How to challenge my property taxes

Time for taxes also means it is time to challenge them. Unlike the IRS, with your local taxes you can and should challenge them.

As of January 1st, the Board of Revisions is accepting complaint applications on assessed home values. This is an important tool for landlords throughout Lorain County (and Northeastern Ohio) since assessed home values determine the amount of property taxes you will be responsible for. Property taxes are figured by multiplying the tax rate by the assessed value of the property. This is often referred to as the taxable value. With the down market throughout Lorain County, many landlords may feel the assessed values on their rentals, as well as their property taxes are too high. The Board of Revisions allows landlords the opportunity to appeal their assessed home value with the possibility of their properties being re-evaluated.

If you want to contest the assessed value of your property, you can do so by filing a Complaint Against the Valuation of Real Property on the DTE Form 1, which can be found on the Lorain County Auditor website ( http://rtsl.us/bnkh). This form must be filled out properly, signed and notarized. Filling anything out incorrectly, not signing it, or not getting it notarized will result in it being discarded and then you will have to start over. All complaints have to be filled between January 1st and March 31st. It is also important to note that you can only file one complaint during each three-year re-appraisal period. This is the general rule; there are a handful of exceptions to the three-year rule, which can also be found on the Lorain County auditor website.

Once your complaint is successfully filed with the auditor’s office, you will be notified of a hearing date. Most hearings last approximately 15 minutes and there will be three county officials or their representatives in the hearing. You will be given the opportunity to present your information and why you feel the property is valued too high.There are a wide variety of resources that can be used to support your complaint, such as a recent appraisal, photos of the property, estimates for needed repairs, as well as proof of recent sales on comparable properties. It is up to the property owner to prove their point.

A county appraiser also attends the hearing to provide information on the basis of the valuation. Additionally, if you are arguing for a reduction in value of more than $50,000, the local school board can also contest your complaint. You will not be given an answer right away. You will receive your answer in the mail following your hearing. Although the process is not overly complicated, it is important to be fully prepared and understand what you are getting into for the best chance of getting your assessed values lowered. For more information and strategies on successful re-evaluations, you can listen to our recorded seminar at http://rtsl.us/lowertaxes .

As successful and dedicated property managers, we do our best to help our landlords get an accurately assessed home value on all their properties. Property taxes are just one of the many expenses landlords face, so you want to make sure you are not unfairly being changed too much.

About Realty Trust Services
Realty Trust Services is a licensed brokerage and property management company in based out of Lorain County with a service area from Sandusky to Cleveland Heights to Medina. Their team includes: Agents, Christopher Obrycki, Andrew Morris, Shanon Jones- Plas, Kari Taylor, Matthew Klein and our other unlicensed team members including Steven Taylor, Bill Taylor, Greg Zadorozny, Kris Mrazek, Joyce Thomson, Matthew Harkins and David Stevoff. For more information on Realty Trust Services and how they can help with your property call 440-220-7300.

Didn’t want to diversify your investment portfolio into property rentals? Think again!

This side by side duplex (3 bedrooms per unit) was recently purchased by one of our clients in the city of Lorain for $13,000.00. His costs to get this home ready will likely total about $6000.00 for a total price to acquire and make ready for rent of $19,000. He will get about $900 in monthly rent from the units, If your factor in all of the costs including management, vacancy and maintenance you he will likely net around 600 a month. That is a potential 37% annual return with the initial investment potentially being returned in 2.63 years.

Risk allocation and diversification are terms bandied about quite a lot in the world of investments and retirement accounts. There are so many investments out there to choose from. Most successful professionals don’t see investing in local property rentals as viable, because of all the time, energy and potential drama involved. Also they don’t realize that it is often possible to invest in real estate rentals through their retirement account.

Realty Trust Services, property management division’s key focus is to “Make your property investment a passive investment(TM)”. Just as you get a monthly statement showing you how your 401k is doing, you will receive a statement showing you how your rental home is doing. You don’t deal with crazy tenant drama, leaky toilets or late night calls.

North Eastern Ohio property prices are some of the lowest they have ever been if you adjust for inflation. Also the ratio of property price to yearly rent income for properties on the market is as low as five to one in many areas. That means that some properties could pay back the original investment in as little as 5 years, and that is only the beginning. The market is cyclical and currently property values are at a historic low. While the incomes on these properties can justify the purchase regardless of if values will go up or down, many experts are calling high inflation inevitable, and in times of inflation real estate prices typically do well as investors will often take their money out of the financial markets and look for hard assets like real estate and precious metals to invest in.

Because Realty Trust Services manages more than 260 residential units, they are in a prime position to assist folks who are looking to diversify into real estate. Their agents are able identify properties that have the potential for excellent positive cash flow and there maintenance department can recondition the properties to achieve ideal rents. If your current retirement plan does not allow for the investment in real estate, they can introduce you to self directed IRA and 401k custodians that will allow you to roll your accounts over to a format that allows for a greater diversification, greater stability and potentially higher returns.
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About the author: Andrew Morris is a real estate broker with Realty Trust Services. Neither Andrew Morris nor any sales person, contractor or employee of Realty Trust Services is a licensed financial advisor. If you are interested in purchasing real estate for investment or in converting your current property portfolio into a passive investment, then call Andy Morris at (440) 220-7300 or email him at andy@PropertyManagementOH.com.

Christmas presents for the homeowner?

Although the real estate market has picked up, it will take some time for prices to rebound to pre-crash pricing. Many sellers are facing the prospect of needing to sell but not being able to sell, because they owe more on their home than it can quickly be sold for, or they simply don’t want to sell now for the current low prices and take a loss by selling at the low point in the market.

This house had been on the market for over 1 year and then set vacant for an extended period of time. Realty Trust Services found an excellent long term tenant with in 5 days of listing it for rent.

We’ve all heard that to make money you need to buy low and sell high. We have all heard that the market is cyclical and it will always come back up after it reaches a low. We have seen the news articles, radio shows and TV shows about all the trillions of dollars being pumped into the economy through the bail outs and money being magically created through QE1 QE2 QE3 etc.

There are two truths regarding this:

  1. Homeowners didn’t get a bail out, like the banks did which is why you are now stuck.
  2. Your bail out is coming over time with inflation. In the current real estate market we have not yet began to see the possitive effects of that. Inflation has traditionally been a very good thing for people who had properties with fixed rate mortgages on them.

With all the money pumped into the economy, inflation is inevitable. The market is poised for real estate prices to increase significantly over the next few years. If you are thinking about cutting your losses and getting out, that is exactly what you shouldn’t do, because that would be buying high and selling low. Making money may not be your primary concern but nobody wants to lose money or come out of pocket to pay off a mortgage. You may not be able to afford having your property sit there vacant while real estate prices soar with inflation, and you may not be prepared to manage a rental, but that is where Realty Trust Services can help.
Realty Trust Services is an Ohio licensed real estate company that offers a full range of real estate solutions including full service property management. They currently manage a growing portfolio of 270 units in a radius around their Lorain headquarters. “The great thing about professional property management is that you don’t have to deal with the worry of getting calls from a tenant on the holiday or get stuck fixing a plumbing leak at 1 AM in the morning. You get a statement once a month like any other financial investment and other than that you don’t need to bother your self with the day to day operations of your real property.” Says Andy Morris, broker at Realty Trust Services.
Professional property management may be just what today’s sellers need in order to come out of the real estate game having been made whole.

Helping Landlords Weather the Storm

Isn’t it nice when other people handle your problems?

As is the case with many storms, the recent super storm Sandy had homeowners and landlords alike concerned about their properties and the possible damage being caused by the storm. At Realty Trust Services, we are happy to provide our landlords with the peace of mind knowing their properties are being taken care of in every way possible. Here are five ways we were able to help the landlords that have trusted us with the safe keeping of their properties.

Fielding Emergency Calls – During major storms, tenants call with a wide variety of concerns. Their power is out, there is water leaking in through one of the windows, a tree just came down in the yard. Regardless of the problem, we are here to take the phone calls and handle the problem. Our landlords do not have to deal with taking phone calls at all hours of the day and night. In addition to providing the landlords with peace, we make sure the tenants feel heard, which promotes retention and word-of-mouth referrals. When tenants feel ignored, they will find somewhere else to live.

Assessing Property Damage – Following a big storm, any damage to the properties needs to be assessed and plans need to be made. This is also something we do for our landlords. Instead of heading out as soon as the storm breaks to see what can be done to preserve their investments, our landlords get to stay in the comfort of their homes with the families. We make sure the repairs are made as quickly as possible.

Make Needed Repairs – Whether it is resealing windows or replacing blown away shingles, we make sure the needed repairs get done. Our landlords do not need to waste their time or energy taking care of their investment properties, so they can focus on their personal properties. In addition to the practical advantage of having us do the repairs, we once again provide our landlords with the comfort of knowing their investments are being protected.

Tree and limb removal – A common problem during storms is trees or tree limbs being blown down. The day after a big storm, we travel from property to property assessing needs and cleaning up properties. We remove all down trees and limbs, and we handle any damage they may have caused. We also inspect the trees still on the property to see if any of them were damaged and now in danger of falling.

We act as liaisons – Everyone likes to know their concerns are being heard and their complaints are being handled. We act as liaisons between the landlord and the tenants, as well as the landlord and outside contractors or vendors. When there are repairs we can not personally fix, we contact people who can and we make the appropriate arrangements for them to make the repairs. We stay in contact with the tenants, so they are aware of when repairs will be made and when people may be coming to the property. We keep our landlords up to date on what is being done at their properties.

Storms can cause a great deal of damage, and when you own multiple investment properties in the same area, you may have damage or issues to deal with at all of these properties. There is only so much one person can do. We have the people and the resources to handle multiple properties simultaneously. We provide landlords with peace of mind, and we provide tenants with the confidence of knowing their home is being well taken care of. The benefits we provide are both practical and intrinsic.

About Realty Trust Services
Realty Trust Services is a licensed brokerage and property management company in Lorain County. Their team includes: Andrew Morris, Kari Taylor, Steven Taylor, Matthew Harkins, Greg Zadorozny and many more. For more information on Realty Trust Services and how they can help with your property call 440-220-7300.

Improve your Lorain County Rental Cash Flow and reduce your vacancies by following these 5 easy Tenant Screening Steps…

Most of your tenant problems can be eliminated in the screening process. If you’re like us, you probably find it hard to relax when you have vacancies, and getting it rented is the main task. In my opinion, this distinction will help: “getting it rented to a properly qualified tenant that will take care of your property, not be a pain in the bahookie and lastly pay every month on time.”

Below, you will find what I call the 5 Steps of Screening Tenants:

Step 1: First Contact

From the very first time you have contact with the tenant, the screening process has started. First impressions are always important. Whether you’re the landlord, real estate agent or property manager, the same still holds true.

First Contact is usually by phone. Here you can ask them very specific qualifying questions in order to decide if you should go on to step 2. Inform customers of your up-front rent and security deposit conditions and other important facts regarding the rental that may help eliminate the prospect.

We recommend you make a list or prospect card of questions to ask the potential tenant and have it handy while you conduct your first contact interview. The following 5 questions can give you great insight of whether to permit them to see the rental:

1. Where are they living at the moment? For how long?
(Making a huge change in neighborhood quality is a possible red flag. Also, only living at recent rentals for less than 1 year each, is a concern.)

2. Why are they moving?
(See if they have anything negative to say about their current landlord.)

3. Where do they work? How long have they been there? How much do they make?
(They need to make four times your monthly rent, every month. Just like their residence location, if their employment location has been for only a short time, this can also be a concern.)

4. What will we find when we run a credit check?
(Do they answer nervously? Have a delay? Compare what they say to actual results in the future. Never rent to a liar. Everyone is quite familiar with their credit report.)

5. What will we find when we run a criminal background check?
(Do they answer nervously? Have a delay? Compare what they say to actual results in the future. Never rent to a liar. Everyone is quite familiar with their credit report.)

Please understand that anyone who has a problem answering any of your questions (as long as you ask them politely) will probably not qualify for your rental. Serious customers will want to make a good impression on you and answer all questions happily and truthfully. This process can save you both a lot of time and trouble.

Step 2: Showing the Property

From landlords to real estate agents, we all have our own way of showing the rental. We all need to be aware of certain alluding signs to watch for while evaluating your prospective, new tenants.

1.Appearance – Is the prospect neat and clean? Did they intend to make a good impression? In most cases, a disheveled person keeps a disheveled lifestyle and home.

2.Car – Does the prospect have a nice, working car? Does it look clean? Although we can’t exactly judge people by their car, we should take note of it along with many other details.

3.Attitude and Manners – Does the potential renter behave in a respectable way? Do they show indications of being difficult to associate with in the near future? Did they wipe their feet off when they first stepped into the house? Did they walk into the rental while smoking? You can normally learn a lot about people even before speaking to them.

4.Criticizing the Property – Are the prospects pointing out actual concerns, or are they trying to come up with things to negotiate the price?

5.Yes or No? – Can the potential renter make a decision now or will they have to take some time to think about it? If they know now that they want your rental, did they come ready to give you a deposit and fill out an application?

Step 3: The Application Process

The first thing you need is a rental application. Let the applicant know that their application will be looked at and considered along with others and you will notify them once a decision is made. Let the applicant(s) know that it is very important to fill out all of the application as completely as possible. If you (and we highly advise you to do so) run a credit, criminal and background report on the potential renter. It is also suggested that you accept an application screening fee.

Inform the potential tenant that the application must be returned as soon as possible to avoid the risk of losing the rental to a competing potential tenant. Look over and verify the application thoroughly and look for possible inconsistencies and red flags. When you are pleased with the application, you will proceed to approving your new tenant in step 4.

Step 4: The Approval Process

This is sometimes the fun part, but keep in mind that you are still screening the applicant while preparing them for the next step. We like to congratulate the new tenant on the approval and let them know they came in first place. Also, let them know if you made adjustments such as, overlooking minor credit violations, etc.

This process is also a chance for you to make sure the applicant can and will deliver. Set the time, date and place for your lease signing. Instruct the applicant(s) to bring the proper amounts of monies, identification (if you don’t already have it), and how you prefer to be paid. (Check*, money order or cash).

Be sure to tell your new tenants that possession or keys will be given to them only after checks have cleared. We really try to stick to a money order or cash for first payment.

Step 5: The Lease Signing

It is very important that you have a quality residential lease. You would be surprised at the amount of people who would just sign a lease without reading all of it over! We believe that it is crucial to read the entire lease with the tenants at the lease signing. It is your agreement with them. Shouldn’t you both know what all is being agreed to? As you read the terms of the lease with the tenant, you will be able to conduct your 5th and final step of the screening process.

Does the tenant argue at every item? Is the late fee an issue? And so on.

Also, if you are unhappy with how the tenant responds to you or your lease, you must not rent to this person.

Send us an email at pm@rtserve.com or call us at 440-220-7300

We just saved our clients more than our fee

Just wanted to make a quick note about one more reason why you should use a property management company to manage your building.  We manage several buildings for a group of proffesional people that own this building.

I was ecstatic to learn of what we were just able to do.  By negotiating a volume discount that we get for our new client, we were able to cut their cost on their trash pickup from a monthly bill of $483-.00 to $95.13.  I haven’t even notified our client yet so a call is in order right now, and I will sign off.

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Andy Morris is Broker and Owner of Realty Trust Services

Is your Cuyahoga County or Lorain County Ohio Apartment Building in foreclosure?

Are you losing an apartment building to foreclosure in Lorain County or Cuyahoga County Ohio?  We are actively looking for solve problems for owners of distressed income property and their lenders.  Whatever the stage of foreclosure or even if it is in receivership, we can work with the lender and borrower to maximize the income, make repairs, market the property for top dollar, do a loan modification and or do a short sale on the property if necessary.

One thing to keep in mind is that bad management can lower the value of an income property tremendously because income properties are valued based on the income they bring in.  Great management conversely can increase the value of the property tremendously.  Not only that it is much easier to sell a property to out of town owners when great management is in place, because the prospective owner can be reassured that the income brought in by the current manager will be maintained with the purchase.

Contact us for more information.

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With more than 45 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!

Real estate agents: Seven ways to partner with a property management company

We just added this page to our website Seven ways to partner with a property management company in Lorain County and Western Cuyahoga County.

Property management is a growing part of the real estate business.  Yet most brokers have no desire have their agents do property management for a variety of reasons.  In this article we talk about ways that agents can profit by working with great property managers.

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With more than 45 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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