For the past several years, the housing rental market throughout the Puget Sound has been a property owner’s dream, with low inventory and high demand. Homeowners could offer almost any home for rent and watch it get snapped up immediately, regardless of its condition. But that hasn’t always been the case, nor will it always be the case warns Andrew Barkis, founder and owner of Hometown Property Management.
Even when the market is working in their favor, it’s important for homeowners to offer the best possible product, he notes. “By doing so, you’re not only going to maximize the ability to seek and gain the appropriate market rent for the property but also to attract the best possible candidate as a renter.”
The first step is making sure a home is renter-ready. At Hometown Property, that means a walkthrough to look for any safety issues or potential liabilities that need to be addressed, starting with basics like smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and other features required by law. The team will also make sure all systems are working properly, i.e. electrical, heating, plumbing, etc. And finally, they’ll note any so-called “trip and falls” – potential hazards like dangerous railings, slick steps, precarious tree limbs or cracks in the sidewalk.
Once the basic safety aspects have been covered, they’ll explore aesthetics. This can be a bit tricky, Barkis says, depending on the age of the home and the financial position of the owner. “When you have an older home, you may not want to do a $50,000 remodel,” he says, “but that doesn’t mean that it cannot and should not be clean, safe and habitable.”
Aesthetic factors include the condition and care of floor coverings such as hardwoods, vinyl, and carpet; the condition of paint; and the state of appliances. “Everything should be in good working order,” says Barkis, “aesthetically pleasing, but also functional.”
Starting with the basics in good working order makes the home easier to maintain while also creating greater clarity if something goes wrong. If, for example, a carpet is already worn when tenants move in, they might make it worse, but it can be hard to tell the difference. This leaves the door open for conflict, says Barkis. “We always try to talk to our owners about getting to a good baseline condition so the home can be maintained in that condition. That’s much easier than the alternative.”
A home’s outdoor features are also important in creating curb appeal. “We make sure the yard is cleaned up and the grass is mowed,” says Barkis. “Really, what we’re trying to do is have a great product for the tenant. This also serves the owner because they know the condition of the home when they left it and it can be maintained at that level. That holds the tenant responsible and removes any gray area from the situation.”
In the next stage, Hometown Property’s processes ensure that both owner and tenant are fulfilling their responsibilities and living up their agreements. “We provide proper screening, a very proper lease, a walkthrough, and then a very healthy inspection and enforcement process,” says Barkis. “We make sure tenants are doing their part and owners are taking care of routine maintenance and upkeep on the house.”
Occasionally, owners are unwilling to meet Hometown Property’s standards or do the necessary work to make their home renter-ready. In that case, the company declines. “We don’t take just every property that comes through our door,” says Barkis. “We’ve had to say no to a lot. Those who decide to go it on their own will probably get a renter, but our experience is that typically leads to a much tougher relationship between the owner and the tenant in the long run than if they’d done some simple things to make it better in the beginning.”
Creating the baseline, he describes and putting systems in place to set clear expectations and establish transparency ultimately saves owners money by reducing costly turnover, he says. “I’ve been in this business for 25 years and we manage over 1,200 homes in this region. You’re not always going to avoid situations and tenants will have issues. But the rule of thumb is that presenting the best possible product will create the best possible outcome.”
Homeowners will also get a better return on investment over time when tenants stay longer, a win for both parties. “If you start that relationship over the long term, the tenants are a lot happier and you get longevity,” says Barkis. “That’s the business relationship you want to have. We’re in the business of providing housing, and we’re here to make sure that we’re taking care of the tenants while also protecting and preserving the owners’ properties.”
To find out more about the services Hometown offers call 360-456-7368 or visit the Hometown Property Management website.