If you choose to manage a property yourself, it doesn’t mean you need to do it alone. There are plenty of tools and resources available to make your life easier as a landlord.
The most common ones are online rent payments and listing tools, but that barely scratches at the surface of what’s available. Not all tools are technology based. Sometimes a tool is knowing the right person to call or outsource a task to. Below is our assembled list of the top tools to look into:
TOOLS TO FILL UNITS FASTER
The biggest hidden cost most landlords face is in re-filling a vacant unit. Not only do you lose rental income while the unit is vacant, but there is also the cost of repairs, improvements, advertising, showing, and placing tenants. These costs often far exceed 2 month’s rent.
Consider hiring a leasing agent - This is an underutilized tool among DIY landlords. They will be able to tell you if you're setting the rent properly. They’ll do the showings and tenant placement. This makes the agents well-worth the 1 month of rent they typically charge to fill a vacant unit.
Set your rent at the right rate - There are many free and paid tools online to help you calculate the appropriate rent.
Fair Market Rate Calculator (Free) - https://www.rentdata.org/lookup - This is a tool to calculate the 40th percentile or rents by zip code (aka “Fair Market Rate”). This is the amount used to calculate payments for government assistance programs. This number is designed to be well below “market rates” so you should look at this as a floor for your rents.
Zumper rent rate trends (Free) - https://www.zumper.com - Search for rentals in an area you’re interested in. On each rental listing Zumper will show you the rate trends for the area and in some cases the specific neighborhood you are searching for. You can also adjust by the number of bedrooms. This shows the median rental rate.
PadMapper Search (Free) - https://www.padmapper.com - You can search for an area and filter by the specific amenities your provide to see what the range of available prices is. This is great to see the range of what is available right now.
Rentometer (Free/Paid extras) - https://www.rentometer.com - This gives your a quick visual clue on where your rent stands compared to the local average.
Rentrange (Paid) - https://www.rentrange.com - This will give you a personalized report for your rentals. This is ideal for larger property owners (4 + unique properties since the minimum order size is 4 properties). Each report is $3.50 with discounts when you’re ordering over 40 reports.
Market your property - In order to receive the highest possible rent your need to do more than just place a “For Rent” sign in front of the property (you should definitely place a sign out; people still drive around looking for these signs). Most sites online will allow you to post for free. The hard part is posting to all of the most popular sites with minimal effort on your own part.
Craigslist (Free) - https://craigslist.org - Renters still search for rentals on Craigslist. There has been an increase in scams targeting renters so make sure to include pictures and contact information.
Zillow (Free) - https://www.zillow.com - Zillow is rapidly becoming a more popular rental search tool for tenants. You can list manually or use a syndication service below.
TurboTenant (Free) - https://www.turbotenant.com - TurboTenant makes their money by charging rental applicants for background and credit checks. They offer a free tool to advertise your rental in the hopes you will use them to screen your tenants, too. This syndicates your listing across dozens of websites and gives you a high quality listing.
Ensure your tenants are high quality - You want to be sure your tenants aren’t active criminals, have a clean rental history, and have an income to support their rent. Unfortunately there are limited free tools to verify income, so pay stubs and offer letters remain the norm. A quick Google search will pull up “free” tenant screening tools that charge your tenant for the application. You can use those tools in lieu of an application fee. If you still want to collect an application fee yourself, check out the following free or low cost tools:
Naborly (Free) - https://naborly.com - They offer free tenant screening, credit, and criminal background checks. They earn money by selling renter’s insurance to the tenant.
FinRet ($5 - $15) - https://finret.com - Eviction, background and credit checks for $5 each. FinRet is the low price leader in the space.
Sign leases digitally - It is the 21st century, there is no reason to require a lease to be signed in person. It will slow down the process for getting your units filled and be a headache to upload to a computer later. Go digital from the beginning.
HelloSign (Free with limits) - https://www.hellosign.com - Click the linkand get 4 free documents every month (regularly 3). Paid plans give you unlimited documents.
DocuSign (Paid) - https://www.docusign.com - This is the industry leader and the most recognized name in the online digital signature industry.
TOOLS TO MAKE DAILY OPERATIONS EASIER
Once your unit is filled you have two primary concerns: collecting rent and performing maintenance. Unfortunately there are not yet online tools for enforcing rules or handling evictions. The best way to prevent those from becoming problems is to have rigorous tenant screening, including reference checks.
Online rent payments - Paying rent online is easier for tenants to track and less of a hassle for you as the landlord. However, be sure not to confuse online rent payments with digital bank to bank transfer. In many jurisdictions the eviction process cannot be completed if you have accepted even $1 towards rent for the month. If you allow payment directly into your bank account you automatically accept any payment even if it isn’t in full. You are putting yourself at risk against professional con artist renters who drag out eviction processes as long as possible (and hope the next landlord doesn’t do a thorough tenant screening).
Cozy (Free) - https://cozy.co/ - This is the industry leader in free online rent payments. They make money if you want to receive your rent faster (typically takes 4-5 business days).
We cannot recommend any other “free” tool since they all charge the tenant. There is no sensible reason to put a fee between you and your tenant’s ability to pay rent. Instead you should increase your rent to cover the cost of online payment.
Maintenance and repairs - Dealing with maintenance and repairs is the number 1 reason DIY landlords give up and turn to professional management. That’s why Latchel has pricing attractive to landlords and only handles the maintenance aspects of running your operations.
Latchel uses either your preferred contractors or local qualified, vetted and insured contractors that are part of their network.
Latchel offers plans that cover emergencies only or Premium plans that offer coverage for non-emergencies, too. For Premium subscribers Latchel is able to offer competitive pricing guarantees on the contractors they source.
Overwhelmed by the DIY landlord life? Look into hiring a property management company.
If the amount of time you’re spending managing your investments isn’t worth the value you’re getting from them and you’re ready to hand off the responsibilities but still keep the profits, there’s always the option to hire a property management company. Keep an eye out for our next post on the pros and cons of being a DIY Landlord vs hiring a Property Management company.
At Latchel, we work with some of the top property management companies in the nation and we’d be happy to recommend a trusted company in your market. Just send us a message on our Facebook page.
Or, if you want to learn more about our services, schedule an exploratory meeting with us below. We’d love to chat with you about how you can optimize your investments!