October 18, 2023
Tony always had a penchant for the skies, once dreaming of becoming a pilot. However, life had different plans for him. With a solid educational background and a passion for nurturing innovative tech ventures, Tony found himself steering towards the creation of tech-driven products.
Today, as the first chief product officer for Anywhere, he’s spearheading transformative digital product development across the enterprise, collaborating with affiliated owners, franchisees, and the broader ecosystem.
There’s more to Tony’s real estate story than meets the eye. He’s not just a tech industry expert; he’s also an "accidental landlord,” a term bestowed upon those who find themselves landlords due to unexpected circumstances. “I bought my first home in Issaquah(Seattle’s Eastside) because I was sick of moving and I wanted consistency in my payments and expenses,” he said. “I’m also a bit of a finance/stock market geek and wanted my equity as liquid as possible.”
After about 10 years in Seattle, life took Tony and his wife to California, leaving their home behind. Since his wife’s family is in Seattle and she spent all her life there, they decided to keep the house to help her feel like they could always go back. This marked the start of Tony’s landlord journey.
One of the distinctive challenges Tony encountered as a landlord was not residing near his rental property. Initially relying on property management companies, he eventually took the reins into his own hands, finding their services lacked the value he wanted to provide.
“The biggest challenge, as is with most rental property owners, is maintenance,” he said. “Tenants don’t treat the homes as their own and they expect a level of ‘rental service’ that is embedded into their rent. While I’ve been fortunate with maintenance, anything water-related is almost always an emergency. Having a good and trustworthy handyman is a hard requirement for anyone who has a rental property.”
Lessons from Tenants and Relationships
Navigating the intricate world of tenants and rental properties taught Tony invaluable lessons. He emphasizes the importance of viewing property management as a service that involves building trust, rather than being just a transactional exchange. "You are building a relationship with the people who are going to live in your home," he says. While it's an ideal scenario for tenants to treat the property as their own, Tony acknowledges this isn't always the case.
Setting clear goals for rental properties is also pivotal for Tony. He asked himself, “Are you seeking maximum rental income, stability in income, or simply offsetting investment costs?” Tony’s mindset: “Help me pay off this house. Therefore, maximizing rental income isn’t the goal.” This definition allowed him the freedom to set clear rules for tenants keeping in mind he may one day return to Seattle.
Nurturing Landlord-Tenant Relations
Tony imparts some practical wisdom for fellow landlords managing their properties independently:
• Thoroughly screen tenants with background checks and references. There are plenty of services for doing background checks. Pay for it and get the data. Call previous landlords and ask about their experience with the renter. Remember, these are going to be people that you hand over one of your most valuable assets for safekeeping. Make sure they’re worthy!
• Consider slightly underpricing the market to attract quality tenants. This is “leverage” you can pay for and will benefit in helping find good renters. Remember that the typical gap in rental is a month or 8.3% of rental revenue. If you have a series of one-year rentals, you’re effectively giving an 8.3%discount. Factor that into your pricing model.
• Prioritize communication and responsiveness, showing empathy towards tenants' concerns. When the renter contacts you, it means they have a problem with their home. Having empathy for what that feels like goes a LONG WAY.
Tony’s journey as both a chief product officer and a landlord encapsulates the rewards of balancing multiple roles within the realm of real estate. His insights serve as a reminder that behind every property lies a unique story, with its set of challenges and the joyful prize of cultivating meaningful relationships with tenants. So, whether he’s designing products or ensuring his tenants feel at home, Tony is soaring to new heights!