American Apartment Owners Association

8 Legal Mistakes Landlords Make And How To Avoid Them

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 6:43am

Posted on Sep 21, 2017

Whether you are a first-time landlord or have been managing properties for several years, you might not know all the rules. Review the following eight mistakes landlords make to avoid a serious legal misstep:

  1. Fair Housing Act violations: The Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from discriminating against applicants by race, class, gender, disability and other variables. To avoid allegations of discrimination, screen all applicants the same way and use an application that features no discriminating questions, such as that offered by American Apartment Owners Association.
  2. Illegal lease clauses: A landlord cannot include clauses in the lease that violate state or federal laws. For instance, you cannot place a clause in the lease where tenants waive their right to sue you, their landlord. Such a clause would be illegal, and would void the whole lease were it to be included. If you’re concerned about accidentally including something illegal, then it’s wise to download a customizable lease template that has been vetted for legality.
  3. Not disclosing to renters: If someone recently died in the apartment, there was mold, or there is known lead paint in the apartment, you must disclose this information to renters.
  4. Entering apartment without giving notice: When the unit is occupied, you cannot enter whenever you want, even to make requested repairs. Provide tenants with 24-hour notice — except in cases of emergency — to avoid violating this law.
  5. Failure or refusal to make repairs: As a landlord, you are responsible for keeping an apartment habitable by providing electricity, plumbing, heating, clean water, and a sound roof and floor. While it’s your tenants’ responsibility to pay the utility bills, you must make repairs to these systems should something go wrong. If you don’t make a timely repair, renters have the right to pay for the repair and withhold that amount in rent.
  6. Mishandling security deposit: The security deposit covers accidental or purposeful damage to the premises, but it does not cover normal wear and tear. Failure to return the security deposit or mishandling of the deposit (such as using it to pay for damages within “normal wear and tear”) could land you in court.
  7. Not keeping the premises safe: As a landlord, you must keep the rental safe for tenants and inform tenants and visitors of any known hazards, such as a dangerous stairwell. If someone is injured on a known hazard, which you did not repair, you are legally liable.
  8. Not using the eviction process: If you try to evict a tenant without following the law, it will backfire.

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How Los Angeles Judges (and staff) Decide Your Case

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 3:14pm

By Nate Bernstein, Attorney at Law

LA Real Estate Law Group 

If your case or law and motion matter does not settle, you run the risk of having a judge decide the issue before the Court. This is how they do it, but first, a few words about how court chambers function in this warzone environment that has difficult working conditions.

It is important to understand that judges are overworked, and by some standards, underpaid for their long hours.  Judges are human beings, and are not paper pushing robots.  Because they see issues over and over again, they are bored with the mundane and like to hear interesting issues such as a product liability case where the air bags failed to deploy. Judges rely on their staff research attorneys a great deal to complete research and decide legal issues. The court also may have volunteer law school interns work on some matters assigned by the research attorneys. These interns work without pay, but may get law school credit in exchange for their service. The research attorneys will do extensive research, will work up the matter, and make recommendations to the judge. The judge may not have time and resources to read all or some of the papers that you file in court for a hearing. It may not be humanly possible to read 15 motions before trial starts.

You retain counsel, spend money on attorney’s fees and costs, and you come to court and the judge has not some read or read all of your papers. This is an interesting phenomenon. Some judges may be good actors, or may admit “this matter will have to be continued so I can provide further review of the briefs. I will continue the hearing and take it under submission.” Some judges are honest about not having the time to read the papers, but other judges may fudge it. Other judges have read the papers thoroughly, discussed the issues with their staff attorneys, and may have certain additional questions about the evidence or the law. Other judges are concerned about new case authority that has just come out that may impact the result in the case because the authority is on point.

Judges also rely on their courtroom deputies or calendar clerks a great deal to manage the busy court calendar. Now in superior courts, for unlimited jurisdiction cases, calendar matters are set through a computerized reservation system so courtroom deputies have to coordinate with the online system to get matters on calendar. The days of calling the courtroom deputy and reserving a law and motion hearing date are gone. It’s all done through a computer reservation system that spits out a confirmation.  Some superior courts (like Orange County) also require that documents for motions and trial be filed and uploaded online, but the downtown Los Angeles courthouse has not yet implemented that type of filing system.

In addition, judges rely a great deal on the attorneys before them for presentation of legal authorities and factual information. Attorneys are both officers of the court and advocates for their clients. When a judge asks for information or legal briefing from the attorneys, this is a great opportunity for a skilled attorney for persuade the judge on an important issue in the case. Judges may ask for a letter brief on a particular issue. For example, a judge once asked me for a short brief on whether a trustee of a private trust can appear in court without an attorney. I researched the issue and provided the judge with an answer and she appreciated my efforts.

Here are some guidelines for how judges will decide an issue before them:

  1. Judges and their staff like things to be brief, material, highly relevant, and to the point. That is why for bread and butter law and motion matters briefs should be no more than 10 pages double spaced. It is helpful for attorneys to have a ready reference summary of arguments section at the beginning of the brief. If the issue is not before the court, the court will not decide it that day. Judges generally decide what is at issue in the case and what is presented to them on that calendar day, no more and no less.

 

  1. Judges also may rely on the opinions of expert witnesses that have appeared before them in the past, and have a great reputation in the legal and professional community. An expert witness is a hired gun that can testify about a specialized issue. For example, if there was a forgery you can call an expert witness to testify about whether a signature on a grant deed appears to be forged or not based on other samples. If the attorney can lay a foundation that the expert witness is qualified to be an expert in his or her field, and the expert will testify about a relevant subject in the case before the court, the court will allow testimony from the expert and court may rely on the expert’s opinion a great deal. For one basic example, expert witnesses are helpful in the task of calculating economic damage claims. If the judge likes the expert’s data and methodology, the judge may just adopt and rubber stamp the calculation of an expert when awarding damages in a bench trial.

 

  1. Believe it or not, judges are required and bound to follow several sets of rules and laws. Of crucial importance is recent state case law as furnished by the attorneys and the court research attorneys. The more recent and the more on point the better. Also of crucial importance is recent versions of statutes and recent changes to statutes that are written and enacted by the legislature. The law can change every year and can change quickly on a day to day basis when new appellate case law decisions comes down.  Judges want to use the latest cutting edge case law to decide their cases.

 

  1. Judges and their staff attorneys use several books and texts for their research and they also may use high powered computer legal search data programs such as Lexis Nexis or Westlaw. Some books are designed and written just for judges to rule on the admissibility of evidence. Judges use and follow the treatise Rutter Group- Civil Procedure Before Trial for most pre-trial procedural issues. This handbook is the bible for pre-trial issues such as service of process, pleadings, discovery rules and procedures, expert witness procedure, pre-trial motions such as motions for summary judgment, and the like, and contain most nuances. The importance of this book cannot be understated. The book also may contain forms and checklists from different departments of Los Angeles Superior Court formulated by court research attorneys and judges to make sure that filed papers are in order. For real estate issues, judges also use Miller and Starr on Real Estate, a very detailed treatise on virtually every aspect of California real estate law.

 

  1. Courts tend to follow California Rules of Court very closely. The rules in the California Rules of Court are adopted by the Judicial Council of California under the authority of article VI, section 6, of the Constitution of the State of California, unless otherwise indicated. The rules in division 5 of title 8 and in title 9 were adopted by the California Supreme Court. These are rules that govern how attorneys and parties are to present and file pleadings, motions, declarations, and documents in Court. A party’s strict compliance with these rules can make or break a law and motion matter. You might have a great case, great facts, or an issue you can win on, but if you don’t follow the California Rules of Court your motion or defense may be denied. These rules must be followed in addition to the basic rules and statutes under the California Civil Code and the California Code of Civil Procedure, and other state codes. The California Rules of Court are available on line at in both html and PDF versions.

 

  1. Judges should also follow an isolated set of Local Rules of the Superior Court. The Rules are available on line at Judges frequently have rules and protocols that they prescribe for their own courtroom that are based on the local rules. For example, some judges want joint trial documents filed, others may not. Some judges may want live witnesses present for default prove up hearings, others may not. Judges oftentimes provide handouts in court for their chamber rules, and make the rules available online. These handouts provide important instructions on how the particular judge and court room want certain tasks handled in preparation for a trial.

 

  1. There are three important preliminary considerations that a judge may consider prior to making a decision on a civil matter. First, the court is interested to confirm that it has subject matter jurisdiction over the claim or the issue. For example, a family law matter such as a determination of child support should be decided by a family law judge, and not a court of general civil jurisdiction. Another important issue is whether a state court judge should decide claims under federal law in addition to state law. Should the case be removed and transferred to federal court or remain in the local superior court? Second, the court is concerned that it has personal jurisdiction over all defendants. Have all parties been properly served with the lawsuit and is the case at issue? Judges want all the parties to be served and to have all the parties responding or defaulted if they have not timely responded. Judges don’t like files sitting around with parties not put on notice of the proceedings. Third, does the party asserting the claim have legal standing to present the claim in court? For example, has the party asserting the claim suffered actual injury? In personal injury, products liability, and similar torts cases, a plaintiff who has been physically injured almost always has standing to sue the person or company the plaintiff believes is responsible for her injuries. There are entire treatises written about jurisdiction and standing. It is important to be aware that courts are always concerned with these preliminary questions, and want to sort these questions out, even before a discussion of the merits of the case can begin.

 

  1. In most pre-trial litigation there is no Perry-Mason-type high drama live witness testimony. Instead of live witnesses, judges use sworn declarations and exhibits to hear and consider evidence filed in court.  For certain motions, like summary judgment motions, the courts can consider testimony from deposition transcripts.  Declarations are signed under penalty of perjury and are based on the personal knowledge of witnesses. Declarations are the stock in trade for law and motion matters, and are prepared by attorneys and are signed by the parties, witnesses, or attorneys that are supposed to have direct personal knowledge. There are some limited exceptions such as default prove up hearings, but some judges want live witnesses and others may not. In trials, judges hear live witness testimony, and there can be interesting high drama if you are a spectator.

 

  1. When judges decide a law and motion matter, they also consider whether the evidence is admissible into the record. If the evidence presented in the form of declarations or exhibits is not admissible it will not be considered in the judge’s final ruling. Judges consider the detailed rules of admissibility of evidence, which for state court cases the rules are located in the California Evidence Code. One of the most powerful tools that parties have at their disposal is the use of evidentiary objections, to attack the admissibility of portions of a declaration. Attorneys will sometimes prepare evidentiary objections to attack and attempt to block the admissibility of evidence in the form of a declaration or exhibits. There are many formal rules of evidence and exceptions, and I will not delve into all of them here. Examples, include the hearsay rule and rules pertaining to relevance. When a judge is presented with evidentiary objections, the judge usually rules on the objections prior to the hearing. This ruling may be in writing and presented to the attorneys. The ultimate ruling can exclude portions or all evidence, or the judge can overrule the objections in their entirety.

 

  1. The role and function of oral argument in law and motion matters by attorneys at the Superior Court trial level is frequently misunderstood by the parties to a case and young attorneys. Some parties believe that if they hire an attorney to come into a court hearing screaming and yelling and banging her fist on the desk this will change or impact the result, but this is usually not the case. The bottom line is this – most judges have already worked up the case several days before the matter is called on the court calendar that morning. This work up is based on the sets of papers and pleadings filed by the attorneys in court at least 21 court days in advance. The quality, depth, and persuasiveness of the paperwork is key in law and motion matters. This work up of the case by the judge’s research staff attorney is a very important component of the court’s analysis. Very often, based on this work up, the judge enters the courtroom on the morning of the hearing with a tentative ruling. A judge has no reason to hear oral argument from counsel that just repeats the arguments presented in the papers. The judge may say, “Counsel, do you have anything to add that is not in your papers?” Oftentimes new developments occur since the motion was filed, and the court will want to be informed of the latest disposition.

 

  1. The court’s tentative ruling may be in writing or the tentative ruling may be orally stated by the judge. A written tentative ruling is available to the attorneys, parties, and the general public prior to the hearing. The tentative ruling is extremely important because the tentative ruling is the end product and result of the judge’s work up and analysis of the issue. It provides the judge’s analysis and reasoning on a particular issue. It will contain key facts and summaries of the positions, and it will contain citations to important statutes and legal authorities. The tentative ruling may be posted on the court’s website several days before the hearing, or handed out on a sheet of paper at the hearing. The term tentative ruling is exactly what it purports to be, it is tentative and is not the final or actual ruling of the Court.      The Court will generally allow some oral argument by the attorneys prior to the Court’s recitation and decision of the actual final ruling in the Court room.  The judge wants to hear from the attorneys who stand to lose on the issue when the tentative ruling is against them.   The important thing to know is that usually judges may state that the “tentative ruling” is and becomes the “actual final ruling” of the Court.       The trend and probabilities in the Courts is for judges to not waiver or flinch from their “tentative ruling.”  If the tentative ruling favors one party- the Court may not hear oral argument from that party because that party may have already won the point of contention.    So, some times, oral argument in the Courtroom may be a waste of time and resources especially if the oral argument just repeats, stresses, or highlights facts and legal arguments that were already made in the court papers.   So, absent a dramatic change in factual circumstances or procedural posture of the case, one should expect that the general rule is that 95 % of the time the tentative ruling becomes the actual ruling of the Court.

Sometimes, the Court may steer oral argument in a particular direction to asking the attorneys for facts or legal arguments that have not been presented in papers.   If the issue is hotly contested and parties are watching the hearing and at each other’s throats or if the judge wants to do further analysis- the judge may say “I will take the matter under submission.”   This is courtroom jargon for – “I will let you know my final ruling by mail and not today so there is no shooting in the court parking lot between opposing parties. “    To avoid a huge emotional outcry or sigh in the courtroom- the judge bypasses all that by “taking the matter under submission.”   The attorneys and the parties leave the courtroom with the tentative ruling- but not the final ruling.     The final ruling will arrive by mail.

  1. In law school, attorneys and judges take a course on the law of evidence.  The rules of evidence are tested on the bar examination.   One of the important rules and concepts of the law of evidence that judges and their staff attorneys use to decide factual and legal issues are the rules surrounding “burden of proof.”     Can the parties support their legal claims and the elements that make up the legal claims with admissible evidence?     I have always believed that the most important words in the courthouse- are “prove it.”    If you are a plaintiff and you cannot prove your claim with admissible evidence, then you should not have filed your case.    For a plaintiff’s claims, the plaintiff carries the “burden of proof.”  For a defendant’s defenses, the defendant carries the “burden of proof.”   The burden of proof is initially on the person who brings a claim in a dispute. It is often associated with the Latin phrase, “maxim semper necessitas probandi incumbit ei qui agit,” a translation of which in this context is: “the necessity of proof always lies with the person who lays charges.”

In law, there are different types and levels of “burdens of proof.”   In a criminal case, the threshold is high- “beyond a reasonable doubt.”   In a civil case the threshold is much lower- “preponderance of the evidence,” 1 % of quantum proof more than 50 % is a preponderance of the evidence for most civil law issues- tip the scale oh so slightly.   The standard is met if the proposition is more likely to be true than not true, and the scales of justice are tipped ever so slightly.   The standard is satisfied if there is greater than a fifty percent chance that the proposition and the element is true.

  1. Given the inefficiencies, risks, uncertainties and significant delays in litigating within the Los Angeles Court system, parties can consider hiring private judges, or arbitrators.  I remember one case I had in Van Nuys Superior Court where every time we would appear the judge would suggest that the parties stipulate to retaining the services of a private arbitrator.   The judge’s suggestion gave us a rather uncomfortable feeling that the judge did not want to do his job and wanted our case out of the way and off his desk.  We declined the judge’s offer, and then we settled the case!

Copyright 2017 Nate Bernstein, Attorney at Law. LA Real Estate Law Group. All Rights Reserved.

The author of this article, Nate Bernstein, Esq., is the Managing Counsel of LA Real Estate Law Group, and a member of the State Bar of California and his practice concentrates in the areas of complex real estate litigation, commercial litigation, employment law, and bankruptcy matters. The contact number is (818) 383-5759, and email is natebernstein44@gmail.com.  Nate Bernstein is a 22 year veteran Los Angeles real estate and business attorney and trial lawyer. Mr. Bernstein also has expertise on bankruptcy law, the federal bankruptcy court system, creditor’s rights and debtor’s bankruptcy options. He previously served as Vice President and In House trial counsel at Fidelity Title Insurance Company, a Fortune 500 company, and in house counsel at Denley Investment Management Company. Nate Bernstein created www.laquiettitleattorney.com, a leading educational resource on quiet title real estate litigation. Nate Bernstein is a local expert on real estate law and economic trends in the real estate and leasing market, business law, and bankruptcy law. Nate has personally litigated more than 40 major real estate trials, and has settled more than 200 complex real estate and business cases. 

Any statement, information, or image contained on any page of this article not a promise, representation, express warranty, or implied warranty, or guarantee about the outcome of a legal matter, and shall not be construed as being formal legal advice. All statements, information, and images are promotional. All legal matters are factually specific, laws change on a daily basis, and courts interpret laws differently. No express or implied attorney client relationship shall be inferred from any statement, information, or image contained any pages of this website. No attorney client relationship is formed until the client or the client’s representative, and the attorney signs a written retainer agreement.

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Illegal Things Landlords Do and What You Can Do About It

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 3:08pm

Renting a new apartment can be an exciting experience. However, it can also become incredibly stressful — especially when there’s landlord drama involved. Whether you like it, one of your landlord’s goals is to make money. Unfortunately, in some cases, that means he or she might engage in illegal activities. If your landlord has been making your life miserable, depending on the behavior in question, you might be able to fight back and get some peace of mind.

Here are eight illegal things landlords do and what you can do about it.

1. Your landlord withholds your security deposit for no good reason

Some shady landlords will put up a fight when it comes time to hand over your security deposit. As soon as you ask for your money back, they’ll suddenly disappear or claim you’re not entitled to receive your money back. If the apartment is returned in good shape once you decide to leave and there haven’t been any major issues between you and your landlord, in most cases your security deposit should be returned.

What you can do

Know your lease terms. If you find yourself in this situation, there are a few things you can do before and after a problem arises. First, get a clear understanding of your lease terms. Shane Lee, a data analyst at RentHop, told The Cheat Sheet when you first rent an apartment, you make sure the landlord spells out all terms regarding the security deposit, including how, when, and in what situation your deposit will not be returned. All these terms should be clearly outlined in your lease.

Make sure the apartment is in good condition. It’s also essential that you leave the apartment exactly as you found it. Do your best to maintain your dwelling, so your landlord doesn’t have a reason to keep your money. Also, gather receipts for any apartment repairs that were made.

Write a letter. A verbal request won’t be enough if your landlord is giving you a hard time. Mail a written request concerning the return of your security deposit (and send it through certified mail with a request for a return receipt). Lee notes that this letter might be helpful if you decide to sue your landlord.

2.Your landlord refuses to make major repairs

Is your apartment in need of a major repair? Has your landlord refused or keeps putting your request on the back burner? Having your landlord turn into a slum lord can become a real problem. Unattended repairs could put you and your neighbors at risk. In this situation, you’ll need to be a bit more aggressive with your approach. If it’s a major repair time is usually not on your side, so you’ll have to act quickly.

What you can do

Document the issue. As always in a situation like this, first make your request in writing. Also, take pictures of the repairs that need to be made, so you can have enough proof of the problem should you take legal action. “Pictures are worth a thousand words. If I can show a judge proof of a code violation in a picture it can make the case a slam dunk,” said Ed Griffin, a Washington, D.C., and Maryland-based attorney practicing at Adelphi Law.

Call your state or local official. If your request continues to go unaddressed, you can contact your local or state department of health or department of buildings (depending on the problem). This way, a formal complaint will be logged. From there, an inspector will be sent to take a look at the property. If there are violations, your landlord might have to appear in court or pay a fine.

3.Your landlord enters your apartment without prior notice

Your landlord cannot enter your apartment whenever he or she feels like it. You must be given reasonable notice beforehand. The only time a landlord may enter your apartment without notice is if there is an emergency that would put you and others in danger, such as a water or gas leak, said Marcia Stewart, author of Every Tenant’s Legal Guide, in her column for legal information site Nolo. Stewart also said a landlord may enter without notice if he or she believes the property has been abandoned.

What you can do

Talk to your landlord. Tenant privacy laws vary by state, but your first step should be to give your landlord a warning. Stewart advises first speaking with your landlord if he or she has entered your home without prior notice. If the behavior continues, you can write a demand letter, stating you will sue if your privacy rights continue to be disregarded. Make sure to keep a copy of all communications with your landlord and document what was said during your conversations.

4. Your rent has been increased without formal notice

Did your last rent statement give you a shock? Are you trying to figure out how you’re going to scrape up the cash to pay your living expenses? Although rent increases aren’t unusual, you shouldn’t have to worry that your rent is going to vary wildly from month to month. Fluctuations in your monthly rent are not only unfair but also make it difficult to prepare financially. If your landlord plans to raise your rent, he or she must give you appropriate notice.

What you can do

Ask for everything in writing. Your landlord should generally give you at least 30 days’ notice in the event of a rent increase. Request that he or she give you a revised lease outlining the new payment. It’s in your best interest to get the new amount down in writing, so you can show the differences in rent if you need to fight it out in court. Also, know that your landlord is allowed to raise your rent as much as the market will bear, provided he or she gives proper notice and is not violating a rent control ordinance.

5. Your landlord tries to force you to leave

Your home should be a place of refuge. If you’re facing a situation where your landlord is trying to force you out, that makes it hard to have peace of mind and feel relaxed in your abode. Rest assured that your landlord cannot force you to leave your apartment or house without good reason. There are ways for you to fight back against this illegal behavior and have peace once again.

What you can do

Go to court. If this is happening to you, attorney Shaolaine Loving told The Cheat Sheet you’ll likely have to take the matter before a judge. A landlord should not threaten you or force you to sign away your rights to stay in the home. “The contract controls your tenancy, both in terms of rent owed and how long you can stay there. Don’t let a landlord pressure you into signing a new agreement or amendment for altered terms. If the landlord threatens to evict you, you can challenge it in court,” Loving said.

6. You’re being charged excessive fees

If you’re noticing excessive fees that your landlord can’t seem to explain, you don’t have to sit back and take it. All fees should be explained to you in advance. Fees related to your apartment or house should also be listed in your lease agreement for easy reference. Don’t assume this additional fees were a mistake. Take time to go through your rent statement and challenge each fee you don’t recognize.

What you can do

Ask about the fees. If you’ve addressed the charges, but your landlord won’t waive them and continues to charge outrageous fees, this is another matter you’ll likely have to take to a housing court. “If a landlord charges excessive fees to the tenant for cleaning, repairs, late fees, or other items, the tenant can ultimately challenge the charges in court. Similarly, the tenant can seek legal relief if the landlord fails to return a security deposit within the legal time frame that your state requires,” Loving told The Cheat Sheet.

7. Your landlord challenges your rights as a protected class

What should you do if you need a service dog, for example, but your landlord won’t allow pets? The good news is you can’t be forced to move out if you need special accommodations due to an illness or disability. “If you are a protected class in any way, be aware of your rights both on the national and state level. Two common issues that come up are service animals, which are almost always allowed in properties even if they have a no-pets policy, and family accommodations, where many states allow at least two tenants per room,” Scott Bierbryer, co-founder of VeryApt.com, told The Cheat Sheet.

What you can do

Educate your landlord. Know that not all landlords are aware of fair housing laws. They might be new to the business or just never took the time to learn. So the solution could be as simple as educating your landlord on what is and is not allowed concerning your specific situation. Bierbryer said protected-class laws are strict, so it’s in your best interest to become familiar with both federal and state fair housing laws. Make an effort to inform your landlord if a proposed restriction is a violation of your rights.

“Many landlords are not as mindful of fair housing laws as they should be. These laws are very clear, and if any special circumstances apply to you, know your rights and quickly inform a landlord that they are breaking the law and report them to the proper authority as needed,” Bierbryer said.

8. Your landlord changes the locks

Did your landlord decide to change the locks without telling you about it? Nothing can put a damper on your day like coming home after a long day of work and then not being able to get inside your apartment. Yuriy Moshes, principal at Law Office of Yuriy Moshes, P.C., told The Cheat Sheet that changing the locks without an eviction order is not legal. “If the landlord does not like the tenant or believes that the tenant should be evicted, the landlord may not take self-help actions,” Moshes said.

What you can do

Call the police. Your landlord does not have the right to lock you out of your apartment. However, you should resist the urge to pull out a hair pin and try to pick the lock. If you come home to find the locks changed, your best course of action is to first contact your local police department, so your landlord can be forced to allow you to regain access to your apartment. Your next step should be to hire an attorney and proceed with a law suit.

 

Source: cheatsheet.com

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In Multifamily Real Estate, A Better Apartment Experience Is Essential

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 8:31am

Apartment buildings have changed quite a bit in the past two decades. Tech-savvy urban renters expect more and more from their apartment communities, and the number of millennials looking to move toward cities has only been accelerating.

Common spaces and amenities almost always follow construction cranes and are defining a new generation of multifamily real estate categorized by attractive and well-designed spaces. Though these elaborate common areas are now the norm, the question remains: How do such amenities become active hubs for resident engagement? In other words, how do we ensure that the amenities in buildings provide constant value to residents and provide them a strong return on investment?

Apartments are the backbones of cities and are where residents launch their lives. As a real estate technology executive and a city dweller myself, I take an active interest in how developers and owners can improve city life by leveraging technology and innovation to activate their existing spaces.

Here are some ways the industry can supercharge buildings by offering a better apartment experience that keeps renters engaged, healthy and happy.

Build Real Community

Even if an apartment building has community spaces, creating activity to bring residents together is an essential next step. Vibrant common spaces create an environment where residents feel at ease and can meet neighbors naturally. Particularly for new residents, meeting neighbors and having that community right at home is even more important.

Events within a building are a great way to begin building community: activities like paint nights, “yappy” hours, cooking demos and game nights offer welcoming opportunities for residents to make friends right at home. More than just providing a community for residents, such experiences can make a building healthier and improve both retention and referrals. People make places great and can define a building culture and experience that residents can’t find anywhere else.

Embrace Technology

Technology permeates the entire apartment rental process today, and that should not stop when a resident finds the perfect building to call home. From smart thermostats to online maintenance portals, technology is already integral to the residential experience. Residents expect to have all resources at their fingertips, and catering to tech-savvy renters can ensure a competitive edge with happier residents.

Highlight Your Neighborhood

The surrounding area of an apartment building offers ample opportunity for engagement. Collaborate with local businesses, nearby non-profit organizations and public spaces — they determine the fabric of your surrounding community. Featuring a mom-and-pop pizzeria and facilitating local volunteering or mentorship opportunities are just a few ways to highlight your neighborhood and strengthen your community.

Encourage Continuous Feedback

In real estate, the resident is always right. Actively encourage honest feedback and understand the drivers that deliver value to your community. Are there particular activities or spaces that residents can’t help but tell their friends about? Are there any events or local businesses that keep residents coming back? Tracking, measuring and acting on feedback allows you to build a more vibrant community that knows its voice is heard.

Overall, a resident’s apartment experience is what defines your building’s culture and brand. I believe that it is possible for cities to improve the lives of millions by leveraging spaces that already exist to create even more collective collaboration and community. As multifamily demand continues to grow, this idea that happy cities start with happy residents must remain a core principle.

 

Source: forbes.com

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Technology Is Evolving Property Management And Leasing — And Investors Need To Keep Up

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 8:27am

Real estate is an attractive investment for a variety of reasons, but managing a real estate asset brings a number of challenges for which an average investor isn’t ready.

A typical real estate purchase is a safe and secure investment. It is a predictable place to put money and generate consistent annual returns. But there is no “typical” real estate investor. Look no further than your own street to find one property owned by a single landlord with a modest one-property portfolio, next to another owned by a real estate investment trust (REIT) like Blackstone with tens of billions in holdings. Everyone wants a piece of the pie and more often than not, much (or all) of the processes and software used to manage these properties have lagged behind the wave of Silicon Valley technology that has inundated the rest of our lives.

Finding the perfect property is one thing, but effectively managing residential real estate requires an entirely different set of skills. A landlord has to excel at marketing their property, determining rent prices, screening and processing tenant applications, collecting rent payments, performing maintenance and understanding all the legal aspects of landlording that govern tenant-landlord relationships. Additionally, they must always be available for the tenant phone calls that come in at all hours, day and night.

Neglecting just one of these functions could lead to a catastrophic loss that negates all recent earnings for an investment. It’s no wonder many landlords choose to hire a professional property manager.

There are an estimated 34,000-plus property management companies in the United States, and all of them require an office, a team of employees, a network of service providers and contractors, and well-defined processes for all the aforementioned tasks. This can all be very expensive to create as a business owner or to contract as a landlord. In a competitive marketplace, managers are always looking to reduce their costs. Technology offers ways to accomplish this without sacrificing a high quality of service.

How Technology Narrows The Gap

Technology is underused in property management but has the potential to drastically reduce expenses while improving the quality of service. Every tedious process should be streamlined or automated.

To start, leasing is a time-consuming process. Posting advertisements, responding to leads, handling showings, collecting and processing applications, and eventually preparing a lease, all require lots of manpower. This process would benefit from automation, but where do you draw the line between automation and human-centric customer service?

The trick is to automate as many processes as possible, while always providing a personal touchpoint. You still need leasing agents, but every part of the process aside from phone calls and showings can be automated: things like 3D virtual tours, self-serve scheduling of showings, automated tenant notifications, online applications and background checks, online lease signing and payment collection. All of this can now be either automated or heavily optimized with off-the-shelf software, a bit of non-technical customization and some defined processes.

This same philosophy should be applied to maintenance. A typical maintenance department revolves around phone calls, paper work orders and manual status updates. The result is hours and hours spent on manual data entry and long delays between when work is completed and when tenants and owners are notified.

Most of these manual functions can be eliminated with software. There are mobile apps that allow maintenance coordinators to monitor the progress of work orders and track the location of technicians. They can streamline check-ins and check-outs and prompt for photos to be taken before and after work is completed. Generally, for a product like this, a property management company will have to pay for an additional software product that integrates with their core property management software. This can be time-consuming and expensive but is almost always worth the investment.

It’s difficult to strike a balance between the importance of customer service and the value of automation. People will always be critically important to property management. Right now there isn’t a computer that can fix a toilet, and customers always need a friendly voice at the other end of a phone line. But with the pace at which technology is evolving, it’s critical that real estate investors and managers figure out how to leverage it to improve their service and rental experience.

 

Source: forbes.com

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Will Entire Single-Family Rental Communities Become a Thing?

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 8:22am

A growing number of renters is sparking an entire community of single-family homes for lease. AHV Communities and Bristol Group have teamed up to break ground on a new single-family home rental community in the San Antonio, Texas, area.

Pradera, which is expected to open to the public in the second quarter of 2018, will consist of 250 single-family detached three- or four-bedroom homes. The homes will have a two-car garage and front and back yards. An onsite maintenance and management staff will oversee landscaping, repairs, and maintenance.

“There is a large segment in the rental market that prefers living in a single-family home but doesn’t want to deal with the hassles of maintenance,” says Dave Williams, the managing director of the Bristol Group. “Millennials, baby boomers, and everyone in between want access to well-maintained spaces outside of their homes and offices where they can both work and play.”

During the housing crisis, investors began snatching up single-family homes—mostly foreclosures—and turning them into rentals across the country. But they have been doing this mostly one-by-one in neighborhoods. This latest project will test the demand for single-family home rentals on a larger scale by offering up an entire neighborhood of just rentals.

Mark S. Wolf, founder and CEO of AHV Communities, says they believe there is a strong market for combining single-family home living “with the built-in flexibility of a lease.”

 

Source: realtormag.realtor.org

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Fall Maintenance for Your Rental Properties

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 8:17am

Do you own a rental property or several rental properties? Routine maintenance will ensure that your properties are protected from the harsh fall and winter elements, and most can be done without detracting too much from your time or pocketbook.

Begin With a Tenant Check-In It’s important to consistently check in with tenants and ensure that they are maintaining the rental unit to lease standards. Seasonal maintenance is the perfect time to inspect the unit for issues that should be addressed. Ask tenants if they have questions or concerns.

Checking in is also the best way to establish open communication. Good communication is the foundation of a healthy tenant-landlord relationship. Not to mention, when a tenant feels that there is a direct line of communication, they are much more likely to report on a minor but time-sensitive issue before it becomes an expensive repair.

Complete Indoor Maintenance

  • Windows and Doors:Apply weather stripping or caulk to any needed areas along windows and doors. This will prevent against overtaxing your heating system on those blustery fall days, and will keep your tenant’s utility bills down, ensuring satisfaction with the unit.
  • Fireplace:If your unit has a fireplace, check that the chimney is swept and free of debris. A blocked chimney is an easily avoidable a fire hazard and a smoke inhalation risk. If you don’t already have one, take the time to install an animal-proof chimney cap to prevent further blockage from nesting critters.
  • Smoke and CO Alarms:Regardless of whether you require your tenants to change the batteries, it is crucial to check that they have indeed kept up with the task, and, moreover, did not remove them altogether. Ensure your tenant’s safety—and your legal protection—by ensuring that the alarms are in working order.
  • Attic:Check your attic’s insulation. Poor insulation can lead to expensive roof repairs. Inspect for signs of small animals that can sneak in looking for a warm place to nest—they can destroy crucial insulation that prevents against ice-damming on your roof.

Complete Exterior Maintenance

  • Gutters:Fall leaves can lead to clogged gutters. Clogged gutters can create ice dams in freezing weather, and this can cause the gutters to break entirely. Trim trees or install gutter guards where necessary to ensure that your gutters will appropriately channel water away from the property and prevent water damage to the foundation or structure.
  • Animal-Proofing:Attics and basements are very enticing to rodents and small animals who seek shelter from the cold weather. The Humane Society has recommendations to prevent nesting in your property: ensure animals are not inside the home already (you don’t want to seal them in) and then caulk small holes and staple hardware cloth over larger holes. To stand up against stronger animals, opt for 16-gauge, 1×1 steel mesh.
  • Stairwells, Walkways and Patios:Verify that all supports, stairs, and handrails are secure. Make sure that the handrails can support a person who is slipping due to rain or sleet.
  • Irrigation Systems:Fall weather means that sprinkler systems can often be reset, since seasonal rains will keep the foliage appropriately hydrated. Follow your manufacturer’s instructions to winterize your sprinkler and irrigation systems. This will protect the functionality of the system and ensure your property looks its best.
  • AC Units:Depending on where your rental unit is located, be prepared to wrap the outside box units in order to protect it from rust or weather damage.
  • Trees and Shrubs:Now is an excellent time to trim any branches or vegetation that touches the exterior of the building, as they can lead to damage over time. Protect your investment and ensure that all foliage is maintained before the wet season gets in way.

Hire a Professional

For some costly items on your list, it will pay to have a professional inspect them. Big-ticket items like your HVAC system and your roof should be inspected yearly to ensure that any slight damage is dealt with proactively, before a serious issue occurs.

HVAC: Have it serviced, inspected and cleaned. Proper maintenance will extend the life of the furnace, so be sure to remind your tenants to change the filters. To be certain the task is done, consider supplying some extra filters yourself. This makes the task simple for tenants, and is a minor expense for you compared to an expensive system replacement.

Roof: Extreme temperatures and general exposure to the elements can wreak havoc on your property’s roof. Have a licensed, certified roofing professional inspect the condition of your roof. Simple repairs like loose or damaged shingles can lead to water exposure that can lead to deterioration of insulation, wood and drywall, or make electrical or plumbing systems vulnerable. It’s much simpler to deal with a repair now than an emergent leak come winter.

Seasonal maintenance is a chore, but being proactive will ensure that your rental property remains in good shape and your investment is protected for years to come.

Brentnie Daggett is a contributor for Rentec Direct.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of RISMedia.

Source: rismedia.com

 

 

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Rules For Decorating A Rental Property

Fri, 09/15/2017 - 8:54am

Posted on Sep 15, 2017

As a landlord, you want to accommodate tenants’ requests to decorate the apartment, yet you may worry about how their efforts will affect your property value. One decorating project gone wrong could wind up costing you hundreds of dollars to repair. Rather than check every one of your renters’ apartment decorating ideas, consider giving renters a list of rules to guide their decorating efforts.

Rules for Decorating an Apartment

While it’s always your choice what to allow in terms of decorating an apartment, here are some ways to let tenants express their personalities:

  • Painting: Many landlords allow renters to paint their rooms, especially if they choose a neutral hue or promise to paint the room in its original color before move-out day. Renters who are happy in their apartment will want to stay there longer; being surrounded by a color they love can boost their happiness. If you let renters paint, provide them with safe painting guidelines to protect their safety and your property.
  • Interior decoration: From furniture to wall art, it should be fair game. With wall-mounted art, consider asking tenants to fill holes and paint over spackle before they move out. This way, the apartment will be move-in ready for the next tenant.
  • Lighting: As long as they pay for an electrician to swap out fixtures and replace yours at move-out time, there’s no harm in letting your tenants update the electrical fixtures or change the lampshades in the apartment.
  • Holiday decorations: Landlords are not allowed to discriminate under the Fair Housing Act. In terms of decoration, this means that tenants are allowed to decorate for religious holidays inside the apartment and on the front door exterior.
Decorating Rented Property: Tenant Don’ts

To reduce the maintenance you — or your tenants — will have to do when turning over the property, don’t allow the following decorating ideas:

  • Wallpaper: If you have wallpaper in your rental, it should stay as-is for the duration of the lease. If you don’t have any wallpaper on site, do not allow renters to wallpaper anything, even if they promise to pay for the supplies themselves. Wallpaper is a headache to remove. As an alternative, allow tenants to use wall decals, which come off easily.
  • Painting trim: While you may allow renters to paint rooms, never allow them to paint crown moldings or window trim. As a rule, anything that is natural wood should stay that way, for everyone’s sake.

At American Apartment Owners Association, we help landlords avoid missteps with tenants through customizable landlord tenant forms. Get the best price on forms and access other helpful advice when you become an American Apartment Owners Association member.

Disclaimer: The information provided herein is for advisory purposes only and AAOA takes no responsibility for its accuracy. AAOA recommends you consult with an attorney familiar with current federal, state and local laws.

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What the Best Property Management Companies Don’t Do

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 10:40pm

A bad property management company can be a nightmare. Horror stories include tenants that can’t be evicted (squatters), thousands in owed rent, and improper property maintenance that can cause extensive damage to multiple units.

A bad property management company can keep you, the property owner, in the dark until a problem reaches extreme levels, such as water and mold damage and pest infestations that may require tenant removal to fix. Incompetent property managers may cause legal problems including missed inspections and reports and ignored tenant complaints that can also conflict with local landlord-tenant law.

The best defense against a predatory property management company is to understand how to recognize a good company.

What a Good Property Manager Won’t Do

A good property manager should make you feel safe in your investment, gaining the trust that your building and your tenants are in good hands. What may be more important is what a good management company won’t do. Here are some signs to be aware of:

  • Good companies don’t disappear on you. They’re attentive and communicative to both you and your tenants, keeping you in the loop on what’s going on in your real estate. A good company won’t leave you hanging with unreturned phone calls or emails and office hours will be clear, not ambiguous or sporadic.

  • Good companies don’t neglect routine inspections on your residential property. Routine inspections catch maintenance issues and repairs before they become super expensive, like roof leaks and water leaks. Additional inspections including pest control and hazardous materials can help keep tenants safe. California state and local laws also require fire inspections, usually conducted yearly by fire department personnel, these inspections are the number one way to prevent structure fires, protecting both your residential property and inhabitants. Whether you’re in Pacific Beach or El Cajon, your San Diego property is important and should be maintained with the utmost care.

  • Good companies don’t ignore tenant rights. While a property management company is a direct representative of the landlord and property owner, that doesn’t mean tenant rights should be ignored. For example, San Diego renters have specific rights to maintenance as well as privacy, and ignoring or neglecting these laws could create legal problems for any investment property owner.

  • Good companies don’t choose bad tenants. Good companies don’t rely on a sixth sense or a gut feeling to find renters. They know how to handle every aspect of the rental process, from advertising to background checks to choosing a prospective tenant with a reliable history and income so you have the best possible tenant living in your rental property.

  • Good companies don’t use blanket policies from out of town. The distinct character of the greater San Diego area is what makes it such a desirable place to live. That’s why local area knowledge matters in your property management company. Good companies won’t try to use techniques that work in New York City on a property in San Diego, instead of using their knowledge of the area to help understand issues like parking, severe weather, and even local area building codes.

  • Good companies don’t just collect the rent. They handle tenant maintenance requests, enforce the terms of the lease (including eviction, if necessary), and are the “face” of your real estate. A responsible property manager won’t skip a move-in or move-out inspection, instead verifying property conditions with a tenant at the initiation and termination of a lease.

  • Good companies don’t charge exorbitant fees. There’s really no explanation needed here. A good company will charge you fair rates for the work that needs to be done, and won’t “nickel and dime you” for minor issues to increase the bill.

Avoid a bad property management company at all cost. Read the fine print in any contract, and check reviews with sites like Yelp and the Better Business Bureau. For quality property management in the San Diego area, contact the local experts at Property Advantage. If you’re looking for a San Diego property management company, Property Advantage can help you with your San Diego county real estate.

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An Insider’s Look at the LA Superior Courthouse

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 9:53am

The “battle zone environment” of the downtown Los Angeles Superior Court is something to witness in person if you have never been there to experience it.  It is not for the faint of heart.   The downtown Los Angeles Superior Court, located in the Stanley Mosk Courthouse, at 111 North Hill Street, is one of the largest in the United States. It is an old building that needs to be razed, modernized, and rebuilt as a state of the art courthouse, but it is what it is.

The Court has more than 75 judges on 10 floors that handle, civil limited and unlimited jurisdiction cases, unlawful detainers, small claims cases, writs and receivers cases, family law cases, probate matters, post- judgment matters, and other hybrid matters. The clerk’s office is overburdened, and attorneys must wait in the same long lines as messengers to file a document. At times the clerk’s office is understaffed and only 2 clerks are working when the line is 25 persons deep.

Criminal cases are handled in another location around the corner in the Criminal Courts building on 210 West Temple Street. The court system is overburdened with cases in most departments, and some judges have in excess of 12 distinct case matters on the calendar each and every morning. You may or may not get a perfect evaluation of your case matter on calendar, or a just and fair result from the Court. Generally speaking, I will say that the Courts and their staff usually get it right– sometimes they don’t and one side gets a raw deal. That is when an appeal may be required. Probably the most important safeguard a party can have is retaining counsel that is really watching the case and your opponent and monitoring Court staff carefully.

If you ever visit a courtroom at the Los Angeles Superior Court you will be amazed at the number of attorneys that are present, and you will be amazed at how long matters take get decided and completed.  Due to the large calendars, it is generally the norm that a 5 minute contested court matter can take 1.5 to 2 hours to be heard and decided. Bring a newspaper and a pillow cushion.

Judges are overburdened and very busy, and often have approximately 12 case calendars 4 to 5 days per week in the morning- that is an enormous case load. Attorneys also use “court call” to make appearances by calling in on routine matters such as case management hearings and post mediation status conferences. Court call service has made it easier on attorneys to avoid a personal appearance on routine matters. Still, the phone call hold times can be as much as one hour in busy courtrooms. Small claims and unlawful detainer calendars are huge, and judges are on a tight time schedule to complete these calendars.

JUDGES ARE LESS ACCOUNTABLE BECAUSE NO COURT REPORTERS ARE PRESENT UNLESS YOU RETAIN ONE.

It is unfortunate that judges may be less accountable and scrutinized for their decisions, behavior, and demeanor, as they used to be.  That is because in courtrooms, the courthouse administrative staff does not provide free court reporters to take write down a transcript of what happens and what is said in court. The days of the free court reporter are over! Court reporters are only available if parties pay for the court reporters.

The end result is that some judges may be less thorough on the record since there is no court reporter taking down the judge’s statements. So if a judge abuses an attorney or berates a witness or bad mouths a party or makes a poor, unsupported legal decision, the verbatim language spoken by the judge is not recorded unless a court reporter is hired to be present. If a judge makes a mistake on ruling on the admissibility of evidence, an oral ruling is not recorded unless a court reporter is hired by the parties to be present.  Court reporters are expensive and charge by the word. Having a court reported record is very important for a case on appeal. The appellate attorneys and the Court of appeal can review the record, and determine if the Court has made an error. Judges make “minute orders” about their proceedings and their rulings. They write down their decision, note the appearances, but the minute order does not report the verbatim words of the judge, only the final ruling.

During lunch time the cafeteria on the 10th floor is packed with attorneys and parties who share a common theme – their cases have not settled and they are waiting for their trial to start or a trial to continue. The cafeteria and its 100 tables act as a makeshift non-private conference room for attorneys and parties who are discussing cases, documents, and strategies. Some judges may order the attorneys and the parties to gravitate to the cafeteria to try to work out a settlement or to try to resolve a discovery dispute. Cafeterians also have to tolerate the cafeteria food at the courthouse, which on some days is at most average, and on other days is lousy. If you don’t like the cafeteria there is a Starbucks café next door with limited indoor seating taken up by at least one local derelict.

Due to budgetary cuts, court clerks only have limited phone hours, such as 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. only. If you don’t make the call at the right time, you have to wait until the next day to speak to a clerk and get your question answered. Courtrooms are closed from 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Judges may be able to get 9 golf holes in or take a cycle ride before the afternoon trial calendar begins. In the afternoon, judges generally hear trials and a discovery dispute or two- the trials may be bench trials or jury trials. For jury trials, judges have to deal with the attitudes, behavior, and schedules of jurors.

Jury selection and the process that goes along with it are very “political” in nature. Attorneys are obviously trying to manipulate the jury system to get favorable jurors from the jury pool.  Judges spend energy and resources protecting and buffering jurors from the aggressive attorneys in the courtroom and trying to keep the jurors relatively happy in the process.  Since jurors are registered voters, and voters tend to vote in judicial election, judges try to keep jurors happy and want to get them in and out of the system as rapidly as possible with the least amount of scar tissue. This is difficult, and judges always want to appear that they are moving matters forward, and not letting jurors wait around.

Read Part II next week on “How Los Angeles Judges (and staff) Decide Your Case”.

 

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4 strategies for investing in real estate

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 9:07am

For new investors, getting into the business of buying, selling, and renting homes may seem pretty ambitious.

But like any other area of personal finance expertise, real estate investing boils down to some simple basics. With the right strategies, patience, and a willingness to learn, it’s a discipline that can help you make strides on the path to financial independence.

Strategies for real estate investing

Today’s infographic comes to us from Offer Climb and it dives into four timeless real estate investing strategies worth knowing.

Whether you aim to do a quick “lipstick” flip or you’d prefer to generate passive income over time, here are the details and resources needed to execute on each strategy.

Although buying and holding is the most common and traditional strategy used for real estate investing, there is actually a variety of different strategies used. Some of these are simple and can be executed in just days, while others can be used on an ongoing basis to create long-term value.

How does each strategy work?

The appropriateness of each strategy below depends on your goals, risk tolerance, and local housing market. For the average investor, it is obvious that some of these strategies would also not likely be suited for booming markets like San Francisco, New York City, Vancouver, or Toronto, where multi-million dollar prices are the norm, and bubble risk is higher.

1. The “Lipstick” Flip The first impression of a house is incredibly important. The “Lipstick” flip involves buying a house that can be easily improved, and then making minimal cosmetic improvements and repairs to sell for a better price.

For the right property, taking the time to fix small issues with flooring, walls, landscaping, and paint can pay off almost immediately.

2. Buy and Hold This is one of the oldest strategies in the book, and it’s designed for long-term passive income.

By purchasing a property and leasing it to tenants, it creates a stream of monthly cash flows, and even offers potential tax benefits for the owner.

3. Wholesale This has similarities to flipping, but involves finding a buyer for a seller and taking a percentage off the sale. If done right, this can be done quickly and with minimal risk.

4. Buy, Renovate, Rent, Refinance, and Repeat Likely the most complex strategy in real estate investing for beginners to follow, this can ultimately be used to provide benefits in both the short and long term.

It involves four steps: buying a property, renovating it, renting the property out to tenants, and then refinancing the mortgage later on. Then the process repeats itself.

Of course, this strategy works best in places where property values are rising fast.

 

Source: businessinsider.com

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Water Damage Restoration Tips Hurricane Victims Often Miss

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 9:04am

In the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, many homeowners are struggling to get up to speed on water damage restoration—the process it takes to repair a home that’s endured a flood or other water-related problems.

Even at the minor level of a leaky roof or burst pipe, water damage can easily hit homeowners with bills amounting to several thousand dollars—and with a hurricane, that number can skyrocket. All told, estimates from AccuWeather put the damage from Irma at more than $100 billion, and Harvey at $190 billion, which makes summer 2017 the costliest weather disaster season in U.S. history.

The good news: Water damage restoration is typically covered by insurance—be it flood insurance or a basic homeowners policy. According to the Insurance Information Institute, water damage makes up about 20% of all insurance claims in the U.S.

And if you’re a hurricane victim, reimbursements can be sizable. The National Flood Insurance Program, which provides flood insurance to homeowners, paid an average of $64,331 to each homeowner hit by Superstorm Sandy; victims of Hurricane Katrina received an average of $97,141 apiece.

But before you dive into fixing your waterlogged home and calling your insurer, you should make sure you know the process of water damage restoration. Here are the steps to take that many homeowners might miss in their rush to patch things up.

Before you clean up, take pics

As hard as this might seem, don’t start cleaning things up before you whip out your camera and take photos of the damage. This serves as critical proof of the repairs you need to make, says Bill Begal, a restoration specialist in Baltimore. Without pics, you might end up reducing the amount of financial help you get.

If your flood was caused by a malfunctioning washing machine or dishwasher rather than a storm, you’ll also want to save the appliance as evidence—it might be something an insurance adjuster will take into consideration when reviewing your case. Keeping the evidence can also help if you decide to contact the appliance’s manufacturer, who will at the very least owe you a replacement product.

Remove whatever water you can

Once the documentation stage is done, it’s time to rid your home of as much of the water as you possibly can. Definitely don’t wait for a professional to swing by; it’s up to you to get the process rolling, because the longer water sits in your home, the deeper it can seep into your drywall, floors, and other areas, making it that much harder to remove. Mold and mildew will also typically begin growing within 24 to 48 hours, Begal says, depending on the temperature and relative humidity.

Furthermore, many home insurance companies require insured parties to take “necessary measures” to prevent further damage from occurring. In other words, if you don’t try to suck up the water that’s all over your bathroom floor, an insurance company may deny a claim for damage to that floor because you didn’t act to mitigate the damage.

Shop vacuums can help suck up standing water, and turning on fans will help the moisture dissipate. If you have a basement, and there’s water backed up down there, Begal says check your basement’s drains (if it has them) to ensure they aren’t clogged. That will help water flow out more quickly.

Get help from a water damage restoration specialist

Generally, extensive water damage is not the kind of thing you should fix on your own. Instead, you should call a water damage restoration specialist (or a contractor with experience in this area). This pro will come in armed with industrial-grade dehumidifiers, air purifiers, and other equipment that will help dry out your place much more thoroughly than anything you have on hand. A specialist can also evaluate the extent of the damage and mitigate health issues that might come with mold and bacteria growth, and make sure the home is safe to inhabit.

Apply for government aid if you can

If your water damage was caused by a hurricane, you might qualify for home repair assistance grants through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Just know that the government will not step in if you have insurance to cover the problem, and you qualify only if your home is located in areas where there’s been a federal disaster declaration. Check FEMA’s Disaster Assistance website, or call 800-621-3362.

Some homeowners who’ve been through a hurricane or other similar natural disaster might also qualify for low-interest disaster loans from the Small Business Association. And no, you don’t need to be a business owner to qualify; residential homes do, too. Check if you’re eligible at SBA.gov.

 

Source: realtor.com

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Landlords can’t report undocumented renters under bill passed by California lawmakers

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 8:52am

With tensions running high over both soaring housing costs and increased threats of deportation, California lawmakers moved Monday to give more tenant protections to immigrants living in the state illegally.

Assembly Bill 291 would bar landlords from disclosing the immigration status of renters or threatening to report them to immigration authorities, either in retaliation for asserting their rights or to evict them. Housing advocates say harassment, intimidation and evictions are up in immigrant communities across California since the election of President Donald Trump.

“During this time when so many of our immigrant communities are vulnerable, we’ve heard too many stories around the state of immigrant tenants who were targeted by certain unscrupulous landlords due to their status,” said Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, who carried AB 291.

The measure would allow immigrants to sue over violations, with potential damages of six to 12 times their monthly rent, per tenant. It passed the Assembly on a 48-19 and heads now to Gov. Jerry Brown for consideration.

Source: sacbee.com

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Is Fall the New Spring Market in Real Estate?

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 8:46am

As many people return to a sense of normalcy following the summer months, their real estate needs once again become a priority. Both buyers and sellers need to adjust their plans for tackling the real estate market to make success in purchasing or selling more likely.

Here’s what you need to know to make the most of an advantageous fall real estate market.

Time Frame

Compared to the spring market, which is considered to typically last from March through June, the fall real estate market’s prime time is just September and October. The beginning of a noticeable increase in activity will typically correlate to the start of schools, which varies depending on local school calendars.

Sellers: Take into account the shortened window of time when pricing your house. While selling quickly is always preferable, especially if you can do so for top dollar, it will be even more important now.

The same goes for price decreases should you need to implement them – rather than waiting a month or two, you will want to consider dropping the price quickly depending on activity level and overall interest.

Buyers: Depending on your specific time frame, you may need to be prepared to pull the trigger quickly on making an offer, as the largest influx of homes will be in a shorter period of time. To ensure you can make this decision comfortably, spend extra time researching neighborhoods, comparable sales and all potential properties to educate yourself on the overall market.

Less Competition

Sellers: Comparable sales determine market value. That said, pricing your house is also directly affected by other properties on the market. The potential for multiple offers, bidding wars and inflated house values makes spring alluring, but more houses in direct competition can necessitate pricing your house lower to attract plenty of prospective buyers.

Buyers: While sellers love the idea of multiple offers driving the price up, this is a situation you’ll want to avoid if possible. You may feel some pressure knowing the abundance of listings will not last several months, but let the fact that there are fewer buyers to compete with act as a measure of consolation.

Interest Rates

Sellers: Following Donald Trump’s election to the presidency at the end of last year, 2017 saw mortgage interest rates rise into the low- to mid-fours, but they have continually dropped over the past few months back to around 3.88 percent. While purchasers may not feel the pressure created from rising interest rates, they will have increased buying power offering sellers a larger pool of prospects.

Buyers: Interest rates this autumn are phenomenal. One of the reasons the spring 2017 market heated up earlier and lasted longer was the pressure buyers felt from quickly increasing interest rates. Rather than waiting to react when they begin to creep up again, recognize these are historically incredible rates which shouldn’t be passed up.

Curb Appeal

Sellers: One of the many reasons spring is revered as prime time for selling real estate is how beautiful and vibrant a house appears when the grass is at its greenest, flowers are in bloom and foliage is abundant. That said, fall has just as much, if not more charm and color.

Research creative decoration ideas on sites such as Pinterest and Houzz to implement throughout your house. You can also use pumpkin spice candles and fragrances to give a hint of fall scents as prospective buyers tour your home.

In the days leading up to the listing pictures, refresh mulch and replace dying annuals with season-specific plants like chrysanthemums so your yard retains that pop of color.

If you’re leaning toward listing your house in the later stages of fall, consider having your photographer take exterior shots now while there is still plenty of color. Once the interior is show-worthy you can finish up with the rest of the photos then.

Listing Period

Sellers: Depending on your motivation and location, you may use the fall months as a testing period to see if you can get what you want, or need, by listing for a while and then taking it off until spring if necessary.

Be sure to check with your real estate agent to find out how long your house needs to be off the market for the days on market (DOM) to reset in the multiple listing service, or MLS, which is where agents market the properties they represent. For example, many areas require a house to be withdrawn for 6 months to reset the DOM.

Should you list your house September through October, you would need to wait until May to relist, otherwise your house would show up starting at day 61.

Desperation

Buyers: The beginning of the fall market is an excellent time for you to scope out houses listed in the stagnant summer months which have been sitting for a while and may have sellers reaching a higher level of desperation.

These houses may leave you asking why it’s still there and what’s wrong with it. Instead, recognize the prospective buyer pool may have been much lower given the time of the year and you may be able to find a diamond in the rough for a discounted price.

Source: realestate.usnews.com

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One Beneficiary From Hurricane Harvey: Self-Storage Landlords

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 8:40am

Demand for self-storage space has surged in Houston with thousands of people displaced from their homes after Hurricane Harvey.

Storage operators, which typically rent units ranging from 5 feet by 5 feet to as large as 10 feet by 25 feet, often report stronger demand following a natural disaster as residents look for a place to keep their belongings while they focus on rebuilding their property.

Life Storage Inc., which owns and operates 69 storage locations in Houston and Beaumont, said it saw a pickup in demand after the storm. The Buffalo, N.Y.-based real-estate investment trust said it already had a strong occupancy rate of around 92% in Houston before the hurricane, and it is now nearly full.

Still, the REIT said it would be keeping its rates and leasing incentives—including a free first month—unchanged, and is doing the same in Florida after Hurricane Irma.

“We’re not taking advantage of people because of their misfortune,” said David Rogers, chief executive officer of Life Storage. Mr. Rogers said that in his experience with past hurricanes, the demand spike after the storm peters out after six to seven months.

Overall, Houston had a vacancy rate of 11.2% in the second quarter in the self-storage sector, up from 10.6% at the end of 2016. Before Harvey the rate was projected to rise to 12.2% by the end of 2017, according to data from property researcher REIS Inc.

That projection might change if developers pull back on construction plans following the storm, said Barbara Denham, an economist at REIS. Houston has a total of around 281,000 self-storage units valued at $8.4 billion.

Before Harvey, self-storage companies had been engaged in aggressive price competition, with incentives such as one-month free rent commonplace. These landlords will benefit from an uptick in demand in the short term, but given the pressure not to be seen as price gougers the potential upside is capped.

The largest storage REIT by assets, Public Storage, is offering new customers in Houston $1 rent for the first month and up to 15% off in monthly rents for online reservations for selected units, according to its website.

The Glendale, Calif.-based REIT has reopened 115 properties covering 8.5 million square feet of rentable space and opened its 116th building in Houston last week, but anticipates having to demolish and rebuild seven properties severely impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

Public Storage on Sunday announced it has temporarily closed all 284 of its properties in Florida and nine in South Carolina and Georgia for the safety of its customers and staff. The REIT didn’t respond to requests for comment.

In Houston, investors hope that an oversupply of office, apartment and self-storage space could be mopped up by displaced residents and companies in the wake of Harvey.

Property brokers in the office sector, which had suffered from vacancy rates as high as 18.8% amid problems in the energy industry in recent years, say they are fielding requests from companies looking for temporary office space. There were flooded office buildings in West Houston, Northwest Houston, along Cypress Creek and Kingwood.

“The increased demand right now is a ‘sugar high,’ as most of the need is for less than six months,” said Kevin Roberts, Southwest president at Houston-based Transwestern Commercial Services LLC. “The benefit [to landlords] is short term.”

 

Source: realtor.com

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The student housing sector is hotter than ever—here’s what you should know

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 9:02am

The number of people enrolled in higher-education programs—20.5 million at the start of the current school year—explains much about investor interest in the student housing niche. Find out who’s buying and who’s lending now.

Of all the statistics tied to education, one number does much to explain why lenders and investors look favorably on communities geared to college students: 20.5 million. That’s how many people attended institutions of higher learning last fall. What’s more, enrollment will continue to rise well into the next decade, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

“What really attracts (investors) to our biz is the stability of cash flows,” said EdR Chairman & CEO Randy Churchey during a panel discussion at the 2016 NMHC Student Housing Conference and Exposition last fall. “When you remind investors that when the economy goes into a recession, enrollments go up—a light goes on in their heads.”

Financing remains in high demand on multiple fronts, driven in large measure by record deal volume. Transaction levels hit a new high for the sixth consecutive year in 2016: $9.8 billion, more than double the previous year’s total and three times 2014’s volume, CBRE’s National Student Housing Group reports. Even taking into consideration $3.3 billion worth of large-scale portfolio acquisitions, 2016 sales outpaced 2015 by 16 percent.

Topping the list of student housing lenders last year were the government-sponsored enterprises, which completed $4.2 billion in student housing loan purchases between them. That breaks down to $2.6 billion for Fannie Mae and $1.6 billion for Freddie Mac, all of it for acquisition or refinancing, and represents a 27 percent year-over-year increase.

The GSEs’ vehicles for the sector are their DUS Student Housing Loan Programs, which offer permanent fixed-rate and floating-rate products starting at $3 million, typically for five- to 15-year balloon terms, or 20 to 30 years’ full amortization. Maximum loan-to-value is 75 percent of the asset’s appraised value.

Life companies were also an important source of capital for student housing deals in 2016, including some for construction, though they tend to prefer Class A assets in major markets. Also, many life loans are at lower loan-to-values, usually 65 percent or less. Trailing behind were CMBS and commercial banks.

INTRICATE STACKS

As student housing matures as an asset category, sophisticated players are pursuing larger transactions that require intricate capital stacks. “When I started out, smaller investors were the only ones interested in student housing,” said Brendan Coleman, a managing director for Walker & Dunlop. “That’s changed. Institutional investors are now very interested in the property type, and they’re more sophisticated borrowers, so the deals tend to be a lot more complex.”

A case in point is the financing for two student housing portfolios acquired by Scion Student Communities LLC, a joint venture of The Scion Group LLC, the Chicago-based owner-operator; GIC, which manages foreign investments for the government of Singapore; and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. Both portfolios were financed through Fannie Mae facilities arranged by Coleman and Will Baker, a Walker & Dunlop colleague.

For the first acquisition, which involved six student housing assets, Walker & Dunlop drew on the expansion and borrow-up features of an existing Fannie Mae credit facility to achieve $233 million in proceeds. A second Fannie Mae facility of $416 million was structured for the acquisition of 11 assets. That facility offers fixed- and floating-rate components with varying maturities. Many of the properties qualified for the GSE’s Green Certification Program, which discounts interest rates for properties that have been certified sustainable by a recognized organization.

The lion’s share of student housing acquisition deals tend to require somewhat less complex structures. In February, for example, HFF secured $45.4 million in financing for St. Croix, a 540-unit apartment community near the University of South Florida’s main campus in Tampa. HFF’s client, The RADCO Cos., obtained a seven-year, floating-rate loan through Freddie Mac’s Green Advantage Program.

REFI FLEXIBILITY

Refinancing is another source of considerable demand in the student housing subsector, and those deals often require a touch of creativity. Such was the case when Capstone Capital negotiated a loan for The Boundary at West End in Greenville, N.C., which provides 550 beds for East Carolina University students. The sponsor, Taft Family Offices, sought at least $40 million in order to take out $34.4 million worth of existing debt plus its development equity.

To fulfill that wish list, Capstone Capital negotiated 14 waivers to standard Fannie Mae underwriting. The upshot: a $42 million loan with 10 years of fixed-rate financing at 4.21 percent, including two years of interest-only, followed by a 30-year amortization. Taft Family Offices took $7.4 million in proceeds to fund two new developments.

Development financing, too, is in demand, as attested by the 15,400 units that the National Center for Education Statistics estimates were in the pipeline at the end of 2016. Creative structures are emerging to meet these needs. Blinn College, a 134-year-old county institution in eastern Texas, is relying on a public-private partnership to expand housing at its flagship campus in Brenham. Servitas LLC is developing the 465-bed facility, which will meet the growing needs of a resident population that already numbers more than 1,300, the most of any community college in Texas.

At the heart of the plan is a partnership with National Campus and Community Development Corp., an Austin-based nonprofit that specializes in structuring public-private ventures. A nonprofit entity, National Campus and Community Development (NCCD)-Blinn College Properties LLC, would recieve a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The college would then lease the facility from the nonprofit for 40 years. When NCCD-Blinn College Properties repays the loan, ownership of the facility would revert to the college.

One hitch is that USDA financing is on hold, which has pushed back completion a year to fall 2018. To move the project forward, Blinn’s trustees authorized $2 million in interim financing, which will be repaid from the proceeds of the USDA loan, or if necessary, from the proceeds of bonds issued by the nonprofit New Hope Cultural Education Facilities Finance Corp. If the plan does pan out, it could serve as a model for cash-strapped schools with a need for housing.

 

Source: multihousingnews.com

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Top 10 Factors in Apartment Renters’ Decision to Lease

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 8:12am

What are the top concerns for apartment renters when deciding whether to sign a lease?

A new survey recently administered by national apartment management firm Village Green found that three factors—rent, location and community environment—make up the top drivers of apartment leasing decisions among renters of every age and across geographic markets.

Approximately 70 percent of survey respondents said they research properties online, either before or after making an on-site visit. Sixty-five percent do so through the apartment listing website, 60 percent look at the website of the apartment community itself, 26 percent visit independent online review sites such as Yelp and 17 percent look at social media platforms. Six percent indicated they do their research elsewhere on the web.

When it comes to researching apartments through apartment building/community websites, respondents place high importance on clear and thorough explanation of amenities (68 percent), high quality photos (60 percent) and online rental listings (46 percent).

The survey included 1,000 respondents, all of them apartment renters. A significant number of respondents (roughly 700) are located in the metro areas of Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Minneapolis, Phoenix and Philadelphia. Thirty-two percent of the respondents are millennials, 28 percent are members of generation X, 33 percent are baby boomers and 7 percent belong in other age groups. Sixty-one percent of respondents identify themselves as either single, separated, divorced or widowed. Thirty-nine percent are married or living in a domestic partnership.

Following is a breakdown of the top 10 factors in apartment renters’ decision to sign a lease for a new unit.

 

Source: nreionline.com

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6 Ways to Prepare for and Recover from Natural Disasters

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 8:10am

It has been one busy hurricane season.

Hurricane Harvey recently slammed the South Texas coast, flooding cities with trillions of gallons of water and bringing tornadoes with damaging winds in its path. Flooding in metro Houston affected about 6.5 million people, according to a study from RealPage’s data analytics team. Harvey has become one of the most catastrophic storms to date, with Hurricane Irma following its destructive lead.

As the United States prepares for the recovery process, many will be tasked with making property decisions. We have rounded up a few articles for apartment residents, multifamily investors and owners as they rebuild—and for those contemplating steps for future natural disasters.

1. Disaster Recovery Guide for Multifamily Communities

Preparing for natural disasters and recovery looks largely the same. Take these steps to help your community before, during and after disaster strikes.

2. Top 5 Apartment Roofing Tips to Protect Your Properties

Roofs are exposed most to the elements and often take the biggest hit. Follow these tips to protect your properties.

3. Six Tips to Financially Prepare for a Hurricane

While taking steps to prepare for a hurricane or another natural disaster, you should address the associated financial risk.

4. Managing Storm Water in Multifamily

Here’s a new way of thinking about storm water drainage and multifamily landscape design.

5. Prepare Your Properties for Hurricane Season

Straightforward, actionable steps property owners can take to prepare for future hurricanes.

6. Weathering the Storm: 7 Ways to Prepare for Severe Weather Season

Use these tips to reduce or avoid property damage during a severe storm.

Unfortunately, some natural disasters cause damage beyond control and the only option is to evacuate. It’s good to be prepared for the worst and still anticipate risk.

Do you have any tips or best practices for storm preparedness or disaster recovery? What is the biggest natural disaster risk for your region? Please share with us in the comments.

 

Source: propertymanagementinsider.com

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Selling To Tenants

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 7:51am

Question: We have been renting a single family house for several years. Our tenants have expressed an interest in purchasing, but we are concerned as to whether we will have to pay a real estate commission to the broker who initially found the tenant for us. The lease has a clause stating that if we sell the house during the term of the lease, or any extensions, we are obligated to pay a realtor’s fee of 6 percent. Do we have any choice? We do not believe it is fair to have to pay thousands of dollars under these circumstances.

Answer: Many landlords have found themselves in this situation. Most standard leases prepared by real estate companies contain “boilerplate” language to the effect that if the tenant purchases, during the term of the tenancy or for a period after the tenancy, a commission is owed the original real estate company.

Landlords should read their leases carefully, before they are signed. While the landlord may want to offer a commission to the real estate firm, it is not mandatory. I often recommend this clause be eliminated completely from any standard form lease, thereby giving the owner of the property flexibility in the future.

It may very well be that in the future, the landlord may decide to sell the property. Then, a new listing agreement can be entered into — either with the original real estate company or with another company of the landlord’s choice.

At the very least, real estate commissions are always negotiable. We have all read that a number of years ago, several Real Estate Companies tried to increase their standard fees from 6 to 7 percent. This does not mean that potential home sellers must accept such an increase. The law of supply and demand should prevail in the real estate marketplace.

This is especially true in the case of a tenant who is purchasing the property in which he/she has been living for a number of years. In my opinion, it makes little sense to give a real estate agent 6 or 7 percent of the purchase price, if the tenant purchases during the term of the lease. If such a commission clause is to be included in any lease, certainly the amount of the commission can — and should — be negotiated.

It should also be pointed out that tenants in the District of Columbia have an absolute right of first refusal to purchase a single family house. Thus, there seems to be even less reason to pay a commission of any amount under these circumstances.

With respect to your specific question, we first have to look to the language in your lease. The appropriate paragraph reads as follows:

Commission in event of purchase. Should tenant purchase during the original term, or any extension or renewal of this lease, or within three months following termination thereof, agent shall be paid in cash by landlord a commission of 6 percent of the purchase price at time of settlement or conveyance…

First, it should be made clear that the real estate company is only entitled to a commission if your tenant purchases the property. If a third party ends up buying your house, under the terms of this paragraph you are not obligated to pay a commission.

If you renew the lease, a literal and strict interpretation of the language would obligate you to pay the commission if the tenant ultimately decides to purchase.

However, you do have a number of options. First, I believe that this language may not be upheld by the Courts if a legal challenge were brought. The language was drafted by the real estate broker, and probably not explained to you when you were given the lease to sign. Indeed, in many cases, the agent — and not the landlord — signs the lease.

Second, you might want to consider advising your tenant one month and one day prior to the expiration of the lease that you do not intend to “renew” the lease, but are prepared to sign a new lease, with different terms and conditions. Under this arrangement, you technically have not “renewed” the lease and may not have to pay the commission. This of course is a cloudy issue. Our courts, however, generally take the position that any ambiguities or uncertainties in a legal document (i.e., the lease) will be interpreted against the person who drafted that document.

Third, you should consider discussing the situation directly with the brokerage firm which found your tenant in the first place. Explain your situation, and try to negotiate a lower commission rate. Many real estate broker firms will probably be willing to reduce the commission.

In the future, however, make sure that the next time you sign a lease, you carefully review all of its terms. You have the absolute right to strike any portions of the document which you feel are objectionable or do not meet your needs.

Many consumers have a “thing” about form legal documents. They believe they are sacred and cannot be changed or modified. That is just not true. It takes two people to reach agreement, and all documents can be negotiated, changed or re-written until everyone is in agreement and the document is signed.

 

Source: realtytimes.com

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Energy-efficient home upgrades trending in the industry

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 7:49am

Increasing energy efficiency in the home is a concern that is echoed throughout all aspects of the residential housing sector. From sustainable building practices and energy-conserving materials to smart gadgets and ultra-efficient appliances, professionals across the board are tasked with finding ways of making homes more energy efficient.

Because keeping up with current trends is essential when it comes to building and design, we’ve come up with a few of the top trending home upgrades in energy efficiency. By staying current in the industry, these tips will help you meet your residential clients’ energy needs.

Solar roofs

Solar power is no longer an unknown term for most homeowners and businesses, but the ever-changing technology behind this renewable energy source means that industry professionals need to keep up with current trends in order to provide the most up-to-date and energy efficient solutions for consumers.

Building-integrated solar panels that are virtually camouflaged in the roof of homes are the latest and greatest development in solar tech. Tesla’s Solar Roof — although currently only available for the wealthiest homeowners, will likely soon become the model on which solar providers base their designs in the future.

Another developing product of note is the solar home battery. The second version of Tesla’s Powerwall can store energy and run a home off-grid indefinitely when recharged with solar power.

Smart home solutions

Connectivity is an essential part of 21st-century living, and residential life is no exception. Homeowners are increasingly conscious of their need to be connected to everything in their home — even when they are away.

Appliances and household gadgets equipped with smart technology allow homeowners to keep tabs on their energy consumption and adjust settings on the go via smartphone or tablet apps.

Smart thermostats like the Nest Learning Thermostat and other connectable appliances such as smart lighting systems, HVAC units, kitchen appliances, and even security systems can learn your preferences in order to maximize energy savings link together in order to make homes work more efficiently. Many homeowners are now virtually running their homes with the help of voice-activated home hubs like Google Home and Amazon Echo.

Energy-saving lighting systems

Although most lighting professionals now know the benefits of LED lights over traditional halogen or incandescent bulbs, the energy-saving properties of these new alternatives bear repeating here.

Homeowners are being encouraged to make the switch to LED lighting throughout the home for both safety and efficiency reasons — incandescents and halogens have already been phased out in many countries around the world. Furthermore, the U.S. government energy website estimates that LEDs consume only 25-30 percent of the energy that standard halogen bulbs consume and can last up to 25 times longer.

Other energy-efficient lighting options that are on homeowners’ minds include smart technology-linked lighting systems, dimmer switches, timers, and motion sensors — all of which can substantially reduce energy bills when used correctly.

Energy-efficient windows

The vast majority of new residential properties come with energy-efficient windows as standard, but homeowners with older homes and sky-high energy bills are currently considering changing their windows in order to decrease their household energy costs. According to Energy.gov, installing exterior low-e storm windows can save an average of $100-$274 annually.

When upgrading, homeowners are looking for quality Energy Star-rated windows that will increase the insulation and soundproofing in their homes, regulate interior temperatures and stand the test of time. This is currently done through multiple panes of glass equipped with reflective low-e coatings and insulating gas between the layers, but experts estimate that the future of energy efficient windows lies in smart glass, which can be tinted and adjusted electrically — by users or external light and/or temperatures.

Other upgrades

The fact that there are currently too many energy-efficient home upgrades to list in this article suggests that homeowners are doing whatever they can to decrease their energy use at home.

In addition to the changes mentioned above, there are several other significant ways that professionals can offer energy-saving alternatives to clients. This includes making use of eco-friendly and sustainable materials during the building and decoration processes and installing energy-efficient ductless HVAC systems (or mini-split systems) for increased efficiency and security in the home.

Finally, encouraging homeowners to make energy-conscious choices in their daily lives will help to further decrease energy costs and lower their carbon footprint. Green never sounded so appealing!

 

Source: exclusive.multibriefs.com

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