At the height of the condo boom, many investors snapped up under-construction condos, planning to turn around and sell them upon or shortly after completion. In the crash years, reselling has proved difficult, leaving some investors bleeding money as their condos sit unsold. Justin Elliott, the founder and CEO of Chicago Apartment Finders (which leases about 6,000 apartments each year), suggests that investors consider renting those condo until the market becomes more stable.
According to Elliott, condos rent faster than conventional apartments. “The renters want the hardwood floors and the granite countertops that are in condos,” he says. “Our condo inventory always rents first.” In the past, owners could expect to rent a unit in 30 days; in the present climate, Elliott says, it’s more like 45 to 60 days.
Investors trying to recoup their losses shouldn’t overprice their rentals. “If you’re not priced competitively, you’re not going to get it leased out,” he says. Compare the condo to similar rentals in the same building or nearby, and use that as your pricing guide.
Once you have decided to rent the condo, make the place available. Renters typically spend as little as three or four hours house hunting, Elliott says, and they may not want to wait 24 hours to tour the property. “When a renter wants to look, you’ve got a very narrow window of time,” he says. “Include your cell number in the ad if you can. You’ve got to answer the phone and be ready to show the condo immediately.”
Make the place looked lived in, even if it isn’t. Depending on your budget, this could mean having a staging company furnish the place; moving in your own excess furniture; or simply displaying a set of pictures of a similar condo that is furnished (the developer’s model, for instance).
Don’t worry that tenants will damage the home. “If you are renting a nice place to employed, creditworthy individuals,” Elliott says, “they’re not the type to make big holes in the walls. They might scratch the floors, but you can repair that for a few hundred dollars.” Elliott says any condo that allows pets will have an edge in the marketplace, but you are not obligated to rent to somebody with an unruly dog. “You can always do a pet interview,” he says.
If you are not ready to take on the responsibilities of a landlord, use a service like Apartment Finders, which will lease the place out, maintain the relationship with the tenant—and deposit a check in your account each month.