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Spring Cleaning / Move Out Cleaning Checklist

'Washington, DC: Cherry Blossoms' photo (c) 2012, Justine Jablonska - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

May 1, 2013

So long April showers, hello May flowers! Pretty soon you’ll be bombarded with graduation invitations and start feeling the need to plan your summer vacation (if you haven’t already!). But before you can do any of that, Spring is a time of new leaves and renewal so why not make that go for your home as well?

Completing a deep clean is very important and the best way to make ensure cleaning tasks proceed smoothly and completely is to have a good cleaning checklist. Like all big projects, it’s a good idea to do your homework and construct a plan. Yes, that means putting pen to paper or creating a spread sheet, if that’s more your style. So whether you are  moving out of your own home, or just cleaning a rented property before moving out,  or simply looking to complete some Spring cleaning (given the time of year!) we have a complied a cleaning tip list to keep all parties busy and of course the landlord and property manager happy.

General

      1. Wash all windows both internally and externally.
  1. Wipe and clean window sills and curtain rails.
  2. Wash inside and outside of front and back doors.
  3. Try to remove all scuffs and marks from the walls, where necessary repaint if you have the correct shade.
  4. Wash completely all floors.
  5. All carpeting should be professionally cleaned to remove stains depending on length of lease.  It is a good idea to check your lease and keep the receipts for these tasks so that the cost can be deducted from you security deposit.
  6. All garbage must be removed from the property.
  7. Clean out fireplace if applicable.
  8. Clean all blinds and wash or dry clean all drapes and valances.
  9. Clean all light fixtures throughout unit and replace any burnt out bulbs.

Kitchen

  1. Clean inside and out of dishwasher and range hood.
  2. Sweep and wash the kitchen floor, including beneath all movable appliances.
  3. Wipe and clean sinks and counter tops completely.

Refrigerator

  1. Clear out all contents first
  2. Wash the  inside of refrigerator with water.
  3. Take out all removable shelving and drawers and wash separately, dry and replace.
  4. Wash the outside of refrigerator.
  5. Remember to move the fridge and complete cleaning behind and underneath also.
  6. Freezer must be defrosted and cleaned. If defrosting, remember to turn appliance back on once completed.

Oven

  1. Remove racks and clean by soaking in hot water to remove all difficult to remove dirt.
  2. Clean fully the inside of the oven, top of the stove, and underneath the elements.
  3. Clean behind and underneath the appliance (if moveable).
  4. Wash and dry outside of stove.

Vanity Cabinets and Drawers

  1. Remove all contents
  2. Wash cupboards on both the inside and out.
  3. Wipe out drawers with damp rag.

Bathroom

  1. Remove all personal belongings.
  2. Wash down all tiled areas ensuring to pay attention to the grouting areas.
  3. Clean bathtub, shower area around the tub, sink, door and ensure all fixtures shining.
  4. Remember to Clean the inside and outside of toilet.
  5. Wash and shine mirror.
  6. Sweet and wash all floors.

External

  1. Ensure the lawn is freshly mowed and weed flower beds if applicable.
  2. Finally, remove all garbage, debree and external clutter as first impressions are key!

In order to recoup your deposit upon vacating a rental property, its is important firstly to give the landlord or property manager the required notice period but secondly to ensure the property is spic and span and in its original condition that you got it in. We at Agon Management hope that you find this checklist useful in moving towards a sparkling clean and organized house inside and out. If you have any further tips or recommendations on this topic that you’d like to share, please comment below! We would love to hear from you!

Exterior Paint Colors – A few simple guidelines to help you find your true hue

Deciding to paint your house or choosing a new shade for your humble abode can be pretty daunting but rewarding at the same time. There’s nothing like paint to transform the look of your home’s exterior, but since there’s no shortage of shades from which to choose, it can be challenging to make a final selection.

Compliment your neighbors

'Colores de los conventillos de Caminito' photo (c) 2008, Noelia Diaco - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

While it’s a great idea to get creative, it’s usually a bad idea to choose colors that may clash with your neighbors’ exteriors. You can always stand out, but try to do so in an complimentary manner and keep in harmony with your neighbors  Also please bear in mind that some communities have rules in relation to maintaining a certain color scheme.  Furthermore, be aware of the fact that certain colors look more at home in certain surroundings and weather conditions. While we love the port houses of the Caminito in Buenos Aires, perhaps your neighbors may not appreciate your new cultural perspective!

Coordinate

Coordinating house colors can be confusing. Most houses will use a palette with at least three different colors for siding, trim, and accents. Add character and charm by painting your window trim and architectural details in a contrasting accent color. Accenting will work when done correctly. You need to take care to accent  the more attractive elements of your home and avoid drawing attention to dull uninteresting features like pipes or air conditioning units.

To paint or not to paint..

Choose wisely when it comes to making the initial decision to paint naturally occurring stone work or brick house. In some cases such houses are best left untouched, having their own naturally occurring characteristics and once you paint it unfortunately you cannot go back! Perhaps take the alternative of leaving some of these areas untouched, and choosing a colour  that may pick up the color of a non-painted area.

Remember your proportions

As a rule keep in mind that generally speaking light colors  have the effect of making a house look larger, brighter and more inviting, and if painted on a house that’s situated a little away from the curb, they can aid in bringing the structure visually forward. Darker colors, on the other hand, can have the effect of  making a property look more bigger and more substantial and solid, and especially if applied to a home’s lower portion, they suggest strength and permanence.

Finally remember that painting the exterior of your home is a big undertaking. You will need the right type of paint, quality tools and guidelines on getting the job done, and getting it done successfully.

Buying a Property? This is What You Should Do

March 1, 2013

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As a property investor, you will evaluate a property in a very different way than someone who is shopping for his or her future home. That is, you will buy a property with much fewer emotional attachments and more logic as you hunt for a highly bankable property. But even if you are using your shrewd business mind when looking over a property, it’s possible you are not being thoroughly diligent and taking care of certain issues before buying it.

Inspect the Property

Being cautious about an investment property means you must take care to hire a third party to thoroughly inspect the unit. Inspection is absolutely vital to you potentially saving hundreds and even thousands of dollars in damages such as mold, a damaged roof, water leakage, i.e.: the typical property problems owners may fail to disclose to you as you look over a property. It is important that you contract a professional inspector to inspect the property before escrow closes. All real estate agents will be able to recommend you an inspector, but you can always check the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) for a reliable inspector. All the members of ASHI must meet organizational standards and pass exams as well as keep to a built-in system of checks and balances. But make sure to check the references of every inspector you evaluate – the inspection phase of buying a property is so critical to your business that getting the right inspector is key to you potentially saving a lot of money in the future.

 When To Inspect

The best time to carry out the inspection is after you’ve made an offer. And if the inspection turns up information that forces you to drop the property, make sure your real estate agent builds in a contingency to enable this to happen. If you opt to have the property inspected before you make an offer – you can do this – remember that you will have to pay for the service, which may set you back considerably even before you make the offer (others may bid on it in the meantime).

 

Make sure the seller gives you a full disclosure before the inspection takes place. This will help you stay abreast of all problems that may or may not be detected during an inspection. Be sure to acquire this information before the inspection so that your inspector can carefully inspect the problem areas in the building. Take care to remember, however, that sellers will only give you a disclosure to the best of their knowledge – there may be issues with the unit that even they may not be aware of.

 

The Move-In / Move-Out Checklist

'3D Home Inspection Checklist' photo (c) 2012, Chris Potter - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

January 15, 2013

One aspect of reducing costs when managing a rental property is to limit the expenses associated with tenant turnover. Tenant turnover often entails a renovation of the rental property — in order for the rental unit to attract a new tenant, it must be professionally painted, cleaned or touched up, with carpets cleaned or replaced. The key in knowing what expenses to cover and what expenses to charge back to the tenant is in knowing the condition of the property before and after a tenancy.

To this end, keeping a written “Move-In/Move-Out” checklist that allows both parties to keep track of the state of the property at the times of “Move-In” and “Move-Out” eliminates any misunderstandings regarding which party will pay for certain damages upon move out. An inspection of the property with the tenant before move-in – for the sake of documenting the condition of the unit for the checklist – is vital. It is necessary to take notes on the condition of screens, windows, appliances, blinds, walls, doors, lighting, heating, flooring, a/c, toilets, faucets, ceiling fans and any other aspect of the interior and exterior of the rental unit. Remember to have the tenant sign and date the document after the initial walk-through with the tenants. The use of a video camera or digital camera is also recommended upon both “Move-in”and “Move-out” – the images will help stave off any tenant challenges in the future, i.e.: the “It was that way when we moved in” argument.

Alternatively, the checklist serves as a valuable reference point if and when the tenant requests a repair that is outside the scope of the normal wear and tear of a unit. In this case, the checklist will safeguard the landlord’s right to charge the tenant for the repair, if it is found that the damage incurred falls outside the bounds of normal wear and tear. The checklist favors both parties in that it can protect the tenant from unnecessary security deposit deductions while also protecting the property owner from costly damages to the rental unit. For the property owner, the existence of the checklist sends a clear signal to the tenant about his/her responsibilities in taking care of the rental unit during tenancy. The tenant, in turn, can rest easy knowing that if they maintain the property they will receive their security deposit back when the lease ends.

Clearly, the “Move-In/Move-Out” checklist benefits both the landlord and tenant and should be standard policy both when a tenant moves in and moves out.

Three Tips for New Landlords

'3D Realty Handshake' photo (c) 2007, Scott Maxwell - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

January 15, 2013
When it comes to crafting a lease agreement, every landlord or property management firm has to write it in terms that protect the real estate investment. But the smart landlord or property management firm must also make sure the document accommodates the interests of the new tenant. This is vital if a strong relationship is to be built with the new client.

Of course, there are the basic considerations any savvy property owner must take into consideration before drafting the lease agreement. These include understanding: the Fair Housing Act and how it applies to your rental; proper screening of the tenant so as to avoid deadbeat tenants; state rental laws; and the eviction process.

However, other not so obvious considerations exist that are important towards clarifying the relationship with the tenant. Here are three such points:

  1. Write in a Moving In and Moving Out Procedure: Devising a clearly defined moving in and moving out procedure will help make the whole process easier for both you and the tenant. Be sure to mention that the state of the rental unit both before and after the tenancy will be checked against a comprehensive walk-through checklist. This consists of a document that will be used by the landlord or property management firm to walk through the rental unit with the tenant and document the state of the unit upon move-in and move-out.
  2. Include Performance Incentives: It is standard practice to link a fee to tardy rent payments. However, property managers can encourage timely rents by offering a reward for early rent payment, renewing for a longer term period, and/or any other tenant behavior you want to incentivize. Rewards can range from simple rent discounts to a more complex point system where tenants earn points that can be exchanged for rebates, updates to the rental unit, gift cards, etc.
  3. Continually Work with At Least Two Good Contractors: Landlords and property managers need to establish a relationship with at least one licensed contractor who can manage large jobs, and one inexpensive handyman who can affordably take care of minor jobs.  Don’t wait until a tenants’ air conditioning system stops working in July, or the ceiling collapses, to start moving on finding a contractor. The time it takes for a property owner to find and hire a reliable contractor will undoubtedly cost the rental unit owner money. To avoid this, be smart and establish and test contractor relationships before you actually need their services so that when the time comes, all you have to do is make a phone call to have the problem worked on immediately.

Simple ways to adding value to your apartment building

January 2, 2013

When you invest in a multifamily apartment building, you want to make sure you get the highest return possible for your investment. Besides location, an attractive building is one of the main draws to potential tenants. Landlords and property management companies that look to always improve the exterior of the apartment building will find that such an investment can boost the occupancy rate significantly. What are some ways you can increase an apartment building’s curbside appeal? Read on to find out.

 Exterior Power Wash

This is one of the most cost effective ways to give your apartment building a freshly painted look without having to actually splurge for a paint job.  The whole process only takes up to a day and costs about 1/8th what it would cost to paint the entire building. Just make sure the power wash team also does windows. It is also a good idea to verify that the current paint job is in good shape otherwise the high pressure water will blast it right off. But if the water strips the paint off, it is probably a good time to repaint anyway.

Exterior Paint Job

If pressure washing isn’t an option because the current paint job is too old, it’s time to book a crew to do a professional paint job of the whole building. Planning this correctly means the owner or management company should set aside a 4 to 6 month budget to pay for the job. It is important to only hire a licensed, bonded and insured paint contractor so that you are protected if and when one of the workers falls off the scaffolding and hurts himself.

Replace or Update Property Signage

A new or updated sign in the front of your apartment building can do wonders for bringing in new prospects.  Giving your sign the equivalent of a face lift can just require a fresh coat of paint or you can go as far as rebranding your property with a new logo and look. Whatever option you go for, just remember to keep a “vacancy” placard attached to the sign that encourages walk by traffic to stop in for information.

Landscape Repair

If the grass in front of the property has dry spots or dirt areas and the flowers are looking too bare and ragged, it’s time you consider giving your landscape contractor a call. Few things frame an apartment building as well as a manicured lawn and flowerbed. Dead grass, wilted plants and un-kept trees may give prospects a bad impression of the landlord or property management company, which is why it’s important that the property greenery be colorful and inviting.

Energy awareness tips in your home

December 14, 2012

Embracing a more environmentally conscious way of living brings benefits not only to your bottom line but to the environment and greater community as a whole.  Not just a fad, its becoming increasingly obvious that the more people who join in on carrying out the small tasks and actions that constitute a green living, the more the green revolution is here to stay.  So what are you waiting for to adopt the easy, small things you can do to help save the environment? Even a minimal change in your daily habits will make a tremendous difference in the long run.

What you have to do first is to look around your home, apartment or condo and evaluate what you can do to practice the 3 R’s – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Once you do, you will realize that going green is really quite simple. For every plastic bag that you refuse to use, for every aluminum can that you toss in the recycle bin and for every carpool that you decide to take part in can go a long way to creating change.

Here are some simple steps that you can do to create change that starts from the home.

  1. Make sure that all home appliances and equipment is turned off when not being used. Because some electronic equipment and appliances (your television, computer, toaster, microwave, etc) still use electricity when turned off, it is a good idea to turn off and unplug electrical appliances that you are not using to increase efficiency even more.
  2. Replace your incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient CFL (compact fluorescent light bulbs). These use much less energy and lasts 10 times longer according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Be sure to always dispose of your burned out light bulbs properly. When in doubt, contact your local recycling facility so that they can direct you where to go.
  3. Cut down on the use of plastic bags. Use a reusable shopping bag when going to the grocery store. It’s a good idea to keep a few of these reusable shopping bags in your car so that you don’t end up using grocery store plastic bags, for which you must pay an additional fee.
  4. Set your thermostat at a low temperature. According to the US Department of Energy, turning your thermostat back 10-15 degrees for eight hours a day can save an individual an estimated 10% a year on heating and cooling bills. In the winter, set the thermostat to 68F when you’re awake and at home. Set it lower while you’re asleep or not at home. In the summer, adopt the same strategy with central air conditioning – turn off the air conditioning when you’re away and lower the thermostat setting to 78F when you’re at home.
  5. When purchasing new appliances, look for the “Energy Star” logo, which is a hallmark of the US Department of Energy and the EPA. “Energy Star” logo products are considerably more energy-efficient than non-logo appliances.

Tips on how to fill rental unit vacancies

Filling your rental property

Filling your rental property

December 5, 2012

Marketing your rental unit so that you can attract a lot of tenant prospects is a tough job. Although conventional routes of marketing – paper and online classifieds, lawn posters, etc – are proven to work, there are more creative things you can do to reel in new prospects. Here are three solid yet not so conventional ways to draw in tenant prospects.

Offer a Touring Gift

Offering a small touring gift to everyone who tours your apartment building not only draws people to check out your rental unit but gives them an extra push to sign up afterwards. It ups the likeability factor significantly. All you have to do is offer a simple $5.00 gift card to the potential tenants in exchange for their name, phone number and email information. The gift card should have the contact info and property address of the leasing agent attached on a separate card. Such a small token makes the potential tenant think that the property management company is friendly and welcoming and truly cares about its future tenants. The touring gift can also lead to more referrals and gives your offering an edge in tough neighborhood markets where supply outstrips demand.

Offer a Leasing Special

Offering prospective residents a leasing special or incentive is a surefire way to stoke interest in your rental unit vacancies. A free month’s rent with a year lease can be a very tantalizing prospect to potential clients who must pay for moving costs, which include paying the security deposit, property transportation and even packing material. With most tenants not getting their security deposit returned several days or weeks after they move out, the leasing special gives them a solid reason to sign the lease and move in.

Another option is to offer a split security deposit to tenants who have great credit and a solid rental history. That is, have them pay the security deposit in two installments.

Refer a Friend

Tap into the networks of your current qualified residents by offering them a referral fee for having a friend, family member or co-workers move in. The referral fee can be offered as a discount towards one month’s rent or as a gift card to a popular store.  This strategy makes for a killer leasing promotion because you are attracting other likely qualified prospects from your own free and valuable client base. Moreover, your tenants themselves would be keen to live near someone they know and who won’t cause problems.

 

 

 

Cut down on your water utility bill

'July 30 - Hosepipe Ban' photo (c) 2006, Rob Gallop - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

November 28, 2012

We at Agon Management recommend you do the following to save water in all your rental units:

Tip 1: Perform a Drip Inspection

Dripping faucets and running toilets in your rental units can take a toll on your pocketbook. Although the dripping or toilet running seems innocuous enough, it’s a fact that the simple task of inspecting faucets, shower heads and toilet connections for such runs or drips can save you a lot of money – from hundreds to thousands of dollars a year. When you consider that most tenants do not report a constantly running toilet or minor leaks in their faucets, the responsibility becomes the property management company’s or landlord’s to check for water leaks. So when the landlord or owner forgets to follow through on water leak checking – one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to save water — the landlord or owner is likely to be paying too much of a total water utility bill in all of his rental units.

There is usually a 20 to 50 percent difference in water utility costs when you compare the operating expense reports of a rental unit building that conducts drip inspections to one that does not. So it is clearly within your interest to conduct such an inspection.

Tip 2: Replace the Flush Mechanism

Another way to save on your end-of-the-month water utility bill is to replace the flush mechanism inside toilets that were made before 1994. Almost all toilets that were manufactured before the federal national manufacturing standard of 1994 — which ordered that all new toilets use only 1.6 gallons per flush – can use up to 3 – 7 gallons per flush.

Unless your rental units were built in the post-1994 period, its highly likely your toilets are flushing 2 to 3 times the amount of water than needed. Yet by installing a dual-flush device into each of the commodes in your buildings, you can save a lot of water – and money. But before going out and buying these water-savings devices, it is important to know what specific type of toilet you have in terms of flushing capacity and shape. These devices can be easily installed by anyone and do not require special tools. However, be sure to check the specifications on the dual-flush system before going out and buying several of these gadgets. It’s also a good idea to perform a trial run on one on your rental units before going ahead and installing the device throughout the entire building.

Good and Bad Leasing Policies to Keep in Mind

'The keys to success...' photo (c) 2011, babi krishna - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Whether or not you will file an eviction or contend with some difficult tenants has everything to do with whether or not you are sending the wrong message to prospective tenants through your leasing policies. So what are some good and bad leasing policies to keep in mind when prospecting for potential tenants? Here are a few:

Rental ads: Rental ads speak for the landlord’s professionalism. When you have rental ads that look crisp, clean and professional, you dissuade bad tenants from applying for your vacancy. Whip up a professional-looking ad that includes the price, the size, the floor plan, and flattering photos or a video tour. Add rental rules to the ad and warn prospects you will be screening in order to scare off bad candidates.

Pre-screening negotiations: Don’t haggle terms of the lease with an applicant before they have seen the place and before you have determined that they qualify. Even if you are desperate to find a tenant, your willingness to break this rule makes you come across as a pushover – a landlord that is too easy to persuade. Going down this route will only bring you more trouble in the future.

The rental application: ask for a lot of information on the rental application form. While it may take a long time for a prospective tenant to fill out the form, that person will be bound to take you more seriously and the longer form will mean that only interested candidates will apply.

Some applicants will not fill out every portion of the rental application and sign the bottom. Discard these applicants or ask them to fill in the missing information sections. If more than one occupant is moving in, have each complete a rental application.

Be sure to check the applicant’s references before you offer the candidate tenant a lease. This is the biggest mistake landlords make in the pre-leasing stage. Don’t wait until problems arise for you to contact the applicant’s previous landlord.

The lease: make sure the lease form is foolproof before you provide it to the tenant and that you understand every term of the lease — the applicant may try to negotiate with you for some extra flexibility with the rules. Expect this and stick to all your must-have provisions.

Post-lease: Inspect the property from time to time after the tenant moves in, after giving the appropriate notice, and find small ways to keep in touch like a newsletter.

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