Weighing the Pros and Cons of Becoming a Landlord

Image of a signature page for a lease agreement with a pen over landlord signature spotReal estate has always been a lucrative industry, and nowadays investment properties are as popular as ever. Who doesn’t love the idea of owning multiple properties and making free money on the one you’re not using? The problem – becoming a landlord. Not everyone wants to be a landlord.

But in reality, you’re not actually making free money as an investment property owner. Whenever you rent out a property to tenants, you take on the responsibility of a landlord. Landlords have their own series of stressful tasks that might make you think twice about becoming an investment property owner.

Let’s weigh the pros and cons of becoming a landlord.

Pros:

Extra Income

The most obvious benefit of being a landlord is that you’ll be making extra income. When you’re renting out to tenants, you can use the rent money to pay the monthly mortgage payment, and then you can pocket the rest. It’s a great way to make some extra cash and also to build your wealth.

In order to make a profit, it’s important that you buy a property in which your monthly mortgage payment is going to be less than you can charge for rent—you’ll have to pay close attention to rent prices in the area to know exactly how much you’ll be able to charge. Regardless, when you pay off the mortgage on the property, you’ll be able to pocket all the rent that your tenants pay. That’s why rental properties are such a great long-term investment.

More Retirement Options

When you own multiple homes, you’ll have more places in which you can choose to retire. When it’s time to collect your final paycheck, you can choose which home you like best (and also which area you like best) and decide to live in that one. Basically, you can use your home to give you more financial leverage during retirement.

What you do with your other properties is up to you. You can keep your other homes and use the rent money to supplement your retirement funds, or you can sell the property and also use the cash to further enjoy your golden years. An investment property can give you more financial freedom in your later years, especially if you’re able to pay off the mortgages on all of them.

You Get to Provide a Home to Someone

Most people complain about their landlords, but who’s to say that your tenants won’t love you? One of the nicest things about being a landlord is that you get to provide a person or family with a place to live. You’ll be providing a space where they can make beloved memories, and there’s a chance that someone may refer to it someday as their “childhood home.” And if you do a good job responding to maintenance requests and if you charge fair rent, you’ll be contributing to that in a positive way.

Cons:

Bad Tenants

You might want to use a lawyer directory before you become a landlord because it’s almost inevitable that you’ll get at least one bad tenant. Bad tenants are those people who consistently don’t pay their rent on time, who consistently and severely damage your property, and who run illicit activities inside the home. Sometimes, these tenants can be incredibly difficult to evict, depending on which state you’re renting in.

Have a good eviction lawyer on hand just in case you need to consult with them, and if you do manage to find your dream tenants, do what you can to encourage them to continue renting the home for a long length of time. And before you offer a lease to any tenant, always, always, always, run a tenant background check.

Property Management

When you’re a landlord, you’re responsible for maintaining a habitable environment for your tenants. It’s your responsibility to respond to maintenance requests, like clogged toilets, faulty wiring, and rat infestations. If you have a day job, it can be incredibly difficult to find time to handle these maintenance requests, especially if you have multiple rental properties. You could always use a property management company to handle maintenance requests for you and collect rent, but keep in mind that you’ll have to pay them monthly, which could reduce your profitability.

Lost Profit

An investment property is nothing more than an investment, and every investment carries risk. The risk for you is that you won’t be able to charge a high enough rent to counterbalance the mortgage payments, and so you won’t make a profit. You’ll still be building equity, but you won’t have that extra pocket cash that every landlord hopes for. You could wind up losing money on the property if the home values in the area plummet. Such is the nature of real estate investment.

Photo of a young woman holding the keys to a house with a happy couple in the background

Final thoughts

Of course, owning rental properties takes cash. You have to have the money either to pay for the house or have at least a 20% downpayment to get a mortgage without PMI (private mortgage insurance). Do you have the cash to do either or both of these things? Then rental properties can be a very good investment option.

If not, another way to access real estate is through publically traded REITs or crowdfunded REITs. Both of these options allow smaller investors access to real estate.

If you're able to do repairs and maintenance on your own, managing properties yourself will save you a ton of money. If not, hiring a property manager might be your best option. Yes, they cost money. But if it makes life easier for you and allows you to have positive cash flow, it's probably worth the money.

While being a landlord definitely comes with its burdens and risks, most of these risks are surmountable with a little planning and know-how.

Now it's your turn. Do you own rental properties? Do you manage them yourself? Use a property manager? Let us know in the comments below.

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