Being a landlord is no easy task. Being one while living hundreds or thousands of miles away certainly doesn’t make it any easier.
Or does it?
In recent years, there has been an increasing amount of property managers who manage from afar. This often stems from circumstances such as an unexpected relocation (typically for a job or family reasons), intentions of moving to —or back to—an area, a lack of home equity or other unfavorable market conditions, or, ideally, building a comprehensive real estate portfolio to increase net worth and support geographic expansion.
Whatever the reason, it is essential to understand and plan for the potential challenges ahead of time. Advancements in modern technology and the advent of new and innovative business models have made this once unenviable task one that has become increasingly more desirable for landlords.
For example, a common problem for years would have been the inability to personally show the property to potential tenants. Even if you hired a local property management company, the prospective tenant is still restricted to when they can visit (typically during office hours).
The solution? Self viewing homes, complete with keyless entry (a code is usually handed out upon providing security credentials).
Another popular challenge is not physically being there to address maintenance or property damage concerns. The traditional solution would be to hire a property manager. In addition to handling urgent tenant issues, many often will assist with the entire process, including advertising openings and screening prospective occupants. However, a more efficient alternative is to invest in a very good home warranty company, and instruct the tenant to work directly with them.
In fact, as technology continues to evolve, there will be more sites, like Trintals.com, that can serve as a Virtual Property Manager, providing all the necessary tools, resources and documents online for all parties involved. This includes the screening and application process, a portal for rent payments, marketing the property, and access to the local landlord-tenant laws. All of this is generally done at a fraction of the cost of a property management company, and a fraction of the time spent finding everything you need.
The more you can provide the tenant from the beginning of the relationship, the less hassle in the long run. For instance, identify a list of vetted, preferred vendors (like local handymen, plumbers, electricians, et al) in the area for the most common issues that may occur. Often, they will also provide service discounts if they know they will be the preferred option. (Or better yet, find tenants that are already handy!)
Speaking of issues, many potential conflicts can be avoided simply by not being in the same physical space of the property. For one, there’s a lower chance of an escalated confrontation when dealing with difficult personalities via email or text versus in person.
The distance can also help take the emotions out of the equation and foster a more objective view. Case in point: Some landlords may find themselves getting attached to a purchased property, which may skew their ability to make sound decisions. Plus, if you are geographically agnostic, it allows you to objectively invest in the best markets, as opposed to what you personally prefer.