How To Prepare A House For Rental
The idea of renting out your house may be frightening - particularly if it is your personal home and not an investment property. Whether you are renting your own house or a place that you bought specifically to rent out, there are some steps that you can take to ensure that it goes as smoothly as possible. While there will always be unexpected issues that arise, preparation can help to reduce problems.
There are many things that you should do to get a house ready to rent. Preparation includes everything from figuring out what rent should be to cleaning the house to drafting an air-tight lease. By investing some time and energy into preparations on the front end, you can avoid problems in the future.
At Eaton Realty, we have experience with all types of real estate matters in West Central Florida. We represent buyers, sellers, renters, and landlords through our full-service real estate firm. Reach out today to learn more about our award-winning property management services.
Step One: Do the Math
Before you put a house up for rent - or consider purchasing an investment property - it is a good idea to crunch the numbers. At a minimum, you should be able to cover your mortgage and other expenses with rent. In other words, you will need to do some math to determine if renting out a house makes financial sense.
While the rental market is still fairly hot in the Tampa region, the median monthly rent is currently $2,201 - down $144 since 2022. You might be able to charge a higher rent depending on the square footage of the property, amenities, and other features. Take some time to research comparable properties to figure out exactly how much you can charge in rent. Eaton Realty offers free rental value analyses, so you can get an accurate rental analysis from our experts at no cost.
The rental amount should cover your mortgage, property taxes, insurance, and other expenses (such as ongoing repairs and maintenance). You can then determine if it’s enough to simply break even in order to build equity in the property over time - or if you want to turn a profit each month. Talking to a real estate agent or a financial professional can help determine if the numbers add up.
Step Two: Figure Out Legal Requirements
Next, you will need to do some research - or consult a lawyer - to find out what you need to do to rent out the house legally. For example, Hillsborough County has strict limits on short-term rentals. If you want to list your property on Airbnb or a similar platform, you will need to understand the rules surrounding these types of rentals and your tax obligations to the city, county, and state.
At the same time, you will need to review your mortgage and potentially talk to your lender if you are switching your house from a property you live into a rental property. You should also call your homeowner’s insurance to get a landlord property insurance policy. While your tenant should also have their own renter’s policy, this type of insurance protects your investment from natural disasters, fire or water damage, and damage due to your tenants’ negligence.
Step Three: Inspect, Repair, and Clean Your House
At this stage, you should start making your home ready to rent. To start, you will want to do a thorough inspection to identify potential problems. This could include anything from a loose railing on the stairs to burned-out light bulbs to leaky faucets or pipes. If you find any issues, you will either need to repair them yourself or hire someone to do so.
Next, evaluate your home from a safety perspective. At a minimum, your property must comply with Hillsborough County’s property maintenance code. You should also install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors and have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.
Once repairs and maintenance have been performed, it is time to do a deep cleaning. This should include things like mopping the floors, shampooing the carpets, dusting the baseboards, and cleaning the windows. It may be time to give your house a fresh coat of paint to make the rooms seem cleaner and brighter.
Finally, take some time to evaluate any furnishings and appliances in the unit. If you are providing appliances, make sure that they are clean and that they are in good working order. Similarly, for short-term rentals, any furniture you provide should be clean and in good condition. If you have anything in the house you don’t want tenants to access, now is the time to remove it.
Step Four: Decide How Your Property Will Be Managed
There are two basic options for property management: doing it yourself or hiring a property management company. It is possible to manage your rental property yourself, particularly if you live nearby and have the time and energy to handle it. However, you should be aware of what managing a rental entails.
At a minimum, to manage your own rental property, you will need to:
- Address legal issues such as permits and insurance
- Prepare the property for rental
- Stage the property
- Take listing photos
- Market the rental unit
- Show the property to prospective tenants
- Screen applicants, including running background checks and talking to references
- Draft and sign a lease agreement
- Do a walk-through with the tenant
- Provide ongoing maintenance
- Respond to repair requests
- Collect rent
- Handle any legal problems that may arise, such as evicting a tenant for nonpayment of rent
- Thoroughly inspect the home upon move-out
- Make a claim or return the security deposit according to Florida law
If you have the time and knowledge to do all of this, then it may make sense to manage your properties on your own. However, for many people, doing all of this on your own isn't realistic or possible, especially for people who live outside of Florida.
Hiring a property manager costs money, but it may save you cash in the long run. With a property manager, you won’t have to devote your free time - or take time off of work - to dealing with tenant issues, showing the house, or handling repair requests. You can also be assured that you will get top dollar for your rental unit based on your property manager’s competitive pricing strategy.
A property manager will take on all of these chores for you, including the often burdensome task of finding good tenants for your rental property. They will also make sure that they manage your property - from tenant screening to evictions - in compliance with all applicable state and federal laws to protect your interests.
If you decide to hire a property management company, pick one with experience in the area that can price your rental appropriately. You should also look for a company with a marketing machine ready to maximize exposure and reduce vacancies. Ideally, the property management firm will take advantage of technology to handle rent and maintenance requests to make the process as streamlined as possible.
Step Five: Market Your Rental House
If you are handling your rental property on your own, you will need to market it so that tenants know it is available. Marketing starts with taking high-quality listing photos and videos. You may choose to stage your rental - either traditionally or virtually - so that it looks as appealing as possible.
Once you have your photos and videos, you will need to write up an accurate description. Then you can list it on various online sites or even run an ad in the paper. Your goal should be to reach as many people as possible.
Step Six: Screen Tenants
If prospective tenants show interest in renting your house, you will need to go through a screening process. Screening includes having them fill out an application, doing a credit check and a background check, and talking to references.
Importantly, you cannot discriminate against potential renters - or tenants - based on their race, nationality, disability, military status, religion, or sex. Both federal and Florida laws have strict rules regarding this type of housing discrimination. You could be hit with steep fines if you violate these rules - such as by asking prospective tenants if they’re married or where they are from.
Step Seven: Draft a Lease
If you haven’t already done so, the final step is to draft a lease agreement. The lease should contain basic provisions, like your name, the tenants’ names, the amount of rent, and when the rent is due. You should also include any other provisions that you want to include, such as quiet hours or limits on the number of overnight guests.
A lease is a contract that forms the basis of your relationship with your prospective tenants. It should be well-written and cover various situations that may arise (like subleasing). Many landlords consult with a lawyer to have them draft a lease that protects their rights.
Get Your House Rented Faster With Eaton
The decision to list your house for rent is a big one. To succeed as a landlord, you must take your time to prepare thoroughly. Preparation should include hands-on work of repairing and cleaning the house and more administrative duties like getting permits and insurance. Of course, a Tampa property management company could save you a significant amount of time doing all of this for you.
Based in Lithia, Florida, Eaton Realty works with landlords and investors throughout the Eastern Tampa area. We have decades of experience in real estate, including representing buyers and sellers in real estate transactions and managing properties on behalf of landlords. We listen to our clients and work collaboratively to help them achieve their goals.
To learn more about our property management services, fill out our online contact form or call our office at 813-672-8022.