There comes a time in your homeownership journey when you may want to upgrade, downsize, or relocate to a new house. If you're interested in real estate investing, this is an ideal opportunity to get your feet wet by finding a tenant and renting out your house.
While real estate agents can play a role in the rental process, many landlords are do-it-yourselfers who handle the task without hiring an agent.
Why hire an agent to help rent your home?
If you're planning to rent out your home, here are a few things to consider as you determine whether or not to hire an agent and some brass-tack guidance on tackling the job without one.
A rental agent can provide valuable services and bring an experienced perspective to a new landlord; you will pay a commission, but it could be worth it, especially if you are short on time.
Seven benefits of hiring a real estate agent to rent out your house.
1) Agents have experience with marketing rentals
Real estate agents spend a lot of time writing real estate ads. They have the expertise and resources to create compelling descriptions and high-quality photos of the property to drive showings.
2) Agents are full-time real estate professionals
Success in their job depends on their responsiveness. When renters inquire about a listing, over 50% expect to hear back from the property manager or landlord within a day. Real estate agents can schedule a time to follow up and set showing appointments. They are set up to follow up quickly and professionally with prospective tenants.
3) They have a flexible schedule
Showing property, writing contracts or rental applications, and helping buyers, sellers, and renters through the home process is the agent's full-time job. They regularly work days, evenings, and weekends to serve clients, including your prospective tenants.
4) They're connected to potential tenants
Good real estate agents cultivate a strong network of other agents, many of whom work with renters. Every agent is in the referral business and ready to tap their network to find potential tenants quickly.
5) They know the local market
Real estate agents follow local market trends and know if rental prices are going up or down. They can help you competitively price your rental property.
6) They're experienced at screening tenants
Real estate agents can help screen tenants. They can be available to answer any application questions, collect fees, and keep in contact with applicants during the approval process. They also know about the quality of the tenants searching for a rental asking the right questions about their earnings, credit, and longevity in the job role.
7) They can draft lease agreements
Suppose you haven't developed your lease agreement. In that case, the agent will have a basic lease template to use that includes items like the lease term, monthly rent amount, payment due dates, security deposit terms, and standard property usage rules.
How to rent a house without an agent
You'll save that agent commission if you rent out your house yourself. However, if you've never rented out a home, there's a learning curve. Here are 13 actions you need to take to rent your house.
1) Complete repairs and upgrades
While you lived in the house, you may have put up with minor issues here and there. Still, as a landlord, you need to follow the federal housing safety, security, and soundness guidelines to ensure a safe living environment for your tenants. HUD guidelines identify these items to address before renting your property:
- Damaged exit doors that are otherwise operable
- Missing handrails.
- Defective painted surfaces (in case of lead-based paint hazards)
- Broken window glass
- Damaged floor finishes or coverings (worn-through finish, badly soiled carpeting)
- Minor plumbing leaks (such as dripping faucets)
- Evidence of wood-destroying insect/organism damage even where there is no structural damage
- Damaged wall or ceiling material
- Rotten or worn-out countertops
- Poor-quality repairs, do-it-yourself plumbing or electrical work
- Lack of an all-weather driveway surface
- Trip hazards (heaving or cracked sidewalks, loose carpeting)
- Crawl spaces with debris and trash
This is not an exhaustive list, but take care of these issues to ensure the house is in functional, safe, and secure condition before you rent to a tenant.
2) Hire a professional to deep-clean
As a landlord, you want your tenant to take good care of the property; part of this involves keeping it clean. Cleaners will move the appliances and get into every nook and cranny. Start them off on the right foot and have the property professionally cleaned.
3) Develop a move-in checklist
After you've taken care of all repairs and upgrades and have had the property thoroughly cleaned, prepare a move-in checklist. This list will document the property's condition at the time of move-in; be sure to include photos or videos. This will help when tenants move out, and you use the same checklist as your move-out checklist to ensure the property has not been damaged, and you can return their security deposit.
4) Set your rent price
The next step is to get a good idea of the rent ranges in your area for comparable properties. Consider:
- The location of your property (rural vs. suburban or downtown),
- Number of bedrooms and bathrooms (the more you have, the more you can charge),
- Property size (every extra 150 square feet gives you a higher rent range), and
- any outstanding property amenities(granite countertops, hardwood floors) or
- Local conveniences close by (public transit, parks, shopping, or hospitals)
RentSpree has a rent estimator which will help you determine the proper range to price your rental based on the five criteria. You need to set a rent that reflects the market and still cover your mortgage, insurance, taxes, utilities, and maintenance fees – and make some money.
5) Start advertising
With your rent set, you can place ads for your property. Start online; consider both free and paid platforms. Free sites include your local Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. A platform like RentSpree will syndicate the listing to other websites to get it in front of more potential tenants.
When you write your ad, focus on the property and its features, not the type of tenant you want. Do not fall into accidental discrimination by specifying anything about tenants; focus on the five criteria(#3 above) that fully describe your property.
6) Understand local landlord-tenant law
Take time to understand regulations that specify what you can and can't include in your lease terms. Some of the most important is how payments must be handled, what you must do to ensure the privacy of your tenants, and the steps in the eviction process.
7) Accept applications
With a well-written ad, you will start to book showings and receive applications. You may provide a paper application at the showing, or you can use RentSpree's rental application platform to allow prospective tenants to apply online.
8) Screen tenants
Screen every applicant to see if they are a good fit for your property:
- Complete background and credit checks
- Check their criminal history
- Verify employment and previous tenancy and call personal references
This information will help you determine if the applicant is trustworthy, can afford your rental, and is likely to be a responsible tenant. RentSpree offers a tenant screening option that initiates screening automatically upon receipt of an application. The information is ready for you within minutes so you can complete any follow-up calls and determine whether to approve the application.
9) Approve the application, accept deposits and present a lease for signature
Once they are approved, provide your new tenant with a lease document to review and sign.
Standard lease items include:
- Amount of the security deposit
- Deposit required for first and last month's rent
- Date the lease becomes effective and the length of the lease term:month-to-month, six months, 12 months, or more
- Due dates for rent and how tenants can submit rent payments (RentSpree provides online platform tenants can use to pay rent)
- Additional fee charged for pets or parking
- Repairs that are the tenant's responsibility
- Repairs that are the landlord's responsibility
- Requirement to purchase renters insurance (tenants can purchase renter's insurance online through RentSpree); most of the insurance policies for landlords cover the structure and belongings at the property, not the tenants' belongings. Renter's insurance will cover any tenants' belongings on the property, but it is a separate cost
- Full names of all tenants over the age of 18
- Landlord's responsibilities for lawn care and other general maintenance
- Rules for tenants to follow to maintain their compliance with the lease
- Eviction terms that are easy to understand
- Pet-related information or rules
- HOA fees are payable by the tenant, if applicable
- Instructions for how tenants should communicate with the landlord (including phone, email, and text information, as applicable)
10) Establish your property management systems
Put systems in place to collect rent, document repair requests and their status, and complete periodic inspections to ensure that the property is safe and habitable and that tenants are doing their part to take care of the property.
11) Purchase landlord insurance
When you lived in your own home, your insurance was a homeowner's policy. When you rent your home, you'll need rental home insurance instead. Rental home insurance covers the structure of the house, loss of rental income if your tenant doesn't pay, legal costs for an eviction, repairs, and any medical expenses incurred if a tenant is hurt on the property by no fault of their own.
12) Set the groundwork for a constructive tenant relationship
Lay out your general expectations to establish a good relationship with your tenants: when and how should they contact you? Make clear how they should reach you if there's a true emergency and how/when to get in touch about non-emergency maintenance issues.
13) Evaluate whether to hire a management company
You may decide that daily property management is not for you. Renting out your home without a real estate agent is possible—it takes time and energy, but you'll save money. A management company will help find and screen tenants and serve as a helpful go-between for you and your tenants.
RentSpree's all-in-one property management platform can help. Landlords can use the tools to post listings, estimate rent, receive applications, screen tenants, sign leases, and collect rent—RentSpree puts the entire process at a landlord's fingertips.