Looking to buy a property that already has tenants? Five things to ask
It’s great to look at property where a tenant is already in situ. You’ll get rental income straight away, and it can take a few hassles out of the picture. There will be no vacancy, no letting fees, and you have a ready-made income generating asset.
However, it’s not always a fail safe process. Here are five things you should ask before purchasing the home.
1. How much is the property being rented for?
Finding out what the tenant is paying will quickly help you do your sums – and it will also give you some indication of the current market. However, even if a tenant pays less than you expect and is on a long-term lease, it doesn’t necessarily mean the property is a dud, or that you can’t get more. If they are nearing the end of their tenancy and paying a lower rate of rent than is appropriate for the area, you may be able to negotiate a higher rate or get a new tenant.
A property attracting a low rate of rent may also put off other investors who are doing their own calculations, which might mean there are fewer interested parties to compete with.
A relatively high rate of rent should prompt you to ask whether that rent is sustainable, and how long the tenant has been paying it for.
If they are on a short lease, with the rent jacked up, you can’t always be sure it hasn’t been done to make the property seem more attractive. Always question strange-looking figures, particularly when you’ve compared them to other local rental homes.
2. How long has a tenant been in the property for and what is their lease agreement?
If a tenant is on a fixed agreement, in most states you can’t make them leave and the tenant can’t break the lease just because the property has changed hands. Both can aim to negotiate a break-lease situation on mutually agreeable terms, but there is no obligation for either to accept.
When a property is sold, a lease is transferred to the new owner, not voided. Occasionally, special clauses have previously been inserted to allow the void of a lease in the situation of a sale, but this is very uncommon.
A periodic lease, which is sometimes adopted automatically after a fixed term has lapsed (also known as “off lease”), will often see the tenant able to provide a shortened period of notice to vacate. If you’re hoping for a long-term renter, this may not be an attractive prospect. However, if you are unhappy with the current tenant, this can provide you an opportunity to re-advertise the home for rental.
Tenants on longer term leases, who have kept the property in decent condition, obviously have a successful history with the home.
New tenants in the property, particularly those not paying market rent, may set off your internal alarm bells. Ask why the landlord decided to bring in a new tenant when there was an intention to sell. Remember, you usually cannot increase the rent on a fixed agreement.
3. Has the landlord agreed to anything with the tenant you need to know about?
If the landlord has promised a tenant a clean-up, or new air conditioning, then in many situations you may be bound to this. You need to ask whether there have been any verbal, or otherwise, agreements about inclusions for the tenant. You also want to check for unusual additions, or extra allowances in the lease.
This may include pets, or the payment of certain bills by the landlord, or even allowing the tenant to sub-let a room.
4. How savvy is the property manager?
Firstly, you are not required to keep the current property manager. However, it makes sense to keep the process as smooth and simple as possible – particularly if you want to keep those long-term tenants.
Having a property manager who is familiar with the tenants, and who has done the previous inspection reports and can provide information about repairs, renovations and arrears, can be a true gift. However, not every property manager will have this knowledge. Remember, if you want to change property managers it is prudent to provide around a month in notice, or 28 days.
5. How easy would it be to tenant the property if there wasn’t a renter in place?
Lastly, it’s worth asking yourself whether you could easily get a tenant like this in another property in the area. If you can get a similar home for a better price, with a strong rental market and the ability to run through your own checks and balances, it may be a false economy to go after the one that is already tenanted.
Asking yourself about the strength of the rental market will also protect you should the current tenant vanish or become in arrears. Do not assume that the property will always be tenanted just because someone is renting it at present.
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