So you want to be a landlord. Think twice.

I take no responsibility for my tenant's interior design choices.

I take no responsibility for my tenant’s interior design choices.

When I lived in Washington, D.C., I was fortunate to have owned a townhouse for a virtual song.  The apartment downstairs basically covered my mortgage and other costs.

The one-bedroom unit with access to a patio that my tenants shared with me rented quickly during my ten years of ownership.

Each of my tenants but one was great, not making too many demands, too much noise or really any problems at all.  It was the last one that, had I the choice, I probably would have traded the benefits of my tenants over the prior eight and a half years to have forgone my experience with him.

First, he wanted a new screen door to the garden.  He got it.  Then he was unhappy with the washing machine.  There was nothing wrong with it.  And then. . . and then. . . You get the picture.  Finally, he broke his lease and didn’t want to pay the penalty for that.

Given all the requirements of being a landlord, the energy of doing that so often must be expended, vacancies that are hard to anticipate and maintenance costs that have a way of adding up, I got off pretty easily.

Such often is not the case for landlords who have dollar signs dancing in their heads at a time when it was — or is, depending on the local market — relatively cheap to buy real estate and quick to rent it out.

The patio

The patio

In a column, Broderick Perkins quotes a executive as listing five questions to ask before you become a landlord.

They center on gathering information about the neighborhood, the market, hidden costs and your ability to make repairs yourself.

One of the most pertinent questions in some markets such as Washington, D.C. involves local laws intended to protect tenants.  In D.C., it requires virtually more money, anguish and especially time to get rid of a tenant (even if that person is merely a roommate of the leaseholder) than to gut renovate a six-room apartment — by yourself.

A concern that is unmentioned in the column has to do with a rental property far from home.  I tried that too, impulsively at an auction I was assigned to cover years ago by Money magazine.

Let me say just this about that experience: Never again.

Tomorrow: Show-offs

To take your own bite out of the Big Apple, you have the option here to search all available properties privately.

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Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

M: 347-886-0248
F: 347-438-3201
Web site

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