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Have You Heard of R.U.B.S.?

Water ConservationBy Salvatore J. Friscia, San Diego Premier Property Management, San Diego, CA If you own multi-family rental property in the southwestern United States you should know about RUBS (Ratio Utility Billing System). A large majority of multi-family rental properties in California, Arizona, Nevada, and NewMexico are individually metered for electric but have what’s called a “master” meter for water. The electric usage of the tenant is paid for by the tenant and the water and sewer usage for the entire complex is typically at the owner’s expense. This expense can be rather costly and eats into the NOI (net operating Income) of the property producing a negative effect on the value of the asset. Most industry experts foresee prolonged price increases for water consumption as the areas mentioned above are currently dealing with drought and long-term water conservation concerns. To mitigate this expense savvy investors have typically reduced water consumption by the installation of low flow toilets, low flow shower heads, and landscaping of indigenous plants or desert landscaping in common areas. While this helps reduce cost it doesn’t eliminate it and the owner is still burdened with an expense that continues to outpace reduction methods. Some owners have gone as far as installing sub-metering on each individual unit if the property’s current piping system allows it. This would seem to be the best solution but once again this is only feasible if the properties current piping system will allow you to make these changes. All of these methods are helpful and will curve ......
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Decrease Vacancies with Creative Leasing Strategies

Leasing StrategiesBy Ben Holubecki, STML Realty Group, Glen Ellyn, IL As the weather warms up and the rental leasing season gets into full swing it is easy to get caught up in the rush of showing requests, rental applications, lease signings, and new tenant walk through appointments that usually fill these months for leasing agents and management companies. From what we are seeing in our area and what I have heard from managers and agents in other markets this is one of the more active springs in recent history for tenant moves and new leasing activity. We have seen our average vacancy time decrease from 30 days to less than 20 days over the last few months and some properties are renting as soon as they hit the open market. This is a far cry from just a few months ago when we were in the middle of one of the least active leasing winters that we can remember in the Midwest. While this is all great news for those of us who earn a living filling and managing these vacant units, we have noticed one area where things have not picked up all that much. The “tough to rent” properties are still hard to move. The nice unit in the dirty building, the overpriced 1 BR apartment, the house with the crazy wallpaper, the home next to the hoarding neighbor, and other general nightmare rentals still continue to be issues. While the market seems to be increasingly active, I see the activity ......
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Should I Seek Restitution?

CourthouseBy Geoff Roberts, Buildium, Boston, MA Unfortunately, sometimes tenant-related situations happen that require you to consider restitution: a tenant submits a bad check; causes significant damage and destruction to your property; moves out on the sly; or abandons his possessions on your property, leaving you to clean up the mess. None of these situations are pleasant, particularly because they generally leave you at best out some cash and, even worse, with a mess to clean up in your tenants wake (which, of course, may require even more expenditure). Of course you want to be paid the money you’re owed, but is it always worth pursuing such matters? Let’s take a look at some common scenarios. Small Claims CourtSmall claims court may be a good option in certain circumstances (note that some districts have a specific landlord-tenant court). Small claims complaints may be viable if your tenant does not pay rent, willfully damages or causes destruction to your property, or violates rules and regulations repeatedly after written notice to comply. Generally speaking, small claims courts handle matters under a certain dollar amount—usually $5,000 or less. All of the specifics vary on according to state, so be sure to check the specifics in your area. In most states, you will have to submit a small fee to file a complaint (generally around $25). If the case goes to court, witnesses may be required to appear in person, and you should be prepared to provide relevant documentation, such as receipts, leases, estimates, bills, check copies, and photographs. ......
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Setting Your Rental Rates

Rental ratesBy Geoff Roberts, Buildium, Boston, MA When determining rental rates, you want to strike just the right balance between maximizing your profit and remaining competitive in your local rental market. Following are some tips for finding that magic number. Look at rates of competitors As a property manager, you want to create business strategies that work for you and serve your best interests. However, you still need to be aware of competitors and the marketplace around you. When formulating rent rates, make sure you know what you’re up against. And the quickest way to do this is analyzing competitive prices. RentometerRentometer is a great web-based program that will allow you to see how you rank in your neighborhood. Just enter your address, rental rate, and number of bedrooms to gain access to a computerized graphic showing where your rates fall in comparison to other rental rates in your immediate area. Other Rental Listing SitesWhile Rentometer is great for a quick overview, remember that it doesn’t take specifics such as square footage, upgrades, and amenities into account. To make sure you’re comparing apples to apples, also look at competitive rental listings on sites likeCraigslist, Zillow, Rentals.com, Apartments.com, and local classifieds (both online and off). Look for places of a similar size, with the same amenities and upgrades and make sure that your rates are in the same ballpark. If your rental rates are higher than those of competitors, make sure this is justified (for example, your units have more square footage or were recently renovated). When a......
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Set Ground Rules Early with Owners and Tenants

The Rule BookBy Ben Holubecki, STML Realty Group, Glen Ellyn, IL I’ve always had a lot of respect for professionals who truly learn from their mistakes.  Many of the top companies and executives in the world admit that they have made plenty of them over the years.  What sets the successful companies apart from the unsuccessful ones is the ability to immediately make adjustments and avoid making the same mistake twice.  It can be costly to make an error on the job but it can be devastating to repeatedly make the same mistake over and over again.  That’s why I sat down last week to reflect upon a recent string of lost property management accounts. Those of us who manage properties owned by others all have our steady, long-term clients.  These are the ones that we can count on.  We depend on them to provide the residual revenue that drives our business and allows us to operate on a monthly basis.  These owners generally defer to our decisions, believe in our process, and most importantly trust us to manage an important part of their investment portfolio.  In our experience we have found a common theme that runs along with most of these clients.  Ground rules and expectations were properly set at the beginning of those business relationships.  Although there are always ups and downs involved in managing any relationship when you are playing with someone else’s money, those hurdles can often be overcome if guidelines were properly established at the beginning of the relationship.  If ......
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Is Renting to Family and Friends Wise?

Pay RentBy Salvatore J. Friscia, San Diego Premier Property Management, San Diego, CA As a property management company the majority of our accounts are derived from real estate investors but many of our accountscome from owners that have only 1 rental unit which is usually a prior primary residence. They may have self managed the property at one time but usually something occurs that invokes them to seek professional property management. There are many reasons why but for some the final straw comes after dealing with the aftermath of renting to a family member or a friend. Rental real estate should be treated like any other business venture but if you’re not accustom to being a landlord it seldom is. Many new landlords make the mistake of filling their vacancy with friends or family members to avoid having to actually deal with finding a qualified tenant. At first the situation may seem like a perfect fit and a great way to reduce costs associated with vacancy and marketing. In most cases the owner/landlord will typically relax qualification measures and make concessions based on the relationship, including not requiring an application or security deposit. Right from the start this creates a relaxed environment and allows the family member or friend to perceive the situation as somewhat casual and flexible as opposed to contractual. Because they know the tenant the owner often develops a false sense of security and doesn’t anticipate any problems, “I know this person and I’m helping them out so why ......
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Streamline Property Inspections with Apps!

Property InspectionBy Peter Lamandre, Better by Design Real Estate, Scranton, PA Whether your portfolio is made up of large complexes or scattered smaller units, performing unit and site inspections is an important value-added service that a property management firm provides to their clients. It is also one of the more time consuming aspects of our daily jobs. Performing the inspections requires scheduling with tenants, documenting observations, and follow-up on deficient items. It is also crucial to have the historic inspections readily available to reference changes in conditions. Over the years my firm has tried numerous variations on a rather routine process; from the traditional pen and clipboard documenting observations on standard forms to utilizing digital cameras and even portable video. Recently we have been testing and are just rolling out a new process for conducting inspections. A fully digital and paperless inspection process; allowing for a swift method to memorialize observations by following a consistent process. With the advent and proliferation of smartphones and tablets in the marketplace this process is becoming more streamlined. As an avid iPhone user the apps we use are iPhone/iPad based. However searching though your application marketplace I am sure you can locate apps for windows and android based devices as well. A few helpful apps that you may want to look are: Tap Inspect. Tap inspect is a free app that allows you to customize the inspection process and deliver customized reports directly to your client from the field. You can include photos of the property and ......
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Tenant Selection in Today's Economic Environment

Tenant ScreeningBy Ben Holubecki, STML Realty Group, Glen Ellyn, IL I was recently on the phone with a rental property owner who was considering utilizing our leasing and property management services and he asked me an interesting question.  He asked me how the downturn in the economy and the flood of foreclosures and short sales had affected the way that we make decisions about rental application approvals.  I had not given the issue a lot of thought as the housing collapse didn’t exactly happen overnight.  However, as I reflected upon the way that we used to process rental applications a few years ago as compared to the way we do today there is a big difference in our process as well as the information that we deem important.  There are several factors that have contributed to the change in the way that tenants are screened and selected. The biggest factor that we have seen is that the market is now flooded with people who are converting from property owners to renters.  While a small percentage of these people are making this transition by choice, a huge percentage of them are being forced into rentals as a result of foreclosure, short sale, and the inability to procure financing for a home purchase.  This presents an interesting dilemma when reviewing a rental application as these applicants do not fit the typical renter’s profile that we are accustomed to making decisions about.  This has also forced traditional selling real estate agents into the rental market which c......
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Emergency Preparedness Plans for Property Management

Emergency Plan ChecklistBy Geoff Roberts, Buildium, Boston, MA We all had it drilled into our heads as kids: Better safe than sorry! Whether it was through fire drills or being told to wear a helmet when riding my bike, hearing this phrase is amongst my earliest memories. It may sound elementary, but it’s still true. And the same goes for your property. Having property emergency preparedness plans in place will help mitigate damage and protect the safety of your tenants in case of an unexpected event. What kind of plans do I need?  You will need to have a plan on hand in the event of fires, floods, earthquakes, and other unforeseen emergencies that may potentially apply to your region. Tenants need to know not only how to evacuate the building, but also what to do in cases where they must remain inthe building as a disastrous event occurs (such as an earthquake). In addition to outlining what residents should do in case of emergency, you will also need a solid plan of action for yourself and/or other responsible parties. Know what tasks must be performed and who is responsible for completing them. How do I create emergency plans for my property?  Your insurance agent, local fire department, local police department, and Red Cross may all have resources that can help you formulate your own emergency preparedness program. Additionally, professional property management associations, networking groups, or colleagues may be able to provide guidance. With that in mind, following are some items every emergency preparedness plan should cover: ......
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Handling Repairs - The Right and Wrong Way

By Salvatore J. Friscia, San Diego Premier Property Management, San Diego, CA Having to make repairs to your rental property should not come as a surprise. For some reason most owners drop the ball when it comes to handling maintenance requests from their tenants. Some owners struggle to understand the importance of addressing repair issues in a timely fashion. They fail to realize how the lack of maintenance affects the condition of their property and ultimately the quality of tenants the property attracts. The owner, not realizing that every rental property regardless of age will have its fair share of plumbing leaks, electrical problems, water heater issues, and broken appliances will either let maintenance repairs linger or handle them in a poor fashion. Repairs should not to be confused with the normal upkeep such as cleaning, changing light bulbs or plunging a clogged toilet. These issues are the responsibility of the tenant. Repairs can be considered anything a licensed bonded contractor should take care of such as; plumbing, electrical, appliance repair, heating/cooling, flooring, & construction. These types of repairs are best left to the professionals and when handled appropriately, exhibit the owner’s willingness to resolve repair issues properly and in a timely fashion. In some cases a handyman can be useful and worth the small fee to resolve minor repairs. Now, if you normally handle repair issues yourself and have the knowledge and experience to do so then that becomes a judgment call, but most owners would rather sit back and......
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