Let's share some idea's.
Facts and Questions about Property Management Services
As property managers here in Connecticut, we thought we'd share some insight regarding the process of Property Management. As with most questions, the short answer is rarely a complete answer. If you are interested in more detail regarding your obligations, our responsibilities, possible applications of Landlord/Tenant Law or any of the processes that are mentioned in this document, please feel free to Contact Christopher Bjorklund. We would be happy to discuss any concerns in detail.
Q: What can a Property Management company do for me?
A: A Property Management Company manages (investment) property. Owning an investment property is very much like owning a small business. You have income and expenses, products and services, contracts and legal requirements and so on. Depending on the property and the kind of rental you have, this can be an extremely time consuming process. Not only must you handle financial, maintenance and tenant issues, but you should stay informed of all landlord/tenant and other legal requirements relating to rental properties.
A property manager can take care of all of these issues for you. In many cases, the owner will receive monthly reports, perhaps talk with a property manager a few times a year and can rest assured that their property is being monitored and handled.
Q: How can I be sure I get GOOD RENTERS in our investment?
A: Tenant Screening is the process that both insures a new tenant has theCapability to pay the rent required, and that they have a History of stability and good tenancy. Bjorklund Properties will screen every application it receives to insure that they meet with our approved rental criteria. Remember, nobody can guarantee that a tenant will perform on the terms of the rental agreement or lease.
It is also important to remember all of the factors that attract good tenants. A clean, nice, updated home will attract more applicants than one that unkempt or in various stages of disrepair. Lower rates attract more people, higher rates tend to attract persons in a higher income bracket. Allowing pets and/or smokers will also attract more potential applicants. Longer leases typically attract fewer people, and shorter leases (1 year or less), or month-to-month tenancies, are typically more attractive. The more restrictive the rental criteria are, the fewer people will be attracted to rent your property
Q: How will I know that my investment is not being “trashed” by tenants?
A: Bjorklund Properties will screen potential tenants, we will drive by the property monthly and we will do interior inspections annually. Further, if there is any cause to believe that a serious contract violation is occurring (such as drug issues, unauthorized residents, unauthorized pets or so on) we will arrange for more frequent inspections. Typically these measures are included in your management fee and do not cost extra.
There is no guarantee that tenants will abide by the rental agreement, or that a property manager will detect problems in time to prevent damages or problems. However, we have found that the above measures often prevent serious problems and minimize potential physical and financial damages from inappropriate behavior.
Q: When I hire a Property Manager, will they do everything to take care of the investment?
A: The short answer is “they can”. The scope of the Property Manager’s authority is usually negotiated between the Owner and the Management Company, and is reduced to writing in the Property Management Agreement. This is the basis from which all future actions are based and is a very important document. Typically an Owner will authorize most actions, sometimes with spending limits, that are required for the successful operation of an investment property.
Q: How long do I have to provide funds if the Management Company asks for them?
A: That depends on the Management Agreement, but usually they are required on demand, with a reasonable amount of lead time. So, if your Property Manager needs an additional $250 to pay for a repair bill, an owner might have 3 days from the date of notification to deliver the funds to the management company.
It is important to remember that additional funds are usually required only when the property is in need of something. You are typically not paying the management company more- you are simply repairing or improving your investment property.
Q: Do I give up my authority when I sign a management agreement?
A: Typically you do not “give up” your authority, you confer the authority to the Property Manager to make decisions and act in the best interests of you and the property. Your Property Management Agreement is the basis for the PM’s authority, so you should read it carefully.
Most of the time you can be as involved with, or as distant from, the investment as you want to be. However, the ultimate responsibility for dealing with the investment property is always squarely on the owners shoulders. Some management companies will require that an owner handle making units ready to rent, while others can provide that service for the owners. Often a Property Management Agreement will state spending limits that the PM will use as a guide for getting the Owner involved.
Q: Is the Property Manager financially responsible for making the home or apartment ready to rent, and for all advertising costs?
A: These questions should be answered in the Property Management Agreement, but usually the answer is No. The PM is responsible for making sure the home is rentable (maintenance, cleaning, safety and habitability problems and so on), for insuring that the bills are paid and that the rent is collected. They are NOT typically responsible for the financial requirements to make these things happen. In short, the PM will do the footwork and make sure the issues are resolved, but the Owner is responsible for the financial burden.
Q: Is the Property Manager responsible if they don’t collect the rent, or if the tenant damages my property?
A: Your property manager has no control over what a tenant does or does not do. A PM is responsible for insuring that a tenant knows what is required, and for assisting the tenant in the performance of those requirements, but the PM cannot MAKE the tenant do anything. A Property Manager can negotiate with tenants, remind them of legal obligations, file on them with the courts and take other measures to pressure them into conforming to the terms of their agreement.
Further, remember that the short and long term benefits of investment property ownership are the Owners, not the PM’s. The tax benefits, cash flow, appreciation and equity enjoyed by the owner are completely unavailable to the PM. They are paid only based on the terms of the management agreement, and are basically hired by the Owner to do the day-to-day work of managing the property. Because an Owner stands to make a considerable sum from an investment property over time, it only makes sense that the Owner is the one who should financially maintain the investment.
Q: If a tenant does not pay on time, what will the Property Manager do?
A: Every management company has different procedures, but most follow these general steps. First, the tenant is informed that payment was not received and that the rent is late. Usually this is in the form of an eviction notice for non-payment (which gives the tenant some time to correct the problem). If the tenant responds and has a reasonable problem, the PM may negotiate a payment schedule and continued tenancy. If the problem is not reasonable, or if the tenant does not respond, the PM will file with the court system to start eviction proceedings.
Q: How does maintenance get done, and who pays for it?
A: Typically maintenance is either reported by the tenant or is discovered during an inspection. Bjorklund Properties will assess the problem then determine how best to approach it. In many cases a maintenance resource will be scheduled to repair the issue. Sometimes outside vendors will be hired if it is determined they can do the job better or faster. On larger projects (usually if estimated over $1,500) Bjorklund Properties will solicit bids. We will usually choose the bid that offers the best value, not necessarily the lowest bid.
Many factors go into these decisions. Can our maintenance resources complete the job more efficiently, faster or work within our preferred time frame? Is the vendor or contractor licensed, bonded and insured? Do we have any reason to believe the estimate or bid is too low, or that they will attempt to renegotiate once the job is started? Will the vendor or contractor still be around in a year or two if the project fails at a later date. All of these factors and more are an important but indirect part of the decision making process.
Emergency Maintenance- Bjorklund Properties is authorized by the management agreement to spend any amount of money required to stop a problem from getting worse or resolve a serious safety issue. Typically these kinds of issues revolve around roof or water leaks, electrical issues or other safety issues.
The cost of all repairs, from mowing the lawn or fixing the door knob to replacing tub surrounds, remodeling kitchens and installing new roofs, is the owners responsibility. Bjorklund Properties will make spending decisions as closely in line with the owners objectives as possible, but in signing the management agreement you are authorizing Bjorklund Properties to make those decisions within the spending limits described in that agreement.
Q: What is this “Property Management Agreement”? Is it really important?
A: The Property Management Agreement is the document that authorizes your agent (the property management company) to work on your behalf. This is the document that describes what they can do for you, what decisions they are authorized to make, how much they can charge you and what your obligations are. This is a very important and legally binding document. Read it carefully and understand the terms and conditions of this employment agreement.
Q: How long will it take to rent out any vacant space? How much rent can I charge?
A: There is no guarantee that a home or apartment will be rented in any time frame. Rent rates effect the time it takes to rent, as to the amounts of Security Deposits and other fees. Bjorklund Properties performs a "Market Study" and determines a recommended starting point for the rent rate that is likely to promote finding a new tenant in the first 2-4 weeks the unit is vacant.
When possible Bjorklund Properties likes to Pre-Rent vacancies (meaning rent the space before it becomes vacant). We will sometimes leave 1-2 weeks for cleaning, painting, repairs and upgrades between tenants. When pre-renting is not possible we begin advertising as soon as we know when the space can be made ready. We screen applications on a first come, first serve basis.
Rent rates may be determined by the owner or the property manager. Typically we will advise an owner regarding our opinion of what rates are reasonable for a given space. As with any product, it will often sell faster at a lower price, so if the space does not rent fairly soon it may be cost effective to lower the rate and have it rented for more weeks out of the year.
An owner's goals are an important part of any renting strategy. Some owners prefer keeping the rate low and the units rented. Others prefer pushing the market to get the highest possible rate. Make sure to explain your needs to your property manager.
Bjorklund Properties will research the specific neighborhood or area for comparable rental units and will base rates on what the competition is asking or achieving. This is an effective means of determining market value.
Q: What happens if the tenant is evicted? Will I ever see the money they owe me?
A: Though any number of things might occur during the eviction process, typically the tenant moves out or is locked out by the sheriff. In many cases the unit or home will require a considerable amount of work including trash hauling, painting and cleaning, often some minor or major maintenance. Typically it takes 3-5 weeks to evict a tenant, then plan on some additional time to make the unit rentable again.
There is usually plenty of documentation supporting the claim of the landlord against the tenant. Some companies will pursue tenants for a short while, then transfer the account to a collection agency. Or, an Owner may take the file to small claims court (or civil court). However, the sad truth is that Owners rarely see payments from past tenants, and it is usually a small enough amount that owners often decide not to pursue legal action.
Q: Can I instruct the Property Manager to do or not do specific things with my property or the tenants?
A: Yes. Your PM is your agent, and they have an obligation to assist you in meeting your needs. However, keep in mind that they are also required to follow the law, that they are regulated and overseen in ways an Owner is not, and that they have a reputation of their own to maintain. If you insist that they do something that is against the law or is detrimental to their own business, they will most likely refuse or even terminate the Management Agreement.
Q: I am VERY pleased with the performance of my management company. What should I do?
A: Tell all your friends and business associates!!! WE believe, like most companies, that word of mouth is the best advertising. If you are pleased with your property manager, help them out by telling others about your experience.
Any questions, please don't hesitate!
The Bjorklund Properties team.
Tip # 1:Freshen up an old room with a bold paint color, then use it to paint just one wall in a room. Covering only one wall will cost less and won’t take as much time as painting the whole room.
Tip # 2:
Switch your faucets. Do you have drab, leaky faucet? If you can wield a wrench, you can easily install a new faucet. Before you start the job, turn off the water supply. Then just unscrew the connections from your old faucet and screw in your new faucet. Add an aerator, and you'll lower your water bill at the same time.
Tip # 3:
Clean your dryer ductsIf your dryer doesn’t work as quickly as it used to, lint could be the culprit. Buildup not only affects efficiency, it also increases your risk of fire. To clean your ducts, first you’ll need some muscle to move your dryer away from the wall. Then you just need a vacuum. Unplug the dryer, disconnect the ductwork, and vacuum out the ducts as well as you can.
Tip # 4:
Inspect your electrical! Conduct an audit of your electrical outlets. For childproofing purposes, insert outlet covers into unused wall and power strip outlets, and secure any loose wires. For general safety, look for overloaded circuits and power cords, and adjust as necessary. Frayed cords should be replaced as should any light switch that is hot to the touch.
Build raised flowerbeds - You can build an 8-foot-square garden bed in less than an hour, using eight 8-foot-long sections of pressure-treated lumber, screws, construction adhesive, and landscape adhesive. Using a saw and a drill, cut pieces to size and secure them together. Add landscape fabric to the base to prevent the growth of messy-looking weeds.
Tip # 6:
Scrub your pathways, sidewalks, walkways, and driveways can become stained by wet leaves, mildew, and car leaks. Get rid of these with a thorough power-washing.
Tip # 7:
Update your hardware - Once you select new doorknobs or cabinet pulls, installation often requires nothing more than a screwdriver. To mount pulls on doors that never had them before, create a template to ensure that you drill your holes in the same spot each time.
Tip # 8:
De-grime your house - With a pressure washer, there’s no need to crawl on the roof to clean your gutters - just aim and spray. A pressure washer also cleans grime off your gutters and your vinyl siding as well. It can even be used to clean your second floor windows. Just be sure that all your windows are securely closed before you start.
Tip # 9:
Install weatherstripping that will make your home more comfortable while ensuring that your furnace won’t have to work so hard to warm your house. Permanent weatherstripping, which has adhesive, is recommended around doors and windows that are opened throughout the season. For windows that will stay shut until spring, consider temporary weather seals or sealant that peels off when it’s no longer needed.
Tip # 10:
Replace your furnace filter ! To improve air quality as well as furnace efficiency, check your furnace filters for dirt monthly and change them at least every three months. A new filter will substantially reduce the number of airborne dust particles. If you have allergies, you might want to invest in a better filter. Replacement is a cinch. Just swap the old one for a new one, and you’re done.
Tip # 11:
Drain your water heater. Water contains sediment that can collect at the bottom of your water heater. These particles create insulation over time that forces your heater to work harder when it's generating hot water for your shower. The extra temperature stresses the metal, causing leaks. To counteract the sediment buildup, simply drain a quart of water from your hot water heater once every three months. Check your owner’s manual for instructions.
Tip # 12:
Install a programmable thermostat - If your home is one of the millions that still has an old-fashioned dial thermostat, it’s time to switch. Programmable thermostats allow you to automatically vary the temperature in your home throughout the day. They're easy to install and relatively affordable. To experience the joy of waking up to a warm bedroom while still saving money on your heating bill, all you need is a screwdriver, drill, and (possibly) touch-up paint.
In this market, homeowners are renting their properties rather than selling. If that's you, then start with these tips:
Minimize Your Vacancy Rates
Winter has the worst vacancy rates, and you lose rental income every month your rental home sits empty. Having a tenant move out at this time of year is often considered the kiss of death because finding tenants in the winter is more difficult. Kevin Haag, Founder and CEO of Douglas Realty and Development, encourages his rental property owners to offer something nobody else would to avoid an empty rental property in December and January. Consider an incentive such as “sign your lease before Christmas and get the first week of January free” or “sign your lease before New Year’s Eve and get a $100 gift certificate from your local grocer or well-known restaurant.” Haag suggests that if you dare to be different your results will improve.
In addition to offering incentives, compare your rents with those in the area to make sure your rent is fair. There are many different ways to do this, from checking comparable properties on rental property websites, to using an online service such as "Rentometer".
While your rental unit or home shouldn’t be priced too high, make sure it’s also not priced too low for two reasons. First, you want to maximize your rental income. Second, if potential renters think the rent is too low for the area, they may assume that something is wrong with your rental property and not even come and look at it.
Also, If you or your property management company (if you have one) doesn’t have a professional website to advertise your rental property, now’s the time to try to do something about that. Recent studies show that the vast majority of renters rely on the Internet to find rentals. And having a rental property on a landlord’s or property management company’s professional website is one way potential renters can confirm the rental home isn’t part of a rental scam. If you feel ill-equipped to take building a website on yourself, seriously considering hiring someone to help you.
Checklist: Minimizing Your Winter Vacancy Rates
As a property manager here in Connecticut, I try to inform and communicate as much as possible with my clients, and I always give property owners and landlords the tools to keep them safe from the hazards of asbestos and lead-based paint.
Managing older properties is part of the game in New England, and it comes with added health and environmental risks because of lead-based paint and asbestos. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that more than 24 million homes in the United States contain substantial lead paint hazards. Follow these tips for your home.
Known Health Risks of Asbestos and Lead-Based paint are common in older properties - particularly in those built before 1978, when the government stopped producing lead-based paint. However newer homes and apartments still contain paint manufactured prior to the ban.
Exposure to lead paint can cause stunted physical and mental development in children, while adults can experience irritability, poor coordination, nerve and reproductive damage. Asbestos, a mineral fiber used in various older building construction materials for insulation and fireproofing, carries a long-term risk of chest and abdominal cancers, and lung disease.
In both cases, you will not be able to detect the presence of either asbestos or lead paint by simply looking. I suggest contacting an authorized contractor to get a recommendation on contaminant removal. “The hard part is determining what is an asbestos hazard and what’s not. If there is a concern, Bjorklund Properties can get an assessment from a properly trained and licensed environmental hazard contractor before moving forward.
In most instances, the presence of lead-based paint or asbestos does not necessarily mean removal. For paint, we recommend managing it rather than re-mediating it. The re-mediation process can release finite dust in the air and create bigger health risks for the tenant. “Lead paint doesn’t become hazardous unless it becomes airborne,” explains John Parker, national chairman, governmental affairs, National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM). He recommends removal only if the paint in an older property is peeling or chipping, which can also be harmful if ingested, especially by small children. “In that case, it should be scraped and repainted before a tenant moves in.” Stein says to be mindful of areas such as windows and doors, which are more susceptible to creating “lead dust” from opening and closing frames. For asbestos, he notes that building material — such as floor tiles, insulation wrap, exterior tile siding and tile roofing — should be thoroughly assessed by a qualified outside contractor to determine if the contaminant is present. All areas should be evaluated before proceeding with any repairs, and property managers should always expect the unexpected. “One of my properties had a pipe wrapped with material that contained asbestos,” Stein says. “When animals were getting into the crawl space and scratching at it for nesting material, they created a potential biohazard.”
EPA regulations vary by state regarding tenant disclosure of lead-based paint and asbestos present in a property. The 1992 Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act requires all property managers to issue the EPA-sponsored information pamphlet, “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home,” to new tenants, which is downloadable online. Additionally, most managers use a Lead-Based Paint Disclosure Form to ensure compliance with EPA regulatory standards. Failure to issue one or both of these documents may subject all property managers to fines, liabilities, and civil and criminal penalties. Although there are no laws in place for asbestos disclosure, Parker says it is still best to ensure legal protection by hiring a qualified contractor to assess and remove the contaminant if it may pose a health risk.
For more information on lead paint and asbestos hazards and regulations, visit www.epa.gov. or don't hesitate to contact Bjorklund Properties by phone.
In today’s competitive real estate market, sometimes the standard open houses are not yielding much success, so some home-sellers are choosing an alternate way, that's been dubbed in our industry, 'Extreme Open Houses".
These events are causing quite a stir, with catered refreshments, elaborate parties, or even prizes in the guise of an open house, with the hope that someone will buy their home. It is the holiday season, after all and people are in a festive mood --throwing a party is always a good idea to draw their attention.
The biggest advantage of having an extreme open house is that potential buyers can see your home in a completely different light, giving you a chance to display your home's most appealing features. For example, if you're cooking at your party, your guests can focus, and enjoy your kitchen in a very real, relaxed, practical way.
Instead of showing a cold, empty home, you can attract potential buyers with a warm and vibrant home full of personal furnishings. Throwing a party in a warm and inviting home is a good idea when you invite people who don't plan on buying your home, since many of them will tell their friends about it.
Keeping it Simple
You don't really need to throw an elaborate party to draw people in, but you can offer them nice snacks or a glass of wine, giving them a chance to unwind in the living room or patio. How to begin? Make a list of friends and acquaintances, send out some flyers with you contact information and some facts about your home!
Although the holidays aren't really considered the best time to sell, the real estate market is much tighter, resulting in less competition for sellers. At the same time, buyers are still in the market for homes, in hopes that they can purchase.
During the holidays, you can liven up your home with some lights and ornaments to attract buyers. Although you can make your home “shine” during the holidays, try not to overdo it. Homes often look their best during the holidays, but sellers should be careful not to overdo it on the decor.
Also keep in mind that emotions play a big role in home-buyer purchases. A well organized home with a few tasteful decorations shows much better than a cluttered home with your kid’s toys lying around the living room. People will often purchase a home solely based on their gut feelings. If a buyer “falls in love” with your home, chances are they’re going to be more inclined to purchase it.
On a final note, it’s also a good idea to make it easy for people to stop by to see your home. In this case, flexibility is a key factor. People are busy during the holidays, and the chances of selling your home will be much greater if make it available for them to see.
Despite the fact that many people feel that the holidays aren’t a good time to buy or sell a home, this really isn’t the case. With a little knowledge and effort, you can sell your home in a timely manner, relax, and enjoy the Holidays!
The days are definitely shorter, and the weather is Brrrutal.
There are a multitude of sites, seminars and real estate gurus out there offering precious, hard-to-find-insight on how to get the best deal. You could spend hours combing through articles and talking to quote-on-quote experts. Or you could save yourself a lot of time and trouble and just look out the nearest window.
If the trees are barren, and there’s snow on the ground, then it might be an ideal time to maximize your purchasing power.
Buying a home in winter may be one of the industry’s most downplayed opportunities. Sales are often slow, and prices and inventory tend to sag from November to January. There are fewer buyers, more real estate agents and winter sellers who are perhaps more open to concessions.
Check out our properties for sale on the Connecticut Shoreline
Naturally, the best time to get a home loan is when it makes the most sense for you, personally and financially. But if you have the benefit of a flexible timeline, a winter home search might help you land the best possible deal.
Buyers and sellers alike tend to shift focus away from the housing market as the holiday season nears. Winter weather can easily make home shopping unappealing, and many homeowners simply think their property shows better in the spring and summer.
Not to mention, the home inventory usually falls about 15 percent in the winter compared to the summer months, according to the National Association of Realtors. At the same time, home prices dip an average of $7,000 after Labor Day and usually hit rock bottom in December.
A declining inventory is a seasonal risk to be sure; however, while the pool of available homes may decrease a bit, there are potential advantages. Sellers with a winter listing may be much more motivated to unload the property, possibly on more flexible terms than you’ll find in spring or summer.
Winter also means more down time for real estate agents and mortgage professionals. I happen to be a real estate agent and broker, and I work with several mortgage brokers; take advantage of downtime -- you may actually be able to move through the mortgage process faster than any other season.
I've frequently been asked if one can get better loan terms during winter. That's a difficult question to answer, and to be fair and safe, the general response is probably a boring "maybe". So much depends on a borrower's credit scores and financial profile, not to mention the mortgage-rate environment.
What we can decipher with higher probability though is that this winter might be better for home buyers, because interest rates are likely to rise by the end of next year.
Winter shopping will also provide a different vantage point of a home. You'll see the house under a grey-ish sky, and without the lush greenery. You might also see whether your neighbor blows his snow onto your future driveway.
A different light
Winter shopping also provides a different vantage point of a property. You’ll see the house without the lush greenery or the sunlight streaming through open windows. You might also see whether the neighbor blows his snow onto your future driveway.
December usually brings about the first big snow fall - and along with it, some tasks for keeping your home cozy, safe and secure. It is also a nice time to develop your home improvement plan for the upcoming year.
December is a month for celebrations, family gatherings and holidays. However, if you find yourself puttering around the house, feeling like you need to do something useful, here at Bjorklund Properties, we have a holiday wish-list for your home.
Take advantage of this month's first snowfall to learn things about your house that only snow can reveal. Is the snow melting from your roof rapidly? That means heat is escaping from your home through the roof and you might consider adding some attic insulation. The quick formation of icicles without a thaw is another sign that you're losing heat through the roof. You might wish to do some simple web searches, such as " winterizing external plumbing" for additional info.
Indeed, there are many chores to do after a snow fall; consider the tasks as your excuse to get outside and enjoy a winter in wonderland.
* Clear walkways and sprinkle sand, salt or even cat litter (strange but true!) for traction. Be careful if you're using salt as it can leach into flower beds and is hard on pet's little feet.
*Check your roof for ice dams and break them up to release water if needed. Frozen dams along the eaves cause melted snow to puddle above and could leak through the roof.
*Knock snow from tree branches to prevent them from breaking under the weight.
*Consider sweeping snow from roofs that have shallow angles, like sheds, garages, etc., if you can do it safely.
As a temporary means to get through a freezing winter with pipes intact, block north-facing crawl-space vents with a piece of plywood. I do this on all the properties I manage, works every time.
If an unusually cold snap is predicted, and you live in an older house, it's always a good idea to leave the sink and bath faucets on at a slow trickle to keep pipes from freezing. This is especially important if the heat is turned off in the house for a prolonged period.
If you have an oil heater, you can save fuel and repair costs by cleaning some parts of the burner yourself. Start by turning off the power, lift the blower cover and dust the blades of the blower. Lubricate the motor by pouring oil in the oil cups. If you're so inspired and courageous, you can even clean the oil strainer and replace the filter. Check the owner's manual for do-it-yourself maintenance of your oil burner.
If you have forced-air heating ducts, check ducts once a year for leaks and seal with (yes) duct tape. Routinely vacuum dust from duct grilles, and have the entire system professionally cleaned annually, or as recommended by your heating system's maintenance manual.
If mice or rats have invaded your home ( a friend found a raccoon in his room today!), don't be softhearted. They can do serious damage that ranges from leaving droppings to chewing your home's wires, which can burn your house down. First, discern whether you have rats or mice: Rats make a lot of noise and leave half-inch droppings. Next, buy a dozen appropriately sized traps, bait half of them (peanut butter works well and is cheap) and place them without setting them. After the rodents have taken the first bait, rebait and set all the traps in one fell swoop. Wear gloves to dispose of the rodents, trap and all. (Do not try to reuse traps or you'll have a harder time going through with the chore.) Mice and rats breed like ... well, rabbits, so keep repeating this cycle until you see no new evidence of these unwelcome, hazardous, naughty house-guests.
We always recommend assessing your home's emergency kit. Make sure you have a battry-powered radio, a first aid kit, blankets, several gallons of fresh water, tools for shutting off gas and water lines, candles and matches, flashlights, and batteries. If you also live in Connecticut, do you have a backup heat supply? A generator?
If you’ve ever been a landlord, you’ve probably experienced that uneasy feeling that something is not exactly as it seems about a rental applicant, but can’t put your fingers on it. You have some reservations about the prospect but everything from their employment history to a stellar recommendation appears to check out. Months later, however, after receiving late payments consistently, you learn why you had that uneasy feeling…too late.
Today’s rental applicants are savvy and know their new landlords will want some reassurance they can pay rent on time and maintain the property in good condition. However, some tenants go the extra length to reassure, sometimes dishonestly.
As landlords, or property managers, we are aware of these tricks, can safeguard against untrustworthy tenants. Here are some common deceitful applications, and ways to fool proof the tenant screening process.
Human Resources Versus Director Supervisor Tenants will sometimes offer direct supervisor’s contact information for verification of employment and salary. Never allow this to be the only form of verification. It is very easy for a co-worker to be given a heads up to answer their phones and pretend to be the supervisor. Always insist on obtaining this information directly from HR whenever possible.
Research Local Tax Records: When a tenant provides their current address and landlord information, be sure to check the tax records for that property to verify the landlord’s name matches the name on the property taxes. In many cases, tenants convince friends or family to pose as their current/prior landlords when they have poor rental histories. Always ask if they pay rent to a management company or directly to a landlord. If they pay directly to a landlord but the name on the tax records doesn’t match the name provided as the landlord, it is an alert signal that something is wrong. Landlords can also do reverse phone lookups which match telephone numbers to names. If the name provided by prospective tenant does not match the name associated with the phone, this should raise a red flag. This is more difficult to do when the landlord is a private owner; apartment complexes can be easily verified.
Beware the Spiker: A tenant who has previous history of paying $500 per month is suddenly able to afford a $1,500 per month single-family home may very well be forging income somewhere. Typically, an employee’s income does not spike that much in a short period of time. In this case, do not just rely on pay stubs, which can be fairly easily manipulated. Ask to see last two years tax records in addition to pay stubs and check thoroughly for any inconsistencies. And even if the new income does check out, payment shock can cause the tenant to mismanage their newly-improved income, and still default on rent.
Don’t Be Shy: When interviewing former landlords, ask the hard questions like were there many complaints about the tenant in question? Of course, the standard questions about whether rent was paid in full and on time should be asked, but prospective landlords should also ask about tenant’s communication patterns and how the tenant handled any adverse situations which may have come up. Sometimes the nicest tenants during the application process can turn into nightmare tenants at the first bump in the road.
Another question for the former landlord is whether the tenant followed proper procedures, for everything from placing maintenance requests to following parking restrictions to HOA rules.
General Due Diligence: Cutting corners during the screening process is simply asking for trouble. Follow up on every reference provided. Tenants already know their chosen references will likely give them a glowing recommendation, however with some unexpected questions, landlords may find out much more than the tenants bargained for. Charge a rental application fee, to sort the non-serious applicants out before wasting further time on screening. Obtain credit reports and criminal histories. Verify the applicant’s identity, income and employment. Check tax returns.
Most problem tenants can be filtered out by diligent tenant screening, and when excuses start arising and it seems like a lot of work, repeat the old adage that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Landlords who follow these steps can be reasonably secure with their tenant choices and avoid countless future tenant problems.
Tell us how you screen your tenants? Have you tried any of the methods in the article? If so, what was the outcome?
Similar to the process of getting a mortgage or purchasing a home, selling a property has several steps and details to be aware of.
The following simple checklist will help you gather your thoughts before you start interviewing Milwaukee real estate agents about selling your property.
Define Why You Need to Sell
Understand The Economics of Selling a Property
Plan Your Selling Strategy
What is a Short Sale?
Many homeowners have found themselves in a situation over the past few years since the real estate crash where they owe more on their home loan than their property will appraise or sell for, yet they are still in a position of needing to sell due to a hardship, change in employment or lifestyle.
A Short Sale is one of a few alternatives to foreclosure where the seller and bank negotiate the terms of selling the property for less than the amount owed on the mortgage. Banks choose to negotiate a short sale because it typically saves them time and money as opposed to going through a lengthy and sometimes costly foreclosure process.
Some States allow for Renovation Loans (like the FHA 203K renovation loan in Wisconsin) which allows borrowers to finance additional renovation costs into a loan amount that may be needed for financing, basic cosmetic upgrades, fresh paint, new carpet, cabinets, kitchen remodeling, etc. In Wisconsin, the FHA 203l loans, allow for buyers to buy foreclosures and short sales that are vacant due to any rehab work needed to make the property move-in ready.
This is a very common question among homeowners, especially if they are thinking about selling their property.
You are going to find various opinions on what the value of your property is in today’s market.
Here are some options to guide your research as you're thinking about selling your property:
Overall, use multiple points of reference when looking up the value of your property. Don’t just use one source and expect it to be completely accurate.