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Property Management Blog

Published on Saturday, May 2, 2009

How to Select A Property Management Company - Tenant Screening

 When thinking about putting a home into rental service with a property management company, there are several things you will want to consider before you sign a contract with a property management company.

What are their guidelines for accepting a tenant? Are you comfortable with those guidelines? If not, find a property manager who you are more comfortable with. 

The guidelines should address the following:

Credit - While most tenants have fair to bad credit, the property manager should evaluate the applicants’ credit to see what areas are delinquent. For example, if an applicant has a lot of medical debt, but paid all their other bills timely, that should be a consideration. If however, they are constantly late paying the basic living expenses, this should be a concern.

Criminal Background – In today’s world, a landlord is responsible for the occupants of the home. It is very important to screen tenants for violent crimes and previous drug arrests. While DUI’s and misdemeanors may be overlooked – crimes against people and drug related crimes should be carefully screened. Length of time since conviction and severity should be reviewed as this history follows them throughout their lives even after they have changed their lifestyle. Who hasn’t made a mistake in their youth?

Previous Rental History - Has the applicant been a good caretaker of other landlord’s property? It is very important to review rental history back several years in order to get an accurate picture of the prospective tenant. Some property managers only get a reference for the last year of residency. What if they was an issue and the landlord wants to get rid of the tenant – do you think that they would be honest with you if they are trying to get rid of them? Probably not. Therefore, if you go back several years, you will normally get a better picture. The property manager should look at several factors – number of late rents, bad checks, neighbor complaints, any damages to the property, proper notice provided, and if the landlord would rent to them again. One thing that you should also review is that the person verifying the information is the manager or owner of the home. Creative tenants provide false names to provide rental history, so if you don’t check carefully, you can get a false report.

In addition, you will want to check the county records to see if there has been a dispossessory action filed against the prospective tenants.

Proper screening is so important. A tenant that is not properly screen will cost you a lot more in damages, evictions, and lost rental payments.

 

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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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