Category Archives for AAA

Check Up on Your Property Manager

Whenever you hire someone to do a job for you that is not your traditional “in-office” position, there may be concern over whether or not you are getting your money’s worth. No one wants to feel like they are being taken advantage of.

Smart phone technology has opened up many opportunities.

Smart phone technology has opened up many opportunities.

We always welcome our landlords to check up on what we are doing because we are proud of our services and workmanship. However, for out-of-state property owners or really busy property owners OR savvy time-management property owners, there are services like GigWalker and Field Agent available.

These services allow you to farm out checking on your properties. For example, if you want to make sure we are maintaining the lawn at your rentals, you can create a gig through one of these online services. Then, a registered gig walker or field agent will go to your properties, take pictures on their mobile phone and submit them for you to see.

You can have pictures taken as frequently as you wish. We encourage landlords to do this. If you are using us for your property management needs, you will get to see how well we are taking care of your investments.

You can also use these services to check on the status of a specific job. For example, if you are having a new roof or new siding installed on one of your properties, you can send a field agent to take pictures of the progress or to make sure the workers are there when they said they would be there.

These services can also be used to check out the quality of showings and the inside of your rental units. Maybe you have concerns over a unit that has been empty for a long time. You can hire a field agent to request a showing of the apartment and then report back to you on how the viewing agent acted/presented the unit. They can also report back to you about the condition of the unit inside and out.

These types of services provide accountability and assurance. You can feel assured knowing you are getting what you paid for and property managers are being faced with taking direct accountability for their work. Ideally, this is a win-win situation (unless your property manager really isn’t doing their job. In that case, you know where to reach us).
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With more than 60 years of combined investment property management experience, and a current portfolio approaching 500 units, our expert team can relieve you of the burden of managing your rental property while saving you some serious money! Call us today at (440) 220-7300 to see how we can help you.

To Allow Pets or Not to Allow Pets?

Trust me that really nice little dog that your tenant told you about name foo foo? It's a dangerous pitbull! :)

Trust me that really nice little dog that your tenant told you about name foo foo? It’s a dangerous pitbull! 🙂

Whether or not a landlord allows pets is a frequently asked question coming from perspective tenants. Obviously, allowing pets, allows landlords to increase the number of potential tenants. Less obvious is that pet owners have been proven to stay at the homes that allow them because it is harder to find a nice property that will allow them to have a pet. However, pets can also bring problems: messes, smells, significant damage to the property, insurance issues, etc.

For landlords that decide to allow pets, a pet policy is a MUST.

The pet policy will outline the rules specifically regarding pets. The policy becomes a part of their lease and is designed to lay down the rules, while also protecting the property.

When creating a pet policy, there are a few things you should consider:

  1. The types of pets you will allow. If you simply say “pet” you are going to end up with farm animals, exotic animals or even dangerous ones. Hey, a baby tiger can be a pet, right? It is best to provide a specific list of allowable pets, so tenants aren’t tempted to push their limits. Your insurance policy normally has a list of dangerous breeds that are not allowed and you should make sure that is in writing as well.  We have seen insurance companies drive by properties and see a non allowed breed of dog and cancel the policy.
  2. Weight limits. Placing a weight limit on an animal will also help limit potential pets. For example, you may allow dogs under 20 pounds. This will prevent people from moving in with large breed dogs like German Sheppards or Mastiffs.
  3. Certain Breeds. If your city or state has declared certain breeds “dangerous” breeds, you can prohibit them from being pets on your properties.
  4. Who owns the pet. You can also put in your pet policy that only pets owned by the tenant are allowed to be there. This will prevent friends or relatives from leaving pets on your property, or your tenant from running a pet sitting service out of their apartment.
  5. You can include that pets need to be leashed at all times if outside the unit.
  6. The pet policy should also explicitly state the tenant is responsible for cleaning up after the pet. This means when a dog does his business outside, the tenant needs to immediately clean it up.
  7. You can also include a pet fee or pet deposit in the pet policy. This is an additional amount that the tenant will either pay upfront, monthly or both. This extra amount will go to extra cleaning that may need to be done after the tenants leave the property. For example, if a pet has been allowed to repeatedly soil the carpet, cleaning won’t be enough; the carpet will need replaced, which is significantly more expensive. We charge a $25.00 per month per animal pet fee if the owner allows pets.

These are just a few of the items that can be addressed within a pet policy. It is often helpful to look at sample pet policies to get a feel for what you like or don’t like.

If you would like to see our leasing package which includes a pet policy in the lease request it below:

Free Leasing Package

Fill in your name and email and we email you our 18 page leasing package as well as send you a link to our leasing video leasing presentation.

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With more than 60 years of investment property management experience, and a current portfolio approaching 500 units, our expert team can relieve you of the burden of managing your rental property while saving you some serious money! Call us today at (440) 220-7300 to see how we can help you

Landlords working smart

Landlords, put your reading glasses on and do your due diligence.

Landlords, put your reading glasses on and do your due diligence.

MSN Real Estate published an article titled, “How smart landlords handle rentals.” This article outlines specific details that often separate successful landlords from the not-so-success landlords.

The factors outlined in this article are:

  • Do your due diligence
  • Check references
  • Buy adequate insurance
  • Just say no to form leases
  • Heed environmental matters
  • Consider hiring a property manager

These are the six factors the writers of this article saw as the six defining factors between smart landlords and the rest.

I found this list to be interesting because if you followed the last piece of advice four of the five previous factors are already being handled. As a property management company, we take care of due diligence, references, leases and environmental factors. In fact if you count our tenant payment gaurantee program then that counts half way to insurance as well. That being said, wouldn’t the really really smart landlords be the ones that hire a property manager?

Shameless self promotion, I know, but MSN brought it up first.

There are really two types of landlords; there are people who get into the business because they enjoy it, and there are people who get into this business purely to make money.

Those, who do this because they enjoy it have no need for a property manager. Those are the people who don’t mind handling the phone. They like meeting perspective tenants, giving apartment tours and responding to maintenance requests. Throughout my years in this business, I have met many landlords, who truly enjoy their work. And they wouldn’t give it up for anything. Mind you, they are still in it for a profit, but they enjoy their profession.

The second group of people includes the ones who should consider working with a property manager. If you are in this business solely for the potential profit, than you need to consider how much your time is worth.

Being a landlord is very time consuming. While using a property manager costs money, it also eliminates all the time you would be spending on your investment. Your rental properties would become an investment, opposed to a job.

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With more than 60 years of investment property management experience, and a current portfolio approaching 500 units, our expert team can relieve you of the burden of managing your rental property while saving you some serious money! Call us today at (440) 220-7300 to see how we can help you!

Tenants and landlords benefit with rental payment data

Every extra piece of the puzzle can assist you to be more profitable.

Every extra piece of the puzzle can assist you to be more profitable.

It has been said that past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior.

Being able to see a potential tenant’s past rental payment record would provide the best insight into whether or not the individual will be a good tenant: pay in full and on time.

Although in the past, there has been no real way to find and track this information, a this is something that we get in seconds through our state of the art screening system. This is information that is not in your standard credit report. However our software both reports rental history directly and then pulls from this same database and merges into a report along with credit, ciminal and eviction history for extremely quick tenant approvals.

As a landlord, you may be wondering the extent of the benefits that will be received from using this app.

Here are just a handful of the many possible benefits.

  • Decrease tenants skipping out
  • Improve the landlords ability to recover debts
  • Allow tenants the opportunity to build a positive credit
  • Eliminate the need for inefficient reference checks
  • Maximize collections by reporting all data directly to Experian RentBureau
  • Encourage tenants to pay their rent in full and on time by letting them know their rental payment history will be shared
  • Prevent other landlords from being taken by deceptive tenants with bad rental payment histories

As the landlord, you would have the power to add information to their credit reports, as well as take retract that information when debts are paid. This has the power to increase your chances of being paid past rental debts. If the tenant in question is prevented from getting a loan or lease due to their rental history, they may be more willing to pay you back in order to get the information taken off their credit report.

As more and more landlords start contributing to this system, it will reduce the overall workload by allowing landlords to simple rely on these screenings, opposed to attempting to contact previous landlords.

Although the system has the great potential for protecting landlords from problem tenants, it also has a lot to offer tenants. Tenants with no credit history will be able to build positive credit simply by paying their rent on time, and tenants will no so great credit history can improve their credit simply by paying their rent on time. This can make you more desirable to perspective tenants, who are trying to improve their credit and this gives us an edge when renting properties.

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With more than 60 years of investment property management experience, and a current portfolio approaching 500 units, our expert team can relieve you of the burden of managing your rental property while saving you some serious money! Call us today at (440) 220-7300 to see how we can help you!

The Truth about How We Handle Tenants

Did you know the Huffington Post, a well-respected online news source has an entire page dedicated to news about bad landlords? After reading a few of their articles, it is really no wonder landlords are often shed in a negative light.

However, we landlords and property mangers understand that many of these stories are told from the perspective of the tenant, which isn’t always the most valuable resource. How many bad tenants are willing to admit they are slobs, criminals, have no intentions of paying the rent or have every intention of vandalizing the apartment before leaving?

This isn’t to say there aren’t bad landlords. Likewise, this also isn’t to say there are good and even great tenants. The bottom line is: there are two sides to EVERY story. As landlords, it is important for you know exactly how your property manager handles various situations and how information is delivered.

In February, the Huffington Post published the article, “9 Things Your Landlord Won’t Tell You.” I’ve decided to respond to this article for our landlords and perspective landlords, so there are no questions in regards to what we do and do not tell tenants.

1. “If you live in an area without rent control, there’s nothing stopping your landlord from increasing the rent by the hundreds – even is you have paid on time and the building hasn’t had any improvements.” – Ok, first, if you did not already know, we are not located in an area with rent control. We actively work with our landlords to keep rent prices as competitive as possible for the area. If rent is increased on a unit, the tenants are given plenty of notice, and I don’t believe we have ever increased rent “by the hundreds.”

2. “A lot of the time we call upon our landlords to fix broken utilities around the house. But the truth is, most have no clue how to stop a leak…or have any intention to fix that stopped drain.” First, we have our own maintenance team that can fix just about anything. Second, anything we can’t fix ourselves, we get fixed. We never ignore maintenance issues. Doing so would result in dissatisfied tenants, a bad reputation and potential for unneeded damage to the unit.

3. Although you need to tell your landlord if you are making improvements to the property, you do not need to share ever detail…such as the color you paint rooms. While in most cases the first part of this statement is true, for us the 2nd case is not. It is important that tenants get approval even for paint as we have seen some very expensive costs to fixing a bad paint job as well as covering over a poor color choice. Tenant will always be responsible for returning the property to the condition they found it.

4. “While you may think it’s great that you’re helping out by letting a friend crash on your couch after a bad break-up, your landlord is probably upset he or she isn’t paying rent.” Since in most cases, the rent is set by the unit, opposed to the number of people living in it, an extra person would not necessarily increase the rent.  However the standard lease is written such that a non registered tenant will cost automatically an extra $100.00 per month to discourage this practice. For important legal reasons, we need to know who is living in the units we manage. If we feel a tenant has allowed someone else to move in, we will talk to them about adding the additional person to the lease, which will allow us to do the appropriate background checks. This also makes it easier to evict the extra person, if an eviction becomes needed.

It has been said that as much as 2 billion dollars each year of security deposits are illegally not returned to tenants. We do accounting at move out to make sure that any moneys held are held for legal reasons.

It has been said that as much as 2 billion dollars each year of security deposits are illegally not returned to tenants. We do accounting at move out to make sure that any moneys held are held for legal reasons.

5. “No matter what they say, there’s a good chance you are never going to see that money again.” If a unit is left clean and ready to re-rent and the tenant fulfilled the terms of their lease, they will absolutely receive all or part of their security deposit back. The problem, which tenants often do not understand, is that unless the unit is literally left move-in ready, there are costs involved in getting it rent ready. Even if all we have to do is clean the carpets, we are spending money to have one of our employees do that.

6. “If another tenant is rude, loud or disrespectful, your landlord might act like they are concerned…but they won’t do anything about it as long as they pay their rent.” We do our best to maintain the peace between tenants. However, unless one tenant is violating the rights of another tenant or violating the terms of their lease, there is not always something we can do. We have been known to give 30 day notices to tenants in multi family buildings (who are not in a lease) and who appear to be chasing off good current and prospective tenants. Ultimately however tenants don’t always realize being annoying is NOT legal grounds for an eviction.

7. “You may not think anything of the fact that they let themselves in to make repairs while you’re at work. But, they’ve likely surveyed your belongings (or worse) in the process.” Unless it is an emergency, we do not enter units without giving the tenant 24-hour notice. The tenant has the option to make arrangements to ensure we are not entering the unit without someone there. That aside, we never use maintenance work as an opportunity to invade a tenant’s privacy.

8. “The landlord wants to make the most profit from their property and will not volunteer a discount.” This is true. Landlords are not in the charity business…they are in the business to make money. While some people see this is a bad thing, it is important to remember that landlords have bills to pay too. This simple fact aside, we have worked with potential tenants and landlords to negotiate a new rental rate depending on specific circumstances.

Soooo…there we go. Hopefully, this answered some questions for you about how we handle things. If you have any questions, you are always more than welcome to contact us.

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With more than 60 years of investment property management experience, and a current portfolio approaching 500 units, our expert team can relieve you of the burden of managing your rental property while saving you some serious money! Call us today at (440) 220-7300 to see how we can help you!

“When he passed away, I got stuck with everything.”

Landlord Interview: Harkins Properties

Ms. Harkins placed her rental properties under our care slightly over a year ago. We decided to talk to her about her experience. This is what she shared with us…

I never wanted to be a landlord. The rental properties were my husband’s thing. He loved being a landlord, and he was good at it. When he passed away, I got stuck with everything. For the first year or so, I tried to handle everything myself. I hired a guy to do maintenance, and my kids helped me out tremendously. However, I was losing money left and right and the whole experience was extremely stressful. I tried to sell them, but I could only sell some of them, and the ones I did sell, I sold for basically what I owed on them. My kids finally convinced me that a management company may be a better option.

Back then, I approached Steve about management, but he was just starting out and declined because he wasn’t ready to take on such a large lot of properties. I very much appreciated his honesty. Over the next few years, I went through three different management “companies.” Although I do not want to go into details, it was overall a negative experience. The first two scammed me out of a great deal of money and the third was just unsuccessful in helping me. During this time, Reality Trust Services grew an impressive amount.

I approached them again about managing my properties, and they were happy to work with me. Since then, they have brought the rental properties back to the condition my husband maintained…the previous managers let many units fall into decay. They have been able to keep almost all the rental units consistently full. They have also been easy to work with. They maintain consistent communication, which I appreciate, and they provide statements with each monthly check.

They have relieved nearly all the stress I have been under for the previous six years. I don’t have to deal with anything. If they need to talk to me about a decision, they call or email. Other than that, I just get my rent check each month. I haven’t even been to one of my rentals since they took over management. Prior to them taking over, I was constantly driving back and forth to the rentals to deal with issues.

I strongly recommend them. Matter of fact, I have recommended them to friends of mine that own properties and just don’t want to deal with them anymore.

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With more than 60 years of investment property management experience, and a current portfolio approaching 500 units, our expert team can relieve you of the burden of managing your rental property while saving you some serious money! Call us today at (440) 220-7300 to see how we can help you!

The investor mistake solution?

In a high stakes world like real estate, small mistakes are multiplied to cost thousands and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars over time. OOPS... learn from others and minimize your mistakes.

In a high stakes world like real estate, small mistakes are multiplied to cost thousands and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars over time. OOPS… learn from others and minimize your mistakes.

I recently came across an article titled “Investor Mistakes From A to Z” (http://www.biggerpockets.com/articles/4273-investor-mistakes-from-a-to-z). This article, written by Dale Osborn, lists the 66 biggest mistakes he feels investors make.

First, I want to say, I found this to be a really great list. It covers many of the obvious, as well as the not so obvious mistakes investors make. I do recommend you go through the link above to read the article.

Second, I was excited to that we can help prevent or alleviate most of the mistakes listed in the article. Our extensive experience and wide range of services protect our landlords from a multitude of possible mistakes. This makes our services valuable because in the real estate market mistakes often correlate to money being lost.

For example, Osborn lists:

“allowing tenant problems to spoil the positives of Real Estate Investing.” Not a problem…we handle all tenant problems for our landlords.

“allowing your Real Estate Business to run your life.” The only thing our landlords need to deal with is deposit the rent check we mail them each month.

“Being friends with your tenants: letting rent collections get personal.” Also not a problem! We collect the rent for our landlords. Most of our landlords have never even met their tenants because they don’t need to. We handle everything.

“Failing to Listen to Property Managers.’ We do recommend people do everything we say without question….I’m joking. We always offer our landlords the best possible advice based on our years of experience in the industry.

“Ignoring the value of your time.” Your time is extremely valuable to you, your family, your friends, and us. We handle things, so our landlords don’t have to waste their time doing it.

“Lack of Experience.” We are a property management company comprised of people each bringing years of experience to the table. We have more experience then we know what to do with.

“Not charging tenants for damages.” We charge them for our landlords and we handle the repairs.

“Not screening tenants for eviction risks.” We screen all tenants on behalf of our landlords.

“Only checking on a property when there is a problem.” We keep a close eye on all properties under our care.

“Not understanding local market conditions.” We have been working in the Lorain County area since the beginning. We know this market extensively.

“Over estimating rents.” We provide our landlords with an honest assessment of what their properties will most likely rent for.

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With more than 60 years of investment property management experience our expert team can relieve you of the burden of managing your rental property while saving you some serious money! Call us today at (440) 220-7300 to see how we can help you!

Insurance that will pay you when your tenant doesn’t? We thought thought this was only Australian until now!

Finally someone will pay you when your tenant want. It is like a money tree grows when you need it most.

Finally someone will pay you when your tenant want. It is like a money tree grows when you need it most.

The primary concern for most landlords is having empty units. When units are empty, you are losing money. What’s even worse is when you have to evict a tenant because you have a unit you can’t rent, you aren’t getting any money from it, and you have to cover the legal fees associated with evicting the wayward tenant. However, difficult situations arise that may not involve a defaulting tenant. For example, you may have a tenant die, and then you’re dealing with the tenant’s family to get the unit cleaned out and rent ready.

These situations are what make the rental business so risky, and they are often what ruin the benefits of the business for many people.

What if there was insurance available to protect you from these situations? That is what our rent insurance program offers. It is specifically designed to protect landlords from periods of non-rent. The periods of non-rent may be due to tenants not paying, experiencing personal hardship and being called up with the military; this insurance even covers the death of a tenant.

These insurance plans can cover up to 6 months of non-rent and up to $1,000 in legal expenses incurred while evicting your non-paying tenant. While your unit may sit empty longer than 6 months, this will provide you with the income you need to fill a significant gap.

The availability of such insurance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still do your best to get the best quality tenants. However, even the tenants who appear to be stellar on paper sometimes turn out to be duds. As property managers, finding you the best possible tenants is always a priority.

The premiums associated with rental insurance vary, but can cost as little as $250 a year. That is less then the cost of one-month’s rent for nearly any unit, and the deductible is the equivalent of one month’s rent.

Another benefit of obtaining rental insurance is that it relieves a level of the pressure involved in dealing with non-paying tenants. This will free time and mental energy to focus on obtaining and maintaining 100% occupancy, which will maximize your potential profits.

The keys to success in any business, including the rental business, are lining up the best and most effective tools and resources. The first step to accomplishing this is obtaining the services of a highly qualified and fully dedicated property manager such as Realty Trust Services including the rent protection program.

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With more than 60 years of investment property management experience our expert team can relieve you of the burden of managing your rental property while saving you some serious money! Call us today at (440) 220-7300 to see how we can help you!

The Importance of properly maintaining properties

Don't find your self in political cross hairs. Don't be a blight to the neighborhood. Maintain your home. We can help both by getting a renter to assist you in financing the maintenance and in actually coordinating the maintenance.

Don’t find your self in political cross hairs. Don’t be a blight to the neighborhood. Maintain your home. We can help both by getting a renter to assist you in financing the maintenance and in actually coordinating the maintenance.

Don’t find your self in political cross hairs. Don’t be a blight to the neighborhood. Maintain your home. We can help both by getting a renter to assist you in financing the maintenance and in actually coordinating the maintenance.[/caption]Landlords with properties in Lorain may be aware of the city’s efforts to “clean up” the city. This plan has included charging landlords for “inspections” that may or may not actually be conducted. Hiring contractors to drive around the city looking for lawns to mow and then charging the owners $300 for the service (despite the fact the city is unable to maintain the grass in city parks).

Part of this plan has also been seizing and demolishing houses they deem to be dilapidated or beyond repair. However, who gets to make those decisions? AND how are these decisions properly vetted, so that the owner is given the proper channels to despite the decision and/or make repairs to the property?

If you follow the local news, you have probably heard that a house belonging to George Schneider was recently demolished despite the fact he was in the process of protesting the decision, and he had been granted a permit by the city to make repairs to the property. He had contractors at the house making a plan for repairs only days prior to the home being demolished.

Now, this isn’t to argue the house was not in poor shape, or that Mr. Schneider should not have been held responsible for maintaining his property. However, the fact remains that he was actively working towards repairing the home, and he was following the proper legal channels to protest the decision to demolish his property.

So if Mr. Schneider was following the proper legal channels laid out by the city, what channels was the city following when they demolished his property? Who is to be held responsible for what happened? Mr. Schneider is now suing the city and a judge will have to sift through the mess to figure out who was more wrong.

Properly maintaining a rental property is an essential part of the business. Properly maintained units rent faster and for more money. A properly maintained property will maintain its value better, as well as the value of the surrounding homes, which will make your neighbors happy. It’s good for the landlord, the tenants, the city, the neighbors, and the community as a whole. In addition to being a solid business decision, maintaining properties demonstrates a landlord’s commitment to the area.

One of the many problems landlords face in regards to maintaining properties is vandalism. Unfortunately, areas such as Lorain and Elyria have been riddled with vandalism; people stealing copper pipes, aluminum siding, and more. The best way to combat these risks is by keeping units rented and empty units secured.

What does 24 hour emergency telephone service mean?

What does 24 hour emergency telephone service mean?

It means peace of mind for you because now you don’t have to worry about getting sleep interupted by a tenant emergency… or worse getting it frivolously interrupted by a non emergency that seems to be an emergency to a tenant.

We don’t give tenants our cell phones however when a tenant calls the emergency after hours number our call center operators forward the message to a property manager. The property manager will assess the urgency and call back the tenant and calm them down.

If there is imminent danger to property or person then we will send some one out to deal with the issue. If it is a frigid winter evening and the furnace went out then the appropriate response would be to bring some space heaters. If there is a water main burst and water is gushing into the house with no way of stopping it then we will get an emergency plumber to come out and stop the flow before the home is destroyed. If there is a fire we would of course make sure 911 has been called and then come and check out the damage and handle any arrangements needing made.

Many times tenants need a human touch and a calming voice to help tide them over until a service person can come out the next day.

There are some issues that take time to diagnose… Is water gushing into the basement suddenly at 10pm at night? If it has never happened before it will be hard to get a specialty technician out at a moments notice. However we will typically give advice to the tenant on how to mitigate damage until we can get someone out in the morning to check things out and let us know what is happening.

However whatever the case, 24 hour emergency telephone service is something that gives you peace of mind and it is a big reason why landlords choose us to manage their properties. Peace of mind is something you can’t put a price tag on.

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With more than 60 years of investment property management experience our expert team can relieve you of the burden of managing your rental property while saving you some serious money! Call us today at (440) 220-7300 to see how we can help you!

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