Categories
Landlords

Should Tenants Be Allowed to Make Home Improvements?

Nothing is worse than having a tenant who took “please feel at home” way too seriously.

While some tenants will only install their own wall decor or child safety latches on kitchen cabinets, some tenants make more permanent changes to the rental without your permission. This creates a whole lot of trouble—broken lease agreements, depleted security deposits, and costly restorations when they finally move out.

So, should tenants be allowed to make home improvements in any circumstances? Let’s look at some considerations.

Common Home Improvements to Expect from Tenants

Here are some examples of rental property alterations often done by tenants:

  • Painting the interior walls
  • Changing light fixtures
  • Changing appliances
  • Installing new locks on doors
  • Upgrading security systems
  • Changing the landscaping/garden

While these changes may be considered an actual improvement or upgrade to the property, you need to ask yourself the following questions before allowing them:

  • Will your tenants do a good job? They may not have the skill to carry out the project and may not adhere to safety or industry standards.
  • Who will pay for the improvements? They might expect a decrease in rent due to work done and materials used—even if the changes made are not up to par. 
  • Can you reverse the renovation? It’s possible that they deviate from the purpose of the original design (e.g., laminated floors are easier to clean than hardwood, simple landscaping is easier to maintain, etc.), which could require reversals in the future.
  • What does the lease state? Allowing them to break agreements might lead to them pushing their luck—further ignoring other clauses beyond just home improvements. 

You need to remember that your rental property is an investment—one that you should take ownership over, improve, and maintain according to your standards. Moreover, your tenants should see the importance of adhering to the contract and, ultimately, respecting you as their landlord.

What to Do If They’ve Done It Already

Should you discover that they’ve already made the improvements without authorization, here are three steps that landlords should do:

  1. Send a written notice of the home alteration, expressing your disappointment that they did not notify or seek permission before implementing the changes. Point out the specific lease clauses that they have violated.
  2. Warn the tenants that there should be no further changes done to the property without permission and that you’ll happily consider any changes they might still want to make.
  3. Outline the consequences of their action. This could range from just a fair warning to requesting that they reverse the renovation made—at their expense. If the alterations are extreme, you can deduct the cost from their security deposit upon Move-Out or proceed with eviction due to lease violation.

How to Prevent Tenants From Making Unauthorized Home Improvements

As they say, prevention is better than cure. So if unauthorized home improvements have been made by your tenants, make sure to review the lease agreements. Ensure that the following lease clauses are clearly stated:

  • Improvements that can only be done by the landlord or with landlord’s written permission
  • Improvements that can be done by either party
  • Consequences for alterations that devalues the property

Your goal is to create a space for tenants to freely improve their living conditions while being firm and clear with the boundaries. Even if you lucked out this time and the tenants did a great job improving the home, an unclear lease will open you to future problem alterations…and your luck may just run out.

Conclusion

Every rental property will need renovations and improvements from time to time. From repairing to re-flooring, landlords need to stay on top of their rental properties and make the necessary renovations when needed.

If your property can use a bit of work and you see that the tenants are capable of doing a good job, you should have no problems allowing them to improve the space. The bottom line is to make sure that they understand the boundaries and adhere to your lease agreements, and you should be good to go.

Do you allow your tenants to make home improvements? What are your non-negotiables? 

Image Courtesy of Polina Tankilevitch

Categories
Flipping

How to Find the Ideal General Contractor to Flip Houses

Finding a general contractor (GC) for your house flip can be challenging.

You want someone who knows what they’re doing, is trustworthy, has affordable prices, and has good reviews. This means you need to do proper research before hiring a general contractor—don’t hire the first one you find!

As a flipper, your main goal is to earn a high flipping profit in return for your investment. To do that, you need to renovate the house within a specific budget and timeframe, which means using contractors who stick to deadlines and understand the importance of flippers’ margins.

While simple repairs are easy to budget for and can be done within a month, more complex renovations can easily incur budget overruns and take more than a couple of months to complete. In these cases, it’s best that you hire a general contractor to handle the project for you, or assemble a team of go-to contractors that you work with regularly on your flipping projects. Which you go for will depend on your needs, but this article focuses only on general contractors.

Let’s go through some best practices for finding the ideal general contractor for your flip projects.

Independent Contractor vs. General Contractor

Before we go any further, it’s important to make a distinction between independent and general contractors:

  • Independent Contractors: These are contractors that you directly contract to perform tasks on a contractual basis. They complete the project themselves, without the help of subcontractors.
  • General Contractors: These are also directly contracted; however, tasks are subsequently contracted to subcontractors to complete. They complete the project along with their subcontractors instead of completing the project by themselves. They also handle all the administrative tasks needed (e.g., paying subcontractors, securing building permits, getting insurance for all workers, etc.).

General contractors will coordinate with necessary subcontractors on your behalf and oversee the project for timely and on-budget completion. They are ideal for major renovations and flips, because you can get all aspects of the renovation handled by a single entity.

What to Look for in a General Contractor

Here are the key things to look for in a general contractor:

  • A Good Reputation: The best way to find a general contractor is by asking for recommendations. Contractors work largely based on referrals. Ask your friends and the real estate community if they can vouch for somebody reliable, communicative, and punctual.

Once you have a list of options, go the extra mile to read online review websites and visit the Better Business Bureau to check their reputation and ask about the projects they’ve worked on before. 

  • A Good Contract: Hiring a GC on a handshake is not a good idea. You’ll want a contract that spells out what they will do and what you will do, with deadlines. The more thorough the better! Otherwise, there’ll be no accountability and your project can go sideways quickly.
  • Appropriate Payment Practices: A good general contractor will accept payments in the form of checks and wire transfers. They would also agree to sign a lien release before payment and negotiate with you on the payment schedule.

Stay away from contractors who want you to pay in cash or a lot upfront. Cash payments are not illegal; however, contractors who ask for them might be avoiding paying income taxes. This is a practice done by less-than-reputable contractors. Moreover, a down payment of 30% of estimated costs is typical to cover an initial retainer and materials, but an established contractor won’t need your full payment to start the job.

  • Local Coverage: Hiring a general contractor who lives and operates within the area of your flip is your best option. They will know the local building codes, city inspectors, have a network of subcontractors ready to help them, and you can easily contact them in the event of an emergency.
  • Proper Licensing: General contractors need to be licensed to pull the necessary permits for your property. Without these, your property won’t abide by the local building codes or pass inspection. You’ll end up financially responsible for bringing up the property to the required standards.

Instead, verify their license by asking for the license number. Check it with your state’s licensing board. For licensure information in Michigan, visit the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs website for details on the Bureau of Professional Licensing’s requirements.

  • Proper Insurance: General contractors should be insured for General Liability Insurance and Workers’ Compensation. You can ask to see a copy of their policy and call up the insurance company to verify the information. The insurance should be current and have clear policy limits for you to check. You should also be added as an “additionally insured” on their policy, until your project is complete.
  • Warranty in Writing: General contractors should provide warranties that cover the work they’ve done in your property. A warranty assures them that they won’t be coming back for multiple repairs over an extended period of time (warranties typically last one year only) while guaranteeing you a good renovation result.

This list isn’t exhaustive, but it’ll put you on the right track in finding your ideal general contractor.

Questions to Ask During the Interview

As part of the process, you should also have an interview with the general contractor. Here is a list of questions you can ask to help you identify those who’ll fit your criteria:

  • How many people work for you? How long has your crew been working together?

You want to work with an established company that has a large team of managers and assistants.

  • Where are you operating, and what is your service coverage?

You want to work with a local company that knows its way around renovations in the area.

  • What similar past projects have you completed?

You want to see their experience concerning the project you’re giving them. If they’ve never done what you need them to do, ask them how they will approach the project.

  • How do you communicate with your clients?

They should give you daily or weekly progress reports with photos and send itemized, detailed quotes and invoices.

  • For this project, will you be using subcontractors or just your own team?

If they are using subcontractors, make sure that all workers are trained, licensed (if applicable), and insured.

  • Are you licensed and insured?

Licenses should be updated and registered in the state where your property is situated. Insurance should include General Liability Insurance and Workers’ Compensation.

  • What would our contract look like?

Not all general contractors will have contracts. If they don’t, you can draft one up. Regardless, have your lawyer review it before everybody signs.

  • Will you provide warranties?

Make sure the warranty is written down and will conform to the requirements of the contract.

  • How will the payment schedule and plan work? Will you agree to sign lien releases?

Agree and sign the payment schedule before the job begins. They should agree to sign lien releases before payment.

  • Have you ever had to deal with lawsuits?

If they’ve been sued, ask what happened and how they handled it. If they’ve sued a client, ask for further information and check public records. If they’ve had serious accidents before, ask how they dealt with the situation and what they’ve improved to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Conclusion

We hope this article is enlightening and helpful in your search for a general contractor. It might take a lot of effort, but having a reliable and skilled general contractor will protect your budget and timeline for a successful and profitable house flipping project.

The better your general contractor, the more houses you can flip fast, at the highest quality, and for the most competitive price.

Any additional tips for finding the ideal general contractor as a flipper?

Image courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio

Categories
Landlords

How Landlords can Easily Raise Rents

Many landlords dread raising rents on their tenants for fear of the tenants moving, or the landlord just finds the whole process unpleasant. So, it’s not uncommon to find landlords that haven’t raised rents in 2, 3, or more years. 

Raising rent is actually a regular (albeit not the most fun) part of being a landlord. A landlord should raise rents as the market dictates, because: 

  • Keep up with inflation
  • Be able to afford rising maintenance costs
  • Accommodate property tax & insurance increases
  • When you’ve renovated a property to a higher standard

When that time inevitably comes, you need to know the right way of increasing your rent. Doing it the wrong way might cost you, tenants, leading to longer vacancy periods and costlier turnovers. Plus, no landlord wants to feel like the bad guy, so it’s important to show you’re being fair by handling rent increases diplomatically.

This article will teach how you can raise rent amounts and generate more income while communicating the situation professionally to your tenants. We’ve even included a sample rent increase notice that you can use for informing your tenants as amicably as possible. 

How should you approach a rent increase?

Depending on local and state laws, the required notice period for rent increases can range from 30 to 120 days. In Michigan, you have to give 30 days’ notice, but if you’re raising rent by 10% or more, you have to inform the tenant 60 days ahead of time.

Most people draft a letter informing tenants of the increase (like the one we’ve included below) and send it out to them, but there’s another way to approach this: 

  1. Go on Zillow, the MLS, or Rent-o-Meter to find what the market rent for this property is.
  2. Compare that to what the tenant is paying.
  3. Submit that information to the tenant and ask them what seems fair in terms of an increase

Note: At this point, you haven’t told them the rent was going up, but you’ve implied it. You’ve also involved them in the decision, so they’re more willing to accept it, making this a more subtle, non-aggressive approach to raising rent.

  1. The tenant’s response will typically be to offer 50% of the full increase, although some will say they don’t want to pay any increased rent at all. A good way to address either of these scenarios is to ask: “Why do you think that low of an amount is fair?” Make them defend it. 
  2. Then they’ll explain why they shouldn’t pay an increase (personal emergencies, poor maintenance on your part, etc.). Then you can ask: “Are you sure that’s your best offer?” 

The best part about this is that it lets you raise rents without TELLING the tenant there will be an increase, but rather including them in the process.

Tenants may even surprise you by offering more than what you expected! 

How much can you increase?

Ideally, you’ll want to keep the raise to less than 5% per year. Any higher, and your tenants will most likely move away—even if the rate is similar to your competitors in the market.

Why?

Think of the other rule of thumb that’s often used in screening tenants: rent amounts should only be a third of the tenant’s monthly income. This means most people can’t afford to spend an additional hundred dollars a month on rent payments – unless the tenant base in your area is on the up and up, like because of new employment opportunities or developments nearby.

Jacking up the amount too high without good reason will therefore jeopardize your rental income, as tenants will struggle to pay fully and on time. 

Plus, once a tenant has been there a while, they feel entitled to zero rent increases forever. If you raise it from $800 to $900 overnight, they’ll freak out. Even if the rent in the area is $1,100, they can’t afford it. So you’re better off with consistent smaller rent increases, like $25 a year, rather than waiting 3 years and increasing your rent all at once to reflect current market value.

On top of this, some cities have rent control laws in place. These maximum rent caps on what landlords can charge and are implemented by the government. Be aware of your local regulations before implementing any rent changes (just FYI, rent control isn’t allowed in the state of Michigan, but it is common in markets in New York and California).

Sample rent increase notice

When you’re ready to implement the raise, here’s a sample rent increase notice that Colleen F. shared in the BiggerPockets Forums. This letter is great because it helps tenants understand the landlord’s own financial obligations and view an increase in rent as a necessary business decision, rather than thinking you’re just being greedy.

Feel free to use it as a basis for crafting your own notice:

Dear John Tenant,

Thank you for being a tenant here at 123 Main St, Apt 1. Our goal is always to provide a nice place to live, at a fair price. Whenever the prospect of raising rent comes up at any property, we take a good hard look at it to make sure it’s necessary.

In that light, we have decided it is necessary to raise the monthly rent on your unit, effective September 1, 2020, to $1,050 from $1,000. This is partly to offset the increasing cost of property taxes, insurance, high heating expenses, maintenance costs, and upgrades since our purchase of the building in 2010.

Even after this increase, we believe we are still at or below the average market rent for a unit of this type. Rather than pay an increase, you may choose other housing. Should you intend to vacate at the termination of your lease, the original lease agreement states that you have to provide 30 days written notice of your intent to move. If you choose, signing this form checking off that you will not renew and returning the form to us 30 days in advance of your expected renewal will be considered your written notice.

Sincerely,

Management

Conclusion

There’s no guarantee that your tenants won’t complain about an increase in rent. However, if you increase your rent fairly and strategically, you can manage their expectations and prepare them ahead of time to budget appropriately. 

When they’re prepared and you communicate openly with them about the situation, your tenants won’t see you as the bad guy for increasing their rent. 

Any other concerns related to increasing rent amounts? Leave a comment below!

Categories
Landlords

How to Market your Rentals Online: Screen Appeal and Listing on Digital Platforms

From digital walk-throughs to Zoom tenant interviews, real estate marketing has officially transitioned to digital in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Virtual showing techniques aren’t new, but COVID-19 has certainly pushed the industry to adapt as a necessity. Landlords that didn’t have videos of their properties pre-COVID are now rushing to create virtual tours and trying virtual staging methods.

At this pace, digital marketing will fast become an integral and permanent part of real estate marketing before we realize it!

What does this mean for landlords? 

Prospective renters are now viewing and shortlisting properties from their screens, making “screen appeal” a crucial factor to promote your rental property. You want your offer to stand out where the prospective tenants are: online.

In this article, we’ll go through the ways to increase your property’s screen appeal, write an effective ad online, and list your properties where tenants are most likely to find them.

Increase screen appeal with noticeable features

First, you need to make your rental look impressive in photos. To do this, invest in features that will stand out in photos—even if the prospect browses on their tiny phone screens. 

These are the things that will make a huge difference in digital listings:

  1. Sparkling kitchens with shiny appliances, glossy countertops, and newly-painted walls and cupboards
  2. Spotless bathrooms with new showerheads, clean mirrors, and re-grouted tiles
  3. Fresh blinds and curtains without any mold or grime that are updated to fit the aesthetic of the property
  4. Blemish-free walls freshly painted with a color that makes the room look bigger, brighter, and homier
  5. Brand-new fixtures everywhere—from light switches to faucets to doorknobs and fly screens
  6. Clean carpets that even look like they smell great
  7. Bright lights in every room to make the rental property feel new, and more importantly, show that you’re confident enough to put everything in the spotlight

Make sure that you use a camera that does your rental justice! None of the spectacular features you updated and cleaned will be seen if you use the front camera of your beat-up phone. If you need to hire a photographer for decent equipment, it’s worth the one-time payment to get a lifetime of great photos for your listing. 

Write an effective ad that highlights relevant details

Once you’ve updated your rentals with photogenic features, you need to post them on digital platforms. But what do you say? How do you write an effective ad that attracts your tenant pool? 

Here are the important factors to focus on:

  1. Write a great headline. Rentalutions’ formula suggests including the key information tenants look for (e.g., number of rooms or location) plus one feature that makes your rental unique.
  2. Use professional word choices that add value to your listing, as long as they’re an accurate description of your property. You want to avoid generic words such as “great” and “nice”, instead, choose words like: upgraded, spacious, tasteful, landscaped, modern, luxurious, and charming.
  3. Add more information on the key features. Knowing what tenants want (as you should), make sure to highlight these features in your ad. Are you expecting to attract tenants who put importance on parking spaces, walkability, nearby supermarkets, or proximity to a great school? Your copy should indicate that.
  4. Add detailed property descriptions. Similarly, also indicate what the tenants will want from the property itself. How many rooms, floors, and bathrooms? Will they be attracted to a lush backyard or extra storage areas? Flesh out all of the important details to attract tenants.

Lastly, prove what you said with great photos! When you use great photos to compliment everything that you verbally promoted on your listing, your screen appeal will skyrocket. This is where the prospective tenants should go “Wow! They weren’t kidding!”

List your rental on industry-popular websites

Armed with your impressive photos and well-written ad content, it’s time to post your listing where it matters. Most people are baffled by how many options there are to list online, especially since there isn’t a one-stop-shop solution that posts to all the rental listing sites. 

Zillow—the favorite of most landlords—allows you to create detailed listings that they’ll syndicate out to 26 partner sites (including Trulia, Hotpads, and MSN Real Estate), but it still doesn’t cover all of the sites available.

To get started, check these sites that are known to be effective and user-friendly:

  1. Zillow
  2. Trulia
  3. Hotpads
  4. Craigslist
  5. Facebook

Apart from those, you can also consider these lesser-known platforms:

  1. Apartments.com
  2. Apartment Finder
  3. Apartment Guide
  4. Apartment Home Living
  5. Apartment List
  6. Backpage
  7. Byowner.com
  8. Cozy
  9. Doorsteps
  10. Move
  11. My New Place
  12. Nextdoor.com
  13. Oodle
  14. Realrentals.com
  15. Realtor.com
  16. Rent.com
  17. Rentals.com
  18. Rentdigs.com
  19. Rentlinx
  20. Saletraderent.com
  21. Sublet.com
  22. Walk Score
  23. Zumper

All of these websites allow you to post for free. You just need to do some research and decide which platform enables you to attract the tenants that you want. For more details on the sites we mentioned above, check Smart Move and Landlordology.

Conclusion

Technological development waits for no one. In order to keep up and remain competitive in the rental property business, it’s time to level up with online marketing!

The steps are easy enough—simply increase your property’s screen appeal, write an effective ad describing the best parts of your property, and list them on websites where tenants are likely to browse for new homes.

Any other tips on how to market rentals online? Where are your rentals listed so far?

Image courtesy of Joshua Miranda

Categories
DIY

6 Fixes Novice Flippers Should Avoid DIY-ing

When it comes to DIY, “Why pay someone to do it when you can do it yourself?” is what most new flippers would say… at least until they realize how underprepared and underskilled they are for extensive repairs!

Some renovation projects are tough to do as well as a professional would, even with the best of YouTube tutorials. If you’re not qualified to replace roofs, repair electrical systems, fix the plumbing situation, or install new gutters, doing them yourself could lead to costly and dangerous consequences. 

Faulty work leads to spending more time and money trying to fix your mistakes, if you don’t know what you’re doing. Lots of seasoned flippers can do nearly any project themselves, but many more newcomers to the industry try their hand at things above their pay grade and end up regretting it later on.

So if you’re new to the world of DIY, here are six fixes that should be left to the professionals—even if you think you can do it yourself.

Roof Replacement

The fact that we refer to homes as a “roof over our heads” shows how important good roofing is for a home. Nobody wants to buy or live in a house with a damaged roof!

The roof is such a vital part of the infrastructure—you will want to make sure that it’s installed right to not cause any problems in the future. And while many people may think replacing a roof is easy, it really isn’t.

Here are just a few of the complexities you can encounter:

  • The height & pitch of the roof can require special safety equipment.
  • The underlayment is critical, but often done incorrectly.
  • Do you know what drip edge is for?
  • How do you prevent ice dams from causing roof leaks?
  • Unless installed by a licensed professional, most shingle warranties are voided.

Instead, you should hire a professional whose whole job is to replace roofing. Not only will they assess the roof before replacement, but they will also have all the suitable materials and tools for the job, as well as the much-needed experience in construction-related safety issues. A professional roofing company would also have warranties that can save you money in case something goes wrong.

Electrical Repairs

Repairing the electrical system of a home is another dangerous task to DIY.

In your house flipping journey, you might run into older homes with outdated or broken electrical systems. When that happens, you’ll want to spend extra on hiring a professional who has the training and experience to work with electrical currents—especially because they can be deadly when mishandled.

Feel free to install new light bulbs in the home, or to change light fixtures, plugs and switches if you’re a handy person, but anything more complicated than that should be handled by a licensed electrician. Here are the common issues often found in older homes that signal it’s time to call an electrician:

  • Replace electrical panels
  • Replace an exterior riser or the main feed from meter to panel
  • Messing with meters
  • Run underground electrical lines
  • Install a new circuit to an electrical panel

Plumbing Fixes

While improperly installed plumbing fixes aren’t as dangerous as electrical systems, they can seriously set your budget back and eat into your flipping profit. DIY-ing a simple leak might save you a couple of bucks, but if it escalates into a flood, that’s thousands of dollars instantly added to your expenditures. 

Beyond fixing a slightly clogged drain or replacing a new faucet, extensive plumbing repairs and maintenance are best left to the professionals. Here are some plumbing fixes that a professional plumber should do:

  • Replacing underground sewer or water lines
  • Replacing corroded stack or main supply lines
  • Replacing or repairing water heaters, sump pumps, and worn down or burst pipes
  • Running new drain lines, unless you know the exact pitch required by code

Drywall Mudding 

Drywall mudding is more artistic than people think, so it’s tough for non-professionals to do well. You can hang drywall yourself, because unless you totally butcher it it’s fairly uncomplicated to hang, but doing the taping and mudding takes an artistic touch.

Plus, even if you do manage to do your own mudding, it definitely will not be as seamless or aesthetically pleasing as work by a professional company. Ugly drywall is a serious eyesore which could turn buyers off from an otherwise beautiful house, so leave it to the pros.

Structural Repairs

We’ve all seen that part on the DIY home improvement show when the clueless flipper bashes through a load-bearing wall and almost caves the whole house in. 

Don’t be that guy. Structural repairs are one of those things which even pro flippers hire contractors for, because the cost of making a mistake is so high. Stay away from all structural work as a new flipper, including:

  • Bowing walls
  • Cracked floor joists
  • Bowed roof or ceiling
  • Removing walls for an open floor plan (are they load-bearing?)

Fixing or Replacing Heating Systems

Installing the wrong efficiency furnace or replacing with one that’s mismatched with the exhaust system could be fatal, literally.  For an 80% efficiency furnace, you use a particular exhaust, but if it’s 90%+, it’s a totally different exhaust system, which is not compatible with 80%-efficient systems. If someone gets poisoned with carbon monoxide in a home where you worked on the furnace, you’re liable.

The same applies with duct work. There are equations which experts use to calculate the type of ducting required, based on the size of the house, furnace type, distance from furnace, etc. Get it wrong and this could lead to a house that’s not heated well and puts more strain on the furnace, so it wears out faster.

Conclusion

Know your limitations, and you will save thousands of dollars – not to mention headaches! Even if you’re a crafty person who loves to learn new things, there are certain cost-cutting measures you want to avoid when it comes to flipping a home.

So, the next time you want to replace the roof, repair the electric system, fix the plumbing, or install new gutters in the home you’re flipping—grab your phone instead to protect your flipping profit as much as possible.

Image Courtesy of Suntorn Somtong

Categories
Shortterm Rentals

Cleaning Checklist for Every Short-Term Rental Landlord

Image Courtesy of Tirachard Kumtanom

End of stay cleaning can be frustrating for short term rental owners, especially those who manage their properties themselves. It turns out that “clean” is very subjective—what’s clean for one guest is a pigsty for another. And if they’re unhappy with the cleanliness of your property, chances are they’ll be vocal about it in the review they leave you on Airbnb.

To avoid wondering whether the property is clean enough to satisfy even the most particular guests, it’s crucial for landlords to have a cleaning checklist. A cleaning checklist doesn’t only help make sure your property is well-maintained and sparkling clean for the next guest – it also helps you stay on top of any issues or damages that outgoing guests may have caused.

Plus, if you’re hiring professional cleaners, the checklist can serve as a guideline for them to use when cleaning your properties, making sure they’re cleaned to the same high standard for every turnover.

Not sure how to start your checklist?

We’ve put together a general cleaning step-by-step guide that you can alter to fit your needs.

Bathrooms

  1. Clean:
    • Mirrors 
    • Windows
    • Floors and tile walls
    • Wastebaskets (don’t forget to put extra trash bags inside)
  2. Clean and sanitize:
    • Toilet
  3. Clean, sanitize, and scrub:
    • Showers
    • Bathtubs
    • Vanity sinks
    • Backsplashes 
  4. Refill toiletries:
    • Handsoap
    • 2 rolls of toilet paper
    • Makeup wipes or tissue wipes
  5. Replace with clean items:
    • 1 hand towel
    • 1 washcloth
    • 1 bath towel per guest
    • 1 shower mat per bathroom
    • Shower curtain liners (optional)
  6. Check if sinks, tubs, toilets, and faucets are running properly.

Pro tip: We recommend that you tackle one room at a time so you won’t miss out on any of these tasks.

Bedrooms

  1. Change sheets, blankets, and pillowcases.
  2. Vacuum floors, including under the beds.
  3. Check drawers, tables, and closets for personal belongings.
  4. Clean the mirror and windows and dust the furniture.
  5. Check for stains and wear and tear on the sheets and pillowcases.

Pro tip: One cleaning trick is to close the door of the room that you’ve just finished cleaning–this way, you’ll know which rooms still need cleaning and which you’ve already done. Plus, it will stop any wandering pets or people from going inside and messing up the beautiful work you’ve just finished.

Living Room

  1. Clean, dust, and vacuum the entire area.
  2. Dust:
    1. Furniture
    2. Picture frames
    3. Decorations on display
    4. Lamps
  3. Vacuum carpets or wash the floors with specialty cleaners.
  4. Place 2 standard pillows and 1 clean blanket for the sofa bed.
  5. Place the remotes, welcome packet, and other welcome items for the new guest in an easy-to-locate spot (like the center of the coffee table).

Pro tip: When wiping and dusting, the dirt will naturally fall to the lower furniture and the floor. Thus, it’s best to start cleaning from the top and work your way down to the floor.

Kitchen

  1. Clean:
    1. Counters and countertops
    2. Chairs and tables
    3. Sinks and backsplashes
    4. Glass doors and windows (if any)
    5. Appliance exteriors, including the coffee maker and toaster crumb tray (also check if they still work or are malfunctioning in any way)
    6. Inside and outside the refrigerator (and throw away any leftover food)
  2. Empty:
    1. Dishwasher and replace items in the cupboard
    2. Ice tray
  3. Sweep and mop the floor.
  4. Supply:
    1. 2 clean dish towels
    2. New dishrag, sponge, and soap
    3. 2 trash bags
    4. 1 roll of paper towels
    5. 2 dishwashing pods

Pro tip: Start cleaning at the area furthest from the door, and then work your way towards the doorway—this way, you avoid stepping on wet floors and dirtying them again on your way out of the kitchen.

Before Locking Up

  1. Turn off all lights and unplug appliances (except for the refrigerator, aircon, and TV).
  2. Set the thermostat to a temperature that doesn’t keep the unit running.
  3. Place patio sets and other outdoor items inside or in a covered storage area.
  4. Place trash bins by the road.
  5. Ensure that all doors are locked to prevent break-ins.
  6. Make sure cleaning supplies are well stocked.

Deep cleaning

  1. Clean:
    1. Exterior and interior of cabinets
    2. Lamp, lampshades, chrome fixtures, and display items
    3. Stovetop and range hood (and replace filters if necessary)
    4. Dishwasher
    5. Behind and under appliances and furniture
    6. Walls, baseboards, moldings, and tiles (and remove markings, if any)
    7. Door frames, switchplates, and other woodwork (remove any fingerprints or other marks)
    8. Windowsills, ledges, blinds, ceiling and electric fans
  2. Vacuum cushions and upholstered furniture.
  3. Deep sanitize sinks, countertops, and appliances (including oven and microwave).
  4. Wash windows and glass doors.
  5. Change air filters.
  6. Descale faucets and showerheads.
  7. Disinfect all surfaces and contact points.

Pro tip: Aside from the regular cleaning you do on your property between guests, you will also need to do deep cleaning once in a while. Deep cleaning ensures that your entire home is free from dust and dirt, which helps maintain your appliances at maximum efficiency (e.g. air conditioning units).

Conclusion

End of stay cleaning may be complicated and frustrating. But with a checklist that’s customized to your property and needs, it doesn’t have to be!

Checklists instruct professional cleaners how to make your property perfectly presentable for your next guest, and they can also help you make sure you haven’t missed a spot when doing DIY maintenance for your short-term rental. 

Going through after each turnover to make sure every box has been ticked on this list is your best bet at ensuring a 5-star cleanliness rating from every guest you host – and that’s a highly valuable thing to have when it comes to attracting new customers to your STR business.

How do you clean your property between guests? Are there other items that we should include in the checklist?

Categories
Landlords

7 Ways to Attract Newly WFH Tenants

Now that work-from-home is normal, many Americans are planning to move!

The pandemic has shown both employers and employees that remote working is possible, profitable, and preferable. Employers enjoy lower overhead costs, while employees can relocate to areas with a lower cost of living and larger homes.

Don’t believe that work-from-home is really here to stay?

Just check out these statistics from Upwork reports:

  • 1 in 4 Americans said they’ll be working remotely in 2021.
  • The U.S. predicts an influx of 14-23 million remote workers soon.
  • 14-23 million Americans intend to relocate as a result of remote work.
  • 36.2 million Americans (22% of the workforce) will be working remotely by 2025—an 87% increase from the number of remote workers prior to COVID-19.

With so many people planning to relocate, your tenant base can expand beyond the traditional type of applicants you received in the past – like those who work at nearby companies. Tenants can now come from anywhere, work anywhere, and will have priorities that are different from tenants who commute to a job nearby.

As a landlord, you need to know what these remote-working tenants are looking for, so you can tailor your marketing efforts and investment strategy to capture this huge new market.

Let’s look at 7 different ways you can attract them:

1. Offer a Work-Conducive Space

Whether your rental property is a stand-alone house or apartment units in a building, remote workers now prioritize a space for working almost as much as a space for sleeping! They will look for a home that’s well-lit and has a dedicated office space, ideally – perfect for long hours of work.

This could be as simple as a secluded corner where an office table would fit perfectly, or a spare bedroom that’s easily convertible to a home office. Both areas should be ready for additional electrical wiring (e.g., outlets or light sockets) and additional shelves or cabinets. Remember, remote workers will be spending at least 8 hours of their day in whatever working space your home can provide—if you want to attract them, you need to cater to their working needs and make this area as ideal as possible.

2. Advertise Where They Are – Online

With the coronavirus solidifying our dependency on technology, many landlords have already adapted to digital means of advertising. Now, with most applicants finding and even viewing properties online, digital listings have become more important than ever.

In other words, you need to create a killer ad on real estate sites and renting platforms, or else nobody will find you!

Aside from standard details, such as the rental rate and location, you should also highlight parts of your property that will be attractive to remote worker renters. This will vary from property to property.

For apartment units, this may mean laundry services or swimming pools, but the most important thing is to make sure there are stable, fast internet speeds available from providers in your area. It may also mean plenty of nearby businesses, shopping centers and other local amenities, like services to support remote working (print shops, etc.). With proximity to the office becoming a lower priority, having amenities and services near their residence might appeal to tenants more than commuting times in the current environment.

In special cases, you might advertise a home specifically because it gives the off-the-grid appeal. Remote workers finally being able to move away from the city might be on the lookout for a quiet retreat from the hustle and bustle of metropolitan life, so rural and remote rentals might be more in-demand now with WFH tenants.

3. Emphasize Value for Money

One of the biggest reasons why remote workers move is because they want to pay lower rent, and they’re now no longer limited to renting in expensive areas, just to be closer to their office.

Think about this when marketing your rental properties.

For example, if your home is a 3-bed, spacious property in a Class A neighborhood that rents for the same cost as a 1-bedroom apartment in your closest major city, you could say: “2000 sq ft house on ½ an acre (in an award-winning school system), for less than the price of a Chicago apartment!”

Speaking directly to the pain points currently experienced by your tenant base will help make your listing more appealing to them, and could help you stand out from the crowd when marketing to WFH applicants.

4. Provide 3D or Virtual Tours

Because of social distancing rules, travel restrictions, and the risk of infection, many people now avoid visiting properties in-person. Providing virtual tours for prospective tenants will allow them to “visit” your property freely at any time of the day – from anywhere in the country! This makes it easy for remote workers who are planning to relocate to view your property, even if they’re stuck in the middle of a city at the moment.

There are plenty of softwares available on the market that specialize in creating virtual tours for your property. Consider getting a professional to come film and create your virtual or 3D tour, because in some cases, it will be the only point of reference your tenants have before deciding whether or not to rent your property. It’s important to make a great impression with your tour, so spending a little cash on having it done by an expert is well worth it – especially since you’ll be able to re-use the same 3D tour in future years (as long as you don’t do any major renovations).

5. Assure a Contactless Process

Now that remote work is becoming the norm, you (as the landlord) should also consider having a contactless process for managing your rental properties. Not only will this make things easier for you to manage, but it also makes the system safer for your tenants.

Nearly everything in real estate can be done remotely, such as:

  • Self-guided virtual tours
  • Thorough tenant screening
  • Document preparations
  • Securing digital signatures
  • Collecting rent via online portals
  • Delegating, coordinating, and monitoring tasks to contractors

As a bonus, remote worker tenants will most probably have no problems adapting to a digital process – in fact, it’s what they’re used to, at this point! Mention in your listing that you offer these contactless solutions, and it can help attract these tech-savvy tenants.

6. Highlight Health & Safety Measures

Moving during a pandemic can be a scary undertaking, especially if tenants are worried about coming into contact with the virus when they move into their new home.

To give them peace of mind, make sure you thoroughly disinfect the property before move-in day by deep-cleaning the carpets and furniture, mopping floors, wiping down surfaces, and clearing the ventilation systems.

You can hire a professional disinfection service to sterilize the property with UV light, smoke, or cleaning solutions, and even provide a certificate stating when the disinfection took place. Again, highlighting these safety measures in your ads will help reassure applicants who are concerned about transmission.

7. Allow their Pet Companions

According to The Humane Society of the United States, 72% of renters have pets. Now that many people are transitioning to WFH, this number might even increase.

Some tenants who never were able to care for a pet before due to long hours spent out of the house might now decide to get that puppy they’ve always dreamed of, since they’re working from home. Others may be feeling isolated during the lockdown and have only their furry friend to keep them company – so if your rental means giving up their pet companion, it might be a deal-breaker! Allowing pets right now therefore could be an additional way to attract remote workers as tenants.

However, if you don’t want to consider having pets in your rental properties, just be aware that more tenants could be trying to sneak in unauthorized pets now than in previous years – so that’s something to keep an extra-close eye on when inspecting properties.

Conclusion

The best landlords are always on the lookout for the next real estate trends. Remote working is just one of the huge trends that emerged in 2020, but experts are predicting that it’s a trend that will remain in 2021 and beyond.

Because of this, landlords need to make sure their rental properties are primed to attract the huge influx of remote workers who are on the hunt for a new home.

Take advantage of this new opportunity to meet the demands of our ever-changing society—and grow your rental business in the process!

Are you renting out to remote-working tenants? What are the things they tend to look for, in your experience?

Image courtesy of Teryn Elliott

Categories
Landlords

How to Calculate Rental Return: How Much are You Making from Your Rental Property?

How much can you actually expect to make from rental property investments?

This is a great question, and one without a straightforward answer. 

That’s because the amount of rental income you receive from a particular property depends on the financial viability of the deal, as well as how well you manage it. 

In this article, we’ll give you some tips for identifying profitable rental investments, and some rough rules-of-thumb for calculating the potential profitability of a rental property. If you want a better idea of how property management can impact these figures, check out this article. 

Financial Viability

Here are some formulas you can use to help you determine the financial viability of a real estate investment.

Return on Investment (ROI)

ROI is used to measure the performance of an investment by evaluating the expected return relative to a property’s cost.

Add up the cost of acquisition, closing fees, repair costs, and annual expenses. Then, divide your total annual income (from rent) by the sum of your expenses to arrive at your yearly projected ROI. There is no sweeping standard for a “good” ROI, but if we were to aim for a benchmark, you’d want to look for a yearly ROI that’s above 15%. 

Cash-on-Cash Return (CoC)

CoC calculates the yearly returns based on cash income and cash invested. In other words, it measures how much you’ve made on the property in relation to how much you’ve paid for the mortgage.

Get your annual pre-tax cash flow, divide that by the total cash you’ve invested, and you’ll get your CoC return. Expert investors advise aiming for a CoC return that yields around 8% to 12%.

Capitalization Rate (Cap Rate)

Cap rate is the ratio of net income to the property’s acquisition price. There’s no “good” or “bad” cap rate, but it’s great for comparing your return across multiple properties. Here’s a quick guide on how to calculate it:

Get your net operating income (NOI) by taking your gross rental income and deducting every expense you have (excluding financing), like taxes, insurance, water, HOA fees, etc. 

Then, divide your NOI by the current market value, and you’ll get your cap rate. In riskier neighborhoods, 6% probably won’t be worthwhile. But in high-demand, high-quality neighborhoods, 6% could give you an amazing return.

The 1% Rule

Lastly, the 1% Rule is a quick calculation to determine if the monthly rent earned will generate positive cash flow for a property or not. The rule is that the amount grossed through monthly rent should be at least 1% of the final property purchase price (including the cost of any repairs). 

Calculating Profit

Now that you can identify money-making opportunities, the next step is to answer the following questions to calculate the profit you’ll get to keep.

How much rent will I realistically charge?

Start by surveying other rentals in the vicinity to get an estimated rental amount. You can ask a local realtor or property management company for an accurate number, or visit sites like Rentometer.com for a rough estimate.

If you end up with a range, stick to the lower number for a more conservative approach when assessing a deal and making your other calculations.

How do I know what the expenses will be?

When calculating your profit, you must add up all the expenses, including property tax, insurance, property management, and possible vacancies. Assume that these expenses will cost roughly 40% of your rental income. 

While it may sound like a lot, this figure is actually a conservative estimate and doesn’t cover any serious renovations or overhauls that a property might need.

What about the other 60%? 

If you took out a mortgage on the property, the mortgage payments will be covered by the other 60% of your rental income. This means you should only secure loans with monthly payments which total less than 60% of your estimated revenue from rent.

What happens to the remaining money?

Whatever is left over will be your profit. However, this is also what the government will charge taxes on. The taxes you pay on this income are not included in the property tax you pay annually. 

There are ways to lower your taxes as a real estate investor, but for this article, just remember to budget for paying both income and property taxes when calculating your potential profits.

Conclusion

How much can you earn from rental properties? How do you know if a rental investment is worth it? 

Just answer these two questions:

  • Is the investment you’re eyeing a profitable opportunity?
  • How much can you earn from renting out the property?

If the property passes all these common metrics with flying colors and earns you the rental income you’re looking for—you’ve just found a profitable rental property to invest in.

Image courtesy of David McBee

Categories
Landlords

How to Write a Perfect Property Description to Attract the Best Tenants

Your property listing is the very first touchpoint between you and your ideal tenant, so it’s pretty essential to get this right.  A big part of this is the written property description which should appeal to the type of person you’d most like to have as a renter, whether that be young professionals or middle-class families. This article will show you how to get inside the mind of your prospective tenant and tailor your description to speak to them, just like professional marketers do when they want their product to stand out from the crowd.

Think Like a Marketer

As you prepare your rental listings, always write to attract your target tenant. You can do this by finding out as much as you can about their interests, concerns, and needs, and addressing these within your description.While you can’t discriminate as a landlord, you can still tailor your messaging to make it sound more appealing to your preferred target demographic, making them more likely to choose your home over another similar property on the market.

Know Your Audience

Once you have an idea for who your target tenant is, you can use tools like social media to help get inside their head. Look through property groups or ads on Facebook, and read through the comments to get an idea for the types of questions that concern your audience, and even the language they use to describe their ideal home. Write these words down and incorporate them into your property description, to help your home appear when they search for these keywords online. 

Do Market Research

You can also use social media, and other property listing sites, to get a feel for the competition in your area. The point here is not to copy other descriptions, but rather to understand the ways in which your home is unique, so you can better emphasise these qualities in your own ads.

Craft Compelling Copy

There are two kinds of buyers: emotional and rational. You can make your marketing copy appeal to both of these kinds of prospective tenants by choosing the right words.

For those driven by emotion, tell a story with your property description to help them imagine themselves living in your home (e.g. “Curl up by the fireplace in the evening with a good book”). Just make sure the story you use is something that would speak to your ideal tenant.

For those driven by logic, the best way to “sell” them on your property is to remove any element of doubt from the equation. To do this, try to answer any potential question they may have about the property in the description itself. Take note of all the questions you see while doing your online research, as well as those which are asked most frequently by your prospective tenants, and incorporate the answers to them in your ads. This way, when they see your property, they’ll be able to tell right away whether it’s right for them, and this will give them confidence to choose your place over all the others on the market.

Embrace The New Normal

In the era of the new normal, tenants’ priorities are changing, so highlighting features which appeal to people in the current climate is another way to help make your property stand out.. Concerns about  privacy and seclusion from neighbors, and the presence of big indoor/outdoor spaces, entertainment or recreational areas, large kitchens, home offices, and spaces which can be easily separated to accommodate people living and working at home together are just some of the things that tenants are now prioritizing more than ever before, so if your property has any of these features, make sure to emphasize and leverage on that as a selling point.

When creating your listings, you don’t need to stand out by having the fanciest property description in the entire market. You only need to stand out to one person: your ideal tenant. The best way to do this is by tailoring your language to address their desires and concerns directly, just like the best business marketers do.

Image Courtesy of Ivan Samkov

Categories
Landlords

5 Problems You can Avoid with Great Screening

Rigorously screening your tenants is everything in landlording. Why? Because great tenants will make you wish you got into landlording earlier, however, problematic tenants make some landlords wish they never began investing in the first place.

If you don’t want to end up with regrets – screen your tenants! Here are just a few of the problems you can avoid by doing so:

  1. MISSING & LATE PAYMENTS

The occasional late payment is one thing, especially if the tenant is just going through hard times (like a pandemic). But no landlord wants to end up with tenants that never pay on time, or never pay at all. Non-paying tenants will give you a headache trying to reach them, turn a blind eye to the lease agreements, and eventually, when you finally threaten them with eviction, pay only partially, just enough to stay a bit longer in your rental.

However, by screening well, you’ll see their employment status, current income, credit history, and talk to their past landlords to find out if they pay rent fully and on-time. This is the only way to help guarantee yourself consistent income through their rent – which is the whole point in renting out your properties.

  1. EVICTIONS

Processing evictions is expensive, time-consuming, and extremely stressful. Common reasons for evictions are non-payment of rent, lease violations, property damages, or illegal activities – all of which are pains you can avoid by screening well. 

You can avoid getting yourself into situations that require evictions by looking out for any concerning things during the interview screening. How responsible are they with their finances? How did they behave in their past rentals? Are they rule followers (e.g. did they follow the lease agreements at their previous rental)?

For more on how evictions work in Michigan, head on over to this link.

  1. PROBLEMATIC TENANTS

Some tenants don’t take their landlords seriously. They may seem great prior to renting, but this doesn’t mean they will continue to behave once they’ve secured your property. 

Some will damage your property. Some will harass the neighbors. Some will want you on standby to attend to any of their requests, no matter how unreasonable or small. Just look up “tenant horror stories” on Google and you’ll see what we mean! They will make you wish you hired a PMC (which you can obviously consider doing, too) or at least have screened them properly before handing the keys over to them. 

It’s just not worth it when you can verify their historical data and call up their references to check their behaviors. 

4. DIFFICULT MAINTENANCE

Since tenants have no attachment to the property, many lower class (C and D) tenants won’t take care of it as much as you wish they will. But you’ve invested good money in your units, so why wouldn’t you also invest in good tenants to take care of them?

It only takes one sloppy tenant to reverse the improvements you’ve done into costly damages you’ll be forced to fix. One dog to scratch the hardwood floors, one lazy tenant to neglect the overheating boiler, and one hoarder to turn your rental into an insect hub.

To avoid this, ask previous landlords how they were during their tenancy. Were there any problems with property damage, housekeeping issues, or living habits? Also ask if deductions were made from their security deposit, and get an explanation as to why. If tenants can’t provide a suitable, well-documented explanation for any sketchy rental history, beware!

5. HIGH VACANCY RATE

The words “high vacancy rate” should scare any responsible landlord, because an empty rental investment is just losing you money by the month. The vacancy rate compares the amount of time your property could have been rented versus the time it’s actually rented, so you want it to be as low as possible. Common reasons for vacancies can be because the tenants you get are always leasing short-term, the tenants are often problematic and have to be evicted, or the tenants ruin your property and you need to do major repairs – either way, your business is not generating profit during this time.

To prevent this from happening, verify the following during screening: Do they tend to move residences often? Do they have stable employment? How long do they plan to stay in your rental, and do they have the financial stability to commit to a longer lease? Look at past rental history, previous addresses, credit and employment history to figure this out.

Tenant screening is the last area of your property management that you want to skimp on. By being cautious before accepting an applicant, you can avoid more than just these five problems – you can eliminate most, if not all, of the things landlords have to stress over. 

Any experience you’d like to share on how tenant screening saved your life as a landlord? Comment below!

Image Courtesy of Ketut Subiyanto