If you own rental property or are thinking about making a rental investment, chances are you understand the financial implications. You did your due diligence, analyzed your income and expenses and maybe even schooled yourself on the fundamentals of D.C. landlord and tenant law. However, there is another unavoidable, yet commonly underestimated cost to account for—and that's your time.
Before you dismiss the notion of hiring a property management company to oversee your rental property, consider how much of a time commitment being a landlord takes. Ask yourself, do you have enough time? And if so, do you want to spend it chasing down delinquent rent checks or vetting plumbers on Angie’s List?
Here are some common time traps and a self-assessment for evaluating your own bandwidth for coping with them:
- Tenant Churn – The Washington D.C. metro area is a transient place. It has several universities, a healthy job market and a large military population. People are constantly moving in and out and leaving a slew of vacancies in their wake. For a property owner, this means hours of time spent preparing and marketing the property, fielding phone calls and emails, showing the place to prospects and finally screening and selecting new tenants.
- Maintenance Issues – Landlords have to be on call 24 hours a day, every day. When maintenance issues arise, especially when they are related to utilities, infestations or safety, expect to drop everything and begin resolving the problem immediately. This can entail searching for reliable service providers, coordinating with tenants to arrange a time to fix the problem and follow-up inspections.
- Worst Case Scenarios – It is no fun to think about, but one of the hardest parts about being a landlord is playing enforcer to tenants who refuse to abide by the terms of your lease. Tenant disagreements, missed rent payments and abuse of property may all be grounds for eviction, but the eviction process can quickly turn into a protracted legal process full of inconvenient, expensive court appearances.
Do you have the time to be a landlord? Ask yourself these questions:
- How far are you from your property? If you live farther than 50 miles away from your property, you should consider hiring a property management firm. Even if don’t live quite as far, traffic jams and public transport delays inside the beltway are notoriously commonplace. Think about where you live and work in relation to your property in terms of minutes, not miles. A time-consuming, stressful commute could make fulfilling your landlord duties unrealistic.
- How many properties do you own? Multiple properties means multiple responsibilities. Maintenance requests, tenant issues and even the seemingly simple task of collecting and depositing rent checks can quickly turn into a high-wire balancing act when you have to worry about more than one unit. Additionally, you don’t want to be so overwhelmed managing high-priority issues that you skimp on performing regular upkeep tasks. Property updates and minor repairs are important and prevent your properties from losing value.
- How busy is your family and professional life? It is no secret that managing a property takes time. Factor in a full-time job and family obligations, and you could discover that your duties as a landlord are throwing off your work-life balance. Examine your time constraints and decide if managing a property by yourself could negatively affect your ability to be a good family member, employee, landlord or all three.
Owning property can be a financially rewarding experience. But it shouldn’t come at the expense of your personal life, tenants, property or sanity. If you don’t think you can handle the demands by yourself, look into getting some professional property management help.