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How Much Time Does it Take to Manage Your Own Rental Property?

Written By
Adam on Dec 29, 2021
One of the biggest questions that comes up among property owners is just how much time is required to manage a rental home. We will get to that question later in this piece – promise! – but before doing that, we want to define our terms. Because it is not as simple as it looks.


Specifically, the amount of time you need to set aside for property management not only includes the time required for the expected obligations you will have, but also for the unexpected.
 
The expected requirements are reasonably obvious to everyone who has owned a rental property; they range from having to find great tenants and screen for them, to making necessary updates and repairs, to collecting rent and maintenance.
 
But it is the unexpected demands that are the most troublesome and vexing for homeowners and managers, because they appear unexpectedly and can disrupt your daily life.
 
Whether it is something you can plan for – or otherwise – every responsibility you take on has sub-tasks and sub-sub-tasks beneath them. It is these layers of work that many homeowners fail to take into account when they are deciding whether to hire a property manager or take the task upon themselves.

 
Let’s start with the “finding at tenant” time commitment
 
Identifying tenants involves a real understanding of, and familiarity with, the way that real estate platforms like Zillow work. In and of itself doing that due diligence can require many hours of research and investigation.
 
Once you’ve mastered the underlying processes, you will still have to post your property, review applications, show the house, and make your decision. All that can eat a couple of hours a day, for as long as it takes to rent your place. 
 
Of course, finding the right tenant is the single most important task a homeowner has! So you shouldn’t be – to coin a phrase – “time-wise and penny foolish.” Meaning that it would be a mistake to take shortcuts, make assumptions (i.e., “They seem like a nice couple – might as well draw up a lease), and fail to find the optimal resident.

For example, make sure you spend the necessary time on credit and background checks and identity verification as well. Though there are platforms that take care of this for you, like everything else involved with this process, it still takes time. Also it creates stress. But it will be time well-spent. 

 
 
Then there’s the legal side of it
 
You may not be aware of it, but there are very specific questions you cannot ask a tenant because they are illegal and discriminatory. It takes time to familiarize yourself with these, and of course, it is also time-consuming to prepare a lease; even though there are standard forms available online , you will still need to customize it. If you choose to get a lawyer involved to review the agreement, that’s a further drain on time – and of course, money.

 
Getting your place in shape
 
We all know the complexities involved in renovations and repairs; even relatively minor “freshening” tasks like painting, or having the floors done, or deep cleaning of kitchens and bathrooms, takes time: you have to find contractors , check their backgrounds, and then manage the process. 
 
During the most intense period of this work – when you are getting your place in shape, and are under pressure because the longer your place remains vacant, the less money you’re taking – you should allocate for as much as half your time on a combination of taking bids from contractors, supervising the work, and acting as a mini-general contractor, as you manage painters, plumbers, and electricians.
You own a home.
We have someone to ❤️  it.
Life after move-in
 
Once your tenant moves in, in theory, the demands on your time should be appreciably reduced – and in many cases, they are. You can help streamline some of the processes by moving as much as possible onto digital platforms, including billing. Quicken offers a landlord package , as do dedicated platforms like Doorloop.
 
Keep in mind, though, that like any software, it takes time and effort to learn and acclimate yourself to these systems. And it is not going to eliminate the manual work since many local contractors don’t have e-billing, so you will need to manually enter the paperwork, and scan the invoices into the system. Accurate record-keeping is essential to make sure you’re prepared when tax season rolls along; we’ve heard many stories about “shoebox” filing systems, and how homeowners who tried to save time during the year-end up spending hours upon hours organizing a year’s worth of records for their accountants.

 
The unexpected is the real killer
 
It’s one thing to set aside a specific amount of time for managing your own property, but it’s another to interrupt your work life or your normal routine when something out-of-the-blue happens. But it’s not just the time that is an issue for landlords, it’s the stress and anxiety of not knowing what the next email or phone call will bring.
 
So you need a time cushion to be able to cope with these “reliably unexpected” eventualities – and if you have a demanding job without the ability to shift things around, it could very well be that managing your own property is not for you.

 
So what’s the bottom line?
 
During the “find and secure a tenant phase,” depending on whether you have a broker to show the property or if you are doing it yourself, you should budget between 15% and 40% of your time to the task, with the expectation that the process will take at least a month.
 
During the renovation and repair phase, time demands vary wildly, depending on how much work the property needs, or how much staging is required. If the property only needs some light work and staging, you could be away with 10% of your time. But as mentioned earlier, if you’ve inherited a place that hasn’t been touched for years – or if it needs a ton of work to bring it up to market standards – it could take half your time for a month, or more.
 
Once the tenant is in place, assuming your work will involve collecting the rent and normal maintenance, you should get by with between an hour and two hours a week.
 
But remember, it’s the sub-tasks and the sub-sub tasks mentioned earlier that really pile up the hours. 
 
 
One Last Tip
 
One of the biggest time sucks that landlords have is when a tenant loses their keys and is locked out. One way around that is to install a smart lock – here are some recommended ones . It may seem like an unnecessary expense, it’s far, far better than getting that 2 AM phone call from a distraught tenant. 
 
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About the author
Adam Hanft
Editor in Chief
Adam is a futurist - co-author of "Dictionary of the Future" - brand strategist, public-company board member, former comedy-writer (but he hasn't stopped being vaguely amusing), and an investor in Belong.