American Apartment Owners Association

What You Should Know Before Buying A Condominium

Thu, 08/10/2017 - 8:13am

Condos were once thought of as homes that attracted singles or couples, often without children. But today, condos are growing in popularity and attracting families of all sizes.

Condos can be an excellent choice for the right buyers. Here are a few things that should be considered before purchasing a condo. Most buyers start with the condo itself. That may be a good place to begin but, before they buy, buyers should also consider other factors outside of the condo.

Some developers are building condos that have a look and feel like single-family homes. These modern condos have great rooms and open, flowing floor plans that look and feel like a single-family home rather than an apartment or condo.

One of the major attractions of condos is the low maintenance. The community area is maintained by an association funded by the dues that homeowners pay into it.

That’s why buyers’ first consideration should be to explore the development and make sure they like the look and feel of the complex and surrounding community. There are codes and restrictions, often referred to as CC&Rs (covenants, codes, and restrictions) that buyers will have to abide by once they purchase a condo. Buyers should ask to review them before making an offer to purchase a condo. These regulations help ensure that the community maintains its general appearance and any necessary repairs of the external areas.

Review the association’s budget. It may be necessary to get the seller to provide this information because it may not be released to a non-owner who is only a potential buyer. However, in considering buying into a development, it’s almost like going into business with the neighbors in the complex. It’s important to make sure that the association is running properly and has enough of a reserve for necessary expenses and maintenance. The budget and CC&Rs will give an idea of how stable the association is and if increases in the homeowners’ association dues are likely each year.

Find out how many owners in the development are delinquent on their dues. A condo complex that has a high level of delinquencies can cause problems for buyers when it comes time to get a loan or sell the condo. Some loans are not approved if delinquency rates are higher than 15 percent.

Review the minutes from the association’s board meetings. They will reveal the day-to-day issues that occur each month and give an indication of how the development is run. For instance, lots of complaints and filings about noisy residents, loud parties, or dog droppings on the lawn reveal potential problems with neighbors. The minutes will also reveal if the development is engaged in any lawsuits.

Understand what your responsibilities are for the upkeep of the condo. Find out what the association takes care of and what the homeowners have to maintain. Look at the association’s property management team and see how many times the association has changed management companies. Find out why. This will may reveal how responsive the association will be should residents need its assistance.

Ultimately, buyers need to ensure that when they purchase a condo they’re not buying into any legal battles the association is in the middle of and that they will be able to live in their condo the way they want. Study the CC&Rs and do due diligence before buying.



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3 Not-So-Obvious Tools That Save Property Managers Time & Money

Thu, 08/10/2017 - 8:10am

If you are a buy and hold landlord, property management is key to profit. You can buy your rentals at a great price and have a great plan in place, but without a solid management team to implement your plan, your deal will likely fail. We manage our local portfolio in house, and I recommend that any investor just getting started try managing their own deals at first to get a taste of the management game. It will give you a better understanding of what it takes to run your rentals effectively so you can hire the right manager when the time is right. You can also do what we did and build a property management business to create an additional revenue stream that also manages your real estate for you.

3 Not-So-Obvious Tools for Property Management Success

Whether you are managing yourself or outsourcing, it pays to know the tools that a management company needs to have in place to set them up for success. There are obvious tools like a robust and friendly website that has a tenant portal for them to pay online.

In today’s video, I talk about some not-so-obvious tools that I have found to save us time and money—and to create happier tenants in the long run. Check out the video to learn more!

I only listed 3 tools here but there are many more. Why don’t you leave some others that work for you in the comment section down below?


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Seattle set to prevent landlords from considering applicants’ criminal records

Thu, 08/10/2017 - 7:58am

Seattle landlords would be almost completely prohibited from screening prospective tenants based on their criminal histories, under a proposed ordinance approved by a City Council committee Tuesday.

The only people who could be denied housing based on their criminal histories would be those listed on sex-offender registries because of adult convictions.

And landlords denying housing to such sex offenders would still need to state a legitimate business reason for doing so.

Some landlords say they should be allowed to consider the criminal histories of prospective renters to better protect their property and their tenants.

During a public-comment period Tuesday, landlord Sara Weaver said the ordinance’s backers want to “put the safety and security of tenants at risk and set property owners up for potential damage.”

Before adopting the new regulations, the council should commission its own study on whether people with criminal histories tend to be worse tenants, Weaver said.

Proponents of the legislation say people who already have served their time shouldn’t be again punished by landlords. They say people denied by landlords based on their criminal histories can end up homeless and are more likely to re-offend than people with housing.

“Nobody is more safe when people who have criminal backgrounds are unhoused,” said Councilmember Lisa Herbold, chair of the committee and a sponsor of the ordinance with Council President Bruce Harrell.

The backers point to studies of supportive-housing programs in which criminal records were not shown to be predictive of problem tenancies.

“Please help the homeless people. They have rights, too. They’re human beings just like we all are,” said Mellie Kaufman, a vendor with the Real Change Homeless Empowerment Project.

Weaver, the landlord, said such studies aren’t relevant because they looked at supportive housing.

The version of the legislation that Mayor Ed Murray sent to the council in Junesaid landlords would be allowed to consider criminal convictions less than two years old, and it said landlord-occupied buildings with four or fewer units would be exempt.

But the civil-rights committee voted unanimously Tuesday to eliminate the two-year look-back clause and nix the exemption for small, landlord-occupied buildings.

Councilmember Mike O’Brien brought forward the amendments, receiving support from Herbold and council members Debora Juarez, Sally Bagshaw, Kshama Sawant and M. Lorena González. Harrell and council members Rob Johnson and Tim Burgess didn’t attend the committee meeting.

A Herbold amendment approved Tuesday calls for the new regulations to be evaluated by the city auditor, with a report due by the end of 2019.

In addition to criminal convictions unrelated to sex-offender registries, the proposed Fair Chance Housing ordinance would prohibit landlords from looking at pending criminal charges, arrests not resulting in convictions or juvenile records, including juvenile convictions causing people to be listed on sex-offender registries as adults.

Under existing law, landlords can deny housing to tenants for arrests that happened within seven years, including arrests not resulting in convictions, according to Herbold.

“Landlords will still be able to screen applicants based on employment, credit scores, income ratios or other criteria,” Herbold said in a statement.

“For a criminal justice system that disproportionately arrests people of color, punishing someone who hasn’t been found guilty is a true injustice,” she added.

“Blocking formerly incarcerated people from accessing stable housing or a job is an extrajudicial punishment and is also a recipe for recidivism and less safety for our communities. I would expect anyone in favor of a safer Seattle to support this bill.”

The ordinance would take effect 150 days after being signed by the mayor, with the Seattle Office of Civil Rights taking responsibility for enforcing the new regulations.

There may be new costs to the city, but those have yet to be determined, according to a City Hall analysis.

The push began in late 2015, when a group of local organizations led by the Tenants Union of Washington State and Columbia Legal Services started a campaign called FARE — Fair Access to Renting for Everyone.

In early 2016, Murray convened a task force on the issue, including representatives from both landlord and tenants groups.

Tuesday’s meeting was the fourth at which Herbold’s committee discussed the legislation.



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5 Tenant Red Flags Landlords Should Look Out For

Thu, 08/10/2017 - 7:54am

Landlords can sometimes get a bad rap for being ruthless, money-driven tyrants. The truth is, many landlords do a great job at keeping their tenants happy and, in return, reap the benefits of these people being taken care of. There is a downside for you as a landlord, though, and that occurs when you have not screened your tenants as well as you should have. Even with a proper screening, bad apples can occasionally sneak through, and that’s why it’s important to know the signs of a bad tenant. Read on for five red flags you need to look out for as a landlord.

  1. Bad Landlord References

One of the most important things you can do is to call past landlords, as you want to know their history of payments, how they treated the rental property, etc. If the past landlord tells you there was an extensive history of late payments, damage done to the property, or, far worse, an eviction, this should be a giant “no” in your book. This is particularly true if these have been recent. If the bad behavior was far in the past and they have since had good reports, this is up to your discretion, but still be wary.

  1. Bad Credit And/or a Tax Lien

Good Landlord 101 includes running a credit check, as knowing how (or if!) they pay their bills is key in deciding whether or not to let them live on your rental property. How landlords read credit reports is also crucial, so if you’re new to doing so, get some help from a company like TransUnion and do your research. Bad credit is a huge red flag and could indicate that they will have trouble paying their rent—tenant screening can save a huge headache. Of course, if the IRS can’t get money from them (hence the tax lien), how do you expect you will do the same? You definitely do not want a squatter!

As for the nitty gritty of credit numbers, be wary of anyone with a credit score of less than 620. As this article notes, “A low credit score can be indicative of many things: problems with budgeting, holding down a job, or taking on too much debt. Whatever the reasons, avoid these tenants at all costs.”

  1. Criminal History

You are well within your rights to run a background check on your potential tenants. If your gut instinct tells you that this is a solid person and his or her credit check and references turn out okay, you might consider ignoring any minor offenses. However, someone with a major criminal history is obviously someone you don’t want living under your roof, especially if you have other renters in the vicinity.

  1. Gaps in Employment And/or Low Income

Your application should include a pretty extensive list of their past employers and how much they have made at each job. Long gaps in history could be an indication of flakiness and low income. You also want to be wary if they make very little money at their current jobs, as you have to weigh the rent vs. this amount of money. If it doesn’t seem to add up, it’s a red flag. Of course, you could ask that someone co-sign for them so that you have someone to recoup the money from him if you need to. That’s something that’s left to your discretion and many landlords will go with their intuition on this.

  1. Awkward Behavior During the Interview and Negotiation Attempts

Again, we can’t stress enough the importance of gut instinct. If the person seems overly nervous during the interview and can’t hold eye contact, it could be a red flag. What are they hiding? If there are gaps on their application and they can’t answer many questions during the interview, they could be hiding be a giant secret (or secrets!).

Attempts at negotiation of monthly rent and/or deposit amount don’t have to be huge red flags, but they’re not great signs either. If you know your rental property is fairly priced, stick to that number. Negotiation could be a sign that they are not able to pay this amount on a regular basis.



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Fraud Alert: Fake Checks Used for a Variety of Costly Scams

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 2:01pm

Despite what you might think, it isn’t easy to spot a counterfeit check. Fraudsters know how to make a fake check look completely legitimate — so good that even a bank teller can’t spot it.

That’s why fraudsters are using fake checks to commit all sorts of scams, including security deposits, phony prize awards, fake job offers, mystery shopper scams, and bogus online classified ad sales.

Find out if your tenant has written bad checks with AAOA’s TeleCheck report.


“This scam comes in many different variations” said John Breyault, who runs the National Consumers League’s website. “But the key thing that binds them all together is the use of a fake check. The consumer is instructed to deposit that check into their personal account and then send a portion of the proceeds to someone right away.”

Most victims are instructed to send the money via a wire transfer service, such as Western Union or MoneyGram. But some are told to buy prepaid debit cards or iTunes gift cards that they can use to buy things.

When the bank discovers the check is counterfeit — which could be days or weeks later — that deposit is removed from the victim’s checking account. The crooks already have their money and the poor consumer is left holding the bag.

Earlier this year, the Better Business Bureau released a list of the Top 10 Most Risky Scams based on an analysis of complaints collected through its online Scam Tracker. Fake check scams came in at number two, just behind home improvement scams. That ranking is based on how many people are targeted by the scam, how likely they are to fall for it and how much money the average victim loses.

“This is definitely a very, very serious concern right now,” said Emma Fletcher, director of scam and fraud initiatives at the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust. “The typical loss to a scam that’s reported to us is about $275, but with fake check scams the median loss is almost $1,500. That’s a lot of money.”

While anyone can fall for a fake check scam, the BBB’s analysis shows that men between the ages of 18 and 24 are the most susceptible. This is also the top scam for students, and military families and veterans.

These Crooks Are Clever

Fake checks are commonly used to steal money from people who want to become mystery shoppers. Kathy, who lives in Dallas, Texas, got taken for $2,650 this way. She asked that we not use her last name.

“What these crooks are doing is disgusting, absolutely disgusting,” Kathy told NBC News. “They’re really clever and they need to be brought to justice.”

Kathy had done mystery shopping before, so she wasn’t surprised to get an email from a mystery shopping company asking her to do some work for them.

“The email seemed totally legit and everything on the website seemed on the up and up, so I didn’t question it. There were no warning signs,” she said.

Kathy’s first assignment as a “survey agent” was to rate money transfer companies. The mystery shopper scammers sent her a check for $2,850 and emailed her a list of questions to fill out about her experiences.

“It was a cashier’s check and it looked totally legit,” she said.

Kathy was told to deposit the check, take the cash and go to three different money transfer services and wire $900 from each. That left her with $100 for doing the job. She did as instructed.

About a week later, Kathy got a letter from her bank. It said the $2,850 check was counterfeit and couldn’t be cashed, so the money she had withdrawn would be debited from her checking account.

“The bank should have been able to determine immediately whether the check was legit or not and they didn’t. And that really disturbed me,” she said.

Kathy realizes she’ll never get that money back, but she hopes that by sharing her experience she can prevent others from becoming victims.

Why Fake Check Scams Work So Well

Few of us understand how the banking system works and the scammers use that confusion to trick us.

When we deposit a check, the financial institution is required by federal law to make the money available to us long before it can be certain the check is legitimate. We see the money show up in our account and assume the check is good and has cleared.

Fake check scam victims frequently report that their financial institutions decline to help them.

But that’s not what really happens. It may take a couple of days or a week or more for the check to work its way through the banking system and actually clear. During that time period, the bank gives us a short-term, no-interest loan using that check as collateral. If the check bounces, we have to pay back that loan in full.

“Unfortunately, you don’t realize you’ve been defrauded until you find that your bank account has a big negative balance,” said’s John Breyault. “And because of how our banking laws are written, it’s the consumer who’s on the hook for that — not the scammer and not the bank. It’s not like a fraudulent transaction on a credit card that you can dispute. It doesn’t work that way with personal checks.”

Victims Say the Bank Wouldn’t Help Them

People who’ve lost money to fake check fraudsters frequently complain that their bank teller did not warn them about the scam and their financial institution would not help them when the check turned out to be bogus.

Erika, a single mom in Oklahoma City who preferred not to be identified by her last name, was excited to be offered a work-at-home job this past spring. Her new employer sent her a check for $1,000 to buy office supplies and cover her first paycheck.

Erika was told to cash the check at her bank, take $979 to another bank in town and deposit it into the account of a corporate vendor who would ship the supplies she needed to get started.

A few days after she did that, Erika got a call from her bank. The check was a fake and there would be a $979 debit to her account. Not only that, but the debit caused her account to be overdrawn, which meant in addition to the $979 stolen by the scammers, she now owed the bank overdraft fees.

“I’m looking for a job, so I can provide for my three year old son, and instead I get fleeced,” she said.

Erika told NBC News she asked the bank if they could help her with this, but she was told there was nothing they could do. That’s not uncommon. Fake check scam victims frequently report that their financial institutions decline to help them.

The nation’s bankers insist they take fake check fraud very seriously and are doing a better job of spotting it and stopping it. For example, the American Bankers Association said tellers are trained to say something and ask questions when they see a transaction that appears to be suspicious.

“These losses are not something that bankers ever want to see,” said Doug Johnson, ABA’s senior vice president of payments and cyber security. “We continually educate our customers about the frauds being perpetrated against them, but we can’t stop every crime.”

That’s why it’s up to you to protect yourself and understand how scammers use fake checks to steal your money.

The BBB’s Emma Fletcher told NBC News she cannot think of any legitimate business transaction where someone would send you a check, ask you to deposit it and wire back the money.

“Any time you’re asked to do something like that, an alarm should go off that this is a scam,” she said.

The Federal Trade Commission has information on Fake Check Scams and the Better Business Bureau provides 10 Steps to Avoid Scams.



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Today’s Luxury Apartments Are Tomorrow’s Affordable Homes

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 10:12am
One of the most common refrains in the affordable housing discussion is “developers are targeting the high end of the market” and new apartments are just unaffordable.

Of course, it’s not that simple. Demand for new housing that isn’t met by the construction of new high-end units doesn’t disappear, it spills over into more modest housing, driving up rents for everyone. Building more high-end housing helps with affordability because it keeps those with high incomes from outbidding those with lower incomes for the existing housing stock. (Just imagine what would happen to housing prices if you suddenly demolished 10,000 units of expensive housing.) And often, today’s luxury units become tomorrow’s affordable homes.

To understand this, just look at Portland’s recent history. Housing blogger Iain MacKenzie, who tracks new housing and commercial developments at the definitive Next Portland website, shared with us a couple of fascinating historical clips from the city’s paper of record, The Oregonian. They show that today’s affordable housing often started life as self-described “luxury” housing when it was originally built.

The first example dates back a half century, to the 1960s, when in the wake of urban renewal the city was building a wave of new apartments. The Oregonian on January 9, 1966, described the city’s booming market for new luxury accommodation:

Luxury apartments, which start at $135 for a one bedroom unit and rapidly climb out of sight, have been sprouting in Portland at a breathless rate, and more are planned or abuilding. The total investment in such properties is certainly above the $100 million mark here.

One of these complexes was the Timberlee in suburban Raleigh Hills, a close-in suburban neighborhood. According to The Oregonian, the Timberlee on SW 38th Place was one of the most prosperous of the 13 apartment complexes it examined in its story, with 97 percent of its 214 units rented.

The Timberlee Apartments are still around today. While none of the units are currently for rent, according to, rents in the area run from about $1,000 for studios and one-bedroom units to $1,300 and more for two-bedroom and larger apartments. By today’s standards, the Timberlee seems modest, and a bit dated, rather than luxurious.

The Timberlee apartments are typical of those that were built around the country in the 1960s and 1970s. As I’ve chronicled, similar vintage apartments in the Atlanta suburb of Marietta, started life as the preferred housing of (mostly white) young couples and singles, but as they aged, became so affordable that they constituted low-income housing. The city spent $65 million of taxpayer money to buy and demolish these apartments, displacing hundreds of families.

A second clipping goes back just more than a century, to Christmas Day, 1910, when Portland was enjoying a small construction boom—interestingly, triggered by the advent of a tougher building code that would have made apartments more expensive or impossible to build in some neighborhoods. Just as with today’s inclusionary housing ordinance, there was a land rush as developers filed for building permits in advance of the deadline.

The 1910 article plays up the luxury of the new dwellings under construction.

The purpose of the builds is to establish a model for high-class apartments… The building will follow the latest style of construction in vogue in New York, and will embody the extreme of luxury with every possible attention given to comfort. Some new features in the way of modern conveniences will be introduced, the aim being to attract the desirable class of patrons, those who will be willing to pay as high as $150 a month for the five and six room apartments which they house will contain.

One of the new luxury apartment buildings constructed in 1910 was the Belmont Court, on the city’s growing East Side. Plans called for a modern 24-unit apartment building with a range of conveniences.

Some fine dwellings of this class are being planned for the East Side. MacNaughton & Raymond have designed for E. L. Taylor a three-story brick veneer apartment-house 50×100, to be built at East Fifteenth and Belmont Streets and to cost $30,000. It will have seven three-room apartments on each floor and 24 in all, including the janitor’s quarters and two other suites in the basement.

More than a century later, the Belmont Court building still stands. In fact, two of its apartments are for rent just now. According to Zillow, average apartment rents in Portland are about $1,600 per month. With studio apartments renting at just under $1,100, they’re not exactly cheap, but they cost less per square foot than newly built units, and with a Walk Score of 92, there located in a neighborhood where one can conveniently live without a car.

Another interesting historical change. Described as three-room apartments when they were built, the Belmont Court apartments are today described as studios. They have a separate living area, kitchen, and bathroom (each of which, a century ago, merited counting as a separate room). In an era when a large fraction of urban residents were boarders in boarding houses, a private kitchen and bathroom may indeed have been a luxury.

New housing is almost always built for and sold to the high end of the marketplace. It was that way 100 years ago and 50 years ago. But as it ages, housing depreciates and moves down market. The luxury apartments of two or three decades ago have lost most of their luster, and command relatively lower rents. And the truth is, that’s how we’ve always generated more affordable housing, through the process that economists call “filtering.” And the new self-styled “luxury” apartments we’re building today will be the affordable housing of 2040 and 2050 and later.

What causes affordability problems to arise is when we stop building new housing, or build it too slowly to cause aging housing to filter down-market. When new high-priced housing doesn’t get built, demand doesn’t disappear, instead, those higher-income households bid up the price of the existing housing stock, keeping it from becoming more affordable. Which is why otherwise prosaic 1,500-foot ranch houses in Santa Monica sell for a couple of million bucks, while physically similar 1950’s era homes in the rest of the country are either now highly affordable—or candidates for demolition.


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LA To Reimburse Property Owners Up To $10K For Sidewalk Repairs

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 10:08am

LOS ANGELES ( – Property owners who make repairs to their sidewalks will now be eligible to receive up to $10,000 in rebates from the city of Los Angeles.

The L.A. Bureau of Engineering announced Tuesday that it is raising the reimbursement cap across the board to $10,000 for both homeowners and commercial property owners who undergo their own sidewalk repairs.

The cap had previously been set at $2,000 for residential owners and $4,000 for commercial owners.

The previous rebate cap was designed to cover half of the estimated costs of repair. It’s unclear whether the new cap keeps that share the same.

To receive the rebate, owners must first apply with the city to participate in the program. A city employee will then visit the site to determine a repair estimate that is compliant with the American with Disabilities Act. Based on the estimate, they will then provide the owner a rebate offer.

Property owners must then pay for their own repairs in order to receive the rebate.

The Safe Sidewalks LA program is the result of a $1.4 billion agreement between the Los Angeles City Council and disabled residents and their advocates in April 2015 to make sidewalks safer. It settled an ADA lawsuit that had been brought by several groups.

The settlement, in which the city agreed to spend $31 million a year for 30 years, will install curb ramps throughout the city, fix sidewalks that are broken and torn up by tree roots, install accessible sidewalks and remove many other barriers.

The rebate program was launched in late 2016. So far it has had more than 1,100 applicants. However, after conducting a survey, the city determined that more people would take part in the program if the rebate was bigger.

“The new cap should entice and empower more property owners to partner with the City, and the result will be more sidewalks repaired quicker, less liability for the City and property owners, and happier constituents,” City Councilman Bob Blumenfield said in a statement.



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5 Home Staging Tips From an Expert Flipper

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 10:04am

You flipped it — now it’s time to sell it. Follow these five expert tricks for a quick, full-offer sale.

You updated the plumbing, refinished the flooring, painted the walls. In short, your home renovation is finally finished, and you’re ready to put your flipped house on the market.

But before you do, follow these five home staging tricks that top house flippers use — if you do, you’ll likely see a quick full-offer sale coming your way!

Offer great curb appeal

Pulling up to their potential new home should be a joyful experience for buyers. Give them the great first impression they’re hoping for with curb appeal that conveys a genuinely warm welcome.

Stylish house numbers, updated porch lighting, a classy door color, charming outdoor seating, flowers in bloom, and a welcome mat seem like unimportant details, but they make all the difference.

When a house looks cared for on the outside, it lets buyers know the inside has been maintained, too.

Create ambiance

Once potential buyers step inside, give them a personal, emotional connection to the house. Remember to address all five senses:

  • Sight. Use flattering lighting throughout the house to brighten dark corners and create playful shadows. This includes canned lighting, floor and table lamps, hanging pendants, and under-counter spot lights.
  • Smell. Create a very subtle, pleasant scent throughout the house by lighting scented candles or plugging in an aromatherapy diffuser. Citrus, vanilla, and lavender are perfect choices. Make sure the smell is subtle, not overbearing.
  • Touch. Incorporate texture through textiles that entice touching, which promotes a personal connection to a space.
  • Sound. Turn on quiet music, hang wind chimes, or install a water feature to relax anyone touring the house.
  • Taste. It never hurts to have some cookies or a candy bowl ready! Also be sure to offer chilled bottled water.

By appeasing the five senses, you’re sure to help potential buyers connect to the house.

Embrace floor space

If there’s one thing every buyer is looking for, it’s square footage. Play up every inch of it for them!

To make the house feel spacious, put breathing room around monochromatic furniture, and hang mirrors to reflect windows and room openings. Hang drapes high (or don’t use them at all), place large artwork on the walls, and lay down oversized area rugs.

Choose furniture raised up on legs to create a sense of lightness, and use decorative knickknacks sparingly to increase surface space. Create a distant focal point, such as a plant at the top of the stairs or a beautiful pendant light at the end of a hallway.

Emphasize architectural details

Even if your house flip includes some quirky architectural details, it’s best to show them off rather than try to hide them. After all, a house’s personality is part of its charm.

For example, if there’s seemingly wasted space underneath a staircase, turn it into a reading nook. If there’s a giant fireplace, dress up the mantle and arrange furniture around it. Built-ins have a special place in everyone’s heart, so if your house has them, definitely show them off!

Play up a lifestyle

Remember, you’re not just selling a house, you’re selling a lifestyle. This means you shouldn’t forget to dress up the outside areas, such as the patio and backyard. If you want your buyers to feel at home, set up an outdoor dining scene, arrange lounge chairs around the pool, or hang a rope swing.

By showing buyers the kind of life they could be enjoying, you’re showing them it’s worth paying to get it.



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Report: High Rents Worsening Homelessness

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 9:59am

High rents are worsening homelessness in major cities across the country, especially where homelessness is already at dire levels, according to a recent analysis by Zillow. Analysts estimated resulting homeless populations given a 5 percent rise in rent in 24 metropolitan areas, forecasting critical outcomes in Los Angeles and New York, where thousands more would be pushed into homelessness.

The trend is being fueled primarily by the gap between incomes and rents, which have soared to historical highs in recent years, leaving many households with hardly any cushion for financial blows such as a medical emergency or job loss—events that can trigger homelessness. Low-income households are most vulnerable, says Dr. Skylar Olsen, senior economist at Zillow.

“We’ve seen so much pressure in rental housing markets that it’s created a rental affordability crisis that has spilled over into a homelessness crisis at lower income levels,” Dr. Olsen says. “Often, the rental demand in these markets isn’t being met with a sufficient supply. There are several cities grappling with this problem, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution for everyone. This report puts a number on the link between rising rents and homelessness, highlighting the very real human impact that rent increases are having across the country.”

The analysis arrived at higher homeless populations from what is generally reported due to the fact homelessness is often measured inaccurately in “one night” studies. Its homeless population projections are the first of its kind, according to Zillow.


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10 Things All Landlords Should Remember To Ensure Good Tenant Relations

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 8:01am

Portrait of a two male hands doing handshake over gray background

Investing in rental property can be highly rewarding if successful, as it can help build your net worth and make a profit by generating a steady monthly income. This type of investment takes work, however, with landlords having to worry not only about finding the right property but also about maintaining it, making it attractive for potential tenants and finding suitable and trustworthy renters.

All experienced landlords have their share of tenant horror stories, ranging from dealing with unruly renters to facing significant property damage, but with a proper screening process in place, most problems can be avoided. Establishing a professional, positive relationship between landlord and tenant can help the former obtain a solid return on investment and the latter achieve a higher quality of life. Below, 10 real estate experts with Forbes Real Estate Council share some of the most important things any landlord should remember to improve their tenant relations.

1. Over-Communication

Keeping good lines of communication open can solve many landlord/tenant problems. Make sure tenants understand why things are happening, and give good advance notice for anything disruptive. – Jeremy Brandt,

2. Tenants Are People, Too

The opportunity to serve others comes with a variety of faces. As a landlord, the ability to engage with tenants as stakeholders brings conscious leadership to our everyday interactions. Home is where the heart is, and supporting people as they create a home is a gift. Realizing you are part of impacting the social/emotional environment for others, brings a humanitarian vibe to a traditional role. – Susan Leger Ferraro, Peace, Love, Happiness Real Estate

3. Boundaries And Limitations

As our investment platform scaled nationally, we noted the variation of landlord-tenant laws as some geographic regions favored landlords disproportionately. We found it essential to understand the legislative dynamics of the community by partnering with local experts to mitigate our liability and legal exposure. – André Bueno, The BM Group

4. Being Approachable

Many tenants are afraid to contact their landlord about issues. From landlords, I hear that tenants don’t tell them about repairs until they are really bad. From tenants, I hear they don’t want to call because they don’t want to bother the landlord or are afraid. Be approachable. Be supportive of you tenants. One way we can help landlords have better tenants is teach tenants about maintenance. – Michelle Ames, HorsePower Realty/Realty Executives Metroplex

5. Trust Is The Key To A Better Relationship

My company was born from my own awful renting experience when I was pitted against other potential tenants in a bidding war. Even worse than the high monthly rent, I ended up with was the poor relationship with the landlord that ensued. Renters who have a poor experience leasing their home are more likely to churn from their lease. Landlords should make sure they build trust in the leasing phase. – Anthemos Georgiades, Zumper

6. Better Protocol

The majority of horror stories typically boil down to one thing: horrible tenants, right? However, it is incumbent upon the landlord or property manager to have a proper, thorough and strictly held vetting process for which to qualify the people who will be occupying your investment. If you’re allowing just anyone, the nightmare began before the lease even started; you just didn’t realize it yet. – Tracy Royce, Royce of Real Estate

7. The Little Things

I’ve come to the conclusion that succeeding in real estate comes down to doing the little things on a consistent basis. The same thing goes for being a landlord. Little things such as a move-in package and holiday gift cards for tenants, responding quickly to maintenance requests and being pleasant can be the difference between a tenant that will want to stay and pay and one that won’t. – Engelo Rumora, List’n Sell Realty

8. Careful Lease Review Before Signing

Many people sign documents without thoroughly reading them. Although it is not your job to hold your tenant’s hand through committing to the terms you have laid out, if you take the time, in the beginning, to make sure they understand and are willing to comply with all the terms, there will be fewer surprises later on and less chance of conflict. – Hillary Hobson, Highest Cash Offer

9. Tenants Are Clients

Every landlord should remind themselves that tenants are their clients. They’re also trusting those clients with a very valuable asset. It’s best to be respectful, communicate openly and professionally and take care of tenants so they take care of the rental property. A landlord’s behavior influences the tenants’ behavior. – Dave Zirnhelt, Snap Up Real Estate

Forbes Real Estate Council is an invitation-only community for executives in the real estate industry. Do I qualify?

10. Having A Property Manager

I own a property management company that collects rent, handles tenant requests/repairs, takes care of everything from A-Z. Take the stress off your shoulders as the landlord and let a professional handle the “dirty” work for you. Let us be the “bad” guy, while you vacation in the Bahamas with friends. The less you interact with your tenant, the better your relationship will be with them. – Angela Yaun, Day Realty Group


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7 Useful Real Estate Investment Tips

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 10:18am

Are you interested in investing in real estate or are simply looking for a few helpful tips to improve your game? If the market’s right, investing in real estate can quickly earn you a high return. Even if you’re not a realtor, you can still invest in the market.

In fact, we spoke with one car accident lawyer in Surrey who recently made over ten thousand dollars in real estate investment just on the side! So how do you get this kind of success?

Here are a few real estate investment tips to get you started.

What Are Your Financial Goals?

To start off, you need to review your financial goals and your financial standing. What are you trying to accomplish by getting into the world of real estate? It’s a business that thrives on high risk, high reward. Are you sure this is the form of investment that will get you to your goals?

While there is a lot of money in real estate, it’s definitely not a place to “get rich quick” and a bad market can quickly ruin your assets. Once you have some clear goals in mind, it’s time to start small and work towards them step by step.

Check Your Credit Report

How solid is your credit report? If you plan on investing in real estate, it’s likely that you’re going to need to get a big loan from a bank. If you’re not bringing a good credit score to the table it’s unlikely you’ll be able to secure that $35,000 loan you need to flip a property. To do a quick check-up on your credit report, use the website Credit Karma. It’s a free service that updates your score on a weekly basis without doing any damage to it. Credit Karma will even provide you with a breakdown of your score and information on how to improve it.

Pay Attention to Location

Location is obviously a large factor in choosing where your property is going to be. Typically, you want to find the best area you can. By finding the best area, you’re able to avoid taking any sales damage due to factors such as proximity to a school, high crime rates, and the friendliness of the neighborhood.

However, you do want to buy the worst house in the best area. The reason being is that by improving real estate you’ll drastically be able to improve the value of the property up to the level of the current neighborhood.

Know Your Tax Benefits

You’re running a business when you invest in real estate, so there’s a lot of tax related benefits out there which save you a lot of dough. The federal government loves when people improve real estate and they’ll reward you for it. The first big break you’ll receive is a depreciation write-off. This write-off allows you to factor in the real estates depreciation in next year’s taxes.

There are a number of great write offs like this, so make sure you get a good tax advisor. This advisor will guide you through all the bits and bobs of tax law to save you as much money as possible on your investment.

The One Percent Rule

If you’re unfamiliar with the one percent rule, then you’re about to thank me. It’s perhaps the most important rule to know for real estate. The rule is simple: when you rent out your property, you need to make 1% of the cost of your investment back each month. Follow this rule when you price out your property in order to earn back your money in a timely fashion.

Get To Know Other Investors

Making connections in your new field is vital. It allows you to gain knowledge about the industry that you may not have had otherwise. By getting close to investors, you can learn from people who have a lot more experience than you on the do’s and don’ts of the industry.

To meet other investors, head to conferences and local networking events. You can find out about these through your local business bureaus and social media networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook.

Read, Read, Read

Finally, read good books often. Read up on brilliant investors like Warren Buffett, read the old stuff so you know where the industry has been, and dig into new books so you can see where the industry is headed. By reading often you’ll always stay sharp and ready for your next investment.

Investing in real estate is a great way to make an income, but it’s a long process that takes work. Using these tips you’ll be able to hit the ground running and make your financial dreams viable.


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All in the Family: Multigenerational Living Makes a Comeback

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 10:15am

It was the cycle that defined American life for decades. People got married, bought a house, and started a family. The kids grew up, left the nest, and didn’t come back. The empty nesters then downsized to a smaller place to enjoy their golden years. Their kids eventually started families of their own and bought their own homes. And so it went. Instead of the circle of life within a household, it was more like a straight line.

But in recent years, the line has begun curving again. This entrenched societal pattern is becoming upended in favor of a mode of living that harks back to an earlier era.

Fueled by economic and cultural factors, a growing number of people are moving back in with their folks or opening their homes to their aged parents. It’s a large-scale change making its impact felt in all corners of the real estate market—and American life itself.

Nearly 1 in 5 Americans is now living in a multigenerational household—a household with two or more adult generations, or grandparents living with grandchildren—a level that hasn’t been seen in the U.S. since 1950. About 60.6 million adults, or 19% of the population, were residing with their family in 2014, according to the Pew Research Center’s analysis of census data, up from 57 million in 2012.

Rising home prices, staggering child care expenses, college debt, longer life expectancies, and the growth of ethnic communities in which extended families traditionally live together are all fueling this shift. And as people become accustomed to this style of living, it’s altering the way they buy and build their homes, and how they plan for the future.

Modern homes built for many generations

With buyers seeking homes and renovations to suit multi generational lifestyles, builders and developers are responding to meet the demand—and a lucrative new market.

While cottages, casitas, and apartments over garages are still part of the picture, so are fully decked-out homes with ample square footage and a separate wing for the extended family. Many of these homes have modern amenities such as dual thermostat controls so the whole family doesn’t have to swelter when Grandma catches a chill.

Tracy Elkins, 39, lives with her husband, their three kids, her mother, and three dogs in one of the Next Gen line of homes from Lennar, the nation’s second-largest homebuilder. In their open and airy 6,100-square-foot home, the in-law suite is no afterthought: It has a separate living room, kitchenette, bedroom, bathroom, laundry, and private garage with a separate entrance. Lennar describes it as “a home within a home.”

The Elkins decided to partner with Tracy’s mother to buy the Thornton, CO, home in August 2016, when the Elkins’ landlord decided to sell their rental home. Tracy’s 63-year-old mom was retired, and the purchase seemed like a logical move.

“Even I have to admit I was a little scared,” Elkins says. “You come to a point where living with your parents is not an easy option. It wasn’t something we had to do, but it worked out really well.”

“As home prices increase, more families tend to opt for living together,” says Valerie Sheets, a Lennar spokesperson. “Everyone is looking for the perfect home for any number of family situations, such as families who opt to take care of aging parents or grandparents at home, or millennials looking to live with their parents while they attend school or save for a down payment.”

Lennar, which builds homes in 19 states, is offering Next Gen homes in 36 key markets. The blueprints vary by market, but they generally offer the main home and an adjacent unit with private living room, bedroom, bath, laundry, and garage.

“It has great benefits. There are some people who can’t live with aging parents in a traditional setup,” Elkins says. “If it wasn’t for this home, I probably wouldn’t want to live with my mother either.”

Learning to love the extended family

Economics might have forced the issue, but people now are rediscovering the advantages of this way of life, according to Donna Butts, executive director of Generations United, a family research nonprofit and advocacy group. The Great Recession drove a lot of young-adult “boomerang children” back to their parents’ homes when they couldn’t find a job.

“People came together by necessity, and they stayed together by choice,” says Butts. “In many other countries, it’s just a way of life. It helps strengthen the family.”

The percentage of people residing in multigenerational homes peaked around 1950, when 21% of households had such an arrangement. But in raw numbers it amounted to only 32.2 million people—a far cry from today’s 60 million-plus.

Data suggest that multigenerational living is more prevalent among Asian (28%), Hispanic (25%),  and African-American (25%) families, while U.S. whites have fewer multigenerational homes (15%).

Continued demographic shifts in the U.S. mean this trend isn’t going anywhere but up. In Asia and Latin America, multigenerational living is widely accepted. For example, an estimated 30% of urban Indian families and 60% of rural Indian families live in multigenerational households, according to a report by the International Longevity Centre Global Alliance. In the U.S., immigrants from those areas are more likely to live in multigenerational households.

Even immigrants who don’t have relatives living with them full time might need to accommodate long visits from them. Kyung Hae Karen Park sees this among her Korean and Chinese clients, who’ll plunk down a few million on a desirable dwelling.

Park, a real estate agent in New Jersey, caters to luxury buyers with budgets in the seven-figure range. Her clients often have in-laws who will visit for six months at a time from Asia to dote on their grandchildren. Considering where these relatives will stay while they’re in the U.S. is a key purchasing decision for Park’s deep-pocketed clients. Park says private first-floor suites and extra laundry rooms are especially critical to these buyers.

“Asians tend to be more attached to their grandparents and grandchildren,” Park says. “With a house purchase, they always think about their extended family.”

Diversity demands in Houston

Houston-based custom homebuilder Partners in Building sees an expanded definition of what it means to be multigenerational in the sprawling cities of Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and Nashville. Company President and CEO Jim Lemming says he’s seen siblings and other family members buy a house together. It’s increasingly expected that they will help each other out.

“We live in a very diverse area,” Lemming says. “With that comes different aspects of multigenerational living.”

Lemming says he has seen increased interest in these types of homes among South Asian and East Asian buyers. His estimates say multigenerational homes account for as much as 30% of his company’s business.

Multiple kitchens, separate entrances, and more than one master suite are the norm in these dwellings that are priced for close to a million dollars. Lemming also sees demand for amenities that cater to the needs of older people, including elevators and bathrooms with grab bars, taller commodes, and wider doors for wheelchairs or walkers.

Zoning restrictions pose a challenge

Living with extended family members might require some adjustment in how you plan your home—and your future. As builder Mark Patterson points out, a big home meant to accommodate elderly parents might feel too big once they’re gone.

“Your parents are with you for five or 10 years. Then what?” asks Patterson, co-owner of PATCO Construction, which builds custom homes in Maine and New Hampshire.

Years ago, the norm was to put an apartment over a garage, but that might not be a long-term solution for a graying housemate.

“That works well until about 80, but after that, they are having challenges with their stairs,” Patterson says.

One solution is to create a house whose spaces can be adapted over time, he says. However, zoning regulations can be a challenge, he says. Some communities will allow a flexible floor plan, but rules governing the specifics of the finished product can be strict.

Across the nation, there’s a patchwork of local zoning restrictions on granny flats and other accessory dwellings. Some locales are fine with separate wings, but other places draw the line at a stove in an in-law suite. But California, home to some of the country’s most in-demand and expensive markets, passed a pair of laws this year that eased restrictions on building a second unit on a piece of land—a move that could usher in change elsewhere.

Secrets of success in multigenerational living

It’s also helpful to plan out how all these relatives across different generations can cohabit successfully.

Jessica Bruno, 44, has been blogging about her nine years living with four generations under one roof at They all live in her childhood home in a small town about 45 minutes outside of Boston. The home was originally 1,600 square feet, but they expanded it to 6,200 square feet to accommodate more family members.

She says her key to success is a firm set of boundaries before anybody moves in. Agree on how bills are split, groceries are paid for, and who is allowed to eat your food. Lots of fridges and separate TV rooms are big.

“Having your own TV room is pretty important, so you don’t have to go watch ‘Bonanza’ with your grandparents,” Bruno said. “It’s kind of a time warp around here.”



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Should I Stay Or Should I Go? How Renters Decide to Renew Leases

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 9:55am

More apartment renters nationwide are choosing to renew their leases when they expire, rather than move out. That trend has been growing for more than five years.

The question is where are renters more likely to stay in place?

About 51% of apartment renters chose to stay at their current home during the past 12 months, according to research by RealPage, the parent company of Axiometrics, meaning that roughly 49 out of 100 renters chose to move out rather than renew. Retention percentages at the metro level, however, vary dramatically depending on a given metro’s economic indicators.

RealPage examined more than 2.6 million actual apartment lease transactions over the past year and ranked the top 50 metros by their renewal conversion rate. The top 10 and bottom 10 were grouped together to visualize how they relate to other indicators.


The top and bottom 10 metros for apartment retention.

At first glance, a few conclusions can immediately be drawn from the market clusters above. For example, geography. With the exception of Greensboro/Winston-Salem, the highest resident retention markets are in the Midwest and Northeast. Conversely, the highest turnover markets are located in the West and South regions, indicating higher renter mobility.

Some of the primary drivers of renter mobility are strongly linked with employment growth, median age and elevated new apartment supply.

Employment growth tends to be a strong predictor of resident retention. Intuitively this makes sense. People want to live near where they work. And areas with robust employment opportunities see a higher degree of mobility. In fact, over the past two years, markets reporting the lowest resident retention averaged cumulative net job growth of nearly 6.0%. On the flip side, turnover tends to be less prominent in metros where the jobs aren’t as plentiful. High retention markets averaged about 1.7% net employment growth over the last two years. Residents in these markets tend to stay put longer.


Renters tend to be more mobile in low job-growth metros.

A metro’s median age also correlates with the resident retention rate. Simply put, mobility tends to decrease with age. This makes sense intuitively, all else being equal. High turnover markets have an inherently younger renter base and higher degree of mobility. The transient life stage of younger people make them less likely to have children and more likely to switch jobs.

Renter mobility is clearly evident when looking at the metros’ median age. Cities with the highest retention also tended to have an older median age than those where residents were likely to move out. In fact, five of the 10 low-turnover metros reported median ages of 40 or older. Meanwhile, none of the cities with high turnover reported a median age above 38. The one exception was Tampa, which has one of the highest median ages nationally (43 years old). Salt Lake City was an outlier in the other direction, reporting one of the nation’s youngest median ages, 29.6.


Cities with a lower median population age tend to have lower retention rates.

Supply growth is the final angle in the retention triad. Apartment inventory growth tends to correlate highly with a market’s level of renter turnover. Conceptually, it makes sense. As new apartments open up, renters have more choices of places to live. This creates a more competitive leasing environment. Many of the high-turnover markets have also been development leaders since the current cycle began in 2010.

This inverse relationship between retention and development is especially pronounced when looking at submarkets where a bulk of the new supply in those high-development metros is being delivered. In fact, Charlotte’s Uptown/South End, Far Northwest San Antonio and Downtown Denver have all experienced some of the strongest inventory growth nationally. Combined, these three submarkets recorded resident retention of just 41% during the past year. That means only about four of 10 residents in those submarkets renewed their lease upon expiration. By comparison, the average retention rate is 60% or higher in low-development markets overall.


Renters tend to move more when lots of new supply comes to market.


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5 Things That May Differ When Renting to College Students

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 9:50am

Renting to college students can be a bit different from renting to non-college student tenants. While many of the rental aspects will stay the same, it’s good to know what kinds of things may be dissimilar so you can prepare in your dealings with your student renters.

Here are some things that may be different when renting a property to college students.

Leasing term. When renting to college students, it’s smart to keep in mind their tendency to go home during the summer — which means they’ll either want to rent a property for nine months or possibly get a subtenant to take over their lease for the time they’ll be home.

While you do not have to cater to their desire for a nine-month lease, you will want to be very clear when they sign the lease agreement that the duration of the lease is for 12 months, meaning they are still expected to pay the rent throughout the summer, even if they are not going to be living there.

If you would be amenable to them finding a subtenant and having them live in the rental property during the summer months, make sure the detailsof how they’d go about getting them on the lease and taking care of that on the up-and-up are readily available.

Co-signer. When you have college students as renters, you can and should require a co-signer or guarantor, which will usually be the student’s parent, to be listed on the rental agreement. This will offer you added security since many students have not really established a qualifying credit score or history.

Even if the student has enough of a credit and work history to be able to sign the rental lease on their own, you should still consider having them get a co-signer on their lease so you’re extra protected, which is something you wouldn’t necessarily do with a non-college student renter.

Clauses. Before renting to college students, you may want to throw a few key clauses into the lease agreement that you probably would not make other tenants agree to. Firstly, a “no party” clause can help protect you from excessive damages as your renters will not be allowed to have more than a certain number of people in their home. Make sure your college student renters understand what the “no party” clause entails, what the consequences are if they do throw a party, and that by signing the lease, they are legally agreeing to follow that clause.

Additionally, putting a joint lease clause into the rental agreement may be beneficial as well. This way, if one roommate decides to cut out on the lease early, each student roommate living there is still responsible for the full terms of the lease — meaning they are still accountable for paying that missing roommate’s share of the rent. This kind of equal share/one-for-all clause will force the college student renters to police each other and themselves so you don’t have to worry about being cheated on the rent or dealing with their drama.

Security deposit. For college student renters, you may want to consider charging a higher security deposit. Students living in a place of their own, especially for the first time, may be hard on your property — between spilled drinks, scuff marks, accidental holes, etc. — so it’s better to have them pay a bigger security deposit in the beginning than have to come after them for more money if need be.

Protect your rental house or apartment by making sure their security deposit will cover any damages they may cause that you will eventually have to fix — this way, it’ll be easier for you in the long run.

Expectations. For the most part, student renters are not all that fussy and do not have high expectations from property managers. The basic expectations that they’ll have are that you’re responsive to their problems, you’re available when they have questions or issues, you communicate any pertinent information to them in a timely manner, and you do a good job maintaining the property.

These expectations are probably not so different than those of non-student renters, with the exception that students may be more expectant of their problems being fixed quickly and you being available and responsive right when they contact you. Once the student renters have signed a lease with you, make sure you let them know what the best way to contact you is and promise to always respond within 24 hours.

Generally speaking, when renting to college students, you won’t encounter that many things that are different than when you rent to other people. However, keeping in mind the above differences and planning your dealings with student renters accordingly can save you hassle in the long run and make your relationships with college tenants go smoother and better for both of you.



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The 9 U.S. zip codes with the highest real estate returns

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 9:41am

Homeowners and real estate investors alike share at least one goal: to see their properties appreciate in value.

Yet the run-up in the U.S. housing market in some parts of the country has raised concerns about valuations and whether it still makes sense to buy, said Steve Hovland, director of research for HomeUnion, a real estate investment management firm. The U.S. economy is also in its eighth year of economic expansion, the third-longest expansion in the country’s history. That’s prompting questions about whether a pullback is on the horizon.

Singling out locations that provide strong investment returns as well as low risk may help mitigate the chances of losing money on a property. The company used school ratings as one way to measure risk since communities with strong school systems generally keep their appeal even in weaker economic periods.

“A lot of people are worried the market is too hot and whether it’s a good time to buy property,” Hovland said. “When you buy an investment property, your hold period should be about five years, so most people are looking at the possibility you might have to hold during a recession.”

Some of the areas identified by HomeUnion are “hot” real estate markets around the nation that have already seen significant property appreciation, while others are located in rust-belt states where housing prices aren’t as rich.

Yet the communities share one trait: They are where the upper-middle-class tend to live. The home values in the zip codes are generally higher than in their greater metropolitan areas, which means not every investor or homebuyer will be able to snap up property within their borders. But looking for a fixer-upper in these communities could be a smart strategy, Hovland said.

“Buying the worst house in the block in a very nice neighborhood will always be beneficial to the homeowner,” he added.

9. Forestville/Cherry Grove, Ohio: 5.9 percent

Forestville/Cherry Grove, or zip code 45255, is a suburb of Cincinnati, not exactly one of the country’s hot property markets. Yet the neighborhood has an annualized total return of 5.9 percent, while the schools rate in the 75th percentile for school quality, according to data company Maponics.

The median home value in the Forestville/Cherry Grove zip code is $194,600, according to Zillow. That’s actually slightly lower than the median national home value of about $200,000, yet more than 50 percent higher than the typical home value in Cincinnati.

Current for-sale properties range from million-dollar homes with views of the Ohio River to more modest split-level properties.

8. Des Plaines, Illinois: 6 percent
  • Des Plaines, Illinois — or zip code 60016 — is a suburb of Chicago where the annualized total return is 6 percent, according to HomeUnion. Schools earn a score of 76.4. Des Plaines may be known to some as the first franchised McDonald’s restaurant.

    Median home values in the neighborhood is $246,200, or above the typical national home value of about $200,000. Current properties range from single-family homes priced above $500,000 to townhouses that are in the mid-$200,000 range.

7. Overland Park, Kansas: 6.2 percent

This Kansas City suburb — whose zip code is 66223 — sports an annualized total return of 6.2 percent, while schools have a score of 97.4.

The town is known for its local farmer’s market and a botanical gardens that’s “like a fairytale,” according to Movoto. The median home value in the town is $262,500, or well above the national median home value.

6. Fairview, Tennessee: 6.5 percent

This Nashville suburb, zip code 37062, has an annualized total return of 6.5 percent and a school rating of 70.6, HomeUnion said.

The median home value is $243,400, or above the national median home value of $200,000. Properties range from million-dollar estates to more modest colonial-style homes.

5. Weston, Florida: 6.6 percent

Zip code 33327 is Weston, a suburb of Fort Lauderdale, which boasts a median home value of $412,600, or more than twice the national median home value.

The annualized total return in Weston is 6.6 percent, while schools have a rating of 70.5. The city was recently named as one of the best places to live by Money magazine, which cited its bike lanes, parkland and easy commutes to Miami and Fort Lauderdale as attractions.

For-sale homes range from an $8.5 million waterfront estate to more modest properties listed for under $500,000.

4. Palmetto Bay, Florida: 6.8 percent

This Miami-area zip code (33158) has a median home value of $531,000, while HomeUnion estimates the annualized total return at 6.8 percent. Schools have a score of 83.9.

Properties range from multi-million dollar waterfront estates to more affordable homes located farther from Biscayne Bay.

3. West Bloomfield Township, Michigan: 6.9 percent

Detroit has been in the news because of the city’s financial distress, but the suburb of West Bloomfield Township has been named as one of the best places to live within Michigan.

The annualized total return of zip code 48322 is 6.9 percent, while schools have a score of 74.4. The median home value in the township stands at $288,200, according to Zillow, while properties range from multi-million dollar estates to homes below $200,000.

2. Gladwyne, Pennsylvania: 6.9 percent

The Philadelphia suburb — zip code 19035 — has an annualized total return of 6.9 percent and school rating of 86.9, according to HomeUnion. This Main Line community is valued for its open space and “rural-village feel,” according to

Buying property in Gladwyne isn’t cheap, however. The median home value stands at $916,300, according to Zilllow.

1. Hamptons at Boca Raton, Florida: 8.1 percent

Zip code 33434 is a West Palm Beach suburb with an annualized total return of 8.1 percent and a school rating of 87.9, HomeUnion said.

Median home values in Boca Raton stand at $318,900, according to Zillow. While some waterfront properties fetch multi-million price tags, there are also for-sale properties in more modest price ranges.


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How Providing Online Services Can Benefit Your Portfolio

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 9:30am

For years, many multifamily portfolio owners and managers with small portfolios have gotten by without providing online services for residents. But as online portals have become more common, they have also become less expensive and much easier to customize for any given portfolio. Because of this, residents expect this when searching for an apartment. They no longer view the ability to complete tasks online as a bonus, but rather as a given.


The ability to pay rent online is key. And, according to Ray Szabo, a residential and commercial property manager with Santa Barbara Real Estate & Investment, providing this service is beneficial to landlords. “Having an online payment system eliminates the opportunity for a myriad of excuses that residents have for why they weren’t able to pay their rent on time, such as issues with the mail, running out of checks and so on,” he said. “It’s much more convenient from a landlord’s perspective to know that you will get paid on time.”

More often than not, residents prefer making their payments online as well. “It’s a lot safer and more convenient for residents to pay online; they don’t have to worry about their information being lost in the mail, and they can still quickly and easily make the payment if they are out of town,” Szabo said.

There are many different online payment services that can provide extra convenience, such as recurring payments, SMS payments, automatic reminders, access to payment history and emailed receipts. Some programs also let you decide who pays the transaction fee, with the choice of splitting the fee between the landlord and resident.


The cost of online programs varies based on what type of services you choose, but they have become increasingly affordable for multifamily portfolio owners and managers of all sizes. “There are some pretty simple programs like PayPal that are reliable for rent payments, or there are more complex programs that provide a number of different services,” Szabo said.

Aside from rent payments, other services can be streamlined online as well, such as resident applications, approvals/denials, maintenance request submissions and copies of leases. Residents like to have as much knowledge at their fingertips as possible, so the more you can provide them, the more value they typically see.


There can be downsides, however, to removing the interaction between residents and landlords. An issue that often comes up among renters is that they feel their maintenance requests aren’t being handled as quickly when submitted online. “Usually small repairs are fine to submit online, but in cases where there are pressing, time-sensitive issues, it’s typically better to get on the phone or even text message so you can ensure that someone is on top of it,” said Szabo.

The number of smart phone users across the globe is astronomical, and property owners and managers might consider providing an app. However, according to Szabo, this isn’t always necessary. “It doesn’t make much of a difference whether it’s an app or a website, as long as the residents are able to open the site and navigate it with ease from their phone.”


How do you start implementing these changes at your community? Start small, and then take it from there.

“There are tons of different options out there that can be tailored to your specific needs, just make sure the program you choose is thoroughly tested and provides value to you and your residents. Not every service needs to be moved online,” Szabo said. “The mere ability to pay rent on the computer or smart phone is a big plus in and of itself.”



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The 5 Most Common Reasons Tenants Leave Your Rentals

Tue, 08/01/2017 - 7:57am

Why are renters leaving your units? What can you do about it?

Tenants are on the move. What are the most common reasons they may leave your rentals? How can landlords prevent these moves to keep good tenants, maintain consistent cash flow, and maximize cash flow?

The 5 Most Common Reasons Tenants Leave Your Rentals 1. They want to move somewhere cheaper.

Housing costs, especially rents, have been rising for the last five years. Some are just at the point where it makes sense to move somewhere cheaper where renters can get a lot more for their money. It could be that local rents have just gotten too high—or maybe your rents, in particular, are too high.

Market rents change over time. Be sure you stay tuned into local trends, even when you aren’t actively looking for tenants. If neighboring properties are leasing for 30% less than yours, that could become an issue. Price your properties right. Invest in stable and upcoming locations with more room for growth.

2. They’re afraid of changes in the rental situation.

Sometimes tenants leave just because they are afraid. They may be afraid of how much they think you are going to raise the rent when it comes time to renew. They could be afraid you are going to evict them because they’ve fallen a few days behind on rent a couple times. Or it could be that a tough new property manager you’ve brought in is causing panic in the renters.

Set clear expectations. Get feedback from loyal, long-term renters you trust when you bring in new management, connect with them about renewing leases early, and maintain property upkeep to show tenants you’re a caring landlord, not a slumlord.

3. They need more space.

Between a growing number of multigenerational households and Millennials’ growing families, many simply need more space today. A lot of people jumped on the minimalist lifestyle after 2008, but now, years later, they are tired of living so tightly and cramped. In fact, a survey shows that this is driving far more Millennials and Boomers to choose single family homes in the suburbs over homes in dense urban centers or condos.

4. They want to buy a home.

With rents more expensive than mortgage costs in many areas, interest rates low, and credit scores recovering, many are making the leap to buy homes while it is still so attractive. If you can’t stop it, make the best of it. Ensure a good exit service. Return deposits and ask for a review on the spot. Still, if you can, get them to buy their home from you.

5. They don’t like the neighbors.

No one likes scary or abusive neighbors—and they are out there. This is something to keep in mind when searching and screening rental properties. It is also important to keep lines of communication open and to listen to these complaints. If there are problem tenants in your own neighboring units, you probably won’t renew their leases. If they belong to another landlord, you may want to preempt issues by contacting the other landlord.


There are a number of reasons good tenants can leave, even if they like the units they are in. Smart landlords will get out in front of these issues and find ways to keep those tenants in their property to avoid turnover costs.

What are the most common reasons tenants leave your rentals? How do you minimize the effects of those reasons?

Leave your comments below!



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Kingsley: Renewal Intent Rises Again, Rental Rates Hold Less Sway Over Renewal Decisions

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 10:59pm

Over the past two and a half years, overall multifamily resident satisfaction has remained continuously steady, with overall satisfaction scores ranging from 76.6% to 76.8% over the past 10 quarters, notes research firm Kingsley Associates in its quarterly report. This past quarter, the percentage of residents satisfied comes in at the top of that range, with 76.8% indicating their overall satisfaction is “good” or “excellent.”

Delving down to the market level, overall resident satisfaction is constant among large metro areas compared with a year ago. The largest increase in satisfaction transpired in Denver, with 1.8% more residents reporting they’re satisfied with their experience than in Q2 2016. While the overall satisfaction rate for Denver throughout all of 2016 was lower than during the previous year, this year has proved different, with satisfaction scores so far topping those of 2016.

Increases in Renewal Intent and Value for Amount Paid

In the first quarter of 2017, the upward trend of national renewal intent halted after three quarters of significant increases. During this past quarter, however, the positive trend returned with a jump of 1.0% from Q1, bringing the national renewal intent to a three-year high of 54.0%.

This trend goes hand-in-hand with the increasing number of residents who are satisfied with the value they receive from their apartment for the amount they pay. After almost two years of decreasing satisfaction in the value for amount paid, a turning point occurred in the second half of 2015. Since then, an upward trend has developed (see chart, “Value for Amount Paid,” above). However, as with renewal intent, there was an interruption in the satisfaction-with-value trend during the first quarter of this year. The second quarter of 2017, however, saw the restoration of the upward trend, with a gain of 0.3%, resulting in 55.0% of residents being satisfied with their value for amount paid.

Given the current multifamily market, notes Kingsley, it’s not surprising that both renewal intent and value for amount paid increased overall for renters in Q2 2017. By the end of the year, it is expected that just under 400,000 new units will have come to market, which is 38.3% more than were delivered in 2016.

The demand for apartments can’t keep up with the new supply, which is pushing the vacancy rate higher. The national vacancy rate already increased from 4.3% in Q1 to 4.4% in Q2, and 222,000 new units are still expected to be delivered to market before the end of the year. With the oversupply, specifically of Class A buildings, which are at a seven-year construction high, apartment owners and managers are being pressured to keep rents low and competitive to entice prospects to lease and residents to renew.

With lower prices, renters are becoming more satisfied with the value for amount paid to rent an apartment than if they were to purchase a house. With the low inventory of resale houses, the limited supply of new homes in affordable brackets, and home prices reaching a 31-month high at the start of this year, homeownership has become less the norm, especially for the millennial generation.

The limitations on purchasing a home in the current market, coupled with lower rents from oversupply, have created a heightened desire among residents to renew their leases and extend their time at their rental units.

Market Trends Follow National Trends

This quarter’s market trend data support the national renewal-intent and value-for-amount-paid trends. When looking at renewal intent by market, only two metro areas experienced a decrease in renewal intent compared with last year, while six of the markets saw an increase of more than 1.0%. Renewal intent dropped in Miami and San Francisco, by 3.2% and 0.4%, respectively. Meanwhile, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta had the largest growth in renewal intent, by 7.6% and 3.5%, respectively.

Many markets also saw increases in value for amount paid, with Denver, Miami, New York, and Washington, D.C., all increasing by more than 3.5% from last year (see chart, “Value for Amount Paid by Market,” above).

This is the first significant increase in value for amount paid for New York over the past 12 months. New York tops the list as both the metro with the most demand for apartments in Q2 2017 and the metro with the most new units to be delivered this year, at 28,158 new units. In comparison, the largest drop in value for amount paid happened in San Francisco, with a decrease of 3.4% from last year. San Francisco failed to make the list of the top 15 markets for demand this past quarter and came in at No. 22 for new units to be delivered this year, with only 4,587 units.

Rental Rate Becomes Less Influential on Renewal Decisions

The changes in renewal decision-making factors also reinforce the national trends seen this past quarter due to lower rent prices, reports Kingsley. In the past year, the importance of rental rate as a renewal decision factor declined by 2.2%, dropping from 56.4% in 2016 to 52.2% so far this year.

Over the past year, rental rate has been the top decision-making factor, followed by location as a close second. But in Q2 2017, location ranked as the top renewal decision-making factor, with rental rate coming in second. For residents who are unsure or unlikely to renew, rental rate remains the top decision-making factor when it comes time to renew. However, for residents who are likely to renew, rental rate dropped to third among the most influential factors, behind location and community management.

Controllable Factors Affect Leasing Decisions

Many factors influence a renter’s community selection, Kingsley found. Location ranks first, with 91.0% of prospects listing it as important to their leasing decision. While location may not be a controllable factor, the second-ranking factor on the list, property appearance and quality (90.0%) certainly are. With only a 1.0% difference between the importance of these two factors, enhancing property appearance and quality could make a notable difference in persuading prospects to lease at a community.

Over the past five years, three additional factors have increased significantly in importance regarding leasing decisions: property staff and management, community amenities, and online ratings and reviews.

Whereas community amenities may not be easy to change, staff and management and online ratings and reviews are more easily controlled factors. Online ratings and reviews, in particular, have increased in importance by 12.0% since 2012. Currently, Google,, Yelp, and rank as the top four most-useful online ratings and reviews resources.

Looking back three years, the top four most-useful online resources were,, Zillow, and Yelp. Additionally, since 2014, the usefulness of, Facebook, and as reported by prospects has skyrocketed, by 19.0%, 18.0%, and 12.0%, respectively.



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Smaller Housing Markets Lure Individual Investors

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 10:46pm

After Andrew Bahr, a structural engineer, lost a bidding war last fall for a two-bedroom apartment in Queens, he decided he was done trying to buy real estate in New York.

“I was tired of looking around me and seeing all the home prices shooting up and I’m not getting a piece of that pie,” said Mr. Bahr, 26, who was stunned when a buyer offered $15,000 more than his $345,000 bid on the apartment in Jackson Heights.

Rather than wait for another apartment to come along, or save more money, he turned his gaze well beyond the city limits, all the way to Atlanta. On March 1, he bought a four-bedroom house there for $100,000.

In doing so, he traded in the dream of living in a home he owns for a chance to turn a profit.

A tenant lives in his Atlanta house, paying $1,050 a month — enough for Mr. Bahr to pocket $400 each month after paying his mortgage, taxes and property management fees. Mr. Bahr lives in Jackson Heights, in a studio he rents for $1,467 a month. “We live in the wrong state, we definitely do,” he said.

Mr. Bahr’s unconventional path to ownership is one that was carved in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. After millions of distressed homes flooded the market across the country, some large institutional investors, like Blackstone, began buying and transforming single-family homes — a symbol of American upward mobility — into rental properties.

While publicly traded companies like American Homes 4 Rent and Colony Starwood Homes are major players in this market, most single-family rental properties are owned by small-time investors, like Mr. Bahr. In 2015, 85 percent of the 17.5 million single-family rental properties in the United States were owned by investors with portfolios of 10 properties or fewer, with 45 percent of those houses owned by investors with only one property, according to the Housing Finance Policy Center at the Urban Institute, a research institution.

Mr. Bahr found his house through a California-based company called HomeUnion, a one-stop shop for small-time investors that helps people buy, renovate and rent properties in 11 markets around the country. HomeUnion charges an acquisition fee of 3.5 percent of the purchase price; management fees of up to 10.5 percent of the rent; and a 10 percent fee for renovations over $2,500.

In exchange, Mr. Bahr can be a landlord at arm’s length. He has never visited his property and does not know the name or occupation of the person who rents it. “Sometimes I wish I was more involved,” he said. “A big part of my savings went into that property, and I feel like I should help out, but they’re doing it all for me.”

Don Ganguly, the chief executive of HomeUnion, which started in 2014, said that most HomeUnion investors live in expensive coastal markets, like San Francisco and New York, where salaries are high but so are housing costs. Their dollars go further in smaller markets, like Indianapolis, Dallas and Orlando.

The need to look further afield for what is affordable is common for New Yorkers just searching for a place to live. Can’t afford to live in Brooklyn Heights? Give Bedford-Stuyvesant a try. If all of Brooklyn is out of your budget, welcome to New Jersey.

It turns out that aspiring investors face a similar conundrum. The mom-and-pop landlord who may have bought a rental property around the corner a decade ago now also needs to look further, and since there is no need to actually live in the home, that net can be cast far and wide.

“In many ways, it’s an extension of the search for affordability in New York,” said Jonathan J. Miller, the president of Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers & Consultants. “This becomes another leap.”

But there is a difference between moving with your family to the suburbs and buying a house that is a plane ride away and occupied by a stranger. Buying a property that you may never see changes your relationship with it. Mr. Ganguly, who was initially surprised by how few HomeUnion investors flew out to see the houses they were about to buy, compared the process to buying stocks. “They flipped the switch in their head to say, ‘It’s an asset,’” he said.

Like stocks, a house may appreciate in value over the years, while rental income offers a steady return in the short term. On HomeUnion’s website, listings include detailed projections for returns. The company estimates that, on average, investors who put down 20 percent on a property and hold it for 15 years can expect annual returns of 11 to 19 percent, a figure that includes rental income, appreciation, and increased equity.

But buying a house is hardly the same as buying stock in a company. Stocks don’t have roofs that leak or tenants who stop paying the rent — and stocks don’t come with monthly mortgage bills.

HomeUnion recommends that its investors set aside $1,000 per property in a reserve fund. However, $1,000 will not necessarily cover the cost of a boiler breaking the same month that a tenant moves out. If you lose your job or have other financial strains, you could be a paycheck away from trouble, even if your property is appreciating on paper.

“The possibility of a surprise $5,000 fee is always there,” said Callum Runcie, 42, who lives in Port Washington, N.Y., with his family and who owns three investment properties through HomeUnion. He earns about $2,000 a month on the portfolio. An air-conditioner recently broke at one of his properties, and he was waiting to hear back on the repair cost. “They said it’s kind of a big deal,” he said, referring to the property managers at HomeUnion. When a tenant moved out of one property, Mr. Runcie spent $2,000 on renovations while the home was vacant for two months.

Investing in a market that you do not know, and relying on a third party to manage the property, requires research, and trust in the company providing the information. “The biggest risk, if you’re investing in real estate, is that the house doesn’t appreciate,” said Nela Richardson, the chief economist for Redfin. “Not having local expertise is like going in blind.”

HomeUnion offers local market reports and listings that include details about local salaries, rents, and demographics. Mr. Bahr read up on Georgia tenant laws before he purchased his home to make sure that he could easily remove a difficult tenant, if necessary. And, he has relatives who live in the Atlanta area, which made him feel more confident about it.

Ultimately, Mr. Bahr sees Atlanta as a more realistic option than the market where he lives. “I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to own a home in New York, unless my salary doubles,” he said. “I’d have to wait 20 or 30 years for that to happen.”

Instead of waiting on New York, he is planning to buy a second rental property in Atlanta.


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The 10 Best Sub-Markets for Investing in Single-Family Rentals

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 8:27am

Data firms HomeUnion and Maponics had just ranked the top zip codes in the country for investment in single-family rental (SFR) homes. The firms based the rankings on five-year projected investment returns, plus the attractiveness of the local school systems, since good schools are among the top considerations for potential renters.

Sneville, Ga.

Sneville, Ga., in the Atlanta metro, boasts annualized total returns on SFR investments of 5.8 percent. Schools in the zip code are rated at 72.5.

Forestville/Cherry Grove, Ohio

Forestville/Cherry Grove, Ohio, in the Cincinnati metro, delivers returns of 5.9 percent. The area school rating is 75.7.

Des Plaines, Ill.

Annualized returns on SFR investments in Des Plaines, Ill., near Chicago, total 6.0 percent. Local schools are rated at 76.4.

Overland Park, Kan.

Overland Park, Kan., in the Kansas City metro area, offers returns of 6.2 percent and a school rating of 97.4.

Fairview, Tenn.

Fairview, Tenn., in the Nashville area, has annualized total returns of 6.5 percent. The school rating in the zip code is 70.6.

Weston, Fla.

Weston, Fla., near Fort Lauderdale, boasts returns of 6.6 percent. Schools in the area rate at 70.5.

Palmetto Bay, Fla.

Palmetto Bay, in the Miami metro, delivers SFR returns of 6.8 percent. Schools in the zip code got a rating of 83.9.

West Bloomfield Township, Mich.

West Bloomfield Township, Mich., in the Detroit area, offers investors returns of 6.9 percent and a school rating of 74.4.

Gladwyne, Penn.

In Gladwyne, Penn., in the Philadelphia area, SFR investment returns also total 6.9 percent. Schools here rate at 86.9.

Hamptons at Boca Raton, Fla.

The top sub-market for five-year SFR returns is currently Hamptons at Boca Raton, Fla., in the West Palm Beach metro. The submarket delivers returns of 8.1 percent. Local schools have a rating of 87.9.


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