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by Brett Furniss

landlord helpAs homes for sale sit and rentals continue to gain prominence in the residential real estate market across the country, concerned owners are wondering how to best fill their rental properties quickly. So are property managers.

Everyday my house is empty costs me money! Besides the mortgage payment, it’s the other things that are absolutely killing me- utilities with this unusually cold and snowy winter, HOA dues rising, you name it. I need someone renting (or buying) my home!” is a common lament from homeowners with a vacant home on the market.

As a real estate investor and property manager in Charlotte, I feel your pain. I don’t like vacancies anymore than you. But there is a simple way to make your home attractive. And it addresses the most heard complaint, by far, that I hear about houses and why prospective tenants pass on them. And just what is this revelatory nugget?

Cleanliness. That’s it. Houses are typically not clean. Actually, it’s not that they are not clean technically. It’s that they are not clean enough. Prospective tenants want to see sparkle. They want to see their unblemished reflections coming off of stainless steel. They want to be able to eat off the floors. They want to lap cool spring water out of the toilets (well, I may be pushing it now…). The point is that they really like the houses to be much cleaner than they would normally keep them.

Recently, we switched to a different cleaning service that was more expensive. I would never think of adding expenses to our owner clients (especially in this economy), but I felt that our homes were not standing out as the rental market continued to get more and more crowded.

And it worked. I noticed our rate of conversions of visits to completed applications went up dramatically. This has gone on for months. Thorough, deep-cleaning was more effective than lowering the rental price. This has been especially effective for our rent-to-sell program where people want to fall in love with the house they are potentially buying.

I would challenge you to give it a try. When a house has been on the market for a while and has been getting visits (but no completed applications), resist the urge to lower the price and just pay the dollars to give the rental home a thorough scrubbing (or do it yourself, though I recommend professionals). See if it works!

Cleanliness is next to godliness, the saying goes. Reap the benefits of a shorter courting period with prospective tenants!

Brett Furniss is the President & Owner of BDF Realty (“Charlotte’s Most Innovative Property Management & Investment Company”), and Rent-To-Sell Realty (“When You Need a New Solution to Sell Your Home”) which specialize in rent-to-own (lease options) and rent-to-sell homes. His newest book, A Real Estate Agent’s Complete Guide to Representing Rent-To-Own (Lease Option) Tenants (Delight Clients, Fill Vacant Homes, and Earn $2,250* Upfront! (*Minimum!)

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  • Hi Brett,
    I could not agree with you more. To support your theory, I will add testimonial to what you are recommending.

    We own a gated community of 32 homes in Bakersfield CA. We are in an older established neighborhood – not the upscale part of town. But our homes are extremely nice. Most people would tell you they would not expect this kind of home in this area.

    However, we do very deep cleaning for each unit turn. We have stainless steel appliances, and that is critical to make that shine. But just because you have a good cleaning company does not mean they use all the right things.

    More importantly, even with the best cleaning company I have gone through afterwards and found little things that were missed. But we concentrate on the kitchens and bathrooms!

    We use ZEP stainless steel cleaner — it does not leave streaks! Others do. Also, check the little edges in the bathroom all around — and for sure — always put fresh caulking around the tub, toilet and sink. We actually remove caulking and do fresh all the time.

    Its the little things that add up. And the result? We get top dollar for our homes. Other homes in the area rent for several hundred dollars less, but we offer more and better homes.

    In spite of the many, many temptations to lower the rent, we have kept it up and concentrated instead on Marketing the property. And — part of marketing has to do with presentation of your product.

    Ask yourself this — would you feel absolutely comfortable dropping down and going to sleep in the home? Do you see anything that you would tolerate in terms of dirt or grime in your own home? That helps develop your eye.

    A couple of other tips: If you have baseboards — don’t just clean them if they are a little scuffy here and there. PAINT THEM. Also, if you don’t have baseboard in the entry, living, dining area — consider putting some in. And don’t put the thin stuff. At least 3.5 inches high. Trust me — when you put a painted baseboard against your walls it makes it really stand out — it gives that all mighty first impression.

    Hope this helps and please — resist the urge to simply lower your price — market your property and make more money.

    Robert Hernandez
    Royalmark Management, Inc.

  • Colorado

    Absolutely … I done this for years. i.e. Replace the toilet seat and leave the plastic on it until they move in; $10. Spray windex on a couple hot light bulbs before a showing. Nobody buys the fresh baked cookies bit.

  • cranky landlord

    Having it very clean certainly helps.

    But the sad part is, often the more cleaner it is the tenant that ends up moving in is the biggest pig.

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