How to Rent Out Your Home While Working Abroad
Renting out your residence while you are abroad is a cost-effective way to bring in some extra income while making sure your home is being cared for. Being both an expat and a landlord can be tricky. As an added bonus, many expats use the rental income to reinvest in real estate upon their return, or use the cash to purchase a new home in their host country. However, being both an expat and a landlord can be tricky, so here are some steps that can help make the process smoother.
Communicate with Relevant Parties
Prior to renting out your property, you need to make sure the mortgage lender and insurance agency understand your intentions. According to the U.K.-based Telegraph, it may be illegal to rent your property out depending on your current mortgage or rental agreement. Instead of making this mistake, contact your lender and obtain prior consent for your intention to rent out the property while you are overseas. If they agree, moving forward shouldn't be an issue. In addition, make sure you have domestic property insurance. Be aware that terms of coverage may change when a tenant moves in instead of you.
As an added bonus, many expats use the rental income to reinvest in real estate upon their return, or use the cash to purchase a new home in their host country.
Find a Property Manager
Being an expat and a landlord can be tricky. Although you might be on the other side of the world, you still are responsible for your tenants and managing the property. A qualified and effective property manager could be your closest ally in this endeavor.
According to Start Living Abroad, working with a property manager in your home country can make your life much easier. The property manager will help you find tenants, check in on your property, coordinate property repairs, billing, contracts and keep you informed of news and events going on with your tenants. Most of all, they'll give you the peace of mind to live and work comfortably while abroad.
Property managers typically charge around 10 to 15 percent of what you get for monthly rent to the manager. Also, many larger management companies work for communities that have multiple homes, and won’t take on an individual who is renting out his or home. That limits the pool of potential managers for you to hire.
Here are a few resources that can help you find a property manager:
- The National Association of Residential Property Managers
- All Property Management
- Manage My Property
How to Be Your Own Property Manager
If you really want to maximize your income, you can rent your house or apartment on your own, but there are some things you need to consider, such as repairs. As the landlord, it’s incumbent on you to get repairs done in a timely and effective manner. Find a reliable repair person, and develop a relationship with him or her. If you’re offering steady work, you should be able to negotiate a good rate.
You also should have a family member or close friend serve as a contact person for the tenant when issues arise such as a tenant not paying rent on time, or making noise that results in complaints from a neighbor.
You’ll also need to handle paperwork, such as applications and a rental agreement. Some resources for free agreements:
Knowing what’s going on in the home you own is natural, but checking in isn’t as easy as it may seem. Your apartment or house will be the tenant’s home, and tenants have a right to privacy. In general, a landlord is not allowed to enter a tenant’s home to “check in” on things, and needs cause to do so. Setting up security cameras is out, as that can be considered stalking, and could even lead to criminal charges.
The best bet is to have people you know and trust drive by the home and check for signs. Also, if a repair is needed, the person making the repair can give you an update about the apartment. But be careful here, just because the tenant isn’t caring for the home the way you would doesn’t mean he or she is in violation of the landlord-tenant agreement.
Where to Post Property Online
In addition to a real estate agent, there are lots of places to list your home. Local newspapers are still an option, and Craigslist remains a key source for classified listings.
There also are sites specifically devoted to the real estate market:
- ApartmentList, offers free listings in the United States.
- Zillow is often used by real estate agents, but you can advertise a home for rent manually for free. There also is an upgraded service, Premier Agent, but that is more geared for professionals.
- ApartmentFinder offers free listings in the United Sates.
- Airbnb is one of the most well-known websites for people to rent out their homes, usually on a temporary basis, for people on vacation, or people who need a place to stay for up to a month. It offers free listings for apartments around the world.
- Sublet.com offers free listings for every time of rental housing (sublets, apartments, houses, vacation rentals) around the world.
How to Collect Rent
The goal in renting your apartment is to make money. You can work with your bank to set up payments electronically. You also can accept credit card payments via your iPhone or tablet via companies such as paysimple.com. Payment by check is a bit trickier, as checks should be sent to a friend or family member who can deposit them for you.
Establish firm deadlines, and send out reminder emails a few days before the rent is due, include reminders of payment methods.
Money you make from renting an apartment or house is income, and you will need to file accordingly and pay for taxes. Be sure to keep records of how much you are paid, and also what you spend on expenses, such as repairs.
Get Landlord and Property Insurance
If you own your home, you many need more protection than what your homeowners insurance policy covers. You may be able to add an endorsement for a secondary residence to your policy if you’re renting out for a short term.
But anyone renting out for a long period of time may need landlord insurance, which can offer additional protections, and also can cover rental income you may lose if the apartment becomes uninhabitable because of repairs.
Overall, you have a lot on your plate while abroad. International insurance can make your life easier overseas, and you will always need personal property protection for your belongings, whether you are currently staying in your home or overseas.