Clichés become clichés for a reason: Their pithy nature provokes more thought than would be expected from so few words. Expressions like “the only constant is change” and “necessity is the mother of invention” are two at the forefront of my mind during these unpredictable, unprecedented times.
We don’t know what the world will look like in six months, next month or tomorrow for that matter, so we double down on what we do know. As a landlord myself, I know firsthand the challenges this profession is faced with during the pandemic. The goal for the fortunate few who can pivot and run their businesses virtually is to transition as seamlessly and quickly as possible. Here’s how to successfully make the transition to virtual landlord.
Housing is essential for people, so while you might expect a slower turnover rate on your rentals, you still need to actively try to fill your properties while also completing your regular duties as a landlord — even if it’s online. Face-to-face contact with tenants might not be possible, so opting for online communication along with online tools for every step of the rental process will become necessary.
Here are some tips on how to successfully run your rental business at home and inside:
• Marketing: Use online listing sites as well as social media to market your rental. Using a service that syndicates your listing to multiple sites at the same time will save you time and increase your number of leads. With less foot traffic due to stay-at-home orders, moving your marketing exclusively to the online world will help you continue to capture traffic.
• A picture is worth a thousand words: Make sure you have solid photos and an accurate and informative listing description. With the rise of e-buying in the real estate sector, consumers are becoming more and more comfortable with making large purchases and having discussions exclusively online. To make that decision easier for potential renters, you will need to include photos and detailed descriptions for every room and amenity your rental has.
• No more paper: Online rental applications are more secure, easier and faster, and they include everything a paper application has (and more, if you are able to customize it).
• Screen potential tenants: Screen tenants with an online background and credit check. Since this is already done online through government databases and credit bureaus, you can easily request and obtain the report.
• Sign on the digital line: Once you have found a tenant, send your lease to them using an e-signature platform such as Adobe Sign or DocuSign.
• Your funds have been received: Avoid handling cash, checks or in-person payments, and utilize online payment features such as Venmo, Google Wallet or PayPal.
• Over-communicate: Communication is one of the most important parts of virtual landlording. Being available to and open with your renters about regular business, COVID-19 and other things going on in the community is vital. A variety of phone, email and video chat tools are available for free. Establish best practices and mediums with your tenants so that nothing gets missed or misunderstood.
Stay Educated And Prepared For Changes
As of right now, there is a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures in some areas put in place by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This means you cannot evict tenants who cannot pay rent. It’s important to understand that the economic impacts from the pandemic are being felt everywhere by everyone, so being as understanding and as flexible as you can with your tenants will help you both during this time.
Make sure you are still following important fair housing laws. Consider extending the rent due date, waiving late fees or coming up with different payment plan options for your renters. Additionally, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have a new payment deferral program for borrowers who are facing hardship to defer two months of their mortgage payments, and the government stimulus package will hopefully provide some relief to property owners and renters.
Remember that communicating frequently with your tenants and staying up to date and proactive about changes in rental laws, news and local actions will help you stay prepared and navigate these challenging times as a landlord.