rules, and responsibilities for you and your tenant. In case of a disagreement or problem, a well-written lease will help protect you. To make sure you are adequately protected and that your lease follows all applicable laws, you may wish to consult an attorney. Click here for more information on leases and rental agreements.
  1. Consider hiring a property management company. A management company can help with or take care of all of the tasks above. And they’ll be there to handle anything that comes up after the tenants move in, too. Moving is stressful enough without worrying about starting a new business as a landlord at the same time. The value of professional property management is even greater if you’re going to live far from your rental property. Download our free guide to Working with A Property Management Company.

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