Friday, February 13, 2015

Selling a Sacramento investment property is a lot different than selling your own home. Part I; Working with your tenants...

Recently I have received a lot of inquiries to list and sell small "investment properties." What's an investment property? An investment property is any rental property - for example, a duplex, triplex or fourplex, or a single family home or condo.

Since property values in Sacramento have increased in the last few years since the bottom of the real estate market, it seems that folks are looking to cash in their chips. The element that is most interesting to me is that most (not all) of the investment property sellers I am speaking with are looking to sell because they don't like being landlords, and rather than roll their equity or sales proceeds into a bigger better investment property via a tax deferred 1031 Exchange, they are just looking to cash out.

Selling an investment property is a lot different than selling your own home. First and foremost, somebody else, a tenant, is likely living in the property. Second, since you don't live there, you may not know much about the property. Third, there are things like deposits, maintenance expenses, utilities, repairs, and rental income to factor into the equation. And fourth, often times the monthly rental income the property produces is an important element in determining value -- not just the property as compared to the sales prices of other recent sales of comparable properties.

Over the next few weeks I will write about the different considerations investment property owners face when selling...

Let's talk about tenants first. A tenant can really make or break your property's sale. An uncooperative tenant can cost a seller thousands of dollars in a sale. For example, are they tidy or messy? Some tenants treat rental property like their own home, are clean and take pride in its appearance, maybe do minor maintenance themselves, and let their landlords know if something is broken and needs fixing. On the other side, I've seen some tenants who are borderline hoarders, their units smell bad, there are dirty clothes and moldy food everywhere, and they haven't cleaned the bathroom in a few years. A new buyer looks at those issues and immediately thinks in terms of potential cleaning and repair costs, and may pass on the property all together or hit you up for a lower price or concessions for repairs. Another thing to consider when selling a property with a tenant: are they going to be cooperative with allowing showings, or not? Some tenants are very understanding, want to make a good impression on their possible future landlord and accommodate showings and access to the property for inspections. Other tenants will feel threatened by the possibility of a new landlord, feel afraid they will be kicked out of their home, and not make the effort to make the unit available on their own accord. Some tenants will insist to be present for showings and sabotage the potential buyer’s impression of the property.

So what do you do when you have a tenant who falls into the problem category? I find the best approach with tenants is complete and total transparency -- do not hide the fact you are planning to sell. Nothing creates more tenant hostility than a landlord who lists a property and the first notice a tenant gets is a seeing a “for sale” sign in the front yard. Communicate with them. Let them know that you want/need to sell and that you want to make the process as easy as possible. Ask to make an appointment with them and meet at their unit - this allows you the chance to talk, and allows you to see the unit. If the unit is messy, offer to have it professionally cleaned for them. Most tenants will jump at the chance to have their unit cleaned for free. If you can afford it, you might offer to incentivise the tenant by offering a temporary reduction in rent in exchange for cooperation with showings while the property is for sale. If you do that, be sure to do it in writing with very clear parameters. Be sure to introduce your Realtor to the tenants and make sure they know how to contact each other. Set clear parameters for arranging showings and access -- like “by appointment with 24 hours notice.” If you need to arrange extended access to a buyer for inspections, maybe offer them some movie tickets in exchange for being away 3-4 hours.

Most tenants do want to help you succeed in your sale and make a smooth transition to the new week I will talk about disclosures for a rental property since you don’t have first hand knowledge of the potential idiosyncrasies about the property...

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