The spring housing market begins one week from today.
If you’re thinking about selling, that’s important information. However, it’s equally important if you’re a landlord facing a spring vacancy.
Many of your usual prospective tenants are going to be looking for houses in order to beat the April 30 first time homebuyer tax credit deadline, resulting in more landlords competing for fewer prospective tenants.
What’s more, many homeowners unable to sell their property for what it’s worth have turned them in to rentals, meaning there’s far more competition out there than ever for rental dollars.
Here are ten ways you as a landlord can compete:
1. Get your vacant unit so clean that your mother would stay there.
2. Give every room a fresh coat of paint.
3. If the kitchen cabinets lend themselves to it, apply a fresh coat of paint and updated hardware. You’d be surprised how inexpensive hinges, knobs and drawer pulls can be. Replacing them can immediately give a kitchen a face lift.
4. If your kitchen counters are dated, replace them. You don’t have to put in granite, but many of the larger home improvement chains offer relatively inexpensive laminate counter tops with a similar look and feel to high end stone.
5. Replace switch plates. At pennies a piece, the return on the investment here is significant. Filthy switch plates imply a history of grime. Painted-over switch plates send a message of laziness.
6. Paint the front door. It’s tough to paint in the winter, I know. But you could remove the door, taking it to the warm basement long enough to get it painted and dry. It may be possible to cover the opening with plastic while you’re waiting.
7. Shovel the sidewalks. Fallen on ice yet this year? Enough said.
8. Tile the front entry with ceramic tile. This isn’t that expensive to do, and can help create a sense of a richer environment.
9. Floors. If your unit has carpet, make sure it’s clean and in good repair. If there are hardwood floors, make sure they are clean and in good condition. One inexpensive way to make them shine is to apply a coat of Johnson Paste Wax, then buffing the floors when it’s dry.
10. Take fabulous photographs. These days, most of us look for everything from dates to apartments online. As such, the only means you have of creating a wonderful first impression is through the images you provide. Use your great digitial camera, or find a friend who has one. Make sure your photos are focused and enticing.
11. Get your photos on Craigslist and every rental Internet site you can find early and often. Craigslist seems to be the advertising medium of choice for both landlords and tenants. Post great photos, and monitor your listing, making sure to renew it often in order to keep it near the top of the page.
12. Stage your property. While there are services that do this, you may be able to add some homey, lived-in touches to the duplex on your own. Think about putting towels in the bath, a bowl of fruit on the counter, etc. If you have questions as to how to do this, think of what the inside of a model home looks like or wander through open houses on the weekend for inspiration.
13. Don’t hold out for that extra $50 a month. Tough economic times have forced us all to tighten our belts. If your unit is in better condition than your competitions, and has lower rent, you’ll get and stay occupied.
February’s here. Get out early to beat the competition.