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Many second homeowners find themselves wanting, or needing, to rent out their second home. If you haven’t been a landlord before, and this is part of your plan, you’ll want to make your home as inviting and as renter-proof as possible.
First things first: Make sure you’re complying with all local and federal laws when it comes to renting out your place. Your second home will be designated as an investment property for tax purposes. There may also be local laws about how your place is rented. For example, some municipalities have rules about how many non-related people can live in a home, usually so a neighborhood doesn’t get overrun with student apartments.
Decide if you’ll be using a property manager or going the DIY route. There are costs associated with hiring a property manager, but there are also costs to having unhappy tenants. Consider your options on this one, and be realistic about how much time you can commit to managing your property.
Get everything fixed. All of it, from the slightly chipped paint that you hardly notice anymore and the leaky faucet in the kitchen to the toilet that’s easily clogged and the missing rod on the staircase. Your place should be move-in ready for renters. You may want to have a friend do a walk through with you because you stop noticing things in your own home after a while.
Remove anything personal. If your place is a vacation rental, this will be a more involved process, because it will be furnished. Anything that’s really special to you should be put away, possibly in the owner’s closet. And keep the decor minimal. The fewer knick-knacks you have, the fewer things there are to get broken.
Learn how to market your place. Opening up your place to tenants won’t make you any money unless you know how to get them there and keep them there! Make a plan before you start.
Get feedback. Though you don’t want to send all of your friends on a free vacation, it may help to have someone go stay for the weekend -- without you -- and give you honest feedback about how it went. If you’re renting out your property as a primary residence, have a friend do a walkthrough and ask them to try to see it through a renter’s eyes. And when you get the feedback? Don’t take it personally, and do use it to make your place more marketable. Or you could stay there without opening the owner's closet and see how it goes.
Being a landlord isn’t easy, but it can make your second home easier to afford. Work at it, and it may become a nice source of income!