Paycheck Chronicles

Empty House? Get It Rented

Yesterday came the news that always kicks a landlord into motion:  our tenants have orders and will be out within three months.  Now, we knew this was coming, but we didn't know exactly when.  I appreciate that we have three full months to hopefully get it re-rented.  Once I got word that they had a date, I hopped into gear.

First, I checked four sources to check out comparable housing rental prices.  I used,, the Automated Home Referral Network, and Craigslist.  Because our school district is considered desirable, and that is the main reason people live in my area, I only looked at houses that were in my school district.  I looked at all the available rents, including smaller and larger houses, to get an idea what we might be competing against.  I try to keep up on rental prices in our area anyway, so there wasn't anything surprising in my search.  Still, it was hard to decide what rent we should offer.  Our town has very few rentals, so there isn't much of a sample to decide the right price.

There are many different factors to consider when pricing a rental house.  First, you definitely want to set a rent that will attract renters.  Too expensive and you'll have an empty house, too cheap and you'll be losing money each month.  You always have to start with the market, regardless of your costs.  It is just too expensive to have an empty house.  Not only are you losing income each month, but you'll also have to pay utilities, lawn care, and after a period of time the insurance company starts getting nervous about an empty house.

For good or for bad, the market in military towns is often related to the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) rates.  Knowing that, I looked up the rates for our area.  Our house is located between four different military housing areas (MHA) and there is a huge difference between the BAH rates for these areas.  We looked at our house size and figured out what ranks might be interested, then made a chart of the three most likely ranks and the four MHAs.  We threw out the highest MHA because it was also the farthest from the house.  We then sort of aggregated the remaining three areas and three ranks and came up with exactly the same rent that our last tenants had been paying.  Seems like a lot of work to keep the rent the same, but we wanted to be sure we were being competitive.

Once we decided on the price, I listed the house on and the AHRN.  I prefer to use those two sites because they cater to military families.  Being in the military does not guarantee that anyone will be a good tenant, but it does bring a small level of security.  If the date starts getting closer and we're not having any luck, I'll turn to Craigslist to see what the civilian market might bring.

Good news so far, we had one inquiry in less than a day.  Keeping my fingers crossed that we'll get this house rented and have a smooth transition.  Ah, the joys of being an absentee landlord.

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