Thursday, December 27, 2018

Vacancy: Landlord's Worst Nightmare

Vacancies Keep me Awake at Night!
A few days ago we filled our last vacancy.

What a Relief!

The search took about three weeks. Our property manager began advertising the unit on November 19th. 

We started with $1,650 asking price, which was higher than the average for similar units in the area. There were barely any inquiries at that price. 

December and January are typically slow months for tenant search. People are busy with holiday prep and after holidays they go into hibernation-mode for the remainder of the winter. I was worried that we'd have a vacancy until Spring.

Vacancies Keep Me Awake at Night

The reason I am so afraid of vacancies is because they are very costly. Every month of vacancy, I'd have to come up with money to pay the mortgage, property taxes, utilities and, in case of this specific property, property management and condo fees as well.


Typically, they recommend that you include 2-5% vacancy fee in your cash flow calculations.

Given 5% vacancy, my annual cash flow would be $1,280. Or $100 a month.

In reality 5% only works if you manage to go without vacancies for a while. Actual losses are a lot higher!

For example, my annual loss for a year with one month of vacancy is about ($1,660). That's because:

I will not get a month of rent of $1,600
Pay about $300 for the utilities during that month
Pay about $2000 for tenant search and making the unit ready - fresh paint, minor fixes, etc. add up
Pay all regular expenses of $16,960...

If my property is vacant for two months, the loss will be ($3,560).

With three months of vacancy, I'd lose ($5,460).

Once I do find a tenant, it will take a l-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ng time to catch up.

I'd need the tenant to stay for almost 2 years, to catch up after one month of vacancy.
The tenant will have to stick for over 3.5 years to catch up after two months of vacancy.
Lastly, the tenant will have to stay for almost 6 years, to fully catch up after three months of vacancy.

My math is simplified, of course. I don't take rent increases into account at all, for instance. Still, you get the idea why I hate vacancies. Vacancy losses are horrific.

The danger is on the flip side as well. If you rush and get a BAD tenant, you can end up with thousands and thousands in losses... See my blog post here for details - My $30,000 Mistake.

Here is a chart with the numbers in my examples above:

5% Vacancy
   1 month
   2 months 
   3 months 
Gross Rent$19,200$19,200$19,200$19,200
Less Vacancy($960)($3,900)($5,800)($7,700)
Rent Income$18,240$15,300$13,400$11,500
Financing Cost$6,860$6,860$6,860$6,860
Condo Fee$5,304$5,304$5,304$5,304
Property Taxes$1,961$1,961$1,961$1,961
Property Management$1,094$1,094$1,094$1,094
Total Expenses$16,960$16,960$16,960$16,960
Net Profit (Loss):$1,280($1,660)($3,560)($5,460)

Success! Got a Great Tenant

Needless to day, the pressure was on.

We lowered the price by $50 to $1,600. Luckily, the interest picked up! 

The ad generated over 230 views, 15 inquiries, three viewings, and a great application on December 9th. 

Our property manager uses Naborly for tenant screening. I've never seen a Naborly report before and was quite impressed. The multi-page document covered most of the information that I typically review for a candidate and gave some additional insights. Here is what the report covered:
  • General info about all occupants
  • Previous addresses and address verification
  • Equifax credit summary and score
  • Debt summary including monthly debt payments
  • Rental history
  • Financial information
  • Employment history
  • Analytics showing the likelihood of key tenancy risks (late payments, eviction, property damage) 
  • Analytics showing the likelihood of a successful tenancy during the entire term.
Our property manager also collected a photo ID, a full credit report, and a letter from the employer. They conducted a face-to-face interview and verified employment and personal references. My property manager summarized their findings including possible risks.

I reviewed all the information as well and did my own due diligence. I typically research every piece of factual information and make sure all facts align and make sense. The way I do it is very simple: research every name, every address, every company name, every email, and every phone number that the candidate provided; look in Google and on all social media platforms; contact all references and chat with them; verify income.

In this case, all checks were successful. I accepted the application and to my delight, the tenant confirmed that they'd like to go forward as well.

No Vacancies!!!!!
Overwhelmed with JOY and
will definitely sleep like a baby :)
The property manager impressed me very much! This was the first time when they found a tenant for me and I loved how smooth the tenant on-boarding process was. 

As soon as this last vacancy was filled, I started sleeping like a baby again! 

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