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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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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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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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Property Management Blogs

Industry-related blogs are a great way to pick up expert tips, tricks, and insider knowledge quickly and for free. But, of course, there are a lot of blogs out there. Since you only have so much time in the day to surf the web, here’s a quick run-down of five property management-related blogs you should be reading. Marketing and More Property management veteran Mike Brewer, who runs the M Brewer Group blog, is one of the most seasoned and consistent bloggers in the industry. While his blog focuses in large part on marketing, you’ll also find various additional industry topics included as well. Brewer has his fingers on the pulse of current industry conversations, so this blog is a great place to stop by to get a quick gauge of what’s currently being discussed by industry professionals. Cyber Consultant With Behind the Leasing Desk, Seattle-based property management consultant Heather Blume provides readers with musings on the industry and insights on how to up your property management game.  On her blog, Heather writes about everything from staff-related training class excerpts to tips for greening up your property. With quick, snappy reads, this blog is a great place to pick up a mish-mash of ideas to help you better your own business, including everything from tenant retention to customer service. Property Renovations Though Brownstoner.com’s Renovation Blog is Brooklyn-based, property managers from everywhere can learn a lot from the site’s home renovation section. If you’re the type that likes to take on projects—or if......
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The Value of Tenant Forums

As a property manager, you have a great resource that shouldn’t go untapped right at your fingertips: your tenants. For as well as you know your property, most property managers don’t actually live on-site. Because of this, your tenants are more qualified than anyone else to provide insights into potentially beneficial changes, improvements, and upgrades that can make your property more appealing—and perhaps even more valuable. You can solicit information from tenants in a number of ways: through an old-fashioned suggestion box either on-site or at your property management office, through an online form, or through a questionnaire for tenants to fill out upon move-out (or at any other point during their residency at your property, for that matter). In addition to all this, when it comes to encouraging tenants to share their thoughts and suggestions, property managers may want to consider taking a cue from condo associations. Hosting forums on an annual or bi-annual basis for tenants to submit ideas for changes and/or to vote on potential changes you are considering rolling out at your property is a great way to not only receive important feedback, but also to bring tenants together to brainstorm and share ideas that you may have never even considered. Though you have the ultimate say about what does or does not happen at your rental property, receiving this sort of organic feedback can lead you in the right direction, providing a lot of insight into what tenants do and do not want to see happen......
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The Home-Buying Checklist

The importance of being methodical when purchasing property can’t be overstated. As you go through the purchasing process, make sure you have accounted for each of the following items on our Home-Buying Checklist. Look for Seasonal Slumps As with every other type of shopping, some times of the year are better than others when it comes to purchasing property. Even during years when it’s a seller’s market, there will likely be certain months that are better suited for buyers than others. For example, home sales tend to be slower around the holidays when people are already feeling over-extended financially. Bad weather can also inhibit other would-be buyers from checking out potential purchases, which means less competition for you if you strap on those snow shoes and a couple of extra layers. It works to your benefit to slant your property purchases to these slower times of the year, when there is less competition out there to drive prices up. Get Pre-approved Obtaining a loan pre-approval will not only save you time in the long-run when you want to jump on a purchase as quickly as possible, but it will also help narrow your search parameters (after all, no use falling in love with a place that ends up being financially unfeasible). By having a solid idea of your price limit ahead of time, you can be sure that you’re not looking at properties that are above your price range or, alternatively, settling for an inferior property. Find a Realtor Who’s Right......
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Who Says T.V. isn't Educational?

One of the great benefits of the reality television craze is that distance education no longer has to cost any more than the price of your monthly cable television subscription. Of course this certainly does not apply to all sectors of reality television, but when it comes to house-flipping and home improvement shows on channels such as A&E, HGTV, and TLC  it certainly is possible to mix entertainment and education. Here are a few of our favorite TV shows that offer up some great business-minded take-away. Designed to Sell, HGTV Designed to Sell is perfect for those real estate investors who have done the hard work of renovations and are ready to flip their home. Or, for that matter, for anyone who is looking to sell their property and wants to command the best price possible. This show is inherently budget-friendly, with the premise of providing sellers with a maximum budget of $2,000 to invest in making their home as appealing as possible to would-be buyers (and, thus, maximizing the sale price). Designed to Sell relies on the expertise of interior designers, stagers,  and home improvement gurus, bringing a team of helping hands straight into your living room. Income Property, HGTV Though Income Property is geared toward first-time buyers who are looking to make some money from their homes by renting out rooms within their homes to cover their mortgage, host Scott McGillivray offers up a ton of tips that property managers can apply. With ten years of experience under his......
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Happy Holidays Equal Happy Tenants

It’s the holiday season, and no one wants to be the neighborhood Scrooge. Those tenants that want to go all out when it comes to decorating for the holidays can do so in their own units, but it’s also nice to incorporate subtle bits of holiday cheer to the common areas of your property. Think of it as one of those little touches that demonstrates your ongoing investment in and appreciation of your tenants. Holiday decorations are a great low-budget way to make your property more cozy and cheerful for tenants. After all, tenants who truly feel like their units are “home” will be far less likely to move. Decorating doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, nor do you have to decorate with items that require a lot of upkeep (as we all know, Christmas trees, though fun to look at, can require a lot of regular attention when it comes to sweeping up and keeping them watered–not to mention the fact that a dry tree can be a fire hazard). Consider incorporating one or more of these simple items to jazz up your properties with some holiday cheer. Light it Up While hanging lights around the entire exterior of your property may be more effort than you want to exert, lights can provide a quick holiday fix when used in other ways–wind them around banisters or string them in pre-existing plants in common areas. A conservative amount of lights is extremely affordable at common chains like CVS and Target (a......
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Property Management Stories from the Front Lines

We need your help! Throughout the course of writing the Buildium Blog we’ve covered countless property management scenarios. We hope that our property management tips, advice, and best practices have been helpful to your company — at the very least we hope that they have provided you with an opportunity to reflect on the way that your company does business.

We constantly hear stories from property managers — those of you who are out there managing your properties day-in and day-out — pertaining to specific challenges, nightmares, or unique occurrences encountered on the job. Whether your story is funny, horrifying, or enlightening we’d like to give you the opportunity to share. Buildium will now be accepting submissions for our “Property Management Stories from the Front Lines” series of blog posts.

So what do you need to do? Send us an e-mail detailing your story and what you think makes it unique. The best stories will become a series of blog posts on the Buildium Blog, which can then be weighed in on by other industry professionals. In exchange for your story we will highlight your company, your expertise, and your company website at the end of each post. This will provide great visibility for your business, and great discussion points for all of our readers.

Please e-mail submissions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We look forward to hearing your story!

-The Buildium Team


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