Landlord Stress Management 101
Where do you de-stress? On some tropical island? In the cast of a play? At the disco? Wherever you de-stress, we’ll help you get there.
If you’re a DIY landlord — someone with a handful of properties and little support to help you stay on top of them — chances are your life is full of ‘landlord stress.’ It’s doubtless motivating at times…and equally doubtless crippling at others. How do you manage stress and property at the same time? Panic! Just kidding, it’s not that hard. There are two essential aspects to the task: the first is enabling yourself, and the second is disconnecting yourself.
Enabling Yourself: Lazy Equals Genius
The first aspect of managing landlord stress is removing the stress, which means finding the 20% of your process that generates 80% of your stress, and finding a way to change the workflow around those processes to make them less stress-producing. For example:
- If you have problems because you have several ‘headache’ tenants, sit down and identify what exactly it is about them that causes your headaches. Make a list of attributes that they share, and then (staying within the anti-discrimination law, naturally) screen out applicants with similar attributes. It won’t solve your current problem, but it will reduce your long-term stress enormously.
- You can also do the same with great tenants, making a list of attributes you’d like to seek out because they seem to work well for you. You’ll still need to screen them, naturally, because there’s always people hiding big problems, but you’ll at least know who you generally work best with — and as you find more of these tenants, the easier life gets!
- If you have problems because you have problems collecting rent and other payments easily, put in the time to set up one of several free online rent-collection portals. BiggerPockets.com has a good review of rent-collection portals for you to choose between, and any one of them can be great for reducing landlord stress.
- Hire a Virtual Assistant to help you with paperwork and other time-consuming tasks. It sounds daunting, but the reality is that VAs have grown to be a valuable and perfectly normal part of almost every industry in the past several years, and there’s no reason whatsoever to be intimidated. Here’s a link for anyone wondering exactly how a VA can help a landlord.
- Stop the snowball problems before they get rolling. That means being prompt and thorough regarding repairs and maintenance, being firm (but fair!) on rent collection, and especially screening the heck out of your tenants. There’s little doubt that the most stressful problems in a landlord’s life have innocent-seeming origins — don’t get complacent, and you won’t get nearly as stressed.
Disconnecting Yourself: The Emperor’s New Doze
The other side of the coin is setting yourself up to be able to take a break every once in a while. The wrong way to do this is also the most commonplace: you just schedule a vacation, give the tenants your cell number in case there’s a genuine emergency, and then ignore anything that isn’t an actual emergency until you get home. That’s a recipe for coming home to several disasters at once.
Don’t threaten yourself with a good time! The right way to vacation is to follow these steps:
- Choose a time when there’s nothing on your plate — after rent is collected, when there are no ongoing renovations, evictions, or other long processes that might require your attention.
- Make arrangements with a property management company, a trusted (and talented and preferably experienced) friend or relative, or ‘time share’ with another landlord, covering each other’s vacations. These arrangements should be made well in advance, and you should do it formally, with a contract and all of the hindquarters-covering you can arrange.
- Alert your tenants as soon as you have the details finalized — and then, if that alert was more than 6 weeks ago, alert them again 2 weeks before, and then a third time as you depart for your vacation.
By simplifying your on-time and maximizing the actual off-ness of your off-time, you can minimize your stress levels, stay on top of things more easily, and walk away victorious.