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Back in 2013, a small company named DoorBot appeared on Shark Tank pitching a doorbell connected to a camera that would then call your smartphone, letting you know who was at your door.  The panel, made up of successful, savvy investors, decided to pass for a variety of reasons, with one of them being that they didn’t think there was a need or demand for the technology in the residential sector.  DoorBot left the stage with no deal, changed their name to Ring, and sold to Amazon in 2018 for $839 million.  Obviously, there was a demand for this type of service in the market; people are interested in seeing who is on their property without the confrontation of a face-to-face interaction.  As landlords we have a similar desire to know who is on our property and what they are doing there.  The challenge in knowing lies in the fact that we aren’t always at the property and it’s kind of creepy to put cameras on your rental property.  What is the solution, or better yet, who is the solution?    

All of the rental properties I own have this one thing in common: neighbors.  Yes, neighbors who have decided to settle into the homes next to or across from my rental property.  Neighbors who have invested their time and money into creating the perfect home for themselves and/or their families.  Neighbors who value the safety and security of their community and would fiercely fight to protect those values.  And what thing do all of those neighbors have?  Eyes.

Here’s a walkthrough of what I recommend for investors who are considering purchasing or have recently purchased a new investment property:

  1. Drive the neighborhood to get a feel for how the people care for their homes.  The overall appeal of a neighborhood, and an investment there, is impacted by the “look and feel” of the community.
  2. Before purchasing the property, get acquainted with the neighbors.  A knock on the door and a short conversation will tell you a lot about the property history.  Laying the groundwork of being an investor who is concerned about the value of their property, as well as your own, goes a long way in building a strong relationship.  If you already own the property, you can follow the same process and apologize for not coming over sooner.
  3. Introduce your tenants to the neighbors.  Knowing that you have a relationship with the neighbors has a twofold benefit: 1) It creates a sense of accountability between you, the tenant, and the neighbor, and 2) It indicates that there is a clear and open line of communication between you and the neighbors.  Research indicates that when someone feels that they are being watched, it impacts their behavior in a positive manner.  Better behavior means less calls to you.
  4. Encourage the neighbors to communicate larger issues or concerns to you.  If you’ve already introduced your tenants to the neighbors, hopefully they can resolve the small things with each other.  I don’t necessarily want to know if their sprinkler is spraying the neighbors window, but I do want to know if the teenagers in my rental are putting a mattress out the window and onto the roof to sunbath (true story).   

Recently one of my tenants moved out after a number of years and the one of the neighbors came over to tell me all of the things that had been going on at the property.  I was aware of most of them as they had been communicated to me by another neighbor.  Because we had all gone through this 4-step process, my investment property neighbors felt comfortable reaching out and sharing issues they felt would impact their property value and mine.  I don’t mean to encourage you to turn those neighbors into your property watchdog, but it is beneficial to know them and have them advocate for the properties where you are invested.

Don’t be like the Shark Tank investors and overlook what is definitely a valuable opportunity.  Having the right relationship with the neighbors could save you thousands of dollars.  Landlords need to refresh their thinking from time to time and realize that the investment they have made may not be the home or property but is actually the person in that property.  As you look for what we call the right “business partner” to become your tenant, it is critical to know their history.  Also critical is knowing how they are treating my investment on a regular basis, and that is most easily accomplished by knowing, trusting, and communicating with your tenant… and their neighbors.  

About the Author:

David Pickron is President of Rent Perfect, a private investigator, and fellow landlord who manages several short- and long-term rentals.  Subscribe to his weekly Rent Perfect Podcast (available on YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts) to stay up to date on the latest industry news and for expert tips on how to manage your properties.

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