Is specialized housing for you?

Geoff Roberts
Geoff Roberts | 5 min. read

Published on November 16, 2009

Particularly if you own a property in an urban area or near a university or center of business, many specialized tenant markets are just waiting to be captured.

Specialized property management may be just the solution you’ve been looking for to decrease vacancies and guarantee steady rental income. When considering just a few of your options below, be sure that you take your property, location, property management style, and goals into consideration.

Section 8 and low-income housing
Essentially, the Section 8 program provides low-income individuals with government-assisted rent. Generally, tenants pay approximately 30 percent of a unit’s rent and the government pays the remaining balance directly to the tenant’s landlord. In such a scenario, the Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) will determine the unit’s fair market rate (FMR) and the landlord is not allowed to charge the tenant anything over this amount.  While it is up to you to choose whether or not to participate in Section 8, keep the following points in mind:

  • You will be subject to property inspection to ensure you meet HUD’s Housing Quality Standards.
  • You will not be able to charge a Section 8 tenant more than FMR.
  • Regardless of your state’s laws, you cannot evict a Section 8 tenant without judicial action for eviction.

While there may be some similarities, low-income housing is not the same as Section 8. Rather than receiving rental income from the government, property owners who run low-income properties are eligible for the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). But it’s important to bear in mind that these tax credits apply only if you adhere to the rules and regulations that determine who can live in your building and how much they can be charged. Not abiding by the rules that are set forth can result in a whole lot of headaches, not to mention economic loss. Despite the red tape that can come with low-income housing property management, there is a large pool of renters in need of low-income housing. If your property is in an appropriate situation, low-income property management may be a good solution for you.

Student housing
College students can be a landlord’s best friend or worst enemy. The problems with renting to students are fairly straightforward. Generally speaking, you’re dealing with younger renters (many of whom may be living on their own for the first time). With this in mind, you may be more likely to experience noise and upkeep issues. Because of the school schedule, you may also find yourself turning apartments over annually or having to deal with sub-lets during the summer months.

But there are some very real positives when it comes to renting to students as well, most of which are financial. If you are living in an area that houses a college or university, chances are you will have a more dense renting population than you would otherwise. This means that—for at least nine months out of the year—students offer a very real way to keep your vacancy levels low. Also, while students may not inherently have a lot of income (or any at all), when a parent or guardian co-signs the lease, in most cases that monthly check is just as reliable as it would be under any other circumstances.

Sure, you may have to be a bit more hands-on than you would otherwise be when it comes to running student housing. But the bottom line is, they offer a nice steady flow of income.

Corporate housing
More likely than not, managing corporate housing is fairly different from any other kind of property management you’ve done to date. First of all, you’ll be dealing with a company rather than an individual tenant. In most corporate housing situations, a company will rent out one or more rooms in a property, with the understanding that one or more of their employees or clients will occupy this space over the duration of the rental term. The way this actually works out may vary from having one stable tenant for a year at a time to having a cast of different tenants in and out on as little as a daily or weekly basis.

The good news here is that signing a lease with a corporate entity allows property managers to feel relatively secure that payment issues will be avoided. There are not necessarily downsides to this scenario, just things to consider that make this situation different from renting to an individual such as: assuming the responsibility for furnishing the unit; the potential inability to build a relationship with the tenant or screen for undesirable tenant behavior; and, in some cases, the knowledge that you will not necessarily have a tenant occupying the unit at all times to immediately alert you when repair and upkeep issues crop up.

If you are looking for ways to decrease vacancy rates and generate more income, remember: There are always ways to think outside of the box when it comes to property management. Before you undertake one of these (or any other) specialized property management endeavors, just make sure you have carefully thought out the pros and cons and are well versed on any specific tax considerations or rules and  regulations that may apply.

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Geoff Roberts

Geoff is a marketer, surfer, musician, and writer. He lives in San Diego, CA.

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