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10 tips for new landlords

Tom Lucier, author of The Florida Landlord's Manual, offers these 10 tips for beginning landlords:

1. Start small. The ideal starter rental is your own house because you know the condition of the property. Try one rental house and see if you like it and can handle it before buying a multi-unit building.

2. Rent your house unfurnished. Provide only a stove, refrigerator and washer-dryer hookups.

3. Do your own repairs. Maintenance companies can chew up your profits.

4. Aim high. Neighborhoods near military bases are great places for income property because transient military families tend to rent instead of buy.

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5. Specify. Use qualifiers in your for-rent advertising. Saying "no pets" or "good credit required" will save you time and effort in screening applicants.

6. Use word of mouth. Offer a tenant referral fee of $50 to $100 to your good tenants to fill your vacancies. Good tenants tend to know other good tenants.

7. Don't live in your own rental. As appealing as a duplex or four-plex might look on paper, neither you nor your tenants will feel comfortable in close proximity to each other.

8. Buy for you. Only buy income property in areas where you would want to live yourself.

9. Don't overlook niche markets. For instance, by making your door openings 36-inches wide and installing grab bars and a ramp, you can rent to people in wheelchairs. It's a great way to do some good -- and you'll always have tenants.

10. Don't convert the beloved family home to a rental. If you've lived in a home forever and raised your kids in it, sell it rather than rent it because you've got emotional attachments that will prevent you from treating it strictly as a business investment.

Jay MacDonald is a contributing editor based in Florida.

-- Posted: March 11, 2003
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Are you cut out to be a landlord?
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