When you purchase a home, you make a mental judgment about how long you plan to live there. If the time frame is relatively short, e.g., less than five years, it usually doesn’t make sense to purchase. But sometimes our mental judgments are wrong, or life circumstances force us to move away unexpectedly. It might be because of a job loss, a big promotion, or a family emergency; regardless, you suddenly find yourself with a home that you either need to sell or find a way to rent it out.
Renting Out Your House When You Move to Another State
Renting out your home is not for the faint of heart. Letting strangers move into your house (a significant financial asset) is a scary prospect. You can do it though, just don’t jump in without thinking everything through and protecting yourself legally and financially.
1. Use a Realtor
If you have had your home on the market with a Realtor but haven’t had any acceptable offers, that same Realtor can help you advertise the home for rent.
Most real estate agencies will help prospective buyers find homes to rent in an area they want to live in while they save up a down payment or get comfortable with the area.
You can expect to pay a fee to the Realtor of 1 month’s rent for a 12-month lease that they set up for you. Some agencies will also handle all of the property management for you: accepting rent checks, scheduling maintenance, and so on.
2. Use a Property Management Company
Alternatively, you can hire a Property Management company to do all the work for you.
This option is similar to using your real estate agency except that property management companies exist only to rent out the property for owners.
Real estate agencies really would rather sell a home and may not do as good of a job finding you a renter. The property management company’s fee is usually a percentage of the total rent each month (ranging from 8% to 12%) plus all or part of the first month’s rent.
3. Do It Yourself
Lastly, you can try renting the property out on your own.
I say as a last resort because unless you are a real estate and leasing pro, this option can be tedious and risky. Not having enough experience can expose you to liability and financial loss if you don’t screen your renters well. A bad tenant can damage the property or even destroy the home.
Secondly, if you are living in another state, it can be a big hassle to do all the work — e.g., get the home shown to potential renters, get the paperwork signed, and accepting payment each month. Any problems that come up will require a call to you, and you will have to track down the appropriate maintenance company to take care of the problem.
However, if you can successfully find good renters you will save yourself all of the fees that a property management or realtor might charge you to rent the property for you. It’s the classic trade-off of doing something yourself to save a buck versus paying someone else to do it well.
Many states and counties publish information for landlords and tenants that contain all the rules and regulations. It is highly recommended that you obtain this from your State or Local government.
Kevin Mulligan is a debt reduction champion with a passion for teaching people how to budget and stay out of debt. He’s building a personal finance freelance writing career and has written for RothIRA.com, Discover Bank, and many others.