I was out finalizing a lease for one of my clients yesterday. The listing agent was not available so I met with the owner of the property. My clients got stuck in traffic so we had some time to chat. The conversation turned to investment homes.
Many investors confuse rental rates with cash flow assuming that getting the maximum amount of rent equals maximum cash flow. I’ll argue the opposite is usually true.
There are at least two hidden costs that need to be factored into the cash flow equation. The first is vacancy rate and the second is the cost to lease. Both subtract from long-term cash flow.
Any time a property is vacant it’s not producing revenue. Limiting vacancies should be a factor in rental pricing. Let’s assume I have a property rented for $1500 a month on a single year lease. If the tenant vacates the property after the lease ends, I incur the loss of revenue while the property is vacant and I have the cost to lease it. The other “cost” is realizing that most damage to a home happens during turnover. If I can get a good tenant to renew, I avoid all three losses.
While you may need to raise the rent on a renewal to cover increased expenses, this increase may cause our tenant not to renew. If I raise the rent on my $1500 property to $1600, I hope to generate another $1200 a year in cash flow. If the tenant moves out and the property takes 30 days to lease, I’ve lost $1500 plus I have the cost of leasing the property. The best time to consider raising rental rates is in between tenants.
The other place to consider this concept is when a tenant is asking for a reduced rental rate on a multi-year lease. On my $1500 rental, I will often reduce the rent to $1450 for a two-year lease. Why? Long-term cash flow. I know I will not have any downtime after a year and I will not have the cost to lease it again. The $50 a month reduction is $1200 over the two-year lease. If I have 30 days of vacancy and I have to lease it, my loss of revenue and expense to lease it can reach $2400 in my market. Additionally, I have to pay for utilities and lawn maintenance while I’m leasing it.
Maximum rent does not alway equal maximum cash flow.
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