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Can You Be a Long Distance Landlord? How to Manage Your Investment from Afar

System - Thursday, September 19, 2019

Real estate investment is a highly localized endeavor: every market is different, and the dynamics can vary widely from place to place. It is more common for a landlord to manage their property locally, but that doesn't mean that long-distance property management is impossible. Perhaps you've lived in Richmond and want to keep your investment going from your new home. Maybe you live outside of the area and want to break into real estate in the Old Dominion. Don't be afraid to take this step! It can be more work than managing a property just up the road, but with the right amount of planning, it's entirely feasible. Here are a few things to consider when looking to be a long-distance landlord.

1. Make Local Connections

One of the most important things you can do is to stay connected to the Richmond real estate market. If you have willing friends or family members in the area, they can be a great resource. If you don't, you'll need to build a network of connections. Look out for real estate professionals that will be the right business partners. Real estate agents, attorneys, property managers, and inspectors are all ideal candidates. This type of partner can keep you in touch with local developments and also serve as an emergency contact if something goes wrong. 

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2. Keep an Eye on the Market

In the same vein, it's also essential to stay in touch with changes in the local market. Perform a regular market analysis; stay up to date on Richmond and Virginia real estate and rental law. You may find it worthwhile to find a reliable Richmond news source to read semi-regularly. You can keep up on local events and changes in trends that might affect your market in the near and long term.

3. Be Thorough up Front

A robust tenant screening process is essential even if you live within walking distance of your property. Long-distance property management makes this concern even more critical. Tenant screening can become a more complicated process when you can't reliably meet tenants face to face. Establish a good set of criteria and review your procedures regularly. Consider outsourcing this task if you feel that you're struggling with it.

4. Write an Airtight Lease

Ensuring that your lease is airtight is essential when you're looking to manage your property from afar. Since you won't be available to respond to questions or problems as readily as if you lived locally, be specific. Your lease should define many essential particulars. Spell out landlord and tenant responsibilities, due dates, and late fee and pet policies. Include clauses that address other pressing concerns as well; you cannot be too specific in this case. The lease will serve as guidance in your absence for the resolution of all sorts of issues.

5. Keep in Touch with Your Tenants

Like any long-distance relationship, this one will thrive when you regularly speak with your tenants. Some renters will likely appreciate the hands-off nature of your interactions with them. Even so, you must build a human connection with them. They'll be more comfortable coming to you with issues and you'll be able to get a better read on any looming problems. Checking in often with your tenants will help you convey the sense that you value them and can help you stay on top of things. Consider calling or sending an email every few weeks. While you don't need to be friends with your tenants, don't limit your communication to purely business. Reach out on holidays or for major life events. You'll help your tenants feel like you're invested in them. If they feel valued, they'll likely take better care of your property in return.

6. Visit the Property

While it may be easier said than done, you should make an effort to visit your property a couple of times a year. Travel such as this is an excellent opportunity to inspect your property personally and meet your tenants face to face. Make this sort of trip whenever possible. You can spot-check your local contacts and tenants and handle any problems before they get out of hand. If you need an excuse, consider it as a business trip.

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7. Use Technology to Bridge Gaps

Technology can help to bring you a little closer to your property than your distance might suggest. Be available to your tenants by email and text message. You can keep up a lively exchange by text that can help you to feel like you have the pulse of what's going on in your Richmond property. If possible, allow your tenants to pay their rent online. Those payments will come in far more quickly and reliably than would be possible through the postal service. Finally, you may be able to invest in some smart technology that can help you to monitor what's going on in your property (within reason). Think of signature items such as a smart thermostat.

8. Hire a Local Property Management Expert

You wouldn't be the first landlord to be discouraged by all of the challenges that come with doing things long distance. You have a life outside of your rental property. If you find that the concerns of managing your property are bleeding into the rest of your life, it may be time to hunt for an expert property manager to take over.

Mission Realty Property Management can help with every item we've addressed above, from market analysis of your property to maintenance. Mission Realty can screen tenants, inspect your property, scrub your lease, and collect the rent. If you're struggling with being a long-distance landlord, reach out to Mission Realty Property Management today!

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