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MRLANDLORD.COM MONTHLY TIPS ON MANAGEMENT

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25 THINGS I’VE LEARNED IN OVER 3 DECADES OF LANDLORDING

The following list is compiled by an experienced landlord and contributor to LandlordingAdvice.com.  Thanks, Ralph(WA)!

1. I like to think that I am a good judge of character but I’ve been fooled before. So always verify your applicant’s credit, employment and rental history.

2. Look at the applicant’s car to know that your property will be cared for in much the same manner.

3. An applicant who claims to have been a victim of unfair circumstances will often make you a victim of unfair circumstances.

4. Do not rent to friends or friends of friends.

5. Pets cause problems more often than not.  If you’re going to accept them you need to be compensated for the extra wear tear and risks that you will be taking on.  However, a “No Pets” policy is the best policy.

6. Replace water heaters every 10 years whether they need it or not.

7. Keep the gutters clean and the moss on the roof at bay.

8. Do not provide or loan lawn mowers, string trimmers, or power tools of any kind. You’ll get them back broken and if someone gets hurt you might get sued.

9. Don’t let residents do their own painting. They often botch the job.

10. Don’t hand over a signed contract until you have a completed inspection report filled out and returned to you.  It’s best to be present when the resident inspects.

11. Take lots of pictures and video before each residency.  Include the front page of that day’s newspaper to verify the date.

12. It does no good to prohibit anything in your lease unless you have you have effective and immediate remedies included in your agreement or available by statute.

13. Require residents to carry renters insurance for their protection and yours.

14. Include wording in your lease that limits your liability during periods where the rental is rendered inhabitable (through no fault of the landlord) to abatement of rent during that period.

15. Include a modest rent escalation clause in your lease (I use 2.9% per year).  It gets them used to the idea and prevents you from agonizing about when, whether, and how much to increase the rent.

16. Avoid roommate situations if possible.  They are inherently unstable.

17. Get a Lowes credit card and you’ll get an automatic 5% discount on your purchases.

18. Get a Home Depot card and ask them to match the Lowes discount.

19. If you are ex-military disregard 18 & 19 and ask for a 10% discount at Lowes and Home Depot.

20. I have had bad experiences with Section 8 situations and recommend that you avoid them.

21. Give your number to the neighbors and ask them to let you know if there are any problems or concerns.

22. I offer well-maintained rentals that are very competitively priced but I insist on well qualified residents.

23. I also ask for 2 year+ leases whenever possible.  Those who rent from me know they are getting a good deal and are usually willing to commit to a longer lease.

24. Make sure that residents understand that if they cause stoppage of the drains, they will get the bill.  Feminine hygiene products, wet wipes, foreign objects, or even large wads of toilet paper should not be flushed down the toilet.

25. Place battery-operated water leak alarms under the sinks–Best $10 you can spend.

LESSON LEARNED – SCREEN YOUR CONTRACTORS 
The following is a happy ending to a landlord tale that could have turned out very bad.
Back in 2009, I hired someone to seal up and dry out a rental property basement.
I paid $1,250 (1/2 down for supplies) to a man who was supposed to do the basement sealing work for me.  I always check out the resident’s background, but never thought to check out the background of a contractor until it was too late.  Basically he skipped a few days after getting the check, without buying any supplies or doing any work.

In 20 years of landlording before that, I had never had a contractor rip me off.  He left the state without ever doing anything.  I filed a police report and eventually it went to small claims for theft by contractor and the state became the prosecuting force.  There was a warrant put out for his arrest.  My name was not on the court case.

After filing suit, I discovered that he abused his girlfriend and also that he had killed someone a decade or so before that.  I was not going to back down but decided not to attend the proceedings so that maybe he would had forgotten what I looked like, as I had forgotten what he looked like.

Luckily I got a picture of him from the victim advocate.  I didn’t want him to come to my house and not have me even recognize him.  Although he came back to the town where he originally lived (more than an hour from me), the police could never seem to catch him.  FINALLY he was stopped for a traffic issue and arrested.  He was bailed out (by his girlfriend) and again escaped out of state, but for some reason he must have been tired of running.  He turned himself in but then kept coming up with excuses and doing various things to prolong the court case.  I was notified of all court proceedings and could ask questions, if desired.

FINALLY he was found guilty and his attorney called me to see what name they should make the money order out to.  Apparently it was a condition of the court that he had to pay the restitution up front.  It was a LONG time coming (5 yrs), but that $1,250 felt SO good to deposit it into my account.  The lesson here is to check out those you have working on your property, or they can cost you thousands.

IF YOU CAN’T STAND THE HEAT…         

You should always be looking for ways to protect your investments.  When your income depends on owning property to rent, you’ll start to see risks everywhere.  But you can take a few simple steps that will help reduce the likelihood a catastrophe will happen to one of your properties.  One of the simplest things you can do is to install a fire extinguisher in the kitchen of each property you own.  Your insurance company may even give you a discount if you do so.

An extinguisher in each kitchen can keep a small grease fire from turning into a blaze and burning down your property.  Of course, you need to check extinguishers on a regular basis to make sure they’re still functioning.  Each one will have a date from the manufacturer that states when it needs to be replaced.  Some great times to inspect extinguishers are when you rent each property, when you do your annual inspection, or at the start of each year, but always stay within the manufacturer’s recommendations.  If you indeed provide the extinguisher, you should consider charging a deposit for it.  A few people will steal anything that’s not bolted down, and you don’t want to pay for new extinguishers every time a resident moves out.

WHO SHOULD TERMINATE LEASE AFTER A FIRE?      

What are the insurance coverage implications of terminating a lease after a major loss?

Insurance policies that provide coverage for loss of rents typically pay for the rents that you are owed as a result of a valid lease while the covered property remains unfit for habitation.  Using this framework, let’s examine two possible scenarios:

Scenario #1. Landlord leases property to Tenant effective on January 1, 2013 for a one year term.  Property burns down on February 1, 2013.  Landlord terminates the lease by providing written notice.

Scenario #2.  Landlord leases property to Tenant effective on January 1, 2013 for a one year term.  Property burns down on February 1, 2013.  Tenant terminates the lease by providing written notice.

The only difference between Scenario 1 and Scenario 2 is the party terminating the lease, yet they may have drastic differences in coverage as applied by an insurance company.  Let’s assume that both policies are identical and both provide coverage for loss of rents.  Which Landlord would have Loss of Rents coverage as outlined in the examples above?

Landlord in Scenario #2.
Most policies provide for loss of rents coverage for rents that are due to you.  In scenario #1, the Landlord voluntarily terminated the lease so it could be argued that she is no longer due the lost rents as a result of her voluntary termination. Conversely, Tenant in scenario #2 terminated his lease as a result of the loss, and Landlord in scenario #2 has lost rents as a result of Tenant’s lawful termination. There may be additional implications surrounding your insurance claim, the loss of rents is just one example. You should contact your insurance agent for any questions you have about coverage including loss of rents, vacancy, and business interruption with extra expenses such as tenant displacement.

This is why, it is important understand the effect a particular decision may have on your insurance claim should you experience a loss.

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MRLANDLORD.COM MONTHLY TIPS ON MANAGEMENT

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CASHFLOW IDEA — REMOVE A BEDROOM!   

We have discovered that REMOVING a bedroom – changing it to an ‘office’ or ‘craft room’ or ‘spare guest room’ – NOT a bedroom – means that we can legally control how many people live in our houses far easier. And we get more ‘upscale’ residents, too. We bought a little duplex two years ago. It had two tiny bedrooms in each rental.  We moved the walls and created one larger bedroom and one 8×10 office. It rents for exactly the same amount as a two-bedroom would. But instead of four people per rental, we can legally limit it to two based on septic rules. It’s WAY less wear and tear, and ideal for young couples, singles, working moms with ONE kid.

We just purchased an up-down duplex that was 3-up, 2-down. We ripped out the wall between one of the bedrooms up and created a huge master bedroom, and downstairs we removed a closet and added a washer and dryer – creating a large utility/office/emergency guest room. The washer and dryer will get us more rent than a second bedroom would. So now it’s two up, one down – again, less wear and tear, we won’t have to accept six people in one rental, and it will rent for the same amount.  This is just a thought — Unless you rent by the bedroom, we see too many bedrooms as a liability rather than a bonus.

GET RESIDENTS NOW FOR FUTURE VACANCIES

I have to continually remind myself, along with all those assisting me with my rental business (and I would encourage you to do the same), that my goal is not to just fill vacancies, so that all homes are occupied. My BIGGER GOAL is to have a WAITING LIST of future residents waiting to move in. Most landlords make the mistake of waiting until they get notice from a current resident that they are moving, before they get into action to finding another resident.  Smart landlords are ALWAYS doing small things systematically to find/attract future residents before notice of a vacancy even occurs.  As a result they experience little, if any, turnover time between residents. And their profits continue to grow instead of being killed by turnover costs.

USE FACEBOOK PHOTOS TO SCREEN YOUR APPLICANTS

Even if a person has made their Facebook page private, you can often see their photos, which can be quite telling.  I just checked out two prospective residents. The woman’s page is filled with pictures of her parents, family, her dog (whom she brought to meet me) gardening, sunsets, fishing, even and chicken pictures. There’s no partying, no drinking, and she belongs to interesting groups and reads good books.
Her boyfriend’s page was filled with pictures of his daughter, hiking pics, etc. Again, no partying or anything like that.  Both imagine their pages to be private, I am sure.

AND – guess what else I found out about them?
Although they requested an annual lease – of course, this is because the pricing is better.  They seem to have spent every winter since ’09 working out in Colorado during ski season, and coming to the beach here in NC for the spring/summer season.  Which means they are quite likely to leave me high and dry come the fall season.  This means that as much as I like them and admire their lifestyle, (they have traveled a LOT!) I am going to return their deposit and reject their application.

MRLANDLORD.COM MONTHLY TIPS ON MANAGEMENT

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WHAT “ONE” HOUSE CAN DO FOR YOUR FUTURE 

A landlord recently made the following comment in response to a new landlord getting started with just one rental home, “Why bother with one rental house 90 miles away from your home…?”   

 

A long time landlord who has lived to see the value of “one” house responded.

Do you know what one rental house will do for your future? When I turned 16, instead of buying a new car for myself, I saved my money and on my 18th birthday purchased my first rental home.  Here’s what that one home did for me:

1) During the first 10 years I was able to get enough rent money to pay all expenses and save a little towards emergency repairs or vacancies.  I was also able to take several tax deductions, as an investor-landlord, which saved me $3,000 a year on taxes on top of the positive rental cash flow.

2) During the next 10 years I was able to slowly raise the rent and double the income, making me $1,000 a month positive cash flow and paying down the mortgage.

3) During the last 10 years I paid off the property, received triple the original rent, and now pocket $2,000 a month in positive cash flow and have an asset worth half a million dollars.

So one rental property gives me $2,000 a month income, makes my net assets rise by 1/2 million dollars and provides a nice supplement to my retirement.  In 30 years, think of how the property will be paid off and make you a great income.

10 TIPS TO “TENANT-PROOF” YOUR RENTALS    

A landlord asked this week on LandlordingAdvice.com, “How do you ‘tenant-proof’ your properties?  How do you minimize damage/wear and tear?”  One of regular forum contributors shared the following 10 tricks of the trade.

1) Remove storm or screen doors–Especially with children around.

2) VCT tiles are my low-cost choice for floors. Trying dragging a washing machine or heavy furniture across any floor to test it for durability.

3) I have replaced broken glass windows with 1/8 inch Plexiglas instead.

4) Buy metal doors for entry/exit doors on a house. Use solid wood doors for the interior rooms.

5) When installing bathroom towel bars or roll paper holders, make sure you hit a stud with your mounting screws and not rely on plastic drywall anchors.  Kids use towel bars to do chin-ups with.

6) With hardwood floors that need refinishing but your budget will not allow it, I have painted them using chocolate brown OIL based S-W paint.  It looks great too.

7) Never use a light fixture that has an on/off pull chain on it. Provide a switch at the wall only.

8) Use medium-grade kitchen/bath faucets. Cheap plastic ones break too easily and the expensive Kohler ones tend to get stolen.

9) Use cheap mini-blinds and hang them yourself or you will discover what a 4 inch long framing nail does.

10) Never install carpet for anyone.  It is just a matter of time (or months) before it gets soiled beyond repair.

WHY MANY LANDLORDS LOSE MONEY!     
Not surprising many who get started in real estate lose money. I’m not talking about a 1040 loss after depreciation or other mystery losses. I’m talking losing cash-real green-every month. Why do so many lose money?

First off, real estate is enticing. New investors attend an “only six seats left” seminar with 246 CDs, 14 books, 6 booklets and a glow in the dark “Money is Good” orange badge. The whole shebang is only $5995, but for you, only today, it’s discounted to $1995. – Hold it, the seminar promoter just told me for the next 10 seconds it’s just $995! and Presto. You are going to get rich! 🙂

Toto and Dorothy please pull the curtain back and reveal the Wizard Guru and the dark side of the paradox. The real work. Not the fluff! And, as in most things, it’s not as easy as it might seem. The following are 4 real reasons why many landlords lose money!

 

1) Landlords don’t take time to really learn NICHE MARKETS, and rehab properties or add amenities aimed at niche tenants. It’s important to really know the tenant markets you want and gear your rentals and advertising toward those niches. If you do you will be blessed with at least six applications for every vacancy.

 

2) Poor Tenant Selection. Better to have a vacancy than a slob deadbeat. The problem is that many deadbeats today do not look like deadbeats and are not easy to spot on the surface. That’s why it is vital to do home visits, run credit, eviction, criminal checks, and adhere to your standards.

 

3) Poor tenant management. If you don’t enforce the rules, why should the tenant? Follow the lease (mine is 29 pages) and your procedures. File for eviction on the day your lease says you will, no exceptions. Nice guys finish broke!

 

4) Tenant Turnover. Always the largest expense. Average turnover for most landlords is $3,000 to $11,000. Turnover includes all repairs, plus lost rent and PITI during the months of non-payment and vacancy. Yeah, I know, you do it for $1,500. Sorry buddy, that’s not a light, that’s a train. Turnover includes, Cleanout, major repairs, major replacements, minor repairs and replacements, paint, flooring, months of non-paid rent, rent-loss during vacancy, advertisement costs, cost of your time, etc. Still at $1500. Buy a calculator that works.

 

Advice: Buy and read good books and newsletters from “real” landlords. Attend seminars or landlord conventions by real landlords and investors who do what they talk about and are successful and happy! Avoid gurus who won’t reveal what they own or manage.

9 CASHFLOW IDEAS FROM OUR RECENT LANDLORD CRUISE   

  1. Pass through as many of your expenses to the residents: For example: tenants would be responsible to pay for rental registrations imposed by city, Their share of monthly water bill and other ala carte expenses such as garbage pick-up, etc.  Charge for service requests/repairs of problems caused by residents or their neglect, i.e. drain stoppages, broken windows, lockouts, etc. (these charges would be included in the lease). 
  2. Pool resources with other investors to get volume discounts of 20 to 35% or more.
  3. Rent house components. Example: Detached garages or sheds, washer/dryers, etc.
  4. Offer “convenient” fees to residentsExamples: Lease initiation fee, Early lease termination, month to month, etc. (Two dozen additional recommended fees are highlighted in a new FEE book featured on MrLandlord.com).     
  5. Offer Pay Day rent payment plans.
  6. Eliminate property components items that require more service calls or replacement. Examples: carpet, dishwashers / garbage disposals, etc.
  7. Convert/Add one additional bedroom if permitted and feasible.
  8. Shop or challenge your  major expenses (i.e. insurance, property taxes, etc)
  9. Attend monthly association meetings, landlord conferences and trainings.
SCREENING TIPS FROM MRLANDLORD.COM

Tip 1: If you are looking for non-smokers, do not ask on the application, “Do you smoke?” Instead ask, “Do you smoke inside or outside?”  

They probably will say “outside” thinking it is more favorable answer, rather than lying and saying they don’t smoke. Now, you can decide if you want to rent to a smoker.  

Tip 2:  You can do phone number searches on Facebook and find people — even if their phone is private on Facebook itself. Even if they have just used the mobile version of Facebook at some point, if you do a phone number search, it will usually find them. Again, this is true even if their number is otherwise private. That is how I find most of my applicants that I’m researching — by putting in their cell phone.

 

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE LEASE CLAUSE?

On MrLandlord.com, we recently asked website contributors to vote on over 60 lease clauses. The following 4 clauses received the most votes:

1. If Tenant shall remain in possession of all or any part of the Premises after the expiration of the term of this Lease, with consent of Owner and without a new Lease being executed, then Resident shall become a lessee from month-to-month subject to all of the applicable covenants, terms and conditions hereof, except the monthly rental payments shall increase by 10%.

2. EARLY LEASE TERMINATION: Should the tenant (s) terminate or cause this agreement to be terminated early, the Landlord may charge the tenant (s) an early termination fee of $_______. 

3. PAYMENTS: All monies paid by Tenant to Landlord are applied first to late fees and all other outstanding debts and bills, then to any past due rent, and lastly to the current month’s rent.

4. RENT DUE DATE: The due date for rent owing under this Agreement is the ______ day of every calendar month. Owners need to RECEIVE the rent on or before this date. If Tenant chooses to use a payment service that generates or mails checks from a remote location, Tenant bears the responsibility of ensuring that checks are mailed so that they arrive on or before due date.

It’s important to note that laws vary from state to state, and you should seek counsel before adding any to your lease. 

WANT TO IMPROVE THE RENTAL NEIGHBORHOOD THIS YEAR & IMPROVE PROFITS?    

Is it time to get rid of crime, neglect and problems and take the neighborhood back surrounding your rental?  One of the best and simplest pieces of advice I can give you, comes from my colleague, Al Williamson.

DON’T GO AT IT ALONE! Get backup. Acting as an individual, even in affluent neighborhoods, one can run into unexpected situations or people. This goes even more so for lower income neighborhoods. 

It is useful to imagine yourself as a slender piece of cross bracing in a tall scaffolding system.  You have some strength on your own, but you become exponentially stronger when interconnected with others.
 
If you, as a landlord, connect with other landlords, together you can overcome nearly any obstacle. Meet the other owners surrounding your property. 

 

CASH FLOW TIP OF THE WEEK – Consider hiring a virtual assistant to compile contact information of all the neighboring property owners. The very act of assembling a directory of all other nearby landlords and property owners will trigger a series of unforeseen (and profitable)  benefits that help crime-proof your block. It’s a phenomenon; neighborhoods become safer when people say “hello.”   

If you implement this one single idea, it may be the beginning of the most profitable thing you do all year long!  You may end up even buying a property at some point from one of your newly discovered neighboring contacts. 😉 

That’s exactly what happened to me several years back when contact was made with a neighboring landlord regarding a problem renter that was actually one of my residents. After handling the matter and developing a relationship and mutual respect with the fellow landlord, who was looking to retire from the business, I ended up buying an eight-unit family building from the retiring landlord for no money down. 

— This is one step toward becoming a Catalytic landlord and much more profitable in 2014. By Al Williamson, author and regular contributor to MrLandlord.com.  

 

 

EXPENSES — THE CEMETERY OF REAL ESTATE INVESTORS   
 
Kids tend to have nightmares they can’t control.  Parents often have kids they can’t control.  Some investors have expenses they can’t control–Or they won’t even acknowledge the problem.  Thus, rental real estate becomes less of the fulfillment of a dream, but more like a Nightmare on Elm Street.  How about you?  Are expenses making you crazy?  EXPENSES drive many investors out of real estate, and some investors to financial ruin.

I have found no other subject in rental house investing that is so invisible, that is not often written or taught, than expenses.  I have researched the most popular real estate investing newsletters — and I’ve found nothing.  Websites – nothing.  The bestselling books – nothing.  The guru/experts speaking agendas – nothing.  Yes, it may be mentioned in passing to, “control expenses”, “cut expenses”, but there are no numbers, no ratios, and no strategies, such as my almost-famous “The Eliminators”.
Why?  Perhaps it’s better to push the Nightmare into the corner, hide it in the unconscious.  Better not bring to light the ugly and noxious truth even as it bulldozes your hopes to a pile of moaning rubble on a foreclosed empty lot.

In direct contrast, public companies’ quarterly and annual reports are filled with expense totals, percentages against budget, and gross margins. These numbers are openly reported and enthusiastically followed by investors and Wall Street.  Ignoring expenses is not the norm in business; it is the exception–and it is deadly and dumb.

I actively manage 70 houses and 26 garages.  I deal daily with the nonstop tide of expenses.  I study (not just look at) my profit-and-loss monthly statement against my budget, and I consistently attempt to monitor and make adjustments to overruns.  I don’t do this naturally or particularly well—I force myself to do it.

For instance, I have a 3′ x 4′ poster board on my office door with monthly totals for Rent – PITI = Gross Margin – Expenses (9 categories) = Net for each month and quarter, totals vs. budget.  The poster board on my office door forces me to look at my expense numbers several times a day.    
If an investor is not calculating and monitoring the monthly numbers, he is not an investor; he is a speculator/mystic who leaves the making of profit to chance.  Do you hope and pray for profit from the tooth fairy so you can gamble another day?

I have asked individual investors if they have a budget and track expenses.
“I’m too busy.”
“I don’t know how.”
“What do you mean?”
“My CPA does it at year end.”

Don’t let yourself be one of the former.
There’s so much more to share on this subject, but for now let me suggest that beginning in 2014, at a minimum you track your expenses on a monthly basis and compare this to your budget, or develop one.  
 
DID YOU GET MY TEXT?    

Surviving in Landlording, like any business, often means being able to adapt to changes in the times and embrace new methods of communication. Texting is one type of communication where some landlords have adapted and embraced the idea whereas others have not as much. Whatever your personal preference regarding using texting, there could be advantages to using texting in your business. The key with texting, as with other communication tools that will come along, is to remain open to the idea of discovering what ways (even if in minor ways)  texting can possibly add to your effectiveness in business.
For example one landlord shared how she likes and utilizes texting in her landlording business:

“Texting saves me hours of time.  I have to laugh because I remember when FAXES weren’t acceptable. Then voicemail. Then it was email. Now it’s texting. Here’s just one tiny example of why I love texting–Two days ago, got a text from a resident. The fridge was warm. I texted my repair guy. He texted the resident. He went over, fixed the fridge, and texted me when it was done. Done and done. Now if that was phone calls–First of all, trying to get people to answer the phone during a work day is hard. But they read their texts!  Second, in order to be polite, when you DO get someone on the phone, you don’t say, ‘The fridge is broken. Can you check it out?’ You might say, ‘Hi how are you how’s your day going, how’s the kids, etc.’  It just always takes longer.”

Please understand, this is not a commentary to persuade you whether texting is something you should  or should not do. It is simply an encouragement to be OPEN to the idea, that there may be some ways that you can utilize texting in your business to your advantage. If the truth be told, I’m pretty “old-school” in many of my ways, so I’m writing this note as much to myself as to anyone, because I’ve learned that if I let my  personal preferences totally limit my thinking, I may also be limiting the success of different aspects of my business.        
 
SCREENING TIP OF THE WEEK      

You can do phone number searches on Facebook and find people — even if their phone is private on Facebook itself.  If they have just used the mobile version of Facebook at some point, and if you do a phone number search, Facebook will usually find them. Again, this is true even if their number is otherwise private. That is how I find most of my applicants that I’m researching — by putting in their cell phone number in the Facebook search engine.
 
POSITIVE LANDLORD STORIES

Lot of news lately about negative stories involving landlords, one of our regular website contributors asked this morning if any positive stories can be shared as we start the new year, some GOOD THINGS landlords out there are doing for our families, our neighborhoods, and/or our residents.
Couple of the first responses: 1) We have a tenant who didn’t like her refrigerator when she moved in. It’s older, we repaired one of the shelves, but it was in good shape and perfectly functional so we basically told her take it or leave it. She called a week or so ago saying the shelf broke again. We could easily repair it, but she’s been there a year and has been a decent tenant so we decided to buy her a new fridge instead. We’re letting her pick the style and have promised it to her before Thanksgiving. She’s thrilled.

2) Tuesday, I drove my Section 8 tenant to a Church to fill out papers for help. Her vehicle caught on fire after a recall from Ford just two days before! She is challenged with resources to get compensation from Ford, who is sending her a letter, depending on family and friends to get to and from work and kids to and from school. She has no saving and now no vehicle. With no ride to the Church I drove her to and from, bought her lunch and heard about her kids, school, and life. She has the best attitude. She is trying, SALUTE! Salute to those who are trying to help themselves.

MRLANDLORD.COM MONTHLY TIPS ON MANAGEMENT

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BEST SUCCESS HABITS  

How do successful people order their lives to be their best? Several real estate investors share a habit or two that contributes to their success! Below are one dozen of their best success habits.

1) Check your financial status EVERY morning every account – and regularly run reports to know where and how we are spending our money… This has kept us on track for many years. This ‘habit’ allowed us to buy rental homes, keep them full and allowed us to ‘retire’ (well, switch professions anyway!)

2) Keep lists. I write down everything I have to do and keep checking things off. I keep punch lists for each property,  I keep a list of the dates when bills are due and make sure they get checked off each month. And  keep lists of business things that have to be done…

3) Delegate and elevate. Focus on the things that you are either a) good at; or b) enjoy doing. Otherwise, I try to offload everything else on people who are better at those things, or enjoy them more than I do. Makes me happy, and usually makes the other people happy too.

4) Do SOMETHING every day to move FORWARD, even if just a tiny step or a single phone call. It’s easy for a landlord to get busy with minutia and not spend effort to grow their profit.

5) Avoiding time wasters:  Running errands on different days, time waster. Running to the Home Depot store more than once when repairing something, time waster.  Filling my car with gas when it’s only half empty, time waster.  Being stuck in traffic, time waster.  Running to the store because I ran out of toilet paper, time waster.  Shopping for food more than once a week, time waster.

6) Reading the question and answer forum on MrLandlord.com  is one of the best habits I’ve developed over the last year. I search first to see if a subject’s already been covered and then if I don’t find the answer I ask all the great folks there.

7) Be proactive with keeping good tenants. Find out what they’d want to stay and extend their lease. This is something I’d put in my calendar to think about a few months before a tenant’s lease is up.

8) “ZERO INBOX”. Immediately upon seeing something, I mentally categorize it as meaningless or meaningful. If meaningless, I trash/delete/forget it. If meaningful, I decide what it means — do I need to give myself a “to do” or “appointment” in my calendar? Do I need to make a phone call? Do I need to pass along the info? I don’t necessarily solve the issue at that point (if not needed), but I always set some future reminder or time frame. This gets me to a “zero inbox”, so I’m never vaguely worried about forgetting something or putting off something. It also forces me to screen out useless clutter or meaningless info.

9) Plan any work before you do it. This should be everyone’s #1 habit, but it really isn’t. You need to measure, draw pictures, look at videos, etc. I like to plan renovations months ahead, then draw up the plan and refer back to it in the interim. The time allows me to reconsider or scale back/simplify. Sometimes I start off wanting to do something ambitious but realize when I get into the details that simple is better, especially with my target rental rates being in the 1000-1200 range. Sometimes you can do a 5k renovation job and get 90% of the results of the 10k job.

10) I pre-screen callers over the phone. If they pass the first wave of screening then they get the combination to the house they are calling about. I let them view themselves on THEIR schedule. I never miss a showing that way and I never waste MY time driving to and from a showing or just sitting in my truck waiting for them to show. I have been doing this for about 7-8 years and I figure I save about 30 minutes per scheduled showing. Add that up over the years…. WOW.

11) Paying my bills, ASAP. Lying to yourself by ignoring them is a really bad idea. That way, you may have to eat Rahmen noodle soup for a few weeks, but you won’t be utterly stupid and run up debt which is no longer manageable.

12) My best habit: work to build and reinforce my DREAM daily. When I am inspired, everything else is a detail.

 


WHAT IS YOUR WOW FACTOR? 

Always Highlight (include) a WOW factor. When prospective residents do call and come to view your rental, most often one of two things will come to mind when they see your place. Either they’ll think “WOW!” or “Whoa!” Obviously you want them to think, “WOW!” A landlord recently confided with me that her rentals were nice, but there was not really anything impressive about them. She said it was common for her places to remain vacant for a couple of months before she is able to rent them. I believe that there may be a correlation. Your rental needs something to SPARK the attention of prospective residents in a positive way. If it’s something that also separates you from your competition, even better!

If prospects are coming to view your property and no one (or very few) is filling out an application, then that’s a sure sign that you need to add a WOW factor.  Wow factors don’t have to be elaborate amenities.  Wow factors can be something as simple as squeaky clean windows that glisten from a distance as the prospect walks up to the home. Or a WOW can be a thoroughly clean rental. I’m amazed at how many prospects tell me other rentals they’ve looked at are dirty. I pay someone specifically to do cleaning detail as the final preparation step on my rentals so that they will be in showcase condition. Wow factors can be a beautiful but inexpensive ceiling fan, swirl pattern design added to the living room or dining room ceiling, two-tone color scheme. Wow factors can be amenities that I take the time to highlight and make a BIG deal about during the showing of the property, like a HUGE walk-in closet, dishwasher or the washer and dryer.

A WOW factor could even be a large “Move-In” basket, with lots of goodies, sitting on the kitchen counter that the prospect sees when they enter the kitchen. Or the pretty bath towels that were added to the bathroom along with the pretty matching rug.
A WOW factor can even be a bonus “service” that you include for free as part of the “Custom Rental Package” 

For example, WOW services can include Free Renter’s Insurance, Free Maid Service (once or twice a month–who says it has to be daily) or Free Lawn Care. You can work out a low-cost arrangement with a company that offers such services and then provide it for the residents.  In each example, you’re still talking LESS than a month’s rent, far better than having a place sit empty for two months. These type of WOW factors definitely separate you from the competition, plus they greatly encourage your residents to stay in your properties longer. On top of all that, these WOW service factors benefit not only the resident, but you as the landlord as well. The maid or lawn service helps to keep your homes well maintained. Renter’s insurance adds to your liability protection.

9 WAYS TO COMPETE AGAINST THE BIG BOYS   

 1) Have you thought of ways to offer what your competition isn’t offering?

2) Is there anyway that you can improve your properties inexpensively? Sometimes little things like well-lighted closets, under-the-cabinet lighting in the kitchen, a new coat of paint with modern colors, upscale showerheads, attractive bathroom cabinets, etc., can attract residents.

3) Size up the outside of the rentals. Could they use shutters, flowers, a fountain, etc. to make them more attractive?  Make the properties so inviting that the prospective resident will choose to live in your rentals instead of the competition’s.

 4) If your competition allow pets: Play up the fact that you don’t. Many people will not want to live in rentals filled with pets. Advertise your properties as “Pet free! Enjoy good living without having to put up with barking dogs, or crying cats in the night!” 
 
5) If you can’t compete on price: Find the place in the market where you don’t go head to head on price. Offer something they can’t or don’t offer.

6) Determine where your current or previous residents came from. How did they find out about you? 

7) What about marketing to a NICHE market? For example, seniors don’t want a pool and don’t want the noise (kids crying and loud parties) that often comes from big complexes. Figure out ways to market to them. Do some internet research about what your target resident wants.

8) Look at other businesses that market to the same niche of customers you want and team up with them in your marketing campaign. 

9) Truly figure out what the customers you seek want (again your niche market) and offer it. People will pay more to get what they want.

 

8 EFFECTIVE QUESTIONS TO ASK ON YOUR RENTAL APPLICATION

Recently 50+ great questions were posted by contributors nationwide to the popular MrLandlord.com Q&A forum.  These were suggested questions landlords could consider adding to their rental applications to make them more effective.  From the 50+ suggested application questions, here are 8 questions that received the most votes on our Landlord Survey as worth your consideration to add to the effectiveness of your rental application. 

1. Instead of asking if an applicant has pets, I ask what are the names of their pets. It seems to throw them off guard and they answer without really thinking about it. 

2. Is there anything negative I’m going to find out after I run your credit report that you’d like to tell me your side of?

3. I hereby give permission to the landlord/manger to check and verify all information provided on this application, including my credit history, rental history, employment/income history, and criminal history with any references listed above and by other means, both now and in the future, for rental consideration, extending the tenancy and/or for collection purposes should it be deemed necessary.

4. Which payment schedule would you prefer:
Monthly at $_______, every 2 weeks at $_______ or weekly at $_______?

5. Include a copy of your drivers license and the last 2-4 pay stubs.  (If I do have to have papers served, I have a picture of them. Also this verifies their application even more with an address, etc.)

6. Have you had any recurring problems with your current apartment, management or landlord?  If yes, please explain.

7. What is the name of your bank where your checking/savings accounts are located?  (This information may come in handy in the future. Plus, when residents have a checking or savings account, it makes it much more likely that we will be able to set up automatic debits from their account for rent payments). 

8. Do you have a previous or outstanding balance with City Water, Gas, or Electric Company?  (So I know if they are going to be able to get utilities transferred before we go further). 

MY LIFE CHANGED WITH GOOGLE VOICE     

If you use a smartphone and you’re not using Google Voice, you need to! Giving out your cellphone number to residents will only add stress to your life and make you hate the business. I did this when I was new to the biz and hated the fact that my residents had 24/7 access to me.  They’d call in the middle of the night when their neighbors were making too much noise.  They’d call non-stop with repair issues.  When I had a vacancy my phone would ring constantly with inquiries.  I only had 2 rentals at the time and couldn’t imagine what it would be like if I had 20.

Then a couple of years ago I got Google Voice and my life changed!!! You get a different number that forwards to your smartphone. This is the ONLY number that I give to a resident. I changed the setting so that it goes to Voicemail every time I get a call. They can text me (which suits me fine!) or they call and leave a message. The phone never rings. 

Example – Yesterday a resident’s A/C unit stopped working.  She called me on Sunday morning.  Sorry, but except for fire/flood/blood I don’t work on Sunday.  The resident called 5 times without leaving a message. I didn’t know it until I checked my call log – it never rings. She finally left me a message on Sunday afternoon.  I checked it and wrote a note to handle it in the morning.  She continued to call, but I didn’t get bothered. It wasn’t an emergency – it’s not blistering hot out here. This morning I followed up and got it taken care of (by texting someone, of course!).  The constant phone calls didn’t mess up my weekend with the family or my day of worship.

Don’t let the resident own your life by giving them your cellphone number (which grants them 24/7 access to you).  Giving residents your Google Voice number will solve this problem!

7 ONLINE MARKETING IDEAS FOR LANDLORDS ON A SMALL BUDGET    

Most rental owners are on a tight budget, especially when it comes to marketing. Times are hard and many landlords feel like they don’t have a lot of money to invest on advertising and marketing.  The irony is, not marketing your business will have a detrimental effect on your business.  Online marketing is not only much cheaper but it is far more effective than traditional methods of marketing, plus you can easily track the success of each marketing campaign that you launch.  Here Are Some Big Marketing Ideas for Landlords With A Small Marketing Budget:

1. Look into Google Plus Local
Google really is on your side and it wants to help your rentals be found. They make sure that if potential customers are looking for a product or service that you provide, Google wants to make sure that its results are totally relevant and your company appears in the listings. As a result, search results are becoming much more local and personalized and companies who claim their Google Plus Local Page and optimize it properly get the best rewards.

2. Start a Blog
No matter what type of rental homes you offer, you can still have a blog. In case you don’t know what a blog is, it basically stands for “web log” and they’re effectively online diaries.  Anyone can set one up, that’s the easy part.  Use a resource such as WordPress.com to create a free blog. 

3. Social Networking
Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are all popular sites that you can’t ignore. Consider creating a profile on each of these sites.  You will not only create new opportunities for potential rental residents to find you but they may also be excellent sources of traffic. Local rental owners that use social media sites like these, almost always see a significant increase in monthly traffic. The part that excites them the most is the fact that it is completely free. All it costs is a little of their time but the results are well worth it.  “You can no longer afford to ignore social media marketing.  In 2012, 85% of marketers found that social media generated more exposure for their business.”

4. Case Studies and Testimonials
If you already have happy customers who love your product or service why not get a testimonial or case study from them?  Case studies and testimonials are a perfect way to get brand new residents because they build credibility and give the potential customers the confidence to try your rentals knowing that other people like it. They will be less inclined to buy if they don’t see any testimonials or reviews.  The secret is to get your customer to talk about your product or service, how they used it, and the results that they got.  Most customers will be happy to do this if you ask them.

5. Write a Free “Guide” for Customers to Download
No matter what kind of business you are in, you can get a lot more business by writing a free “Guide”. It is an excellent marketing technique. They are an excellent way to get a lot of traffic to your site and increase the interest in your product or service.
Examples:
Guide to Choosing the Right Rental Home or Apartment
Guide to Leasing a Home with the Option to Buy
How to Enjoy Customized Upgrades in Your Next Rental Home
How to Find Rental Homes Which Offers Your Choice of Pay Plans!
These kinds of free reports rank highly in the search engines and do a superb job of up-selling your rentals, as well as making you an “authority” in your field. Rental applicants will see that you cater to their needs and will decide to rent from  from you instead of your competitors.

6. Ask For Referrals
It is surprising how many landlords don’t ask their customers for referrals. Why not?  If you have satisfied and happy customers, you really should be asking for referrals as it is a very effective way of getting even more happy customers.  Some people feel shy about asking and are afraid that the customer will turn them down. However, you will be surprised at how few customers actually will say no. If a large proportion of customers do refuse to introduce you to others, it might be a sign that you are doing something wrong and could be doing a much better job of making them happy, giving you something to work on.

7. Harness The Power of YouTube
Savvy landlords are latching on to the importance of YouTube in their marketing campaigns. Not only do videos now appear in the search results, but you can also use videos to show how off your rental home. A video tour of your home or apartments could be a great way to help fill your vacancy.

The above online marketing ideas are from Charles Blair, a featured instructor at this year’s MrLandlord.com National Convention.

ASK FOR PICTURE ID 
I ask for picture ID before I process an application. Some prospective residents will drive up to see the rental and then tell me they don’t have a license. I’m not the police, but I’m not processing an application without an ID.  I’m sure they have a state-issued ID to buy their beer and cash their checks.Getting the ID recently proved very valuable yet again for me. The address on the license didn’t match any previous addresses given. The applicant insisted it must be an error on his license because he has no idea about that address.

Interesting. The Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) in my state doesn’t issue actual license when you go to the RMV – they mail it to your address listed on the license.  So how did you get the license if you never heard of the address?

He couldn’t come up with an answer for that, but I imagine that the same address (and several others not listed on the application) came up on the credit report.  Once again you have to dig a little deeper when applicants put down Mom’s address as their only previous rental.

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NO AGE OR SEX

Did you know that you can reduce the chances of having a discrimination claim against you by removing the words “AGE” or “SEX” so that they do not appear anywhere on your rental application?
As evidenced by a recent discussion with other landlords on this topic, there are still landlords who think you can ask for AGE or SEX on the rental application. If either of those two words currently appear on your rental applications, I would suggest that you remove them.

FAIR HOUSING NO-NO’S (Words NOT to include in your advertisements)!

Here are a few Fair Housing No-No’s: “Scenic View”: Preference for the sighted. “Walk to park”: Preference for the ambulatory.

“Near playground”: Preference for families with children.

“Mother-in-Law suite”: The name says it all.

“Near cathedral”: Preference for Catholics.

“Near mosque”: Preference for Muslims.

The list goes on…and on…and on.  It’s important that rental owners stay up to date on fair housing issues and attend monthly association meetings, which from time to time may include a guest speaker addressing fair housing topics.

LEASE SIGNING CHECKLIST    

The following is a sample checklist used by Steven VanCauwenbergh, “The Savvy Landlord”, to make sure that he is consistent in his procedures with every new resident.  Whether or not you decide to use a checklist similar to Steven’s or create your own, it is important that you have a systematic checklist for working with all new residents so YOU won’t miss any important step in the lease-signing process.

  1. ______  Resident application(s)
  2. ______  Resident paid application fee
  3. ______  Resident copy of driver’s license or state ID card
  4. ______  Resident background results
  5. ______  2 copies of lease
  6. ______  1 copy of move-in checklist (Resident will initial and receive a copy)
  7. ______  1 copy of FAQ Sheet (Resident will initial and receive a copy)
  8. ______  1 copy of Utilities phone numbers
  9. ______  1 copy of important numbers
  10. ______  1 copy of Pest Control letter
  11. ______  1 copy of Welcome letter
  12. ______  1 copy of Renters Insurance letter
  13. ______  Property Photos/Video
  14. ______  Collect Lock Box
  15. ______  Air Filter (Show Resident how to install new filter)
  16. ______  Eviction Process (Explain the process, then have Resident sign and date)
  17. ______  Appliance Agreement
  18. ______  Monies Owed (Pro-Rated, use as Receipt)
  19. ______  Work Order (What needs to be addressed immediately)
  20. ______  Collect “For Rent” sign

— By Steven VanCauwenbergh, author of the brand-new book The Savvy Landlord

MY “DON’T ANSWER” CALLS – FOLLOW UP TO PRE-SCREENING   

To me, phone pre-screening is a valuable tool that allows me to spend 180 seconds or less getting a feel for a prospect and finding out, “Do I really want to spend 5 minutes to an hour of my time only to find out this person is not going to cut it?”

I have 4-5 questions that come into play within the first minute to minute and a half of conversing on the phone. I’ll let the caller ask 1 or 2 questions, but then I take control of the conversation with: “We’re offering a no-obligation pre-screening over the phone right now. Let’s get started.”  If they refuse, I refer them to our ad online for any detailed questions and let them go. No sense wasting a ton of time answering questions that are already answered.

Some questions for the prospective caller include:

1) How soon are you moving?

2) Who will be living at the address?

3) We verify income and employment, run a background check, pull credit checks, and contact past landlords for reference. What questions do you have about that, or is there anything you’d like me to clarify? (This one takes the most time, but shouldn’t take more than 60 seconds).

4) Tell me about your pets.

5) A follow up to anything they mention that raises questions or flags. This one isn’t always necessary.

That’s usually it. I can tell pretty quickly at this point if I want to continue talking to this person. If they are “cagey” (i.e. won’t answer, don’t answer, etc) or if they have a “story to tell / situation to explain” I give it about 10 seconds, and unless it’s absolutely golden I cut it off pretty quickly with, “Based on what you’re telling me today it would be difficult to approve an application. I’m still happy to show you the property and give you an application form if you would like.”Then I thank them for the call, hang up, and save their phone number under a contact list titled “Don’t Answer”.

If/when I see that contact name pop up on a call, I follow the advice on my phone. Well, today I didn’t look closely at the phone an accidentally answered a “Don’t Answer” contact.  A gal calling for her friend who’d been evicted a few months ago. Oh well, I actually was a pretty nice guy and laid out what the problem was as I saw it.  The prospect had a recent eviction and no attempt made to make it right with previous landlord.  The gal just kept giving me excuse after excuse. The landlord sent her friend a notice that her lease wasn’t going to be renewed, she thought it was an eviction so she just moved out, she never forwarded her mail so didn’t get the court papers, she got evicted and a judgment against her, she supposedly tried to work it out with the landlord but he won’t answer the phone and is never in the office, blah blah blah.  I let it go on for about 3 minutes just because it was amusing.

Then I cut it off.  I was polite and said I wasn’t saying she was lying, but that there was no way for me to know if what she was telling me was true.  I asked, “Is there something you can show me in writing that backs all this up?” Silence.  Then the gal launched back into blaming the past landlord for not responding to them.

Gee, if they treated him like they do me, I can see WHY he didn’t respond!

I cut it off again and told her the owners like to see folks take responsibility for the rough patches in life, that this is how they know who will pay rent on time, all the time, through rain or shine.

Oh look–A “Don’t Answer” contact is calling me again right now! This time, I’m taking my phone’s advice.

ANOTHER REASON TO PRE-SCREEN   

I just rented a house I rehabbed to a decent couple with kids a week or so ago. They have been moving stuff in all week (4BR 1BA; Large). While we were completing the finishing touches, I showed the house a LOT. To well over 100 people. A lot of them just stopped by and I got a ton of calls.  The house is not in the hood, it is in a lower middle/ upper low working class area. BUT, the hood starts about 10 blocks away and it’s creeping closer.

Long story short, one of the outstanding individuals that viewed the house broke in while the renters were sleeping. They cut a screen out and crawled through a window. He actually stepped on a child sleeping near the window.  The thief went to the back door, took off the 2×4 brace, unlocked it, and opened it. Hence why it was probably someone I showed the place to.  The thief came in to unplug the TV with the couple sleeping on the couch 6 feet or so away.

The wife woke up and woke the husband up. The husband proceeded to chase the thug through the house. The door was already open in back of course.  He ran to a waiting truck. The cops were there in 3 minutes, but it didn’t matter. They didn’t find the thieves.  The TV’s broken since robber dropped it when running.

Lesson learned, I will never show a place to anyone I don’t pre-screen, even if I am there. I always pre-screen over the phone, but, to just let people in since we were there finishing…No.  There will be no foot through the front door without pre-screening.

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SCREENING TIP: KNOW THE ADDRESS OF LOCAL JAIL  

Do you know the street address to the city JAIL in your area? Knowing that address has alerted me on a couple of previous occasions and again today. When that address appears, as one of the previous addresses when running a credit report, that definitely raises a red flag that I may not have known about otherwise. Especially since the applicant did not include that previous address on the rental application. (By the way, another big reason for always running credit reports are to discover previous addresses the applicant fails to include).
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PRE-SCREENING TACTICS
I do pre-screening by email first, then if they pass that, I do a follow-up phone call.  In the follow-up phone call, I ask a few more questions and let them talk. Funny the things you find out when ya let ’em talk, like if they have a pet, are a smoker (but only outside, of course!) even if the ad said No pets and NO smoking, etc.!
If they “pass” that follow-up phone call, I will set up an appointment to see the place. If they don’t pass the follow-up phone call, I tell them someone in the office will process the info and will get back to them if all looks good.Here are my pre-screening questions:1. Your full name, including middle name:
2. Your phone number and your personal email address:
3. What is your net income every month, and how long have you had your job? (If possible, how long did you have your job before this current job)?
4. Will you please share your Facebook page link (but we know not everyone has FB)?
5. What is your target date to move in?  How long have you been in your current place? Have you given notice yet?
6. Do you have any questions for us?
It’s during the “meet in person and see the place” phase that I give interested parties an application, collect the application fee, collect their written consent for me to contact references, do a credit check, and conduct a background check.
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SOME OF YOUR RESIDENTS WANT TO PAY YOU MORE!   
Lots of landlords have a “My way or the highway” attitude, and THAT attitude limits their income. We MUST be in tune with our residents’ thinking and life-needs so we can serve them.  Find out what they want or what they need and let them pay you for it. We are not forcing them.  Landlords who refuse such techniques are being selfish, and they’re not looking for ways to serve.  I hear complaints about extra bookkeeping and cringe!  My wife says 70% of our new leases choose weekly or bi-weekly rent payment plans.  That’s a lot of people who needed a different system.
If your resident can pay rent monthly, God Bless and keep going. You are in an unusual market. But I challenge you that MOST residents are hurting and struggling to meet that monthly obligation. The landlord is selfishly FORCING them to act on HIS schedule. Try it. Write bi-weekly or weekly prices out for each home and offer it to your folks. You might be surprised.One landlord recently took my challenge and 25% of his residents grabbed the Pay Day Plan. His income went UP and the number of stressed-out residents struggling to pay their monthly obligation went DOWN.
Payment Plans and Marketing: People are COMING TO US for this program while other landlords scratch their heads and say, “Where is everybody?”  The banks and realtors have not adapted to the new economy……I signed 2 leases today.  Both ASKED for a Pay Day Plan!!  We post 3 payment options on a landlord advertising so they were prepared.  One chose a weekly plan because, “The months always confuse me with my paycheck”.  He was THRILLED to tell me that, “This way I’ll never be late on the rent!”The other chose a bi-weekly payment plan – A couple in their 40’s and married kids in their 20’s.  That’s 4 adults/ 2 couples. According to these residents, it’s “Easy to split the rent – We pay one they pay the other.  We want to know how much comes out of each paycheck toward rent.  And it seems EVERYBODY wants their money on the FIRST!! The insurance, the car payment, etc.  This is sooo much easier.”
My script for Prospective Residents on Pay Day Payment Plans:
The traditional calendar which breaks the days into monthly moon cycles was made by Romulus, King of Rome in 753 BC, nearly 3,000 years ago.  Are you paid by King Romulus’ moons, I mean MONTHS? 🙂 (SSI and disability customers can say yes).
How are you paid? (Example: They put my pay in my account every other Friday).

Doesn’t it make sense to pay your rent with the same timing as your paycheck?  Most people find this plan very helpful to keep their cash flowing evenly and avoid late fees.  It does cost a little more for the extra handling at our office but our residents tell us it’s worth it.I now use a full landlord year calendar on one page and X out the month names.  The best kind of calendar is one where the days are all in a row without breaks between the months.  We’re going to stop thinking about rent in terms of MONTHS and start thinking in terms of your family’s needs.  With this ultra simple system we are letting you choose to match YOUR family’s cash flow, NOT King Romulus’ chart of the moon cycles.When were you last paid? (I circle that day).  So the next payday will be HERE. I then circle all the paydays for the resident of the year.  Now, let’s look at August for example, so we have a good understanding:When you pay the rent on Aug 2 your rent is paid up until 8-15. Does that make sense?  When you pay on 8-16, your rent is paid until 8-29.  Does THAT make sense?  Now, please notice this so you don’t panic when it happens! YOU will get 3 paychecks in Aug, right? So the rent drafted on 8-30 is not really for “August”, it’s really for almost HALF of SEPTEMBER, all the way until 9-12 (The next time I do this I’ll try to use colored highlighters to color over each week).

With the old system, you’d have to pay the entire month 2 days later. This is waaaaay easier isn’t it?  The NEXT payday is 9-27 which covers rent for part of OCTOBER, so it’s almost like Sept only had ONE payment.  The form I passed out at the recent MrLandlord.com Convention shows the prices and a START date.  I still use that exact form in my lease strategy.

Notes:
Let’s say you have a $500 monthly rent. Divided that by 4 weeks = $125.
Add $10 per payment “for handling” making the rent $135 per week. BUT it’s REALLY about what the market will bear.  No one is offended by the $10.

A $500 monthly x 12 months = $6000/year. Your resident will have to come up with $500 each time and if they lose their job on Jan 2, YOU won’t know they are in trouble until about Feb 12, 6 weeks later, when they NOW owe $500 + $55 in possible late fees. Where do you think they are going to magically get $550 and satisfy the LANDLORD? THIS is exactly why they don’t answer your calls. They are stuck.

In 2013, savings accounts are a thing of the past for MOST renters, even the high-end folks. They’ve gone the way of buggy whips and 45 RPM records.  BUT, a resident CAN hit up Grandma for $135 and pay her back over the next few weeks.

$135 weekly rent x 52 weeks = $7020/yr

Bi-weekly:
$500 monthly rent divided by 2 = $250.
Add $10 = $260 every other Friday.
$260 x 26 pay periods = $6760/yr. A $760 increase in income.

Benefits for resident:
Cheaper than late fees.
Matches his cash flow.
Small order in AFFORDABLE bites.

Benefits for the LANDLORD:
Money in hand – Always better than late fees.
Small order bites to collect if the resident defaults.
More income! $1020 per home!!

If you have 10 homes/apartments that adopt this Pay Day Payment Plan, that’s an extra $10,200 income without investing a single penny in upgrades or new appliances. And this easily pays for the increased bookkeeping.

USE COLOR AND GET YOUR MONEY    

I get a call on the 5th from one of my newest residents who tells me rent won’t be paid until he gets more money on the 18th! Say what?!  So I told him sorry, the mortgage company doesn’t take excuses, so that is not acceptable– That it’s a violation of the lease terms and I will have to start the eviction process.

He didn’t seem very concerned, so I took my lunch break from work to tape a bright red neon 5-day notice to pay or quit letter to the door, the kind of color you can see a mile away….and had it sent via certified mail.

When he got home that night to discover it, he called me in a complete panic to tell me his parents were wiring him rent money and that I will have it all by Sunday. Here it is, Sunday the 9th and I have the full rent and $75 late fee in the bank.

He even sent me an apology text saying he was so sorry he did that and it will never happen again, and that he will be more prepared (I can hope). 🙂

It felt empowering to take something the resident was trying to make my problem– and have the knowledge of how to throw it right back to them but in a cool, calm, and collected way.  Also it felt good that I wasn’t being held hostage or having to play a victim to see what would happen on the 18th, or to figure out what to do to start the process! I think a lot of private owners would have just waited it out, hoping for the best, while feeling like a bit of a doormat.

WAYS TO DETER VACANCY BREAK-INS

  • Install Motion lights, fake security signs, and a hundred dollar camera system from Amazon.
  • One of the handyman who does work for me (been with me for 10+ years) is willing to stay in my empty units during rehab. I just provide him with a bed, a TV, and a few other things. Perhaps you can find a similar person.
  • Talk to several of the neighbors, adults who have lived there awhile, know the area and have a good idea of what’s going on.
  • Keep it well locked, and rotate the lighting.
  • Put an (extra) car in the driveway.
  • Get yourself 2 radios.  Dial them into the same talk radio channel and put one at the front door and one at the back.
  • Go to Goodwill and find 2 pairs of size 14″ or bigger work boots. Put a pair outside on each porch with a couple of spent shotgun shells.
  • We use a portable monitored alarm system from Lasershield that uses an integrated cell phone. They run a few hundred and $25 a month.
  • One of the speakers on the CDs from the recent MrLandlord.com Convention suggested installing an alarm system, even if it isn’t monitored, and then pretend to adjust it and set the alarm off several times when neighbors are around. His reasoning was that most break-ins are perpetrated by locals and “announcing” the presence of the alarm system reduces the likelihood they’ll target that property.
  • Put curtains and blinds then install a couple of lights on timers so the house looks as someone lives in. Be sure all newspapers are picked up as the house would be like someone is living there.
  • I have lights on timers. A radio playing. Blinds so no one can look in. In bad areas with vacant properties I have a under carpet switch or on a door a motion sensor wired to a 150 db alarm inside the house that cause a normal person to go deaf — they run away and neighbors call the police and me.
  • I place large dog food bowls, dog house in back, few PBR empties for decoration, maybe a bottle for cigarette butts at the vacant rental.
  • I purchased a game cam which is a camera and motion detector. I set it to take pictures of the AC unit and / or driveway. So far I have not been hit when it was installed. It lets me see the people who have been in the yard. It moves house to house without a monthly charge.
  • Mostly keep the place from looking abandoned. Cut the grass, keep it clean and nice, porch lights on, blinds and lights inside, etc.

THE PERFECT TURNOVER – NO TIME LOST!

Just had an unexpected changeover, and it went flawlessly! The departing residents helped me get it rented in record time, and they left the place spotless. They left a few days before the end of the month, so my husband is able to get in and do a few minor things before the new residents move in on the 1st (upgrades, not fixes). The only ding to their security deposit is $25 to get the grass cut – they were supposed to do it and didn’t have time, and were fine with me paying to get it done.

I have another changeover coming up. They will be out by noon so we can inspect, etc. but since the place was spotless the entire time they lived there, I don’t expect move-out issues. That new resident will also move in on the 1st.  My goal this year is 100% occupancy in every rental. So far, we are on track. However the year is only half-over–fingers crossed.

Here are a couple of things that we do to encourage a perfect turnover and very little if any loss of income:

We are accessible.  So when one of our residents has a change in circumstance, they CALL us and discuss. And we tell them, “If you help me get it rented, and if you leave it READY TO OCCUPY and we don’t lose rent, you will get back 100% of your deposit. Period.” I used to panic and say, “Oh nay, nay, you owe your full lease…” but honestly how stupid is that?  Get them to help you.

Follow-up. The second turnover occurred today. Place was SPOTLESS. We pulled in as resident was backing out their U-haul. Here is how little I have to complain about that I even mention this: there were 2 broken slats in our $6 blinds. And they had changed the shower curtain (but did leave one).

So that is 8 turnovers in six months, and on only one did I have ANY issues with cleanliness, and it was minor. Zero vacant days so far–knock wood!!  It’s worked for us for the past two or three years. Only had to hold back tiny tidbits overall.

IT CAN BE FUN BEING A LANDLORD    

A landlord shared how it was fun to be a landlord and she shared the following recent experience of what she is doing to help make her relationship with residents a  positive one from the start. Thanks Gina (VA) for sharing!

“Had a new tenant move in during April and surprised him with a ‘Welcome Home’ cake in the fridge and some cold sodas for his moving helpers. It was a hit. 😉

After conducting the business side of our little walk-through inspection, It was a fun way to start off a positive relationship and say, ‘I’m glad you’re here!’

Stole the welcome present idea from a Mr. Landlord seminar. Considering the reaction from my new resident for less than $20, I think I will be doing that every time.”

Another landlord gave a response to such a gesture that is typical, discounting the value of doing little “extra” things to foster a positive relationship. Below are his comments:

Other Landlord’s response: “Gifts are nice if you want to do them. On the topic of retirement accounts: I’ve put well over 6 figures into my IRA, but never received anything from my broker/adviser. A 6-pack of beer would be nice, although I’d just prefer that he keeps on doing a good job making me 15% each year. I see landlording kind of the same.  A case of soda and a cake is fine.  Some residents will appreciate it, some may not. As long as I keep things functioning properly, that’s what really matters.”

My follow-up response to the other landlord is this:

“I personally think there is a VAST difference between how your relationship with your broker works and the ‘potential’ relationship between landlords and their residents. However most landlords don’t really leverage the BIG value of having a great win-win relationship with their residents.  There are so many intangible ways that a resident can make your life far more profitable and worry-free if they chose to do so (above and beyond just functioning normally).  Doing little things to foster a positive relationship can greatly increase the odds that they will do such intangible things like:

* Take better than average care of the property and even be much more likely to do things that adds to the value of the property.
* Refer ‘multiple’ other residents to you.
* They are far less likely to sue you or contact housing/heath departments.
* They are more likely to be courteous when calling, to call at your preferred office hours, and they are less likely to call in anger.
* They are much more likely to stay with you longer.
* Quick to alert you about something you need really to know about regarding another resident (in multi-units).
* Give you plenty of advance notice before they have to move.
* Cooperative and even be positive when you wish to show the property to others.
* When they move-out, they’re much more likely to leave property in move-in condition.
* Etc, etc.

Again there are so many intangible ways landlording can be made so much more enjoyable by the actions of your residents and I credit many of my own such experiences to the positive working relationships I aim to foster as mentioned at the beginning of this post.  Does this work with every resident? No, but it works FAR more than many landlords think.

And if you screen the right way, (which is a whole seminar in itself) you can identify the kinds of residents who are more prone to respond to your acts of kindness with many intangible benefits to you. And YES, this is indeed when it gets FUN being a landlord!  On a side note, I think your broker (like many business people) could also leverage the value of their customers much more than they do, and would greatly benefit you if they did so.

FOLLOWING UP WITH MOTIVATED SELLERS CAN INCREASE YOUR RENTAL PORTFOLIO    

Let me ask you a question: are you properly managing your prospects? Are you taking the time to actually follow up with the sellers who didn’t initially accept your offers? Did you know that you are leaving thousands of dollars in potential income behind if you aren’t following up with sellers? One of the easiest ways to make a fortune in the real estate business and gain the advantage over your competition is to take the time to follow up with motivated and semi-motivated sellers. You’ve already got the seller in your pipeline, you’ve already done the marketing, and spent the money to find this person, now all you need to do is to follow up with them until they either sell you their property or tell you to go away. How much simpler could it be?


There is one type of seller we are going to follow up with (today): those we’ve already made offers to who haven’t accepted our offer. Quite often, you will need to make multiple contacts with sellers before their situation changes and dictates that they sell their property to you. If you stay in touch with these sellers, you build credibility with them and when it comes time to sell they will contact you first, even if they have been contacted by someone else in the meantime.

There are a lot of investors in the market these days, and most of them have a very limited knowledge of how the whole follow-up process works, not to mention the inability to create successful deals. What they don’t realize is that many of the sellers you will be dealing with have a variety of problems they aren’t sure how to solve until they are contacted by you.

Some of those may include divorce situations, estates or health issues where there may be emotions tied to the property. With these sellers it may take a little longer before they make that final decision to sell. Most of your competitors will simply throw these potential deals in the trash when they don’t get the property under contract after the initial contact or offer is made. I have made deals many months after the initial contact with the seller was made simply because I took the time to follow up. Not only did I build credibility with the seller, but now they like me better and trust me more than the next investor who may come along.

These are the types of sellers I will place in my follow-up system and follow up with at least every thirty to sixty days if not more often. I have made thousands of dollars on deals other investors would simply have thrown in the trash because I took the time to follow up with a semi-motivated seller. Probably half of the deals I do in a typical year come from following up with these sellers.

Here is a recent example from my files– I contacted a seller who had inherited a property in Florida where I live and he lived in Michigan. The home belonged to his aunt who had pretty much raised him his whole life. When she passed away the home was left to him and he just couldn’t bring himself to sell it right away. I actually met with the seller and made an offer on the property. He had initially accepted my offer, and then he decided to hold onto the property for awhile and use it as a vacation home. After a year and a half, he got tired of having to deal with all the maintenance issues on the property and ended up selling the property to me for the initial offer I made because I took the time to follow up with him every thirty days or so.

I actually ended up making even more money on this deal than I would have in the first place because the house had appreciated in value during the period of time that he kept it and he had made improvements to the home. Most investors would have thrown this deal in the trash as soon as the seller said no to their initial offer, but because I took the time to follow up, I purchased the property and made a significant amount of money on this deal. I still get holiday cards from that seller.

If you take the time to follow up with motivated and semi-motivated sellers, you will make more deals and buy more properties with no follow-up competition for these properties whatsoever. It’s a win-win situation for you and the sellers.

7 WEBSITES TO ADVERTISE  

 What websites do you use to advertise your rentals? Here are a few recommendations from a couple of successful rental owners that include:

* postlets.com

* craigslist.com

* backpage.com
* ebayclassifieds.com
* trulia.com
* zillow.com
* hotpads.com

ONE OF THE BEST-KEPT SECRETS FOR FILLING VACANCIES   Rent to Insurance companies for guaranteed rent and higher Cash Flow!

I’ve known about this strategy for many years, although I initially found out about it by accident. An Insurance company called me up. Said they’d like to rent one of my homes temporarily (approximately 6 to 9 months). Initially I was reluctant, I was not interested in renting for a short-term period. However, when he mentioned that they would pay 50% more than my regular rent (which was still cheaper than what the local hotel would charge), and pay rent and deposit in advance, AND guarantee against any damages, it sounded like a good win-win situation to me. 🙂

This “best kept secret” leaks out from time to time to other landlords as a way to fill vacancies. I know of one landlord where that is his ONLY strategy for keeping his many rentals filled. He has a database of over 100 insurance adjusters he works with in his local area.

COLLECTING ON BAD CHECKS
A resident of a landlord moved out during the middle of the lease–and put a stop payment on his last rental check. When the landlord asked him to make good on the check, he refused, so Landlord took him to court and got a default judgment. Unfortunately he could not file a garnishment, because the man had recently graduated from school and was unemployed.

The resident then appealed the court judgment through his attorney but didn’t bother to show up for the hearing. The landlord insisted on getting the money, and the resident said he could only afford to pay three cents on the dollar or he’d have to file bankruptcy. The landlord replied, “Okay, file bankruptcy.” The resident told him that a bankruptcy would wipe out the judgment, but Landlord said that he’d prefer to have the resident have a bankruptcy on his record than accept three cents on the dollar for his debt. He also knew that bankruptcy would cost the resident significantly more in the long run.

What else had the resident overlooked? He had written a check for more than $1,000 and then placed a stop payment order on it–after having lived in the rental home. In Tennessee, for example, it’s a criminal offense to put a stop payment on a check for services after the services have been rendered. According to the law, the resident could get a year in jail for the offense.

The resident then told the landlord that he had moved to North Carolina, which actually made his bad check a federal issue. The resident could get five years in prison for that. The landlord told him that he would process the bankruptcy notice but that, unless the resident picked up the check balance and paid the attendant fees, he would have to notify the federal prosecutor of this situation. The resident told him that he couldn’t do that, because the debt would be wiped out by the bankruptcy. The landlord told him that he was not trying to collect the debt; he was following the legal process required when someone writes a bad check.

So the resident filed bankruptcy, and the landlord filed notice with the federal prosecutor. This legal problem has gone on for almost three years. Yet for $2,500 and two stopped checks, the resident is now running from the law and facing ten years in prison (five years for each bad check).

Most people think that they can threaten others and slink out of their debts. This landlord believes that word gets around whether you are “soft” or “hard” on residents, and he doesn’t want to be known as a softie in his community.

Note: The above story was shared by Robert Hill, a Nashville attorney, to illustrate one landlord’s experience in trying to collect on a bad rent check. However, since state laws vary, it’s important as a rental owner, that you know what rights and options you have in your state when attempting to collect on bad rent checks.

COMMUNICATE “YOUR” STANDARDS WHEN WORKING WITH MANAGERS

A long-distance landlord recently asked a question on LandlordingAdvice.com regarding the expectations and performance of his property. Here was the question:

“I have hired a new Property Manager (PM) for some of my rentals that are far from me and he has placed two residents in two rentals I have recently. He kept the deposit in the company and I paid him one month’s rent to find the residents as usual. Problem is, both residents are deadbeats, they have not paid rents for the last two months they have been there, and they have not even transferred utilities in their name like they were supposed to.

Now I have to evict them both and find new residents and re-do the houses again. My question is, should the PM be charging me again to find new residents? I think the PM failed in his job to find good and paying residents. What would you do?”

Some landlords responded to the inquiry, but one response in particular is one I wanted to share that offered several excellent points when working with Property Managers (locally or long-distance). The following response was provided from one of our regular contributors to MrLandlord.com, and this contributor was also a prior workshop instructor at one of the MrLandlord.com National Conventions. Thanks, Katherine (TX)!

I ran my properties in Missouri for about 5 years from Texas. Now I am in MO (local to the properties) but I still use a PM because I travel so much for business so I really still need one.

When I first started out with a PM I was very clear about requirements for my rentals. I specified credit scores, income requirements, pet terms, criminal and credit checks, etc., etc., etc. I insisted on these things in our contract although I only had 2 rentals at the time.

The first PM I had got fed up with me because I required too much time of hers (because she was not concerned about the quality of the person she was placing, she just wanted the fees and to be able to keep her crews busy cleaning and repairing other people’s property to her advantage.) Needless to say we parted ways quickly.

Now I have a PM who I’ve had for years. This brokerage gets all my business, on the transaction side and the management side, and they managed my apartment building for 2 years for FREE while I did major rehab work. And when I had totally negative cashflow, they put up with me for being very “hands-on” as far as resident selection.
As a result my portfolio has grown nicely and the apartment now mostly carries itself. I now have 23 rentals instead of 2. So their percentage each month I’m rented up has increased nicely as I have grown my business.

There are some good PMs on this board. But the best PM out there will never manage as tightly as an owner. Some do come close in fairness, but that is part of the business.

Some PMs, like other service people, are great on the sales side, but less great on the service side, so they may make promises they don’t keep. Only you know what sort you are dealing with, but to be very honest with you – I am not surprised about your outcome because you did not set any boundaries about what was acceptable insofar as your standards.

So what happens in a case like that is this: The PM places better renters in houses where the landlord requires better renters. You did not insist on certain standards but you are surprised when no standards were applied. Added to that might be that if you only have 1 or 2 rentals, you are not a top priority with the PM as someone who has 10 or 20 rentals. Basic economics there. Your 1-2 rentals requires as much management as 10-20, but the income your few rentals generate is much less than the guy with 20 rentals, and a vacancy at your rentals likewise affects his bottom line less than the vacancies with a bigger client. Ask me how I know 🙂

I’ve been the little guy and I’ve become a bigger guy and so now I enjoy higher priority at my PM. That’s going to be true anywhere, but in your case you have further placed yourself at a disadvantage by not requiring standards. If I were you, here’s what I’d do: Go to your rentals and see them and talk in person to your PM. You may need a new PM, you may not. If I were you I’d find someone else though because this is going to be tough for your professional relationship to recover from. You think he did a bad job, but really you didn’t require any standards, so there is plenty of blame to go around.

If you do decide to stick with this guy, get your standards in a written agreement and have some sort of repercussion if an eviction occurs or if a resident gets behind, etc. in your updated agreement. If the PM balks at this, you must find a new PM. Be matter of fact but diplomatic.

If I were you I’d say, “Well it looks like this didn’t work out as well as we had hoped, I’m going to require some standards moving forward to avoid this happening in the future, and here is the list of requirements and the fail-safe mechanisms to help us work together and to keep the properties rented to responsible people”, and then give him your list of policies and requirements.

You’ll need to pay for him to place additional residents if your contract doesn’t say otherwise, but going forward you can have a remedy if this happens again after your standards are contractually in place via a signed agreement.

If all this sounds too tough, then you might want to consider selling. You have to be willing to draw these kinds of lines when you have long-distance property. You have to be able to trust the PM, and never forget that the PM is in a position to steal from you in several different ways, including charging too much for repairs with their in-house people or preferred vendors. You need a PM who respects your bottom line. Not all of them do.

THE BEST LANDLORDING ADVICE I’VE RECEIVED 
10 rental property owners share what they believe is the single best piece of landlording advice that they have ever received. Here are their school of hard knocks words of wisdom:
1) Like Reagan said, “Trust but verify”.
2) Treat residents well!
3) Hang out with like-minded people. Ask to shadow a successful landlord in your area.
4) Don’t underestimate the actual cost of owning real estate! Many studies indicate total expenses including vacancy, etc. will average around 50% of gross income.
5) Compared to a bad resident, a vacancy is a delight.
6) Put your rental criteria in writing.
7) Figure out who you want to rent to and only buy/fix properties they will rent.
8) The landlord is in charge. The resident is not!
9) Make sure you have a fantastic lease that covers everything – Everything!
10) Five years from now YOU WILL BE the books you read, the CDs you listen to, and the people you associate with. Wealth creation is between the ears.
RENTING BEDROOMS TO STUDENTS   
I own two houses that I rent by the bedroom. One is a 3/2 and one is a 6/5.
I just finished working on my taxes for the day. My 6/5 generated $36K in income last year. The expenses are high because I pay all utilities and have a mortgage that I am too lazy to refinance, but I still net (before taxes to Uncle Sam) approximately $1000/month.The rooms in this house rent really well because they (almost all of them) have their own bathroom.  Students are wary of sharing a bathroom with strangers, even if they are other students.I have all colors, shapes, sizes, girls/boys, orientations, ages, nationalities in this house. I emphasize during the showing that they must be willing to live with anyone.
I have a huge cable package and super insanely fast internet – there could be a tree through the roof which they would not likely call about, but if the internet goes out for more than two minutes, my phone lights up like a Christmas tree.I have a cleaning lady that cleans the common areas once a month. She also cleans the shared bathroom. The roommates, if they want, can opt to pay her an additional $15 to clean their bed/bath (they never do).  Allure flooring is a lifesaver here. Before Allure, I had to explain away three rooms with highlighter stains that commercial carpet cleaning companies could not get out.There needs to be a place where they can lock up their bikes. (I have had two stolen before I told them to lock the bikes to the porch railing). I also have two washers/dryers. Students love it.There are shared pots/pans in the kitchen. They are not great, but they are there.
I own the furniture (I purchased from Craigslist and a loveseat that a former resident dragged in off the street from a neighbor’s curbside) and a large flat screen TV in the living room (from a resident who ran out of financial aid before his lease ended). There is a plastic dining table that came from who knows where. I also paved the back yard for off-street parking.Each roommate is threatened with immediate eviction if they disturb the neighbors. Each neighbor has my phone number and are told to call the cops first and then me in that order if my roommates disturb ANYTHING.I keep the A/C or heater set at 72 degrees year around, though residents are allowed to adjust that up/down by a little in my favor if they want.Each roommate is on their own 1 year lease. They are allowed to sublet with my permission. They have an early lease buyout provision as suggested by Brad 20k (another LandlordingAdvice.com contributor) and I never co-sign their parents (ugh).
I require proof of income like with any other resident.  Sometimes that comes in the form of a financial aid letter with a disbursement date.Each room rents for about $600/month (a little more for the room with the second story balcony, a little less for the rooms with a shared bath). The deposit is $250.
The hallways are often banged up, which I do not have to repair but I also do not mind repairing them. I try to stop by the house and go inside once per month, though it is usually every other month. Each room has its own locking door.I have lost multiple roommates when they became friends and buy houses together (this has happened twice). I have not found any regulation about a boarding house in my city ordinance that makes my place illegal. Everyone is on long term leases, share a kitchen, etc.  I’ve had very little resident drama, but I had one situation of a resident who flipped out because the dog belonging to a neighbor across the street would not stop barking (a huge, awful german shepherd). After I called the cops on the dog three times, I finally gave the roommate the happy clause and she moved out. The new roommate doesn’t mind the dog (I warned her about it, but she had a dog growing up and “understood”).

I have had two other incidents – both involving a student too poor to buy his own food/alcohol, so he was eating other people’s. I warned him, he stopped, his student aid ran out, he started again, I gave him 30 days to move out.It is important to emphasize that they have to “be nice” to their roommates. The reality is that these roommates go to school all of the time and work all of the time – they are not being supported by Mom and Dad (otherwise they would have their own fancy apartment). They are rarely home and when they are home, they are playing videogames and watching 50 pre-DVRed episodes of whatever 20-somethings watch while eating fast food.  I often see that they will share any excesses with their roommates, but their “excesses” are often just a couple of extra pieces of a frozen pizza or two extra old bananas.Also, my rooms will rent in 24-48 hours once I advertise them on Craigslist.  It is just a matter of picking who I want to rent to. And the referrals are crazy – if you take care of these folks, they will refer friends and, when they get their first “real” job, will move into your apartments, homes, etc.Plus, they don’t have too much stuff, so if they move out in the middle of the night, cleanup is not too bad (and the other roommates will pillage their stuff, if the departing roommate doesn’t give it away first).Editor’s Note:  If you are considering renting bedrooms to students, be sure to check local zoning and landlord-tenant laws in your area. 

12 STEPS FOR ONE DAY TURNOVER 

Many of you veterans out there may already know all of this, but just in case I wanted to share “the system” that has me 3 for 3 of my last vacancies at a one day turn over.

Step 1: Communication with current residents. Make sure you get that 30 day notice of intent to renew or move. I contact them 45 days out from expiration of current lease. If I hear nothing by 30 days out, then we’re on for another month. Repeat this step at middle of next month. Get their desire in writing, signed, and dated!

Step 2: Start advertising. I get my Craigslist & Postlets ad up around the first of the month. Renew the post every 2 days or as often as allowed.

Step 3: Communicate my bonus program to the current residents. $100 if they bring me a qualified prospect who signs a lease (and pays!). $50 if I get someone on my own prior to their move out to pre-lease, and as a thank you for them keeping the place nice enough to show and being accommodating to repeat showings. Yeah, my lease says they have to do it anyway for free BUT this encourages compliance and they say nice things about me to the prospect too!

Step 4: Get a “anytime is fine” showing agreement with residents. Basically, anytime between X and Y times it’s okay for me to show the rental with 30 minutes notice ahead of time. Or get them to agree to show it for you when they’re home. Saves gas, saves time, and it’s less stress.

Step 5: While doing showings, make the handyman provide a fix-it list for repairs as soon as the old residents are done moving out.

Step 6: One week out, line up your cleaning / maintenance / carpet-scrubbing crew(s). Coordinate so they aren’t stepping on each other to get it done the day resident moves out, if possible. If all else fails and its a fairly clean turnover, you can probably leave the maintenance for last unless there’s a major issue that affects habitability. The cleaning gal shows up in the morning, carpet scrubbers finish up in the evening.  The next day everything is dry and ready for new resident.

Step 7: Fax copy of lease (or email the lease as an attachment) to resident 3 days prior to signing to ensure they have ample time to review and ask questions. Remind them that you need the rent and deposit in certified funds (no personal checks, thank you) when you meet to sign the lease. No money, no keys, no signing anything.

Step 8: Day prior to lease begins. Make sure utilities are switched over effective the first day of the lease. Call the power company or ask the resident to show you a receipt as proof of service.

Step 9: Day lease begins. Do walk through with residents. Note deficiencies and write down everything you agree to fix / repair / upgrade on a list that says: “Only these items will be fixed / repaired / upgraded. RESIDENT agrees landlord has not promised, verbally or in writing, to any other repairs, fixes or upgrades that are not listed. Premises are accepted in “as is” condition, unless otherwise noted on this sheet.”Step 10a: Get money, sign lease. Give resident a run down of rules and procedures for maintenance requests and emergency contact information. Show them where the circuit breaker box is, water shut off, etc. Give each resident a copy of your business card with phone number and email address. Step 10b: Hand over keys. (this is last for a reason, folks!) Step 11: Deposit money in your bank. Step 12: Go enjoy a cold beverage of your choice in celebration. Ah, another turn over complete! Of course there will be some turn-overs that are more complex: eviction, slobs, damages, etc. This is meant as a basic blue print for an otherwise successful tenancy that is coming to a close. Add or subtract steps that you feel make the process smoother.

 Keep prospering!

50 PITA TIP OFFS – “PROBABLY IMPOSSIBLE TENANT ALERT”    

One of the most popular questions of the week on our popular MrLandlord.com Q&A forum regarded PITA tenants: “What tip off’s do you all use to spot those PITA types before they get into your unit’s? Your experiences must have given you quite a few tell tale tip off’s that there is going to be trouble. It’s always easier to avoid PITAs than deal with them after they are in your places.” (Note – my definition of PITA may not be the same definition as the one the landlord is using to ask the question 🙂

Several landlords nationwide revealed MANY tip offs. For example, the first to respond quickly offered 10 of their biggest tip offs for avoiding a PITA:

1) If they show up in suits,

2) If they offer you free stuff,

3) Cash on the spot,

4) Flicking cigarettes in my yard,

5) Kids running through my house like circus freaks,

6) Nit-picking from the start,

7) Screaming in the background during phone interview,

8) CURSING during showing,

9) Wanting to trade repairs for rent,

10) Insulting my place or their current landlord.

11) If you hear the phrase, “I just need a chance”, run away.

12) If they start out by telling me how religious they are that is enough for me.  The true religious people don’t bring it up immediately. It seems to be the con men who do that.
13) If they say, “I have a Debit Card and I used to have bad credit.”
14) If they show up late for the appointment and offer no apology for doing so (indicating that it’s normal for them) they are very likely going to be late on paying the rent.
15) If they say, “Will you work with me?”  My reply is, “I work for myself, I don’t have time to work with other people.”
16) If they want to start redecorating the home.
17) If they say that their credit score is a mistake.
18) If they say, “Money is not an issue.”
19) If they say, “I get a monthly check and its guaranteed”
20) If they state that they’re working on paying off previous judgment, (IE. They’ve made one $50 payment).
21) Always ask why they’re moving. If they say because their landlord doesn’t fix anything…next!
22) If they treat viewing the property like a family reunion: Mom, Dad, Grandma, and Aunt Bessie all came along to decide if the place is good enough, and they’re all talking as though they will be living there.
23) If they say, “I need a place right now, and can move in tomorrow.”
24) If They are arguing with each other during the showing.
25) If they seem flustered or jumpy and are nervous.
26) If they brag about what they had or who they are.
27) If they are overdressed for the showing.
28) Had one last night did not want to disclose where he worked in the pre screen telephone interview. His comment: “We can discuss that after I see if I like the place”. He will never know because he will never see it.
29) If they appear and sound desperate in general.
30) If they won’t stop calling.
31) If they won’t take NO for an answer, and have no respect for you, the landlord.
32) If they have a job but no valid driver’s license due to too many tickets.
33) If they’re vague about residence history.  I mean, how hard is this?  I can name every address I’ve ever lived at, yet some can’t remember where they lived last year?
34) I hate it when they are calling for someone else. This is especially bad when a mother is calling for a child she wants out. I had one mother laughing and saying, “I’m ready for her and her brats to move on.” If their own mother does not want them, why should I?
35) If they don’t look you in the eye.
36) If they tell stories that are meant to touch your heart.
37) If they claim that their landlord appreciates all the little repair jobs that they do to the rental.
38)  If they have beat up cars. Not old, beat up. There is a difference.
39) Here’s a tip off we learned from Mr. Landlord years ago:  Have a space on your rental application for “Lawyer’s Name”. If the potential tenant completes this question … it means they’re no stranger to litigation.  They’ve been though the courts before for criminal defense, civil defense (likely from a previous landlord) or civil offense (also likely against a previous landlord).  Any potential renter that knows their lawyer’s name has obviously been a PITA for someone else already…Don’t make them your PITA tenant.
40) We use direct debit with DirectRentDeposits.com to collect rent. One of our screening questions is whether they have a bank account and are OK with direct debit.
41) If they call about your unit from a hotel room, or say that they are looking for a “fresh start”. RUN.
42) If they do not have their own phone.
43) If a prospective resident calls you unprofessional because you refuse to answer any more time consuming, non-sensical, questions when you don’t have time to spend on the phone with a person who clearly isn’t interested in the property.
44) If they say they are next up to get a section 8 voucher. It never seems to happen.
45) “Have you had any trouble with the law?” I asked a seedy looking prospect.  “Armed Robbery – Nothing Violent!” they said.  I just told him he should straighten things out before considering anything contractual.  Needless to say, I never saw him again.
46) One tip: From their application we already know where they live now. If not too far away, drive by their present living quarters. How do they keep the yard? Are there ruts in the grass where they, or their guests, have parked?
47) Some landlords I know ask outright to view the interior of where they now live. It’s a bit bold move, but I have never been denied the opportunity. What they think is great may not be what I think is great. How much have their children painted the walls with adhesive stickers and crayolas? And if you don’t want to ask them to see their present quarters, you can at least drive by. You’ll be surprised often, and get a feeling as to whether to take them on to use/abuse your property. Some will treat it like a home; some will act as if they are living in a barn.
48) While there are obvious tip-offs that a tenant is trouble, you really never know. Never. Exercise caution and due diligence, but then have an air-tight lease. If they earn enough, have good credit, no court history, and their situation makes logical sense, an application with enough info to track them down or garnish wages is like an insurance policy. And a lease that specifies what breaks a month-to-month lease and is grounds for eviction is helpful. You are protected and they have reason to fear messing up. A real PITA can put on a good show.  Even if their application falls somewhat short, a good lease still holds.
49) Nit picking, balking on application fee, asking about how much is the late fee, and not having all funds upfront.
50) If they show up not prepared to move-in and meet qualifications, they are not serious.
Bonus Tip 51) It is a good list of yellow warning flags – be ever vigilant and protect your business. BUT learn to separate positives from negatives:  – Parents or friends calling/ coming to showing COULD be a very good sign.
– “Can I paint” is normal. Today’s fashion trends are about COLOR. LISTEN to your prospects. Maybe they are telling you your place is BORING.
– Every night, our prospects and residents are hit with multiple commercials from paint companies and HGTV shows. Lowes recently ran an Internet commercial showing a happy couple putting purple paint on their ceiling. Thanks at lot!
– From a good applicant these questions can indicate a feeling of ownership.
– Be professional. Give EVERYONE an application to avoid being sued for discrimination.
– Screen professionally and thoroughly. Current in-home visit is the best. Base acceptance on FACTS, not comments.
– Pro deadbeats know this same list and will slide right past you.
– They are clients, not friends. They are not marrying my daughter nor do I invite them over for Sunday dinner.
– Many PITA residents are that way due to poor management. Weak landlords, weak lease, weak procedures. Set the ground rules and stick to them.
– Yes, know they can sue you for discrimination based on religion for the “God Bless” remarks posted here or on Facebook. That might not win but it will cost thousands of $$$ and years to defend yourself.
– Our rule: TENANTS LIE SO VERIFY
DO YOU INCLUDE AUTOMATIC RENT INCREASES IN YOUR LEASE?
It seems that many landlords are divided on this issue. Some say yes, and those who have done so added success with building in an automatic increase of, say 5%, because that way the resident knows what to expect. There are no surprises.

Other landlords say no. Some of the reasons include, the automatic increase may not be a true measure of market conditions. The 5% may cause the rent, after a couple of years, to be higher than market rent and therefore good residents will be inclined to move. Also the 5% may not be enough with market rents rising a lot faster, which means that you are actually falling behind in terms of the maximum rent you could be receiving.

How about a compromise? How about including a clause in your lease that states rent is automatically adjusted each year? If payments are made on time and the properties are well maintained, the increase will be the bare minimum. You could even throw in that if management ever raises it more than the resident can handle, just let the management know. That way, residents will not be surprised when the rent increase letter arrives. And they will not be scared off initially, because it appears that you will be fair with them in keeping the increase as fair as you can. Of course, it is important that you do remember to actually send out the rent increase letters, which is part of the STUFF landlords forget to do, or never get around to doing which ends up costing them hundreds of dollars (if not thousands) each year.

I know some landlords do not raise the rent at all on their good residents out of fear that they may move. However, in using the strategy suggested above, you do not have to be fearful that good residents will move. Instead of moving they will simply call you. And then you take it from there.


NEVER AGAIN PICK UP THE RENT

One thing that landlords usually all end up saying at some point is that they will never again pick up rents from their residents. For some it takes a little longer than others before they realize who is training who… If you are looking for alternative methods to picking up rent, check out how various landlords collect their rent, some of the reasons why many landlords nationwide are now using the BANK as their rent collector or alternative methods to getting rent payments other than picking it up.

1. I have a Deposit Only bank account. Bank teller does our work. I can check instantly online when rent was deposited. Love it.

2. I send an invoice each month. And ask the residents to deposit the requested amounts directly into an account. I tell residents that right up front.

3. I like direct bank deposits because residents can all deposit money in my bank account, no matter how they get paid. Make it THEIR problem to get the rent in the account on time. No more lies about the money getting lost in the mail, the bank time stamps every deposit.

4. My tenants drop off a check to a locked mailbox attached to the front door of one of my apartment units.  I stop by and pick up the checks at my convenience.

5. I like the fact that my bank scans the deposit slips in nightly. Tenants know that to receive credit for their bank deposits, they must write their name and address on the deposit slip or they must have the teller do it. I can see it online. The date, time of deposit, tenant’s name, address, and amount are written on it. I have a note on my account that I only accept money orders, cashier’s checks, or cash.

6. My tenants pay online. The money is pulled from their bank account and goes straight into mine. If they do not have a bank account, they can mail a money order, which must be received by the due date. Or, as one of my tenants does, gives a friend the rent money and the friend pays online because the tenant does not have a bank account. I am also working on getting set up to accept credit/debit card payments with the processing fees passed on to the tenants.

7. I have one free bank account for each property. I can check any deposits online. Easy to close accounts if I need to evict. No excuses not to pay rent.

8. I have two banks. One is right across the street from my apt complex. Hence there is no excuse. The other is used for my SFH and 4plex. That helps me track who’s paid and not. Also – my bank scans the deposit slips and I write the person’s name and unit on the deposit slip that I send with the monthly invoice. Rent is due by the end of business on the 1st – whatever day that falls on. If the first is on a day the bank is closed the rent is due BEFORE the bank closes.

9. As part of my screening process I request that the tenant either have or be able to open an account at my bank. (If you can’t open an account, then you have bad credit or bounced checks and I don’t want your tenancy.) This makes it EASY for the tenant to deposit their paycheck and transfer it into my account. At 6pm on Friday, or 2 pm on Sat if the deposit is not made it is LATE. Period. End of story.

10. I use the bank deposit opportunity as a positive thing. Tell them at move in how EASY it will be to make their rent payment. They don’t have to mess with checks or money orders, or tracking me down to pay in cash. The bank is close enough so that all residents have to do is walk to the bank! Everyone likes it. And then the few who get into trouble and don’t pay on time find they walked themselves into a “trap,” and there is no way to make excuses.

11. I use an online payment service for my student tenants in another side of the town. Some of them love it, no bounced check fee to me either. It’s only $1 per checking/saving rent payment plus a small monthly fee (can accept credit card too).

12. We use Autodraft from the resident’s checking account into ours on the agreed upon date with this service (directrentdeposits.com) the resident does not have to get anything or go anywhere. The money is drafted out of their account every two weeks around their PayDay – before they have a chance to spend it.

MY OLD SCHOOL STRATEGY FOR BUYING MULTI-UNITS    A landlord recently asked the following question on the LandlordingAdvice.com website:

“Anybody else having trouble finding stuff to buy? I’m looking for multi-unit buildings in my area and it has been months without anything new being listed. The only ones on the market are very overpriced. Any good ideas for finding these types of buildings to purchase when the MLS and local Realtor’s pocket listings are coming up empty?”

MY RESPONSE: The last 2 multi-units I bought is because I actually contacted the owner of properties and told the owner I was interested in buying. Neither of them had been listed for sale. A third property (closing next month) is a 4-plex, and the owner is willing to carry back nearly 90% of the financing. I dare say that if the property had gone through the normal listing process with an agent involved the owner probably would have had an entirely different mindset regarding negotiating, and not been willing to take back as much–if any–financing.

I hope you get the true essence of my suggestion, which is: “There’s far more out there than what’s LISTED. Look BEYOND those!” The properties I’ve purchased lately were not even in the process of being listed.

I simply looked in areas where I was interested in buying and identified the properties I was interested in buying. Then I contact the owners to let them know I would be interested in buying their property.

I do this on a regular basis. The properties I am interested in buying are NOT hard to find. They are all over the place. Now, whether or not the owner is interested in selling is another story. 🙂 But that’s why I’m willing to make many offers and come back to some owners months or years later. I know this strategy is “old school”, but hey, it keeps putting more food on the table.

The question to you or anyone else who is frustrated with the limited listings in the MLS is this: “If you’re really serious about buying more, how many offers are you making each month on properties you want (not just the ones you find, the ones you want)?”
ANOTHER STRATEGY FOR BUYING PROPERTIES SHARED BY A REAL ESTATE INVESTORIn 2006 when I first started buying fixer-uppers, I use to drive around town looking for “For Sale By Owner” signs. I also called some of signs posted by realty agents but I quickly learned I would never get a true bargain-priced house as long as their was an agent between me and the seller of the house. It’s in the agents best interest to get the highest price for a house instead of the lowest.

I spent several years using my car to prospect a given neighborhood. I would make a list of 20 (FSBO) houses knowing that I would only buy one of them. This drive around town system of getting leads on fixer-uppers “did work” but it was time consuming. In 2009 I figured out a better way of doing this more efficiently. Instead of me wasting gas money on trying to find the right house and the right type of seller, I took my gas money and ran an AD in my local newspaper that would tell anyone who had a junky/fixer-upper type house for sale to call me.

The Ad says this:

“Retired handyman looking to buy a fixer-upper. I prefer small houses. Can pay cash or will discuss terms with my down payment. No agents please.  Call Roy at  555-5555.”

I run this ad twice a year and I get approximately 10 calls each time I run the ad. From the 10 calls, I usually buy one. There have been times when I did not buy any. The house was perfect but it was located in the wrong neighborhood or the seller was not motivated enough.

What else can I say? Since 2009, I have bought 7 fixer-uppers using this ad. Most of the sellers tend to be very motivated too. Bargain houses come from motivated sellers who have a real need to sell NOW. Feel free to run this type of ad in your local newspaper. Forget Craigslist; this ad does not work in Craigslist.

27 NEVER AGAINs

Once a landlord has been in business a while and learned a few things “the hard way” there often comes a point where he or she stops and makes the declaration, “NEVER AGAIN!” Well the following is a list of NEVER AGAINs shared by landlords nationwide to help them avoid very costly problems in 2013.    

1. Never again think of this landlord thing as anything but a business and treat it like that.

2. Never again think that existing rents are low because the current owner is renting to scumbag lowlifes. In case you wonder. Renting to scumbag lowlifes actually commands higher rents since there are fewer options for them. Think about it, anyone will rent to someone with good credit and no criminal past. Won’t make that mistake again in thinking that after buying a place can clean up and rent for more without having a complete understanding of market rents.3. Never again buy a place that rents just cover the payments.

4. Never again buy a place without measuring the square footage to compare against the listed square footage.

5. Never again plan to contribute my own labor for free when estimating fix-up costs because I don’t have enough cash to pay someone else to do the fix-up.

6. Never again bet on appreciation or buy a property that does not make me money from the get go.

7. Never again buy in an area I don’t know because the price looks good compared to what I do know.

8. Never again rent to someone who makes derogatory comments about the rental when they see it for the first time.

9. Never again believe anything that comes out of the mouth of a City Employee about a property I own or am about to purchase without checking it out for myself.
10. Never again hold the baby of a prospective resident while they look at a property or fill out an application.  How can you throw a baby out after holding it?

11. “Never again…” (breathed quietly and resolutely with my teeth firmly clenched – for no one to hear but me) “…will I allow someone else (a boss) to determine my income, thus my lifestyle, and control my time with my children. Never…again.”

12. Never again believe I can’t be successful at something just because EVERYONE says it won’t work. Like being a landlord for example.

13. Never again believe because I made a mistake today I can’t do better tomorrow. Keep believing in your dream. If we did not fall down, we would never learn to walk.

14. Never again believe I have to go at it alone – because there are so many willing to freely give of their knowledge just because I asked for help.  Help I received at my local association and LandlordingAdvice.com.       

15. Never again go against my gut feeling.

16. Never again pay workers by the hour.

17. Never again pick up rent in person or allow it to be mailed…Autodrafts or direct deposit only!

18. Never again give up the keys before having the cash and contract signed.

19. Never again rent to someone who sees the house for the first time, pulls out a wad of cash, and says, “I’ll take it!” without screening them first.

20. Never again rent to someone who has nothing but negative things to say about their current landlord.

21. Never again accept a deposit paid for anything but collected funds.

22. Never again “hold” an empty unit for anything longer than 2 weeks.

23. Never again ask a resident casually, “How’s everything going at the apartment?” Haha, nothing good will ever come from asking a resident THAT question!!!

24. Never again rent to family/ friends.

25. Never again install carpet in a rental. NEVER!!

26. Never again NOT do a background check on a sweet old lady that turned out to have a felony for selling prescription drugs!!!? Sort of a happy ending though–She’s been with me for 5 years. Quiet and always paid on time.

27. Never again think that simply because we have a signed lease, the place is rented for a year.  I must also utilize smart resident retention strategies.

MRLANDLORD.COM MONTHLY TIPS ON MANAGEMENT

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FILLING VACANCIES IN THE HOOD

 Everyone has their own approach to filling vacancies. This month I want to share with you two approaches to filling vacancies in the “hood”. You will notice that both approaches are somewhat similar and they both offer commentary regarding how to save time and money that could be helpful to other landlords looking to fill their vacancies faster in the hood (especially considering that having vacancies is one of your biggest expenses as a landlord).

 Dave’s Approach

1. Paint – I use the same color of Sherwin Williams Property Management paint on everything. It scrubs well, the color matches so close between paint jobs that I only have to roll on the walls once on the high traffic areas.

2. Trash – We pile the tenant leftovers on the porch and in the alley and in two hours a trailer load of stuff disappeared at no charge.

3. Shut-up – The new tenants walk through right after the previous tenant leaves. They asked about a few repairs I planned to do and were happy with a few things I was on the fence about.

4. Organization – I made more of an effort to group similar repairs or repairs that required the same tools for the same day. I also made it a point to make only one trip for supplies per day.

 Sid’s Approach

1) I use Wal-Mart’s Glidden satin paint for all walls, except the bathroom/kitchen areas (over those areas I use semi-gloss). I use the same color (light beige) throughout the rental. I also use semi-gloss white on all trim.

2) I only repair/replace things if it’s broken. Most of my houses/complexes are lower income, so I rarely upgrade. Tenants expect it to be clean and functional, which is what I provide. They do not expect a kitchen with the latest, new appliances and granite counter tops, nor do they pay more for it, nor do they take care of it.

3) I hire out the cleaning and the carpet repairs. I pay $80 for a ceiling to floor deep cleaning; $80-$90 for the carpets. I’m also replacing carpets with Allure as I go, so that expense is gradually dropping off the radar.

4) I only do Lock box showings. I can have folks coming in and out all day without missing a beat. Never had a problem with squatters, vandalism, or theft.

Rented all three of my last three vacancies using this method. I had ZERO no shows, ZERO time/gas wasted driving across town, ZERO requests for repeat showings, ZERO prospects missed because my schedule and theirs didn’t match. All three turnovers were less than 2 weeks. One I turned over in ONE DAY! Yummy, yummy rent!

 

9 TOOLS TO HELP YOU PRICE YOUR RENT

 What comparisons, Internet sites or other tools do you use to determine rental rates? Here are suggestions from other rental owners nationwide:

1. Use Craigslist for your area.
2. http://www.rentometer.com
3. “For rent” ads in the paper, call them to advertise your rental properties.
4. Utilize Postlets.com
5. Trulia.com
6.”For Rent” sign in a yard nearby, call them.
7. HUD fair market rents.

8. Connect with other local landlords who meet weekly/monthly for coffee.

9. Rental listing sites, like Rent.com, RentalHouseHunter.com, Apartments.com, ForRent.com, etc.
 

TIMID LANDLORDS HAVE SKINNY KIDS

The following exchange took place on my Facebook page (facebook.com/landlordcoach) after I encouraged landlords not to be timid, using one of the quotes from a regular contributor to the popular MrLandlord.com Q&A Forum:

Landlord: This reminds me of a current issue I’m facing. Is it a good idea to replace broken bi-fold closet doors with just a curtain and rod? I’m tired of always repairing broken closet doors. Not sure, but, would tenants care?
Me: Kris, let me ask you a question. Assuming these are sturdy bi-fold closet doors, properly installed to begin with, why are you not “charging” the residents if the doors become damaged or broken? My experience is that if residents see that they will indeed be charged for damages done to the home, the items in the home will magically last a whole lot longer. I’m glad you raised this question, because actually charging residents for small broken items or damages caused by them (or their guests), is one of the key areas where landlords are TIMID. Instead of charging the resident, the landlord simply fixes the damage (and fixes this and fixes that…) and in doing so the landlord eats the cost as a part of doing business. Noooo…..Fixing damages caused by the resident is NOT a normal part of doing business. Do not be timid. Fix it, but charge the resident. As a result you will see far less damages.
 
Landlord: I do charge the tenants for broken items, but most of the closet doors I find broken are after they move out. They don’t tell me they broke them, and I will sometimes find it after they have moved out. So then I keep part of their deposit, assuming that there is any left to keep if they didn’t give notice, were behind on rent, etc… So eventually when I have a judgment on them, I may or may not at some point recover the cost by garnishing wages etc. But meanwhile it is just such a hassle to deal with… I have started using either tile flooring (in parts of the country where it is acceptable to do so), and carpet tiles. The carpet tiles are meant to be self adhesive backed, but i use an air stapler and staple each corner. They are 12′ square tiles and are about $.85 each. When there is a stain, you just pull up the stained tiles and replace them with a new tile in about 5 minutes. Just some ideas.
 
Me: Kris, yes good ideas. Though to your comments about not finding out about the broken doors until AFTER residents move out, that begs the question – Do you do periodic inspections while your residents are still occupying the property? I know that for me, once I started doing periodic inspections, the amount of damage I discovered after the fact, was much less. Not only that, but with residents knowing I would inspect the rental home, properties are kept in better condition, and the resident is far more likely to get more of their deposit back when they move out, which makes EVERYBODY happier. Former residents are also more likely to refer others as well.
 
Landlord: You are correct. I am not very good at doing periodic inspections. Part of the reason, which is not a very good one, is that when I do an inspection, it seems like the tenant points out all kinds of small issues, that are so small they wouldn’t normally even call me about it, but since I am there they bring up. But I should really make a point of doing them at least once a year. Do you have any suggestions on doing inspections?
 
Me: Again, now’s not the time to be timid. 🙂 Just let residents know that as part of the management’s way of making sure the home is being properly maintained, an annual property inspection must be conducted at a time that is convenient. You also do it as a “preventive maintenance check” to make sure certain items in the home will continue functioning properly (For example, checking filters, smoke detector, etc.). Don’t make it seem to the residents like it’s a huge deal, just a normal property maintenance procedure. Of course, while you are there, check out the condition of those closet doors. 🙂

By the way, if there are things the resident points out are things that need to be fixed, (which you, the landlord, would normally be responsible for), I have found that is far better to take care of them at the time of the inspection, 3 to 6 months prior to lease expiring, rather than to have a silent, unhappy resident staying in your property just waiting to move when the lease expires. And if the things they point out are because of the resident’s neglect or poor upkeep, fix them, but charge the resident. Look at it as your way of showing excellent customer service to your truly good residents, and keeping tabs on those who could cost you hundreds (or possibly thousands) in damages if left alone. All the while, you handle everything at a time that was already set-aside and convenient for you. That’s well worth a one hour inspection!

 

A TRIP TO THE COURTHOUSE — PRICELESS!

You’ve seen the Mastercard Commercials where individuals talk of the high value of various things and they get to something which they can’t put a price tag on, and the only thing that could be said is that it’s “Priceless!” Well the following is not a “trip” to an exotic, romantic location. However a trip to the local courthouse shared by a landlord could only be described as “Priceless.” 🙂

I’ve owned property for about 7 years as a landlord. I’ve never had to evict someone. After a few close calls and after a few 5 day notices, I decided to go to the courthouse to watch eviction trials.

After finding the right courtroom, I walked in and sat in the back. The judge was just finishing up with a case. As it finished, the bailiff asked if I had a case. I replied no and explained what I was doing. The judge looked over and asked if I was there to speak with him, I said nope, just watching. He acknowledged my response and went on his way. I sat through 4 proceedings.
Two cases were residents that didn’t pay their rent. Another was a resident going after a former landlord because he was holding her kid’s clothes. The last one involved a landlord that didn’t serve the 5 day notice the right way. She just mailed it using regular mail and the resident said that they never received it.
As I was getting ready to leave, the judge asked – and I’m paraphrasing here – “What are you doing here, just interested in the court system?” I explained that I was a landlord who was fortunate enough not to have to be in court, but that I probably will be at some point in the future. He replied, “That’s great, come up here I’ll give you something.”
I approached him and he provided me with a stapled document with 5 sheets and said, “This may be helpful for you, this is what my intern put together for me. You can’t use this as legal advice, but it gives a good overview of the statues, what is required for each party, and relevant info in these cases.”
I said thanks, shook his and the bailiff’s hands, and went on my way. This was a very valuable experience and I highly suggest taking a few hours and go watch some of these cases for your area.

 

DON’T ACCEPT ANY EXCUSES — OFFER SOLUTIONS!

One of the biggest mistakes new landlords make–and sometimes some of us who should know better–is to accept any excuses for nonpayment of rent. Handle all nonpayment cases the same, whether it’s a good or bad excuse. Do not accept any excuses – offer solutions!

If you start “judging” whether or not a resident’s excuse is worthy of giving them an extended period of time to come up with the money, you will encourage them to come up with worse excuses the next time. In addition, you dig yourself into a deeper and deeper financial hole if they don’t come up with the money after the extended time period, and you have delayed in starting the eviction procedures.

Let your residents know right from the beginning what your procedures are when payment is not received and that there are no exceptions. I even have a list that can be shown to the resident at move-in that gives examples of excuses that residents have tried to use in the past to no avail. This adds a little bit of humor to a very serious discussion, but it also clearly lets the new resident know that there is no need to offer excuses for nonpayment of rent. Then of course you must strictly enforce those procedures.

“But Jeffrey, what do you do, especially in these times? Don’t you want to work with residents in ‘some’ way who are having a hard time? If I took a totally no-excuse approach, I would not have any tenants!”

I hear you and I’m fully prepared to work with residents by offering them several contact names and phones numbers of agencies and churches who may be able to offer them assistance. When doing so, I still start the eviction process and should the resident come up with ALL the money (including court costs, attorney fees, etc.) by the time of the court date, to that extent we will work with them.

I’ll also admit this: If a resident who has paid on time for over a year and otherwise been an excellent resident, and they give me an excuse, I still won’t listen or judge their excuse, or delay the legal proceedings. But I will listen to their proposed plan for getting caught up and offer suggested solutions. AND if they have never lied to me up to that point, I will waive or suspend the late fees and court costs, and get them to sign a promissory note, and work with them.

 

30 POPULAR EXCUSES FOR UNPAID RENT

“Had to get brother in law out of jail” (And they didn’t even like each other)

“My fiance left me”

“Just use my security deposit”

“I lost my job”

“Car repair”

“Self-employed Hair Stylist – Business has been real slow this month”

“I had a big electric bill because you won’t replace all the windows” (last January – walked into the house and they had the heat set at about 80, only 50 degrees outside)

“Had to buy schoolbooks”

“State garnished my tax refund for back child support”

“I left town because my dad died and I forgot my checkbook.”

“I was supposed to work and didn’t know it, so they suspended me for 3 days.”

“I’ve been too busy to mail it.”

“I got in a fight with my girlfriend, so had to use the rent to buy her flowers, take her out to dinner and make up with her. I am sure being a girl you understand.”

“Maybe if I got a check book I could get my rent paid on time.”

“I got a joint checking account with my boyfriend, then he left me last month and took all the money.”

“Sorry, but needed new tires.”

“I looked at my bank account and it was empty so I guess that means I paid you already, right?”

“I failed to pay taxes in 2008 and the IRS swept my account on the 1st so there was no money there. They were not supposed to do that my attorney is in contact with them.”

“I got bit in the crotch by a brown recluse spider while I was camping at the Renaissance Fair and I had to use the money to go to the ER.”

“I am out of town but my wife said someone has accessed our checking account and there is a hold on the account.”

“Last week, my bank sent the check, but it must’ve gotten lost. I’m not putting a stop payment on it for another week. If you don’t receive it, I’ll send another one. No, I’m not writing another check until I find out what happened to the first check.”

Last Month: “My uncle died and we have to pay for the funeral.” 

This Month: “My aunt died……”

“I am out of checks, got to order some.”

“The bank messed up my account, that is why the check bounced.”

“I have lupus and I haven’t been feeling so good.”

“My daughter is just starting college and I had to pay her tuition.”

“I won’t be able to pay my rent on time unless I can get this special loan. In order to get this special loan I need you to sign this form stating that I’m about to be evicted even though my rent is current…it’s ok, the old owner has done it in the past…”

“I got sick and had to buy meds.”

“My ex-wife is trying to get sole custody of the kids and I had to pay a lawyer.”

“My bank froze my checking account because my debit card got hit.”

 

WHAT’S YOUR “COMEBACK” WHEN RESIDENTS OFFER EXCUSES?

I thought it would be helpful for some landlords to be ready (equipped) with WHAT TO SAY to rental residents who offer excuses as to why the rent has not been paid. Several experienced landlords shared their best or favorite comeback lines when a resident starts making excuses. I encourage you to read these different examples so that you may identify with at least one of these lines and feel comfortable and confident in utilizing it, when the time comes to use it. And as most landlords know, the time will come. Remember to always be professional and businesslike in your communication. So here are some of the best suggested “comeback” lines:

Comeback: “Please understand I have bills, obligations, and collecting is a business decision and a commitment to pay my bills.  At the present time I am unable to pay your bills”.

Comeback: “I do understand the financial difficulties that you have encountered. Just as soon as the rent is paid, take the next money you have available after that and buy some food.”

Comeback: “I’m sorry to hear about your situation. Our agreement is that rent is paid by the 1st or you owe the rent and a late fee. We have a mortgage that is due, if we don’t pay then we get a late fee. The mortgage company makes no exceptions. Since I am charged a late fee regardless of circumstances, I really can’t make exceptions either. I’m sure you understand.”

Comeback: “Perhaps you have a friend or family member who will lend you the money until you can pay them back.”

Comeback: “I’m sorry to hear that, I hope everything works out. Regarding the rent, we are required to follow procedure within the timeline allowed by law.”

Comeback: “No, you can not use the deposit.  Rent is rent, deposit is damages and I want you to get that back.”

Comeback: “I wish I had a half a dozen tenants like you!” They look at me confused and ask why. I then say, “I have about a dozen like you, I would like a half dozen!” 😉

Comeback: “Sorry but by state law I can’t touch that money until you are actually out of the unit. It’s kept in a separate Landlord Trust Account – it’s not available to me for personal use. That’s to protect YOU.”

Comeback: “What can you pay today?” If they have enough for at least 50% of the rent then we work on some kind of plan that keeps them from ever getting more than 7 days behind. 7 days is when I file papers.  If they say zero, then I know for certain they have not done the best they can.

ADVERTISING TO THE MILITARY

I work for the military (civilian) and there is a website that the military use when they are relocated. In many cases, the Dept of Defense pays the landlord direct. It is called AHRN.com and it stands for Automated Housing Rental Network. You can post for free on the network. If you want to get the rental registered with the local military installations, you can call them and get registered with the relocation personnel who help military men and women find suitable housing. I am going through the Department of Defense (DoD) in Michigan. I am having my house walked through by the housing relocation personnel — it adds a positive review among those that are not. Check it out!

This is how I discovered the program and how it has worked for me: Two years ago I took a job in Williamsburg, VA. I called AHRN in Michigan and got absolutely zero results! I ended up coming back to Michigan for lots of reasons (namely, my mother was dying and my job required 24/7 travel 350 days a year). My mother was more important than my new job. In June, I accepted a job with the Dept of Defense (DoD) in Texas. There aren’t many jobs in Michigan. I had to go to nearest military installation to get fingerprinted. While I was at the military base, I mentioned something about wanting to rent my house. The person taking my prints told me to hang on a minute. He came back with a woman that works with military and DoD relocation. She gave me the “details.” I told her my info was on AHRN but nothing happened. She told me that property managers/landlords have to renew the listing every 30 days even though it is on the site. She also put me in touch with her co-worker who handles transfers. I chose to have my house “inspected” because it offers QA to potential residents. During my advertisement, I am going to add a blurb that says “military and DoD house inspected by ….” so other government (non-DoD) personnel see this. It’s another advertisement tag-line.

One other landlord shared his experience with AHRN.com. As a retired military guy and landlord who has used AHRN for about five years. It is like any other marketing website in that sometimes you get great residents and sometimes you don’t. The quality of your renter still depends on how “well” YOU screen them. Military folks may get a paycheck regularly, however they may also not pay rent (unless they are on an autopay plan) and/or damage the property. When I’ve rented to military, the inspections and direct rent payment is coordinated through the base housing referral office.

6 WAYS TO SPEED UP TURNOVER TIME

After a resident moves out (or evicted) you don’t want a property sitting empty for a long time for several reasons. So here are 6 ways to reduce your turnover time:

1) You MUST put aside a portion of your received rents each month so that when the time comes you do have cash to hire the labor. Most businesses call this “retained earnings,” but you can just think of it as your maintenance fund.

2) Do quarterly or semi-annual inspections to make sure the residents are not destroying the place so that there is not as much work to do at time of turnover.

3) Find good, reliable contractors and have them lined up IN ADVANCE. This is essential for doing quick turnovers when there is a bunch of work to be done. If your resident is giving you a 30-day notice, there is no reason you shouldn’t have a list of repair items prepared to be started on the day after they leave.

4) I have all my leases end on the 23rd so that I have a few days to rehab and have a new resident move in at the end of the same month.

5) Prep the curb appeal and start marketing while the helpers finish the inside.

6) I find that “doing it along the way” is the way to go. Every six months or so, I visit my properties, and see what’s “really” needed, and get it done. Then, annually, as Jeffrey Taylor (aka Mr. Landlord) suggests, I offer the residents an “upgrade” of something else that will rehab the place. The idea being that by the time a resident moves out, paint and maybe flooring are all that’s needed.

 9 USES OF SMART PHONES FOR LANDLORDS

1. Snap a copy of the driver’s license for my applicants then e-mail it to myself for record keeping.

2. Use the mobile banking app to check balance, deposit checks, transfer funds, and pay bills.

3. Check Facebook for a prospect.

4. Do online checking for credit/background on prospects.

5. Check e-mails from tenants.

6. Check out Craigslist for other LLs in the area with the same type of rentals.

7. Use the note pad app to write down a quick note.

8. Of course, use the phone address book to screen out unwanted calls.

9. Check out the local MLS listing for possible new purchases.

10. Bonus Tips from Two other Landlords: The Mr.Landlord Q&A forum is now mobile friendly! Try it out (to receive landlording advice on-the-go).

11. You can even run credit checks right on the spot with applicants!

The above tips are shared by regular website contributors to the popular MrLandlord.com Q&A forum. To receive a free sample of Mr. Landlord newsletter, call 1-800-950-2250 or visit their informative Q&A Forum at LandlordingAdvice.com, where you can ask landlording questions and seek the advice of other rental owners 24 hours a day.

What Are You Doing To Fill A Vacancy and Increase Your Cashflow?

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Join us at our next meeting featuring Jeffrey Taylor aka Mr. Landlord to be energized, educated, and empowered to take total control of your rental property business.  Make a clean sweep on filling all your next rentals.  Bring your pen and paper and listen to the latest tips from Jeffrey as he shares how not to be held hostage by marginal residents.  A resident that has no respect for your property, is careless of the damage he/she causes, has snuck in unauthorized guests or pets, or continually pays late is not the resident you need to keep.  Now is a great time to bring your neighboring landlords to our meeting.  Improving the neighborhood and residents where your properties are located will benefit the whole block.  

Don’t limit your vision, especially during these tough times.  I challenge you to enlarge your vision and take your rental business to a new level.  Hanging around people who ARE becoming educated investors guarantees that you don’t fall behind.  Don’t get completely frustrated with your rental home sitting empty, or worse, having poor performing residents sitting in them.  If you’re ready to hear from someone who has a waiting list of ideal residents, then you can’t miss Jeffrey Taylor’s presentation.  Treat your rentals like a business, get and stay educated, and forge ahead. 

Jeffrey Taylor is known nationwide as “Mr. Landlord,” and has taught thousands of real estate investors, landlords and managers how to fill their vacancies in just 72 hours and keep residents for 6 years and how to take their business to a whole new level.  He will show you how to do it!  He’s the author of the bestselling books, The Landlord’s Survival Guide and The Landlord’s Kit.  He’s America’s #1 landlording coach, a successful landlord with nearly 30 years experience and founder of MrLandlord.com, home of the most visited landlord Q&A website in the nation for rental owners.  

Maybe you know someone looking to enter the property investment market or they already own an investment property and would like to make sure that they are maximizing the income that they receive on every property that they own.  I encourage you and any colleague to come to the next local monthly meeting Jeffrey will be conducting.

How to Get Your Tenants to Stay For at Least Three Years

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Many of you are familiar with my 3-Star Program as an excellent way to encourage residents to stay with you a minimum of 3 years. As a brief reminder, you enroll residents in a 3-Star Program at no charge to the resident. At one store I’m a “Gold Club” member. At the other I am a “MVP” member. Why did these stores encourage me to enroll in their free programs? To create customer loyalty.

Guess what, it works! When I go buy groceries, without thinking I shop at the two stores that give me a few perks (small discounts) because I see myself as a MVP or Gold Club member.

I’ve enrolled residents in my 3-Star Program for the same reason. To create customer loyalty. And it works.

Create Customer Loyalty

By giving residents a perk (minor property upgrades) on each rental anniversary as part of the 3-Star Program, residents see themselves as three-year residents. Of course, the residents can legally terminate the rental agreement at any time (with proper advance notice) and move to another rental, just like I can start shopping at a different store.

But I voluntarily keep shopping where I’ve been often reminded that I am a valued customer and receive perks. The store doesn’t ask me each year if I want to renew my membership in the program or whether I want to keep shopping there. They simply send me a letter on occasion (along with perks-store discounts) thanking me for continuing to be a valued customer in their program and telling me what I can look forward to.

This is the same way the 3-Star Program works. I share this analogy, because a few people question whether some of my “innovative” rental ideas work. YES, they work because I just adapt strategies that are working well for other industries and utilize them in the rental business. And the 3-Star Program, like the Gold club or MVP program, creates customer loyalty. Residents continue to stay year after year without annual discussions about whether they want to stay in the program.

I do feel it is important and to your advantage to talk with your resident once a year near the anniversary date. I recommend you send an “Anniversary Agenda Checklist” along with a Thank You letter for participating in the FIRST year of their 3-Star Program. The Agenda Checklist informs residents that they have an opportunity to discuss any concerns and new options available during the nest year of their 3-Star Program.

The Agenda Checklist asks residents to select the topics from the agenda of what they would like to talk about. Each topic a resident selects gives you, the landlord, the opportunity to meet the changing needs of your resident. Equally important, as you offer options to meet the resident’s needs and concerns, each topic on the agenda will also give you the opportunity to increase your cash flow plus increase the customer satisfaction level of the resident. Remember, let your residents pick the topics for the discussion and use the agenda to truly have a profitable discussion.

Anniversary Agenda Checklist

 

We like to meet residents at least once each year to help insure that we continue to meet your housing needs and make sure you are aware of all the housing options that are available to you. We want YOU to select the agenda for the meeting. Tell us what you would like to talk about. We can discuss just one of the following topics, or we can discuss as many of the topics as you select. Or, if you prefer not to meet at this time, just let us know.

The meeting will take place at your residence on one of the following two dates. Please let us know which date and time is most convenient for you to meet with us. Return this checklist to us within the next 3 days so we can schedule the meeting. Mail or deliver it to the following address:

Mr. Landlord

123 Main St

Anytown, USA

Which meeting date and time is best for you?

____________________________________or

_____________________________________

Select which topics you would like to discuss at the meeting.

_____Different rent payment plans available. Some residents prefer to pay every two weeks instead of monthly. It is possible to change the payment terms in your rental agreement.

____Any concerns about your current rental home?

____Receive 10% annual refund of your security deposit for passing semiannual inspections.

____New upgrades and service options available for the next year of your 3-Star Program.

____Transfer location options if you want to consider moving to another size rental home.

____Prices and rental policies of other homes in the area.

____Negotiate new rental amount for the upcoming year.

____Tell-A-Friend Referral Fee program for 3-Star residents. (How to get free rent or cash)

____Your evaluation or comments about our maintenance guarantee program.

____Special services and advantages of our “VIP” Resident Programs.

____Other topic___________________________________________

____ I prefer not to meet at this time. Everything is satisfactory. No topics I need to discuss.