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80 Smart Questions to Ask BEFORE Hiring Your Next Property Management Company

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80 Questions to Ask BEFORE Hiring Your Next Property Management Company

1. Will I have one specific property manager? Who will be my property manager?

You want to know who will be your specific property manager and know their name. I am all about accountability, and you want to know and meet with your property manager, not just the marketing director or whoever is in charge of new business.

2. Who is the head of the office?

You want to know the broker in case something goes wrong. Brokers have PMs who work under their license, so ultimately it is the head broker who runs the show.

3. How long have you been a property manager?

The length of time is important to know. That being said, a hungry newbie who wants to learn, in my experience, is often times better than the most advanced person, because they care.

4. How many units do you manage?

For me this is more so food for thought because large and small management companies both have their pros and cons. There are benefits to a large office and also to a small office; the key is to know which one you are getting and to make sure you are comfortable with the pros and cons.

5. What is the average length that clients stay with you?

You want a property manager who is in it for the long haul. While this might not be a truthful answer or able to be substantiated, it is still good to ask.


Four Reasons You Should Hire a Property Manager Who Owns Rentals

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Here are four quick-and-dirty reasons why, if you’re in the market for a residential property manager for your investment rentals, you should hire one who has a rental portfolio of their own.

The PM understands why it's important to control expenses and improve cash flow.

If your goal is to buy and hold long-term rentals, it’s likely that your focus is on generating a decent-to-good cash flow to pocket as passive income, or use to reinvest, or rely on to quit your (perhaps not-beloved) day job real soon. A PM who owns a least a few units and has had to spend money to fix them knows a few things about expenses—for instance, when it’s better to spend more money now to prevent large expenses in the future, or to spend less now to meet more short-term cash flow goals. They’ve seen the hit to their bottom line when they hired the cheapest plumber to fix the ceiling leak and then had to go back and hire the bestplumber to fix that fix. But they’ve also seen the cost savings in buying a lesser-quality product than they would for their own homes to maximize cash flow.

Property Depreciation: Why the Tax Benefits Could Come Back to Bite You

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When you purchase a new rental or commercial property with investment intent, you must allocate a portion of the purchase price to improvements and the remaining amount to land. The reason for this practice is that you cannot depreciate land, only improvements. This makes sense because dirt lasts forever.

Depreciation is the reduction in value of a property over time due to the particular wear and tear on the asset. Residential properties are depreciated over 27.5 years, while commercial properties are depreciated over 39 years.

This reduction in value is a current expense, yet no money comes out of your pocket. Sounds like a pretty awesome deal, right? You get to reduce your reported income by your annual depreciation expense without actually paying for anything!

But what is depreciation really? Do you think the IRS, our favorite government agency, would let you have it that easy? I’ll give you a hint: the answer starts with the letter “N” and ends with “O.”

In actuality, depreciation is similar to an interest free deferred loan with no time restrictions. You see, when you sell a property that you have been depreciating, you have to pay a thing called “depreciation recapture taxes” at a 25% rate. This 25% rate is multiplied by the total value of depreciation you have taken over the property’s hold period. So the income you are “sheltering” each month really isn’t being sheltered like you think it is, as you will eventually have to pay a portion of it back. Without prior knowledge (or having a good accountant), you could be in for quite the surprise!

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How to Conduct an Inspection When Your Tenant Moves Out

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Your first impression when you pull up in front of the unit will give you a pretty good indication of how the rest of the property is going to look. If the flower beds and lawn are overgrown, you see broken blinds in the living room window, and there is a pile of garbage in the backyard, brace yourself before going through the front door. If it looks great from the get-go, then congratulations, the rest should be easy! 

When doing the move-out walk-through, inspect the entire property from top to bottom, just like when your tenant moved in. Take pictures (or a video) of everything, including up-close pictures of things you need to remedy; all your visual evidence will come in handy later on if any disputes arise from the tenant regarding deductions from their security deposit.

Things like dusting the trim, wiping down the walls, cleaning out the oven, washing the outside of the appliances, cleaning beneath the refrigerator, and really getting into the corners while deep-cleaning are some common areas tenants miss, so while doing your move-out walk-through, just remember to be thorough so you don’t get stuck with footing the bill for your tenant’s grime.

 

How to Maximize Revenue While Minimizing Vacancy in Real Estate

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One of the most important components to owning investment property is pricing your rental appropriately so that you maximize revenue while minimizing vacancy. Determining what to rent a property for can be somewhat of a science when trying to optimize your ROI. You will want to employ several different techniques and strategies when determining the right amount to charge for rent:

Shop Around

One of the most accurate and easiest ways to figure out what the market will bear in rents is by checking out the area.

This requires a little leg work on your part, but is going to give you the most realistic look at what you are facing. You can often find rental signs in the area posted with rental amounts, number of bedrooms and other details about the property. Calling these landlords and getting info on what they have for rent and what they are charging is a great way to get a feel for market.

The newspaper or online classifieds is another excellent way to check out what is available for rent in that area, Not only do you want to see what others are charging, you want to see how long it stays listed at that price. If properties are renting quickly at certain prices, you know that there may be room to price slightly higher.

 

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Landlord Knowledge Base

If you’ve ever considered investing in a few rental properties in Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA now might be a good time. Prices are still low in Philadelphia, but have been on the upswing. According to the National Association of Realtors, the median price of an existing home in a US metropolitan area grew 13.7% between July 2012 and July 2013, the latest in a 17-month streak of year-over-year price increases. 

New landlords can choose from properties that are likely to appreciate and a large pool of potential renters.Licensed realtor Pat Mueller cites a few reasons for this trend: “Many families have lost their homes to foreclosure and are entering the rentals market for the first time in years. Mortgages are also harder to get now, so fewer people are qualifying for a new one.”The more skills you bring to the table to get into Houses for Rent in Philadelphia Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA and the more time you have to devote to your properties, the faster you can make a return on your investment. 

But investing in rentals can also be disastrous (or too stressful to be worthwhile) without expertise. Here are three professionals you may consult about your new rental properties, and what you can do to mitigate how much they cost you:Handyman:  You may need to hire a specialist for some work on your rental. If you need new outlets or new pipes, for example, hire an electrician, plumber or licensed contractor. Handymen usually tackle smaller, more manageable tasks, like:

  • Painting and paint removal
  • Drywall repair
  • Minor appliance repairs (fixing a leaky toilet or faucet, among others)
  • Installing tiling or flooring, moldings, windows, doors
  • Refinishing decks, cabinets and other wood items

When You Could Skip It: You could do any (or all) of these projects yourself if you have the time and interest in learning. Of course, this only works if you live relatively close to your rentals and are flexible enough to service them on short notice. And if you’re willing to respond to the occasional 5 AM basement flooding.

Average Savings: Any base rates or costs-per-hour vary from location to location in Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA , but nationally, you can expect to spend an average of $60 to $85 per hour for repair costs. It general costs less to hire an individual handyman than a handyman employed by a company. Expect an additional charge if your job requires a trip to the store for materials.

Resident Property Manager As the owner of a handful of rental properties, you may be able to manage them yourself, but if you want help, a single resident manager would probably be more cost efficient than a property management company. Resident managers may:

  • Serve as a handyman
  • Advertise vacancies in your units
  • Show apartments to prospective tenants
  • Review rental applications
  • Collect rents

When You Could Skip It: Again, the closer you live to your properties and the more spare time you have, the less likely you are to need a manager. The obligations of being a boss will also cut into the time you save on maintenance.

Average Savings: The national median wage for residential managers is just over $25 per hour. Research the wages in your community and adjust according to how much responsibility your manager will take on. 

Real Estate Agent: Once you’ve gotten your financials in order and done your own research on the neighborhood(s) you’re considering, you might contact a realtor to show you potential properties. You can also arrange for a realtor in Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA to show rentals once they’re ready to rent.

When You Could Skip It: It depends. Even if you’re a local, or have thoroughly researched the neighborhood(s) you’re considering, a realtor is a great resource for a first-time rental buyer. Realtors have access to data and statistics not necessarily available to the general public and first-time buyers may not know all the right questions to ask. Using a realtor to fill your Houses for Rent vacancies is less of a no-brainer, depending on your other time commitments or whether you plan to hire a resident manager who could do the same thing.

Average Savings: As a buyer of rental properties, as when buying your own home, sellers typically pay most, if not all, of the buyer’s realtor fees. In this case, Mueller points out there’s little reason not to work with a realtor. For help in filling your units in Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA, the services of a realtor would set you back between 10-20% of the unit’s rent per month.  Mueller recommends interviewing with several brokers before making your final decision to invest into Houses for Rent .

The Bottom Line: As a new landlord, you can’t necessarily control the flexibility of your schedule or the amount (and cost) of unexpected repairs to your properties. Rentals are a long-term investment. However, to maximize profits from your Houses for Rent, new rentals, you can buy close to home and start small. It is best to begin with just one or two properties. This will allow you to maximize the time you spend on your properties’ needs, and minimize the amount you’ll have to pay anyone else.

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