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Real Estate Investing

The Definitive Move In (Or Out) Checklist

Eventually, we all have to make a move somewhere. And if you’re an investor, you’ll regularly be handling the move-in process as tenants come and go from your properties.

Landlords and property managers can hugely benefit from standardizing their rental process, and a move in checklist can be a huge leg-up in having a smooth experience renting to tenants.

Whether you’re looking to protect your investment, minimize hassle with tenants, or maximize your passive income, having a checklist for moving in (or out) is an indispensable tool in your chest.

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The Value of a Move-in Checklist for Landlords

Having a move-in checklist provides landlords and property investors a summarized snapshot of their rental property’s condition both before and after occupancy by a tenant. Keeping such an organized checklist helps to minimize repair costs, disputes with tenants, and your time spent fielding requests.

A move-in checklist ensures that the condition of the home is well-documented. This keeps your tenants accountable for any damage that takes place during their occupancy.

When you take the time to document preexisting damage, you’re taking a proactive approach to reducing any potential disputes with your tenant — particularly as it relates to the return of their security deposit.

Tip on Lease Agreements: As a landlord, it’s always imperative to clearly spell out what is expected of both yourself and your tenants throughout the lease agreement.

Leasing agreements are often fairly standardized but can contain different caveats based on the property’s unique qualities.

The Core Framework of a Move-In Checklist

Just like a lease agreement, a proper move in checklist will need to be customized to suit the unique attributes of your rental property.

The checklist that we’ve provided below can serve as a framework for the key items that should be part of most move-ins (or move-outs) but may vary based on your property and your leasing agreement with your tenant.

Criteria of the Checklist

A proper move-in checklist should have at least these five columns to measure the relevant criteria:

  1. Column that lists out rooms, fixtures, or appliances
  2. Column that lists out the “Before” condition
  3. Column that lists out the “After” condition
  4. Column indicating relevant cost of repair
  5. Column where you can make any extra notes

The below image serves as a visual example that you can use to structure your move-in checklist off of. It can be more detailed as desired by you as the landlord or by your tenant.

Things that your Move-in Checklist Should Measure

Let’s get into the various categories that your move-in checklist should be capturing. The following categories are structured based on the assumption that you will be renting out a house, but can be modified for condos, apartments, or accessory dwelling units as needed.

1.   Condition of Appliances and Fixtures

Taking into account the condition of your property’s appliances prior to move-in will be key in making sure that your tenant doesn’t contact you on Day One claiming that they can’t dry their clothes or flush the toilet.

We recommend that your move-in checklist measure the condition of the following appliances and fixtures:

  • Kitchen appliances and fixtures (dishwasher, range, oven, microwave, refrigerator, sink, garbage disposal)
  • Washer and dryer
  • Bathroom fixtures (toilet, bathroom sink, drains, bathtub faucet, showerhead, fan)
  • Lighting fixtures or other ventilation fans
  • Outdoor security lights or cameras

While people often focus on the observable condition of the property, it’s important to account for the operational capacity of the tools and utilities that will be used by the tenant.

2.   Entry Doors, Locks, Windows, and Garage Doors

Every move-in should provide your tenant with a fresh set of keys, for their protection and for your own.

But beyond this, you’ll want to validate that every entry point in the property works as intended. Take note of the condition and operation of:

  • Front or rear entry door (does it latch and lock properly?)
  • Entryway handrails or steps (are they up to code?)
  • Sliding glass or storm doors (do they open and close smoothly?)
  • Windows (making sure they close and lock properly)
  • Garage doors

A special mention on garage doors — these can often be a vulnerable point for break-ins to the property. Make sure that there is no space underneath the door’s seal for an intruder to crowbar their way in, and that the motor on the garage door closes as intended.

3.   Cosmetic Condition of Flooring, Ceiling, Walls, and Surfaces

These are often the elements that landlords see right away when they survey the condition of their property.

Make sure that you take a good hard look with your tenant at the condition of the property’s floors, walls, ceilings, and other surfaces (like kitchen or bathroom countertops). These are dimensions of a property that often can lead to disputes among tenants, so we recommend that you take detailed notes and even photos as desired.

Be sure to look for any of the following:

  • Markings or scuffs on surfaces
  • Discoloration or stains
  • Holes and gashes (hopefully not!)
  • Water damage or softness

4.   Electrical and Utilities

It is best practice to ensure that all of your electrical outlets are GFCI protected and operational. There are simple tools that can be purchased to quickly test the outlets in your house, and can save you from costly repairs down the road.

Before a tenant takes occupancy, it’s also a good idea to validate the following are working correctly:

  • All lighting fixtures (including any dimmer switches)
  • Porch lighting or doorbell
  • Electrical outlets
  • Any natural gas (fireplaces, stove)
  • Water pressure and flow

Taking care of these items and documenting conditions will prevent most of the urgent types of tenant issues that can arise.

5.   Exterior Elements of Property

This aspect of your move-in checklist will vary depending on what type of property you’ll be renting (and what’s in the yard).

In general, these are some of the items to consider when surveying the exterior of your property:

  • Health of the building’s siding
  • Paint quality on the home (is it chipping?)
  • Roof health (ensuring there are no leaks)
  • Crawlspace access (ensuring that pest entry is blocked off)
  • Additional pest inspections (looking for common pests under eaves, near the home)

Wrapping Up Your Move-in

This move-in checklist should be a great place for you to start in ensuring that you and your tenants are getting off on the right foot, and that you’ve got everything you need to maximize your investment.

Upon move-out, you and your tenants will perform a final walkthrough of the above criteria to ensure that the condition is the same as when the lease began.

Maximize your Investment with Gilpin Realty

With so many things to consider when moving tenants in and out of rental properties, it helps to work with a team of experts. Whether you want to maximize your property’s passive income or need to track down your next rental, our agents at Gilpin Realty are ready to serve you.

Feel free to reach out to us with any real estate question you may have — in Snohomish County and beyond!

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