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by Eleanor Trainor

Rent signMost people know that “days on market” is real estate-ese for how long a home has been on a market. Lately, with all the homes on the rental market, I’ve coined a new term… “DAYS ON LAWN”.

Days on Lawn is how long a home sits for rent by owner. I’m seeing a lot of homes coming on the market — and sitting on the market— from “Accidental Landlords” and new landlords whose rental rates are a bit unrealistic.

These well-meaning folks don’t have the resources to analyze the current rental market to set an appropriate rent, market the property beyond Craigslist, or properly show the property and therefore they accumulate far more Days on Lawn than necessary.

I genuinely feel compassion for people who are trying to rent out a home right now without professional advice. As I’ve said so many times in my blog posts, I think it shows a great deal of savvy to see homeowners trying to ride out the market by renting rather than selling and new investors taking advantage of the opportunities to build a rental portfolio.

However, I wonder how often this savvy goes unrewarded because the house never actually sees a tenant… or the house has so many Days on Lawn that the owner grows evermore exhausted and market-weary.

The Days on Lawn phenomenon has an impact on all of us in the rental market. Many of the property owners I speak with on a daily basis have been doing their homework in preparation for renting their property by running their own comparative market analysis on Craigslist. They look at CL to find similar properties in their area to get an idea of what rent might be appropriate for their property.

Unfortunately, CL doesn’t tell you how long a given property has been vacant or how much comparable homes ACTUALLY rented for. So, while the house down the street might be advertised for $2,800… you don’t know that this is week 31 on Craigslist. In my latest post on luxury rentals, I show how the math pretty clearly favors dropping the rent a few hundred dollars to attract a tenant immediately rather than playing a waiting game at a higher price.

I’m not saying Craigslist isn’t incredibly useful! Of course, Craigslist is part of my arsenal of tools to help clients set a rent range. Like any tool, however, it’s only useful if you know how to use it well.

A well-respected member of the real estate community here in Seattle recently said that the most important words in real estate have gone from “Location, location, location” to “Drop your price”.* For the moment, this is as true for the rental market as it is for the sales market.

*(Alright people, before you jump in on that one, I think we all know location will always be king! It is simply an illustration of the times.)

Eleanor Trainor is an experienced property manager, real estate investor, and writer. She is with the Seattle Management Group Real Estate.

See our feature Good News For Home Sales, Bad News For Rentals.

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  • I NEED SOME GENERAL FEEDBACK ABOUT A COMMERCIAL RENTAL THAT HAS BEEN WITH MY FAMILY FOR 50+ YEARS. AN INSURANCE COMPANY THAT HAS BEEN WITH US THAT LONG IS GOING NUTS ABOUT A RENT RASISE THAT HAS BEEN THE SAME FOR 22 YEARS WITH NO RENT ADJUSTMENT. THE RENT WAS $300 PER MONTH, I RAISED IT TO $450, AND THEN LOWERED IT TO $400. THE TENANT SAYS HE WILL NOT PAY THE INCREASE OR SIGN A LEASE. I WILL LET THIS MATTER COOL DOWN, AND SEND ONE MORE LETTER ABOUT THE INCREASE. IF I DO NOT GET A POSITIVE OK, THEN I GUESS A FAMILY FRIENDSHIP WILL ALSO BE EVICTED. IT IS SAD AFTER 50 + YEARS A HUNDRED DOLLAR RENT RAISE SHOWS THE, “WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO FOR ME!” ATTITUDE. LOOKING FOR SOME SAME EXPERIENCE LANDLORDS.

  • If not a written lease, get a lawyer’s advice about the protocol in your particular state.

    I’d ask them to vacate.

    Undoubtedly market rent would be far higher than what you WERE willing to settle for, if they are that creepy, your kindness is being wasted anyway.

    Folks are always eager to put their needs first, but this rental structure doesn’t sound viable for long term ownership.

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