Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Reluctant Landlord

My house came with a 6 car garage with 2 one bedroom apartments above the garages. The main house is 1895 and the garage building was built in 1926 and is actually quite nice. I’m not sure of exactly what style to call it. It is a flat roof structure with a roof façade that extends above the roof. The façade has what I call an art-deco profile to it. The second story is shingled and the first floor is 1X8 shiplap. It has a nice little front porch for the entrance to the stairwell that leads to the two apartments. The garages were all made for Model Ts so they are really only practical for storage. It does not exactly go with my Victorian home, but it is a very attractive little building in it’s own rite.

The apartments are each 625 sq ft and have mostly original bathrooms and, for the most part, original kitchens. The kitchens have nice built-in cabinets and a little built-in dinette set with benches attached to the wall and a little table with these legs that form little hart shapes. It is the very definition of the cute bungalow style kitchen. The bathrooms still have their claw foot tubs and vintage toilets, but what ever was there for a sink is long gone. They are really very charming apartments. To be honest I really don’t want to rent them, but the money is good, and I’m hemorrhaging cash on the main house, so rent I do.

I’m in the process right now of trying to rent one of the apartments. I am a reluctant landlord. The current tenants are moving out because they are expecting a baby and need more room. They gave notice more than 2 weeks ago and I just put an add in the paper 2 days ago. I’ve gotten about 20 calls in 2 days. What a pain. You have to tell people to same thing over and over again.

I’m very picky about who I rent to. The neighborhood I live in, while not bad, is not the best in town. As many of you probably know, a lot of the fixer-upper houses are in the neighborhoods that need some “revitalizing”. I keep the rents low because I want tenants to stay. I don’t want to have to go through what I’m going through now every 6 months. Because the rents are on the low side I get some of the less desirable tenant stock calling. Drug attics and the chronically unemployed, you get the picture. They may be very nice people, but I don’t want someone who is going to be drinking beer all day on the porch while they pay rent with Section 8 vouchers.

I hope this doesn’t make me sound like a bad person but, I’ve gotten a little screening system that I use. First, in the ad I say no smoking and no dogs. I love dogs but they don’t belong in upstairs apartments with no yard. People who own large dogs and want to live in small upstairs apartments are not really thinking it through well enough and that is a good indication that I don’t want to rent to them. The smoking thing is personal – I just don’t like it. Also in the ad I use the line “Clean, quite, and progressive”. The “progressive” word, while I’m not even really sure what I mean by it, has an amazing way of filtering out what many people locally refer to as “The Tweakers”. Use your own imagination.

The next step is 2 people max, and both employed. You would be surprised by the number of people who call that want to move in to a 1 bedroom apartment with 3 or 4 people. Next, I go by the sound of the voice on the phone. The ability to speak in clear and complete sentences is a big plus in my book. If they do not posses this ability I tell them the apartment is already rented. If they’ve made it this far through the screening process I tell them where the building is and have them do a drive-by. I try not to be too specific about the apartment, amenities, or deposit yet. If they like it from the outside I tell them to call me back and I arrange for a viewing.

Finally, there is the face-to-face meeting. I ask a lot of questions while we are looking at the apartment. If I like them and I want to rent to them I make the deposit $425 and the laundry facilities are free. If I don’t want to rent to them I charge extra for a key to the laundry room (the washer and dryer are not coin-op so this really is free laundry) and the deposit can be as high as $1500. The less I like them the higher it goes. After 20 calls in 2 days I have 2 potential tenants so I canceled the add. With any luck I will ink the deal with the new tenant on Saturday and get back to working on the kitchen. Who ever I rent to I hope they stay there until they retire and move to Florida.


merideth said...

we lived in a 600 sf 2-bedroom flat before we bought our house and one of the things the landlord did to screen was accept no roommates...he said that even though the flats (4 in our 1920s building converted from a corner store)were 2 br, he wanted only couples because the flats were small, and having 2 roommates for tenants actually means them plus their signifant others (or parade of short-term dates), plus the generally more active comings and goings of single folks, plus the denser parking problems of more than 2 cars, etc....I thought it was a really clever way to keep the building relatively quiet, uncrowded, and friendly...oh and by "couples" he didnt care if people were married or live-in, gay or straight...just "coupled"

Anonymous said...

"Drug attics" or "Drug addicts"?

Greg said...

"Drug attics", just as I wrote. It is a known fact that the attic gables of many house take drugs. I don't like renting to house parts that use drugs. Come one, what else could I have possibly meant? Some people!

Jocelyn said...

It doesn't make you sound like a bad person. You have enough on your hands there, without tenant troubles. We are landlords also, having a 2-flat "income property." We live in the 1st floor, so it's important you select the right type of people to live above you as you can imagine. That "progressive" screening tactic is hilarious- we'll have to try that one. ;)

leaguegirl said...

First laugh out loud moment for the day Grex. Thanks

Grex said...
"Drug attics", just as I wrote. It is a known fact that the attic gables of many house take drugs. I don't like renting to house parts that use drugs. Come one, what else could I have possibly meant? Some people!

richelle said...

We are also reluctant landlords although I never thought about it that way. After two bad tenants we changed our approach a little bit and are now very happy with our current tenant. We offer an open house and accept applications with a host of information on them and then tell people we'll consider all of them and get back to them in a week. That allows us to pick the best tenant for us rather than the first one interested or with the money to pay the necessary deposits.