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Top 5 Tools for Managing Renovations

Real Estate portfolios strive to increase asset value by pursuing renovations and other strategies.  Yet the tools available to manage such strategies haven’t changed dramatically even as technology has continued to evolve.  To understand the pros and cons of the various available tools, one needs to understand the key criteria considered to renovate.  Then, one can analyze the most popular software tools against these criteria.   The decision to renovate is typically financially driven and can be determined looking at the expected revenue gains and costs versus not renovating at all.  Given that renovations require a unit to be vacant, a company must manage their renovation schedules to minimize vacancy loss within reason.  If not paying close attention to all of the activities required to be coordinated between staff and suppliers / contractors, renovations can easily drag on much longer than expected, resulting in higher costs and greater challenge in meeting the financial goals. With this in mind, we provide what is believed to be the most important criteria for evaluating a renovation software tool/solution: Does it track financial performance of the renovations over time? Is it user friendly and intuitive? Does it allow for easy data collection (including pictures) for efficient reuse for future tasks? Does it enable efficient collaboration with suppliers and staff? Does it provide execution insight allowing for proactive decisions to save money and for ensuring critical tasks are completed?   Renovation Tool Criteria Financial Performance Tracking When undergoing any investment, it is critical to understand whethe......
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Lead residents down a green path this Earth Day

As property owners, managers or leasing agents, you understand the need to conserve energy at your apartment community.  By installing energy-efficient appliances and windows and using eco-friendly alternatives for floors, countertops and paint, you are not only significantly reducing your carbon footprint, but also banking significant savings on energy costs.  If 10,000 owners of large apartment communities change to Energy-Star appliances, the energy saved could power each of your TVs for 1,640,625 years!  While the people on the property level are doing their part to protect the environment, we want to provide you with four sustainable tips you can share with your environmentally-friendly residents—leading up to Earth Day on April 22nd—that they can put into practice today. 1. Be a Savvy Shopper Cut down on the amount of paper or plastic consumed by bringing a reusable shopping bag to the grocery store.  If eco-friendly shoppers forget their tote, ensure those plastic grocery bags get reused to line garbage cans or when scooping kitty litter.  Additionally, fuel and distribution costs can be reduced by shopping at local farmers’ markets instead of large chain grocery stores for produce.  2. Kick the Bottled Water Habit Americans use four million plastic bottles every hour – but only one in four is recycled.  Instead of reaching for bottled water, use a water filter on the kitchen faucet and fill up a non-leaching, lined aluminum SIGG bottle with filtered tap water.  If 10,000 people gave up their daily bottled water habit for a year, they could ......
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Failure to Inspect or Repair = Trouble

By Colin McCarthy, J.D., Robinson & Wood, San Jose, CA I once lived in house in downtown San Jose that was next to an abandoned "historic" house. The house was abandoned because it was "historic." The city had an ordinance that prevented the owner from demolishing the building and rebuilding it, or selling it. Because the house was built before a certain time, the city ordinance prohibited him from doing anything with the property other than fixing it up. Rather than doing that, in protest, he did nothing with the property. And I mean nothing, other than board it up. Mistake! You see it was downtown San Jose. It was right in the middle of urban, night time activities. The abandoned home soon became a sort of an attractive spot for the seedier and less fortunate souls. We frequently had to call the police. There were the typical late night guests, drinking, broken glass, and other non-printable activities going on in there. After enough of these visits, the neighbors reported the landlord to the city, and hearings were held. Fines were levied. Landlords got mad. Fences were put up. Pulling the restrictive ordinance and the obstinacy of the landlord out of the equation, the landlord had a duty to know what was going on at his property. He should have inspected it, even if he did not have tenants. What kinds of things can happen, from a legal perspective, if you do not inspect and repair? What will happen if the......
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If It Is Broke, Don't Delegate

Landlord RepairBy Colin McCarthy, J.D., Robinson & Wood, San Jose, CA Even after our little spigot fiasco, my father and I are speaking again. In fact, it did not take long. We both bonded over the fact that later that night, my wife and I walked out of the George Clooney movie, the Descendants. My wife and I both were bored out of our minds and had little empathy for a guy who owned all of Hawaii. I mean, really? I'm supposed to feel sorry for this guy!? Dad, being generally anti-Hollywood applauded our decision to vacate the movie theater in favor of the bar next door. We got to talking, and we agreed that in the future, it would be best if I not ask him to do repairs on our house. It's not really something I should delegate to him. We decided on the McCarthy "non-delegable duty of repairs” rule - I must do my own repairs. By operation of law in California, a landlord also has a non-delegable duty regarding repairs. If the negligent – grossly negligent one might argue – repairs my father attempted were on a tenant's dwelling that I rented out, I still would be liable for any injuries it caused. So if the tenant got hurt from this negligent repair, they could still sue me. A landlord cannot escape liability for his repair duties by having someone else do the repairs. This duty to repair is "non-delegable." Thus when a landlord hires a plumber, or......
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Can Your Rental Property Become a Day Care?

By Salvatore Friscia, San Diego Premier Property Management, San Diego, CA In a recent notice received by our legal counsel addressing this very issue, apparently if you own rental property in California the scary answer is yes! The great state of California is widely known as a pro-tenant state when it comes to tenant-landlord related issues. Many cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles are saddled with pockets of rent controlled areas making investment opportunities less attractive. They also have unfavorable statewide eviction laws that allow deadbeat tenants to continue residing in properties months after defaulting on rental payments. So this should come as no surprise that according to state law if the tenant is licensed by the California State Department of Social Services (DSS) it only takes a thirty day written notice of their intent to legally start and operate a day care center without the permission of the landlord if the total number of children under care, including the children of the tenant, is limited to six. In fact, permission from the landlord is only necessary if the tenant chooses to increase the total number of children under care to eight. The licensed provider does need to have adequate insurance or be bonded. They must simply provide each parent, in writing, a notice that states the landlord’s insurance will not cover any issues should they arise – how reassuring. In fact, the landlord’s only recourse is that they can require the tenant to increase the security deposit to......
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Repair or Replace?

As much as we talk about the importance of recycling, the United States is the number one trash-producing country in the world.  This means that 5% of the world’s population generates 40% of the world’s waste! With last week being National Recycling Week, I thought it would be fun to show you some ways to conserve waste and save money by repairing, versus replacing, your appliances.  The below infograph, from Part Select, shows the cost to replace some common appliances.  If you click on the buttons, possible symptoms and their fixes are shown.  Have fun playing around with this and maybe next time one of your resident’s dishwasher leaks, you can save some money by repairing it.

 



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Property Management - Let's Talk Bare Necessities

By Colin McCarthy, J.D., Robinson & Wood, San Jose, CA In my last entry, we discussed how it was possible in this great country of ours that a burglar could sue a property owner for injuries he sustained while robbing that same property owner.  In my next entry, we will discuss why it is in the fine state of California that a tenant can sue his landlord for injuries sustained on the property which are inflicted by criminals.  But in this entry, I will get a little more practical:  we will discuss just what your responsibility is to your tenants regarding the liveability of the unit. Just what do you – the property owner – have to provide to your residential tenant to remain in compliance with the law?  Well most of this is just common sense.  If people are going to live in the premises, if you do not provide the following, not only are you not being nice, but you are breaking the law: A weatherproof environment.  The unit has to have a roof and walls as well as doors and windows that are unbroken (more on this next entry!) Electricity.  It may come as a surprise to you that most will not want to rent your unit if they cannot plug in a TV and refridgerator.  Or it may not. Plumbing.  It may also come as a surprise to you that not only would most tenants enjoy a good shower and functioning toilet, but the law generally requires it. Gas and heating.  People don’t like to be col......
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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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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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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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