Congratulations! You launched your property management career and are officially a landlord. Although you have a new mortgage to pay, insurance to buy, and maybe some home repairs to cover, a small investment in some key tools will help you run your new business effectively.
Here are some suggestions based on the experiences of veteran landlords:
How-to Guides – Experts offer their advice based on years of landlord experience. A few, including the BiggerPockets guide, “How to Rent Your House,” are free. Most guides cost around $20 and are invaluable references for situations you'll encounter.
Bookkeeping Software – Even if you hire an accountant to manage your finances, you'll still need to track expenses and income. The advantage of using online software is that you can access records anywhere, and can share reports online with your accountant.
Signs – “For Rent” signs are critical to spark word-of-mouth interest in your vacant rental, and to help prospective tenants find your property when they meet you for a tour. For multi-units, you'll need signs for common areas and, if you have a rental office, you'll need to post your rules and guidelines, office hours and other information.
Smoke/Carbon Monoxide Detectors – Most state and local governments, not to mention property insurers, require rental units to be equipped with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Spend just a little more for 10-year models and you'll save yourself annual headaches replacing batteries.
Thermostat lock box – Landlords who include utilities in rent, including those who rent vacation properties in tropical climes, often confront thermostat abuse. Tenants may crank up the heat or air-conditioning out of proportion to the ambient temperature. With a lock box, you can limit adjustment to within a preset temperature range.
Fire extinguishers – It is critical to contemplate worst-case scenarios in your rentals, and then install the tools needed to combat them. Many health codes require rentals to be equipped with fire extinguishers. Regardless, they are an investment in peace of mind.
Carpet Steam Cleaner – Carpets typically are cleaned after each vacating tenant. The cost to clean them is borne by the landlord, because dingy carpets are one of the two most common results of “normal wear and tear.” Hiring a cleaner can be costly. Since cleaning will be a routine task, get your own steam cleaner and save.
Painting supplies – Dingy paint is the second most common result of everyday living, and the landlord bears the cost to repaint.
Key Storage – Leases specify who will be responsible for replacement keys. Most landlords charge a fee for new key copies, which tends to discourage tenants from losing theirs. Still, keeping track of rental unit keys can be a challenge. Organize and tag keys for easy reference, then store them in a locked box.
Something Fun – Landlords confront a steep learning curve and can put in long hours. Remind yourself how awesome you are with your own signature tee!