Managing your Own Rental Properties while Traveling?

Passive Income from Rental Properties - Freedom

If you own and manage rental properties, you might be tempted to get out of town sometimes. Maybe even travel to another country, or go camping off grid?! Especially if you own rental properties for the freedom that the passive income promises, you will eventually want to flex that freedom! But what to do about the properties when you’re traveling? Do you have to hire a full time, full service property manager? Or can you continue to manage yourself?

There are pros and cons to each. Hopefully, your budget allows you the option of choosing. It is important to build in having to pay for full property management services to your budget when purchasing a rental property. However, if you’ve been doing it yourself, it may be possible to continue doing so, even if you’re out of town, out of the country, or even camping!


There is a definite convenience factor for paying for full service property management. If you really don’t want to be bothered at all while traveling, it may be worth it you. Also, depending on the number of properties and amount of work you have to do consistently, it might not be possible. But if you have a handful of properties, and set things up correctly, it may be able to travel while continuing to self manage. Even to some far-flung places.

Paying for full property management services can really eat into your profit. And, if you’ve been doing it yourself for a while, you probably have things pretty well figured out. You can find and screen tenants, file the taxes, have relationships with the necessary professionals, and know your properties better than anyone. Why would you pay someone else to take over that doesn’t know and care about your properties as much as you do? Especially when we have plenty of technology to assist?

I have three long-term and one short-term rental that I have self managed for three years. I decided to try a six week camping/back packing trip one summer, and a 6 month trip to Mexico, all without hiring a property manager. Here’s my experience, tips and tricks.


Money Tech

If you don’t already collect rents electronically, then there’s probably no hope for you 🙂 I’ve used a few services, but have ended up with Zillow most recently because of its access to listing properties for free. Zillow is where most quality applicants seem to have found me. They have the background check, and I can see who has scheduled a payment, etc. Tenants find it easy to work with, as well. Payments come straight to my bank account, with an annoyingly long delay, but that’s how they Zillow makes their money, I guess. Zillow costs me nothing, and the tenants nothing, besides the initial fee for the background check.

When its time for money to go out, there’s a plethora of electronic ways to do. Venmo, PayPal, CashApp, Zelle, all easy to set up and use. My bank actually lets me online generate and mail a check, for those old school vendors that insist on it.

Flexible Phone Service

Google Voice phone number – Google has a free service where you can get a phone number, and it can be set up on as many phones as you’d like. I have one that goes to me and my partner simultaneously. I can set it up to go to another person, as a back up, if I’d like in the future. Tenants have the one number to dial even though it is routed to several people. Also, it works via data, so as long as you have data, you will get the call or text. Even if you’re out of the country, without any additional charges.

Satellite Device

If you’re planning to go off-grid, as I sometimes do, you can still be in touch. There’s a variety of satellite options, although prices will greatly vary. You can have a full on satellite phone, or a very basic communicator that will send limited messages. If you’re very techy, you can set up some pretty nifty stuff, like email conversion to text, even.

Security Cameras

There is a whole host of affordable video camera options that can be easy to install, and feed information to the cloud. You can tell who is coming and going from where ever you are. Some are as easy as screwing into a light fixture. Or you can get as fancy as you want with all kinds of detectors for things like leaking hot water heater, etc. I don’t personally use anything of the sort currently, but am researching options.

People Factor

Successfully managing properties from a distance does mean that you’re going to need some key people. The trick is finding the right people, and when you do, treat them extremely well!

Have the Right Tenants

If you’re planning to manage from distance, you should screen for tenants that will be good with that fact. Perhaps even actively solicit tenants that handle some things on their own. Some people are very keen to have a more hands-off property manager. Some people are very capable and would prefer to take care of things themselves rather than wait on a plumber, etc. Its all about up-front communication and vetting your tenants to get the right fit.

I am very upfront with my property management style and my lease reflects it, as well. I try to scare off people that want white glove property management services. Tenants are expected to change their own light bulb or tighten a lose cabinet handle.

My tenants are rewarded with a very fair rental price. I am very responsive when they do reach out, and make sure problems are addressed. If they end up being the ones to address a problem, I make sure they are fairly compensated.

Trusted Handy Person

Finding a good ‘handy person’ can be hard, and I have no tips or tricks other than keep trying! It’s like dating, you’re going to kiss a lot of frogs before you find the right now. And when you find your prince, treat him like a king!

I finally developed a good relationship with a gentleman who has a little bit of knowledge about most things property related. I trust him to tell me when something is outside of his skill set. He knows just about every electrician and plumber in town, and can over see their work.

I pay him a small monthly fee to drive by the properties when he’s around and generally keep an eye out. He has an hourly fee for anything he does beyond that. I pay him very promptly through Venmo with a big thank you. I also make sure to bring back something for him from where ever I have been traveling, as well!

Custodial Artist

For the short-term rental, especially, its important to have someone who can make the place spotlessly clean and well stocked. I was lucky to find a great person through word of mouth, and she is truly an artist! She takes great pride in what she does, and always makes sure there’s a decorative flourish some how when she’s done.

I give her a flat fee, regardless of how long it takes her, as long as we get 5 star ratings for cleanliness. I only do month long rentals, and make sure to block out several days in between bookings. She gets the schedule of the check-ins and outs, and decides herself when she goes. She is also able to bring her daughter, if she doesn’t have child care. The autonomy is very appealing to her, and I’m one of the few clients that she kept during a recent cut-back on her hours!

The Results

I did an experimental try of the property management from a distance during a 6 week road trip, in which I did lots of camping. I turned over an AirBnb guest, and dealt with power loss issue. No one even noticed I was out of town! This did require the satellite communicator.

Since all went well, I have now taken off to Mexico for a six months to try and take advantage of some Geographic Arbitrage. So far, I’ve had a broken garbage disposal, broken faucet and some new blinds installed. As well as turned over an AirBnb guest. I’ve had to give things time and attention, but not a lot. The money I’ve saved on property management has paid about half my rent in Mexico. A pretty good trade, as far as I’m concerned.

I am prepared that I will have to be around when its time to turn over renters. Miraculously, all three of my long-term rentals have the same end date. Not sure if I will be able to always maintain that, but I will definitely try! I have budgeted for an emergency trip back, as well, if something comes up and I do need to be there in person.

Overall, I’m pretty satisfied that with planning, having the right tech and right people, managing rental properties while traveling is possible. I’m very happy to be taking advantage of the flexibility and freedom that the passive income provide.

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