Although the housing market is showing signs of recovery, demand for rental housing is expected to remain strong. Follow these tips from rental experts on becoming a landlord or investor in rental property.
Making sense of the story
  • Understand what it means to be a landlord. If tenants are paying the rent, rentals can be a strong source of income; however, if they’re not, landlords must be prepared to cover costs.
  • Buy in an area with a history of strong rental demand: Neighborhoods near universities are a good option. For homes in residential areas, proximity to schools can be a good draw for families.
  • Consider using a management firm: Landlords should determine whether they want to select the tenant and handle property issues or hire a company to do it. Property management firms can charge a percentage of the rent, sometimes 10 percent or more.
  • Do the math: Although prevailing rental prices will go a long way toward determining what can be charged, getting the best return on an investment starts with making sure the rent is enough, ideally, to cover expenses and costs.
  • Screen tenants thoroughly: Once the rental starts drawing inquiries, it pays off to screen prospective tenants by asking for previous landlord references and running a credit and criminal records check.
  • Get familiar with landlord laws: Two good resources for rental rules are the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development’s website (www.hud.gov), and The Landlord Protection Agency (www.thelpa.com), which includes state-specific rental guidelines and standardized forms for rental agreements.