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Property Management Blog

Published on Monday, May 25, 2009

Home Checklist - few things to think about before leaving home

 Ø  Check your home insurance policy for your specific "away" requirements. Many insurance policies have clauses that will void coverage if your home is left unoccupied and unattended for extended periods of time. During "normal home heating months" many insurance companies require that you have someone check your home at least once a week (if not more often) to mainly ensure pipes have not frozen or ruptured, etc.
Ø  For peace of mind travel and to satisfy your home insurance policy, hire Onyx Management Group Home Watch Service to regularly check the interior/exterior of your home.
Ø  Advise Onyx Management Group Home Watch Service of your departure and return dates/times.
Ø  Leave house key and trip itinerary with Onyx Management Group Home Watch Service
Ø  Advise a neighbor that Onyx Management Group Home Watch Service will be checking your home, and provide your neighbor with our telephone number.
Ø  Arrange for care of pets.
Ø  Make arrangements for house plants
Ø  Confirm lawn mowing arrangements
Ø  Confirm snow removal arrangements
Ø  Turn off exterior water taps
Ø  Remove perishables from the refrigerator in event of a power outage, you don't end up with a mess or, worse, an appliance that needs to be replaced.
Ø  Empty bread box, potato bin, etc. of perishable foods
Ø  Dispose any garbage (If necessary, inform Onyx Management Group Home Watch Service of your next garbage pickup day/time)
Ø  Eliminate possible fire hazards (unplug appliances, etc.)
Ø  Save heating money and turn down the thermostat in the winter (60F)
Ø  Turn off water heater
Ø  Your answering machine message should say that you are “unable to come to the telephone”, and not that “you are away”.
Ø  Turn-off or unplug your answering machine if it will not be in use.
Ø  If answering machine will be left on, you should check your answering machine messages while away.
Ø  Return important messages to reinforce the idea that your home is not vacant.
Ø  Clear off non-important messages while you are away to help ensure that the answering system will not inform callers that the message mailbox is "full".
Ø  Keep heating and air-conditioning systems on to prevent damage from frozen pipes in cold weather and mould in hot weather.
Ø  Suspend cable or satellite and Internet service. Ensure wireless internet and computers are turned off.
Ø  Unplug electronics that could be damaged by a power surge.
Ø  Make plans for pool / hot tub maintenance during your absence.

Lighting & Sound
 
Ø  Set-up a timed lighting system
Ø  Double check your timed night lighting system
Ø  Change the light bulbs on all interior lighting in consideration of automatic timing devices.
Ø  Motion-sensitive exterior lighting is recommended.
Ø  Change the light bulbs on all exterior lighting to ensure longer life and consider using timers.
Ø  Install multiple automatic timers to give the impression of residents moving through the home.
Ø  Stagger your lights and radios by setting the timers in different rooms to go on and off at different times - this gives the impression of residents moving through the rooms.

Personal Belongings

Ø  Store valuables in a safe place
Ø  Identify your belongings by engraving or indelible marking.
Ø  Photograph or videotape each room of your home and the contents of drawers and closets.
Ø   Store valuables such as jewelry, documents and heirlooms in a safety deposit box or home safe.
 
Security & Alarm Systems
 
Ø  Ask a reliable person to act as an additional contact with your security company and notify the security company of this addition.
Ø  The Onyx Management Group can provide this service. Create a security code specific to Onyx Management Group Home Watch Service.
 
Exterior Home Security - Doors, Windows & Entry Points
 
Ø  Lock all doors and windows
Ø  Close chimney flues, as they can be used as a point of entry by small animals and birds.
Ø  Install deadbolt locks on all exterior doors.
Ø   Install a locking pin in windows and sliding doors.
Ø   Lock the garage door manually for additional security if you have an electronic garage door opener.
Ø   Place a piece of wood or similar solid object in the tracks of your sliding doors.
Ø   Secure all pet doors. They are a favorite point of entry for burglars, and can also be used by small animals and birds.
 
Mail Re-Routing & Deliveries
 
Ø   Stop deliveries (i.e. newspaper) Suspend or cancel newspaper and magazine subscriptions.
Ø   Arrange to have your mail collected by a reliable person or have USPS hold your mail or arrange collection of your mail from your mailbox. We would be happy to pick up the mail from your mailbox
Ø   For extended absences, arrange mail forwarding with your local post office.
 
Perimeter Security
 
Ø   Arrange snow shoveling (or lawn maintenance) and sidewalk/driveway clearing of your home. Onyx Management Group Home Watch Service would be pleased to provide this service.
Ø   Ask Onyx Management Group Home Watch Service to regularly inspect the perimeter of your property.
Ø   Consider asking someone to occasionally place one of their bags of weekly garbage and recycling container on the curb in front of your house to give the added appearance of ongoing occupancy.
Ø   Install deadbolt locks on all perimeter doors.
 
Automotive Security
 
Ø   Ask Onyx Management Group Home Watch Service to have your vehicles brushed of snow to give the impression of regular use.
Ø   Consider asking someone to routinely move your car, or even leave their car(s) in your driveway to match the lived-in look of your home.
Ø   If your vehicle remains immobile for an extended period, disconnect the battery cables to extend battery life and to prevent auto theft.
 
Your Arrival Back Home
 
Ø   Do you need to be picked up at the airport? Call Onyx Management Group Home Watch Service to book the shuttle (if available).
Ø   Will you be arriving home after the grocery store is closed? Can Onyx Management Group Home Watch Service stock your fridge with the basics? Leave us your grocery list before you leave.
Ø   Ask Onyx Management Group Home Watch Service to turn your water heater on and the heat up at your desired time.
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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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