I come from Christchurch, New Zealand, where I own a free-hold house. I’ve lived in it for 23 years so you can perhaps imagine how much “stuff” I had accumulated. Kate and I both love to travel and over the years our travel experiences have made us less attached to material things. Actually I had come to feel like my house and all the junk in it were a noose around my neck.
So when we decided to travel for 6+ months this year I was finally ready to part with some of my things, and rent the house out. We had 4 garage sales in total and it was so “freeing” to have a good clean out.
We considered renting the house through a property manager and actually met with one but opted not to proceed for several reasons. In NZ property managers charge 8% of the rent. If you add that to unavoidable costs like taxes, rates (local council tax), insurance and house maintenance, you find that your profit is shrinking fast. Another thing that put us off was their maintenance costs. Our house needed a few repairs done before we left so we asked the property manager who they used to do the building maintenance for the properties they managed. The quote we got from their builder was very expensive which disturbed us. If our house needed any repairs done while we were away and our property manager used expensive contractors, how much money were we going to be left with? We opted to save money and get our family to manage the property. A property manager might be an option for us in the future if we decide to rent out the house long term because there is more likely to be changes in tenants and we wouldn’t want to put that burden on our family.
We advertised on TradeMe (NZ’s version of Craig’s List) and I circulated an email around departments at the University of Canterbury where I work. The house is within walking distance of the uni and we hoped a new university lecturer might be interested. Fortunately that turned out to be the case.
We printed off a standard tenancy agreement from the Department of Building and Housing (DBH) and worked through it with our tenant. We were renting the house furnished so we had to list and sign off on what items were being left in the house for her use, and make note of any pre-existing wear and tear. Our tenant paid a bond (4 weeks rent) that we lodged with the DBH, and she set up an automatic bank payment for her fortnightly rent, paid two weeks in advance.
It’s important to contact your insurance company and discuss your policies (or use it as an opportunity to shop around and compare your options). Your house insurance policy and premium may need to be adjusted if you are renting out your house, and your contents insurance will be affected too. We rented the house out furnished, and also stored our possessions in one of the bedrooms.
The insurance company required me to ensure this room was adequately locked. This raised the question: just how secure is secure? Essentially all the door locks I looked at purchasing could be unscrewed from the door if someone was in the least bit determined! The DBH advises tenants to get their own contents insurance too as the landlord’s contents insurance does not cover their possessions.
If you decide to store some of your things in a locked room or garage in the house, make sure important documents are kept in an place that is easy to find. We are currently travelling in the US and tried to bring our most important documents with us. However, Kate did need her Mum to retrieve a few papers from the house last week and it was important that she could find them easily without up-ending the whole lock-up!