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Challenges of Being an Out-of-State Property Owner

We occasionally receive calls from people who own homes in Tacoma & Seattle but live elsewhere in the U.S. These out-of-state homeowners often have a hard time managing their rentals and/or vacant homes.

Here are some of the most common problems out-of-state property owners face, based on our experiences working with them.

Out of Sight, but Never Out of Mind

Buying and owning a home is rarely simple. From maintenance to taxes, there’s a lot to keep up with. When the home you own is located in another state, the challenges can be even greater.

One of the biggest problems faced by out-of-state property owners is the fact that they can’t monitor the property for themselves. After all, being able to see a home is the first step to maintaining it. But when you live in another state, you have to rely on third parties to handle this for you. This adds cost and complexity.

It’s unlikely that you’ll ever find a third party who cares as much about the property as you do. So you can’t expect the same level of care as you would provide. This is one of the many harsh realities of being an out-of-state property owner.

Even simple repairs can become difficult when dealing with an out-of-state property. For instance, if you arrange for a handyman to repair a broken shutter on your house in Washington State, but you live in Arizona or California, how will you assess the work? You have three options, none of which are ideal. You could have the repairman send you photos of the finished job. You could have a friend or family member who still lives in the area review the work. Or you could book the next flight to take a look for yourself, which is not always realistic.

If you have a contractor you trust wholeheartedly, you’re one of the lucky few. For everyone else, repairs and maintenance on out-of-state properties can be a real hassle.  

Managing Rentals: More Trouble Than It’s Worth?

The idea of living in one state and owning a rental home in another state has its appeals. After all, what could be better than the “passive” income generated by a rental property?

While owning a rental certainly has its perks, owning one in another state can become more trouble than it’s worth. You’ll quickly realize there is nothing passive about that income stream.

When you rent out a house, you’re maintaining a property as well as a business relationship. Living in another state just adds another layer of logistics on top of everything, not to mention the tax-filing complexities that can arise.

Vacant Homes Invite Vandals, Squatters and More

Out-of-state homeowners with vacant properties face another set of challenges. That’s because vacant homes often attract vandals, squatters and looters. This is especially true in areas with high unemployment, high foreclosure rates, and/or high crime levels. But even the nicest neighborhoods can be affected.

Squatting is not unique to Washington State homeowners. Every state has problems with squatters living in vacant homes. According to a 2014 article on “more homes left vacant have translated into a dramatic increase in squatters and the dangers they can bring.” The “dangers” in this context often include fires caused by squatters.

The purpose of this article is not meant to cause undue fear, or to give you rental phobia. It’s to help you realize, and prepare for, the potential drawbacks and challenges of being an out-of-state property owner.

If you own a home in Washington State but live elsewhere — and you’d rather sell the property than deal with it any longer — please contact us. We might be able to help, especially if the home needs repairs or renovation prior to selling.


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