When a tenant moves out, these are the steps we take to get the place re-rented:
Spackle the walls.
Tenants hang pictures and leave holes – these will need to be spackled and sanded before painting. I like to buy the spackle that starts out pink and turns white when dry. The type of spackle that you use makes a difference – sometimes the tenants spackle with rubbery stuff that doesn’t really work and looks lumpy. I use: DryDex Dry Time Indicator Spackling.
Sanding is really important – wait until completely dry to sand or it won’t go well. I buy sandpaper: and just sand it with my hands until smooth. You just want to fill in the hole, you don’t need the spackle around the hole or it will look lumpy so sand it until smooth. Then, wipe off the dust so that when you paint it, the paint will stick.
Paint the walls, doors, & trim.
This usually has to be done if the tenant has been there for more than a year. Sofas leave marks on the walls and just dirt and grime. First, clean the walls, doors, and trim to see what will come off. Potential new tenants always love a fresh coat of paint on the walls and it doesn’t cost much so you get a big bang for your buck. It does take a bit of effort though – I’m the resident painter and I definitely feel like I walk around in a paint fog for a couple of weeks while I’m knee deep in it – all those fumes! Luckily, they make low-fume paint now-a-days but I don’t always buy that stuff b/c they say the stinkier the paint the longer it will last and you don’t have to put as many coats.
Also, paint colors change over time – today people want grays, clay/muddy colors and that didn’t use to be the case a few years ago so it’s good to keep up with the times. If the ceiling needs painting, paint those too – though I try to avoid this if it’s only a little dirty. Painting the ceiling is not fun though it is nice that you don’t have to fret over the color, etc – there’s just one type of ceiling paint and it’s labeled ceiling paint in the store – no fuss and indecision required which is half the pain of painting, isn’t it?
I use eggshell paint for the walls b/c I don’t like the glare of semi-gloss, but satin/semi-gloss might be better for kitchens and bathrooms b/c it’s easier to wipe off. Doors and trim don’t always need to be painted – you’ll have to try to clean first and evaluate – maybe just touch up if you have the original color.
Evaluate the flooring and replace as necessary.
Unfortunately, carpet frequently has to be replaced if the tenants have been there over a year unless you have some really good tenants. We have chosen to put Allure vinyl plank flooring down more recently in hopes that we won’t have to change it out so frequently – a little more expensive, but could be worth it – time will tell. Home Depot has great rates for carpet so again – big bang for your buck. When it comes to carpet, people really appreciate new. If you had good tenants though, you may be able to get away with just cleaning them with a good carpet cleaner. I wrote this post on our experience with different types of flooring: Best Flooring For Rental Houses (Our Experience)
Determine if there is anything that is an eyesore and fix or replace it.
In one case, the whole kitchen was an eye sore so we decided to update it. It was original to 1969 and the cabinets seriously looked like they were made of scrap wood. No amount of cleaning or painting was going to make it right, it was time to update.
Clean, clean, clean.
Mop all the floors. If you have tile floors, scrub the grout with a grout scrub brush. Clean the windows. Clean out all the cabinets and drawers (vacuum out and wipe down) and repaint any wood shelving if necessary or put new contact paper on them. The newer everything looks, the better! Clean ceiling fans. Clean vents. Wipe down walls. Of course, you might not want to do the cleaning until the very end b/c you will make a mess with the fix-up. I typically use a vinegar and water mixture to do all the cleaning – cheaper and very effective. Goo gone also works well for any grease messes.
You want to document how the house looks before tenants begin to move in. Taking detailed pictures is a necessity, especially if you need any proof when dealing with security deposit claims. Take close-up pictures of flooring, etc.
Check if inspection is required.
Some cities require your house to pass inspection before a tenant moves in. And some don’t. In St Louis, we have two rental properties in different counties, one requires it and the other doesn’t. So, even within the same larger city, the rules are different. And inspection is quite rigorous and you could end up with weeks worth of stuff to fix – from door stoppers, to oven-tipping prevention devices (good call), to repainting a shed (we have had to do that), to power washing the siding, to cleaning soffits so that they look prettier, to rewiring the electrical to get it up to code, to knobs on sliding closets doors, the list goes on and on. Leave yourself plenty of time to fix up all this stuff.
Decide how you prefer to be paid.
We use eRentPayment if we can. Some tenants won’t want to do this if they aren’t computer savvy or if they are more used to traditional forms of rent payment, but it is great when you find someone that is ok with using it. eRentPayment automatically deducts the rent from the renters checking account directly into yours. This is great b/c you don’t have to worry about your rent getting lost in the mail (we’ve had this happen!) or having to remind people (also, had this happen and it’s awkward).
There is a $3 charge but we usually cover that (it’s worth the convenience to us). It’s best to communicate this up front. This could also help with the screening. However, if you like being paid by check or if you’d like them to set up automatic bill pay with their bank – all those things are fine ways to get paid – it’s just best to communicate up front.
List the property.
We like to list on Zillow. Zillow posts to multiple other sites via their postlets app so you get the most hits possible. We used to post on Craigslist, but have found that’s not the best place anymore – not as many people use it so you won’t get as many calls. The second I posted on Zillow, my phone was ringing non-stop and the more calls the better – you want to have your pick of tenants.
It’s up to you whether you list it before you are done renovating or after. I think it’s probably best to list before you are completely done or you will have another month of the property sitting vacant after you are done fixing it up. But it also slows you down considerably to have to show it while you are fixing it. People often need to give 30 days notice, but some people have been at their place long enough that they are already going month to month – they have more flexibility to move sooner.
Also, it’s good to post a sign out front for people who are driving through the neighborhood (if it’s in a good neighborhood).
When you make an appointment to meet someone at the rental, I recommend telling people to give you a call 30 minutes before they head over just to make sure they are going to show up. We had several no shows and it was a major waste of my time and gas.
Screen the tenants.
See this post: Screening Tenants
Sign the lease.
Once you’ve found your tenant, you can sign the lease. They’ll need to bring a money order with the security deposit and first month’s rent (and occupancy permit if it is required in your county) to the lease signing and you’ll want to make sure you have: the keys to the apt, mailbox key, garage door openers, garage entry code, lease (2 copies – one for you & one for them – highlight the places that they need to sign/initial), 2 pens, etc.
You’ll also want to have a list of the utility companies name and numbers so they can call and have the accounts transferred into their name. Usually, it’s Electric, Gas, Water, Trash and Sewer (we pay).
Finally, it’s best to walk them through the property and let them know the ins and outs of the place. An extra bonus would be to provide them with some information on the neighborhood, etc.