Categories
Landlords

How Landlords can Easily Raise Rents

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

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

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

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

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

How should you approach a rent increase?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How much can you increase?

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

Sample rent increase notice

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

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

Dear John Tenant,

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Management

Conclusion

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

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

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

Categories
Landlords

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
Flipping

5 Signs You Better Walk Away from a Flip

Finding houses that are suitable for flipping is difficult – but that doesn’t mean you should jump on every opportunity that comes around.

Every good flipper knows how to choose properties—and when to walk away from an inevitable flop.

You don’t want to be a rookie who overlooks the basics and ends up with a smaller margin than your time and effort is worth.

So here are five signs to know when a distressed house is better left alone:

1. The location isn’t good.

The most important factor that decides the value of your flip is the location of the house.

  • What kind of city and neighborhood is it in?
  • What kind of residents are in the area? What do they want in a home?
  • How much do similar houses sell for in the immediate area? What features do they have?
  • What are its positive factors (e.g., good schools, shopping centers, etc.)?
  • What are its negative factors (e.g., highways, airports, factories, etc.)?

You need to understand the property in the context of where it’s located to estimate its value, and how fast it’s likely to sell (based on the level of buyer demand in the area). 

Do the same research that your buyers would do, and you’ll see if the location is going to appeal to them.

2. The house is too unique.

While every property will be somewhat different from another, you want to flip a house that’s fundamentally conforming to or better than the standard of the local competition. In other words, they have to be similar to the houses around them, but better somehow.

For example, if the neighborhood is full of single-family homes with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, you might have a hard time selling a house with 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom. You will, however, easily sell a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom home with an attic that can convert to an office area.

Generally, people like lots that are higher than the average size in the neighborhood, so a large lawn is always a good distinguishing feature. Likewise, you might have to be prepared for price adjustments if your lot is smaller than the average locally.

The biggest thing to look out for is a strange floorplan. Awkward layouts will seriously turn off buyers, even if you finish a home to a high standard throughout, and some layouts can’t be changed easily (if at all). Honestly, if you end up with a seriously out-of-date floorplan, you could be better off completely rebuilding a house from scratch in some cases, so this is a definite sign you should walk away if you’re a new flipper.

3. You don’t have enough skills or knowledge.

Unlike professional builders and professionals who’ve been honing their skills for years, you might not have the necessary knowledge to DIY fixes for a higher profit.

  • Do you know your way around basic construction tools?
  • Can you lay carpet, hang drywall, roof a house, and other common but important fixes?

There is money in sweat equity. If you lack knowledge and have to constantly outsource professionals to do the renovations, you’ll deplete the profit you could’ve gotten from your investment. If you lack the skills and still try to fix everything yourself, you might end up making rookie mistakes that’ll be expensive to salvage.

Furthermore, if you don’t have enough knowledge, you could run the risk of hiring a contractor and getting ripped off.

Instead, be realistic and account for your lack of skills when budgeting your flip. If the costs are properly accounted for, you’ll increase your chances of exiting with a good flipping profit.

4. You don’t have enough money.

All real estate investments are expensive.

You need to research your financing options to find which mortgage type will work best for you, and if there’s a lender that can offer you lower interest rates. Cash is possible, however there’s still property holding costs and opportunity costs that you need to consider.

More importantly, there’s the renovation costs. How much will you get after acquiring, holding, and fixing up the house? Novice flippers often underestimate the costs, resulting in net loss instead of gross profit.

To see if your budget is enough to flip-and-sell a house, you need to:

  • Identify how much you need to acquire the property
  • Scan the competition and see how much you can realistically sell and still make a profit
  • Determine how long the renovations will take and budget accordingly
  • Remember to take into account the loan you’ve taken out, taxes, utilities, insurance, and more
  • Be aware of the seasonality that can sometimes affect home prices and the number of days on market (e.g., higher sale prices in late spring compared to winter)

5. You don’t have enough time.

Flipping and selling a house takes a lot of time and dedication—often requiring you to give up a large chunk of your time for a couple of months. 

Not sure if the hours dedicated to flipping will be worth it? Answer these questions:

  • Are you maintaining a separate full-time job? Are you willing to give up weekends and evenings?
  • Do you have the budget to pay someone else to do the work?
  • Will you be available to oversee demolitions, constructions, inspections, and other procedures?
  • How much time will you spend marketing your property? Can you show it to prospective buyers yourself, or do you have the budget to pay for a real estate agent’s commission?

For most people, the time all of this takes isn’t worth it. They’d rather stick to their day job to have a guaranteed income, without the headache of flipping houses, so think carefully about whether or not this commitment is right for you before buying your own investment property. 

Summary

To be a successful flipper, you need to understand the risks involved and how to mitigate them.

Evaluate your house flipping opportunities by doing the following:

  • Check the location of the house in relation to the neighborhood.
  • Determine if the house is competitive enough versus other properties in the area.
  • Budget property and never underestimate the possibility of expensive, underlying problems.
  • Calculate the time it’ll take for you to enter and exit the flip profitably.
  • Be realistic with what you can repair and what you’ll need to outsource.

Making profit from flipping houses isn’t as easy as some other real estate investment methods, but it’s definitely possible with the right knowledge, planning, and courage to walk away from bad opportunities. Keep looking and doing your due diligence, and the right one will eventually come along. 

Trust us, it’s worth the wait.

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
Shortterm Rentals

How to Attract Short-Term Rental Guests During COVID

If you want your rental portfolio to stay in business during the coronavirus pandemic, you need to align your offering with people’s priorities in the new normal. 

Safety and protection are of utmost importance right now, so what safety measures should you implement to assure your guests? 

Furthermore, why are they renting in the first place – are they going to have a staycation since traveling abroad isn’t a safe option anymore? What can you then provide to make your STR attractive, given the rapidly-changing consumer behaviors we’re now seeing?

Here are some ideas to help your short term rental business adapt to these new times:

  1. Contactless Check-In and Out

Plenty of us have experienced arriving in a new country and checking yourself in to the AirBnb rental you’ve reserved beforehand. You don’t even meet the owner, you just use the passcode they gave you to enter the cute little apartment unit. Days later, after you’ve eaten all the street food and bought all the souvenirs possible, you check yourself out simply by locking the door behind you, before heading to the airport. It’s easy, safe, and keeps human interactions to a bare minimum (owners or property managers only show up when something goes wrong with the unit!).

With all the tools and technologies available, you can implement contactless checking-in and out in your rentals too, and operate with increased health and safety protocols. Digitizing and revamping your check-in and out process will help to assure guests that you provide convenience plus safety. All you need is: 

  • Digital key or lockbox access
  • Welcome card with house directions & local info
  • List of contact numbers
  1. Refund Policy

COVID has cancelled a lot of plans – but not a lot of payments. One of the biggest head-scratchers during this pandemic is how most of us can’t cancel expensive flights, gym memberships, or reservations in resorts without a whopping, heartless cancellation fee. 

To assure renters that your refund policy considers the pandemic and related governmental restrictions, try including these two in your emergency policy (at least, for bookings made prior to March 2020):

  • Flexible credits – Offer the guest a full credit for the amount they’ve paid if they are beyond your cancellation window. You can allow them to use these credits to book your property again in the future (post-pandemic), so at least it’s just a “rescheduling” for both of you. 
  • Refunding – Offer the highest refund you can in your cancellation policy, while still protecting yourself. If the guests are unable to accept credits, and you can’t commit to a 100% refund, then at least give them back 50%. With the pandemic, uncertainty is our reality nowadays, so take this opportunity to show understanding to your travelers – it will result in higher chances of them returning post-COVID.

3. Sanitizing and Documentation

Take the extra mile to sanitize your STRs – not just clean them. What’s the difference? Cleaning is removing most germs, dirt, and dust using a soapy sponge or damp cloth. However, cleaning does not remove all the germs and bacteria that are hidden in the deeper layers. By using chemicals to deep-cleanse, sanitizing your rental will lower the risk of infection and further assure your guests of a COVID-free home. 

Document all the sanitizing measures you’ve done using the simple guideline below. Feel free to add more details as you go along. You can even post this as part of your listing to make any prospective guest feel at ease:

  • Wear protective gear or PPEs while you clean.
  • Ventilate the rooms before you clean (as recommended by the CDC).
  • Wash your hands properly and thoroughly before and after each cleaning. 
  • Clean first, then sanitize. Use detergent to remove dirt, dust, grease, and most germs. Afterwards, spray and wipe with disinfectants using clean cloths.
  • Use disinfectants that are registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (or has 70% alcohol) as these are believed to be effective against the virus. 
  • Pay attention to all surfaces–especially those that are frequently touched. For rugs, sofas, drapes, or anything else that’s similar, machine-wash if possible.
  • Avoid touching your face while cleaning to prevent the spread of germs.
  • Wash all linens at the highest heat setting recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Empty all appliances and disinfect their surfaces.
  • Dispose of your cleaning supplies properly. 
  • Safely remove your cleaning gear after you’re done. 
  • Include a card in the property, informing newly-arrived guests that the property has been disinfected (listing all these steps, if desired!), and publish this
  • information online – it will help set your property apart when people are searching for a place to stay.

4. Comfort Features

Lastly, figure out why they are renting your property during COVID. If they’re planning a staycation, then it’s best to fit your property with entertainment and other comforts. This could mean additional towels, a coffee maker, board games, or free Netflix. (It will also differ, depending on where your STR is situated and what kind of guests you attract. Features that rowdy 20-year-olds will appreciate are quite far from those that 80-year-old elderlies will kiss your cheek for!)

Here are some features to consider:

  • Provide quality basics – Strong water pressure, fast and reliable WiFi, AC units and heaters that work without fail are all examples of levelled-up basics. Having these basics at good quality gives the guests everything they need for living, working, and relaxing in the easiest way possible.
  • Offer ample amenities – Stock your bathrooms chock-full of toiletries any of your guests can appreciate (especially when one of them forgets their toothbrush or shaving cream). Prepare your kitchen to handle an entire family cooking together with all the pots, plates, wine opener, and sponges. People are cooking in more now than ever before, so having things like spices and oil might be a nice additional touch, too. 
  • Have unexpected features – If Netflix is now an expected offer, then try installing a Nintendo Switch for your guests to enjoy. Throw in a foot massager in the living room too, for mom to get pampered while the kids play Mario Kart on the big screen. Perhaps you can put a couple of cold ones in the fridge for dad to kick back and relax as well. These are all small items that you can offer specially for COVID-escaping staycationers that will stay in the rental for days at a time, and these small touches go a long way towards garnering awesome reviews.

COVID may have hindered a lot of businesses from operating, but that doesn’t mean yours should stop too. There are ways to keep your short-term rentals attractive even in the midst of this pandemic. Try out these tips and comment below on how they worked for you!

Image Courtesy of Evgenia Basyrova

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
DIY

What You Need To Ask Your Contractor

How many jobs is you contractor juggling?

House flippers have a knack for seeing the hidden, potential beauty in a property that requires a lot of love. Hiring the right contractor to see that vision through to reality is a skill in and of itself. If you’re the kind of investor that has the ability to see the grand scheme of things but don’t have the time or qualifications to get the work done, you need to diligently screen your contractor.

How Much Experience Do You Have With Remodels?

Though there is some overlap, remodeling is a niche and is distinctly different from working on new construction. It’s hard to tell what setbacks you’re bound to run-up against, so if the crew has multiple skillsets, it will be cheaper for you. For instance, getting the same person to hang drywall, handle some minor electrical and later lay carpeting is less expensive than subcontracting specialists.

Are You Licensed AND Insured?

Any serious contractor will be licensed to work in the area and have proper insurance coverage. Don’t hesitate to ask to see copies of both. This will (hopefully) ensure that the work will be done to meet proper code requirements and that their insurance policy provides enough coverage should you need it. 

How Many People Are In Your Crew?

To be an efficient flipper, you want to get your property ready for sale as quickly as possible. Having the right-sized team, no matter the extent of your remodeling project brings confidence that the job can get done in a timely fashion.

How Many Other Jobs Are You Currently Juggling? 

You don’t want your remodel to take longer than needed — time is money. This will also give you a sense how large the company is and how your project will be managed. Many qualified contractors will be doing several jobs at once, that’s not necessarily a problem, as long as your rehab doesn’t experience unreasonable delays. If the other jobs are at different stages, then there shouldn’t be a crew shortage that would require hiring additional subcontractors that would throw you off your timeline.

Can You Ensure Completion By (insert date)?

If you’re satisfied with the answers to previous questions, get the contractor to commit to a guaranteed timeline for completion. People don’t like to pass on work and will tell “little white lies” to get the contract.Have your agreement drafted by a professional to make sure all of your requirements are correctly detailed. Rehabs rarely run as smoothly as the contractor would have you believe, there will always be unexpected snags which jeopardize your completion date. To help guarantee the agreed-upon timeline, consider including incentives for early completion and, likewise, penalties for any unreasonable delays.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio