Archives for posts with tag: landlords

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.

Pets are a tricky and sometimes controversial subject. We all know that there are those people who could never live without a warm, furry animal to nuzzle. But there are also those people who are no fan of fur, warmth, nuzzles or any of the other things that come along with having a live animal in your home. For landlords and property owners, there are a whole host of other issues that come along with pets. You may love animals personally, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you want someone else’s pets causing damage to your rental units, making a racket that bothers your current tenants or otherwise doing the things that animals do.  So what options do you have for renting to tenants with pets?

Ban Pets Outright

Whether it’s due to previous bad experiences or negative expectations, many landlords do not allow pets, end of story. While it’s your right to do that (pet owners are not a protected class of citizens against who you may not discriminate) there are some drawbacks to this solution.

First, it eliminates a big swath of the renting population, meaning you could have a harder time filling vacancies. But furthermore, studies have actually shown that  landlords who allow pets make more money and tenants with pets stay in their rental units longer. Finally, landlords who allow pets are actually able to charge more than those who do not, as well as save money on advertising all because units are simply easier to rent when they allow pets. Basically, current property owners who are having trouble filling vacancies may want to consider changing their pet policies

Filter by Type, Size and Even Breed…

But allowing pets to rent units doesn’t have to mean that you let every renter’s menagerie move in without question. Instead, decide what type of pets would be suitable for your unit and for your building and outline these restrictions as soon as you post an ad for your vacancy. Maybe you’re renting small and quiet places that would be well suited to a cat or two, but wouldn’t really fit a Rottweiler, you can decide to allow cats and not dogs. But maybe you’re renting out a condo with a yard in a family neighborhood and a dog would fit right in, then consider allowing dogs. Many landlords also choose to institute weight limits for apartments so certainly dogs may be eligible while others are not.

…or Just Screen For Yourself

An even more effective strategy for filtering out pets is judging the pet for yourself rather than making strict requirement right off the bat. Meet your potential tenant first and then ask to meet their pet before making your final decision. Two dogs may look exactly the same but one is well-mannered and clearly trained while the other is rambunctious and out of control, but you won’t know which is which unless you meet them.

Be Specific in Your Lease

Make sure your pet policy is clear in your lease. Some tenants may move in without a pet and decide to get one while they are staying with you. If there is no clause in your lease, you may have no recourse for dealing with this new pet, so be sure to be clear.

Collect a Pet Deposit

Even if you love animals and your tenants have only the best behaved tenants, it is true that pets can cause damage. This is exactly why the vast majority of pet-friendly rental units require a pet deposit that is separate from the security deposit. How much you want to charge should depend on the overall cost of the apartment and the fixtures, carpet, etc. that may become damaged. This deposit will protect you in the event you need to do pet-related repairs and most pet owners are more than happy to pay it.

Overall, the issue at hand isn’t really whether or not you like animals, it’s a matter of responsibility and that’s the most important quality in any desirable tenant, whether they have a dog or a cockatoo or a cactus. When you screen your tenants and their pets appropriately, you can quickly being to reap the benefits of being pet-friendly.

Here on the Rocket Lease blog, we’ve already devoted a little bit of time talking about the overall economy and its effects on the rental market.  But new figures that were recently released by Reis show that the market for apartment rentals may be even more robust that originally thought.  In fact, MarketWatch is predicting that the apartment vacancy rate will fall to 4.6% nationwide by the end of next year.  Up to now, occupancy rates like these have been largely unheard of except in the most competitive markets.  Today, in the notoriously competitive rental market that is New York City, vacancies have fallen this year to a paltry 2.4%.

As with any market trend, there are a lot of factors that contribute to numbers like these.  But probably the most important factor in today’s rental market is the fact that the housing market and the individual finances of most US citizens have simply not recovered to the point where homeownership is once again an option.  In fact, according to an informal survey conducted by apartments.com, an astonishing 33% of people who are looking for rentals on that site are former homeowners.  Clearly, when people are unable to afford the purchase or upkeep of their own home, they will most often find themselves turning to the rental market.

But what do these low vacancy rates mean for property owners and landlords?  Obviously, this kind of rental market – one that works strongly in favor of the landlords – can be a boon to property owners.  Indeed, one of the worst scenarios for a landlord is to find themselves with many vacancies which represent a loss of potential income.  However, that doesn’t mean that in a landlord’s market is a time to rest on your laurels and let the rental applications take care of themselves.  In fact, as the rental market becomes more competitive, it will be more of a challenge and necessity to find the very best tenants among the applicants.  Using an online  rental application system, of course, can be helpful in keeping track of all the applicants that come in and can also insist in quickly sorting and denying applications from those who are not qualified.  This can save you a tremendous amount of time that will be precious when trying to rent an apartment in a competitive market.

Furthermore, during these booming times, it may be a good idea to consider making improvements to your property.  Since you will no doubt have low vacancy rates and therefore be comfortably collecting monthly rents, using this income to make your building more attractive can help to prepare you for the times when business is not quite so quick.  Sure, with a 4% vacancy rate you may not have to offer the best amenities or even the best prices in order to attract tenants.  However, there will come a time when vacancy rates go back up and if you have done your due diligence in upkeep and improvement during the good times, you will more easily be able to weather the bad.

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.

The economy of any entity, be it a college, a family or a city, is a complicated thing. So you can imagine how much more complicated it gets when you start to consider the economy of an entire country or even the whole planet.  I’m not going to aim for an economics lesson here for a lot of reasons (mainly I’m totally unqualified) but there are a few tidbits, facts and predictions that are particular relevant to our customers, namely landlords who are renting property in the United States, about the current economy and its affects on the rental market in this country that you may find interesting and helpful.  These are the tastes of information that I’m going to focus on because let’s face it, if I’d studied economics I probably wouldn’t be blogging right now.  But I digress.

When the housing bubble first burst a few years ago, the entire country suffered its consequences in many ways.  One of the truly devastating effects was the skyrocketing foreclosure rate among American homeowners.  Putting aside the emotional nature of that particular economic event, let’s look at how that astronomical foreclosure rate affected the U.S. rental market.  Some experts believed that it would have a generally positive effect on U.S. rental properties because the homeowners that were forced to leave their houses would find themselves new additions to the renter pool.

However, that actually did not end up being the case, as the Atlantic pointed out in 2009.  Instead, many of those former homeowners ended up moving in with friends or family rather than entering the rental market.  Conversely, those condos and homes that agents or banks were now unable to sell, did enter the rental market as rentable properties.  Unfortunately for landlords, the housing market collapse actually had a negative effect on the rental market as well because there was more rentable property but no additional renters, which of course means that rents go down.

Today, slowly but surely, we find that the U.S. economy is improving, which is certainly great news all around as unemployment drops and different sectors recover at their own rates.  Fortunately for property owners and landlords, this recovery is beginning to include the U.S. rental market.  Indeed, real estate research site Zillow found that in January 2012, the median rental rates rose by 3% since that same time last year, which is certainly good news if you are a landlord with property to rent.  Although during that same period, home values actually fell, experts expect that will not be a continuing trend.  Instead, it may be an indication that this is a good time to invest in a rental property before home values begin to increase again, while the rental market recovers first.  As the economy continues to grow more stable and robust, we can expect that rental rates will do the same.

This trend of rising rents and dropping home values has some analysts concerned that we are in the midst of a “rent bubble,” but as we look at the data further, that does not seem to be quite the right term.  Of course, as you plan your rental property investments, you will want to keep in mind that there isn’t an upward trend that lasts forever.  However, it is unlikely that the bottom will fall out of the rental market in exactly the same way it did for so many homeowners.  As more first time landlords invest in homes at these low prices, the number of rental homes will increase which naturally means the rise of rents will slow.  At some point, it is likely that these two trajectories, rents up and home values down, will reach some kind of equilibrium but how exactly that will shake out remains to be seen and is certainly worth keeping an eye on.

Still, it is important to not get lazy with your property ownership as the rental market improves.  Instead, stay ahead of the curve by investing in or trying out new technologies like online rental applications and efficient background checks to make sure that you attracting the best tenants, no matter what the economy looks like.

'Unfurnished Apt for Rent' photo (c) 2008, turkeychik - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’ve been following this blog at all, you have probably figured out by now that the main purpose of Rocket Lease is to streamline the apartment rental process for both landlords and applicants.  (And if you haven’t been following, now you know!)  Even though we know it sounds attractive to streamline and simplify, we also know that sometimes even good change is difficult and scary.  This can be particularly true for those people who are set in their ways.

Whether you believe in it or not, there’s a reason that people claim you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  Not that we mean to compare you to a dog, but if you’ve been a landlord for a long time, that means you’ve also been using paper rental applications for a long time.  Until very recently, that was your only option.  One way or another you have made due with paper applications: you’ve found potential tenants, collected their information and rented apartments over and over all without the benefit of an online rental application so why should you change your ways now?  I bet you can see where this is going: turns out there are a lot of reasons to consider switching to an online application system for your property.  And, you guessed it, I’m going to tell you what those reasons are!

You’ll Save Time & Time is Money

Plain and simple: collecting your rental applications online is faster and easier than using paper applications.  Instead of fussing with fax machines or even waiting for the mail, you’ll have applications delivered to you instantly via the Rocket Lease dashboard.  This means you can make decisions faster which will let you fill your vacancies faster. Every minute you save by being able to quickly scan applications, reject unsuitable applicants with one click and even run a credit check through RocketLease without expending any of your own resources, is a minute you can spend doing something else.

You’ll Find Better Tenants Because You’ll Find More Tenants

When you use an online rental application service like Rocket Lease, you’ll get more potential tenants applying for your vacancy, period.  For our part, we suggest that landlords post a link to their RocketLease application in their initial vacancy listing as a way to screen applicants before they even come to the door, which saves time for both you and them.  Taking the application process online also allows you to accept applications from renters who are in another city or even across an ocean.  By broadening your tenant horizons, you’ll have a much better chance of finding the perfect tenant, and you’ll do it fast so that you won’t have any units sitting vacant.

Today’s Tenants Want It

Sometimes it probably seems like tenants are always asking for things: fix my garbage disposal, I have a leak, the neighbor’s dog won’t stop barking.  But there is one thing that they want from you that will actually make your life easier, too: they want to be able to apply to apartments online.  According to the National Apartment Association, a whopping 88% of tenants want the option to apply to an apartment online.  And this is one instance where it’s so easy to give them exactly what they want!

Why RocketLease?

If I’ve done a sufficient job of convincing you that online rental applications are the way of the future that will actually simplify your business and your life, I have to suggest that you pop over to Rocket Lease and sign up for free.  The Rocket Lease service is completely free to you.  Rocket Lease is efficient, effective, and easy to use.  Not to mention the additional tenant screening option we also offer, making our site a one stop shop for your online rental application needs.

If you’re still not convinced, head over to rocketlease.com anyway for more details about our services and to get all your questions answered.

'01 (158)' photo (c) 2012, Victor1558 - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Since the core of our business is the online rental application, we want to make sure that the process is as easy to understand as possible. That’s why we thought we’d take a minute (or a post) in our blog to explain an online rental application, step by step.
Our customers are landlords and property managers, so if that’s you, you’re in the right place. If you’re a tenant or a rental applicant and you’re curious about where your information is going when you apply for an apartment with Rocket Lease, feel free to stick around.

Sign Up

The first thing you’ll do when you decide you want to take advantage of the Rocket Lease online rental application is to sign up for our service. Signing up is completely free and will only take you about 3 milliseconds. Ok, that may be a slight exaggeration, but the truth is that all we need from you is your email address and a password that you create an you can probably type those two things faster than you can say RocketLease to the rescue! Not that we say that around the office or anything…

Create an Application

Once you have an account, you’ll be able to create a customized rental application (view a sample rental application) for your vacancy. We’ll ask you a few simple questions about the unit you’re renting and create the application form for you so it’s unique for your property as well as professional in design and functionality.

Find New Tenants

Believe it or not, that’s everything you have to do before you’re ready to start accepting and sorting through applications. When you get a potential applicant, whether it’s online or in person, you can give them the custom url that we’ve generated.

All a prospective tenant has to do is visit the url and enter his or her information, depending on the specifications you made when you created your application. Tenants don’t have to create a Rocket Lease account in order to submit an application, which makes the process attractively simple for them as well.

The Rocket Lease Dashboard

With just a few clicks, an potential tenant’s application will appear instantly on your Rocket Lease dashboard. You’re even able to keep track of applications that have been started but not completed and send deadline reminders to those applicants who haven’t quite finished the process.

The Rocket Lease dashboard also offers an elegant and user-friendly interface to view, organize and ultimately accept or reject applications for your rental. We think it really beats a filling cabinet and a paper shredder.

Hopefully this step by step has proven to you how utterly simple it is to create and accept online rental applications at Rocket Lease. Remember, you can always get more details and have all your questions answered over at rocketlease.com.