To maximize the value of your investment property, you want to view it as if it were a store or online operation. The good news is that your second home -- or properties if you are a master monopoly player – generates revenue in the form of rental income. The bad news is that it comes with overhead in the form of mortgage, insurance, and property tax payments as well as maintenance and repair expenses.
As such, like any smart business person, it is to your advantage to keep copious records on these properties to save money, facilitate any audits, and provide evidence if you are ever taken to court.
No Detail is Too Small
As a landlord, you will need to keep a number of records to cover all the bases. Listed below are some of the types of data that you need to keep nearby:
||Vital Tenant Data
- Property tax
- Homeowners’ Insurance
- Pool service
- Security deposits
- Pet deposits
- Application fees
- Parking passes
- Monthly rent payments
- Leasing agreements
- Payment receipts
- Tenant contact information
- Damage log
- Photos with time and date stamp
- Late payments
- Receipts for repairs and maintenance
- History of disputes
Be sure to keep separate and distinct records on payables, receivables, each tenant, and other matters, such as damages or any legal matters.
Take Deductions That Make Cents
There are a few key deductions that you must be aware of so you can ensure the greatest investment from your rental properties. Here are some things to remember:
- If you own more than two homes, you have to select which one to treat as your second home for tax purposes, but you can change which home qualifies on an annual basis.
- Income on these properties must be reported as rental revenue if you rent the home for more than fifteen days out of the year.
- A percentage of the mortgage interest can be deducted on loans up to $1 million on first mortgages, home equity loans, or lines of credit.
- A percentage of the property taxes, private mortgage insurance, and loan points paid on those mortgages can be deducted.
- Rental properties can have a percentage of the utilities, maintenance services, and other related expenses that will go against the income made on the property for that year.
You cannot deduct the following expenses:
- HOA dues.
- Appraisal fees.
- Home improvements except for possibly reducing your taxes when you sell your home.
Compiling the Paperwork
While you may think it will not be that difficult to recreate the previous year’s worth of receipts and records just before you need to hand everything over to the accountant, you will soon be grumbling under piles of paperwork once it dawns on you just how time-consuming such as task can be.
Imagine having more than one property and your headache will then grow to migraine proportions. To get it done in time for tax season, you may end up cutting corners and missing deductions that could have saved you money. Make it easier on yourself by starting to keep records from day one of the rental so that your paperwork has a “home” as it comes in on that property.
Old School Record-Keeping: Paper and Computer Files
These files are a great start, but paper files – or hard copies – can be just as ineffective as not having any records. That’s because everything is crammed into folders where receipts may end up misplaced or lost. There may be no clarity as to which receipt should be assigned to which rental property or in which category it should be separated for in terms of maintenance or repair. All these records will then be handed to the accountant to sift through, which could end up costing you more money as well.
Other negative aspects of old school record-keeping include the lack of privacy or confidentiality. In this day and age where identity theft is a serious threat, data security is top of mind for everyone. Files can also be stolen or destroyed in a fire or other natural disaster.
Computer files are a step up in terms of efficiency and convenience, but they also come with issues. Files can also be lost or compromised by viruses and hackers. There has to be a better way to keep information in a safe – yet easily accessible – environment.
Move to High-Tech Record Keeping
Consider tossing out the old methods of record-keeping for an online log that can track all incoming and outgoing payments for documentation and tax deduction purposes. Services like Ownersite Technologies provide an online depository to keep all types of information about your investment properties – as well as your primary residence.
The File Manager supports DOC, XLS, PDF, and TXT files. Images, such as digital photos of all the properties, can be stored in the Photo Album or Inventory section of the Web portal. The confidentiality of this sensitive information is protected because all of your files are stored on Ownersite Technologies’ database and not the file system. This means that the files cannot be accessed or viewed when not logged into the application.
With all your records in one place and in a form that is easy to share and send to your accountant, the business of second home investment should be on the path to success.