What Does it Take?

I’ve owned and managed my own rentals for 17 years now, manage other properties, have written a book about the business, recently got my realtor’s license, and am going to be getting my broker’s license soon.  I’m frequently asked, “What does it take to be a property manager?  What personality traits are essential?”

I’d never thought about it but here’s the short list:

  • You must be very organized.  There are records to keep, tenants to manage, etc.
  • You must be laid back.  Things happen that are beyond your control and you have to roll with it.  (Hmmm … organized and laid back?  Those qualities don’t appear very often in one individual.  Most laid back people aren’t organized.  Most organized people aren’t laid back.)
  • You have to be willing to evict people quickly when they get behind in their rent payments.  This is an income-producing business, and although tenants run into rough situations, you can’t let your heart rule your head.  You can’t just hope they’ll get caught up next week, or next month.

Tenant management issues are the main thing that drive people out of this business.  I’ve learned — the hard way — to stick with my lease agreement.  I’ve modified it through the years and it’s short but air-tight.  It protects me from all of the “sticky” situations that can pop up, and I know that if I adhere to it, I’ll be okay.

So for those who are considering buying their first rental, my advice is to educate yourself before jumping in.  Look at your finances, your personality, your risk tolerance.  And if you’re still excited about the possibilities, go for it, and enjoy the journey!

Durable Flooring

I’m always trying to find the most durable flooring for the best price … something I won’t have to replace two years down the road.

For kitchens and baths in my rentals, I’ve used commercial tile, ceramic, sheet vinyl and vinyl peel and stick tiles. People swear by ceramic tile but if your floor settles or gets wet underneath from a leak and becomes uneven, the tiles will crack. Sheet vinyl will discolor and peel if it gets wet underneath, I recently found a wonderful product called Flexi-Tile (www.flexitile.com) that is very cool. It’s actually made of 5mm rubber and it is 20″x20″ interlocking pieces that can be pounded together with a mallet. You don’t glue it down at all and it’s extremely sturdy — 25-year warranty — and comes in a wide variety of colors. I just put it in a kitchen at one of my rentals and I intend to use it again.

As for the rest of the house, I know other landlords who love hardwood floors but I’m definitely not a fan. They get scratched up easily and they’re loud. If the house is a duplex, hardwoods are way too noisy. Now, the laminates are a little better, but most of my tenants prefer a nicely carpeted rental to one that has bare wood floors.

I prefer dark colors, of course, particularly in areas that get a lot of use. Something the color of dirt is good. (LOL) I’ve used two-tone berbers that I love, mainly because they don’t show a traffic pattern like some of the plush carpets do. Use a good 6-lb. pad (7/16″ is sufficient) that will give the carpet some nice cushion. Lately though, I found a terrific deal on a two-tone plush so I jumped on it. It was $3 less/yd than the berber I’ve been using so I couldn’t pass it up … it’s contractor grade and is a nice piece of goods, so we’ll see how it holds up.

Aside from the paint on your walls, your flooring is what makes the biggest impact on your applicants, so make sure it looks good and will last!