Landlords…How Are They Different (And Why You Should Care)

There are many parts of the leasing process that impact your living experience. Some are obvious, while others you may only think about after you move in. For example, many people visualize their perfect home in terms of a list of aesthetic features, like a spa-like bathroom or hardwood floors. Others think about utility and usefulness and look for a short commute to work or kitchen appliances that will help them whip up the dinner parties of their dreams. 

All of those things are important, of course. But there’s an often overlooked factor in every apartment search that plays a large part in determining how much you’ll love your new place in a week, month, or year: your landlord.

We’d argue that landlords can make or break a rental experience. After all, if a pipe leaks in the apartment above you (and we certainly hope that never happens), your landlord’s responsiveness can make all the difference.

So, how can you know if a landlord is going to improve your experience or make it worse? Our advice is to ask lots of questions. Looking for your dream place is a little like a job interview; you have a short amount of time to get as much information as you can before you’re locked into a commitment.

We want you to be able to ask the right questions of the right people. A lot of our clients tell us that when they read listings, they feel overwhelmed by all the housing lingo. We get it, which is why we’ve put together a handy summary of housing options and the types of property managers. We hope this will help you feel more confident during your search.

Read on for more!

A brief overview of housing options

There are many types of rental housing—from single family homes to multifamily apartments, and lots in between. Here are some of the most common housing options available:

  • Multifamily apartment – A multifamily residential, multi-dwelling unit (often called an MDU) is a type of housing with four or more units. Examples of MDUs are an apartment building or several apartment buildings within one complex.
  • Single family home – A single family residence (SFR) is a stand-alone structure with its own lot intended for one family.
  • Condo – A condominium is a complex of housing units where each unit is individually owned, but common space is collectively owned and shared by all the owners in the complex. Typically, homeowners’ associations collect monthly dues and enforce policies in order to keep the complex well-maintained.
  • Duplex – A duplex is a building that is divided into two separate units. They can be side-by-side or up-and-down units in a common building. Each unit has its own separate entrance.

Types of Landlords

When it comes to finding the right place to call home, there’s a lot more to consider than just your budget and location. Selecting the right landlord can set the entire tone of your rental experience. Getting the right balance is important. You don’t want an absentee landlord who doesn’t make necessary repairs, but you also don’t want a landlord who is constantly knocking on your door to make sure all is well.

You may have heard of “multifamily professional” managers, but don’t really understand what that means in terms of looking for your own place. You’re not alone! It’s a little confusing, so we’ll outline below what different types of multifamily professionals can offer a renter.

  • National – These landlords are highly professional with designed systems and support in place to manage a large portfolio of different properties. This experienced group knows what they’re doing. If you want to be taken care of in an expert, but perhaps somewhat detached manner, this is a great option. On the plus side, they won’t be showing up your doorstep with no advance warning!
  • Regional – Regional landlords are similar to national landlords, but are often operating on a smaller scale. Consider them your local ambassador, as they have a unique perspective on your area or city. Professionalism and experience can vary widely, as regional landlords could be career property managers or they could be managing their own properties.
  • Small – These landlords tend to be less experienced with the level and depth of service they provide. While they may be more flexible than their bigger cousins, they often don’t have their expertise. While the best-case scenario could be a very diligent landlord, these property managers usually lack the well-oiled support systems of larger companies.

The other type of landlord tends to manage smaller properties, such as single-family homes, condos, and duplexes. Just like multi-family professional managers, these landlords can run the gamut. Read on to learn the differences!

  • Institutional – Institutional landlords manage properties for institutional owners, such as banks, endowments, and other large organizations, which invest in single-family homes. While these landlords are usually highly professional, they often are advocates for the owner rather than the tenant.
  • Third Party – These landlords manage properties owned by individuals. Like institutional managers, the professionalism and capabilities are highly varied. Ask many questions about what you can expect to see as a renter—and if you’re interested in a condo or duplex, it never hurts to ask the other tenants what their experiences have been.
  • Individual – These are your “mom and pop” landlords. They may own a couple of properties as investments and manage them, but they aren’t professionals. It is not uncommon to negotiate directly with these landlords, rather than a leasing agent or property manager. While this can be wonderful in many ways—including offering more flexibility–it may also mean inconsistency and unpredictability. Don’t be afraid to ask about different scenarios, including maintenance, to see if you’re happy with the answers.

Tenants often do a lot of research about the neighborhood and property and overlook the landlord.  It’s almost as if the landlord is “invisible” during the leasing process when he or she is often holding the keys to your happiness—from both a literal and figurative perspective!

At RadPad, we work one-on-one every day with people searching for apartments, so we know the process can be overwhelming and intimidating. That’s why we’re happy to chat if you have any questions about what to ask landlords, what to look for during apartment tours, or what each neighborhood has to offer. Feel free to drop us an email or give us a call!