Archives for category: News

Boston’s North End Has a Noise Problem

Even if you are landlord in the most responsible, timid, and low-key neighborhood in the country, chances are you’ve had to deal with at least one set of noisy tenants. Whether it’s parties, loud exercise equipment, or even particularly raucous, ahem, intimate relations, where there are a lot of people living in close proximity, someone is bound to get to loud.

In Boston, a city councilor has taken to legislation to try to curb the decibels in one of that city’s most densely populated areas, known as the North End. Councilmember Salvatore LaMattina has proposed a city ordinance that would make landlords responsible for the loud behavior of their tenants. It seems that recent years have brought an influx of young professionals and recent college graduates to the North End who decided to bring their frat house habits with them. This has caused much dismay in this historic neighborhood where people complain of frequently being woken up 2 or 3 times per week due to noise on the street and in neighboring buildings.

According to boston.com:

LaMattina’s nuisance control ordinance, filed in late July, would levy fines as follows: for the first offense, the resident, the organizer, and any attendees of a loud party responsible for creating a public nuisance would face a $100 fine. On a second or subsequent offense within one year of the first, a $300 fine would be levied against all the above, plus the owner of the property.

This means that landlords, no matter where they themselves live or who their tenants are, will be held financially responsible for noise complaints filed against their tenants, even if it is a party and the noise is being cause by non-tenants.

As a landlord, you may have had to deal with noise complaints before, between your own tenants. But an ordinance like this is rare. After all, most landlords and property owners who rent out apartments do not live on the premises with their tenants. This makes it impossible to really know about noise issues until they become a problem.

Of course, there are a few ways to address these issues before they explode into problems and you find yourself paying fines. First, it is important to screen tenants before they sign a lease. This means more than just a credit check. Talking to past landlords can be one of the best ways to find out if a tenant is destined to be noisy since most people don’t pick up partying habits overnight. Additionally, having a property manager on site at your building can nip noise issues in the bud before they become real problems. Yes, this may mean losing out on a bit of rental income but if it saves you and your property even one night of contact with the police, it may be well worth the expense.

In the end, it is unlikely that most municipalities will enact the same kind of ordinance that is being proposed in Boston, but taking preventative measures to avoid noisy and disrespectful tenants will never be a waste of time.

Here at Rocket Lease, we always take a special interest in celebrity real estate news. Who’s buying, who’s selling, who’s flipping, who’s renovating. So you can bet we took notice when NBC mentioned that Olympic swimming superstar, most medal-winning athlete, and most impressive eater Michael Phelps had put his Baltimore condo on the market.

According to photos and details that are up on RealEstalker, the condo has 3 bedroom, 2 and a half baths and some seriously nice fixtures and flooring. The place has exposed brick walls and sweeping rooftop views of the Baltimore harbor. Phelps moved into the condo, which is located in the Baltimore neighborhood of Fells Point, in 2007. And yes, the building does have a pool.

Phelps reportedly paid $1.7 million for the condo 5 years ago and is asking $1.42 million now. We can’t help but wonder whether the mystique of owning a piece of Olympic history could bump up the price a little bit. Can you imagine eating breakfast on the same granite countertop where Phelps scarfed an entire pizza? It’s enough to make you dizzy.

There hasn’t been any word as to what Phelps’ plans are now that he’s moving out of this spacious place. There’s always a chance that he’ll make a brief stay in the rental market until he finds a nice place. Who knows, maybe he’ll take up residence in London — they’ve been good to him so far.

What do you think, would you want to live where an Olympian once lived? Would you move into Mark Spitz’s guest house or Dominique Moceanu’s split level? Let us know in the comments.

Maybe it’s the warmer weather and all the talk of bikini season, or maybe it’s just the way of America, but it seems like everywhere you look there is another data set telling you just how much better you life would be if you were more attractive. But now it’s not just you that needs to hit the gym and think about Botox, it’s your real estate agent, too.

It’s no secret that sales jobs are notoriously preferential to those employees who are on the more attractive end of the spectrum and the real estate business is no different. In fact, it could be argued that even more is expected of real estate agents in the looks department. After all, you’d be hard pressed to find another job outside of the entertainment industry that expects you to put your face on signs, billboards, and anywhere else it can fit.

But a new study shows that the attractiveness of your real estate agent can affect more than their billboard efficacy – it can actually affect the final selling price of your house. A recently released report in the journal Applied Financial Economics compared the relative success of different real estate agents against a survey of those same agents’ attractiveness. The results show that more attractive real estate agents tend to earn higher selling prices for their clients, although the homes they sell may sit on the market for longer than those of their plainer colleagues. The study also notes that the more attractive agents, be they male or female, do not necessarily make more money each year, they just earn more per sale.

Of course, as laymen we can interpret the results of this study unscientifically and say that of course human beings are eager to spend more money with more attractive people, that’s simply the way of the world. I would be interested to know whether there was a control for the gender and sexual preference of the buyer and how much more attractive was counted as “attractive” versus “unattractive.”

If you’re currently in the process of selling your house, you certainly want to find the very best real estate agent for the job, regardless of how attractive they are. But if you’re looking to sell your house as fast as possible, you may not necessarily want to go with the prettiest or most handsome agent available and vice versa if you are simply looking for the best price.

What do you think about this study? Would you let the attractiveness of a real estate agent sway your choices?

Property management company Korman Residential has recently been working to roll out their KindSpace initiative, which has the company converting apartment buildings into sustainable and eco-friendly projects. These apartments use locally sourced materials, energy efficient appliances and much of the décor and construction materials come from recycled products.

While they aren’t the first company to make inroads in the green construction and rental business, it gives us here at Rocket Lease an opportunity to weigh in on the matter.  Korman has converted hundreds of units across the country, in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Florida into KindSpace apartments.

If you’re a landlord, we’re sure you love the earth and everything, but what about the bottom line here: does having an “eco-friendly” apartment available allow you to charge a premium?  While we’re not privy to the exact rental rates at the Korman properties, judging by the inflated prices on everything from organic tomatoes to vegan hand soap and gluten free cupcakes, we can bet that the answer is a resounding yet.  This has to be particularly true considering the fact that we’re already entrenched in a landlord’s market.  It’s just a fact that people are willing to pay more for something that makes them feel like they are doing something good for the environment and for themselves.  Furthermore, since that demographic who is more willing to pay for organic or eco-friendly or whatever the buzzword of the day is tends to be more affluent, they will most likely be the most desireable tenants.  This is an interesting and innovative way for Korman and other property management companies to attract the best tenants.

The market is another interesting thing to consider, however.  Since everyone knows that it’s impossible for it to stay a landlord’s market forever, now is actually a great time to be making improvement to properties, such as adding Energy Star rated appliances or painting with non-toxic paint.  That way when the market does take a turn for the renter, that property will be ready with an advantage to present to picky renters while other landlords scramble to make improvements.

We also know that one easy (and free!) way to “green” up your rental process is to switch to an online rental application which saves you time and saves the earth a few trees.

As a landlord, what do you think of converting units to something a little more earth-friendly?  Are you willing to spend a little more on your overhead to potentially recover a lot more in rent?  Furthermore, do we think this fad will last?

Image courtesy of Curbed.com

When you spend as much time keeping tabs on the real estate industry and rental market as we do, you can’t help but notice some trends.  And one thing that seems to pop up each and every week is a story about a celebrity (or a former pairing of celebrities, in some instances) selling his or her home.  Not that it’s in this blogger’s budget, but it got us at Rocket Lease thinking: what would it be like to buy a house that used to have a high profile owner?  Would you do it?  Let’s take a second to think about the pros and cons of buying a celebrity home.

Pro

Readily Available Aerial Photos

Gene Hackman's (Former) Estate

If you’re lucky enough to buy a home that was featured in celebrity arrest, the likelihood of finding pictures of it online that were shot from a helicopter are extremely high.  These types of photos can come in handy when trying to arrange furniture or figure out the best escape routes should those cops ever come for you.

Con

Mistakenly Receiving Their Mail & Unsolicited Scripts

It’s always annoying to get someone else’s mail after you move in to a new home, but it’s even more annoying when that mail consists of autograph requests and scripts for the next great indie comedy that you will definitely love if you just read it!  You could consider the endless supply of scrap paper to be a pro, but you probably don’t.

Toss Up

Celebrity Neighbors

Unless they’re the weird kind of celebrity that prefers to hole up in Wyoming when they’re not on set, most celebrities live in close proximity to their celebrity brethren.  This might be great if you like hobnobbing and namedropping, but it might be awful if you have to cope with TMZ photogs and Lindsey Lohan walks of shame.  Plus your neighborly disputes might end up somewhere a little more visible than the neighborhood ledger.

But What About the Money?

Most people do agree that the celebrity factor can help a house fetch a higher price.  While this isn’t necessarily a selling point when you’re looking to buy, it’s always something you could mention if you decide to rent the house out, like Meg Ryan did with her home, for something like $40,000 A MONTH.  We can only  imagine that those renters went through a credit check or two.

What do you think?  Would you buy or rent a house where a celebrity used to lay her head?

It’s no secret to readers of this blog or basically anyone that’s picked up a newspaper in the last 10 years, that the housing market we’re currently facing in the U.S. is virtually unprecedented.  After the housing collapse, many Americans found themselves forced to move out of foreclosed upon homes and, even as the market improves, with credit that is simply not good enough to buy a new home.  This has lead, of course, to a boom in the rental market, which has in turn lead to some surprising investment moves by companies who want to take advantage of this climate.

For instance, a recent article in the New York Times describes Waypoint Real Estate Group, who has a number of offices and inspectors with the sole focus of buying homes that are in foreclosure, fixing them up and marketing them as rental properties.  But Waypoint isn’t doing this in the way that an individual would go about becoming a landlord.  Instead, they’re purchasing homes on a massive scale, with their current operation snapping up five to seven homes every day, mainly through bank auctions.  The homes are bought only after putting some numbers into their proprietary algorithm to determine if the place is actually worth the investment at which point they are bid on and renovated to bring them up to a rentable state.  Waypoint even offers current occupants, the victims of foreclosure, the opportunity to stay in the house and rent it from them once the renovations are complete.

Real Estate experts and economist have mixed feelings about the future of this kind of project, but the fact remains that Waypoint is committed to seeing returns on these properties.  Regardless of what this may mean for local communities (where it could see property values go up initially as fewer homes stand vacant), it does mean that there are going to be a number of new property managers and landlords coming into the game with the aim of earning around an 8% return on their investment in just the first year.

While we can’t say for certain yet whether this influx of new rental property will be a good or bad thing, we can say that Waypoint and other companies like them are going to need to go beyond a real estate estimating system once they become landlords.  Having a great rental property, with new appliances and attractive landscaping, is just one piece of the puzzle.  What they’ll need next is an effective and efficient way to manage the rental applications and leases at all of those properties.  The company plans to buy between 10,000 and 15,000 new properties by the end of next year and must have a plan in place for managing them once all the renovations are complete.  An online rental application coupled with an online leasing system, like that offered oh-so-awesomely by the team here at Rocket Lease, would be a great start for Waypoint and their brethren.  We know that Rocket Lease is a great tool for an individual landlord, but there’s no reason that it can’t help out the real estate fat cats, too!  By allowing themselves to easily track their rental applications and have all their leases in one easy to access place, these companies will be able to better serve their tenants and the communities where their properties exist.

Who You Gonna Call? A Lawyer!

There are a lot of things you want to avoid as a landlord, like delinquent renters, unnecessary paperwork and shifty contractors.  But chief among these for most property owners is a law suit.  Whether you’re being sued for rental discrimination or unlawful eviction, you do not want to be faced with your recent tenants in a courtroom, no matter what the circumstances.

So you can imagine how thrilled a Toms River, New Jersey landlord was to find out he was being sued by a couple that had moved out of his rental home after only a week.  Turns out they thought they should get their security deposit back in full because the landlord didn’t tell them that the house was haunted.

After a week of what the couple has described as eerie noises, flickering lights and slamming doors, Jose Chincilla and his fiancée Michele Callan called in a paranormal expert to diagnose the house as haunted.  The ghost busters (not their technical name, I’m sure) at the Shore Paranormal Research Society decided that the house was indeed haunted and the couple moved out immediately.  You can visit the society’s website to see a video of their highly inconclusive evidence of paranormal activity (which is different from an all out haunting, apparently).

As you might expect, the landlord has a pretty different opinion about the situation.  He is countersuing the couple because he believes what actually scared them away was the prospect of paying their rent every month and the ghost story is just an excuse to break their lease and still get their deposit back.

A tenant certainly has a right to know about the quirks of a unit before they move in, but it’s doubtful that landlords are going to start including a haunting clause in their leases.

What would you do if your tenant told you that your property was haunted?  Would you give the deposit back?