I’m a Successful Landlord- and I Monitor My Rental Units Remotely
Have you ever considered owning rental property? Even if you don't live nearby—you can still manage your investment.
After selling my very first rental unit in Paris, I now only own three properties and am a successful landlord: a three-bedroom apartment in the U.K., a guest house in Guatemala, and a house I built for myself a mile away from the guest house. I haven’t set foot inside the U.K. rental for four years, and I am often out of Guatemala, traveling for months at a time. Yet, it all works out.
Monitoring rentals from afar
For the U.K. rental, I have a considerable advantage: I lived in the property with roommates for a year before I relocated abroad. That means I know the place inside and out. When the tenants talk about a faulty heater, I know who to call, or where to get help.
As with the old plumbing, things go wrong with the tenants, too. So my solution has been to filter applicants thoroughly. I place my rental ads with good quality pictures and a full description of the place, as well as what I expect the tenants to be responsible for – cleaning, visitors, noise, etc. I have priced my place slightly below market rates, so I can afford to be picky with tenants.
When I have two to three people who I feel would be a great fit, I ask the current tenants to conduct a visit, and a small interview of the applicants. During that time, they find out whether they’d get along or not.
By involving the current tenants, I get fewer complaints down the road, because if they picked the wrong person – well, that’s on them.
Then the applicant wires me a deposit and the first month’s rent. I get a sense of their financial status to see that they wouldn’t walk out in the middle of the night.
I also split all common bills equally among the tenants. Having lived in shared houses myself, I found out splitting the bills was a source of tension. The last thing I want as an absentee landlord are tenants leaving me with outstanding bills.
So far, it has worked perfectly and I’ve become a successful landlord. The three bedrooms in the house are rented to three different people. I have a high occupancy rate that could turn any hotel chain green with envy. Over the last five years, one room remained empty, just for a week.
The perfect landlord-tenant relationship
A landlord-tenant relationship is a two-way affair. I only raise rents for new people moving in. Some have stayed on for three years without having to pay more. I answer their queries by email within 24 hours. If something breaks, they let the plumber or electrician in, send me the bill, and I pay promptly. They even painted the place themselves – I only paid for materials.
I am also very fair when it comes to giving back deposits. Since I can’t be there to inspect the place, I just give it back, unless another tenant informs me about damage. Fingers crossed, that hasn’t happened. So I guess they tell each other that I am a decent landlord. They, in turn, are respectful of the place.
Sure, I get a little less money. But the cost of a trip over there to move people in and out would be more expensive than two months of rent.
When it comes to my guesthouse in Guatemala, I am lucky enough to have staff that help me be a successful landlord. I manage all inquiries and bookings online via Airbnb and other rental sites. Then I warn my housekeeper and handyman that people will be coming over.
The housekeeper offers meals to my guests and makes a little extra money on top of her salary. Again, I could make more by handling everything myself. But that is the price I pay for freedom and peace of mind.
If you buy a rental without hiring a property manager, make sure it is a good investment.
I run my properties in a hands-off manner. If you are the type who wakes up in the middle of the night worrying about your tenants or the plumbing, I would strongly urge you to stay well out of this business.