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Property Management Blog

Published on Friday, July 13, 2012

Do Short-Term Rentals Make Sense for Property Managers?

Some property owners have earned as much as 25% of their mortgage in a single night. And during special events or peak rental periods in a given area, potential rental rates can be very attractive to property owners. Because of the income short-term rentals can procure, the opportunity for profit potential may be exponential – but there are several considerations that should be kept in mind.

First and foremost, it’s essential to keep the added costs of maintaining a short-term rental in mind. These rentals can be subject to Hotel Occupancy Taxes in certain cities, while other cities require specific licensures and inspections not required of traditional, long-term rentals. Penalties for not abiding by short-term rental laws in your city may result in hefty fines. There can also be increased insurance costs. Additionally, the cost of regular upkeep and maintenance, including utilities, should be calculated. In order to continually attract tenants, your property must be kept in prime condition, both functionally and cosmetically. From a marketing perspective, this could include offering unique amenities like sporting equipment or movie libraries, all of which are additional expenses. On the flip side, the regular maintenance of these properties has been credited with helping to increase neighboring property values.

Legal issues are another important consideration given the ongoing public debate and subsequent restrictions arising in many cities. Some city officials and neighborhood associations oppose short-term rentals for many reasons including a fear of transient tenants potentially bringing chaos and crime to communities, noise and parking complaints and a failure to fall under the same standards required of local hotels. Because ordinances, zoning limitations and overall restrictions are popping up all over the country, it’s necessary to be aware of the possibility of your property being restricted by new laws. New York City, for instance, has recently banned all rentals under 30 days. Though San Francisco has a written law of the same nature, it’s instead levied a 15-16% transient occupancy tax that reaps millions of dollars in revenue for the city.

Aside from the considerations that should be kept in mind, there seems to be a well of favorable reasons to contemplate short-term rentals. Short-term property managers prefer these rental types for many reasons, and for reasons other than the revenue potential. Property owners who have a sentiment for a home they’re renting on a short-term basis claim it allows for a more feasible preservation of a home, allowing regular entry and ongoing maintenance and beautification that isn’t typical of long-term rentals. Other claims suggest that short-term rentals promote tourism in communities, particularly communities who may not have optimal hotel capacity during peak visiting periods. And lastly, there’s hefty tax breaks that are sometimes associated with the maintenance costs of operating a short-term rental. Advertising and maintenance costs as well as high-ticket improvements can also be tax deductions.

With all these things in mind, it’s important to calculate both the pros and cons associated with short-term rentals before diving into the deep water surrounding them.
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Landlord Knowledge Base

If you’ve ever considered investing in a few rental properties in Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA now might be a good time. Prices are still low in Philadelphia, but have been on the upswing. According to the National Association of Realtors, the median price of an existing home in a US metropolitan area grew 13.7% between July 2012 and July 2013, the latest in a 17-month streak of year-over-year price increases. 

New landlords can choose from properties that are likely to appreciate and a large pool of potential renters.Licensed realtor Pat Mueller cites a few reasons for this trend: “Many families have lost their homes to foreclosure and are entering the rentals market for the first time in years. Mortgages are also harder to get now, so fewer people are qualifying for a new one.”The more skills you bring to the table to get into Houses for Rent in Philadelphia Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA and the more time you have to devote to your properties, the faster you can make a return on your investment. 

But investing in rentals can also be disastrous (or too stressful to be worthwhile) without expertise. Here are three professionals you may consult about your new rental properties, and what you can do to mitigate how much they cost you:Handyman:  You may need to hire a specialist for some work on your rental. If you need new outlets or new pipes, for example, hire an electrician, plumber or licensed contractor. Handymen usually tackle smaller, more manageable tasks, like:

  • Painting and paint removal
  • Drywall repair
  • Minor appliance repairs (fixing a leaky toilet or faucet, among others)
  • Installing tiling or flooring, moldings, windows, doors
  • Refinishing decks, cabinets and other wood items

When You Could Skip It: You could do any (or all) of these projects yourself if you have the time and interest in learning. Of course, this only works if you live relatively close to your rentals and are flexible enough to service them on short notice. And if you’re willing to respond to the occasional 5 AM basement flooding.

Average Savings: Any base rates or costs-per-hour vary from location to location in Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA , but nationally, you can expect to spend an average of $60 to $85 per hour for repair costs. It general costs less to hire an individual handyman than a handyman employed by a company. Expect an additional charge if your job requires a trip to the store for materials.

Resident Property Manager As the owner of a handful of rental properties, you may be able to manage them yourself, but if you want help, a single resident manager would probably be more cost efficient than a property management company. Resident managers may:

  • Serve as a handyman
  • Advertise vacancies in your units
  • Show apartments to prospective tenants
  • Review rental applications
  • Collect rents

When You Could Skip It: Again, the closer you live to your properties and the more spare time you have, the less likely you are to need a manager. The obligations of being a boss will also cut into the time you save on maintenance.

Average Savings: The national median wage for residential managers is just over $25 per hour. Research the wages in your community and adjust according to how much responsibility your manager will take on. 

Real Estate Agent: Once you’ve gotten your financials in order and done your own research on the neighborhood(s) you’re considering, you might contact a realtor to show you potential properties. You can also arrange for a realtor in Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA to show rentals once they’re ready to rent.

When You Could Skip It: It depends. Even if you’re a local, or have thoroughly researched the neighborhood(s) you’re considering, a realtor is a great resource for a first-time rental buyer. Realtors have access to data and statistics not necessarily available to the general public and first-time buyers may not know all the right questions to ask. Using a realtor to fill your Houses for Rent vacancies is less of a no-brainer, depending on your other time commitments or whether you plan to hire a resident manager who could do the same thing.

Average Savings: As a buyer of rental properties, as when buying your own home, sellers typically pay most, if not all, of the buyer’s realtor fees. In this case, Mueller points out there’s little reason not to work with a realtor. For help in filling your units in Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA, the services of a realtor would set you back between 10-20% of the unit’s rent per month.  Mueller recommends interviewing with several brokers before making your final decision to invest into Houses for Rent .

The Bottom Line: As a new landlord, you can’t necessarily control the flexibility of your schedule or the amount (and cost) of unexpected repairs to your properties. Rentals are a long-term investment. However, to maximize profits from your Houses for Rent, new rentals, you can buy close to home and start small. It is best to begin with just one or two properties. This will allow you to maximize the time you spend on your properties’ needs, and minimize the amount you’ll have to pay anyone else.

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