We have a couple of properties. One is located in the Seattle area managed by a property management company; the other is in the Washington, D.C. area and managed by us remotely from Paraguay. Each year about this time we go through an odd mating ritual known as the "lease renewal." We would love to have long-term tenants in both places, but alas, we have to lease them from year to year. Our Seattle property is leased by a company that provides corporate housing for a major corporation. They take good care of the house and are dependable, although they keep us on the hook from year to year and renegotiate at the last minute. The property management company does a decent job taking care of our Seattle place, but they charge a large fee up front each year for "finding" a tenant that renews the contract each year, and they charge a monthly service fee to boot. It adds up. We don’t have many headaches with the place but don’t see as much rent as we would like.
Because we manage the Virginia property ourselves, we don’t have to pay a property management company to manage the property (we retain a local legal representative as required by law but manage it virtually ourselves — well, I do anyway). The tradeoff of course is that we have to manage the property remotely. We rent to our colleagues and have developed rapport with each of them, allowing to work together in the event of difficulties with the home. Nevertheless, owning a rental and managing it yourself is a challenge, especially if you live thousands of miles away from the property. Whenever the tenant needs a repair, we’re on the phone right away to get the house back in order. Finding a new tenant is another challenge entirely. So far we’ve been very fortunate to have lined up tenants fairly easily. Because they’re our colleagues, we can advertise within the greater community and find someone whose timing and price match ours. We have been very fortunate over the past three years. We’re negotiating with prospective new tenants right now and should be able to work something out with them. This happens every year, and each year I wonder whether I should just throw in the towel and hire a local property management company. Then I think–why would I every want to spend so much for some company to do so little? Doing it myself is worth the trouble.