BRR! Was it ever this cold last year? Is this our punishment for the mild winter we had? At least there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. With ice comes ice skating. With snow comes sledding. It’s winter, but spring is sure to follow. A vacant rental right now can be tough, but here are some tips to carry you through to the other side.
1 Consider a short term lease
Though do so with some caution. Short term leases can still have the same turnover costs as a long term lease if they damage the property, but if they are excellent applicants, why not fill up your home while it’s cold and bide your time to fetch a premium price in the spring? Short term renters often include remodelers who are working on their home and need a temporary place to stay. They probably have pretty nice income if they can afford the remodel. Executives building brand new large homes often need a temporary place to lay their head as well. Relocation companies with displaced tenants due to natural disaster or fire often have families that need housing right away. Even though their applicants may not be as strong, their insurance will often pay a hefty premium for the privilege of a short term lease and will also pay the tenants deposit.
2 Have your home winterized
If your home is going to be vacant, it makes sense to have it winterized to cut down on utilities bills for the cold months – especially if you don’t expect to have a tenant for a while. If your home has older windows and drafts, the cost of having your home winterized probably far outweighs the cost of keeping it set at 50 degrees all winter.
3 Stay on top of ice and snow
When ice and snow isn’t shoveled and melted away, the potential for tenants and neighbors to slip and fall and hurt themselves is, of course, greater. It’s not only the kind and neighborly thing to do; it can help prevent possible lawsuits being brought against you from injuries sustained in a fall. Maintaining the property keeps tenants happy and hopefully convinces them to stick around for a while.
4 Don’t take a tenant out of desperation
They don’t have enough income, they’ve been evicted 3 times, and they have no landlord references. But they want to move in tomorrow. The likelihood that this tenant will pay their rent every month is slim and none and if you don’t receive any rent payments you’ll end up having to evict. With that loss added to the cost of turnover, it’s quite possible you’ll end up spending more money over the winter than you’ll gain.
5 Implement incentives
There are still good qualified tenants who can be convinced to move during the winter, they may just need a push in the right direction. Offering incentives can be the motivation they need to sign a lease. A $99 move-in special or offering ½ off the first month’s rent is pretty typical. Don’t be afraid to be creative, though, and spark some interest. You could offer to pay the tenant’s heat for the first 2 months (up to a certain dollar amount) to carry them through the winter, or pay their application fee if they apply within 24 hours.
6 If you do find a tenant, see if they will sign a lease to end at a more retable time of the year
Tenants don’t like moving in the cold almost as much as you don’t like having a vacancy in the cold. When they sign their lease, don’t be afraid to ask if they would be willing to sign for 14 or 16 months, depending on when they sign. That way if they do move out, they’ll be vacating in a warmer and more rentable time of year. If they don’t, they can re-up for a year and their lease will still end in the summer at some point in the future.
7 Use the down time to upgrade your property
If you’ve decided to admit defeat, take the down time to make updates to your property that will make your home more rentable when the weather does warm up. Pay special attention to the kitchen and bathrooms as you would if you were selling the home, consider reglazing and old tub or changing the color of a dated tile. Old kitchen appliances can be a turnoff as well, so consider ditching a yellow fridge or 70’s built-in oven. Take a look at the carpets and floors and really assess whether it’s time to replace or re-finish them.