Categories
Landlords

Perks of Having a Property Manager That’s Not You

Property management is extremely labor-intensive. You need to collect rent, evict problematic tenants, coordinate with contractors, maintain the properties, and so much more. 

It’s not easy, either—if you’ve ever experienced difficult tenants or irresponsible contractors, then you know what we’re talking about. 

However, if you have a rental investment property, you can’t go without it. The solution to your stress? Hiring outside help in the form of a property management company.

If you have a lot of properties, you may not have the time or energy to manage them all. PMCs can take care of the dirty details for you, which frees you up to expand your portfolio or focus on other things. More than that, property management companies provide expertise—expertise that you don’t have. 

We understand that you may be hesitant to share your profits. Are property managers really worth the cut? 

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of having a property manager that’s not you. 

You’ll fill vacancies faster

A good PMC uses their experience to find you the best tenants. You’ll still have the final say on who rents your property, but a property management company can pre-screen applicants for you.

Plus, good property managers will know how to keep tenants and encourage them to renew their lease. This means lower turnover rates for the PMC (so less work for them to do) and steadier revenue for you.

You’ll have more thorough rent collection.

Collecting rent payments is every landlord’s most dreaded task. But if you have a PMC, you won’t have to worry about consistent and persistent rent collection anymore.

Property managers will take over collecting the rent, enforcing lease policies, and implementing fees. With a good PMC, your income as a landlord should be much more stable.

You’ll have a more aggressive eviction process.

Whether it’s a problematic tenant that slipped through the screening process or someone who turned sour overnight, you don’t have to go through the grueling eviction process anymore.

PMCs will enforce the policies in your lease and ensure that difficult tenants are evicted. Plus, with a more thorough screening process, property management companies can help you avoid renting to problematic tenants in the first place!

You’ll have well-maintained properties.

No more attending to tenant repair requests and making sure the rental is well-maintained. PMCs will keep your properties in top shape and field tenant concerns 24/7. They’ll do everything from scheduling and monitoring to documentation and evaluation of the repairs. PMCs are also in charge of paying your suppliers and utilities at the end of the year.

Keep in mind that property managers may not help you with cutting costs. However, you can leverage their expertise and connections to get better deals on maintenance.

You’ll have better legal compliance.

Keeping up with legislative changes is part of a property manager’s job. This will help you avoid having a lease or process that’s out-of-date, in violation of a new law.  

You’ll have the time and ability to scale.

If you want to grow your company and portfolio, you can’t spend most of your day managing tenants and properties. You’ll need a team to take on some of the responsibility. The less time you spend fixing problems, filling vacancies, and evicting tenants, the more time you’ll have to expand your investments.

Paying a PMC to manage your properties will result in less stress and an improved ability to scale. The bigger a revenue source you are, the more they’ll want to protect their relationship with you—so don’t skimp! Both of you will benefit from this working relationship in the long run.

Conclusion

Are property management companies really worth the money?

Well, having one will ensure that you have quality tenants, complete rent payments, someone to process evictions, well-maintained properties, updated legal requirements, and the time and ability to scale your real estate portfolio.

Just note that not all property management companies will do a good job—cheaper rates usually mean cheaper service. So, instead of asking if they’re worth the cost, ask “how can I make sure I hire a PMC that IS worth the money?”

Interested in hiring a PMC? What aspect of property management do you struggle with the most?


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

Categories
Wholesaling

Wholesalers: Clauses you want in your contracts!

An attractive perk of wholesaling real estate is how you can flip houses with no money of your own, or even good credit. People hear about this and want to jump into the business right away! However, most of them don’t even know how to properly structure wholesaling contracts – so what clauses do you need to include in yours? 

Let’s take a look at one kind of wholesaling agreement – an Assignment of Contract – and the types of language these documents should contain to protect wholesalers during deals. 

How Assignment of Contract Works

There are three players in every wholesale transaction: The wholesaler, the seller, and the buyer. The steps are:

  1. The wholesaler finds a good property at a good price, and signs a Purchase Agreement with the Seller (the owner of the house).
  2. The Purchase Agreement gives the wholesaler entitlement to ‘assign’ or sell the property agreement to a buyer.
  3. To assign the agreement to the new buyer, the wholesaler finalizes an Assignment Agreement to legally transfer their purchase rights to the buyer. 
  4. Handing over the baton to the buyer may cancel out the wholesaler’s legal liability and/or obligation towards the seller. 
  5. Now, the buyer can purchase the property directly from the seller, as per the original terms of the Purchase Agreement.

In this process, your job as a wholesaler is to be the middleman. You find a good deal, secure the rights to it (using a Purchase Agreement contract with the seller), then assign the contract to a real estate investor or owner-occupier (using an Assignment Agreement with the buyer). Your goal is to at least make sure that each of these agreements includes the important clauses–which we’ll be going through below.

The Purchase Agreement

  1. CONVEYANCE – This term refers to the act of legally transferring property from one entity to another. So what you want is to ensure that the property’s fee simple will be delivered to the buyer (or a representative they assign) by a General Warranty Deed. It should be free from any liens, restrictions, encumbrances, easements, or encroachments (even those not specifically referenced in this contract).
  2. PRORATIONS This clause is to ensure that property taxes and rents will be prorated based on the current year’s tax (without any exemptions, like discounts). All taxes should be current.
  3. DEFECTSHave this clause to hold the seller accountable for any defects that might be found. Essentially, this clause should state that the seller assures the property to be without hazardous substances, any violation of zoning, environmental, building, health, or other governmental ordinances or codes; and that the seller affirms there are no known facts regarding this property that could adversely affect its value.
  4. NO JUDGEMENTS The seller should confirm that there is nothing threatening the equity of the property. There should be no bankruptcy pending, or contemplation by any other title-holder.
  5. POSSESSION The contract should state that possession of the property, its occupants, and all the keys, will be handed over to the buyer when the title is transferred. If the property is vacant, then possession and all the keys to the property will be given to the buyer once the contract is executed. All leases, advance rents, and security deposits should be transferred to the buyer as well.
  6. RIGHT TO ASSIGN – This clause, along with the next ones, are where you should dictate your intention to wholesale the property. Without this clause, you can’t legally wholesale the deal, so this is a pretty important one. It should say that you, the buyer intends to assign the contract to a new buyer and the seller’s approval is not needed. Then have the seller initial the provision. Assure them that they will still get the purchase amount as agreed.
  7. NO RECOURSE AGAINST BUYERUpon default, the seller’s only solution is to retain what the buyer had put down as earnest money – they have no legal recourse to take any action beyond that against you, should you back out of the deal. 
  8. CLOSING DATE You want to give yourself as much time as possible to find someone to buy your contract. So negotiate at least 45 days or more. 
  9. “AS IS” and INSPECTIONS Make sure that this contract is contingent upon your inspection and approval of the property, before they transfer the title. The seller should provide you access and opportunity to inspect the property thoroughly (including all the power and utilities). If you accept the property, the contract should indicate that it’s in “As Is” condition. If you decline, then the buyer should notify the seller within 10 days from the day of the contract signing. 
  10. PROHIBITIONS – You don’t want to limit yourself to just this property or to one buyer, so make sure there is a clause that allows you to still accept future assignments. You should not have any prohibitions to do so. 
  11. ABILITY TO RENEGOTIATE – State that you can renegotiate the price. For example, specify a certain amount to be deducted for repairs. But if the property exceeds $20,000 in repairs, you should have the ability to back out, or renegotiate the asking price. 

With that contract done, next, you need an Assignment Agreement to govern the second half of the wholesaling process. 

The Assignment Agreement WHERE DOES WHOLESALER MAKE THEIR MONEY?

  1. This contract should say that you are “transferring” or assigning your right as the buyer to another party. The new party will now become the new buyer, and this now effectively closes the Purchase Agreement contract. 
  2. In an assignment, the buyer can see the purchase price you have with the seller, so they could be put off when they see you’re making money off the deal. In this case, they may try to negotiate their own deal with the seller. 

There’s a way you can try to protect against buyers cutting you out as the middleman and going directly to the seller instead: 

a.) In the purchase agreement, there should be a clause that allows the wholesaler to immediately file a claim of interest against the property. 

b.) Then, go right away to the local county and file that claim of interest. 

c.) Now it’s recorded in the chain of title for the property, so if a buyer tries to go around you and go straight to the seller, they can’t get a clean title, because your claim of interest will be on record.

3. If the purchase contract gave you more leeway, this time, you want to be as strict as you can with the buyer, to prevent them from backing out at the last minute and compromising your deal with the seller. 

Here’s one clause you might find useful for keeping your buyer on schedule. This clause penalizes them for any delay in closing. If they feel uncomfortable with agreeing to a $300-500 penalty, then they might not be very serious in the first place, so it’s not really that big of an ask. Here’s an example of how you can word this: 

ASSIGNEE  must close title on the property subject to the AGREEMENT by ____________, 20____. If seller of property subject to said AGREEMENT is ready, willing and able to close title on the above date but ASSIGNEE  fails to close title on or before said date, ASSIGNEE  will pay ASSIGNOR a per diem of $____________ until and including date of closing.

3. Aside from this, you’ll also want clauses which will make it as difficult as possible for the buyer to back out of fulfilling their Purchase Agreement, so ensure things like the property condition and price are clearly articulated and non-negotiable. 

4. Finally, your assignment contract should also say “X is the amount I’m being paid as an assignment fee” – this is your profit, which the buyer pays to you when you sign the assignment contract. Only then do you sign over the purchase agreement to them. This way, it doesn’t matter if the buyer closes on the house or not, because you’re now out of the deal and have made your money already.

Once you’ve drafted your contracts up, have them reviewed by a local attorney who’s familiar with wholesaling contracts to see if it complies with your local laws. Not a lot of companies are used to dealing with wholesalers, so make sure you work with a lawyer who is. 

Any other clauses we’ve missed? Share with us below!

Image Courtesy of Anna Shvets

Categories
Landlords

Overview of the Student Rental Market in Metro Detroit

Student tenants can rent anywhere. They don’t always choose to live in student housing, or even in the immediate vicinity of their school, but often rent or split a regular unit instead. That means, no matter where you are in Metro Detroit, you can end up with student applicants for your properties.

You can run into them in three situations: If you’re in or near college towns, near a university in a bigger city, or even randomly, as long as you have student-appealing amenities nearby. And though Metro Detroit isn’t a popular university area, here are some neighborhoods where you can expect student applicants:

  1. College Towns

Landlords in college towns deal with students all the time. If you own rentals near one of the college towns in Livonia or Dearborn, there’s a high chance you’ve already run into them. A lot of these areas have vibrant downtowns, with many gyms, restaurants, and other amenities catering to the younger crowd.

  1. University Areas

Besides college towns, there are also spots near universities like the University of Detroit Mercy and Wayne State University (both in Detroit City) and Oakland University in Rochester. These have fewer student tenants looking to rent in the immediate area, as a lot of them commute from home, but you’ll still run into student applicants here fairly regularly. 

  1. Randomly!

There’s a community college in Royal Oak, but that’s not the reason students rent there. They rent there for its trendiness and great nightlife. Students can show up in any area like this, as long as it’s young, vibrant, and appealing to them. Some students would much rather live in a great neighborhood and just commute to their university, so regardless of your proximity to a school, you can still run into them occasionally.  

One of the most significant differences between student vs. non-student tenants is that they usually lack established income or credit history. But that doesn’t mean you should skip considering them altogether–you just have to know what to look out for.

How to Screen for Student Tenants

They should have a reliable source of funds, whether that be student loans or a supportive parent. Just make sure to also screen any cosigner that will be paying the rent. 

Once their financials are set, use your better judgment (and their track record, if any) to see if they’ll make good tenants or not. Obviously, the number one concern with students is that they’ll throw crazy parties and treat your property like a messy dorm. However, you can’t just discriminate against students on this basis alone – you’ll need clear criteria for selecting tenants, and be able to show that a particular applicant didn’t meet those criteria. 

Be careful of how you phrase things, especially when you don’t accept students and cosigners flat out as a blanket statement. You can have a policy that dictates no acceptance of cosigners, but in this case, you can never accept cosigners for anyone else without risking being accused of discrimination.

Student renters come in all forms, and they can crop up anywhere. You may not market your property to students, but if you’re near a trendy area that’s desirable amongst young people, you’ll likely get at least a few student applicants anyway. Your property doesn’t even need to be located close to one of Metro Detroit’s colleges or universities. 

So be prepared to handle student applicants when they appear: conduct proper screening and don’t be discriminatory when considering them–as long as the financials make sense and they have a co-signer that can guarantee you their rent!

Have you had student tenants in Metro Detroit? What was your experience with them?

Image Courtesy of Andrew Neel

Categories
Landlords

Should You Allow Tenants with Pets?

Pet-owners are everywhere in the U.S., where roughly 68% of households have a cat or a dog. Yet a recent survey by Avail showed that only 55% of landlords allow pets in their properties. 

Even if you’re a pet-lover yourself, you may be hesitant to allow pets into your rental properties. This is understandable – but are there situations in which it’s okay to allow tenants with pets?

First, let’s consider the pros and cons of allowing pets in your rental:

Cons:

  • Hard-to-eliminate pet odors
  • Noise from barking, etc.
  • Pet-related damage to your property
  • Possible physical injury or accidents involving neighbors, guests or yourself 
  • Remnants of allergens (saliva and fur) that get in the air ducts, carpet, etc.
  • Fleas and other pests

Pros:

  • Increase in size of tenant base
  • Higher rental rates or fees
  • Possibility of tenants signing longer leases due to limited pet-friendly rental options
  • If you allow pets, there are fewer chances of tenants smuggling them without permission 

At the end of the day, it’s up to you whether you’re willing to accept pets in your rentals. But if you do, here are some guidelines for safeguarding your properties:

Decide What You’ll Allow

Pets come in all shapes and sizes: dogs, cats, birds, fish, rabbits, gerbils, small-scale reptiles, etc., and some have a much higher potential for causing damage than others. So decide which types of animals you’re willing to allow, as well as the number of each and the total number of pets permitted. Will you allow more than one dog? How many cats? Would ten guinea pigs be too much? Put all of this in your lease agreement, as well as: 

  • A statement that allows you to forcibly remove any pet that becomes aggressive or dangerous. 
  • A clause that gives you the power to change your rules on pets, if it’s done with a proper notice period (in case you decide not to allow pets in your properties anymore).
  • The consequences for violation of these rules, like additional fees or eviction.
  • Lastly, you should have a “pet addendum” attached to the lease. This includes specific details about the pet that you are allowing in the rental, and states that any other animal that isn’t registered in the lease is considered an illegal occupant and a breach of contract. If they get an additional dog or replace a previous pet that passed away, they need to have their new pet cleared and registered again. 

And make sure it’s clear what you expect from the pet owner in terms of responsibility for taking care of their animal. So also consider adding these provisions to the lease or pet addendum:

  • They must keep up with the required shots, licenses, and tags for the pet.
  • They must register any pet with you, the landlord, prior to taking them in.
  • They must resolve and pay for any harm done to anybody or anything by the pet.
  • They must take care for and clean up after the pet on a daily basis.
  • When outside, they must keep the pets on a leash or in a cage (depending on the animal).
  • They must acquire insurance with liability coverage for their animal.

Check Your Insurance and Liability 

Check the coverage of your insurance policy before considering tenants with pets. What is the amount of liability coverage in the policy? Are there any limitations, exclusions, or requirements for this coverage? Will they use the list of “dangerous breeds” as a basis for breeds that aren’t included in the insurance?

Charge Additional Fees

Since there is more risk involved when renting to pet owners, you can either add a pet fee on top of the monthly rent, or simply increase the monthly rental fee. Some landlords charge anywhere from $25-$100 per month, per pet, on top of the rent, and they also sometimes charge a pet processing fee (up to $500) when screening applicants with furry friends. Just be careful not to charge anything for emotional support animals. 

Some states also allow you to collect a separate security deposit, called a “pet deposit.” In some states, there is the option to make the pet deposit non-refundable. However, there are states, like Michigan, where the maximum security deposit is only two months’ rent. You need to know the maximum allowable amount of your state and evaluate if this will be enough to cover for pet-related damages which could occur in your property. 

Decide Case-by-Case

Just like any other tenant, make sure you screen the tenant’s background thoroughly. Apart from their financial and credit history, also check their references and ask about their experience with how the tenant managed their pet. Not all pet owners are equally well-trained and equipped to look after their pets!

When interviewing them, make sure you ask: 

  • Does the pet have the proper vaccinations and licenses? Is it neutered or spayed?
  • What breed and how old is the pet?
  • Has the pet ever caused damage to items or bitten anyone?
  • Who will be responsible for caring for the pet?
  • How do they plan to take care of the pet on a daily basis?
  • What is their occupation? (A doctor would have to leave their pets unattended for longer hours than a stay-at-home mom would)
  • Who will care for the pet when they’re not home?

You should also request a recent photo of the animal to keep for your records, and can even ask to meet the pet in person prior to approving their application. 

So, now that the risks, benefits, and processes for allowing tenants with pets have been laid out, it’s your time to make the decision. Will you open your doors to the pet-loving community? 

As a final thought, be mindful that a Fair Housing Law protects disabled people who need an animal for their emotional wellbeing and/or physical safety. The term “disabled” now includes not only the blind or paralyzed, but also those with clinical depression and post-traumatic stress. You can request a note from their physician to verify their condition and need for animal assistance to keep things documented. 

Do you allow pets in your rentals? Why or why not? 

Image Courtesy of Dominika Roseclay