A couple weekends ago, Tim and I went rental house shopping and visited about a dozen homes that are vacant and available for rent. Looking for a rental property that meets our families needs is just as hard as when we were looking for a home to buy many years ago. We are looking for a home that has at least five rooms (bedrooms, dens, family rooms), at least two bathrooms and a decent sized, dog friendly backyard, and preferably single story with close neighbors but not “reach out and touch their house” close.
We started our search with 5 bedrooms within our price range but those seems to move lightning fast and we’re about a half day away from the target relocation city so we moved down to 3 and 4 bedroom homes with extra spaces likes dens and family rooms. We need at least 3 bedrooms (one for us, one for the boys, and one for my mom), a space for a home office, and a space for the boys’ “office” for their computer desks and school stuff. With the homes we saw, it looks like we’ll be looking for some time before the right house hits the market for us. But don’t fret, our little trip taught us a lot so I summed up our lessons for you.
Yard Expectation Varies By Neighborhood
Upper class neighborhoods have large landscaped front and back yards with automatic watering systems. The middle class neighborhoods have medium to large natural (read: dirt) back yards with little to no front yard or have tiny back yards with big, wasteful, and ugly front yards. It’s a fantastic insight into what each class thinks about when they build a home. Of course, this isn’t always right but it’s a good idea to adjust your expectation to the neighborhood.
More Square Footage Doesn’t Mean More Usable Space
Upper class neighborhoods have a lot of unusable space or strangely laid out floor plans. A half bathroom in the middle of the downstairs area dividing the kitchen and living room thus creating a hallway to nowhere on one side. Half of the house dedicated to the master suite but regular bedrooms that could barely hold a twin bed and a dresser. Kitchens with little cabinet and pantry space.
Middle class neighborhoods have smaller square footage but they make the most out of it with open floor plans that make the house seem larger but sometimes you’ll stumble into a mix of the two; sometimes with disastrous results like add-ons that have no method for heating and cooling the extra space.
Landscaping Choices Are Important
Xeriscaping while efficient is seriously ugly and makes me want to cry every time I open a back door and see the poorly executed xeriscaped yards. It seems around here xeriscape is equal to putting gravel in your backyard. It’s not great for dog owners. It’s not great for kids. But it does provide insight into the home owners brain and tells me that they prefer single tenants or couples with no kids which is amazing given that the home has so many bedrooms. Or maybe they think kids don’t need to go outside and exercise in the fresh air. But don’t get me wrong, xeriscaping can be done in a pet and kid friendly way but apparently no one taught that method in any of the homes we saw that weekend.
Incomplete Repairs Define The Landlord
A little elbow grease before showing a rental property to potential tenants is expected when the home has been on the market for more than 15 days. Broken cabinets, holes in doors, and previous tenant belongings scream “landlord who doesn’t care for the upkeep of the property”. Most home viewers understand the amount of time it takes to get everything up to showing but it’s best to note this in any listing to warn potential tenants.
We overheard one couple thoroughly disgusted with a property because a few cabinets in the bathrooms were broken and there was a portion of the carpet that was not even. The woman exclaimed, “What if I were to catch my toe on this bulge causing me to fall onto the floor.” I had to hold back laughter at the thought of her tripping over carpet. How does one even think about catching their toe on an almost invisible carpet bulge?
House Showings Are Rough
Potential tenants are more likely to have open discussions if you aren’t up in their face when you show them the house. The houses we spent the most time hashing out ways to make the home work are the homes where no one showed us the home and we were free to spend as much time as we needed discussing the pros and cons of the home layout.
One property management team uses a fantastic keypad lock and they give you a multiple digit code that allows you access during a two-hour window. Another one takes a refundable cash deposit and will give you keys for multiple homes for a 24 hour period. Another one simply gives you the code to all her property lock boxes. All of them require photo ids so they know who’s coming and going at the properties.