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 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
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

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