Michele - Wednesday, February 17, 2016
I often share with landlords that “late night emergencies” seldom occur. However, in late January and early February when significant storms and freezing temperatures occur, we do need to plan for emergency calls from our tenants. Last weekend, we had four emergency calls. There were two no-heat calls, one home without hot water, and one ruptured pipe inside a home.
In order to prepare for such emergencies, we have a 24 hour maintenance emergency call service, we remind tenants to change HVAC filters regularly, we coordinate with HVAC companies and plumbers in advance to ensure that we can receive priority service if needed, and we stock several room/space heaters to lend to tenants if failed heating systems can not be promptly repaired.
While our management contract requires any non-emergency repair exceeding $250 to be approved by the owner in advance, such emergency situations will be handled to the best of our ability and may exceed that financial threshold. Our obligation is to protect the home against further damages and to ensure the tenants have a safe and habitable environment in the home. We inform owners immediately if such em...
Michele - Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Having listed 140+ properties this year and hundreds more over the past several years, we are constantly looking for ways to measure and improve our listing performance. One statistic that we discovered early-on is that the optimal time to begin listing a property is 45 days before the availability date. Most tenants are looking for a property 30-45 days in advance of their target move-in date. For example, if a property is available for a tenant to move in on May 1st, we suggest putting the property on the market on March 15th. When we list a property 45 days in advance of the availability date, the majority of the time, we move tenants into the property on the target date.
Another important factor to ensuring that we have a tenant move in as close as possible to the availability date is pricing the property competitively when first going onto the market. Listed properties have the most visibility at the time they are first listed since many perspective renters have set up search criteria and are notified when a new property comes on the market that meets their criteria. Pricing even slightly above the range that is being searched for in the area means the property will not show up ...
Michele - Sunday, December 20, 2015
When I speak with perspective landlords, one of the pieces of information that I’m most proud to share is that 80% of the time we have a tenant move in on the day after the landlord or existing tenant moves out. When I network with other local property managers, I find that most do not allow for such one-day property turnovers.
Admittedly, there are lots of challenges associated with this process – scrambling to coordinate house cleaning or carpet cleaning when needed, handling coordination of utility transfer without interruption, and juggling schedules for inspections and key pick-ups. To address these challenges, we have vendors on standby to address needed tasks between 5PM on the last day of the month and noon on the first day of the month. Our staff works long days to allow for the quick turnovers as we feel the benefit to the owner of reduced vacancy is well worth the effort.
Since most leases end (and most owners move out) on the last day of the month, we list our managed properties as being available the next day, on the first of the following month, unless we have planned for repairs or maintenance to meet our ready-to-rent condition standards. Since most...
Michele - Thursday, December 3, 2015
As the weather is starting to get cold, we are wrapping up Fall/Winter HVAC servicing appointments for many of our managed properties. While we do not require landlords to put an annual service contract in place, we do encourage it. All local HVAC companies offer a service plan that includes two clean-and-check servicing appointments. This service provides the owner with valuable information about the condition of the furnace or air conditioner before the unit has to start its heavy workload for the upcoming season. Technicians will check all major components of the system and will advise if any further preventative maintenance or chemical cleaning is needed. For instance, replacing a capacitor that is not performing correctly is a very inexpensive action compared to the emergency situation and possible system damage that could occur if the capacitor fails completely. All manufactures suggest the semi-annual servicing and some home warranties will void a claim if it is clear that the unit has not been properly maintained.
Failure of an AC system in August or of a heating system in January typically requires emergency appointments with escalated costs and frustrated tenants. The cost ...
Michele - Tuesday, November 24, 2015
In June of this year, there were 226 properties put on the market for rent in Woodbridge. These properties averaged 36 days on the market to procure a tenant. These results represent the busy, high-demand, summer market.
Due to the cold weather, holiday seasons, and standard spring/summer schedules for Military and family moves, the rental market during the winter months takes on a completely different dynamic. In December 2014, only 129 properties were put on the market for rent in Woodbridge. These properties averaged 64 days on the market to procure a tenant with an average rent almost $75 less than the summertime rates.
Given the realities of the winter market, we suggest that landlords who do have to or choose to put their properties on the market in the winter months plan to price their properties competitively at the lower end of the suggested market price range. We also suggest considering an 18-month lease to move the lease end date into the more favorable spring/summer months to position the home in a better time frame for eventual sale or re-renting.
While our company’s average days on the market a...
Michele - Thursday, November 19, 2015
Landlords….In order for us to best advise you on target lease terms and lease renewal options, it is important that we understand your long range plans for the property. The majority of our landlords intend to sell their homes in 3-4 years once the market value increases enough to meet their financial goals for the sale. Some of our landlords intend to keep their properties as long-term investments for 15+ years. Still others hope to sell their home as soon as the current lease has expired.
While many tenants start with a one or two year lease, our average lease/tenancy lasts 4-5 years with tenants renewing their lease several times after the initial lease term. Tenants usually assume that the home they are renting will continue to be available “indefinitely” and are often caught off guard when a landlord opts not to renew the lease so that the property can be put on the market for sale. It is helpful for us to know the landlords’ intentions regarding how long they plan to keep the property as a rental so that we can properly set expectations with the tenants.
At the beginning of each year, we’ll query our landlords to...
Michele - Sunday, September 27, 2015
Earlier this year, one of our landlords who lives locally stopped by his rental property, knocked on the door, introduced himself and let the tenant know that he wanted to sell the home at some point in the future, so he offered to be flexible if the tenant had any interest in terminating the lease early. (Sorry M.R. you know this post is about you!). Coincidentally, the tenant had been thinking about buying a home, so a week later, he ratified a contract to purchase a new home and let the landlord know that he’d be moving out within a month. Certainly, that isn’t what the landlord meant when he said he’d be flexible; he assumed the tenant would provide a 60 to 90 day notice, and would likely do so in the springtime. He did not anticipate that the tenant would take immediate action and expect to be let out of the lease within the month. Fortunately, the owner was able to further negotiate and we prepared a lease termination agreement that worked out well for him, but the communication initiated by the landlord set off a very unexpected series of events that needed swift reaction.
We find that conversations between landlords often lead to miscommunications or discuss...
Michele - Tuesday, August 11, 2015
The standard lease verbiage requires the tenants to cut, water and maintain the lawn. The standard lease further requires tenants to trim the shrubbery. We’ve also added additional verbiage to our leases to require the tenants to keep the mulch beds free of weeds (as this has been a consistent problem with many tenants).
Tenants are not required to replenish mulch, or to perform long-term lawn maintenance such as fertilization, aeration or over-seeding. Tenants are required to keep lawns weed-free, but only to the extent to which they began with a weed-free lawn.
We suggest that owners who have spent significant time and/or money to ensure their lawns are well manicured continue to pay for annual maintenance that includes fertilization, weed treatments, aeration and seeding. While a tenant can be charged for landscaping services due to lack of lawn care, the costs/risks associated with the time it takes to regenerate a great lawn exceed what the tenant can be charged.
We also suggest that owners plan to replenish mulch on an annual basis. The commitment that an owner makes to the exterior of the home impacts ...
Michele - Thursday, June 18, 2015
Our experience indicates that the optimal time to begin marketing a property is 45 days before the target availability date. So, when an existing tenant is nearing the end of their lease, we typically schedule to put the home on the market for re-rental 45 days before the lease end-date. The lease has specific provisions that allow for us to put a lock box and sign on the home, and allow for Real Estate Agents to enter the home using a lock box during that time period.
However, the lease does not require tenants to make their beds, wash their dishes, or pick their clothes up off the floor. Most of the time, tenants in our managed properties do keep the homes in a condition that is suitable for showing the home to perspective tenants. 80-90% of our managed properties are maintained in a condition that allows for them to be listed with existing tenants in place resulting in procurement of the next tenant with less than 14 days of vacancy between tenants.
In approximately 15% of the homes that we manage, we will need to delay the marketing of the property until after the existing tenants have moved out. In these cases, where tenants are not maintaining...
Michele - Thursday, June 11, 2015
Currently, 13% of the homes currently on the market for rent in Prince William County were built before 1978. For such properties, it is important for landlords to understand the EPA regulations which govern how repairs must be made in a tenant occupied property that may contain lead based paint.
If your home was built before 1978, a lead based paint disclosure and information pamphlet will be provided to your tenants at the time of lease signing.
While we are managing a property built before 1978, and a repair is needed that will disrupt drywall (more than 6 SQFT inside or 20 SQFT outside), we will need to use an EPA certified vendor to perform the required repair. That vendor will seal off the area while work is being completed and ensure that all dust is properly removed. The additional preparation, containment, and clean up involved will impact the c...