A DIY Landlord’s Guide to When to Stop Being a DIY Landlord

Want to Fix Tenant Toilets at 3 a.m. and Lose All Your Money?

Tangled. Being a DIY landlord can, if you play your cards right, be a pretty low-key affair – our last week’s blog post has some clutch pointers on that. But it’s also fairly normal for landlording to kind of creep out of its place and take over the rest of your life in a subtle way. Just one really needy tenant can keep your focus for weeks on end, and several can overwhelm you. So how do you know when you’ve hit your limit – and what do you do when you do?

Danger Sign #1: You Don’t Know How to Do It Right
Landlording is an always developing process of overlapping legal obligations, restrictions, and privileges, and there’s a lot of details that you can’t be expected to know on the fly. Fortunately, most of those details are things you can look up online with a bit of time and…um…I guess it would be knuckle grease. If you find yourself in a position where you’re dealing with repeated situations that you can’t find an acceptable answer to, the chances are good you’ve done something – or failed to do something – months ago that could have prevented the situation entirely. That’s the point at which you may realize that having a professional who has already seen it all taking care of your properties is a good idea.

Danger Sign #2: You Can’t Make the Effort to Do it Right
The second big warning that you’re letting your life as a DIY landlord take too much out of you is the moment that you know exactly what you should do to handle a situation, but it sounds like just too much minutiae and bother. Landlording is a job full of minutiae, and you never know when it’s going to matter – but when it does matter, it usually matters enough that you seriously regret not following through when you had the chance. (See our next blog post for some real life examples!) So, if you ever realize you just can’t seem to focus on crossing your ‘t’s and dotting your ‘I’s, it’s time to consider taking the “DIY” off of your Landlord title.

Danger Sign #3: You Don’t Have Time to Do It Right
This is even more dangerous, because in general, deciding not to do it right because you can’t be bothered is at least correctable. Usually. But if you want to do it right and are straight up too busy to get the details correct before you have to move on to the next urgent task, you’ll eventually end up in a situation where your time crunch snowballs, and you never have time to go back and fix the details after the fact.

Danger Sign #4: You Can’t Afford to Do It Right
This is as simple as it sounds: if you want to be able to continue “lording your lands” but it seems to just be solidly losing you money, handing that property over to a professional property manager is a solid idea. “But, Mr. Rose,” I hear you say, “If I can’t afford to ‘do it right’ as things are, how can I afford to hire a property manager? Don’t they take a big chunk of my profits?” Well, yes, we do lay claim to some part of your rents – but you’d be surprised how often we can increase an owner’s income! We usually know the market, tenants and processes better than most DIY landlords and have economies of scale they can’t compete with. We leverage these to increase rents, consistently collect rent and get rid of nonpaying tenants faster – getting a property into a more profitable state of being. The choice between “making no money as a DIY landlord” and “making a small amount of money while not having to do any of the work of landlording” kind of seems like a no-brainer to us.

And ultimately, that’s one of the two answers to any circumstance in which being a DIY landlord is becoming an untenable situation. The other is getting out of the game entirely, either by selling your rental properties or by mothballing them until you’re ready to jump back in. But neither one of those options results in the income stream or the flexible future options that hiring a property manager does.

Posted in: 1. Property Owner Blog Posts, Hiring Property Manager, Managing Rentals

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