Should You Hire A Property Manager While Travelling Or Living Abroad?

By Annie André

Renting your home out and collecting passive rental income while travelling the world or living abroad sounds like a dream come true. However, being a long distance landlord has it’s own set of unique challenges which may require the help of a property manager. Here are a few of the ones we had to deal with.

Long distance landlord living the dream

What could be better than sitting back and collecting a rent check on the first of every month-automatically of course- while you zigzag the globe or live abroad? Then when you’re ready to move back in, your tenant happily agrees to move out-leaving your home in perfect condition because they looked after it as though it were their own.

Unfortunately, managing a rental property rarely lives up to the dream because things can and do go wrong. Even when things are going well, being a landlord still has certain responsibilities and challenges that must be dealt with.

When you’re a long distance landlord- managing your property while travelling or living in another country adds a whole other layer of complications and challenges which you may not be able to deal with without the help of a property manager or some creative problem solving.

The issue with receiving a rent check.

For years my tenant in California mailed his rent check to me. It wouldn’t have been an issue except for the fact that I lived in France- which besides the obvious time lag, created some unforeseen complications.

Tip: If you can avoid it, ask your tenants to pay the rent electronically rather than sending you a check in the mail.

Where do your tenants send the check if you have no permanent address abroad?

Obviously if you have no permanent address while abroad, receiving a check in the mail is going to be next to impossible. Here are a few possible solutions.

  • Are your tenants willing to send the rent check to a new address every month? (doubtful)
  • Can your tenant drive to your bank and deposit their monthly rent check into your bank account if you give them a stack of deposit slips? Maybe, as long as your bank allows check deposits in your account without you having to sign the back of the check. USAA- my bank does not allow this and has very few physical addresses.
  • You could ask your tenant to mail the check to a close friend, family member or property manager who in turn deposits the check for you every month.

How do you deposit the rent check into your bank account while abroad?

Tip : If you absolutely must receive a physical check in the mail, use your banks pay by phone app to deposit it. 

Even if you do have a physical address while living abroad where your tenants can mail you their rent check, you still may have some hurdles to jump through.

Let’s assume you have a rental property in the US and you live in France. You can’t just drive over to Bank of America and deposit your US based check because Bank of America doesn’t exist in France.

You could deposit the US check into your French bank account (assuming you have one) however that French bank may charge you a fee and can take several weeks for the funds to clear your account.

For example: My bank in France -Société Générale, charges a fee of about 17 Euros to cash foreign checks. Not a big deal but multiply that by 12 months and you’re looking at almost 200 Euros in check cashing fees a year- or 230 USD (depending on the exchange rate). Then there’s the delay in funds clearing your account which can take several weeks.

And finally, there’s the issue of depositing a check in a foreign currency. The bank will automatically convert your US check to Euros which might be fine but if you’re like me, you’ll want to keep your funds in US dollars to pay for some US expenses.

Do you really want to convert your US check into Euros only to turn around and convert it back to USD to pay for your US bills?

How to quickly deposit your rent checks without stepping into a bank

deposit-by-phone-app

Most banks have a phone applications and with it, an extremely fast and easy way to deposit any check you receive in the mail.

You simply fire up your banks phone app, take a picture of the rent check- front and back and hit the deposit button. No mailing your check to your bank with a deposit slip or waiting weeks for the check to clear. The funds usually clear your account instantly or in a few days.

The best way to receive rent from tenants is electronically

Nowadays, I require tenants to pay their rent via direct deposit. There are several ways you can do this so you should pick the one that works best for you and your tenant. (these are US based examples which may or may not be available in your country).

Chase bank:

If your tenant banks at Chase, they can use a service called “Chase QuickPay”. It allows your tenant to send you money directly from their bank to your bank account. Once the funds are sent, you receive an email.

Send money by email:

Some banks allow you to transfer and send money to a recipient with nothing more than their email address. You’ll need to check with your bank and your tenants bank to see if this is possible.

Send and receive money via Property management websites: 

There are many online sites which offer this service to landlords.

The one I use is a very basic rent collection service called Cozy– It’s free for both the tenant and landlord. My tenants set up automatic payments. No waiting for checks in the mail. No mailing checks off to your bank to be deposited. The rent just shows up in your bank account automatically which I swear is like magic and has literally changed my life.

Not only can I see exactly when the payment was initiated, I know exactly when the funds will clear my account. Did I mention it is free and secure.

There are other sites which offer more services which could include anything from the ability to upload leases and documents, to the ability for your tenants to send you a repair request. But most of those services usually cost a monthly fee which could be less than 50 USD to a couple of hundred dollars a month.

Have a property manager collect rent:

And of course, you could hire a property manager to collect rent on your behalf. The beauty of this is that the property manager ensures that your tenant pays on time and deals with the tenant if the rent is late.

How do you deal with repairs and maintenance?

Things are going to break. A toilet, a garage opener, a pipe. As the landlord, you are responsible for getting these things fixed.

Small repairs:

In the past, when I had a single family home to manage, I asked my tenant to arrange for small issues to get fixed which I would reimburse at the end of the month or deduct from their rent. But not all tenants may be willing to do this. For whatever reason, you may not want them to do this either.

Big repairs:

When big things break and need to be repaired or you have multiple properties which you are trying to manage, that’s when things get complicated.

One year, my rental property’s roof started leaking. I looked up a roof repair guy and arranged for him to drive out to the property. It turned out that my home needed a new roof. New roofs in California are not cheap so I asked several roofing companies to go in and give me estimates. Then I coordinated with my tenant and the roofing company to get the work done.

It was kind of a living hell arranging all of this from France. Not only did I have to deal with the time difference, I had to choose the roof via photos, I couldn’t inspect the work myself and my tenant had to be available for the roofer.

That’s just one house. What if you manage multiple homes, a duplex or triplex? This is where a property manager comes in handy.

My current property manager handles everything for me now. The tenant calls the property manager with any issues and the property manager handles everything, the estimates, meeting the repair guys, inspecting the work etc.

What if you have to evict the tenant?

Imagine how complicated it would be if your tenant breaks the lease while you’re abroad. How will you evict them while your travelling? There’s usually a tremendous amount of red tape for a lawful eviction. Then once they’re out, what do you do? Do you leave it vacant or do you try to find a new tenant which brings me to my next point.

How will you find and screen a new tenant?

If you’re in the beginning stages of planning your travels, you can probably find a tenant to rent your home before you leave. If you’re already abroad and you need to find new tenant because you had to evict the previous tenant- well it’s kind of impossible to do from abroad.

You have to get the property in move in condition, take pictures, put up an ad, make appointments to show the property, screen potential tenants and run background checks. And finally you need to draw up a lease, a legal lease.

Not really feasible for you to do yourself if you’re travelling or live abroad without the help of a property manager.

How will you keep an eye on your house?

No one will take care of your home as well as you do. It’s just a fact of life. But if you’re a long-distance landlord,  how will you ensure that the tenants are taking good care of your house and yard?

Property managers can help keep an eye on your home and do an occasional walk through- if that’s what you want. This ensures that there won’t be any surprises when they move out like holes in the walls or other damages that need to get repaired.

Hire a property manager to manage your properties while your abroad

Owning rental property can be a great investment and can help offset your travel costs while your gallivanting across the globe but as you can see, being a long distance landlord is more difficult than a landlord who lives in the next town.

If you only have one home to manage you might be able to do it, provided you have a half way descent tenant who is flexible. But do you want to and is it best for your property?

The cost of hiring a property manager

If one of the reasons you don’t want to hire a property manager is because of cost, I get it. It’s one of the reasons I didn’t either (in the beginning)

Depending on where your property is located, costs and fee structures will vary. For instance, in the US, property managers can charge anywhere from 8 to 12 percent of the monthly rent or they might charge a flat monthly fee.

Property managers may also charge a commission for finding a tenant which again depends on where your property is located. Some may charge one months rent while others might charge a flat fee.

Only you can decide whether or not you should hire a property manager. But from one long distance landlord to another, I highly recommend you do hire one.

Call up a property manager in your area and start asking questions so you can make informed choices.

 

Boring Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you use them to buy something, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you which helps me buy more croissants. Merci for your support.

  1. In theory much of the property management can be handled remotely; in practice, when things go wrong (and tenants usually means things going wrong) you need someone on the ground to handle it. Keep in mind in most states, showing the property requires a real estate license if there is any compensation involved. So, if you are having a friend or family member “take care of things” while you’re gone and you compensate them, they may be practicing real estate without a license.

    1. I’m pretty sure you if you ask a friend to or family member to show your house, that they DO NOT need a Realtor license as long as he or she does not do this for multiple people. Also, many States allow the payment of finders fee’s to non brokers, and have special rules allowing non agents to show properties such as at open houses or showing a house. As long as they do nothing more than that. It’s best to check with your local rules though to find out.

  2. A property management software is versatile and can be used to manage both residential and commercial properties. Condominiums, multifamily homes, public housing, mobile homes, townhouses, non-profit housing and even commercial properties can be easily managed using a standard property management software. One must bear in mind that, a software for commercial property management may have a few other features that may not be included in a software that is meant for managing residential property. People are generally given a free demo of the online management software. This can be used as the basis for deciding on the appropriate property asset management tool.

  3. Yay – thanks for answering my question Annie. And so professionally on a video too – just love those videos! You are awesome.

    Still not sure if property manager is the way to go in my small community – I know some folks who have had the experience Alan described above. Another friend was lucky enough to get a handy trustworthy couple (good friends) to manage her place while she was gone traveling for a year and half. That was fine for dealing with repairs, but a major hassle when her tenants broke the lease and moved. I think she actually had to come back to deal with that. That’s where a professional property manager is valuable (finding and screening new tenants).

    I think it’s what we will do when we get ready to do our adventure abroad. Just have to search around for the most reputable property manager we can find.

    1. Sarah,
      personally i think if you have just one house to rent and you find good renters that you won’t need a property manager. just work it out so that if something goes wrong, the tenants have the go ahead to call a plumber. You jsut get the reciept and reimburse them.

      If the tenants break the lease, yes that’s a major hastle and you are right, you would need to go back or hire a property manager to take care of it.. On another note, you may be able to ask a neighbor to handle things for you and pay them a small fee if something goes wrong. Or hire someone a flat fee to find new tenants in the rare case that tenants break the lease.

  4. Hi Annie,

    Another great video brought to us with your magic touch. I’ve been playing around with mine and following your lead :) Its great fun :cool:

    I’m not in a position to travel so the message in your video wasn’t aimed at me. I have to say though that you covered the subject very well and gave everyone the pro’s and con’s.

    I’m sure it’ll help people make the decision they need to make. I’m really envious of you all as I’d love to be able to do what you’re doing….. Maybe one day Annie :)

    Have fun :)

    Barry

    1. Thank you Barry,
      you are too sweet. I really do hope i am helping people. and you never know, maybe one day you will spend a month or two abroad travelling…

  5. Annie-

    This was a great video. The answers we need to know if we choose to go abroad for a long period of time.

    Questions: When you rent, do you tell the tenants that it is just a year (or however long) lease? And how do you deal with people living in your home? And what if they don’t leave? What if!!!! What if they destroy your house? Argh!! I need to just let go. LOL.

    Honestly, these are situations that scare me. We work hard on our home. It’s not perfect but we pay a good chunk of change for our mortgage (bay Area).

    ~Allie

    ~Allie

    1. Allie,
      I would suggest telling them that you plan to return after a year and make a year long lease…
      Its not that hard to handle people living in your home once your gone and doing your own thing.
      If they don’t leave? Well, usually you give them notice and if they don’t leave then you go to small claims court and have them evicted. Most people do leave. That’s why it’s important to do a pre-screening of your renters before you rent to them. check their references etc.
      There is always some dammage in the house but usually very small. A hole in the wall where the door hit, dirty walls if the tenants have kids but that’s what you take a deposit for. To cover those small incidents.

      And i know what you mean about the mortgage in the bay area. i lived there for a long time and so did my husband. It’s a lot of money and you house is your baby, but if you do plan to rent, usually everything turns out just fine..

  6. thank you for sharing this post with us, i found it very interesting to follow, great post.

  7. Hey Annie,

    Your video just get better and better well done. Loving it!

    This post for me would be what I would definitely do if I was to travel with my family.

    I love where I live and don’t think I could part with my house to move away. This is why I would rent and hire a company to look after the running of it and any problems. This is worth the cut they take.

    Thanks Annie.

    1. Dan,
      Blushing about the comment. thank you..

      If you have a house you love, and an area you love, keep it. If you ever do plan to spend some time abroad you might want to consider house swapping for a few months since i know you are not interested in living anywhwere else..

  8. Hmmm – I’d prefer someone to handle A-Z anyday. I think that comes with having moved 4 cities in 6 years. If it weren’t for help of a relocation agent, settling in a new office each time and moving would have been a night mare. Though of course the bill was picked up by the company
    I think it can be done on our own too. Just need to be prepared, and also talk to lots of people prior to arriving!
    Noch Noch

    1. Noch Noch,
      for sure i would hire someone to handle all A to Z but when i’m picking up the tab, it’s a different story.
      And you are right, it can be done on your own with a litle prep work.Once people are in your place, nothing really further is needed except if something breaks..

  9. Hi Annie!

    I’ll be traveling to the European countries this summer. I do have a property manager at my place (house). The reason being is because I rent it out. I use sites such as Airbnb or Vrbo to make sure the places gets booked. It’s a cool place to view; I know for sure it’ll help you. Especially give you some extra cash in your pockets. (:

    1. That sounds like a great idea. I actually use VRBO to find properties but son’t you have to handle all the logistics of getting the key to the renters though, and collecting the rent and cleaning the house?

  10. Hi Annie,
    Nice dance and nice advice. When I left Paris to travel around the world I left my apartment too. Off course that was not my own apart but i was renting it so the easiest solution was to move ll my stuff elsewhere and get my apart free. I moved my stuff into friends’ apartments but that is not always possible especially when you live in a big packed city like Paris. So, for that there are special places where people can stock their stuff for a period. Off course that is a paying service but it is a solution!
    Thank you for the video.

    1. Lenia,
      renting vs owning does present it’s own set of challenges… In some ways it’s easier but in some ways it’s harder.. The only bad thing is when and if you return to your home country, you have to look for a new place to live in vs if you own your home, you can just move back in..

  11. Cute dance; was that a stick of deodorant you were talking in to?

    I would probably choose a property manager if I was abroad; but then again I would probably choose one if I was a dude too…..just sayin’….

    1. Very funny Bill D.
      It was my portable microphone not a bar of soap..

      I think lots of people would choose to hire a property manager, It’s why so many exist right? I wonder if men are more or less likely to hire a property manager?

  12. Hey Annie,

    LOVE that dance girl and I was chuckling right there with you. Okay, that was the fun part.

    You sure do cover a lot of stuff I would have never thought about. We had rental property a good portion of my life and it was a royal pain in the you know what. But, we did it all ourselves and back then there were no background checks, etc. so I wouldn’t even know how to go about any of that. I think hiring someone to take care of everything is definitely the best way to go. That way, you don’t have to constantly worry about your home.

    Great tips and love your video! Hope you guys are having a blast!

    ~Adrienne

    1. Adrienne,

      It does get to be a bit daunting to manage property but once you get it going, it pretty much takes care of itself… It’s just the initial stages of finding a tenant, and then there’s the issue of if something goes wrong. It’s not for the faint at heart.
      ps
      we had a blast.

  13. Hey Annie,

    maybe the US is different but in my experience a mgt company will do the bare minimum for their 10% – they’ll find you people and that’s about it. Then you pay an ongoing commission for them to do precisely nothing.

    Most companies (in the UK and France at least) then have a higher commission rate for management but even then the best you’re going to get is that they will be a point of contact for the tenants and get contractors to fix the problem – but I’m not sure if they’re going to get you the best rate or even a sensible deal each time.

    For example if it’s a leak they’ll call a plumber – he may have a call-out rate and you get the charged passed through to you but someone just threw a teddy down the toilet and though the plumber found the teddy, he wasn’t really needed).

    just saying…

    If possible get someone you trust involved – even if it’s just getting them to check over the place every once in a while.

    1. Alan,
      Wow looks like there’s a wide open market for good property managers in France and the UK.

      All the companies i’ve worked for always handle the things i mentioned in the video. If they don’t i don’t hire them. But having said that, i don’t do all my own property managing stuff now. I agree getting someone you know is probably the best but not always possible.

      I give my tenants a break if they handle something on their own. It saves me the headache… I hate headaches.

  14. Hi Annie,

    Like the dance :)

    Very good advice here and I see that this post could be a great link on my blog post interview of you :)

    This is definitely a great question that most people wanting to move abroad may have.

    When I left Paris I was living in a studio and when I decided to stay my mother and brother did the move for me. Thinking back I think I was very fortunate.

    Thanks, Annie. How are you doing with my questions ;)? Everything OK?

    1. Sylviane,
      It’s great to have family help or friends help. It can be a real life saver. I think a property manager would be a good idea for someone who was totally lost on the whole concept or who had multiple properties othwerwise it’s not that hard. .
      ps
      i sent over the responses to the questions…

      1. Hurray!!!!! was actually kinda worry about you not hearing anything back since your tip :)

      2. I know, i felt totally crippled with no internet connection. You won’t believe how hard it is to find an internet connection for free in marseille. I went to Noilles coffee shop, starbucks, and then i went to the library and finally was able to get one but it was the same day my internet connection came up and that’s when i sent you the questions. LOL.. We are so dependent on the internet. it’s kind of scarry.

      3. Oops, didn’t receive that email :( Can you send it again? I would love to have this up for my post tomorrow, but if not, then I will post your interview next week.

        I know what yo mean, I can’t be a day without internet anymore :)

      4. Annie,

        No,I don’t have the questionaire, still. First thing I check as soon as I got up:)

        I have all the other emails but not this one. Did you hit the button reply to send it?

        I am going to send you another email right now with another email address where you can send it to. I don’t understand what’s going on.

        Sorry about all that. Thanks.

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