Category Archives for "Real estate culture"

Are you fit for property management with Realty Trust Services?

When onboarding an owner as well as after serving an owner we periodically evaluate whether we are actually a good fit for you as a property management company or not. It’s important that we do this in order to make sure you as a client or potential client are best served.

Hiring a property management company means more than just paying fees and forgetting about your property.

Here is what we look for as we partner with you to manage your property:

1) BUSINESS MINDSET – An ideal client for us would be somebody that possesses a business mindset; or at least somebody who can partially adopt this mindset. By business mindset I mean being able to cope with the inherent risks and stress that comes along with owning a business. We are aware that lots of clients don’t begin with this mindset, maybe because of the circumstances in which they obtained their property (maybe a relative left it for them or they weren’t able to sell a vacant home); but at least a partial paradigm shift must be attained if you are to own a business of any type. The property investment environment is full of things you can’t control – people breaking promises, economy changes, tax law changes- so even if we deliver peace of mind for you today, if you can’t stop worrying about what might happen tomorrow and if this affects you negatively, you might not be a good fit for this type of business.  Also as part of a business mind set you need to see your rental property as an business that requires capital investment in order to grow it and keep it up.

2) AFFORD PROPERTY AND MANAGEMENT COSTS – Another characteristic that would be a good fit for us is somebody who needs property management services and can afford the expenses that come with maintaining a property. A person without any knowledge of property management and investment properties would definitely need our services. But, there are also people that, even if they have the knowledge and experience related to property management (collections, dealing with tenants, going to court, etc), still come to us looking for our services, maybe because they are professionals who lack the time to do it themselves, or maybe because it’s just comfortable for their lifestyle. It’s really important to also keep in mind that after all of the initial expenses of actually acquiring a property, certain maintenance expenses will come into play eventually. Some things need to be fixed and given regular touch-ups if you are to attract good tenants and keep the property profitable. And remember our priority will always be to give you peace of mind as an owner, but we also have families to support, so we need clients that are not only willing, but also able to pay for our services.

3) AREA –  If you own a property in a C-, D or F areas we will likely not be willing to manage it. This is because for us our ability to work for you is tied in with our profitability as a company.  Our largest expense is labor.  We did a time study and found that low end property will have 20 times the amount of service calls and inquiries as a high end property per unit which also means our labor costs multiply by that factor as well. Considering that this is our number one expense we simply can not afford to manage properties that have 20 times expense while also likely making less income.  Frankly you as a client won’t enjoy the reduced service we would have to provide to survive under those circumstances. This is one reason why offer a flat rate management fee module because we want to incentivize those people with higher end, higher rent properties to work with us.

4) YOUR SYSTEM NOT OURS – Another big N.O. for us is when a prospective client that already has a managing system in place (maybe because of their experience or other circumstances) wants to use our services but this person wants us to follow the system already in place. We have our own systems, and they are the foundation of how we are able to deliver a quality service and offer the rates we are able to offer while being profitable. We improve on these systems continuously, and having to adopt a second set of systems, on top of ours will only diminish our efficiency, and double the time we need to get things done for you. Along the same lines if you have your own maintenance we may be able to work with you but if we have issues with your maintenance we will typically have to either take it over ourselves or give you notice as a client.

5) WILLING AND ABLE TO MAINTAIN PROPERTY – I already alluded to this but if a property is not maintained it attracts bad tenants or none at all. Then the bad tenants do more damage and you find yourself in a downward spiral with your valuable investment. Come hell or high water you need to maintain your investments at a high level to see the highest return and sometimes that means acknowledging your return adjusted for maintenance might be lower than you expected in the short term.

All these items boil down to our desire to accomplish our goal as a property management company provide you with peace of mind as an owner. If a factor exists that we think might get in the way of that it’s better for both parties to not do business with each other rather than settle for less than optimal results for all parties.

Should I hire a property manager that sells properties as well?

A question that is commonly presented to us is whether a landlord should work with a property manager that also sells properties, or one that only specializes in property management. Here in Ohio, to become a property management company you’re required to be a real estate brokerage. Unless you’re planning on breaking the law, a property manager needs to be a licensed broker, or there at least need to be a licensed agent working under the oversight of a licensed broker and in the name of a licensed broker.

At Realty Trust Services, LLC, we have both licensed and unlicensed individuals. We have people that exclusively do administrative work that don’t need a license. Still, our goal is to get as many people licensed as possible; this goes in hand with our belief that the more licensed and fully prepared people we have in the company, the more it elevates the company as a whole – as well as the level of service and professionalism we are able to provide.

Some companies delve into both property management and property sales.

There’s a world of difference between a brokerage that takes care of property management and one that sells properties. The amount of administrative work, taking care of maintenance, leases, tenants… this is a huge burden that falls on the company that focuses on property management, and it requires a long-term customer service-oriented mindset, in contrast to a sale-by-sale oriented mindset that focuses mainly on completing a transaction that is usually associated with a sales focused brokerage.

With all this information on the table, we would normally suggest that a property manager specialized in your needs (either sales or management) is what you should be aiming for. Instead of one that try to take care of both tasks equally. Nevertheless, at Realty Trust Services, LLC we do have members of our team that are specialized in property sales, with years of experience under their sleeve.

In the end it’s your choice when it comes to which type of property manager you want, and it will probably depend on your specific needs as well, but we sure hope this information is useful at the time you make that decision.

What is a lease option and how do they work with Realty Trust Services?

A lease option can be an excellent option if you’re looking into purchasing a property in the near future, but you’re not quite sure at this point.

So you found a house you like that is offered as lease option. What exactly is a lease option? In simplest terms, it’s a way you can participate in home ownership if you’re not exactly ready to purchase a home. There are two parts to this:

An option, or purchase agreement, that allows you an extended time to purchase the house for an agreed upon price. At the same time, you’re getting a lease, so for that period of time, usually anywhere from 6 months to five years, you’re also living in that property and making monthly payments. In some ways, it’s the best of both worlds — you lock in a price and participate in home ownership — even if you’re not exactly ready to own a home.

Benefits include:

  • You are allowed to make some modifications to the property, a benefit which is not allowed in a normal lease. Of course any changes need to be of professional workmanship and approved by landlord.
  • Because you have locked in a purchase price, you benefit from any changes in property value due to inflation, market changes, and and your own improvements to the property.
  • You get to live in a property while you repair your credit or change your situation (i.e. say you are getting divorced and don’t want to own another house until that is completed). Nothing is more irritating than moving into a home you know you are going to move need to move out of again in just a bit.
  • Having that agreement to purchase gives you a kind of partial ownership known as “equitable ownership.”
  • With Realty Trust Services lease options there is a 90 day warranty on all repairs unless otherwise agreed to in writing. After that you are required and able to maintain the property yourself and don’t have to deal with the inconvenience of having to ask your landlord to do repairs and then open up the property at their convenience or that of their maintenance people.

The option fee which is the money you pay in order to have the right to purchase the property (an option agreement).The owner cannot sell the property once you’ve paid your option fee or and signed your option agreement. The option fee is not a security deposit and is non refundable so you want to make sure you will be able to complete your agreement. The option fee varies between 2 months rent and 10 percent of the total purchase price of the house and typically varies based on the condition of the house, the location of the house, the length of time of the option agreement and the corresponding rent amount. The option fee paid at beginning of agreement will be applied towards purchase as a down payment if tenant buyer chooses and is able to exercise their option to buy per their agreement.

There are potential opportunities to negotiate an option where some of the monthly lease payment is conditionally applied towards a future down payment if and when property is purchased. That is not a guaranteed term, but it can be included in the negotiations.

Overall lease options can be an excellent way to get the benefits of leasing and owning a home. However just like home ownership lease optioning a home is a significant agreement and you want to make sure to get any home you are leasing optioning checked out by a trusted professional before moving forward with an agreement.

Should I register my Cleveland OH property with the county and city?

Registering your property is one of the basic steps you need to deal with in order to get into doing business

Many people that want to begin investing in properties have a very common doubt right off the bat – Should I be registering my Cleveland property with the county and city? And how? This question is pretty understandable, since some new owners are not from Ohio, and some are actually trying to get into the game for the first time, so it’s our job to help you understand how the system works and what is the most convenient path for you.

The short answer is yes, you should register your property. It gets a little more complicated than that though. But let’s take it one step at a time. First, let’s refer to county level. You should definitely register your property with the county. It’s actually a misdemeanor if you don’t. It’s a really easy process, you only need to fill out a form and turn it in, and it’s free. We usually do this for our clients right away, even if they don’t ask us to do it, it’s pretty standard.

Municipality level is different. We take care of business in around 30 different municipalities, and around half of those require registration. Out of those, the cost to register a property varies a lot, ranging from $30 to $325. Then, the enforcement of this registration fee is different as well for each municipality; for example, some of them just make it work with the people that actually register, not trying to enforce it at all; some of them tell you that they will enforce it if you don’t register, but they don’t really have a staff to go after you. So basically, the cost of not doing it varies a lot depending on the municipality. Either way, we always recommend to comply with the law and register no matter which municipality your property is in, it’s the good thing to do, and you’re being a good citizen (regardless of its constitutionality).

Here are a few examples where registration might not be advisable:

The first example would be a situation in which you have just acquired a property, and it’s not registered; or maybe you have owned the property for a long time but never registered it. In the case that they never went after you for not registering check with counsel but it might not be in your best interest to register because: 1) They probably won’t go after you if they haven’t done it before; 2) Even if they caught you, the punitive fee that you would be incurring wouldn’t be much different than what it would be if you turned yourself in for not registering in the past. This type of situation means not registering will may place you in a better situation than trying to comply and actually getting you into trouble.

The second example is related to rental registration. In certain municipalities, in order to register your property for rental, they will freeze your ability to actually lease the property for about 15 days or so until it goes through. This means you’d be losing those days’ worth of rent. Renting the property within that period of time, would incur a violation fee which could be a minor amount in comparison to the extra rent. In this case you might choose to go ahead and rent your property and violation fee.

Whether you should register your property depends entirely on the specific context and your own comfort level however with our clients we always confirm registration by default and register your properties if they are not registered already with the appropriate municipalities.

How do you ensure that you find the best tenants for our property?

The key to maximizing profitability and minimizing risk as a landlord has a lot to do with choosing the right tenant. That starts with the marketing of the property, and the energy that can be produced off that. There are a few tricks to creating effective advertisements to help find the best tenants for your properties. You can advertise in the newspaper, on billboards, or on the Internet; however, you may be wasting your time and money advertising to people who either aren’t interested in what you have to offer or aren’t qualified to meet your criteria.

A good ad campaign lets you target and attract the kind of tenant you’re looking for. An advertisement works best when it’s appealing. So, before you decide what information to incorporate, think about what characteristics you value in a tenant. Here are some good examples:

Finding good tenants will, more often than not, prevent you from having to deal with a myriad of problems as a landlord.

· Stable employment

· Pays rent on time

· Has never been evicted or used a landlord as a revolving line of credit

Once you’ve identified characteristics you like in good tenants, think about what factors contribute to a good rental experience for landlord and tenant. What did you as the landlord have to offer your last tenant? Was the last tenant happy and satisfied? Assessing this information will help you decide how to focus on the marketing aspect for the property.

Often you will attract high risk tenants who use landlords as a revolving line of credit when advertising your rental property, so it is imperative that you attempt to identify these tenants immediately. Here at RTS, we have a very specific checklist process for screening tenants and filtering out bad elements for your property. Sometimes we even go as far as contacting up to two previous landlords for the potential tenant in order to verify their background. This can get tricky, since some landlords will lie in order to either keep their tenant (say they’re awful when they’re not) or lie in order to get them to leave (they will say they’re great when they’re not). This is why we have such a detailed process, and it will reduce the risk of you getting a bad tenant for a good property.

It’s important to note that, if the marketing aspect of the property is done right at the beginning, usually bad tenants will filter themselves out even before the screening begins. Rest assured though, that we will do our best to get you the best tenants we can find for you to do business with.

Did your property manager lie to you about value?

After years of experience in the industry I have learned that it’s a really common practice for many real estate agents to not only mis-value properties during their first encounter with the owner, but also declare a fixed price for it, in hopes of trying to get your business. This goes for both rental price evaluation and sales price evaluation.  You would think that, since they are professionals, they probably know about this and have the expertise needed to place a price on your home or apartment with one look. Well you would be wrong.

One very important thing to remember is that value is not a synonym of price. In general terms, the word price represents the amount of money that is asked for in order to purchase a certain something. Pretty basic right? That’s when value comes in. Value represents the actual benefit you are gaining by paying a price at the time you make a purchase. Value is that extra space you would love to have in your bedroom for a triple dresser. Or those extra square feet you need in your backyard for the vegetable garden you want to grow. Or a good view of the beach from the second floor.

And this is why stating that your property is worth a fixed amount and can only go for a certain price is plain wrong. It is wrong because even when an expert is able to assess the approximate worth of a property based its characteristics and recent history, a whole set of additional circumstances go along with that into actually defining the end value of the same property for individual potential buyers.

Maybe there’s a very specific circumstance in relation to the neighborhood surrounding the property that will give one buyer a less attractive standpoint in regards to the value of the property while at the same time, another person will actually offer an additional premium due to the fact that its really close to their workplace. In the second case, as this happens, and this new offer appears due to a single need met by this specific property, the market value begins to vary. This is basic supply and demand going into action.

Being lied to about the value of your business and finding out later can be a taxing experience.

For this same reason, when stating a property’s potential worth, it’s common practice to use ranges when speaking about actual pricing. This way agents take into account a variation of value that a set of different additional circumstances offer, as well as other changes in market behaviour that could very well affect the value of the property at any given time.

So, if you get to meet a new agent and he/she instantly states a fixed pricing for your property, always remember – they are either lying to you, or they have a crystal ball.

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