I manage over 50 units, 27 of which I personally own, and all of them are in California. I haven’t been in California for over 60 days. I could theoretically stay outside of California for years. I could manage them from China. Location doesn’t matter to me.
Managing your properties from afar can be beneficial, assuming you take the necessary steps to maintain an adequate standard of care.
I have noticed that managing properties from out of state or out of the country forces me to do a couple of things.
1. You must document the condition of the property.
I pay a handyman to go through my rental properties with a written checklist and a GoPro. The handyman sends the video and checklist to me where I save them to the property file. I can access the video and the checklist at a later date (and I often do).
2. I require pictures of all maintenance performed.
I can’t physically stop by the property, so a picture is the best thing I have. A picture is better than physically going to the property, though. It’s permanent, whereas your memory is not. You can certainly take a picture yourself if you go out, but if you see it yourself; your chances of doing so are much less.
3. It forces you to keep yourself separated from your tenants.
When your tenants see you, talk to you in person and shake your hand, things tend to get personal. When you raise the rent, they are going to remember the time you met. They will contact you and try to renegotiate. When you refuse, they will make it personal. If they’ve never met you, things don’t get personal so easily.
4. Your tenants can’t hunt you down.
Yes, I just said your tenants couldn’t hunt you down. If you evict someone, there’s a good chance they will show up at your office or personal residence if they know where you live. They’re going to have a hard time doing that if you live out of state or out of the country.
5. It prevents you from carrying $100,000 to the bank every month.
You’ll be forced to come up with a solution for collecting rent. Now, I personally collect $0 in rent. Virtually everything is paid online.
6. You’ll have a good excuse not to go to court.
Lots of times, a judge will urge the landlord and the tenants to negotiate a deal in the hallway. If you’re present, things will tend to get personal in the hallway. Send your attorney to represent you. There’s a better chance the tenant will negotiate with your attorney instead of you.
7. Living abroad will force you to hire others to take care of maintenance.
There have been many times where I went and unclogged toilets myself. The tenants caused the clogs. If I present the tenants with a bill for $100 for unclogging the toilet, they’re going to have a problem with that because they know I did it myself for free. But if I charge them $100 and forward a bill I got from the plumber, then passing down the charge is totally justified.
8. There will be no verbal agreements if you live abroad.
I have a separate phone number for my rental business. I never answer the phone and my tenants know this. The only way they can communicate with me is through my web portal, email, text messages or visual voicemail. All of our conversations are documented in writing.
An extra, unexpected bonus is that you can’t be blamed for stealing anything out of your tenants’ units. A while back, I evicted a tenant, and she blamed me for stealing all her “valuables” after the sheriff locked her out. She and her family repeatedly called me at the phone number I never answer (it doesn’t even ring).
They left several voicemails. They called the police. I returned a voicemail from Salinas Police Department and was asked if I stole any belongings out of her home. “How can I steal anything if I’m in Georgia?” The conversation ended right there. They questioned my handymen a little, but that’s it.
You’ll also need to hire someone to show units for you and give out the keys once a lease agreement is signed. I pay people $45 per showing, and they show units on Wednesdays and Saturdays at noon. I also advertise the properties with lots of pictures and HD video, so tenants don’t need to physically walk through anyway.
If you’re thinking about buying rentals and moving abroad, I think it’s totally possible to manage them from anywhere in the world as long as you have an internet connection.