What Makes a Property Management Company Ideal

Because managing properties is difficult and stressful, few property management companies get it right when it comes to taking care of rental units. They may do an acceptable job but “acceptable” doesn’t quite cut it when you want things to operate well without a hitch. So when shopping around for a property management company, look for one that can promise you the following:

Successful resolution of maintenance issues: the right property management company keeps a rolodex of reliable independent contractors that undertake good, solid work quickly and at a suitable rate.

Collecting rent: the ideal property management company collects rents on the first of every month, no exceptions. If there is a delay in payments, then late fees are in order. The firm will also not hesitate to take legal action in the event of non-payment.

Leasing: the right property management company will ascertain the best market rents by conducting rent surveys and effectively market a property vacancy in order to find the ideal tenant. Typical marketing methods range from print media to classified ads to eye-catching signs and banners on the property itself.

Reporting: a good property management company sends out monthly management reports with up-to-date leasing information every month.

Recordkeeping: A competent property management company tracks financial in-flows and out-flows in a computerized system that records all the information for tax compliance. Rents are recorded in detail and all requested expenses are disbursed in a timely manner.

Other: The ideal property management company understands that your income property is more than just a simple investment. The company should be there to serve you whether your income properties range from single family homes, offices, buildings, commercial properties, shopping plazas, condominiums to large multi-unit apartment complexes.

A good firm looks on property management as a business that creates a reliable income. Its aim should be to keep your income high and your expenses low while taking care of your property in the best way. Yet, despite the interests of the property management company being in alignment with those of the property owner – that is, to collect rent and keep the tenants happy – this sometimes isn’t enough to secure the best service. For your own peace of mind, look for a property management company that seeks to maintain a high standard of reliability and accountability always.

Fireplace Safety 101

This is the time of year when many tenants are thinking of lighting up the fireplace to keep the cold away. At such times it is always good to remind landlords and tenants alike of the hazards associated with the activity and what you can do to prevent accidental fires from happening. We, at Agon Management, recommend you follow these thirteen fireplace safety tips and guidelines. As long as they are respected, there should be no reason why we can’t all stay safe and warm this winter.

1. Fireplaces should be cleaned before the temperature drops. Particularly those of apartments, which tend to be smaller and not as well-built as home fireplaces and hence more dangerous.

2. Keep all flammable materials at a safe distance from the fireplace to keep these from catching fire. Heat will radiate and possibly ignite items such as trees, curtains, holiday décor and furniture placed near the fireplace.

3. Keep the damper open so as to allow for a free air circulation of gases and smoke.

4. Make sure to use the metal mesh screen to prevent sparks from flying.

5. Leave the inlets and glass doors slightly open when the fire is burning to minimize smoke build-up.

6. Never use flammable liquids such as charcoal lighter fluid, kerosene, alcohol or gasoline to start a fire in the apartment or rental unit.

7. Piggybacking on the last point, never soak rolled paper in any flammable liquid. This can create a strong and dangerous flare up.

8. Burn manufactured logs one at a time when using them. Remember that smaller fires consume the log completely while producing less smoke versus larger fires that burn beyond their capacity.

9. Keep a non-expired easy-to-use fire extinguisher near by.

10. Burn only certain seasoned woods like maple, oak, etc. Other woods, like Pinon, are not good for fireplace burning in that they leave a tar-like, flammable residue inside the fireplace flue once fully consumed by the fire.

11. Make sure the rental unit or apartment’s smoke detectors are working properly and placed near the bedrooms and the fireplace.

12. Store firewood well away from the fireplace. Termites can often be found in firewood and can cause damage to other wooded parts of the home.

13. Never leave a fireplace fire unattended, particularly at night when you want to go to sleep or when you want to leave your home. The fire needs to be extinguished every time.

Photo credit: FIRE!! by Thomas’s Pics

Good and Bad Leasing Policies to Keep in Mind

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.

Highest Annual Price Gain Recorded for DC Metro Housing Market Since Dec 2005

Demand in the Washington DC metro housing market has increased in October following the usual slowdown in activity in September. Buyers are still active in the market as sales, median price gains and new pending contracts are all higher than their 10-year average change from September. All market indicators are above 2011 levels while several are at multi-year October highs. There is also a 7-year high for new pending contracts, which might be tied to the mild temperatures observed in October.

Buyers appear to be purchasing townhomes and condos, as evidenced by the fact that the proportion of new contracts on single-family homes has reached the lowest point in 2 years. The lower price points of these real estate properties as well as location preferences of active buyers may explain this phenomenon. Median prices have increased in the market in exhibiting the highest year-over year price gain in almost 7 years. Playing a role in the price gains is the continued fall in the inventory of properties for sale. Active listings are about half of their level 2 years ago and new listings for last month were at their lowest point in over 10 years. Town homes have posted the highest median price growth and new contract growth of all real estate segments, indicating the segment is continuing to gain real growth. However, despite the increase in prices, it is improbable that the market will witness a growth in active listings as 2012 ends. Many would-be sellers are still dealing with equity losses and there is still plenty of economic uncertainty.

Closed Sales 

Demand has increased across all property segments with the highest October sales since 2009. October sales in the Washington DC Metro Area amounted to 3,269 – a 16.1 percent hike over last October. Prices, New Contracts and Inventory Median price gains are at their highest for the DC Metro Area in almost 7 years. At $362,500, the median property price in the region is 13.3 percent higher than October 2011 – the highest year-over-year increase for any month since December 2005.

With town homes leading the segments, new contracts are at the highest level for October in seven years. There were 4,459 new contracts inked last month in the DC area, up 5.8 percent from this point last year and the highest October total in 7 years.

New listings for October are at their lowest in over 10 years and are roughly half of what they were in October 2010.

3 Tips to Getting the Application Right for a Quick Rental Process

'Rent Reform Rally' photo (c) 2011, The  Nabe - license: //

Drafting the right application form is key if you want to land more tenants, screen them in an instant and make the whole process super easy for both you and the tenant. Here are 3 tips and pointers for getting it right:

1. Simplify, simplify, simplify

Get the application down to its barest bones. There is nothing that turns off tenants more than filling in lengthy application forms with, what to you and them, may amount to pointless information. Think to always streamline and convey what you request in an easy format. The simpler the rental form, the more likely people will apply for the rental and that is always good for business. The application form should always include the potential tenant’s full name, contact information, place of employment and references from previous landlords.

2. Help is there if you need it

The process of drawing up an application form might be intimidating when you’re a new landlord, which is why it’s important to have someone with more experience give it an once-over before you start using it. Get a local landlord or business-savvy friend to review it and advise you on how you can make it better. But if you don’t have such contacts and you’re looking for a quick review, feel free to ask for help from the people over at Reddit. This website has a helpful section for newbie landlords and the folks you’ll find there are always keen to help you out with any questions about how you should draft your first rental application. Landlord forums are another option when Reddit doesn’t seem to quite cut it and you need in-depth answers to your rental application questions.

3. Online rental applications make it quick & easy

You can always dump the traditional printed rental application route and opt to have your applicants fill out their forms online for an efficient rental process. There are quite a few quality sites out there that offer online rental application services, with some even providing quick online credit checks for landlords. At most of these sites, you can design your own rental applications (though templates are generally available) with some sites having the credit check service take up only a day to send you the report. Hands down, online applications are the easiest, most convenient way to speed up the rental process. We recommend you check out RocketLease, RentApp, Leasely, AppFolio and RentersFriend as online rental application providers.

What Your Property Management Office Says About You

'01 (107)' photo (c) 2012, Victor1558 - license: //

Invariably, the potential tenants and business associates you meet during your career as a property manager will judge you on their first impression of your office space. While you don’t have to break the bank in decorating your office, it is important that the space is not only functional but presentable. Following are some pointers that will help you and your staff present a space that all of you can be proud of:

A Clear Sign

You could have a beautiful office but if no one can find it, consider it a moot effort. Make sure your office space is clearly marked from the outside so that potential tenants and other customers can easily find it. Properly marking the landlord’s office helps you start off on the right foot – the last thing you want to deal with are exasperated customers who’ve had to knock on more than one door to find out where you are.

Showcase your Space

Consider the walls of your office a wonderful place to showcase the beauty of your property. Line your walls with professionally snapped pictures of your most appealing properties, newspaper or magazine articles about your business and awards or certificates. This way you can impress your potential clients without you even having to open your mouth.

Hospitality Points

Make your potential tenants feel at home as soon as they walk through the doors. Keep the basics on-hand such as coffee, tea, water and snacks. These comfort items may go a long way in helping your customers feel at ease before and during business negotiations.

Organization is Vital

No matter how tastefully decorated your office is – too much desk mess or visible clutter in the space can send the wrong signals to your potential tenants. That is, you being a disorganized or untidy manager who is having problems staying on top of things. This is certainly not the impression you want to convey when trying to land new business.

The Right Dress Code

You and your staff should be dressed in a presentable manner. Property managers aren’t expected to wear suits or ties like their real estate agent counterparts but they shouldn’t be slouches either. Be clean shaven, and avoid very casual clothing like jeans and sneakers.

Hide the Clutter

If the world were perfect, we’d be organized all the time and your clients would think you always run a tight management ship. However, the world being what it is, there are days where you or your staff are struggling with clutter. If you’re experiencing such a chaotic day, make an effort to disguise it. Provide each employee with shelving, file systems and storage drawers to stash the mess away before your potential tenants pay a visit.

Successful Property Marketing Techniques Part II

Most people get into the property management or rental business thinking it’s a good way to generate money, but then wind up realizing that it’s a lot more work than they figured in the first place, especially when it comes to landing qualified tenants. The reason? They never learned how to effectively market themselves. To learn how you can step up your marketing game, read this: Part Two of our list of successful marketing techniques:

Be Clever About Social Media

'Social Media apps' photo (c) 2013, Jason Howie - license: //

Chances are most or your competitors are tweeting or facebooking a ton to generate more business. But are they seeing any return from their social media efforts? Probably not. Many make the mistake of not spending enough time beforehand to come up with social media content that is interesting, informative and exciting. Don’t make that mistake: plan ahead and think your campaign through. Send out one consistent message, like a tip, or funny cartoon, or anything that would make a person look forward to seeing your posts on their social media news feed.

Go Door to Door

Sure, it sounds old school but few people are doing it anymore, right? Hence, the reason to employ this still effective marketing technique. All you have to do is print some flyers, grab a bag of treats for the kids, practice your lines and hit the streets. Introduce yourself to the people in the neighborhood, tell them about your rental units, ask for referrals and let them know that you’re always on hand to answer their questions. If you’re smart, you can also ask the people you meet if they’d like to receive your free newsletter to stay updated on local events and trends. This way, you can reach out and market your business to them in other ways.

Go Public

Emceeing a charity auction or throwing the first pitch at a local baseball game are just two ways you can meet the public and get your business name out there. Now don’t be overzealous and go to every Girl Scouts meeting or club event in the area, but still, it would be nice to show your face at an event at least once a month so that the locals are continually reminded as to what you do. Continually getting your name out there like this not only expands your circle of influence but also makes people more likely to like and trust you.

For further property marketing tips take a look at: //

When a Property Manager Takes on too Much

A lot of people who regularly work in real estate are embracing property management as a side business. Across America, realtors and real estate agents who have been shocked by the decrepit state of the industry are not making enough sales and are having a hard time keeping consistent listings. As a result, they are managing properties as a way to pay the bills until the market picks up again. Because more quasi-property managers are flooding the market, there is more rivalry between the quasi managers and the pros, which is obliging all who want to build their portfolio to find additional properties to rent out.

Many of the newbies are agreeing to manage broken down properties from landlords at management rates as low as three or four percent while accepting high rental rate demands from these same owners. Unfortunately, these same owners will expect to make money from the dilapidated properties that aren’t ever likely to generate a welcome income. This is one mistake but one far more typical mistake made by such newcomers to the industry is to manage accounts that are geographically located too far away from their own headquarters and/or general neighborhood of expertise.

Many property management firms market themselves as companies that can handle properties in different locations within the city, but it must be understood that the best property management companies are the ones that are best structured to handle such accounts. They have the systems, the means and the staff members on hand to serve such accounts across different districts and neighborhoods, and are able to do so professionally. However, newbie realtors and real estate agents, as single parties, often accept such geographically distant accounts and are not able to process or handle such accounts properly. But because of the struggling real estate market, they find it hard to refer a landlord client to a professional property management firm for a simple referral fee when they can generate a steady income profit from managing the property themselves.

The property managers with experience know how much they can take on and would rather deliver Grade-A service than risk tarnishing their reputation on a property that may prove to be too problematic for them in the long run. Nothing kills the motivation of a new property manager as much as having to drive across town several times a week to try to rent out a property that is difficult to rent out in the first place. The more the property manager has to spend on driving from place to place, the more he will question whether the account is worth preserving as total driving time and gas expenditures add up. In the end, the property owner is unhappy with the care and maintenance undertaken by the hired property manager and eventually lets the property manager go.

This is why it is best to own up to your experience when you are a real estate agent or realtor and to understand that saying “no” is in your best interest when talking about a property that is significantly outside your area of coverage. After all, property management is not the same as simply selling or renting out a property as a realtor – it is much more complicated than that.

A Property Managers View on Subletting

May 13, 2013

There’s something about subletting a unit – when your tenant does it — that runs against the grain of a property manager’s sense of work and duty. You put in a lot of effort to find the right tenant – one who clears a criminal and credit background check, who is legitimately employed, who has presented a solid personal reference or two and whose recent landlords you’ve spoken with. In other words, a tenant you’ve done everything to make sure is reliable and responsible. A good property manager knows that this is the only way to make sure the property unit is protected, that the rent will be paid on time, and that the tenant will even be the kind of neighbor who is kind and considerate to you and others.

Your business gets thrown a curve ball, however, when your tenant wants to sublet the unit to another person. He or she will be in charge of the screening process and this can invite all kinds of problems. Of course, it will be in the tenant’s best interest to make sure the subletor will be responsible and reliable with the unit and with paying the rent on time. At the same time, the pre-existing tenant will be the one who will be held liable for the lease and any damage or financial penalties until the term of the lease finally runs out. However, the big problem here is that most tenants simply don’t have the experience or know-how in property management to know who constitutes a reliable tenant. Because of this, there may be problems when the tenant wants to secure a subletor for the unit he/she is responsible for.

Sure, subletting your unit out may not always be what your want or prefer, but when you are in the position where the alternative is lost rent, you should go for it. If and when you find yourself where a sublease is in order, it’s important that you take care of the following points:

  • Make sure the pre-existing tenant – the one in charge of finding the subletor – has a history of exercising good judgment and of being responsible.
  • Also clarify to the pre-existing tenant that a credit and criminal check is required of the subletor (to be covered either by you or the tenant).
  • Be certain to have all the necessary legal paperwork signed and understood by both the tenant and subletor regarding the financial obligations of the sublet, i.e.: the monthly rent payments and fines linked to property damages.
  • It’s critical that you are the one to ultimately approve the potential subletor.

At all times, you must remember that you are the property manager and that you are the one who sets down the parameters on subletting. If you are one to decide that subletting is not right for your business and ban it, make sure to write as an important clause in your lease contract.

Successful Property Marketing Techniques

'Housing Market' photo (c) 2012, 401(K) 2012 - license: //

When it comes to marketing your rental units, practically everything has been done already. From bench signs to social networking to floppy lawn signs, most property managers have done it all. Yet because these marketing techniques are employed so much, their impact on consumers is not especially strong. So, as a property manager, what can you do to reel ‘em in? We have some ideas on what you can do to vastly improve your business:

Play with your Number

Your phone number plays a big role in your marketing campaigns. But you lose out on a big opportunity to land tenants when you use a regular phone number just like everybody else. Instead, get your own personalized phone number – one that really sticks with people. For example, a number that is made up of almost all threes. Or a number that spells out a memorable word. You stay ahead of the game when your number is easy to remember. In a world where people are always in a rush, such a number can help you land more business.

Grab their Attention

Ramp up the fun factor a bit when you advertise property vacancies. Go for broke and think of creative headlines when announcing a rental listing. Something like: “Your Wishing Well Wish Came True: your Dream Home is Right Here.” Or “Miracles Happen: Your Wife will Love this Place, Too”, etc. Don’t know what to write? Hire a copywriter or someone who can creatively string words together to write out your slogans.

Be a Radio Star

Most property managers would never consider advertising on the radio. But it’s a surefire way to let a company personality shine straight to the masses, often very inexpensively. When you do radio, free advertising opportunities abound. You can win a spot on a “Meet the Experts” panel on a regular radio informational show, or even host your own weekly half-hour or hour show. Small radio stations are always looking for people to fill up air time, just roll with it and come up with creative skits to impress your listeners.

Be a Video Star

YouTube videos are a novel way of marketing yourself and your business, when you know what you’re doing. It can be tricky to send links of your videos to your database of prospects. (Think of it as putting out a newscast directly targeted to the people on your list.) But the investment is well worth it – the medium really helps to shorten the distance between you and the consumer, i.e.: someone who wants to do business with someone who seems very human and approachable.

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