In this week’s episode, Podcast Host, Andrew Schultz, discusses how long to give tenants to vacate a rental property that you are selling.
We’ll also go over what to request prior to purchasing an income property. For example, current leases, payment history of tenants and more.
Last, but not least, should landlords photograph a fully-furnished apartment or an empty rental? What attracts tenants more? Find out in our latest podcast.
Andrew Schultz: (00:00)
Hey everyone. Welcome back to another episode of the Rent Prep for Landlord’s podcast. This is episode number 375 and I’m your host, Andrew Schultz. On today’s episode, we’re gonna be talking about photographing empty rental properties. How much notice should you give to your tenants to vacate and what to request when purchasing a new rental property? We’ll get to all that right after this.
Voice Over: (00:24)
Welcome to the Rent Prep for Landlords podcast. Now your host, Andrew Schultz.
Andrew Schultz: (00:29)
Before we jump into today’s episode, don’t forget to check out the Rent Prep for Landlords Facebook group. It’s a great free resource for you to network with housing providers from around the country. And if you have a question or a situation that you’ve never dealt with before with a over 12,500 members, chances are someone in the group has been there before and can lend a helping hand. We’re currently on the push for 13,000 members. So if you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, do it today over at facebook.com/groups/rentprep. Don’t forget to mention the podcast when answering the questions. So we know how you found us.
Voice Over: (01:05)
Forum quorum, where we scour the internet for ridiculous posts from landlords and tenants.
Andrew Schultz: (01:14)
We’re gonna start this week’s episode with our forum quorum segment. Let’s go ahead and take a look. I was interviewing property managers recently, and one of them said that homes for sale are best photographed with staging furniture, but that rentals are best photographed empty. I was kind of surprised by this. Does anyone have any evidence for or against? Has anyone had issues showing or getting photos of an empty rental unit? This one comes to us via Reddit via the landlord subreddit. So this is probably one of those situations. That’s a little more open to interpretation. Uh, I can tell you that we typically shoot our apartment photos while the apartment is empty. And I’m also going to mention that we typically don’t stage our listings for sale either. Uh, but we also typically work in the investment space. So I don’t know, as though that’s necessarily expected in a lot of instances, we will wait until all of the maintenance and turnover works complete in the unit.
Andrew Schultz: (02:03)
And then we through and do a set of interior. And if we need a new set of exterior photographs, we’ll do those at the same time. We then either edit the photos in-house or send them out for editing or SA staging. We’ll get into that more in a minute, but really I think this boils down to market considerations. If you’re gonna have an apartment that comes on market and is off the market, again in a very short period of time time, it probably doesn’t make sense to spend the time and money on staging it. If you’re running out a more basic apartment that isn’t on the higher end of the luxury listings, you probably don’t need to stage that unit. If you’re running out a luxury space or something that has a ton of amenities at that point, it may make more sense to actually go through and stage it.
Andrew Schultz: (02:43)
But you also may spend more time looking for a tenant on one of those higher-end listings as well, which kind of feeds into why it may make more sense to actually go ahead and stage it. So if you’re not gonna spend the time and money on staging, you want to at least make sure that you’re getting the best possible photographs of your unit that showcase the apartment in the best possible light. That doesn’t mean that it has to be expensive. You don’t need a fancy camera. You can literally use your cell phone camera. And I’ll be honest with you. About 95% of the apartment photos that we take for our listings, wind up getting taken with our cell phone cameras and then edit it after the fact, even the edit that we typically do is pretty minor. Typically it consists of straightening out some lines, sub lighting, adjustments, spot corrections, things of that nature.
Andrew Schultz: (03:26)
The unit stands for itself. By the time we get there, the unit is ready to stand on its own two feet. We don’t, you know, have to do such heavy photo editing because the unit is nice enough that it shows well, even in photos. I think that people overthink that a little bit too much when it comes to getting photos taken and stuff like that. Your cell phone is just fine. The best tips I can give you as far as, uh, taking the photos of the unit are to make sure that your lens is clean before you start taking photographs. Honestly, that’s one that will make a huge difference. Just taking a second to wipe your lens on your shirt. If you’re using your cell phone, we’ll make such a difference when it comes to making sure that your photos aren’t blurry and out of focus, make sure all the lights are on in the property.
Andrew Schultz: (04:08)
Make sure all your toilets are closed. That’s a huge pet peeve seeing open toilets, um, when seeing marketing photos, make sure your blinds are open, uh, make sure there isn’t anything that looks terribly outta place in the room. Things of that nature. Now that we’ve talked about cameras for a second, let’s talk a little bit about angles. Uh, this, this isn’t 2003 MySpace, but there are some things that you can do to make your place look a little bit more attractive. So like if you’re shooting photos of a kitchen or a bathroom, I recommend standing at the height, like stand at height in a of the room and shoot towards the opposite corner, typically around chest level. So this way you get a good shot of the countertops, the cabinets, the appliances, and things of that nature. Um, and I do that in kitchens and bathrooms.
Andrew Schultz: (04:52)
And then typically when I’m shooting in other rooms like bedrooms or living rooms, get down on a knee in the corner. And again, shoot to that opposite corner because what you’re trying to do is make the room look as large as possible. And when you shoot from one corner to the other, it also enhances the amount of floor space that you see in the photo. So if you’re shooting a small room, that’s a really good tip to have shoot from one corner to another. So that for the most part, it makes the room look a little bit bigger. The other thing you can do if you’re shooting a small room is try to only show two of the, uh, two walls in any given shot. Once you add that third wall in, like, if you’re shooting from a corner and you catch the right side of a wall or something like that, it tends to make that room look a little bit smaller.
Andrew Schultz: (05:35)
When it comes to the actual apartment itself, your photos are only going to be as good as your subject. We literally just talked about that. You have to make sure that you go through and thoroughly clean the apartment, swap out your dead light bulbs, wrap up the cable cord. That’s laying on the floor. You want the apartment to be as clean as possible for your photos. Uh, this is where things like fresh paint, new floors, shiny appliances, really stand out. Uh, conversely, it’s also where everything looks very dingy. If you haven’t done the proper prep work ahead of taking your marketing photos, take the time, get the unit right before you go to put it on the market. And you’re gonna have a much better response as a result, as a personal aside, I’m getting ready to go on a trip right now. So I’ve been looking at a ton of Airbnbs, which means I’ve been looking at a lot of other people’s marketing photos.
Andrew Schultz: (06:23)
And I gotta tell you, I see that there are several units that I looked at that I know would’ve rented for more money. If they just had better photos of the unit, or if they’d hired that professional photographer and spent that little bit of extra money taking good photos is critically important when it comes to getting your apartment rented in a quick fashion. I also wanna talk briefly about, um, the photography of an occupied unit. I personally try to avoid this whenever possible. If we’re trying to prelease an occupied unit. Um, I will typically use the most recent set of marketing photos that I have from prior to the current tenant it’s move-in. But the only time that I would consider using photos of a tenant-occupied home would be if the tenant was okay with it, first of all. And second of all, if the tenant was neat and tidy, um, the furnishings were really, you know, made the home look very, very complete things of that nature.
Andrew Schultz: (07:14)
If your tenant is the type of tenant that literally has a mattress on that’s probably not the apartment that you wanna take photos of before you go to list it for rent, you’re not gonna be able to put your best foot forward on something like that. There’s also the option of virtually staging the property. We’ve used a company in the past called box brownie.com. Uh, and they’ve done editing of our photos. And they’ve also done some virtual St for us in the past. And essentially what virtual staging is, is they’re gonna take Photoshop and Photoshop in furnishings and items into the photos that make the home look occupied. So for instance, um, they could Photoshop in beds, couches, TV thing, things of that nature. It’s way, way, way, way, way cheaper than actually having someone come in to stage the unit. You’re talking a few bucks, a picture versus honestly, sometimes hundreds to thousands of dollars to stage a unit.
Andrew Schultz: (08:07)
So, you know, if, if you were looking to do some staging, virtual staging might be an option for you. The one thing I do wanna mention there is that some states have guidelines on virtual staging. So you’re gonna wanna check your state laws. Typically you have to mention in the listing description that the photos that show like virtual staging, most people don’t mind, it’s not typically a big deal, virtual staging when done correctly can really enhance your listing. Uh, but when it’s done poorly, it could really make your listing look ridiculous. The one thing I will recommend is if you do use a virtual staging company, make sure that after you have the set of photos, back after the photos have been staged, look over the photos thoroughly to make sure that everything lines up the way that it should, that items don’t look outta place.
Andrew Schultz: (08:50)
Things of that nature. If something doesn’t look right to you, it’s not gonna look right when you go to put it on your listing. It’s not like that image magically changes between when you look at it and when you upload it. So, um, another option somewhere between virtual staging and actual staging would be lightweight or cardboard furniture. You know, a folding table with a tablecloth can act as a dining room table, just as well as a solid Oak dining set can. And there are a few of companies out there online now that sell cardboard furniture meant to be used for staging. I don’t know, as though this is gonna be the right move for somebody with one or two units if you’re just a small landlord, but if you’re doing a bunch of units, you know, it may be something that makes sense over the course of time to look into something like that, where you’re gonna be staging multiple units over the course of a period of time.
Andrew Schultz: (09:35)
One thing I did wanna mention, one final thing I wanna mention is that if you’re going to shoot these marketing photos, you should shoot a marketing video as well. You already have your phone or your camera in your hand, and it really only takes a minute or two. If you don’t feel comfortable, narrating over the video, just walk through the unit, showing off the room, the appliances, the amenities, whatever you can always drop a music bed over top of it when you upload it to YouTube or Facebook. And having that video just gives you one more piece of marketing material that you can send to somebody. And if they’re not in the area, if they’re trying to rent something remotely, you can show them a video where someone else may not have that. And you may be able to win that person over before they even have an opportunity to see someone else’s unit. So, so that is my recommendation. Shoot, a walkthrough video. One to two minutes long is fine. Doesn’t need to be super detailed. You don’t even need to talk over the top of it and you can literally upload it from your cell phone, right to YouTube, or right to Facebook. So there you have it, a dissertation on how to market an apartment. Uh, I hope that this helps you find some amazing tenants,
Voice Over: (10:35)
Water, cooler wisdom expert advice from real estate pros.
Andrew Schultz: (10:44)
Let’s go ahead and jump into our water cooler wisdom segment. This one, again, comes to us via Reddit. Let’s go ahead and take a look. I’m thinking about selling my home, which is currently tenant-occupied. Their lease expires at the end of April. What is an adequate amount of time that tenants need to find new housing and are there other factors that I need to consider as well? So I will preface this by saying that the person asking the question did not include a state, unfortunately. So typically speaking different states are gonna have different rules regarding how much notice you have to give a tenant and how to go about actually terminate that lease correctly. You really do need to pay attention to this and follow what the law says. Or you could find yourself in a situation where you’ve served determination. Notice that was never any good in the first place because it was served improperly.
Andrew Schultz: (11:31)
And now you’re right back to square one, pay attention and do it right. In some states, you may not even be able to terminate the lease because you’re looking to sell the property depending on what the law is in your state. And every state’s a little bit different. For instance, here in the state of New York, there’s a piece of legislation currently being considered called good cause eviction, which would only allow you to terminate tendency for a very few reasons. And if the reason that you want to terminate the tendency, isn’t on that list of reasons you can’t terminate the tendency, it’s going to be an issue. It’s one of those things that we’re watching here in New York right now, if you’re a New York resident, feel free to reach out to me for more information on that. Uh, but otherwise, as you’re going to have to look at other alternatives, such as potentially a cash for key scenario or something like that, to get that unit cleared out, um, I will mention that the sale of the property is not on that list of reasons.
Andrew Schultz: (12:25)
So in the state of New York, the lease survives the sale of the property. So when that purchaser actually goes and buys that property they inherit at tenant and whatever lease is in place at the time of sale, it would then be up to the purchaser after the sale to determine what they wanted to do with those tenants. Of course, this is always something that could be negotiated as part of a sale contract. For instance, if someone’s buying a duplex with intent to live on one side and rent, the other side out, and both units are tenant, the buyer could stipulate as part of the contract. That one unit is delivered vacant at closing. Now, depending on where you are and what your real estate market looks like right now, they may or may not laugh at you right in the face. When you submit a contract that says something like that, it really depends on your market.
Andrew Schultz: (13:10)
And whether your, you know, buyer’s market seller’s market everybody’s circumstances are whatever the case may be. Every situation’s unique that way, but the way the market is in many areas, putting that stipulation in would basically be, uh, the nail in the coffin on the contract. It would just never, ever get accepted. Uh, we’re off on a little bit of a tangent here, but I will give some reference for New York since that’s the state that I have the most information on here. Uh, I will preface this by saying that I’m not an attorney and you should probably talk to one before moving forward with any sort of an eviction, but here in New York, the amount of notice that you have to give a tenant when terminating their tenant varies, depending on how long they’ve lived in the unit. So here in New York, if they’ve lived there for under a year, you give 30 days’ notice if it’s one to years, it’s a 60-day notice.
Andrew Schultz: (13:57)
And if they’ve lived in the unit for more than two years, it’s a 90-day notice. Uh, the notice has to be served in writing and it has to be sent to all tenants of record. I would also recommend sending it certified in first class, the actual process isn’t terribly complicated in most cases, but it is important that you follow it correctly. Now that we have the, how do you do it out of the way? Uh, let’s talk more about the, when do you do it? So realistically speaking, if you’re putting a property on the market for sale, you should probably be having a conversation with your tenants at, or before the day that that property goes on the market explaining to them what’s happening and what their rights are. You’re gonna need their cooperation for showings and things like that. So it’s a good idea to get on the same page early because this process is important.
Andrew Schultz: (14:41)
And my recommendation is that you give them as much notice as possible. Um, just to give everybody the notice that they need and get everyone on the same page, do it early, keep in mind that this is someone’s place of residence. They’re not anticipating having to move until you tell them that they have to move. So the more notice that you can give them the more time it gives them to find a new place and make the necessary arrangements. I personally feel anything less than 30 days is way too short. 30 days has to be the absolute minimum amount of time that you give someone one. Uh, and even that really may not be enough depending on your current market. So check your state laws, then check your lease and then talk to your tenants because that’s the real way to resolve this. Having a conversation with your tenants, explaining the situation, and letting them know what’s going on is really going to drive the situation here in our final segment to this week, we’re gonna be taking another look at water cooler wisdom.
Andrew Schultz: (15:33)
This one, again, comes to us via the landlord. Subreddit. It’s an interesting situation on what to do when you’re buying a home with tenants in place. Let’s go ahead and jump right in the duplex. I’m buying has tenants that have been there for five years. Plus in both units, they seem like good folks by all and had been good tenants over the years, but this is my first time buying with tenants already in place. And I was wondering if anyone had suggestions on what I should request in the agreement. I already plan on asking for the current leases, any security or pet deposits, any information the seller may have payment history from each unit, et cetera. Is there anything I’m glossing over? This is actually a pretty interesting question because this for me becomes an exercise in due diligence and in data hoarding. And I’m absolutely a data hoarder.
Andrew Schultz: (16:22)
I try not to delete anything, uh, so that I have it. If I need to refer to it down the road and to be fair, it does happen pretty frequently. I just pulled up notes on a rehab project that we did it back in and 2016 for one of our clients. So data hoarding may not necessarily be such a bad thing in this context. Anyway, I start gathering my data before the contract is even written. I’m starting at the showing. I’m asking if the tenants are home, I’m gonna ask those tenants. If there are any maintenance issues or any outstanding concerns that they have with the property, they live there day in and day out, and they know what’s working and what’s not working. So it may not hurt to ask those questions. You may uncover some maintenance issues that you didn’t even know about before you even go to make an offer.
Andrew Schultz: (17:05)
Make sure that you get an opportunity to see the leases before closing and make sure that that includes any addenda, any animal at agreements, anything along those lines, spend some time reading these leases and make sure that you’re comfortable with the language that’s in these leases. At least here in the state of New York, you’re responsible for those leases until they expire once you buy that property. So you’re gonna want to have a very good understanding of what your purchasing and what your responsibilities are under the terms and conditions of that lease. I have seen so many bad leases over the years that it’s almost become one of my favorite parts of the transaction is to sit and read through other people’s leases because I get to see all the dumb stuff that somehow finds its way into these leases. Some of this stuff’s not even legal, but somebody signed it.
Andrew Schultz: (17:52)
So there you have it. You may wanna consider something like an Epel certificate in some instances, just to certify the current and pertinent terms of a lease. Um, this is also useful if you have someone that’s month to month with no lease agreement in place if you have items that aren’t covered in the lease that you need to know the answer to, and a stoppel may be a good way of getting those answers. So for instance, I often see things like who’s responsible for utilities missing in the lease. That’s something you need to know. It’s something that should be in writing. Um, something else that I see pop up quite a bit is who’s responsible for lawn and snow maintenance. Um, is the garage included with the unit or is it just the unit itself? There are a lot of things that get overlooked when leases get written up.
Andrew Schultz: (18:36)
And if you’re going through a lease and find something like that, it’s a good idea to get some sort of certification as to what the truth is prior to completing that transaction estoppels are typically meant more to Verifi. I lease terms such as dates, rent, amounts, deposits, et cetera. Um, but I see no reason that you couldn’t get an estoppel to get whatever information you need and to get everybody’s agreement on the terms before you close the transaction, it puts the seller in a position where they need to certify whatever they’ve told you is actually accurate rent. Um, you’re definitely gonna wanna see tenant ledgers. That was something that you had mentioned. This is a good way to see if the tenant is actually paying their rent in a timely fashion. Obviously, um, if you suspect that the ledger may be inaccurate, you could always ask for proof that the rent payments were actually being made as indicated in the ledger.
Andrew Schultz: (19:26)
Typically, I don’t see this on small transactions, um, but you may see, an audit or something along those lines completed on like a larger apartment complex purchase, just to verify that the money is actually what they say it is on the financial statements. This might be something to consider, especially as we move forward, uh, when it comes to the number of tenants with like COVID-related balances and things of that nature. So if you do see a tenant that has a large outstanding balance, it’s worth asking the seller, if there’s some sort of a payment plan in place, or if there are emergency rental funds that have been applied for or something along those lines. And if there is a payment plan in place, you may want to make sure that you have something written, um, into the a stoppel or into some sort of a payment plan agreement that shows what those stipulations are so that they don’t just disappear.
Andrew Schultz: (20:15)
When the ownership changes. Another document worth requesting is the tenant application. If they’ll give it out, I know our office personally will not provide anyone with a rental application. Um, but we do give a contact information sheet to the new owner, with the tenant’s name and address, phone number, email thing of that nature, any move-in documentation at all that you can get is amazing to get your hands on any sort of photos of video move-in inspection sheet would be amazing. Um, this is almost never transferred when a property changes hands, but it’s something that will absolutely make your life so much easier when it comes to your ownership of the property, especially when those tenants actually move out and you need to do security deposit dispositions, knowing what the place looked like at move in and move out really makes it a lot easier for you to make charges, uh, make appropriate charges when you’re handling that secure period deposit disposition.
Andrew Schultz: (21:08)
I really wish more people would get in the habit, uh, of taking the time to do a good move inspection and have the tenant sign off on it before they’re allowed to move into the unit. It makes it so much easier when it’s time to do security deposit disposition, uh, but that’s, uh, a tangent anyway. Uh, and then last but not at least, I think the only other thing that I could think of would be, are there any utilities included? If there are utilities included, you’re gonna wanna know what those bills look like. That’s gonna be part of your due diligence as well. Uh, so if you’re going through leases and you see that things like electric and gas are included, it’s important that you know what those bills are so that you know, what your obligations are gonna look like. That’s gonna change whether the property’s profitable or not.
Andrew Schultz: (21:46)
So you’re gonna wanna know what’s gonna going on there. Um, you’re also gonna wanna make sure that you understand what your responsibilities are in terms of those utilities in tenants’ units, not understanding that you have to have heat on, for example, could be the difference between having a profitable property and a property that doesn’t make any money because you’re paying for 24 apartments worth of heat. That’s not something that you’re gonna wanna gloss over. So, so there you have some information on how to complete some due diligence when it comes to buying a rental property, best of luck in your purchase. And I hope that you find one that’s ultra profitable. At some point in your career, as a landlord, you may come across something like a meth lab. It’s hard to believe, but it happens more often than you’d like to think. Sometimes these labs can be very, very difficult to spot in rent.
Andrew Schultz: (22:30)
Prep’s latest guide, discover the signs of a meth lab operating out of an apartment, visit rentprep.com/blog today. For more information that pretty much wraps up this episode of the Rent Prep for Landlord’s podcast. Thank you all so much for listening. We truly do appreciate it. Our goal with the podcast is to help as many people possible make educated decisions when it comes to real estate, and you can help us to reach our goal. If you heard anything in this week’s episode or any other episode that will help someone, you know, please do us a favor and share it with them. If you’re looking to get in contact with me, I can be reached over at whatsdrewupto.com from there, you’ll find links to everything going on with me over at Own Buffalo. Well, as our other projects, you can also grab a free copy of our deal analysis tool over at whatsdrewupto.com.
Andrew Schultz: (23:15)
There’s no obligation. Uh, it’s just a free tool for you to analyze your real estate transactions. And it comes with a companion video to show you how to use it. If you’re looking for top-tier tenant screening services, don’t forget to head on over to rentprep.com. There are multiple products to choose from in including a tenant-paid option. And if you’re over 50 doors, ask about the enterprise-level programs and pricing. I’ve been an enterprise user at Rent Prep for years now, and it’s definitely changed the way that we screen our tenants. Check it out today, over at rentprep.com. Again, thank you all so much for listening. We’ll be back in a couple weeks with an all-new episode you won’t wanna miss until then. I’m Andrew Schultz with ownbuffalo.com for rentprep.com and we’ll talk to you soon.
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