Should You Become a Landlord?

Low prices and high rents mean that many buyers can immediately “cash flow” their rental property.

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Protect your assets. "Don't assume that just because the rent check is coming in, the property's OK," says Prandi. Visit at least once a year. For tax purposes, keep good records on anything you spend maintaining the house, including trips to visit the property. If you live far away, consider hiring a property manager to tend to the home. Most charge 6 to 10 percent of the rent.

Pamper good tenants. Finally, if you're lucky enough to get model tenants, keep them happy, advises Taylor. Don't raise the rent a lot, for example, when you could build good will instead. "I give my tenants an anniversary gift," he says. That might include painting a room a color of the tenant's choice, or upgrading appliances. "You want to remind them this is a win-win situation for everyone."

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