Categories
Landlords

Minimize the Learning Curve: 4 Expert Tips Beginner Landlords Need to Know

A young man looking professional in his stylish suit
Source: Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Landlording can be a lucrative business, but it also comes with its own challenges. That’s why it’s essential to minimize the learning curve as much as possible and get tips from those who have been in the business for a while. You don’t have to take the trial-and-error approach if you already know the “secrets” and tricks to landlording successfully!

Read on to know the four expert tips for successful real estate investing.

Make It Difficult for Rental Advertising Scammers

Unfortunately, there are a lot of rental property scammers out there—especially on Craigslist. One of the common scams is where other people will steal your real estate listing, use the property information and photos, and replace the contact details with their own numbers and email addresses.

They’ll then:

  1. Attract interested tenants
  2. Say that they’re “currently out of the country” and can’t turn over the keys to them
  3. Have the tenants hire a locksmith to change the locks themselves
  4. Collect rent money and security deposit

Then disappear into thin air. You’ll be left with clueless tenants you didn’t get to screen, and a rental property you can’t rent out without telling the scammed tenants to go.

How can you avoid these scams?

Be proactive and mark your photos with your phone number and contact information. Scammers won’t take the extra time and effort to remove your watermarks; they’ll skip over your listing and look for other opportunities elsewhere.

Another tip is never to publish the actual address of your home. Instead, use the nearest cross streets to give tenants a good indication of where your property is without revealing the address to scammers.

Be Attentive and Creative in Screening Tenants

The ultimate goal of screening tenants is to ensure they are responsible people who’ll pay rent on time, maintain your property well, and abide by all the clauses in your lease agreement. In other words, the best way to avoid bad tenants is by having a good screening process.

Here are our pro tips on how to screen them:

  • Assess their cleanliness: Walk them to their car. Take a peek at how clean or dirty their car is inside. Chances are, if their vehicle is filled with garbage (like this poor vehicle), they’ll treat your rental home the same way, too. Their car is a reflection of what’s to come for your home. Or even do a surprise visit to their current residence – how it looks is how your property will look after they move in.
  • See if they have pets: Don’t ask if they have animals, because they can easily say no to that. Instead, ask how many animals they have—indicating that you already know they have pets and you only want to know how many of them there are. Make it a bit harder for them to lie.

Moreover, don’t believe anybody who says that their animals will “live somewhere else”. All too often, those animals will only live elsewhere for a while before moving into the home.

In other words, make it slightly more difficult for them to hide secrets from you. By checking their car and assuming that they have pets, you’ll get more honest answers out of the applicants, making it easier to decide if you want to accept them as your tenants or not.

Be Cautious in Accepting Upfront Payments Covering Multiple Months

Receiving upfront rent payments may seem great for you. You get to secure the money earlier without having to chase tenants for payments every month. However, take note of the following:

  • Is it legal? State and landlord laws might have a maximum upfront rent payment allowable, while some will require you to pay interest on it. Ensure that you’re familiar with the laws before accepting any upfront rent.
  • Why can the tenant afford it? Did they come upon some money and want to ensure that it goes somewhere necessary before they spend it irresponsibly? If that’s the case, they might not have a stable income or employment to afford the home in the first place.

Of course, there are exceptions to these situations. If you’re renting out to students, for example, the parents might pay upfront rent so their family won’t have to worry about paying monthly rent anymore.

Have a Thorough Lease Agreement

You may be tempted to use online lease agreement templates so you won’t have to create one from scratch. However, barebones templates won’t do much in protecting you or your investment property.

Plus, there are specific state and local landlording laws that you’ll have to consider in your lease, and other rental-specific rules that you’ll want to have (e.g., regarding smoking, pets, or painting the home’s interior). These are things that generic templates won’t guarantee or cover.

Instead, everything you want the tenants to know should be included in the lease agreement, so use online templates only as a guide to creating your own document.

Once your attorney approves the draft, sit down with your tenant and go through the entire thing. Don’t assume that they’ll read the agreement on their own—most of them will skim through it and call it a day. You’ll end up with tenants that will likely forget your rules, creating many problems down the line that could’ve been avoided in the first place.

Ensure that they know and understand your rules by having them put their initials at the start of every paragraph or sign every page of the agreement as confirmation. If anything unfortunate happens in the future, the tenants won’t have any excuse to say that they didn’t know the rental lease guidelines.

Pro Tips for a Successful Real Estate Investment Business

There are many other pro tips that you can learn from experts. Knowing these secrets is the best way to ease yourself into the rental business, become a great landlord for your tenants, maintain your real estate property, and protect your monthly cash flow for investment success.

Become a successful landlord today! Get in touch with me or my team at Logical Property Management.

We’ve been managing properties for more than two decades now, and have more tips and tricks to share for a thriving rental property business.

Categories
Wholesale Wholesaling

Can Real Estate Wholesaling Be Done Ethically?

Women thinking about real estate
Source: Photo by Pexels

Many people in the real estate industry frown upon wholesalers. In general, it seems that wholesalers have developed a bad reputation because many investors and sellers think they can find each other without an expensive middleman pocketing some of the profits.

But ‌the reality is far more complicated than just that…

The truth is real estate wholesalers make everyone’s lives easier, helping sellers to actually sell their unwanted homes and connecting buyers with properties they actually want. In a way, they fill a gap in the real estate investment game that nobody else can, providing genuine value to both seller and the investor.

Still, not everyone thinks that and so we wanted to address the question: Are wholesale real estate transactions ethical?

Let’s take a closer look at the issue.

When Is Real Estate Wholesaling Unethical?

Here’s how we see it: Real estate wholesaling is only unethical if someone conducts their business for the wrong reasons. After all, real estate wholesaling is legal in all 50 states—although with many local and state rules governing it.

Here are two situations where real estate wholesaling becomes unethical:

#1 – Deceiving the Seller

If a wholesaler deceives the seller into thinking that their property is worth less than it actually does, they’re effectively tricking them so they can earn more profits. But if the wholesaler tells them the actual value of their home and is clear about the extra cost they’ll pay for their expertise, then everything is done ethically.

As a wholesaler, the goal is to convince the seller that your list of buyers and connections will help them greatly, so they can sell their homes as soon and as easily as possible. After all, most sellers have the following problems:

  • They don’t have access to interested investors or buyers.
  • They don’t have real estate knowledge to handle the transaction.
  • They don’t want to take care of the property anymore and would rather liquidate it.
  • They don’t have the time and finances necessary to repair the property.
  • They don’t have time to waste as the property is near foreclosure already.

Another situation is if the property is already in foreclosure and the bank just wants to liquidate it. A real estate wholesaler can then step in, offer their expertise and knowledge, and get the job done quickly and efficiently.

#2 – Deceiving the Buyer

Another example of an unethical situation happens when the wholesaler underestimates the repairs needed and oversells the property to a buyer.

Sure, the wholesaler will certainly gain a hefty profit, but that effectively pushes the problem to the investor—where they have to repair and renovate the property at a much higher cost than expected. With a bloated after-repair value (ARVs) and inaccurately estimated repair costs (ERC), they’ll have lower their profits and struggle to bring the home up to standards or find another exit plan before they sink too deep.

Unethical situations like these are what fuel the negative reputation wholesalers have today.

Instead, you want to be known as an expert deal finder. Give accurate ARVs and ERCs, and put in the effort to build your experience, knowledge, and reputation in the community. The more you do this, the more buyers will see your added value to their investments—becoming an irreplaceable asset to them.

Ultimately, it boils down to the quality of deals you provide. If you offer pathetic deals for hefty profits and push problems to other parties, you’re only fueling the negative reputation that wholesalers already have to deal with in this industry.

Wholesalers = Real Estate Pawn Shops

Pawn shops also have a bad name, but they also fill a niche in local economies. Someone in need of quick cash chooses to sell their item at a pawn shop, usually for less than they could get by selling the item on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, etc.

Doing Real Estate Wholesaling Ethically

Many real estate agents look down on wholesalers as predatory, when they should actually look at them as another avenue for a quick sale in certain situations.

As long as you conduct your transactions the right way, you’re wholesaling real estate ethically and shouldn’t have any problems. After all, when you can build trust and credibility as a wholesaler, you’ll get far more recommendations from other buyers and sellers as well.

And when it comes to real estate wholesaling—networking is more important in the long run than acting out of your own self-interest for short-term profits.

What else do you want to know about wholesaling? Drop us a comment below!

Categories
Shortterm Rentals

How to Find The Best Neighborhoods for Airbnb

 To earn the biggest profits from your STR, you need to find the right neighborhood to invest in. Here, we look at some of the things to consider.
An STR in the woods
Photo by Karsten Winegeart

Investing in a short-term rental (STR) is a great way to make some additional income. In fact, according to 2021 figures, the average Airbnb host in North America can make $41,026 annually from a single rental.

But you need to be smart and focus on a lot of factors to earn that impressive amount. 

For example, just picking a neighborhood can make or break your investment. While the right neighborhood with all the right conditions will give you high occupancy and rental rates, the wrong neighborhood will only give you high turnover rates—or worse, complete vacancy.

So, what are the right conditions that make a neighborhood perfect for STR investments? 

Let’s discuss the conditions you need to consider when picking a neighborhood for your Airbnb.

What Makes a Good Neighborhood?

No one factor makes a good neighborhood. You have to consider several characteristics when choosing the area for your Airbnb. When you choose a neighborhood to invest in, look for: 

  • Airbnb occupancy rate
  • Airbnb rental income 
  • Airbnb rent averages
  • Cash-on-cash return

Each factor is as important as the next and they all have to come together seamlessly. For example, if you only take into account the Airbnb occupancy, you could see an 80% rate. But each tenant might be paying you a low amount—and that might not be worth the effort.

So, let’s define each factor and go through their details:

Airbnb Occupancy Rate

The occupancy rate measures the dates a property was booked versus the total number of days it is listed for rent. Factors like location, market saturation, and seasonality can affect a neighborhood’s occupancy rate. 

Now, the average occupancy rate in North America is about 44%, but you’ll want to find areas that give an even higher number. Instead, focus on locations that have the highest occupancy rates such as:

  • Seaside, CA: 71.3% 
  • Little Rock, AR: 75.0%
  • Phoenix, AZ: 64.1%
  • Los Angeles, CA: 55.6% 
  • Columbus, OH: 60.6%

A quick search on Google will give you these numbers. If you find another neighborhood with a good Airbnb occupancy rate, you can consider investing in property there. 

Airbnb Rental Income

The Airbnb rental income will determine how much income your property will generate over time. For you to determine the potential rental income you can earn in a neighborhood, you need to conduct a market analysis. Using market analysis, you can learn: 

  • The real estate appreciation rates of the neighborhood
  • The current and upcoming trends of the real estate market in an area
  • If the neighborhood you’re scouting is suitable for an STR
  • If long-term rentals are more popular in a particular area instead of an STR
  • The overall demand for rentals in the area

Take, for example, Mashvisor’s heatmap. With this tool, you can see the average occupancy rate in Detroit. You can also get a glimpse into the estimated rental income of an Airbnb.  After you perform a market analysis, you should have a good idea of what your Airbnb rental income should look like in that particular neighborhood. 

Airbnb Rent Averages

This is the simplest metric you need to find out. You basically need to look at the average rent STRs are going for in a neighborhood. If you skip this, you might invest in an expensive property that’ll take too long to generate a good return on investment.

You can use Mashvisor to get a good idea of how much people are charging for rent on their Airbnbs. In general, you want to look-out for properties with similar specifications to the property you’re looking to invest in. Watch for things like: 

  • The number of rooms
  • The number of beds and baths 
  • The kinds of amenities available
  • The location (e.g., if it’s near tourist attractions)

Once you have a general picture of how much people are charging for stays in their Airbnbs, you get an idea of how much you can charge. 

This will also help you estimate the maximum amount you should spend acquiring the property, as you’ll want to charge at least 1% of your total property price to recoup costs fast enough. For example, if a property costs $212,000, you’ll want to charge at least $2,120 for the monthly rent.

Cash-on-Cash Return 

Finding out the cash-on-cash returns for similar Airbnbs in a particular neighborhood will give you an idea of whether investing in a neighborhood is worth it. Again, Mashvisor gives you the cash-on-cash returns of Airbnbs in a neighborhood.

To calculate your cash-on-cash return, you just need to follow a simple formula:

Cash-on-cash return (CoCR) = (annual rental income – operating expenses)/total cash investment 

Let’s look at the potential CoCR of the listing we mentioned earlier, with an annual rental income of $25,440 ($2120 x 12) as an example. With a total cash investment of $200,000 and a safe estimate of operating expenses being 1/3rd of the annual rental income, it’ll look like this: 

CoCR = (25,440 – 8395.2)/200000 

CoCR = (17044.8)/200000

CoCR = 0.0852

For this particular example, the cash-on-cash return is 8.52% per year. This is within the benchmark for good CoCR, which is between 8-12%. If you find an area with a CoCR that measures within that range, it’s a good opportunity for your STR.

Pick the Right Neighborhood For Your Investment 

Airbnbs can be a great investment opportunity. However, much like any investment, you need to invest wisely. Choosing the wrong neighborhood will put you at too much financial risk, and you might not see numbers anywhere close to the $41,026 average.

Do your due diligence, analyze your opportunities well, and maybe even consult with experts in the industry, and you can be confident in earning that $41,026—maybe even higher.

Do you think there are other factors to consider when choosing a location for an Airbnb? Let us know your insight in the comments below!

Categories
Landlords

Why Cheap Houses Aren’t Always Profitable and How to Buy Ones That Are

If you’ve been participating in real estate forums and websites for a while now, you’ve likely noticed that new investors are often interested in buying the cheapest house they can find. In addition to getting a better Rent-to-Price rate, they believe that buying cheap will save them money on closing costs and property taxes. But there’s much more to investing than the purchase price of a home.

Cheaper houses may seem appealing on paper (or laptop screens), but it’s important to consider all the implications that come with them. And if you still decide to buy one, you need to understand what you’re getting yourself into.

Otherwise, you risk buying an asset that actually loses you money instead of bringing in a profit. 

Why Cheap Houses Are Rarely the Best Idea

The term “cheap” is relative to your perspective and can vary from market to market. Even so, whether it’s buying a home for $40,000 that rents for $700 or anything similar, buying cheap homes goes against these four pillars of conservative investment.

The 4 Pillars of Real Estate Investing

These are the crucial pillars you need to be aware of when purchasing a property:

  1. Capital Preservation: As a conservative investor, you want to protect your money and avoid loss within your portfolio. In exchange for large returns, you prioritize investment security and stability.
  2. Stable Cash Flow: You want to have the assurance of positive cash coming into your investment business. This way, you’ll increase your assets and have the funds for daily operations.
  3. Appreciation or Equity Gains: Aside from cash flow, you also want to gain equity as your property increases in value over time. This allows you to make a profit once you decide to sell.
  4. Tax Benefits: The biggest tax benefit of purchasing real estate is in the form of deductions. These come from property tax, mortgage interest, repairs, operations, and depreciation.

Why are cheap properties against these pillars? Well, it’s because they tend to come with a host of problems, some that you might not have considered. Here are a few problems and limitations you’ll face when going with a cheap property:

  • They’re located in areas leaning towards economic decline.
  • They have poorer tenant payment performance, leading to higher eviction costs.
  • They have higher tenant turnovers and RentReady costs.
  • They often come with underlying deferred maintenance issues.
  • They are harder to insure, since the cost of replacing the property often exceeds its insurable value.
  • They are difficult to secure lending for.
  • They come with limited exit strategies.

These reasons show why buying cheap isn’t always the smartest strategy. Going for a slightly more expensive property (like a Class C instead of a Class D) might take a bigger chunk out of your savings upfront, but it’s often a smarter choice in the long run.

Of course, if you’re still planning on purchasing a cheaper property, here are some factors you need to prioritize.

How to Approach Buying Cheap Properties

Not all cheap homes are traps, but you’ll need to know how to spot the good ones. You don’t want to end up with a decrepit building that eats up your savings. So, when buying cheap properties, make sure to do the following:

  • Invest in Up-and-Coming Areas: Cheap properties are often on the outskirts of town, so ensure that it’s an up-and-coming neighborhood with a growing population and economy. This way, the property will retain its value and increase over time.
  • Anticipate Necessary Repairs: Since cheap homes often come with underlying problems, you should work with a professional inspector and licensed contractor. That way you can easily manage the complications and accurately estimate necessary repairs.
  • Check the Neighborhood and Tenant Pool Class: Ensure that the area attracts quality renters who will follow lease agreements and take care of your property. Cheap properties are often in lower-class neighborhoods, which means lower-class tenant pools, as well.
  • Run the Numbers: Conduct proper real estate analysis to ensure that the numbers make sense. Here are a few calculations to get started:
    • Net Operating Income (NOI): This number should show a favorable balance of income and expenses. Compare the NOI to similar properties in the area to see if you’ll also have high revenues and small expenses. 
    • Cash Flow: How much money will you pocket? The monthly rent you can charge should be 1% or higher than the purchase price to indicate strong cash flow generation. Buying a cheap property that can only demand so much rent defeats the purpose of investing in one, as you won’t have the rent-to-price ratio you expected to enjoy.
    • Cash-on-Cash (COC) Return: The higher the COC, the more the property can pay for itself. A good rule of thumb is to have a COC that’s higher than 10%.
  • Have a Great Management Strategy or PMC: It’s relatively easy to manage Class A & B properties because the tenant pool is higher demographic. Class C & D properties on the other hand, require a LOT more attention to be successful. You’ll need a solid plan to handle the inevitable tenant issues or hire a great (not just good) property management company. 

There are many other calculations to run, but these three should get you started on the right foot.

Conclusion

Cheap properties can create significant profits and become excellent investments when done properly. But if it only sinks you into debt, you might look back and wish that you spent your money on a safer investment opportunity instead.

As always, we suggest you do ample research and consult with other investors. When you do go with cheap property, make sure your purchase gives you results that are worth the risk.

What’s your experience with buying cheap properties? Share your tips below.

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

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