When DIY Stands for Don't Impair Yourself

DC’s real estate market is unlike anywhere else in the country. Its location as the home of the federal government creates a market some refer to as “recession-proof,” respective to other cities. It also tends to be a more transient place for the same reason.

Together, these two market factors encourage people to purchase property in the District, perhaps live in it for a couple years, then move to a new place by necessity or choice. Depending on the market cycle, some DC homeowners needing to vacate may choose to hold their asset until they’re ready to sell at a certain profit margin or perhaps reoccupy the residence at a later date. These situations are ideal for renting the property to break even on expenses or earn a profit while waiting out the market.

Just because a homeowner may be a successful professional doesn’t mean he or she will have the resources, experience or time to manage the property, particularly from afar. Getting the right property management company is therefore critical to optimizing the homeowner’s time and money and eliminating the headaches of essentially taking on a second job that can demand your immediate attention at any given time.

1.       Knowing the rental market is one of the most important reasons you should hire a property management company. With access to the multiple listing and a variety of other honed resources, a professional manager is best equipped to research the comps, both current and upcoming, and list your property at an optimal rent.

Making a layman’s guesstimate could mean shooting too high and losing out on a couple months’ rent, while competing properties scoop up prospective tenants. It could also stigmatize the property as overpriced and stale by languishing on the market. Setting rents too low may mean fast occupancy, but the homeowner loses out on hundreds or even thousands of dollars by year end, once he or she has committed to a lease term.

2.       We live in a time when print ads have fallen to the wayside in favor of online marketing. While sites like Craigslist, Trulia, Zillow and even Facebook are highly utilized DIY tools for landlords and tenants to list and search properties, with an abundance of listings and information crowding cyberspace, making sure your property stands out among all the others is fundamental to how fast it rents and what caliber tenant it attracts.

That’s where the help of a leasing department comes in handy. These professionals can create a more targeted and attractive advertising product and devote more time to following up on prospective tenants than DIYers. A property management company will also know what improvements to make to the property before marketing it, so as to appeal to the most tenants and obtain the highest rent.

3.       Once a tenant is selected, feeling confident he or she will pay on time and not cause damage or otherwise become problematic is critical to your investment and peace of mind. Appearances can be deceiving, and that prospective renter may not be who you assume him or her to be. That’s why having a management company professionally screen prospective renters for proof of income, credit score, rental and criminal history, and other vital qualifications is highly recommended.

4.       Renting your property legally in DC naturally means a flurry of paperwork and bureaucracy. (Think multiple trips to the DMV, where you keep learning about a new form to fill out or document to bring with you.) Having a property management company that keeps on top of these requirements and will do all the legwork for you in the most efficient manner can save you from fines or delays in renting to willing tenants.

5.       Depending on the condition of the property and the living habits of the tenant, there will inevitably come a time when something (or several things) stop working properly. DIY homeowners may not be able to properly diagnose the type of problem or know which vendor to call. Without working relationships with various contractors or having the benefit of a management company with its own in-house maintenance personnel, a homeowner may wonder if he or she is getting a fair price for the work performed or if the problem is getting solved properly. Depending on the issue’s complexity, this could cost a DIYer hours of personal research and hundreds to thousands of dollars in unnecessary expenses, not to mention some late-night or inconvenient emergencies better left to the pros.

Being a homeowner is an investment opportunity that comes with its share of difficulties and frustrations. When looking to rent your home, it pays to first do your homework on local property management companies. For pennies on the dollar, the right company will maximize your asset’s potential and the value of your time, instead of squandering it reinventing the wheel.


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EJF Real Estate Services, Inc.
1428 U Street NW, 2nd Floor
Washington, DC 20009
202 537-1801