5 Tips on Renting Out Your First Property

Here’s a quick update 5 months after I purchased this rental. The biggest difference (visually) is painting this kitchen and adding all the new appliances. I ended up renting this place within 2 days of listing it on Zillow while I am in Iceland on vacation. It was definitely a rollercoaster ride of 5 months but totally worth it. Here are 5 lessons I learned from having this first investment property. 

1. Painting kitchen cabinets & adding knobs

TL;DR: would totally do it again.

I debated on painting the kitchen cabinets. On the one hand, the motto I go by for rentals to prevent myself from overspending is “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it,” but on the other hand, this kitchen looked very dingy with the old brown cabinets, brown colored linoleum floor, and brown walls. By painting the cabinets a lighter color, the photos popped so much more. Most people I showed the before/after photos thought I also painted the walls. I didn’t. It just brings in so much more light to the kitchen which people spend a lot of times in. Some tips about painting kitchen cabinets which I either found from watching youtube videos or from this experience:

  • Use painters tape and number the cabinet doors when you take them off so you can put that exact door back on.
  • I had leftover wall paint which has “eggshell” finish. You really want “high gloss” finish for kitchen cabinets for ease of cleaning. So I bought a pint (very small!) of high gloss white color to go on top.
  • White color: white dove Benjamin Moore (see other popular white comparison here) – you can match color and get a cheaper paint with Lowe’s / Home Depot brand.
  • Green color: Tranquility Benjamin Moore (see example here by Younghouselove)
  • Do you need to spray the cabinets to not have hand-painted streaklines? Depending on the market and the type of the house. For this base-line 3 bedroom 2 bath starter rental, I’d say no. I painted them by hand and the streakline looks kind of cool if I may say so myself.
  • Use an oil based primer to cover existing colors on the cabinets. I used Kilz
  • Use a separate brush for the primer, keep it in the fridge wrapped in a dog poop bag to keep it moist, work fast, and throw this brush away because washing this brush was SO ANNOYING.
  • I bought the kitchen handles from Amazon (small & large).

I think having the kitchen refreshed with a coat of paint really helped me renting out this house very quickly and helped me get the rental income I wanted to be. 

2. Get to know your neighbors, yes, around the rental

TL;DR: would totally do it again.

I learned this from Building Wealth One House at a Time by John Schaud I read in 2020 (see my notes here). I find getting to know my neighbors are really helpful when you need to borrow tools, ask them to keep an eye on the property when you are on vacation, in case your dog runs away, etc. Overall, it gives an inclusive feeling for you and the neighbors you are in it together to protect your neighborhood. If your tenant turn out to be someone sketchy, they will be the first to let you know!

3. Why I decided to hire a management company

TL;DR: would totally do it again.

I am usually very hands-on with my projects. After we bought this house, we lived in it for two months while renting out our main house in the summer on Airbnb. During this time, I realized I really hate dealing with tenants, especially entitled adults with young children. Balancing pros & cons, I decided to find a management company to handle everything for this long-term rental. This is totally a personal decision, and depending on your personality and your time commitment, it might be better for you to self-manage. I thought I was going to self-manage just to save the 10% management fees, but it’s not really worth the headache for me. So I outsourced it and now I can free up my time to find better deals or just enjoy my quiet time!

With the management company, I don’t have to do maintenance and a lot of the small repairs. I can also get quite a good price on it because the management company has a low-cost handyman that goes around all their properties and takes care of the small repairs. It would cost me a lot more time and headache to do it myself. 

I also don’t have to worry about the tenant’s background checks, changing air filters, collecting rent, or possibly evictions. For someone as frugal as me, I am very surprised that I truly enjoy having a management company taking care of everything. 

4. Do a little cosmetic repair that doesn’t cost much

TL;DR: would totally do it again.

The last owner left me some blinds for the window in the garage. One day I was sitting in front of the window working and the sun was blazing on me, and it became so hot, I finally decided to install the blinds. It only took about 15 – 20 minutes to figure out how to put them up, but they made a huge difference for the room to look less basic.

5. Rented out my own house on Airbnb while renovating this rental

TL;DR: would probably not do it again.

My original thought process was for the couple of months this rental is not rented, I could live in it but rent out my own house on Airbnb which would bring me income to offset the couple of months of no rental income. I don’t think I would replicate this in the future.

Don’t get me wrong, I planned everything out. Financially it made sense, but emotionally and logistically, it was a little hell-ish. I had to travel back and forth between my rental (where I live) and my airbnb (my main house). There would be days where I drive between houses and Walmart multiple times cleaning, trying to get supplies, forgotten things, etc. At the end of the day I am just beat. 

I made a small amount of money after all the furnishing. Overall, the profit did not outway the trouble + time + expenses. I would not want to replicate this in the next deal. But for some people, this could be an option, and possibly hire an Airbnb property manager (they usually charge a lot higher than long-term rentals, about 25%-35% which you will have to consider when calculating your profit).

Overall, it was a great win for 2021. It was a great experience finding my first rental and successfully renting it out. Share in the comments your lessons learned from your investment properties!

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