It's the Same Old Story, Same Old Song and Dance, My Friend.

Because I continue to be so bullish on real estate in metro Detroit, I’m constantly talking to people about buying rental properties here. Day in and day out, all kinds of people in all walks of life with all different backgrounds.


I have to say that the most common reaction that I hear is this:


“Ooooh Nooooo – I DON’T want to be a landlord. Then you have to talk to tenants all the time, and have them calling you at hours of the day and night.”  


I usually just chuckle to myself and move on, as I’ve found it impossible to ever make a dent in that type of mindset.


But I got to thinking yesterday after another such conversation just how the heck that impression got started? I know I don’t feel that way, and I know that just about all of the rental property owners that I commiserate with don’t feel that way either. So I emailed a couple of them and asked about their experiences and their interactions with other owners.


And the results were interesting and mirrored what I had come to believe.


Before I started buying, or really as I was looking for my first property, I did some informal research on what were the most frequent problems that rental property owners faced by talking to a bunch of them. Not surprisingly, once I sifted through all the whiners and bad owners and ferreted out the successful ones, the responses came in two relatively narrow categories:


1.      Plumbing clogs and other minor maintenance items

2.      Major items in the house not working – furnace, a/c, water heater, roof leaks, and plumbing leaks.


The first category – minor maintenance items – was easily addressed in the lease agreement that I created, such that I have received exactly one call on these types of things in a little over four years in this business. And a gentle but firm reminder was all that it took to ensure that there wasn’t a second one from that tenant.


I also easily addressed the second category as well – in my purchase criteria.


Because of category #2 issues, from the beginning I have pursued a “strategy” of making sure that all of my rentals had bullet-proof mechanicals by the time that they were ready to rent. Since that was the cause of most tenant calls, I figured that the best defense was a good offense. And this has actually been pretty easy do accomplish up front when I buy a property because of the huge number of rent-ready homes that are listed for sale right now.


So nine times out of ten I don’t even consider a property that needs any of these systems updated.


And the result? One water heater failure in a little over four years. And that one was a fluke – it was only three years old.


So back to my original question – where do people get the impression that owning rentals is all about “tenants and toilets” ? (that phrase cracks me up by the way)


Maybe those folks all know someone that “tried it” without knowing anything first?


Who knows. All I know is that it’s the same old story almost every time.