Three Tips for New Landlords

'3D Realty Handshake' photo (c) 2007, Scott Maxwell - license: //

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: //

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: //

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.

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.


Fire safety in your home

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.

The Services of a Property Management Company Explained

June 2012

The Services of a Property Management Company Explained

The primary functions of a property management company are twofold: a) to handle all aspects of the leasing, managing, marketing and maintenance of a real estate property; and b) to take over the responsibilities of the property owner with the tenant. In exchange for these services, which directly benefit the property owner, the property management company charges a fee that is deducted from the rent.

Benefits for the Property Owner

In hiring a property management company, the property owner benefits by not having to worry about the myriad of problems that go hand in hand with being a full-time landlord. Property management is time-consuming and often involves a lot more than insuring, listing and periodically maintaining a rental property. Such tasks include: knowing the legalities tied to renting and leasing a property; listing, screening and approving tenant rental applications; and being available round-the-clock for any tenant demands or issues related to the property. When the property owner neither has the time or the inclination to perform all these duties, s/he hires a property management firm to take over his or her responsibilities as a landlord and to make sure that the tenants and the property are properly taken care of.

The Services of a Property Management Firm in Detail

The property management company’s fee collected from the overall rent goes to covering the services the company provides to the property owner. Because of this, the interest of the property management company in securing reliable tenants and keeping them happy is aligned with that of the property owner. As a result, property management firms rigorously screen all tenant candidates with – at the very least – a background check, a credit check and an evaluation of the candidate tenant’s rental history. This is one of the primary obligations of a property management firm.

A second obligation includes handling all the legal documentation tied to renting the property, which must also be in compliance with government regulations and the Fair Housing Act. A third obligation of the company is to handle the nitty gritty details of the rental, that is, assessing the rental marketplace to determine a fair rent value, maintenance and repair, handling on-site inspections, enforcing rent collection from the tenants, and managing all aspects of the advertising and marketing of the property to secure tenants.

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

September 2012

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

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.

All Property Management Featured Manager property management companies