While many landlords use agents to find qualified renters, it’s possible to do it yourself. You’ll have more control, save money, and not have to play second fiddle to other clients.
Should You Use an Agent When Renting Your House?
Many homeowners find themselves wondering if they should use an agent to rent their house. Consider these reasons when making a decision whether to use an agent.
Why You Should Use an Agent
Here are the pros of using an agent:
- Local agents know rental prices in their area.
- Agents can get more eyes on your property due to their property marketing experience.
- Agents can help you sift through applicants faster.
- Agents will ease your workload when you have multiple vacancies.
- An agent’s help allows you to focus on other duties of being a landlord.
- You only pay the agent if they find a tenant for your space.
- An agent can help reduce vacancies.
Why You Shouldn’t Use an Agent
Here are the best reasons not to use an agent:
- The agent might not have a ton of experience screening tenants.
- Agents may prioritize selling other clients’ properties rather than renting yours.
- An agent may focus on making a deal, rather than your agreed-on monthly rent.
- Paying an agent to find a tenant may cut into your profit.
- Apps like Zillow and Trulia, make it easy to market your listing without an agent.
12 Steps to Rent Your House Without an Agent
Here are the steps to rent your house without an agent:
- Understand Tenant Laws
- Ensure You Have the Proper Insurance
- Create a Move-In Checklist
- Complete Repairs & Upgrades
- Hire a Cleaning Professional
- Set Your Rental Price
- Create a Solid Application
- Post an Advertisement
- Accept and Screen Applications
- Choose a Tenant
- Sign the Lease Paperwork and Collect the Deposit
- Set Communication Procedures
1. Understand Tenant Laws
All landlords have a specific set of state, federal, and local rules they must follow.
Familiarizing yourself with the rules will help you avoid issues down the line. For example, if you are trying to evict a tenant, you cannot change the locks to keep them from entering. Landlords must also give 24-48 hours’ notice to enter the property at any time.
2. Ensure You Have Proper Insurance
Before you can rent out your house, you need to ensure you have the proper insurance in place. If you purchased your home with the initial intent to live in it, you will need to update your insurance policy. Generally, conventional home insurance won’t pay for damage to a home that the owner rents.
Landlord insurance will cover damage from fire, storms, and other disasters as well as liabilities related to the tenants. Tell tenants that their personal property is only covered if they buy renters insurance.
Take the time to review your policy. Talk to an insurance agent to avoid any surprises should your property become damaged.
3. Create a Move-In Checklist
Once everything is in order, take some time to walk your property with a critical eye. Create a detailed move-in checklist and mark the condition of each item. Anything that isn’t in the same condition upon move-out can allow you to keep part of the security deposit.
Here is a list of a few items to include:
- Light fixtures
- Exterior areas such as the lawn, patio/deck, and parking spots
4. Complete Repairs & Upgrades
After you have taken a deep look at your home, you can determine what items need to be handled. Renters will not want to move into a property with a broken HVAC or holes in the wall.
If you have recently considered replacing worn flooring, repainting, or small makeovers, now is a great time to do so.
Each state also has laws referring to the warranty of habitability. These laws set minimum requirements a landlord must provide such as heating and electricity. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the requirements in your state.
You can also use this opportunity to upgrade and repair your home to entice better renters. Some of these items include:
- Fresh paint and carpet
- Upgraded kitchen appliances
- Improved curb appeal (fresh cut grass, maintained landscaping)
- Updated lighting and plumbing fixtures
Now is not the time to become the next Chip Gaines. Be realistic about your DIY abilities. Trying to do repairs or upgrades yourself may cost you more in the long run.
5. Hire a Cleaning Professional
A clean property creates an important impression on potential tenants. A deep clean of the entire home from ceiling fans to baseboards will put your property in the best position to wow potential tenants.
Although many agents offer a list of preferred professional cleaners, you can use apps like Yelp and check Google reviews to help find the best cleaners. It’s also a good idea to check with local cleaning services for specials on move-in and move-out cleans. Developing a professional relationship with a good cleaning service can save you time and money.
Be sure to take photos of the property following a professional cleaner so the property is in its best shape. Taking photos even a few days later can allow dirt and dust to settle.
6. Set Your Rental Price
Now that your rental unit is prepped, you’ll have to find the balance of the right rent amount. Too low, and you will be missing out on income. Too high, and you risk potential tenants passing on your property, leaving you with no income. First, look at what the rent is for similar properties in the area.
An agent usually has a very good idea of what similar homes are renting for in your area. But, with the rising popularity of rental sites, you can do a little research to make comparisons.
A good rule of thumb is to charge a percentage of your home’s market value, not what you paid.
Aim to set the rental price between 0.8% and 1.1% of market value. So if your property has a market value of $200,000, you would want to charge between $1,600 and $2,200 per month for rent.
7. Create a Solid Application
There are many rental application templates available online or you can create your own. You will want to gather some basic information to help you screen potential applicants effectively. Be sure your application includes the following:
- Contact information
- Employment and income information
- Household information (how many tenants, animals)
- Rental history
- Release form for pulling credit, background, and criminal reports
- Contact information for landlord, employment, and personal references
- Authorization form to contact references
8. Post an Advertisement
To find the best tenant, you need to cast a wide net. List your rental in as many places as possible. A quick Internet search will bring up sites that don’t charge to list rentals.
You might also consider paid ads on social media such as Facebook or NextDoor. Take advantage of personal social media channels and encourage friends to share your property. You never know who may be searching for a rental.
An agent may have experience creating flyers and other marketing materials. But, sites like Canva can help you create professional-looking flyers or social media posts.
No matter the mix of ads you choose, be sure that you use quality photos that showcase the best features of your home. Consider hiring a professional for the best outcome.
Be realistic about your photo-taking abilities. Potential renters will judge your home and make a decision within seconds. A low-quality image may cost you a high-quality renter.
9. Accept and Screen Applications
As the applications come in, pull screening reports for any that meet your predetermined minimum requirements. Choose a high-quality tenant screening service to pull credit, criminal, and eviction histories so that you can make fully informed decisions.
Also, always call all the references listed in the application. Between employers, landlords, and personal references, you can get a pretty good picture of what that applicant will be like as a renter.
10. Choose a Tenant
When you find a tenant with great references, a solid rental history, and good credit, act fast. High-quality tenants won’t wait around for you to make a decision.
The sooner you get a good tenant in your property, the sooner you can collect rental payments. But, keep in mind that you still want to be thorough in your selection. Don’t skip background checks or reference calls. Missing these steps is a major disservice to your rental business.
Selecting the right tenant can make the difference between a successful business and spending your profits on repairs and unexpected vacancies.
11. Sign the Lease Paperwork and Collect the Deposit
An agent may have access to a general lease template. But, there are hundreds of lease agreement templates available online. You will want to use a lease agreement that’s tailored to your property.
Be sure your lease agreement covers all elements of the home and any specific rules. The lease should at least contain the following items:
- Lease term (month-to-month, 6 months, 12 months, or a custom time frame)
- Security deposit amount
- When rent is due each month and how to pay it
- Any other fees, such as parking
- Maintenance procedures
- Pet restrictions
- Any HOA rules tenant must follow
- Clear eviction process
- Any other special rules for the property
Once the lease has been signed by the tenant, collect their security deposit and provide them with a receipt.
When all the documents are in order and you have the deposit and first month’s rent in hand, sign your part of the lease, give the tenant a copy, and hold onto all the paperwork for tax time.
Landlords should also walk through the property with the tenant to look over the Move-In Checklist. Allow them to identify any areas of concern and take note of any existing issues. This will help reduce issues during the checkout process.
12. Set Communication Procedures
One of the best things you can do to help yourself is to set communication procedures with your tenant. Let them know what to do in case of an emergency and when you are available for calls. You should also inform them of the process for maintenance requests.
If you have multiple rentals or a busy personal schedule you should consider a tenant portal or property management company. These services can provide an easy way to submit requests, pay rent, and organize tax information.