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Making Sure Your Properties Shine On The Outside

Making Sure Your Properties Shine On The Outside

 by  in Business

First impression matter as much as ever! Curb appeal still can make a big difference when it comes to attracting quality residents. Don’t believe me? Do what I did and interview rental shoppers. Location and the area of town is one of the “Big 3 Criteria” for prospective residents. Affordability was also one of the 3 biggies. Then I asked prospects, “How important are the exterior looks of the rental property?”

Sure enough more than 80% of the people I polled said, in essence, “If it doesn’t look appealing upon first glance we don’t even stop to look at the rental.”  My anecdotal poll reminds us that most residents want to live in a house or an apartment building that they’re proud of. Owners want residents to “take pride” in the rental properties they own as well.

Since there’s a direct correlation between the number of average vacancies per year and the condition of the rental unit, it literally pays in the long run to have properties that look well-maintained and attractive. After you’ve done the obvious cosmetic improvements like painting, replacing rotting trim and adding touches like window shutters, the way to make your properties look good on the outside is to invest in some low-maintenance but attractive landscaping.

Whether you live in a dry area or not it makes good sense to consider replacing old or sickly shrubs and bushes with some attractive drought-resistant plants. You’ll be surprised at how beautiful they are too. Many drought-resistant, low maintenance plants are colorful, have lush texture and bloom during many seasons of the year. Take a look at this collage of amazing photos which will demonstrate the beautiful diversity among these kinds of plants.

These photos also offer a wide variety of landscaping ideas and designs. They include walkways, patios and even a minimalist approach that utilizes an abundance of ground-cover like wood chips and bark dust. Make sure if you have an office for your property management business or apartment complex that it’s a glowing representation of your maintenance standards and good taste.

Remember that locations that receive a great amount of direct sunlight are prime areas for this landscaping approach.  If the area is blasted with continual sunlight consider a landscape plan that focuses on drought-tolerant perennials. Your local nurseries can give you many ideas on which ones to consider for your region. Emphasize color and how the plants will look when driving or walking by the properties that you’re trying to improve.

If you don’t have the budget for a full-blown landscape upgrade then pick small, highly visible areas of your rental property to adorn. Make each spot a showcase of good taste that you can’t miss or pass by without sneaking an admiring glance. Corners and places away from walkways and parking areas are perfect for beautification.

Finally, we can’t all be good at everything we do in our professions. Yet we all have family, friends, employees and local experts who can give us ideas and valuable opinions on what we can do to improve the attractiveness of our rental properties. Ask for ideas and suggestions. You’ll be surprised what you’ll learn.

Prior Landlord's Word on Prospective Tenants


This post is courtesy of www.ezLandlordForms.com  






As part of a thorough tenant background check, most landlords recommend you contact the prospective tenant’s previous landlord to inquire after their rental history. This follows conventional wisdom; after all, employers call prospective employees’ current boss, when evaluating them for hire. But is the current landlord truly unbiased? 





Consider this: what’s the faster way to be rid of a terrible tenant, the expensive and bureaucratic eviction process, or simply telling the new prospective landlord that the tenant has been wonderful? Or if they don’t feel comfortable outright lying, perhaps they will simply dissemble and offer vague answers.

Here’s another scenario: say the prospective tenant asks you not to contact their current landlord, because they are afraid the current landlord will terminate their rental agreement. Should you do it anyway?

This could, of course, be an excuse for the tenant who has behaved terribly at their current residence, whether by paying rent inconsistently or breaching the rules outlined in the lease agreement.

Another possibility, if you are a prospective tenant who has flaunted every clause of your current rental agreement, is to provide a friend or family member's name and phone number, as the "landlord's" contact information.

In short, it’s worth contacting the applicant’s present landlord to inquire about their rental history, but the information should be taken with a proverbial grain of salt. If the rental applicant balks, simply inform them that your policy is to always contact current/prior landlords as part of your tenant screening process, and allow the applicant to withdraw their rental application if they are not comfortable with it.

A comprehensive tenant screening process includes a tenant credit report, criminal background check, eviction history, employment and income verification, current residence walk-through and current/prior landlord inquiry. If the applicant’s current/prior landlord’s information does not align with the other information gathered as part of the tenant screening process, it’s a good indication that they may not be sharing the whole truth.


Fixing that Overwhelming Feeling

Fixing that Overwhelming Feeling
by Wayne Parker

 I have worked with executives and others over the years, the occasional feeling of being totally overwhelmed has been a very common complaint.  It is a symptom of being out of balance, when the tasks, troubles and challenges of the day reach the point where we simply don't cope well.

The staff at ThyBlackMan.com have put together an excellent piece on handling the overwhelming feelings we seem to get so often.  They recommend setting aside two 30 minute periods each day.  In the first, the advise that we simply stop and stay quiet.  Clearing the mind and soul are critical to success in finding balance.The second 3o minute period is all about doing something that you really enjoy.  It could be exercise, reading, playing with the kids or whatever.  But having quiet time and then time doing something of your choosing each day makes the sense of being out of control and overwhelmed somehow less debilitating.

Rising Rents are Hot or Cold?

Rising Rents Are Hot But Facts Show They’re Cooling Down

Posted on PropertyManager.com  on 19. Apr, 2013 by  in Real Estate

The top five growth markets, Seattle, WA, San Diego, CA, Nashville, TN, Richmond, VA and Palm Beach, FL were up between 0.9% (less than 1%) and as high as Seattle’s 1.50 increase to an average of $1,078. The first quarter 2013 was the slowest rate of growth since the end of 2011 according to a report released April 3, 2013 by Reis Inc., a real-estate research company. Rental rates have increased nearly 10% since the nadir of late 2009.  According to a report in The Wall Street Journal those who monitor this situation are becoming more concerned that rents for the multifamily apartment sector have most likely hit their zenith.Single family housing rents rose once again in the first quarter of 2013. Yet signs are beginning to reveal themselves that the seemingly endless months of rising rents may be coming to an end. The reasons are numerous but the biggest is a marked increase in the supply of rental units. In many regions of the country rents actually declined in the first quarter. Such diverse areas as Ventura Country, California and Washington D.C. were nearly flat or down slightly. Okay, Ventura County technically showed a 0.1% increase, but that’s like saying if the average rent was $1,400 at the end of 2012 it’s now up to $1,414 –per-month.

“There’s not a lot of room to keep pushing rents right now,” said Ryan Severino, a Reis senior economist. There are a growing number of renters who are returning to the homeowner markets as a number of lenders are tapping government-sponsored mortgage programs for first-time house buyers and those who were crushed by the housing market collapse of 2007-2009. New York City remained the nation’s most expensive market with average rents of $2,989. Wichita, Kansas was the least market that Reis tracks, with average rents down to $520. Reis, which is a publicly-traded company that trades on the NASDAQ stock market under the symbol REIS, continues to monitor the situation.

The big concern nationwide continues to be overdevelopment. In the Pacific Northwest not only are more apartment building coming on the market but droves of investors have been scooping up every low-priced house, even “fixer-uppers” and converting them to rentals. In Chicago in 2012 a shortage of vacancies prompted owners and landlords to raise rents as much as 20% over 2011 levels, according to Aaron Galvin, quoted in the Journal article, who is the owner of Luxury Living Chicago Realty. That’s quickly changing according to Mr. Galvin who indicated that hundreds of new rental units have been added each month. He was quoted as saying that he hasn’t seen a rent rise above 5% so far this year.

It’s important for Property Managers and Owners to keep their fingers on the pulse of their local economy. Raising rents arbitrarily can motivate residents to move or to consider buying a starter home. Many property managers I spoke with for this article say it’s better to be slightly below the average rent than too far above it. If you need to incrementally or gradually raise the rent consider giving your residents advance notice and some good reasons that they can relate with. If you’re having trouble filling vacancies you may want to offer incentives again, like offering a free month of rent for signing a 13-month lease.

Did You Hear That? Now What?

Did you hear that? Now what?

If you are brave enough to ask the question, you must be brave enough to accept the answer and take the necessary steps to get better. But you must ask in order to know.

How are we doing?
Have we met your expectations?
What do you think about our services?
Where are we slacking?
Where are we achieving?

Your customers are the best marketing and quality control tool. Property managers throughout the nation share ideas with peers, consultants and competitors. The answer lies within the organization. Ask your clients about your services and even brainstorm on new approaches or ideas. Ask your tenants how happy they are with the home and your concierge level services. You will be surprise on how bright some of them will turn out to be and how willing they are to share their views and expertise.

Now , action is what makes it worthwhile. Creating an implementation plan and following through will trigger growth and enhancements to the organization. A few years ago I received feedback from a tenant that just moved onto one of our properties. He said that thanks to the pictures of our competitor's advertisement in the neighborhood, he was able to appreciate the amenities. That our advertising did not display the lifestyle he was looking for but rather the specifics of the unit like kitchen, bedrooms, baths, flooring, appliances, but nothing else. We had no appeal but our competitors gave them a reason to move to the neighborhood NO MATTER the quality of the unit. From that moment on, we focus our advertising on lifestyle and we have lowered our vacancy ratio 60%.

It works to listen. 

The Ideal Tenant vs. The Ideal Landlord

The Ideal Tenant:

  • Respectful
  • Understanding
  • Polite
  • Reads the lease
  • Understands emergency vs. non emergency
  • Pays on time and online
  • Never lies
  • Cleans
  • Makes minor repairs
  • Gives positive feedback
  • Complaints only if necessary
  • Keep records

The Ideal Landlord:

  • Hires an experienced professional Property Manager (preferably a NARPM member), sits back and RELAXES.

Do you need a professional Property Manager?

Is It Time To Hire A Property Manager

Source: AppFolio.com

On the Move!

America On The Move - Infographic

Source: AppFolio.com

What's more important, Returns or Cash Flow?

In our practice, almost on a daily basis we find ourselves giving investment advise to clients. Our focus tend to be geared to the potential return on investment and the ease of renting the unit to the best possible tenant. What about the potential cash flow? is this important? Recently I read this article on PropertyManager.com from Appfolio Property Manager, Posted on 29. Nov, 2012 by Leonard Baron. It portrays a clear picture of what cash flow really means.

"If you are thinking about buying some rental properties as investments, you should probably understand how to project cash flows and evaluate the investment returns you hope to achieve on your hard earned invested cash equity.

There are really two types of returns that we can earn on investment property, first is appreciation in value which is the most common hoped for return. Secondly, and much more important but generally overlooked by investors, is the cash flow picture the property will generate.

The vast majority of investors buy real estate with the hope that it will go up in value. This is really a big mistake because many properties, particularly the prize “location, location, location” properties have corresponding negative cash flows on operations that may negate any true increase in wealth from one’s long term appreciation in value.

So a savvy investor needs to look at the cash flow picture and buy properties with positive cash flows, not negative cash flows. As an example of this in San Diego, one could buy a fancy downtown condominium for $500,000 which would rent for about $2,300 per month. That rent, minus all the maintenance expenses, HOA fees, insurance, property taxes, and mortgage payment would have a deficit on cash flows of about ($1,000) per month, or ($12,000) per year.

So while a buyer is hoping some appreciation in value will earn him or her a fair rate of return, that appreciation has to additionally compensate for all the money he has to take out of his savings to cover the negative cash flows. Those negative cash flows, on this example, could span several decades and hundreds of thousands of dollars before the property turns positive.

Alternatively, there are many properties that cash flow positive from day one as an investment. A moderately priced house or condominium unit, only a few miles away from downtown in the $150,000 price range, might generate $1,200 per month in rent and positive cash flows of $225 per month. That’s $2,700 per year of positive cash flow. As a side note – the appreciation in value, over the long term, will probably be similar on both properties anyhow. So why not go for cash flow plus appreciation in value!

To calculate a cash on cash return, we divide that $2,700 positive cash flow by the cash equity we invested, maybe $40,000 on the $150,000 property for a cash on cash investment return of 6.75% on our money. And that’s a really good deal! Especially compared to the fancy prize condominium that might generate a negative (8.5%) return on our invested equity.

There is more guidance in the Investment article noted below if you desire to study further. However, as a long term investor, I can assure you that positive cash flow properties, so properties that pay all the bills and provide a rate of return on your money, are much better investments than negative cash flow fancy prize properties that just drain money from your bank account. Hopefully you’ll understand this concept before you buy that prize!"

Leonard Baron is America’s Real Estate Professor – his unbiased, neutral and inexpensive “Real Estate Ownership, Investment and Due Diligence 101” textbook teaches real estate buyers how to make smart and safe purchase decisions. He is a San Diego State University Lecturer, blogs at Zillow.com, and loves kicking the tires of a good piece of dirt! More at ProfessorBaron.com.

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