Archives for category: Rocket Lease

The constant fluctuations of the housing market can mean many things in terms of property investment, rental rates and the life of a landlord. We know, for instance, that there is a higher percentage of renters in the United States than there has been in quite sometime. But what we haven’t addressed is that there are also more landlords. Whether you have found yourself in a property investment deal that didn’t go quite as planned or you’ve moved to another house while your old property has sat on the market for far too long, you yourself may have already become a landlord due to lack of options. The life of a landlord can be financially rewarding, but it can also be complex and draining with many rules, laws and advice to wade through. In this post, we want to distill a few of the more important tips that will lead to a better life for both you and your tenants.
1. Have a Knowledgeable Attorney On Speed Dial

And we don’t mean your friend from high school who now works in criminal law or your neighbor who used to be a paralegal. You should find an attorney who specializes and it intimately familiar with landlord/tenant law and the evictions process. No one wants to think about evictions when you don’t even have a tenant yet, but the fact is that at some point you will have to deal with the process. If you develop a good relationship with an attorney sooner rather than later, it can save you a lot of headache and maybe a few bucks in the future. A good attorney can also help you by reviewing your lease agreement to make sure there aren’t any glaring errors or problems.

2. Consider Professional Property Management

It may seem like an expensive prospect, but the fact is that unless you live next door and can dedicate a significant amount of your time to dealing with your tenants, you will be much better off having the property managed professionally. A trusted manager can fix problems as they arise, collect rents and develop a professional relationship with your tenants so that you can go on living your life without the constant threat of a phone call with and emergency plumbing situation.

3. Set Expectations Right Away

It’s evident from this blog post and the ensuing comments that most landlords agree it’s important to set your expectations up front and not back down, even if it makes you uncomfortable at first. As a landlord, it is important to remember that while you may respect and even like your tenants, you are not friends with them. Insist that they pay their rent in full, on time, from the very beginning. This makes it less likely that they will offer up excuses in the future. You’ve become a landlord to recoup an investment, one way or another, and you won’t be able to do that unless you actually get rent.

4. Find a Good Apartment Application

Having an application system in place before you even put out a yard sign for your vacancy will make your rental process go more smoothly. Of course, we may be a little biased, be we find that an online rental application is much simpler to use than a paper form. You can collect all the information you need – including references, driver’s license number, credit check approval and a new tenant’s contact information – and keep it safely in one place online for future reference. Even if you don’t choose to go online with the process, make sure you have an application ready as soon as tenants start calling.

5. Choose Tenants Wisely

If you’re desperate to start making income from your property, you may want to take the first person who shows an interest, but that is not the best idea. Screen your tenants, run a credit check on your tenants, interview your tenants, call your tenants’ landlords. Make sure they are trustworthy people who are not apt to destroy your property and run off in the middle of the night without paying rent.

Of course, being a landlord is not as simple as five easy tips, but keeping these in mind as you venture into the world of landlord-hood should make your new role a little easier.

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.

Manhunter, Apartment Hunter, Same Difference

Up until this point, we’ve mostly been focusing on the landlord aspects of Rocket Lease, but the fact is that apartment hunters are our customers, too.  That’s why today we want to talk about the sometimes exciting but often dreadful apartment hunting process.  Whether you’ve found a new job in a new city or are downsizing your living situation to save your pennies, finding a new apartment can be extremely stressful, no matter what the reason is for your move.  To make things go as smoothly as possible, here are some things you’ll want to have as your start your search.

A Budget

One of the most important things to have when you’re scouring the world, or just the neighborhood, looking for apartments is a budget. The rent on your apartment is something you will have to pay each month, on time and in full so you want to be absolutely sure that the place you find is within your price range. Sometimes you will tell a property manager your budget and they will still show you apartments that are above that price mark, trying to sell you on newer appliances or more square footage, but you should stand your ground. Before you even open that craigslist tab one time, you should know how much you can afford to pay for your new apartment

An Open Mind

At the same time that you’re holding your ground about your budget, you may be forced to keep an open mind and have some flexibility about some things. Sure, everyone wants to live in the very best neighborhood with gleaming fixtures and a jetsetting neighbor who is only home twice a year during New York Fashion Week (she’s also a supermodel) but for most of us, that isn’t entirely realistic. You may have your heart set on a well-established neighborhood, but when you open your mind to an up and coming ‘hood, you might actually end up with a better apartment! The same goes for square footage. Something that sounds tiny might actually be all the room you need and you might actually be happier if you get rid of some of that early ‘90s Pizza Hut memorabilia. Think about it!

A Pet Policy or Plan

If you have a pet or are hoping to get one in the next year, be sure you know the pet policy of any place you look at. The last thing you want is to find your dream apartment only to learn later that Chairman Meow won’t be welcome there.

Good Walking Shoes

The internet has made everything better (obviously, since without it you wouldn’t be reading this blog right now). This includes apartment hunting which can now be done largely online, from searching to applying to signing a lease online (we do that, we should know). However, not every landlord is hip to the internet and you might actually find some killer digs by hoofing it around the neighborhoods where you want to live. Plus this is a great way to figure out the best spots that you’ll be able to walk to from your new place. Craig knows a lot, but his list doesn’t have everything!

All Your Application Information

The unfortunate fact for you as a renter is that we’re currently dealing with a landlord’s market. This means that, depending on the city where you live or are moving to, you might face some stiff competition for the best apartments. So when you do go out to find your new place, be sure that you have all your application information with you so that, if you like it, you can apply on the spot and have a better chance of getting it. Usually this means not just your own contact info but employment history, paystubs and references. Not everyone requires the same information but keeping it handy will put you at an advantage.

Dealbreakers

Especially if you’re going to be sharing your new apartment, either with a spouse or a roommate, you should both agree on a list of dealbreakers before you go on the hunt. Maybe one of you can’t live more than 2 blocks from a karaoke bar while the other one absolutely must have a parking space for no less than 3 Vespas. Whatever it is, agree on them so that hopefully you can avoid some of the hemming and hawing associated with apartment hunting as a pair.

Hopefully this list will help you when you venture out into the big bad world of apartment hunting. We can’t find your apartment for you, but feel free to give us a call when you need help moving. What weekend? Oh, we can’t, we’re going to be out of town. Um…pizza convention? Yeah, sorry, really wish we could help.

There are so many difficult situations that a property manager has to deal with in the course of a single day that it would be overwhelming to try to list all of them here.  But perhaps one of the biggest challenges faced by a property manager is dealing with the property owner or landlord that owns your building.  Ideally, you have a good relationship with the property owner who is your boss and that lets you make suggestions to him or her about how the property is handled.  Still, we know that it can sometimes be difficult to convince a property owner to change their ways, which includes getting them to switch to an online rental application process.  Luckily, we here at Rocket Lease have some suggestions for how to deal with the questions and concerns that the property owner might have when you bring up the idea.

What He Says: Won’t it be hard for me to learn a new system? 

Particularly if a landlord has been in the business for a long time, he will probably be concerned about the effort it will take to learn any kind of new system.  If he is in the habit of reviewing paper applications when a vacancy comes up, he may be very hesitant to switch to an online system, lest he not be able to judge prospective tenants so easily.

What You Say: The Rocket Lease system is extremely easy to use.  The streamlined dashboard actually means it’s easier to review applications – with the added benefit that you can do it from anywhere without having drop by the property or have them faxed over.  You can even review applications from your smart phone.  (At this point, you can feel free to show them the simple and oh-so-easy walkthrough on our site, which you’ll find here.)

What He Says: Why would we change?  Our system works fine.

It’s true that people have been renting apartments using paper applications for decades and it hasn’t started any nuclear wars (that we know of).  But just because a system works “ok” doesn’t mean it’s the best system.  If that were true, I’d be typing this on an Apple IIe and faxing it to you, right?

Yes, switching to an online system will doubtless make your job easier and that’s why you want to do it.  But when you’re talking to your boss, don’t focus on that part, focus on how it will actually help them.

What You Say: Switching to an online rental application will save you money because it will save me time.  When I’m not wading through paper applications or fussing with the fax machine, I can be doing the other, more important tasks that come with my job, like checking facebook.  NO!  Don’t say that, like fixing things.

You Can Also Say:  It will find you better tenants because you can accept applications from people around the world and also set up a pre-screening application saving everyone time and energy.  Our current system works “ok” but this system works BETTER.

What He Says: Won’t a fancy online application cost me money?

This is an easy one, because it won’t.

What You Say: Rocket Lease is free for landlords.  They even do tenant screening with the screening fees going to the prospective tenants.

If by this point in the conversation you haven’t convinced your property owner to switch to online rental application, you could always try begging.

There are many good reasons that you have a tenant sign a lease before allowing them to move in to your rental property.  Surely you have invested a great deal of time and money into your property and you want to protect that investment.  Having a lease with your tenants means making sure you are protected financially in the case of damage to your property but it also means that you are protected if your tenant decides to move out early, leaving you with a vacancy before their lease is up.

Have a tenant break a lease can be frustrating.  You expended effort in finding the right tenant for your vacancy, possibly even turning people away before choosing who you would allow to move in and then that person or family moves out before the term of their lease is up, leaving you back at square one!  The situation can be made even more frustrating since you may actually feel a great deal of sympathy for the tenant who needs to move out.  He or she may have managed to purchase property of their own or may have found a job in another state or may find themselves getting married and moving in with their new spouse.  All of these are joyous occasions and you may feel happy for them even though you are the one facing the consequences of their choices.

But rest assured, as a landlord, you have rights when your tenants break their lease in this manner and you should absolutely exercise them without apology.  When a tenant signs a lease, usually for a year long term, he is entering into a legally binding contract that says he will pay an agreed upon rent in exchange for permission to occupy your property for that entire term.  Just because a tenant decides or is forced to move out before that term is up does not mean the lease simply vanishes and is unenforceable.  Instead, you have the right to insist that your tenant either continue to pay rent for the remainder of the lease, or continue to pay rent until which point he finds a suitable subletter to finish out the duration of the lease.

As a landlord, you may also choose to offer the option of a buyout, which means agreeing on a price for which you will release your tenant from his or her lease agreement.  Be sure to have the document in writing so that there is no confusion in the future.

Making these demands for payment does not make you mean or unreasonable.  These are your rights as a property owner.  If you do plan to demand payment from your tenants who are breaking their lease, be sure to have an attorney on hand in case there is any refusal or difficulties in obtaining your payments.

The messy situation that is a messy lease is a great reason to have  a clear and understandable lease signed by each and every tenant that lays out these terms without question.  Since you may need to consult the lease when your tenants tell you they are moving out, it is helpful to always have a copy at the ready.  There’s no easier way to do this then to use an online apartment lease, through a system like Rocket Lease.  Since the entire lease process is online, including an online signature feature, you won’t have to go searching through overstuffed files or risk a deadly papercut.  Just click into your Rocket Lease dashboard and find out exactly what your tenants agreed to with no questions.