Property management for single-family homes: tricks of the trade

David Ingram
David Ingram | 3 min. read
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Published on November 5, 2013

I manage 25 single-family homes in Mississippi. This can be really rewarding, but managing single-family homes, instead of apartment buildings, has its unique challenges. This is because tenants renting houses usually want to stay there for an extended period, so they, well, want to put their own stamp on the property — for better or worse. Here’s some of my best advice for how to deal with some potentially challenging situations when managing single-family homes.

Painting

I just completed a lease in which the tenant was there for eight years. The good part of that is we didn’t have all the transitions of tenants from year to year. The bad part is the tenant had been there so long that they felt a certain freedom in the property and painted every room a mustard color which they thought was quite lovely! They had been given permission to paint the dining room, but they went overboard. Needless to say, I didn’t feel like a very good property manager when the owner and I walked through in disbelief at the paint job.

Painting is an issue in rental houses that you need to watch for and be sure some protection is in the lease. Parents like to give children permission to pick the color of their bedrooms — without your knowledge. They never pick beige. In an apartment, this is less likely to be an issue because it might be standard procedure to hit it with a fresh coat of paint between tenants.

Yard Upkeep

Yard upkeep in an apartment is a non issue. With a house, it is a big issue. Is is not a happy phone call to get from the head of the HOA that the grass is too tall or the bushes need trimming. I generally try to drive by each of my properties at least once a month. But if I don’t make it by and they don’t cut the grass or have the yard looking tidy, the phone call may be coming.

You will have prospective tenants tell you that they love to keep the yard, plant beds, and pull weeds. Don’t expect them to win yard of the month.

Dogs

It seems more single-family renters have them than don’t. Apartments generally have no yard for a pet, so they will be indoor pets of course. Indoor dogs mean scratched doors, fleas, shedding, odor, urine, damaged flooring, and yes, liability! A dog that bites a guest is a lawsuit connecting to you. Keep your liability insurance in place. Dogs in a house cause the same issues.

The Good News

There seems to be no end to the strong rental markets I’m seeing all over the country. People are opting for rental lifestyles with no taxes, no insurance, and no repairs. Investors realize this and are continuing to buy rental properties. Screen your tenants well and check on your properties. Grow your management list for continued steady management income.

Do you manage single-family properties? What are some of your challenges? Please share your comments and advice below.

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David Ingram

David Ingram owns and operates David Ingram Real Estate in Jackson, Mississippi.

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