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QR Codes for Property Management

By Peter Lamandre, Better By Design Real Estate, Scranton, PA I was out and about this week and while on the interstate I pulled behind a contractor that had a QR code on the back of their tow trailer. While I applaud them for embracing an emerging technology, it occurred to me that that may not be the best application of a QR Code. Some of you are probably wondering, “What the heck is a QR Code?” QR code is an acronym meaning Quick Response code. It seems as though QR codes are the latest rage in advertising. But what are they? Without getting into the computer advantages of using QR codes versus standard bar codes; they are in essence a 2D bar code allowing you to pack a large amount of information in a small space. The QR code was invented by a subsidiary of Toyota in the mid 1990s for tracking parts during shipment. The format of the code allowed machines to quickly scan and track parts on a conveyor belt and route their destination accordingly. Fast forward 20+ years and with the proliferation of smartphones with cameras what was once a way to track machine parts is now the hottest new way to pack more advertising into smaller spaces. Would you rather see this… FOR RENT 3 BR, 1BA ½ double $xxx/mo plus utils call for details XYZ Management, Inc maybe with a picture, a phone number perhaps a website, etc. or A single image that when scanned......
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Worse than Drug Dealers?

By Colin McCarthy, J.D., Robinson & Wood, San Jose, CA What do you call 50,000 lawyers at the bottom of the sea? “A good start.” No doubt many of you have heard this joke or a variant. Well I am a lawyer and I am here to tell you that I am also a human being. I have a wife. I have three children. I have the same hopes and dreams for them and myself as you do for you and your family. These jokes are insensitive, unkind, and hurtful. What do you have when a lawyer is buried up to his neck in sand? “Not enough sand.” Hey! Now wait a minute. No one seems to like lawyers. Especially those who have done well for themselves. Entrepreneurs and business persons, who frequently excel in the world of business often lament the presence of lawyers. “Lawyers only take my hard-earned money,” is a common refrain. “Lawyers add no value, all they do is slow me down,” is another. Why does California have the most lawyers and New Jersey have the most toxic waste dumps? “New Jersey got to pick first.” Why I never. It is also true that not a lot of people like landlords and real estate developers. Ever hear the one about the tour group in Egypt? The tour guide is describing a crypt within a pyramid. “This crypt is over a 1000 years old. It has not been touched, altered or upgraded in any manner in those 1000......
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Minimizing the Cost of Vacancy

By Ben Holubecki, STML Realty Group, Glen Ellyn, IL As a professional property management company we have found that one of the most difficult concepts for rental property owners to grasp is the true cost of vacancy.  Investors who have been in the rental game for a while understand that in almost all cases the greatest expense they will experience over the life of their investment property will be the cost of vacancy due to lost rent and preparing the property between tenants.  100% of our managed properties have or will go through a vacancy and prep period.  Based upon our experience in managing this process literally thousands of times we provide the following advice to our property owners to help minimize the costs associated with turning around the property and to expedite the placement of a new tenant to begin collecting rental income again. Get started now.  The worst thing that can be done is to wait for any particular task to be completed before starting on the next.  The game plan should be in place the day the tenant vacates the property.  Vendors should be ready to come in and provide quotes, marketing efforts should be getting put into place, and a firm deadline for completion of the necessary clean-up/repairs should be determined. Get your utilities in order – Make sure your utility accounts are in order as soon as your tenant leaves.  Nothing is as frustrating as having the carpet cleaners or painters show up to an empty......
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Should I Allow Tenants to Make Unit Upgrades?

Every now and then, a tenant offers to make repairs to the unit he’s living in. Often, such offers are made in exchange for rent (in other words, the cost of the repairs is deducted from the monthly rental rate). In other instances, the tenant simply wants certain upgrades in his unit (a new paint job, removed carpet, etc.) and offers to do them himself. The argument for this is that the tenant can enjoy a place that “feels like home” and you reap the rewards of these upgrades once the tenant vacates the unit. Clearly, there can be benefits to this sort of situation: You receive property upgrades at a reduced (or negated) cost, and your tenant gets to customize the unit to his own preferences. Unfortunately, though, there can also be some pitfalls. All too often in these scenarios, tenants are not qualified to complete these upgrades or updates up to par. The result is unfinished or sub par work that ultimately becomes your responsibility to rectify. Not only this, but such deals can also result in sticky financial situations and—in extreme situations—legal problems. Let’s say that one of your long-time tenants wants to repaint his living room from the standard white all of your units are painted in to a more colorful rustic red. You agree that the color would suit the space well and tell your tenant can deduct the price of paint and labor from his next rent payment. When the first of the next month......
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What Experience Are You Offering At Your Apartment Community?

We often get so wrapped up in what amenities we are offering at our apartment communities, that we often simply overlook the experience we want to create!  So instead of offering a unique lifestyle at our communities, we instead often offer a bland one size fits all experience.   If your only plan to create an "experience" at your community is to label it as "luxury", you might want to reconsider how you plan on making your residents fall in love with your property!  This video went a little longer than I anticipated, so sit back with a cup of joe and enjoy!  (or not enjoy, if you think I am crazy...)

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A Quick Guide to Keeping Property Management Records

Keeping records on hand is important for a number of financial and legal reasons. Just because you’ve paid off an account or a tenant has vacated a unit, it doesn’t mean that you’ll never have cause to deal with these vendors or individuals again. Whether it’s for taxes, future loan applications, or legal issues down the line, you always want to be sure you have access to the information you need at any future point. Following are a few things to keep in mind about keeping records. What kind of records do I need to hang on to? As a business owner you will want to hang on to records that pertain to: Personnel Tenants Financial transactions (both payments received and payments made) Property-related information (both your properties and your clients) Insurance Legal documentation Audit documentation How long should I keep records for? The answer is: It depends. While the default answer for this question tends to be “seven years,” that is only the case in certain instances. Different types of records should be kept for different periods of time. Standard time periods include one year, three years, seven years, and, in some cases, permanently. As it relates specifically to property management, you will want to keep the following information for these specific periods of time: One Year Employee applications Purchase orders Meeting minutes Three Years Banking records Expired insurance policies Correspondence (with clients, tenants, real estate agencies, vendors, etc.) Internal audits Seven Years Accident reports/claims Accounts payable ledgers Accounts receivable......
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Welcome Spring to Your Property

Though it may not seem like it quite yet depending on where you live, believe it or not, we’re officially a couple of weeks into spring. Over the past two years, we’ve blogged about winterizing on an annual basis. As with the winter months, you’ll want to welcome the spring season with a bit of property maintenance and some minor adjustments (and repairs, if necessary). Happily, the transition from the cold months to the warmer ones tends to be far more simple than getting ready for winter. Throw open the windows. Welcome the sunshine by opening up those storm windows, which have been shut tightly during the winter months. When the storm windows go up, the screens should go on—make sure that screens are installed properly and are in good repair. While you’re working on the windows, check for rotting along the window sills and make any necessary repairs. Check air conditioning units. Before you know it, it will be time to kick the air conditioning into high gear. Take care of preparation work now by making sure all air conditioning systems (whether it’s central air or window air conditioning units) are serviced and ready to go so that when the first heat wave rolls around, you’re ready for it. A word about window air conditioning units—they can be a bit tricky to install properly (and safely). With this in mind, consider sending out a memo to let tenants know your maintenance team will take care of installations to avert over-anxious......
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Building Revenue: 10 Tips to Decreasing Apartment Vacancy Time

The market is firming up in many markets across the United States. After three dismal years this is a great thing!  Many owners are looking for ways to gain back some of the revenue they have lost over the past three years.  When inventory is leasing quickly, there are only a few ways to do this:  Increase rents and drop specials Decrease expenses Reduce down time between vacate and the new move-in Increase rents & drop specials When a market improves, most site managers want to bask in the glory and comfort of a solid 100% occupancy.  It is possible; however, despite the emotional gratification, it is not profitable.  Whenever your site is over 95%, it is time to kick the rents up a notch.  You can even analyze this by unit type.  This is your opportunity to get your largest revenue boost. (More on this at a later date.) Decrease expenses Most of us have spent countless hours renegotiating contracts, looking at utility savings and eliminating the nice-to-have vs. the need-to-have items on our sites.  In a recent blog, Amy Kosnikowski wrote, “Let’s face it – Frugality is now cool.”  While we should always be reviewing this, most of us have beat this up pretty well. Reduce down time between vacate & the new move-in The time a rental unit sits vacant between the previous resident moving out and the new one moving in is becoming an area of increased focus.  When the market is good, the vast majority of......
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Renovation vs. Rejuvenation

To generate more rental income, it’s sometimes necessary to put a little work into your property. If a potential renter is comparing your property to a similar, less expensive property, the renter will need to be able to easily identify those aspects (whether it’s aesthetics or features) that make your unit worth more than the competition’s. Depending on where you’re starting from and where you want to go, upgrades may consist of as little as some simple “rejuvenation” projects or, alternatively, some larger-scale renovations. Generally speaking, your bathroom and kitchen are two key areas that play a large role in making or breaking the value of your rental unit as compared to competitors’. All other factors being equal (such as size and location), chances are most renters will select the unit with a nicer looking or more upgraded bathroom or kitchen. Many renters will even be willing to pay a bit more if there is a noticeable difference or greater utility in one or both of these two rooms. In other words, these are the first places you should make improvements if you want to command additional rental income for your property. What does this mean exactly? Let’s take a look. Renovation There’s not really any way around it—complete renovation of a bathroom or kitchen (appliances, lighting, tiling, fixtures, etc.) will cost you a few thousand dollars. However, it will also likely pay off in the form of a higher rent rate. Consider a renter who is looking at your apartment......
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When I Was a Little Girl I Dreamt of Being in Multifamily Housing

When I was a little girl, I would stay up all night and dream of one day being in the multifamily housing industry? Okay, well... not exactly.  Just like the majority of us in "the industry," (as we so lovingly call it) I stumbled upon it by sheer accident. It started with "The Honeymoon Phase."  How does one know when they are in this phase? Well for me, the symptoms were quite obvious.  In fact, they were easily diagnosable to even the common eye.   They included: excitement, eagerness to get to work, overflowing creativity, boundless energy, and enthusiasm for miles.  Just like in the early stages of any courtship, I gave careful thought and consideration to what I would wear the next day.  In fact my wardrobe prep mirrored that of an elaborate Celine Dion concert.  I visualized myself leasing one apartment after another.  All the while thinking how lucky I was to have stumbled into this beautiful relationship.  I prayed that we would have a lifetime of happiness together.Fast forward three years.    I was the same girl but now I was terribly ill.  A new set of symptoms had presented themselves.  They included: inside the box thinking, tardiness, grogginess between the hours of 9-5, and really boring outfits.  The situation was really dire.  What was wrong with me? After careful thought and self examination, it become obvious.  I had been bit with a career killing bug--"The Over-It Phase." I had lost my will to be fabulous at my ......
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