Nearly everything in life follows some sort of cycle: the days of the week, changing seasons, and even real estate investing. Let’s unpack the leasing lifecycle that sets the pace for every landlord’s business and the four stages where you can make your real estate investment stand out.
The lease lifecycle is the predictable cycle that occurs between every tenant that occupies your property. The property begins vacant. Then you spruce up the place and list it on the marketplace. Next, you’ve found the perfect tenants and they’re preparing to move in. Finally, the tenants move in, pay rent, and make the property their home until it’s time for them to move on.
That’s the ideal anyway.
Don’t forget as well, that there are a myriad of tech tools to help new (and experienced) landlords navigate this process with ease.
After tenants move out, there are several boxes to check before the property is ready to show to new occupants.
Landlords are responsible for building maintenance and protecting the safety of their tenants. One essential way to do that is to verify that you’re adhering to building codes. These can vary state-to-state, so make sure to check your local guidelines. We’ve included common building codes here to illustrate what you should expect.
Before renting your property, double-check the trash and sanitation schedule. What days of the week does trash get collected. What other details do tenants need to know about regular cleaning and sanitation for the property? Make sure these details are spelled out clearly in rental agreements and in your onboarding communication.
Between tenants, you’ll want to review your property’s utility situation. If you’re covering any utilities as the landlord, make sure to double-check all meters are working correctly and that there aren’t any leaks. Even a small leak can be costly in the long run. Check to see if your local ordinances include air conditioning as a landlord's responsibility. You’ll also want to make sure fast internet is available in your area. While you’ll rarely cover that expense as a landlord, it’s an essential utility for most renters.
Security is a big selling point for many potential tenants. Make sure your system is functioning properly before renting out any property. Are all cameras recording as they should? Do doors to common areas lock automatically and close easily? If your property has security that goes above and beyond what’s expected for your neighborhood, you can even highlight that in your rental listing. Security sells!
More typical in multifamily properties are common areas you’ll want to inspect and maintain. Are areas all clean and ready for new tenant use? Do the washing machines work? Is the gym equipment maintained? Does the pool need a new filter? Between tenants is a great time to check in on the regular maintenance needs.
Make sure your property is beautiful inside and out. A bad first impression can be hard to overcome, so you’ll want to spend a little time and budget making sure your property has that coveted curb appeal.
Every listing should include up-to-date photography that truthfully represents your property. This is an opportunity to partner with local photographers who can use their platforms to showcase your listing. You can also choose to work exclusively with one photographer and negotiate a lower rate with bundled projects.
Before you hire the photographer, put some effort into staging the property. Having some furniture in the photos makes units feel more welcoming and helps future tenants visualize themselves living in the space.
With a well-written listing on your side, requests for showings will start coming in. There are two typical ways to show a space: open houses and individual showings. You don’t have to stick strictly to one or the other. Both options have their advantages. Take advantage of virtual showing software and similar technology to get as many eyes on your listing as possible, without the time commitment that traditional showings require.
Finally, you’ll have a collection of tenant applications and begin the review process. Along with a background check, you’ll want to quickly get to know each applicant through a simple interview process (either on the phone or in person) so you can find the best possible tenant for your property. Even if you’re in a rush to rent your unit, taking this step is important to avoid issues later on with residents that aren’t the right fit.
While you may get a negative feeling from some of the applications and want to immediately add them to a discard pile, make sure you’re not discriminating against applicants by following specific legal guidelines.
Once you’ve determined your ideal tenant from all the applications, it’s time to get it in writing. You should only respond to other applicants to let them know it’s been leased after all the paperwork is signed. You never know who you’ll need as a backup, and no one likes to know they weren’t your first choice.
Once the lease is signed, you can confirm the tenant's move-in date, share any additional pre-move-in details and hand off the keys. While you should make specific benefits clear in your initial marketing, the lease review and signing process is also the ideal time to review benefits packages, renters insurance, and any other offerings.
Finally, it’s here: move-in day! To start your tenant-landlord relationship on a high note, consider welcoming new tenants with a “Get to Know the Neighborhood” gift or a packet of relevant renters information that includes some local coupons or restaurant recommendations.
You’ll also want to make sure your tenants have the best phone number and contact information to reach you when the need arises. Of course, if you’re busy sprucing up another property or working on another project, a property management company can handle all move-in tasks to clear them off your plate.
The occupancy stage of renting your property is the easy part, where you sit back, collect rent, and get rich, right? Well, not completely. Relationships with current tenants still take care and attention, but, by following these four golden rules, you’ll be able to keep them happy and avoid most common sources of conflict.
There are many routine tasks that landlords complete regarding occupied properties. Every single one of them is easier and more effective when you apply the rules above.
Rent collection doesn’t need to be complicated or frustrating. These days it can be done from your phone in just a few seconds every month. If you’re struggling to discover the best way to collect rent for your property, consider these five methods. Keep things even more simple by handing off rent collection to a property manager.
Here’s where many landlords trip up. While you may have the right to inspect your property as often as you want, popping in every weekend is sure to make tenants move ASAP. Be respectful of their time and space by asking tenants when is convenient for them, letting them know that the inspection is routine so no one gets the wrong idea, and communicating how long you expect to be inside the property. While it may be your house or unit, it’s also your tenant’s home. Keeping that in mind is key. Property managers can handle inspections efficiently and with a level of professionalism that helps residents feel taken care of, not intruded upon.
Regular maintenance goes hand-in-hand with routine inspections and makes up a significant portion of a landlord’s responsibilities during a lease. Required maintenance varies slightly from state to state, so make sure you’re up to date on local laws.
In general, a landlord is responsible for anticipating tenants’ needs relating to property use. This includes regular, scheduled maintenance as well as timely repairs when emergency situations arise.
Applying the 4 golden rules, this means responding to repair requests quickly, communicating early and often about both scheduled and emergency repairs, and setting expectations realistically so tenants know what will happen and when.
Additionally, to stay on top of regular maintenance and avoid costs piling up, take the time to complete at least these four tasks every six months, no matter how busy you are with other responsibilities:
By making a habit of locating small problems through regular maintenance and inspection, you ensure you won’t have to fix big (aka more expensive) problems later.
Handling complaints is never easy, which is why you should do what you can to proactively avoid them when possible.
The fewer complaints or requests you have of your tenants, the fewer complaints they’ll have about you. Take care to walk the line between keep your property safe and comfortable for all residents, without micromanaging tenants or intruding on their day-to-day lives. If issues are small and don’t impact other tenants, you can often let it go. Giving people the space to live their lives goes a long way in keeping the rent coming in and your property easy to manage.
Of course, you should intervene when you notice something that will devalue your property. New pets? New inhabitant? New smoking habit indoors? These are worth having a conversation with your tenants about.
And while no one loves confrontation, as long as you’re responding promptly and clearly communicating, you’ll be able to get through it without ill will or negativity. In fact, some states even have specific guidelines for how to handle complaints properly.
While the goal is to keep your property occupied and those rent checks rolling in, sometimes you have to face the music. There’s a certain point in the lease lifecycle when you may need to address lease violations that can, unfortunately, lead to the loss of a tenant.
By continuing to apply the four golden rules of prompt and clear communication, coupled with realistic expectations, you can avoid these unpleasant scenarios as much as possible.
At the end of every leasing cycle comes the time to renegotiate. Will the tenants stay or go? And if they stay, will you need to raise the rent?
It’s normal and expected by tenants that rent will be raised over time, even if only slightly to keep up with inflation. Keep in mind that it’s not legal in most states to significantly price-gouge. Make sure you’re within your rights when drafting a new lease for existing tenants.
Following the four golden rules above makes your life easier and keeps your residents happy, which ultimately leads to fewer vacancies. After all, the easiest way to move through the leasing process is retaining the great residents you already have.
The 4-stage leasing cycle doesn’t have to be difficult or frustrating. With experience, you’ll be able to keep the cycle running smoothly over time. Often, the most cost-effective way to shorten your lease lifecycle and keep your property occupied is to hire a property management company that can lend their experience and stay on top of the day-to-day.
It all comes down to making each stage of the leasing cycle faster and better suited to meet the needs of tenants. That’s where the expertise of professional property management comes in. With the leasing lifecycle managed by a trusted partner, you’ll be able to nurture and even grow your investment over time.