Seattle landlord Reggie Brown has owned his two current rental property for approximately five years, and owned small properties “on and off” for more than a decade.
RAG: In your view, what are the most important factors in maximizing a rental property’s cash flow?
RB: The big keys are stable tenants and timely maintenance to keep good tenants in the property. I also think having professional support, especially during the rent-up process (prepping and marketing the property) is crucial.
RAG: How has your rental agent helped your business?
RB: My current rental agent is highly skilled at marketing, and can rent a house in under 30 days, which is amazing, especially when you consider it often took my former agent an average of two or three months to get a property rented. However, different agents have different strengths. The agent who wasn’t great at quickly filling vacancies is excellent at maintaining property. He’ put together a crew of skilled workers, is good at a building rapport with tenants, and is able to charge below-market rates for his services. So now I use one agent to rent my properties, and another to manage them after tenants are placed.
RAG: What is your communication like with your rental agent in the course of getting a property rented? How do decisions get made?
RB: When we’re renting a house, my agent and I typically talk twice a week. He’ll give me feedback about how the house is showing, what prospective tenants are saying, that kind of thing. He does the initial tenant screening, but he’ll pass on applications where the tenant qualifies in terms of income, but has some risky things in their profile, like a history of late payments. He puts those in front of me so that I can make the trade-off between renting the house sooner, or holding out for someone with a more solid profile. Every day that a house sits vacant, I lose $50-60 dollars, so I have to consider that. Meanwhile, if a great tenant comes through, my agent will contact me immediately and encourage me to act right away.
RAG: Is there a particular challenge either of your rental agents has helped you cope with?
RB: Yes, I had to evict a tenant once, and my agent handled all the details. Beyond the emotions involved, it’s a complex process. If you don’t serve the right notices at the right times, you’re disqualified from proceeding, and you have to start all over again the next month. My agent knew what to do, and the eviction went smoothly. He was also the one who physically showed up to take care of all the various steps—from nailing the notice to the door to showing up in court. He earned his fee that month!
RAG: Any advice for new rental property owners?
RB: Be happy with a stable situation and ride out the downturn!