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An ongoing series of informational entries

A Look At Seven Millenial Housing Trends

December 10, 2018

Millennials make up an increasingly large portion of the housing market. At least 10,000 of them turn 21 every single day in America – more than 300,000 each month. That means millions of millennials are entering the housing market on an annual basis. As a real estate investor or landlord, understanding how these individuals operate will help you become more in tune with the marketplace.

7 Trends You Need to be Aware Of

Your average millennial is a young professional with a four-year college degree who has thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Depending on where they live, full-time millennial employees make between $35,000 and $50,000 per year. They’re highly social and constantly connected – valuing experiences over things. They feel strongly about social causes and believe in achieving work-life balance.

In terms of real estate and housing, here are some of the things you need to know about this all-important demographic:

1. Home Ownership Isn’t a Millennial’s First Priority

The first thing you need to realize is that home ownership isn’t a primary goal for millennials. Sure, some are adamant about buying a house, but the majority have other financial goals.

Most millennials want to get rid of student loan debt first – or at least chip away at a large chunk of it. Others aren’t willing to commit to living in one place for an extended period of time. In some markets, it isn’t practical – with entry-level housing priced far more expensively than they can even find approval for from lenders.

2. Millennials Are Willing to Seek Out Co-housing

As we’ve discussed before, millennials are very interested in co-housing. In other words, they’re totally fine with having roommates and would prefer to live in close proximity to others.

Millennials find co-housing desirable for a number of reasons, but two stand out above the rest:

First off, co-housing is much more cost-effective than renting a place on your own. It essentially cuts the monthly payment in half, which is often necessary for cash-strapped millennials who are busy paying down student loan debt on mediocre salaries.

Secondly, millennials are highly social beings. Co-housing allows them to live in close proximity with others and build meaningful relationships.

As a landlord or property manager, it’s crucial to have some rules and restrictions on co-housing so that you protect your investments and stay within the rules of the law.

3. Millennials Are Researchers

Millennials have grown up in an age of information where anything can be accessed with just a click, swipe, or swift keyboard stroke. This has molded the way they think, turning even the most laid back of millennial into a world-class researcher.

“While millennials are often misunderstood as unreliable tweeters and Instagramming idealists, as home seekers, millennials drive for security, independence, and value. Where they differ, however, is how they search for a place to live,” moving professional Dawn Macri explains. “When it comes to home hunting, 99% of millennials use the internet to find their dream homes. They leverage technology by researching neighborhoods, school systems, and homes online, while setting up digital walk-throughs. Millennial housing trends revolve around this generation’s tech-savvy approach to the home search.”

If you want a robust lead generation strategy, you need to have an aggressive online presence that’s tailored to your target market. Social media, content marketing, and SEO all play a role in this.

4. Millennials Will Move Frequently

According to the latest U.S. Census, which pulled data from 2007 to 2012, millennials accounted for roughly 24 percent of the total population, yet accounted for more than 43 percent of all movers. If anything, this trend has increased in the six years since the census. Millennials are constantly on the move, which is both good and bad for landlords and real estate investors.

The good news is there are always renters on the market looking for properties. The bad news is that it’s becoming harder and harder to keep renters locked in for long periods of time. This high turnover hurts cash flow and creates risky situations for landlords who are dependent on monthly rent to make ends meet.

5. Affordability is Very Important

Many millennials are reeling in just $2,500 to $3,500 in take-home pay. When you take into account that they have car payments, student loan payments, and other expenses, this leaves them with very little wiggle room for housing. This makes affordability a huge concern.

Most millennials are looking for small, cost-effective housing solutions that are convenient to where they work and play. With these spaces being so few and far between, it makes sense that co-housing (and living with parents) is such a popular choice.

6. Millennials Aren’t Necessarily Independent

While millennials might seem independent in some respects, many are still highly reliant on their parents – whether for emotional or financial support. This often shines through when it comes to the home search (renting or buying).

“The millennial is usually the one that researches the home online but when it comes to the showing and buying, more and more parents are getting involved in the process,” real estate agent Denise Fisher says. “Millennials are frequently getting their down payment or the whole mortgage from their parents so when they are looking it’s a family affair.”

In a very practical sense, this means that you have to persuade two sets of prospective renters or buyers. Not only does the millennial have to like it, but the parents often have to approve as well.

7. Proximity to Work and Play is Key

FOMO, or the fear of missing out, is a very real thing for millennials. Unlike their parents who are happy in the suburbs, millennials want to be in the thick of things. Proximity to work and play is very important to them when buying or renting a house.

Let Total Property Management, LLC Help You

At Total Property Management, LLC, property management is what we do. From lead generation and tenant screening to rent collection, property maintenance, and even eviction services, we’re here to help you from start to finish. For additional resources on Greenville property management, please contact us at your earliest convenience!

Our Blog

An ongoing series of informational entries

Six Ways To Make Your Rental Property More Hands Off

December 3, 2018

Owning a rental property is often billed as an easy, passive source of income for people who want a flexible way to accumulate wealth over time. But this is a bit misleading.

By itself, rental property investing and operating as a landlord is a time-consuming and energy-depleting activity. There are ways to make it less demanding, however, if you’re willing to go the extra mile and practice certain habits and procedures.

The Appeal of Being Hands Off

You never want to be so hands off that you’re out of touch with your rental properties, but there’s an inarguable appeal to being less involved on a daily basis. Here are three specific reasons:

Fewer frustrations. When you’re hands off, you’re involved in fewer day-to-day issues, personally. This will lower your stress level and create fewer frustrations to have to worry about.

Less expensive. When you’re hands on, you’ll not only spend a lot of time on property management; you’re also spending a lot of money. As you become more hands off, management will typically use up less of your resources.

Grow your portfolio. Less time spent managing one property means you have an opportunity to expand your portfolio and add others to the mix.

You’ll hope to find a balance between being too involved and not involved enough. There should be a sweet spot, and it’s generally something you achieve with experience.

Six Specific Things You Can Do

So how does one become more hands off? It sounds great in theory, but what practical steps can you take? We’ve got a few ideas for you.

1. Set Ground Rules

One of the worst aspects of being a landlord is that you’re always on call. If an emergency occurs in the middle of the night or over the weekend, you have to be able to respond.

Even if you’re lucky enough not to encounter a ton of issues, it can be mentally taxing just knowing you’re always one call away from having to dump family time or personal activities.

In an effort to cut back on some of these potential demands, set some ground rules with each tenant. Make it clear you have hours when you’re available, as well as hours when you’ll normally be unreachable (apart from serious emergencies).

2. Don’t Put Off Problems

Never put off ’til tomorrow something you can get done today. Procrastinating over an issue will usually make it worse. For example:

It’s better to replace an old AC unit that’s likely to cease functioning within the next year or two. You’ll save time and money that would otherwise have gone toward scheduling and effecting repairs.

Getting gutters cleaned every year will reduce the likelihood of water damaging your property.

Replacing air filters on a steady basis will prevent your HVAC system from experiencing costly and time-consuming problems down the road.

It’s always best to deal with simple fixes as soon as possible. Never let something go too far simply because you didn’t want to deal with it in the moment. Being proactive is the name of the game.

3. Go With Low-Maintenance Landscaping

If you own a single- or multi-family property with a yard, you can save a considerable amount of time and frustration by going with low-maintenance landscaping choices. Good options include synthetic grass, hardscaping, perennial plants, and groundcovers (which reduce the need to mulch beds constantly).

4. Set Up Automated Processes

You can automate certain functions of landlording and property management. The more you can streamline such tasks and procedures, the less time you’ll have to spend handling menial duties.

Rent collection is one task that’s easy and practical to automate. A variety of cost-effective tools will handle this for you, such as Avail, ClickPay, and Cozy.co.

“As an alternative to giving your tenants access to your private banking information, these sites act as a third party between you and your tenant,” BiggerPockets explains. “While they do charge fees for their service, many of them allow you to decide who pays for the monthly fee — you, your tenant, or both.”

You can automate other items, like tenant applications, lease renewals, and annual maintenance tasks. At first, you’ll want to keep an eye on these to make sure they are definitely being handled properly. But once you feel confident that they are, you can become a little more hands off.

5. Keep These Notices on Hand

There are plenty of times when you’ll have to interact with tenants face to face. There will also be times when it’s fine to streamline the contact and save the time you’d waste going back and forth.

Having said that, it’s helpful to have notices on hand for situations like these:

Opportunity for lease renewal

Non-renewal notice

Rent increase

Intent to enter

Intent to make repairs or renovations

Late payment (or non-payment) notice

Violation of terms

Eviction notice

Intent to dispose of personal property

Transfer of ownership

Keep a folder on your computer with these documents and simply print or email them as needed. It’ll save having to draft them over and over again.

6. Hire a Property Management Company

There are some tasks you can’t just forget or automate. Somebody has to do them. If you don’t have the time or desire to do them yourself, consider hiring a professional property management company to do the heavy lifting.

It’ll cost you a nominal fee, but it will be money well spent. Not only will it save you time, but it’ll also help you stay on track in terms of meeting legal requirements.

Partner With Total Property Management, LLC

It’s impossible to be truly hands off if you don’t have a property management company on your side. But if you’re like most landlords, you may be a little hesitant to hand over such critical business functions to someone else.

At Total Property Management, LLC, we understand this. We take extra care to partner with our clients, so they feel comfortable and at ease.

Our Blog

An ongoing series of informational entries

What Does It Mean When A House Has Good Bones

November 26, 2018

If you’ve been around real estate investors, agents, brokers, or contractors, you may have heard some of them toss around the term “good bones.” Do you know what it means to say a house has good bones?

How do you find a house that fits into this category? The answers to these questions will be discussed below.

Good Bones … What Does That Mean?

When you’re searching for a home to buy, you’ll have to weigh many factors. You have to think about location, architectural style, square footage, number of bedrooms, yard, neighborhood amenities, and many other things.

Each of these elements certainly matters, they’re all fairly superfluous in the grander scheme of things. In terms of the house itself, the essential focus should be on the quality and condition of the structure.

The bones of a house are the structural details that constitute the home’s quality and integrity. When these elements become compromised, the entire house is in trouble. When they’re solid and reliable, you can make everything else work.

The problem is that the term — good bones, that is — is so overused that it’s become something of a cliché. If you’re looking to buy a house, it’s helpful to understand what the phrase actually covers so you’re better apt to make a smart purchase decision.

Take a look at some of the specific characteristics of a home that has good bones:

1. Solid Foundation and Roof

The two most important parts of a home are the foundation and the roof. One keeps the house up and ensures almost all the other components — for example, walls, windows, floors, and doors — are able to serve their proper function. The other keeps rest of the home protected from the elements.

Fixing or replacing a foundation can run into tens of thousands of dollars. Replacing a roof will also set you back a pretty penny. If you’re purchasing a house, these are the two items you want to make fairly certain are in proper condition.

2. Workable Floor Plan

You can make certain changes to a home fairly easily, but others can be very challenging. If you hope to purchase a house with good bones, make sure it has a workable floor plan.

This means there’s ample square footage (or room to expand), space to breathe, and an intuitive room flow. As Find Home Pro’s Bilox Wells says, “Intuitive room flow has to do with what designers typically refer to as adjacencies. That may mean the kids’ rooms are near the master bedroom, or the garage leads directly into the house.”

You can often tear down walls to open up the general space, but it can be a lot harder to work around a dysfunctional floor plan. Keep this in mind as you pursue your search.

3. Use of Quality Building Materials

A house with good bones is going to feature quality building materials, rather than cheaper alternatives that deteriorate and fall apart in a few years. Options such as hardwood floors, brick, stone, and plaster walls all indicate quality craftsmanship.

4. Good Plumbing and Electrical

“Underneath the exterior you could argue are the real bones, all those pipes and other things lurking below the surface. They also tend to be the most expensive items to fix, so if they’re in good shape the home can be said to have good bones,” one real estate expert says.

“You may also want more modern systems that don’t require a lot of retrofitting — old electrical and plumbing systems can be a real bear to work with.” The more you know about the internal workings of a home, the less likely you’re buying a money pit. Plumbing and electrical are two key elements to think about.

5. No Need for Major Repairs

A house with good bones will have no immediate need for major repairs. This doesn’t mean it’s in perfect shape, necessarily, but there shouldn’t be any major existing problems with HVAC, plumbing, electric, foundation, roof, and the like.

How to Find a House With Good Bones

After going through a list of quality characteristics, who wouldn’t want a house with good bones? Unfortunately, many people can get scared off by cosmetic issues and surface-level problems.

If you honestly want a house with good bones, you have to be willing to look beyond superficial defects and focus on what truly matters. Here’s how to do that.

1. Look in Older Neighborhoods

Most people assume that newly built houses have the best bones, but this isn’t always the case. Ironically, older homes often excel in this area.

They might require an array of cosmetic updates, but many older homes were customarily manufactured with the use of higher-quality building materials. Newer homes — tract houses, in particular — are too often built by companies whose focus was on cost-effective production; and as a result, they may be constructed of cheaper materials.

2. Look for Telltale Signs of Major Problems

You don’t have to be a home builder or contractor to evaluate the bones of a house. When you tour a property, look past such things as paint colors, appliances, and carpet.

Instead, you should focus on signs of major problems. For example, walk around the exterior and check the angle of the land around the structure to ensure water drains away from the foundation.

Look for cracks in the walls, which could indicate foundation problems. Test the water pressure to see if there are any issues with that. It might seem as if this is going over the top, but you won’t know until you observe.

3. Hire Some Professionals

Although anyone can look for issues that are obvious to the naked eye, you could benefit from bringing some professionals along when you tour. A home inspector can do a more thorough job of identifying current and potential problems, while an architect and/or designer can help you envision your remodeling options.

Contact Total Property Management LLC today

At Total Property Management, LLC, we regard it as our sincerest professional pleasure to work with Greenville homeowners, real estate investors, and landlords to ensure they find the right properties, manage and maintain them well, and get more at the closing table when it comes time to sell.

Contact us today to find out more!

Our Blog

An ongoing series of informational entries

Six Landlord Hacks To Make Your Life Easier

November 19, 2018

The life of a landlord is unique. No two days look the same, and the only thing you can expect is the unexpected. The more properties you add to your portfolio, the more challenges you’re apt to face.

And while the money is certainly good, you won’t last long in this industry if you don’t have creative systems in place to handle the issues you’ll be handling on a regular basis. Developing such processes takes time; what better moment to start than now?

Try These Six Hacks to Save Time, Money, and Sanity

The term “hack” has gotten a bad rap of late, but it’s just a word used to describe a shortcut or clever process that saves resources and enables you to complete a challenge you’re facing with speed. If you’re a landlord, the following hacks will come in handy over and over again.

Stash them away in your mind and you’ll be much better prepared for whatever comes your way.

1. Spend Less Time With Paint

Painting is one of those things your properties will require every so often, but it doesn’t have to be a total pain in the rear. Here are some tips for remembering colors:

Write the name of the paint color on the inside of your wall switch plates. You’ll have to remove these when you paint anyway, and this ensures you don’t misplace this crucial information.

Another option is to write the paint color on the top of the lease agreement. This is especially worthwhile if you offer your renters the option to paint the unit their own At the end of the lease, you just tell them the name of the original color and they can restore it.

In order to speed up the process, keep the walls, trim, and ceiling all the same color. This will enable you to spend more time painting and less time taping. (It also gives you the option of hiring a painter to spray the room, rather than roll it, which is much cheaper).

2. Use the Same Materials

If you have many properties, use the same materials for all of them. Maintaining consistent flooring, carpeting, paint colors, backsplashes, cabinets, and bathroom hardware allows you to purchase items in bulk and save the time and hassle of having to search constantly for new materials.

It also helps with regular maintenance. If you have a handyman, it’s a lot easier to explain what you want on one property and have him repeat the same steps in all your other units. Consistency is the name of the game.

3. Use In-Store Pickup at Your Favorite Big Box Store

Maintenance tasks never end for a landlord. You’ll occasionally have big jobs, of course, but it’s generally the small items that add up.

For example, you might have to replace light bulbs in one unit, fix a toilet flapper in another, and change air filters in a third. You can go to Home Depot or Lowe’s and grab all of these items, but why not save time by doing in-store pickup order?

With online pickup at your favorite big box store, you simply go online, add the items you want to your cart, and select in-store pickup. It typically takes anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, and they’ll have all your items waiting in a shopping cart at the front of the store.

All you have to do is drive in, pay, load up, and you’re on your way. It’s a huge time-saver!

4. Call a Prospective Tenant’s Previous Landlord

You can do all kinds of tenant screening on an applicant and still not learn much. Background checks and credit reports reveal a limited amount.

The quickest way to find out whether or not a tenant is worth accepting is to speak with previous landlords. Most are going to shoot straight with other landlords.

If the tenant was terrible, they’ll give you a warning. If the tenant was good, they’ll probably encourage you to accept the applicant. This can be a huge relief.

5. Take Advantage of the Right Apps

“Use those portable scanners that can quickly take receipts, leases, invoices, checks, etc. and turn them into digital docs,” landlord Brandon Turner writes. “Use tracking mileage apps, the flashlight app, and a VoIP service — so voicemails can be delivered as files to your email inbox.”

Your smartphone is essentially a productivity tool. Spend some time reading up on the top apps for landlords and download them to your phone. They can save you a lot of time and effort by automating basic tasks you tend to do over and over.

6. Do Small Things for Your Tenants

A lot of landlords struggle with tenant retention. They complain that their renters consistently leave at the end of their lease, which is costly. But these same landlords probably couldn’t name anything they do actively to encourage tenants to stay on.

There isn’t any one thing you can do to keep tenants. The key is more about how you treat them over the course of the entire lease. Our best advice is to do small things with consistency. For example:

Send tenants a $5 Starbucks card on their birthday.

On the anniversary of a tenant’s lease, offer people a choice of one of two basic upgrades. (Make them upgrades you would do anyway after renters move out.)

Occasionally stop by and have a conversation about something other than the property. This helps to build a solid relationship.

Work With Total Property Management, LLC

Trying to manage your rental properties on your own is a huge challenge. It might be possible when you have just one or two places, but trying to manage a larger portfolio while handling other professional obligations can be much more difficult.

At Total Property Management, LLC we actively work to make our clients’ lives better by offering expertise and assistance in such areas as tenant screening, rent collection, property marketing, maintenance and repairs, accounting, and even evictions.

Our Blog

An ongoing series of informational entries

Seven REasons You Shouldn't Buy A Rental Property

November 12, 2018

Building wealth entails diversifying your assets and generating as many different revenue streams as can. Owning rental properties is a great example of having established diversified revenue streams for your portfolio.

But just because you think it sounds enticing, that doesn’t mean you should jump into the saddle just yet. There’s a time to buy rental properties and a time to hold off.

In this article, we’re going to explore a few of the situations when it makes sense to do the latter. Take a look:

1. You’re Drowning in Debt

The best way to get out of debt is to pay down your balances … not to add even more debt to your balance sheet. For one reason or another, some people have the impression that investing in real estate is a magic bullet that will solve all other financial woes.

In reality, this isn’t the case. Throwing debt at debt will rarely get you right side up. Wait until you’ve reduced or preferably eliminated your bad debt — car payments, credit cards, unpaid taxes, etc. — and are in a position to make clear decisions about your finances.

2. You Can’t Put at Least 20 Percent Down

By no means do you have to pay for a rental property in cash, but you certainly wouldn’t want to put three percent down and call it a day. The more you can invest in a property up front, the less risk you run.

You’ll also notice far better cash-flow figures. As a rule, try to put at least 20 percent down. Not only is this a benchmark number for lenders, but it also helps you avoid PMI insurance, which can cost hundreds of extra dollars per year.

3. You’re Getting Ready to Move Out of Town

If you’re preparing to move out of town, it’s probably not a smart idea to invest in real estate in the region you’re leaving behind. For one thing, this will complicate the paperwork and tax arrangements.

Second, it’s a logistical nightmare. Owning a rental property in another city or state means you will be an absentee landlord. This might work 95 percent of the time, but it runs the risk of creating problems the rest of the time and in the future.

Being unable to drive by the property means you’ll never really know what’s going on there. Is the yard getting mowed? Are your tenants subletting? Is there a dog on the property? You simply have no way of knowing for certain.

4. You’ve Lived in Town Less Than 6 Months

The same could be said for the opposite end of a move. If you’re new to a city or state, it’s better to hold off on investing in a rental until you’ve become better acquainted with the market. Wait at least six months, and preferably a year, before making an investment.

This will give you time to learn about the market, identify neighborhoods that may be on the rise, note the areas that appear to be in decline, and just generally avoid putting yourself in a situation where you don’t belong. (This also gives you more stability in the region and a chance to show lenders that you’re here to stay.)

5. The House Has a Pool

A pool may seem like an attractive feature to renters — and often it is — but it can be a nightmare for you, the property owner. For one, a great deal of maintenance can come with owning a pool (and you can’t expect the tenants to do that for you).

Second, there’s a hefty amount of liability. Whether a tenant, a guest of a tenant, a pool maintenance guy, a neighborhood child, or a trespasser suffers injury from an incident associated with a swimming pool on the site, you can be held liable.

It can be truly dire if someone drowns in your pool. In addition to maintaining the proper insurance coverage, you’ll need to take proper safety precautions.

“If you have a rental property with a pool, you must have a fence that surrounds the pool and that has a self-closing gate that locks,” landlord Laura Agadoni notes. “Other safety measures include a pool cover that latches, and an alarm that sounds when there’s movement near the pool.”

6. The House is on the Water

It’s also not a great idea to buy a rental property on the water, unless it’s a vacation home that’s specifically designed for the purpose. As you can see from the last couple of points, water can be very bad news.

In addition to posing a risk for drowning, an adjacent body of water increases the chance of flooding and will likely pose additional insurance requirements. You can avoid these requirements by turning your back on the home.

7. The Numbers Don’t Work

It’s essential to run the numbers on any property you’re considering and figure out whether you’ve got enough cash flow to justify the investment. To determine cash flow, start with a realistic rental rate.

Subtract all the monthly expenses from your proposed rate. These may include any or all of the following: taxes, insurance, mortgage payment, property management fees, and HOA fees. You also need to account for vacancies (which will likely be at least one month per year).

“When you subtract these expenses from the amount of rent you’ll be collecting, the amount remaining is your profit,” JWB Real Estate Capital explains. “Does it meet your goals? If not, you may need to look for another property, revise your goals, or both.”

Be patient and wait for a real estate deal for which the numbers line up. There’s no sense in putting yourself in a compromising situation by accepting tight margins.

Contact Total Property Management today!

There are any number of reasons not to invest in a specific rental property. You may also identify plenty of reasons you should invest in a property. The key is to identify so-called “deal breakers” before they entrap and break you.

A lack of landlord experience isn’t enough reason not to invest. If the situational factors and numbers line up, you should go for it. You can always hire a property management company — such as Total Property Management— to take care of the details.

Our Blog

An ongoing series of informational entries

Eight Popular Home Trends That Happen To Be Green

November 5, 2018

It’s true that many renters don’t give much thought to the eco-friendly side of the home they’re renting. They prefer to look at cost variables and comfort. But many more renters take it into consideration when they purchase a home, and a green home appeals to an extremely wide audience.

For renters, a greener home means that they are not only doing their part to help the environment, but also that they’re reducing energy costs. Green improvements aren’t always attractive, but lucky for you and your renters, some of today’s most popular green trends are also some of the most popular home trends.

1. Small Homes

Today, the average size of the family home is dropping, which is one of the best ways to reduce carbon footprints. This is thanks to several factors. The economy, though slowly getting better, is forcing people to seek a more affordable, smaller home. Another factor is the large amount of baby boomers looking to downsize to a smaller home that’s easier to manage.

More and more people are also becoming interested in the “tiny house movement,” which is essentially a trend in which an individual downsizes from the typical home size of 2600 square feet to a home that is 100-400 square feet. In order to live functionally in a home this size, it requires a significant amount of energy efficiency and creative space utilization. It’s not for everyone, but it significantly cuts down on environmental impact for those who participate.

2. Better Lighting and Appliances

Better lighting is one of them most popular trends today, and it’s great for the environment. When people focus on the lighting in their home, they think about both the aesthetic appeal and the energy efficiency of the bulbs and electricity they’re using. This leads consumers to seek LEED certified and Energy Star approved lighting when they make changes to their lighting systems.

And who doesn’t love all new stainless steel kitchen appliances? Thanks to pushes from environmental committees around the world who are working with Energy Star to create more energy efficient appliances than ever, any time you get new appliances, they’ll most likely be quite a bit more efficient than your last set.

3. Smart Home Features

Home automation is all the rage, and it’s not just convenient for your lifestyle. It’s also convenient for the environment and your budget. The average home without home automation spends about $2000 a year on energy costs. Those with smart home automation can cut that bill in half.

The biggest reason for that significant cut in spending is that the smart features cut down significantly on wasted energy. No more leaving the lights on or the air conditioning running while no one is home. Smart automation eliminates wasted energy and money, while wowing your tenant with the fancy features they can easily control from their smartphones.

4. Bamboo Materials

This eco-friendly material is an extremely attractive and popular wood, particularly for flooring. Bamboo is made entirely from a renewable energy source, and is also becoming a popular choice for cabinets in bathrooms and kitchens.

When looking to add bamboo materials to your home, pay close attention to the quality. Bamboo is beautiful and sustainable, but it isn’t the sturdiest product in the world if you don’t get it from a quality manufacturer. Do your research before purchasing the materials for home improvements. Find high quality bamboo that’s processed in a sustainable factory.

5. Water Conservation Features

Wasted water isn’t cheap, nor is it good for the environment. Water conservation is an extremely important topic today with all of the drought-ridden areas throughout the world, and it’s easy to do your part to conserve water if you use the features popular in homes today.

Water conservation features include low-flow toilets, water saving showerheads, timed sprinklers, composting toilets, smart water control, and even smart toilets. Each of these popular features does its part to use water properly and avoid wasting the excess.

6. Solar Roofing

As one of the fastest growing home trends in the nation, solar roofing is an incredible advancement, both for sustainable roofing and for improved energy conduction.

Most people have avoided solar roofing in the past because of the cost, but the cost is significantly lower now for solar roof shingles and panels than it was at its inception in 1977. In fact, it’s about 100 times lower than the initial cost. Today, consumers can install solar roofing for a new direction in clean energy at a cost that easily pays for itself.

This trend is particularly attractive in rental properties for both the renter and the owner. The tenant can enjoy significantly reduced monthly energy prices and the owner can enjoy raised rent and a happier tenant because of the value it adds to the home.

7. Window Treatments

From more energy efficient windows to indoor shutters, the most popular window treatment trends are also some of the most efficient trends. Property owners looking to significantly reduce their wasted energy and cash will find a vast improvement when they switch to energy efficient windows and window treatments.

Most energy efficient windows today have tighter seals and a special glazing on the glass that keeps the exterior air outside where it belongs. Furthermore, popular window treatments such as shutters, blackout curtains, and smart curtains are excellent ways to diminish outside air and light permeation, which can reduce wasted energy and costs.

8. Passive Home Construction

Passive housing is a fairly new trend that involves focusing on reduced energy consumption and improved energy efficiency. This construction goes beyond making a few eco-friendly renovations. It revolves around making every aspect of the home more energy efficient, and it can save you about 90 percent on energy, according to the Passive House Institute.

Thanks to the environmental movements that have gained particular power over the last few years, passive housing is one of the most popular trends for building and renovating homes. Many find it a little too extreme, but others find that the saved energy costs and reduced carbon footprint are well worth the effort.

As the world becomes more and more environmentally aware, there’s no point in fighting it. Move with the trend and make your rental property a more attractive option than ever with these trendy, eco-friendly improvements. Advertising your home as having some of the latest green improvements, will easily attract more high-end renters.

Eco-friendly design has its perks, but it can also be difficult to manage and implement. That’s where a reliable property management company like Total Property Management comes in. We specialize in helping your vision for a well-maintained, high-end property become a reality. If you’re looking for a company who is as interested in the success of your property as you are, contact us today!

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"You're Throwing Money Away" and Other Myths About Renting...

October 29, 2018

Love flexibility? It may be time to rethink renting's bad reputation.

Renting often gets a bad rap.

It’s true that some aspects of being a renter are less than glamorous, but it’s not all bad. In fact, the number of renters is on the rise, and the traditional mindset about renting is changing.

Let’s debunk three of the most common myths about renting.

1. You’re throwing money away

Many people say that paying rent is like taking your money and throwing it away. While you may not be gaining equity in a home, you are paying for somewhere to call home, which is not the same thing as throwing your money in a trash can.

And let’s not understate the value of avoiding household maintenance costs. Most rentals include upkeep and repair services, and some even include the cost of utilities.

Additionally, buying a home may not be a wise financial decision for you right now. Maybe you live in an expensive housing market or you don’t have quite enough saved for a down payment. Simply put, renting may be in your best financial interest.

To find out whether renting or buying is more financially viable for you, there are several toolsavailable to help you make an informed decision.

2. You have no negotiating power

A common myth surrounding the landlord-tenant relationship assumes the landlord has all the power.

Contrary to popular belief, renters have a lot of negotiating power when they sign a lease.

“If you think you may be buying a house soon ask, ‘Do you have a buy out clause?’ You can also ask about a job relocation clause. Simply ask, ‘Can you work with me?’ Each resident has the power to do that,” she advises.

The most important thing is to read the lease in its entirety to ensure you understand what you’re signing. If you see terms you want adjusted, don’t be afraid to ask.

3. It’s difficult to get out of a lease

Another common misconception about renting is that it’s hard to get out of a lease.

Though it’s not advisable to sign a long-term lease when you know life changes are ahead, sometimes life throws us a curve ball. Whether you relocate for a job or your roommate moves out, sometimes it’s necessary to break your lease.

Of course, there may be fees associated with breaking your lease no matter how you go about it, so be prepared for that expense.

Looking for rentals or need advice, call Total Property Management LLC today! Let us help put your mind at ease. 

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The Five Things That Cause Landlords To Quit

October 22, 2018

Being a landlord isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. While the money can be good, there are no guarantees. And even when the money is flowing, there are a number of other factors that can prove challenging to overcome.

Many landlords make a career out of running rental property investments, while others get run off after just a couple of years. Understanding what it is that causes some landlords to quit will hopefully allow you to avoid a similar fate.

These 5 Issues Frequently Run Landlords Off

It’s hard to say exactly what the life span of landlords is, but the biggest drop-off point would probably be at the two to three-year mark. This is where a large percentage of landlords get frustrated and throw in the towel. But once landlords find a way to battle through this period and stick with it, the ones that remain are likely to hang around for decades.

Assuming you’re interested in enjoying a long and prosperous career as a real estate investor and landlord, here are a few things you can expect to encounter (and will want to avoid).

1. Late Paying Tenants

Few things are more frustrating to a landlord than having a tenant who is late with rent. A rent payment that’s late by a couple of days isn’t a huge deal if it happens once a year, but it does become problematic when it’s 10 days late every single month.

Landlords have to spend a lot of time tracking down late rent checks. Not only does this lead to frustration, but it also takes away time that should be spent on more important responsibilities.

Honestly, the best way to prevent this issue is by enacting more stringent tenant screening practices. While it won’t totally eliminate the risk of late paying tenants, it helps weed out the really bad candidates.

Secondly, find a way to streamline rent payments through an online processor or automatic withdrawal system. Any time you can avoid having tenants mail or drop checks off, you should.

2. Emergencies on Nights and Weekends

Being a 9-to-5 worker often gets a bad rap, but there’s actually a lot to love about this traditional setup. One of the nicest benefits is that you have a predictable schedule. When you get home from work, you don’t have to think about it until the next morning. Plus, you always know you’ll have Saturdays and Sundays off (not to mention holidays and vacation time).

As a landlord, there’s no such thing as a 9-to-5 schedule. You’re on call 24/7/365. Whether it’s a quiet Monday afternoon or 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve, you have to respond when a tenant calls and tells you that the dishwasher is overflowing onto the kitchen floor. You simply don’t have a choice.

People who like predictability and need uninterrupted downtime don’t typically last very long as landlords. This is something to be aware of as you explore your options.

3. Poor Cash Flow

On paper, a property might look like a great investment. The monthly payment (mortgage, insurance, and taxes) is $1,000 and the rent is $1,500. That equals $500 in monthly cash flow, or $6,000 per year. But these simple calculations fail to take into account other things – such as repairs, maintenance, vacancies, property marketing, legal fees, etc.

Many well-intentioned landlords enter into real estate investments with far less of a cushion than they should have. As a result, they get into cash flow problems as soon as something goes wrong. At best, they break even. At worst, they find themselves underwater.

If you’re going to be landlord for any period of time, improve your cash flow management and use conservative numbers whenever you make an investment. This will leave you with more margin for error.

4. Property Damage

One of the risks every landlord faces is property damage. In most cases, this damage is minor and accidental – though it can be serious and malicious. And even if you have a security deposit, trying to make these repairs and fit them into your budget can be a challenge.

“Disputes over normal wear and tear and tenant caused damage can result in legal action,” landlord Allison Bethell writes. “To avoid this, all tenant expectations should be in writing and included in the lease, so the tenant is aware of them. These expectations include things such as who is responsible for cutting the grass and common area maintenance.”

The more proactive you are with property damage, the less this issue will plague you. Neglect it at your own peril.

5. Small Issues and Problems

There are plenty of big issues you’ll deal with as a landlord. These may include evictions, falling behind on a mortgage, serious property issues (like a compromised foundation), or any number of other problems. And while these are painful things to deal with, they tend to be few and far between. What trips up most landlords is the litany of smaller issues that never seem to go away.

Whether it’s an AC unit that keeps breaking, a tenant that is continually complaining about the noise coming from the neighbor next door, or the stress of paying bills on time, these small, repetitive issues eventually cause enough stress to push many landlords out of the business. Learning to cope will help you avoid a similar fate.

Let Total Property Management Hold Your Hand

You can be a solo landlord for a while, but it’s not a game you want to play on your own for long. In order to stick around for the long haul and enjoy sustained success for a number of years, you have to get help. One of the smartest moves you’ll ever make is to hire a professional property manager to guide you along.

At Total Property Management, we take pride in helping Greenville-area landlords manage their rental properties through honest, transparent, and cost-effective services that maximize cash flow and lower stress. For additional information on how we can serve you, please give us a call today!

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Six Tips for Getting Rid of a Nightmare Tenant Without Eviction

October 15, 2018

Not every tenant is perfect. In fact, you’ll very rarely find someone who takes good care of your property and continues to renew their lease agreement year after year. In most cases, these people eventually transition into home ownership or reach a point where they can afford to move up in house. But tenants should be tolerable – meaning they respect your property, follow the rules, and pay on time.

If you’re in the property management game long enough, you’ll eventually encounter a nightmare tenant who doesn’t seem to have any respect or decency. But because the eviction process can be expensive and drawn out, you don’t necessarily want to file for a formal eviction. Instead, it’s in your best interests to quickly, quietly, and legally get rid of them.

Try These 6 Tips and Avoid Eviction

Dealing with problem tenants is probably the single worst factor of being a landlord. It’s time-consuming, expensive, and frustrating. It makes you think you might not be cut out for real estate investing. But don’t let it run you off!

There are legal ways to get rid of bad tenants without going through the eviction process. Hopefully the following tips get you moving in a positive direction:

1. Don’t Sign Bad Tenants

This might sound like obvious advice to a landlord who is currently dealing with a problem tenant, but the best way to get rid of nightmare tenants is to avoid them in the first place. Clearly you can’t do anything about it right now, but you can address your tenant acquisition processes to lower your chances of bringing in another bad tenant in the future.

Start by developing a stricter screening process. Instead of just accepting the first person that agrees to sign the dotted line, do some research on your applicants. This may include running a background check; running a credit check; calling references; calling previous landlords; driving by their current place of residence; and verifying their income with their employer.

2. Improve Your Lease Agreement

Again, there’s nothing you can do about this now, but this is the perfect opportunity to review your lease agreement and make sure it’s as strict and comprehensive as it can be.

Your lease agreement should have very specific language in regards to when rent is due, what the consequences for late payments are, and what responsibilities tenants have for the property itself. If there are any inconsistencies or vague words, you may have trouble pursuing legal action if something serious were to happen.

3. Try to Understand Where They’re Coming From

Don’t immediately jump down a tenant’s throat when they miss a payment or put a hole in the wall. Life happens and accidents are bound to occur. Even if this tenant has a history of doing similar things in the past, attempt to understand where they’re coming from.

A lot of positives can come from sitting down and having a mature, face-to-face conversation. No yelling, no screaming, and no finger-pointing. At worst, no progress is made, and you can continue with some other methods. At best, you show the tenant that you’re willing to work with them, and they improve their actions.

4. Don’t Renew the Lease

If your tenant’s lease is coming to an end soon, the best option you have is to not renew the lease. Make sure you read up on the rules, because in some jurisdictions, you need a reason to do so.

“In most cases, though, you can simply send a polite, professionally written notice explaining that the lease is not renewing,” landlord G. Brian Davis says. “Thank them for their time with you, explain your move-out policies (including a move-out condition inspection), and be sure to emphasize how they can ensure they receive their security deposit back.”

Be sure to provide adequate notice of non-renewal. Depending on where you’re located, this could be 30, 60, or even 90 days.

5. Raise the Rent

Another option is to raise the rent. While you must follow the law, increasing rent from, say $1,500 to $1,800, may be a way to push a tenant out without taking any legal action.

You do have to be careful with this strategy, though. There’s always the chance that you raise the rent and the tenant decides to stay. In this case, your cash flow might improve, but you’re still stuck with a nightmare tenant.

6. Try Cash for Keys

If you have a tenant who won’t pay and won’t leave, you’ve got a big problem. Eviction is the likely outcome, but you can always try one last thing: Cash for Keys.

Cash for Keys is exactly what it sounds like. You offer to give the tenant a certain amount of money – maybe $300 – in exchange for them handing over the keys and leaving. It saves you from having to go through the expensive eviction process and gives them some money (which they may need).

“Yes, Cash for Keys stings your pride. It feels so ‘un-American,’ like the bad guy is getting away with the crime,” real estate investor Brandon Turner admits. “Some landlords flat-out refuse to even consider this idea because it feels so wrong, but remember, Cash for Keys isn’t personal; it’s business!”

Evict When Necessary

Sometimes you have no other choice but to evict a tenant. The key is to make sure that you do have legal grounds to do so. Here are five reasons you can evict a tenant:

Failure to pay rent

Habitual late payments

Excessive property damage

Illegal use of the property

Holdover after lease agreement ends

There may be other legal grounds for evicting a tenant, but these are the most common reasons. Whenever possible, you should try to avoid going through this process. If you need guidance on how to proceed, speak with an experienced property management professional.

At Total Property Management, LLC, we offer comprehensive property management services for landlords and real estate investors in and around the Greenville area. If you’re looking for help managing your rentals, we would be happy to give you a hand. Please contact us today to learn more about our services.

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How To Sharpen Your People Skills and Be Successful

October 8, 2018

People skills are important in every aspect of life, but certain professions demand more of you in this area than others. While a desk job – such as an accountant or software developer – might not require a whole lot on this front, landlords and property managers must exhibit proficiency.

Do you possess the right people skills? And are they sharp enough? Making improvements in this area will yield positive dividends over the long haul.

Relationships and Real Estate

Many areas of real estate are cut and dry. It’s often a numbers game, with simple mathematical equations and financing terms dictating how decisions are made. Rental property investing isn’t one of these niches.

As a landlord, relationships are at the heart of everything you do. You have to build trust with your tenants and engage them on a personal level if you expect them to pay on time, take care of your property, and speak positively of you to others in the industry.

But what if you aren’t necessarily a people person? Is it possible to improve your relationship-building skills and find success? Absolutely…but you’ll need to be diligent and purposeful in how you address this issue.

5 Ways to Sharpen Your People Skills

Think of your people skills as a knife. Everyone has a knife, but some knives are duller than others. If you have a particularly dull knife, it becomes a liability. The only way to make it effective is to sharpen it.

When it comes to property management and landlording, here are some specific ways you can sharpen your people skills and become better at building relationships with tenants, partners, and peers.

1. Put Yourself in Someone Else’s Shoes

One of the bigger challenges of being a landlord is walking the fine line between being compassionate and avoiding being taken advantage of. You hear a lot of sob stories from tenants, and you don’t always know when to feel for someone and when to be strict.

Developing the ability to place yourself in someone else’s shoes is an important people skill. If nothing else, it shows you something about people’s motives and gives you the opportunity to look at a problem or conflict with fresh eyes.

2. Call Instead of Text

With all of the technology you have at your disposal these days, it’s easy to take shortcuts with communication. Whether it’s text or email, there are quicker and less confrontational ways to interact with people if you want them.

And while there’s nothing wrong with using these modes of communication, doing it too frequently could stunt your ability to actually manage face-to-face conversations and interactions.

In order to keep your conversational skills sharp, make it a point to call instead of text. It might take longer, but it’ll keep you on your toes and prevent you from getting lazy in your interactions.

3. Pay Attention When Others Talk

“Attention is perhaps the most important quality of charm,” sales coach Brian Tracy says. “It is the most powerful behavior for building rapport and is the key to instant charm. When you pay close attention to other people, the more valuable and important they will feel they are.”

When someone is talking to you, listen and make eye contact. Stop thinking about what you’ll say next and focus on their words, inflection, and emotions. Not only does this make the other person feel valued, but it also helps you understand them on a deeper level.

4. Learn to Resolve Conflict

As a landlord, conflict resolution is supremely important. You’ll encounter many conflicts on a regular basis, both big and small. Having an approach that allows you to resolve conflict in a positive manner is a good skill to have.

The first thing to think about – especially when you’re in direct conflict with another person – is how you can respect the individual rather than control them. Successful conflict resolution isn’t so much about convincing the other person that you’re right and they’re wrong as it is about meeting in the middle and finding a satisfactory result that’s rooted in mutual respect.

It’s also critical that you focus on the present. If you have a past with a person, it’s easy to let previous grudges leach into your current conflict. By blocking your history out, you can focus on building a more promising future.

5. Practice Communicating with Clarity

It’s one thing to talk – it’s something else entirely to communicate. The latter requires confidence and clarity.

Communication breakdowns typically happen when you don’t know what you’ll say or why you’re saying something. According to management consultant Mark Babbitt, good communication with a colleague – or perhaps a tenant in your case – comes down to three points:

State the challenge and provide the context.

Provide actionable inspiration.

Drive toward a specific solution.

“This … works exceptionally well, both verbally and in writing,” Babbitt says. “It also works well when injecting clarity into an ongoing conversation. Take this approach, and you’ll not only be seen as a great communicator, but[you’ll also be seen as a great leader, even if that isn’t your current role.”

It all comes back to communication. The more proactive and transparent you are, the fewer conflicts you’ll have. They’ll still exist, but they won’t be nearly as difficult to overcome.

Partner with Total Property Management, LLC

It’s important to build relationships with your tenants, other real estate investors, and various professionals in your community, but you don’t always have enough time in your schedule to devote to endless meetings and one-on-one conversations. That’s why you need a partner who understands the need for healthy relationships, works with you to develop new ones on your behalf, and builds rapport with the people you already know.

At Total Property Management, LLC, it’s our mission to take the heavy lifting and time-consuming tasks out of property management so that you can focus on the issues that truly matter to your business. For additional information on how we can help, give us a call!

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The Ins and Outs Of Landlord Insurance

October 1, 2018

Though most landlords will tell you their job is rewarding, they’ll also tell you it’s not without great personal risk, and that landlord insurance is one of the best investments you can make. A simple policy can mean the difference between seeing a profit and shelling out thousands a month for legal and property damages. For just a few hundred dollars a year, you can ensure that you are protected from property damages, maintenance issues, contract disputes, and even rental defaults from tenants.

Landlord insurance ensures that you’re covered when disaster strikes, and it’s something you don’t want to be without. 

When you’re choosing the right insurance for your rental property, tread carefully. It’s easy to get caught up in an insurance policy that doesn’t fit your specific needs. If you’re new to the landlord insurance game, use this guide to get you started on finding the perfect policy for you.

Consider Your Coverage Options

Begin by researching your coverage options. Like most things in life, landlord insurance is a little more complicated than it appears on the surface. It’s a multi-faceted entity, and finding the right policy for you will mean exploring each of your options and comparing them to your needs. Here are some of the coverage options available to landlords.

Most Important Options

These coverage options are worth serious consideration for landlord insurance.

• Property: This will cover you for any damage to your property, ranging from natural damage (earthquake, storms, fire, lightening, etc) to vandalism. It’s important to note that flood insurance is a separate policy. Ask your insurance what they recommend based on your property’s location.

• Landlord Contents: If you’re renting out a partially or fully furnished unit, don’t skip the contents coverage. This covers you in the event of damage to anything from appliances and chairs to carpet and paint. It’s worth the extra investment, particularly if the property is furnished with high-end items.

• Loss of Rent: It’s impossible to control every aspect of your property, and if your tenants find a mold infestation and have to move out, you’ll lose out on payments unless you have loss of rent coverage. This ensures that you’ll receive a rent payment if the property is deemed uninhabitable, so long as you’re working to get it back up to an inhabitable level.

• Liability: No one is safe from lawsuits these days, particularly landlords. Liability insurance covers you from legal issues associated with your property. In other words, your tenants can’t sue you if they fall and break their leg while on your property.

Other Handy Options

These coverage options can be quite useful, but they aren’t as common or as necessary as some others. Still, depending on the neighborhood of your rental home and the kinds of tenants you typically deal with, these options could come in handy.

• Rent Guarantee: This insurance deals particularly with tenants that default on the rent, which means that they are always late or miss payments. If you are renting to low-income individuals, this rent guarantee plan could be very useful.

• Unoccupied Rental: Unfortunately, it might be very difficult to keep your rental unit filled at all times. Though this policy won’t pay the rent for you, your insurance will still cover the property in case of damages, even if the property is vacant for more than 30 days.

• Landlord Emergency: For older rental homes, landlord emergency insurance is always a good option to consider. It will cover the cost of emergency repairs, such as gas leaks, plumbing issues, lockouts, and more.

• Guaranteed Replacement: If something happens to your property that would require a rebuild or complete renovation, the guaranteed replacement policy will take care of all associated costs.

Take stock of your specific needs and then decide which policies apply best to your situation. Ask a trusted insurance advisor for suggestions if you aren’t entirely sure which policies you’ll need.

Screen Insurance Agents

Insurance can be a tricky game. It would be nice to say that insurance companies always attend to your claims without dispute in a timely manner, but that’s just not true. You want to do everything you can to ensure that you’re hiring an agent or company who will treat you, your property, and your tenants professionally.

The best way to avoid getting mixed in with a sneaky or stubborn insurance company is to screen prospective agents well. Make sure that you are asking the right questions and you feel satisfied with their answers. Look for an insurance agent that treats you like a human being and is concerned with getting you the best deal and the best coverage. For more ideas on screening insurance agents, see this blog post.

Look for Insurance Packages

Often times, insurance comes in packages in the rental world, and you can save a fair amount of money on a policy if you bundle different types of insurance together. For example, many insurance companies will offer you a discount if you bundle your landlord insurance and homeowner insurance for multiple properties in the same policy. These kinds of incentives are the best way to cut costs on this necessary measure.

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September 24, 2018

When it comes to investing in real estate, there are plenty of options. You can buy single-family homes, multi-family homes, apartments, townhomes, condos, vacation rentals, commercial properties, even tiny houses! But there’s one unique, yet potentially lucrative option you probably haven’t considered: mobile home parks.

When most people think about mobile home parks, a lucrative investment isn’t typically the first thing that comes to mind. Because of the price point and stereotypes associated with mobile homes, it’s generally assumed that there’s no money to be made here. However, you should be wary of coming to this conclusion without first doing your research.

There are lots of pros and cons associated with mobile home park investing – and it’s possible that the former outweigh the latter. We’ll attempt to set the record straight in this article.

The Advantages of Investing in Mobile Homes

“Mobile homes obviously have a reputation of being less valuable than traditional site built homes, and in many respects they are. To many unseasoned folks this translates as mobile homes being less profitable and therefore less worthy of our respect,” investor John Fedro writes. But what few outside of this niche realize is that there are lots of advantages to these investments. Let’s check out a few of the major ones:

1. Less competition

“We do not have to compete with all of those investors who advertise: ‘I Buy Ugly Houses.’ We do not have to compete with new investors who just purchased a No Money Down type course from some late night infomercial. Just as we were skeptical in the beginning, many others are, too. Mobile home investors are comparably fewer and farther between,” investor Tony Colella explains. This limited competition means there are more opportunities for those who are serious about investing in mobile home parks.

2. Less capital

Investing in a moderately priced single-family home in an average market could cost you $200,000. After you make a down payment and account for all of the taxes, fees, and insurance, you could very well pay more than $1,000 in monthly mortgage payments. Because mobile homes are much cheaper, you might only have to pay $200 or $300 for a mortgage. If something were to happen and a tenant were to leave, it’s much easier to cover this small payment out of your pocket.

3. Steady demand

Mobile homes are essentially recession-proof. When the rest of the real estate market gets hit hard, mobile home demand suddenly surges. Cost-effective living is always in demand, which makes it great for balancing out your portfolio and income stream.

4. Lower turnover

Believe it or not, the turnover in a mobile home park is usually much lower than in apartments or single-family residences. Whereas tenants in the latter group often leave after just a year or two, mobile home park residents stick around for longer – largely due to the cost of moving.

When you combine these factors with some of the challenges found in traditional real estate investing, it’s easy to see why some people have found tremendous success with mobile home parks. Perhaps you could as well?

The Disadvantages of Investing in Mobile Homes

If you look at all of the aforementioned benefits in isolation, it’s easy to get the picture that mobile home park investing is an idealistic investment. However, it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be. You also need to be aware of the disadvantages (or cons) that come with this form of investing. Take a look at three of the biggest ones:

1. Lack of financing

It’s much harder to get financing for mobile homes. In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find a traditional bank or credit union that will give you a mortgage. Not only does this require creativity on your part – forcing you to find hard money loans – but it can also result in higher than average interest rates. (If you’re able to pay in cash, this obviously becomes a moot point.)

2. Depreciation

Mobile homes depreciate at a much faster rate than an apartment or single-family house. This could be viewed as a pro or con, depending how you look at it. While it may be beneficial from a tax perspective, it’s ultimately bad in terms of resale value. This is something you have to spend time thinking about as you consider your ROI and exit strategy.

3. Clientele

Stereotypes are dangerous, but let’s not pretend they don’t exist. In many cases, residents of mobile home parks are living below the poverty line. While this is fine, it’s sometimes difficult for them to make ends meet. In this sense, it can put increased stress on you to collect rent on time. If you can’t collect rent on time, you risk losing money on your investment.

Perhaps the biggest risk with mobile home park investing is that the exit strategy isn’t always as clear-cut as single-family homes or apartments. Due to the difficulty of funding, you can’t simply sell a mobile home to anyone who is interested. You generally need to get creative.

“While the laws have changed in recent years and selling a home with seller financing is strict, the ability is not dead,” Fedro explains. “With this said your ability to create an exit strategy of selling a mobile home for a large cash-payday will have to be properly understood and due diligence preformed before any purchase is made.”

Whether the pros outweigh the cons is often a personal matter. You have your own set of financial goals and must determine what you’re trying to get out of a mobile home park investment.

Total Property Management, LLC

At Total Property Management, LLC, we love real estate and enjoy helping our clients manage their income producing properties in a manner that’s cost-effective and stress-free.

If you’re interested in getting your feet wet and trying out real estate investing, don’t let an issue like time hold you back. We can make your job easy by handling all of the time-consuming tasks and heavy lifting for you. Contact us today to find out more!

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September 17, 2018

Real estate investing – and landlording in particular – is widely misunderstood by the general public. For instance, it’s often assumed that being an ethical landlord and running a profitable business are mutually exclusive concepts. And despite the fact that many landlords perpetuate this ideology, it’s simply not true. If you put your mind to it, you can be ethical and profitable.

What Does it Mean to Be Ethical?

“Being ethical means conforming to accepted moral standards,” Keith Dooley writes for Bizfluent. “Applied to the work environment, it means that an ethical person has a higher standard than just avoiding a certain behavior or practice because it is illegal. What matters is that it might be the wrong thing to do morally.”

In other words, it’s possible to follow the law and stay within the boundaries (in terms of rules and regulations) yet still act unethically. Sometimes, doing the ethical thing requires you to go above and beyond what is expected – merely because you have a set of internal guidelines that tells you what’s right and wrong.

6 Ways You Can Be Ethical

If we’re being honest, there isn’t always ethical behavior in the real estate world. Greedy investors and slimy landlords typically look out for their own best interests and don’t care about who gets hurt along the way.

But you don’t have to be most people. There are plenty of ethical landlords in this industry.  If you’d like to learn more about what it looks like to be ethical and profitable, read on. We’ll provide you with some practical tips to help you achieve this goal.

1. Develop Straightforward Contracts

A contract can be legal, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily ethical. While there’s definitely a need to protect yourself with various clauses and stipulations, be wary of including confusing language that tenants might not understand.

Lease agreements should be as simple and straightforward as possible. These documents shouldn’t require a tenant to hire a lawyer in order to interpret. The language ought to be clear and concise, with no fine print or confusing jargon.

2. Be Reasonable with Rent Increases

Rent increases represent one of the biggest grey areas in landlording. It’s poor business not to increase rents in order to reflect going market rates, but you also don’t want to be greedy and victimize your tenants.

The key is to raise rents incrementally. Somewhere in the 1 to 5 percent range (annually) is considered reasonable (assuming market rates have risen accordingly). On a $1,500 rent, that would be an increase of $15 to $75 per month. What’s not reasonable is a 25 percent rent increase, which would take rent from $1,500 to $1,875. (While this might technically be legal, it’s not ethical.)

The law states that you have to give tenants reasonable notice when a rent increase is coming. In most states, the law is 30 days. But once again, compliance isn’t always the goal. You’re trying to be ethical.

“If you can, give tenants a 60-day notice instead of just 30 days,” suggests Kevin Ortner, an expert in property management. “This will give the tenant more time to prepare for the increase and allows them a chance to shop around. If your increase is in line with market rates, they’ll see that there’s no better deal to be had. So, get those notices ready early.”

3. Do Proper Maintenance

Depending on the letter of the law and what sort of language is included in your lease agreement, you’re required to handle certain property maintenance tasks for your tenants. Then there are other maintenance issues that you don’t technically have to get involved with. Ethically, though, you should consider what’s right and wrong.

Take an inefficient AC system as an example. Technically, the AC system works. The problem is that it’s extremely expensive for the tenant to run. While you could tell the tenant to suck it up, is that really ethical? The right thing would be to fix the system – even though you don’t have to.

4. Respect Privacy

An ethical landlord understands the importance of respecting a tenant’s privacy. Local laws may permit you to enter your renter’s residence in order to perform a repair or inspection, but don’t do it unannounced. Give tenants their space and don’t overstep boundaries.

5. Show Some Leniency

A good tenant pays rent on time. But even the best tenant is going to occasionally make a mistake or have an issue where they miss a payment by a day or two. While it’s important to say something and correct the behavior, show a little leniency. Don’t file eviction paperwork or threaten your tenants.

6. Don’t Nitpick on Move-Out

The move out process is often one of the biggest points of contention between landlords and tenants. Tenants want to get their security deposits back, while landlords typically look for any excuse to keep it.

If a tenant hasn’t taken care of your property and leaves broken appliances or big holes in the wall, you certainly have the right to keep part or all of their security deposit (and that’s the smart thing to do). However, don’t nitpick over small things like tiny nail holes from pictures, or a small carpet stain in the corner of a room.

If your goal is to be an ethical landlord who cares for your tenants, yet still makes the bottom line a priority, be cognizant of your interactions and relationships – both personally and professionally. The people you choose to surround yourself with will either help or hurt your cause.

At Total Property Management, LLC, we offer exceptional property management services at competitive rates. But we also pride ourselves on our honesty and transparency. We have a strict set of moral guidelines that influence our decisions and put our clients first.

If you’re interested in learning more, please contact us at your earliest convenience. We’d be happy to provide you with a free property analysis.

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An ongoing series of informational entries


September 10, 2018

As the owner of a property, you’ll be fully in charge of its renovations—which means you’ll be the one to spend the time and money making the renovations, and the one earning the benefits from them. If you want to maximize the profitability of your property (and limit your risks in the process), you’ll need to be discerning about which renovations you take on.

Generally, a renovation will be “worth” doing if it does one of two things:

It makes the property more attractive to tenants. If your property looks better to prospective tenants, you’ll be able to fill your vacancies faster, your current tenants will be more likely to stick around for a longer period of time, and you’ll also be able to charge more rent. That means you’ll make yourself more profitable throughout the duration of your property ownership.

It objectively increases the value of the property in the long term. Some home renovations will carry a return on investment (ROI) near 100 percent, which means you’ll increase the value of your home by almost as much as you paid for the renovation. Combined with even a slight increase in tenant interest, this could easily make the renovation “worth” doing.

That being said, which renovations are most likely to accomplish one (or both) of these goals?

Curb Appeal

The first thing most tenants will see when evaluating your property is the front of the house or building. The “curb appeal,” or aesthetic of the exteriors, is going to form their first impression and potentially make or break the deal. Tenants will be willing to pay more for a property that looks pretty on the outside—which means anything you can do to beautify the exterior will probably be worth it (especially since many of these upgrades are inexpensive). Invest in a fresh coat of paint for the siding if you can, and make sure to keep the lawn in order. Adding flowers and other greenery is a great way to close the deal here—and it won’t require much time or money.


According to HGTV, kitchen remodels are capable of returning up to 93 percent of your total investment—meaning your total out the door cost (once you sell the property) will be approximately 7 percent of what you originally paid. Kitchens are also a powerful selling point for prospective tenants, because they’re the main area for eating and socializing, and should be a beacon of cleanliness. New appliances, preferably stainless steel, can make your kitchen seem much more modernized, and enable you to charge more in rent. New countertops and sinks will also be beneficial. It may be costly, but it will eventually pay for itself.


The next area most tenants evaluate is usually the bathroom, where they’re going to spend most of their time cleaning up and getting ready for work. It might cost you a few thousand dollars to put in a new shower, toilet, sink, and vanity, but your prospective tenants are going to be impressed by the showcase here. Even if they aren’t fully sold by the new fixtures, they’ll probably be willing to pay more in rent because of it.


If your property already has windows that were built within the last decade or two, you probably won’t need to replace them. If they’re older than that, you can consider window replacement as one of the most valuable remodeling moves you can make. New, energy-efficient windows will be easier for your tenants to open and close, which can be a luxury compared to old, sticking windows. They’ll make the apartment more energy efficient, which means lower utility bills, and the double-paned glass will be able to filter out more sound (which is important for urban buildings). On top of that, new windows carry a high ROI for the overall value of your home.


A new roof will cost you a few thousand dollars, but if your roof is in questionable shape, it’s worth the upgrade. No tenant is going to spend much time evaluating your roof, but if you proactively prevent a leak, you could save yourself tens of thousands of dollars in future repairs—and you’ll increase the value of your home while you’re at it.

Heating and Cooling

No tenant wants to be excessively hot or cold, so make sure your unit is equipped with a solid heating and cooling system. If one component of this system isn’t working correctly, the repairs and renovations necessary to make it operational are probably going to be worth it. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself with a ridiculously high tenant turnover rate.


The aesthetics of curb appeal also apply to the color of the interior walls. A fresh coat of paint will make the interior of your apartment or home spring to life and seem more modern; it will also cover up any damage or marks left by previous tenants. Best of all, this is probably a “renovation” you can handle yourself, for less than a few hundred dollars of paint and materials.


Stained carpet or damaged linoleum can make even a respectable living space seem dirty and worn. Replacing those floors with hardwood or nice carpeting can instantly increase the value of your home. You’ll likely spend a few thousand dollars here, depending on the materials you choose, but the increase in rent prices will probably have it paid for within a year or two.

Any Ongoing Maintenance

It’s also worth mentioning that any ongoing maintenance or repairs you need to do to make your tenants happy and your property livable are worth making. They’re bound to spring up from time to time, and they’ll likely range from mildly annoying to painfully expensive, but they’re always worth taking care of proactively to prevent any further damage and protect yourself from any legal issues.

There are many home renovations, repairs, and upgrades that can simultaneously increase the value of your home and increase the rent you’re able to collect from tenants, but it takes a lot of work to maintain. If you’re interested in getting a little help, make sure to contact TOTAL PROPERTY MANAGEMENT, LLC. We take care of your property for you, so you can sit back and keep collecting rent, hassle-free.

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September 4, 2018

Novice landlords often absorb the myth that any income earned from your rental properties is profit. If you’re realistic, though, there’s a lot more to the picture.

The income you earn from each unit may partly qualify as profit, but a good percentage also goes back into the property; at least, it certainly should. For starters, you have predictable expenses such as taxes, mortgage payments, insurance, and utilities.

But there’s also a scary category called “unexpected expenses” that you’ll plan for in advance if you’re smart. Maintenance will be a big chunk of that unexpected expenses category, and experienced landlords recognize that they have to earmark a portion of their income for upcoming repairs and improvements.

If you don’t have that extra savings, you’ll be in trouble the minute something breaks down. Wise landlords develop a strong budget for the maintenance needs of all their rental properties. If you want to be one of those, consider the following strategies.

Try an Easy Formula

It’s not possible to guess accurately how much you’ll spend on maintenance in a given year. But many landlords use one of several useful formulas to arrive at a ballpark figure. Here are three formulas property owners commonly employ.

Square Footage

Many landlords base the amount to be spent on a property on the total square footage. Typically, the owner will designate $1 per square foot to yearly maintenance costs. This means that a 2,000 square foot rental will require $2,000 a year budgeted for maintenance.

One Percent of Property Value

This guideline encourages you to budget one percent of the property’s total value for maintenance every year. In simple terms, that means if you own a property that’s worth $100,000, you can plan a $1,000 yearly maintenance budget. The actual dollar amount spent might be higher or lower, but this is a useful estimate in a pinch.

Operating Expenses Percentage:

Some property owners also base their yearly savings requirements on a percentage of one month’s operating expenses. Typically, the cost of operating a rental is between 35 and 80 percent of your rental income.

You can calculate such expenses based on one month of tenant occupancy. Let’s say you collect $1,200 in rent each month and your expenses are $600. That means you have an operating expense percentage of 50 percent.

Not all of that amount will be spent on maintenance, but you can assume about 25 percent of your monthly expenses are maintenance. Take that cost (in this case, $200) and multiply it by 12 to get the annual cost. In this case, you should be saving $2,400 a year for maintenance costs.

Other factors will influence these formulas. For example, a home built in 1900 will probably require more maintenance than one that went up in 2010. You might also have a property that attracts a higher grade of tenants, so it may require greater maintenance to keep them satisfied and willing to stay.

In those cases, you might budget 2 percent of the home’s value or $2 per square foot for a home you think might require more maintenance. Neither formula is perfect, but they offer a start, and as you gain more experience, you can easily alter your formulas to arrive at more accurate estimates of yearly maintenance costs.

Break It Down

These formulas work well for some, but they entail more guesswork than some landlords are comfortable with. If you want a more technical discussion of maintenance, factor in the variety of typical expenses and factors that are likely to affect yearly costs.

You can create your own formula by breaking down your expected costs for each facet of the property. This is a time-consuming process, obviously, and it still involves a lot of guesswork, but it will enable you to arrive at a more accurate figure for yearly maintenance costs.

Here are some details you’ll probably want to consider for this formula.

Fixed Maintenance Costs

Sometimes, you’ll have fixed maintenance costs, such as a property management fee, yearly fireplace inspection, homeowners association fees, and so on. Start by identifying all the fixed expenses before moving on.

Routine Maintenance

Each residence will require routine maintenance every year. This might include exterior cleaning, clearing out the gutters, a professional cleaning after a tenant leaves, grass cutting, landscaping expenses, and similar costs.

It will also include seasonal maintenance such as pruning trees and aerating grass. List all the maintenance you’d like to apply to your property routinely and add that to your calculations.

Appliance Maintenance

You can’t assume your tenants will perform regular maintenance on their appliances, even if you ask them to clean out the dryer lint traps and regularly scrub their oven interiors. Many landlords schedule regular appliance maintenance to make sure it gets done.

This may well include routine cleanings and inspections of HVAC systems, refrigerators, washers and dryers, stoves/ovens, sump pumps, etc. Assess the costs of regular cleaning and inspection for your big-ticket appliances and add that to your yearly estimation.


At some point, you’ll have to replace elements on your property, such as the appliances, flooring, roof, and paint. Try to calculate the age and wear on each of these features and estimate the potential cost of replacement in the coming year.

Emergency Maintenance

Broken air conditioning in 100-degree weather, a leaking water heater, and other emergency maintenance issues will probably surface, no matter how prepared you might be for such eventualities. Routine maintenance will help to prevent some of them, but it’s also good to be prepared for the unexpected.

Property Damage

A tenant might destroy your rental property, whether intentionally or by accident. The security deposit can cover some of it, but it might not cover all. You probably have insurance to cover major destruction, but if the damage is small, you might not wish to file a claim and risk making your rates go up. Having a contingency fund in place for potential damage can be far more preferable.

Cleaning Costs

The odds are a tenant or two will move out this year, and you’ll need a professional cleaning before the next tenant moves in. The security deposit should cover cleaning costs, but it’s not always enough, depending on the situation. Having a little cash in your pocket for regular cleanings will save you time, bigger costs, and hassle.

Other Factors to Consider

Obviously, it’s never simple to calculate maintenance for a rental property. There might be other factors you’ll want to consider, such as:

The type of property (i.e., commercial, single-family home, multi-family complex, etc.)

Age of the property

Condition of the property

Climate/common natural disasters

Flood zone

Likelihood of pest infestations

Although you’ll have insurance to cover some major property damage, consider each of the above factors and how it could affect your budget. You might end up having to adjust your original formula substantially.

Need help? Hire a property management service like Total Property Management. We offer maintenance and repair services in the Greenville and surrounding areas. 

If you’re interested in handing over the maintenance headaches to a highly professional management company, contact Total Property Management today for your free consultation!

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Should you Furnish Your Property?

August 27, 2018

To furnish or not to furnish – that is the question every landlord faces when considering how to market their rental property. While there is no simple answer to this question, there are a number of good reasons to furnish your property. Here are 6 ways landlords can benefit from furnishing their rental properties and some consideration of the downsides.

1. Furnishing Narrows Your Target Market

Pre-furnishing your rental properties is a great way to target a specific group of tenants as your ideal occupants. In particular, furnished rental properties appeal to people moving from a significant distance as well as young tenants renting their first place. For these groups, transporting furniture cross-country or buying an entire property worth of furniture at once may simply be out of the question due to cost. A slightly higher rental rate per month is often much more manageable.

2. Furnished Apartments Rent For More

Furnished properties are in high demand, and the combination of convenience and limited availability means that these properties list for more on the market. While there is obviously an initial financial outlay to furnish these apartments, that amount can be quickly recouped by increasing the rent.

What’s more, by choosing your furniture investments carefully – selecting items that can hold up to wear and tear and will last for years – landlords can easily make a significant additional profit by furnishing a property. Even with the need to occasionally replace certain staple items like tables and chairs, the overall financial picture tends to benefit landlords.

3. Furnishings Can Be Tax Deductible

As an independent business owner, landlords can benefit from certain tax breaks and deductions. By choosing to furnish your rental property, you are investing in a consumable product necessary to your business, and the purchases can typically be deducted as business costs. Since self-employment taxes can be otherwise onerous, most landlords are looking for any benefit or break that can save them money. Furniture investments can be just the break you need.

4. Pre-Furnished = Pre-Staged

One of the challenges that comes with advertising properties for rent stems from the issue of staging. Staging is the process of setting up a property with furniture and accessories that will make it look appealing. Often landlords don’t have many options when it comes to staging – they either take pictures of whatever the current tenant has put in the apartment or display only images of empty rooms. Neither of these make for great marketing. When you choose the furnishing, you also control your public image.

5. Décor Creates A Standardized Identity

As a landlord furnishing a property, you have many potential options. Some landlords may choose generally neutral items – brown couches, wood tables, neutral carpeting, and an overall beige look. Other landlords, however, take advantage of pre-furnishing properties by offering furniture with thematic features, often reflecting the local culture. 

6. Furnishing Can Reduce Maintenance Needs

It’s remarkable how much damage moving furniture in and out of a property can cause to the structure. Whether its chips and dents in the walls, carpet wear and tear, or scraped tiles, moving furniture is a hazard. This is especially the case when tenants attempt to move large pieces of furniture into a small places not built to handle them. Many landlords who pre-furnish properties find that the property maintenance needs are greatly reduced, and that also means reduced costs for you.

The Downside Of Furnishing

While furnishing your rental properties can yield great benefits for landlords, there are certainly reasons to skip furnishing and allow your tenants to take on that task. One of the most obvious reasons is related to upkeep. As a landlord, you already have extensive cleaning responsibilities when transitioning between tenants. By adding furnishings to the mix, landlords will also need to steam clean couches, check tables and chairs for damage, and decide what to keep, what to clean, and what to replace entirely. Many landlords simply aren’t interested in taking this on.

Another reason some landlords resist furnishing their properties is because they don’t want to manage irresponsible first time renters or short-term vacation rentals that can impinge upon space that could otherwise be occupied by a long-term tenant. By leaving properties unfurnished, landlords can narrow their potential rental pool to those who have experience renting and are choosing a place to settle down.

Some landlords choose to furnish their properties in order to open up more options – they can provide both furnished and unfurnished properties and attract a more diverse group of potential renters. Since the market for furnished properties isn’t saturated, typically they remain in high demand. Unfortunately, in some cases, unfurnished properties simply rent more quickly and in these cases landlords may find themselves having to store what furnishings they’ve purchased. While storage space for one property's furniture may not be a huge cost in the grand scheme of things, it can feel unnecessary and frustrating when landlords find themselves shelling out for garage space.

For landlords sitting on the fence about this issue, there is an option between furnishing your rental properties and leaving them bare: providing just the essentials. This strategy is a good one because it places some responsibility on the tenant while also easing their transition and increasing rental income. Landlords who provide a few lamps, a couch, a mattress, and a table and chairs also cultivate goodwill on the part of their tenants, while still allowing tenants to make the space their own.

Leaders In Property Management

If you’re a Greenville area landlord who needs property management assistance, contact Total Property Management today.  We can help you to decide how to best situate your rental properties to attract tenants and keep them happy. With experience, we can guide you to the perfect solutions to make your property stand out from the pack.

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8 Safety and Security Tips For Landlords

August 20, 2018

When you live a quiet, comfortable life without much conflict or trouble, it’s easy to feel like the world is good and everything is fine. However, when you start to interact with people from all different walks of life, you’ll realize that not everyone has the same good intentions and peaceful mentality. Don’t let this make you pessimistic, but do be cautious.

As a landlord, you have to hope for the best while expecting the worst in every situation. From a safety and security perspective, this means being vigilant of who you’re interacting with and what risks you face in each situation.

You may find the following tips helpful:

1. Carefully Screen Tenants

As a rule of thumb, you always want to screen tenants as carefully as possible. While most landlords simply do this to make sure they’re getting someone who will pay their rent on time, it’s equally important to check into a prospective tenant’s background.

It’s illegal to run a background check on a tenant without first getting their signed consent, so make sure you do this on your application form. If your application doesn’t have verbiage that asks for consent, be sure to provide a separate release form.

2. Always Let Someone Know Where You Are

As a landlord, one of the riskiest parts of your job is that you often find yourself behind closed doors with people you don’t really know that well. Whether it’s a property showing, maintenance request, or complaint, you’re often dealing with people in one-on-one situations.

In order to protect your safety and best interests, you need to make sure at least one person knows where you are at all times (or at least has a schedule of your day’s events). If something were to ever happen to you, this will serve you well.

3. Trust Your Instincts

It’s really important that you trust your instincts. While the vast majority of your interactions with tenants and other people will be fine, listen to that little voice in your brain that tells you something isn’t right.

“Beware of those who knock on your door at strange hours, either late at night or early in the morning. Again, no matter who they say they are, ask them to make an appointment at a more reasonable time,” Lew Sichelman writes for the Los Angeles Times. “If someone says he can view your house only at this particular moment, don’t believe him.”

4. Be Smart With Showings

While most landlords will never encounter a problem with a property showing, you should still be on high alert. In order to avoid finding yourself in a compromising situation, heed the following advice:

Only schedule showings during daylight hours.

Always arrive before the prospective tenant and turn on all lights and open up all blinds. If there is a storm door, open up the inside door so that neighbors can see through the storm door.

Try not to turn your back on a tenant when showing the property. Always keep the individual in front of you and don’t walk into a room first. This is a simple safety tactic that helps you stay more aware of your surroundings.

Always try to schedule multiple showings back to back (and let them know you’re doing this). Not only is this efficient, but it ensures you aren’t alone for long.

5. Don’t Use Your Home Address

It’s best not to use your home address for communications with tenants and prospective tenants. If you need to collect rent, it’s best to use a P.O. box, drop box, or electronic deposit system.

6. Be Prepared to Defend Yourself

While it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever be put in a position where you need to protect yourself from physical harm, it’s important that you know how.

Some landlords find it empowering to take a self-defense class to learn the basics of fending off an attack. Others choose to use their second amendment rights to carry a concealed handgun. If you feel like either of these options will make you safer, feel free to pursue them.

7. Know How to Deescalate Arguments

If you’re a landlord for long enough, you’ll occasionally find yourself in the middle of an argument with a tenant. These arguments typically have to do with rent payments, repair requests, or neighbor complaints. Either way, you need to know how to deescalate these arguments before they get too serious.

Arguments usually escalate because we let our emotional minds take over in a heated situation. While it can feel good to snap, yell, or say something snarky, it usually makes the argument worse.

“Try your best to ignore the emotional content of the other person’s argument (including personal insults or attacks) and focus on the core issue that requires working through toward a compromise or concession,” psychologist John M. Grohol suggests.

8. Don’t be Naïve

Finally, don’t be so naïve to think that everyone has your best interests in mind all of the time. While someone may seem kind, friendly, and safe, you have to remember that people are good at putting on an image.

Do you really know the tenant you’ve met twice and briefly communicate with once every couple of months? Probably not. Stay on guard and take everything people say or do with a grain of salt. You’re providing a place for a tenant to live. You aren’t called to be their best friend.

Total Property Management

At Total Property Management, it’s our goal to make your life as a Greenville landlord easier, safer, and more profitable. Through our comprehensive property management services, we allow you to experience the rewards of being a landlord without having to be directly involved in all of the minor details and time-consuming tasks that so often turn people away from managing real estate.

For additional information on how we can help you achieve your real estate goals, please contact us at your earliest convenience. We’d be happy to offer you a comprehensive property evaluation.

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Seven Tips To Help You Get Over Your Fear of Real Estate Investing

August 13, 2018

The ROI of real estate investing is well known. In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find any investment vehicle that delivers a higher return than real estate over a three-, five-, or ten-year period.

So, why do so many people with the means to invest in real estate never give it a go? Contrary to popular belief, it’s not laziness or complacency. In most cases, a failure to invest has more to do with fear than anything else.

7 Tips for Overcoming Your Fears

Investing in real estate can be scary – there’s no question about it. It typically involves a large sum of money (relatively speaking) and, at least the first time around, an enormous amount of uncertainty. Most people are okay with putting up a large sum of money for something or taking on some uncertainty, but they normally don’t look for situations in which both are involved at the same time. Unfortunately, real estate investing happens to exist at the convergence of these ideas.

There’s no way to completely eliminate risk in real estate investing, but there are ways to overcome your fear of that risk. So, without further ado, let’s investigate some of the practical action steps you can take.

1. Take Inventory of Your Fears

In order to overcome your fears, you have to first identify them and acknowledge they exist. We’ll call this taking inventory of your fears. In an effort to prime your brain, here are some of the most common fears people have:

Not having enough money

Losing money

Incorrectly timing the market

Unforeseen issues with a property

Not having time to manage the property

You may have all of these fears, or yours may fall into totally different categories. The point is that we all have them and must be honest enough to acknowledge their presence.

2. Imagine the Worst-Case Scenario

Once you’ve identified your fears, you can take a moment to be a pessimist. Try imagining the worst-case scenario. If everything went wrong – which is highly unlikely that it will – what would the result be?

Most people realize that the actual worst-case scenario isn’t nearly as bad as they assume. Sure, you might lose money, or your pride may take a hit, but you’ll still be standing at the end of the day. It’s not that nothing bad can happen, but that the negatives aren’t life-threatening (and generally they aren’t anywhere close.) Once you realize this, everything else sort of pales in comparison.

3. Educate Yourself

Imagining worst-case scenarios gives you a sort of baseline to work with. From here, you can begin to take proactive steps that will help you avoid ending up in these scenarios. And at this stage, education is the primary vehicle through which you’ll grow.

There’s an abundance of knowledge on the internet and you can begin educating yourself with nothing more than a computer and an internet connection. Gather information from as many different resources as possible and always be of the mindset that there’s more to learn.

4. Build a Support Network

Reading a book will help you gain a bit of confidence. Immersing yourself in an online message board or chat room will grow your confidence even more. But if you really want to feel like you’re moving in the right direction, you need to build up your own personal support network of people who can answer questions, provide assistance, and offer guidance on the issues you’re dealing with.

5. Focus on a Specific Niche

A lot of people shrivel up and succumb to paralysis by analysis as a result of not knowing what they want to do. They can’t decide if they want to invest in land, single-family homes, multi-family homes, apartment buildings, mobile home parks, house flipping, wholesaling, etc. As a result, they’re exposed to a fire hydrant of information that eventually causes them tap out.

In order to overcome your fears, you need to focus on a specific niche (at least initially) and block everything else out. This will help you build your confidence and expertise.

6. Do Your Due Diligence

Have ever heard a real estate investing guru say something like, “Don’t be afraid. Just do your first deal.” While there is a hint of truth to this, be careful not to invest prematurely. There’s something to be said for doing your due diligence and eliminating as many risk factors as possible. The greatest antidote to your fear of real estate investing is finding success on your first deal. From this point on, you realize that success is possible and you’re willing to do it again and again.

7. Move Towards Your Fear

Have you ever had a fear in your life – such as a fear of an animal, like a dog or cat – that suddenly dissipated once you were actually forced to confront that fear? Research has shown that being exposed to the thing that you’re afraid of actually has a way of making it seem less intimidating. The idea is that most fear isn’t rooted in reality – something you discover when you actually experience it firsthand – which is why it’s a good idea to run towards your real estate investing fears.

“The objective here is not to eradicate fear. Fear is important,” real estate professional Julie Broad explains. “The day you stop fearing you could make a mistake is almost always the day you screw up big time. Fear will keep you checking in to make sure you’re taking precautions. Let fear do it’s job to keep you safe but do not let it anchor you.”

Total Property Management, LLC

When it comes to hiring a property management service for your investment properties, you have options. There are a variety of individuals and companies to choose from. Some will offer you a cost-effective price point, while others will provide lots of different services.

At Total Property Management, we don’t force our clients to compromise. We offer a comprehensive selection of property management services at a competitive price point that allows you to keep more of your profits. For additional information, or a free property analysis, please contact us today!

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Our First Blog Entry

August 6, 2018

As a landlord, one of the biggest stressors is collecting rent. Even if it typically gets paid on time, you’re still left with a little anxiety at the beginning of each month. The reality is that it’s just not efficient to collect rent through the mail or in person. If you want to make the process as safe and painless as possible, you need to consider online rental payments.

How Online Rent Collection Works

Is there anything that the internet hasn’t changed? Whereas landlords once had to wait on checks to arrive in the mail each month, it’s now possible to electronically send and receive payments in a matter of seconds.

Online rent collection is actually really simple. Think of it like any traditional online bill payment system that you would use to pay your mortgage, car loan, or cable bill. Rent payment platforms draft money from the tenant’s bank each month and transfer it to your account. It’s quick to set up, can be automated, and requires very little setup for either party.

If you handle all of your landlord duties on your own, you’ll have to find a stand alone rent collection solution. There are a handful of good choices available, with both free and paid options. Many landlords swear by Cozy, a free platform, but there are plenty of other choices, including Appfolio, Buildium, and Rentec Direct.

If you work with a property management company, there’s a good chance they have an online rent collection option in their package. Either way – whether you’re on your own or you use a property management company – it’s a good idea to leverage an online rent collection solution.

Why You Need to Collect Online Rental Payments

As you can likely deduce from how rent collection solutions work, automatically collecting rent online is extremely valuable. Just how valuable, though? Here are a few of the top benefits you’ll enjoy after transitioning from manual collection to online collection:

1. Get Paid Faster

Every landlord wants to get paid on time every month, yet few actually do. This doesn’t always mean you have terrible tenants in your properties. Sometimes it’s just the nature of manual rent collection. For local landlords, it can take a day or two to collect rent checks through the mail. For out of town landlords, that time frame may extend to three, four, or even five days.

When you use an online rent collection solution, there’s no delay. The rent arrives in your bank account within seconds of leaving the tenant’s account. How’s that for getting paid on time every month?

2. Fewer Excuses

Late rent excuses are extremely common. In fact, it’s incredible how many different and unique excuses a single tenant can come up with. Have you heard any of the following?

• “I sent my check last week. The post office must have lost it.”

• “My daughter just had a baby and I had to help her out.”

• “I’m still waiting on my check from the government, it must have gotten lost.”

• “My kids just started school, I’ll have the money next month.”

• “Sorry, the first of the month was on a Sunday.”

• “The weather was bad, so I didn’t want to drive over and drop off the check.”

• “We decided we’re going to move out and figured we didn’t have to pay this month.”

While some of these are humorous, the reality is that late rent payments are never funny. And honestly, handling late rent excuses time after time gets pretty old after a while. That’s why online rent collection is such a beautiful thing. It removes any opportunity for a tenant to come up with an excuse. Rent is automatically drafted each month and if you don’t get paid, you know it’s because there’s no money in their account.

3. More Convenient for Everyone

paying rent online with your cell phone and credit card

Online rent payments aren’t just more convenient for you, they’re also easier on your tenants. They don’t have to remember to write a check, buy stamps, and place the envelope in the mailbox every month. Or, if they typically drop off their check in person, they don’t have to spend time driving to your home or office.

From your end, you don’t have to wait for the check to arrive and then deal with cashing it. The payment simply shows up in your account every month without any effort on your part. It’s simple, convenient, and streamlined.

4. Safer and More Secure

Collecting rent through the mail isn’t the safest strategy. Checks can get lost, stolen, or misplaced. However, when you collect rent via an online payment solution, the money is directly transferred from the tenant’s account to yours. This direct deposit nature of the system means there’s much less risk associated with collecting payments.

5. More Consistency

If you have tenants who pay on the same day every month, you’re lucky. Most landlords have to deal with inconsistent rent collection. One tenant may deposit their check on the 30th of every month, another on the first, and another on the third. When you’re collecting rent, this makes bookkeeping a little more challenging. Things can get messy and disorganized – especially if someone doesn’t pay at all.

When you collect rent online, you can standardize collection. For example, you can set up all payments to process at 10am on the first of the month. This simplifies your accounting process and lets the tenant know exactly when their rent will be debited.

Being a landlord comes with a lot of responsibilities. The more of these tasks you can delegate or remove from your plate, the better. At Total Property Management, we understand this. That’s why we offer extensive property management solutions for Greenville landlords that don’t have the time to deal with all of the time-consuming tasks that come along with owning and managing rental properties.

If you’re in need of a property management team that can handle rent collection, tenant screening, property marketing, and everything in between, let us know! We’re the premier property management company in the area and would love the opportunity to welcome you into the Total Property Management family.

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Six Simple and Effective Ways To Make A House Smell Good

July 30, 2018

Smell is a funny thing. All it takes is one whiff of something and your mind can be taken to a totally different place.

For many, fresh cut grass takes them back to summers playing baseball in the backyard. Popcorn is associated with movie theaters. That one perfume your best friend wears reminds you of high school prom. There are smells you don’t even know you’ve committed to memory until you encounter them again many years later – such as your grandparent’s house.

Whether you realize it or not, your house has a certain smell, too. For the most part, you’re oblivious to it. You spend so much time in your house, that you’ve grown accustomed to the way it smells. But every now and then, you’ll smell something that isn’t pleasant and you’ll start to worry: Does my house smell bad?

The truth is that your house has good days and bad days. However, it should be your goal to have more of the former than the latter. You want your house to smell good all the time – both for your sanity and for your guest’s sake.

Common Culprits of a Smelly House

In order to make your house smell good, you have to first understand what makes it smell bad. Some of the common culprits include:

Food. From spoiled meat in the refrigerator to stale bread in the pantry, food has a way of stinking up your house if not disposed of within the right time frame.

Clothes. Your teenage son’s pile of dirty clothes in his room is more than an eyesore – it actually stinks up the house and contributes to that musty smell that wafts from his room.

Pets. We all love our fury little friends, but they have a way of stinking up your house. Dogs, cats, birds…it doesn’t matter. If you have pets in the house, they will contribute to your home’s smell.

HVAC system. For homes with central air, the cleanliness of your air vents has an impact on the smell of your house. If they’re filled with dust and mold, all of the air released in your home will be contaminated on some level.

Lack of cleaning. If you’re not a clean freak, your house probably has dust, dirt, and other buildup from months or years of activity. As you may suspect, this can have an impact on the smell of your house.

Trash. You shouldn’t just take out the trash when it’s full. It also needs to be disposed of when particularly smelly items are thrown away.

6 Ways to make Your House Smell Good

When you’re cognizant of the different factors that influence your home’s scent, it becomes possible to eliminate stenches and make your house smell good around the clock. Let’s take a look at a few particularly effective strategies:

1. Keep Problem Areas Clean

Making your house smell good starts with maintaining a clean house. While you’re probably decent at keeping the main room of your home clean, don’t forget about those areas that don’t get as much use. This includes guest bedrooms, basements, and little study nooks.

By cleaning all rooms on a regular basis – not just when they’ve been used a lot – you can stay ahead of nasty smells and keep your house fresh.

2. Open Up the Windows

When you think about it, your house is essentially an enclosed capsule. While you have air blowing in through vents, you’re also trapping everything in between four walls, a floor, and a ceiling. If you want your house to smell better, you need to let in some fresh air every now and then.

Whenever the weather allows, open up some windows in the home – preferably on two sides, and let a breeze blow through. This forces bad air out and good air in.

3. Diffuse Essential Oils

By now, most people are catching on to the fact that burning candles releases toxins into the air. So while that Anthropologie candle may smell great, it might not be the best thing for air quality.

A healthier, safer solution is to diffuse essential oils. All you need is a diffuser, some of your favorite oils, and a little bit of water. Just a couple of drops will make your house smell good for hours.

4. Simmer Scents on the Stove

As you’ve probably noticed, whatever you’re cooking on the stove seems to affect the smell of your entire house. If you’re making something like cookies, this is great. If it’s broccoli, not so much. But who says you have to be making dinner to enjoy the benefits of pleasant cooking aromas?

A favorite trick of many homemakers is to simmer water in a small saucepan and add in things like cinnamon sticks, citrus slices, herbs, mint, or lavender.

5. Clean the Carpet

Carpet has a way of trapping smells – especially if you have pets. The problem is that you don’t always know unless you literally get on your hands and knees and smell it.

Before vacuuming your carpet, you may try sprinkling a combination of baking soda and ground cinnamon (depending on the color of your carpet) and letting it sit for a an hour. When you do vacuum, you’ll spread this around and leave a nice smell behind.

6. Use Air Fresheners in Vents

While there’s no substitute for having your air vents cleaned on a semi-regular basis, you can help the air in your home smell better by attaching little air fresheners (the kind you would put in your car) to the outsides of vents.

Success is in the Details

When it comes to renting a house, most people feel like it’s all about getting the big picture right. But when you really drill down and look at the process, it’s apparent that success is found in the details.

At Total Property Management, we recognize the importance of balancing the big picture with the finer details and would love to help you lease your home. Contact us today and we’ll tell you more about how our flat fee rate and how we can make this oh so easy!

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What Credit Score Should You Look For In A Tenant?

July 23, 2018

When you have a vacancy at your property, you’ll be tempted to fill it as soon as possible. But in most cases, it’s better to carefully screen your tenants, so you can be sure you fill the property with a candidate who will pay you consistently, on time, and preferably for as long a period as possible.

One of the simplest screening tools accessible to landlords is checking a tenant’s credit score. But what’s the best credit score to look for, and why is it so important in the first place?

Why a Credit Score?

A credit score, kept by the three main credit bureaus, is a numerical score typically between 350 and 850 (though this may vary based on the source) that indicates a person’s personal credit history. Generally, the higher this number is, the better.

A tenant’s credit score will oftentimes reflect their past fiscal responsibility. For example, frequent missed payments or delinquencies will have a negative impact on their score, while a history of good payment will increase it. A credit score can also change based on the amount of debt a person has, and how much credit they have available to them. In short, it can give you a rough indication of whether this person is likely to pay you consistently and on time, and how reliable they are in general.

How to Check a Credit Score

If you’re going to check a tenant’s credit score, you’ll need to have access to their full legal name, their previous addresses, their social security number, their date of birth, and preferably, their current employer. You can ask for this information on your tenant applications. From there, you can use one of the three main credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) to run a credit check.

Assuming you have that, how can you tell what’s a “good” score for tenants?

The Problem With the Ideal

Obviously, the higher the credit score is, the more fiscally responsible and the less risky a prospective tenant will be. A credit score of 720 to 850 is considered “excellent,” and typically has little to no trouble securing loans, making payments, and taking other financial actions. Similarly, a score of 690 to 720 is considered “good,” and is only a step behind “excellent.”

If you can get a tenant with a high credit score, you should probably nab them. The problem is, by the time most people get this good a credit score, they’re financially established enough to buy a place of their own—especially if it’s much cheaper to buy than it is to rent in your area. That means if you want a chance at filling your vacancies with reasonable speed, you’ll need to lower your standards a bit.

Your Target Range

The lower end of “good” credit scores and the “fair” credit score range (650 to 690) are good targets for landlords trying to fill vacancies. This range isn’t perfect; they’ve likely had some trouble with payments in the past, or might have significant standing debt, but they aren’t so far gone that they can be considered unreliable.

They might also have trouble pulling together the down payment money or paperwork necessary to buy a home, which makes them prime candidates as tenants.

The Benefits of Lower Credit Scores

Dipping into lower credit scores, in the “poor” range (below 650) is somewhat risky, but there are some potential benefits here. If you open your house to someone with a lower credit score, you may be able to charge more rent; people with problematic pasts may have trouble getting approved elsewhere. You might also be able to take advantage of a Section 8 housing program.

No Credit?

So what if a person has no credit? These people don’t have any significant financial history (good or bad) and are the tenant equivalent of a wild card. You shouldn’t base your decision entirely on a person’s lack of credit, though objectively, they represent a higher risk than someone with an excellent credit score. You’ll have to rely on other variables and indicators of financial responsibility to flesh out your decision and make an objective call.

Other Variables to Consider

No matter what type of credit score range you’re considering, you should look at these other variables in a person’s profile before you make a final decision:

Someone with a low credit score may still be able to make routine payments, in full and on time, if they have a decent, consistent employer. Conversely, even a person with a good credit score may be a risk if they don’t have a consistent job or line of income.

You may also inquire about the prospective tenant’s history with other renting arrangements. If you can, call their previous landlord and ask what their previous payment history and overall demeanor has been like. You might be surprised at the answer.

Family status. It’s illegal to discriminate tenants based on their family status, but you might be able to gauge a tenant’s responsibility based on whether they’re living alone or with children.

Make sure to have a one-on-one conversation with any tenant you’re considering accepting. You’ll be able to get a feel for the tenant’s personality and attitude, which may be strong indicators of their responsibility and accountability. You’ll also get the chance to ask them specific questions about their past—which is a good idea if there are questionable records on their credit report.

Tenant screening is going to be a pain, no matter what type of tenant you’re looking for or what kind of property you have to offer. Learning more about credit scores can make things easier, but it won’t make the problem a simple one. If you’re interested in lightening the load on yourself, consider talking to a property management specialist, like us here at Total Property Management. Reach out to us today, and we’ll help you understand how Total Property Management can make your tenant screening—and your life as a landlord—easier.

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How To Turn A Dump Into An Attractive REntal Property In Just One Weekend

July 16, 2018

Savvy real estate investors and landlords know that you make your money when you buy. And if you want to purchase a property below market value, it typically means you’re going to be investing in properties that need a little TLC.

The real deals are often found near the bottom of the market with properties that seem to be in bad shape. Most people will shy away from these properties because they assume it’ll take weeks or months to rehab them back into shape. However, if you’re picking properties that have good “bones,” there’s no reason why you can’t have them turned around within a weekend. Seriously.

How to Transform Your New Rental Property

If you close on a house on Friday morning and want to have it ready to rent by Monday morning, that gives you roughly 72 hours to perform an overhaul. While this doesn’t leave you much room for error – and you can’t afford any big, unexpected surprises – it gives you plenty of time to cosmetically transform what appears to be a dated and run-down property.

Here are the seven things you need to do:

Replace the Carpet

In a dated property, you’re usually going to find cheap flooring materials – like carpet, linoleum, or vinyl. Occasionally, you’ll find original hardwood, but this would be rare (and would require considerable time and money to refinish).

For the purposes of this conversation, let’s assume you’re dealing with old carpet that’s seen better days. Removing the carpet is as easy as going around the edges with a pry bar and pulling it up. You can then roll up the carpet and toss it in a dumpster.

Now, installing new carpet is a little more difficult. If you don’t have any experience installing carpet, you’ll probably want to call a professional to handle the job. A small house can be carpeted in just a few hours. That means you can go from old, ragged carpet to fresh, clean carpet by Friday night.

Paint the Walls

The next step is to paint the walls. Not only will this give the house a fresh look, but it’ll also make the property smell brand new.

For a rental property, it’s best to paint the entire house one neutral color. Whites, beiges, and grays are ideal. And if you aren’t picky about the exact color, you can probably find some cheap options at your local hardware store. Depending on how big the house is (and how much help you have), painting can be done in just a few hours.

Address the Kitchen

With fresh flooring and walls, your transformation is well underway. Now you need to focus on the kitchen, which is one of the first things prospective renters will consider.

If you’re going to pay a premium for any renovations, this is where you want to spend your money. Some of the easiest and most cost-effective renovations include: painting cabinets, replacing cabinet hardware, installing new backsplash, and updating appliances.

While this may sound like a lot, it’s actually not that difficult. Painting the cabinets is perhaps the most difficult step (but this is only necessary in certain situations). Cabinetry hardware can be replaced very quickly with a power drill. The backsplash products they sell at the big box stores often come in rolls that can be glued in place with relative ease. Buying appliances is as simple as clicking the “order” button online.

You aren’t going to perform a luxury home kitchen remodel in one afternoon, but that’s not what you’re going for. All you’re trying to do is update an out-of-date home and make it look presentable for your renters.

Pressure Wash Outside

If the home is dated on the inside, then chances are pretty good that the house has been neglected on the outside. Now that the interior has been updated to your liking, it’s time to think about curb appeal.

One of the first things you should do is pressure wash the outside. Pay attention to siding, porches, decks, driveways, and walkways. You’ll be amazed by how much better the property will look when you remove the dirt and grime that’s accumulated over the years.

Clean Up Landscaping

The next step is to address the landscaping. This means pruning bushes and branches, pulling weeds, mowing the lawn, planting flowers, and getting rid of trash and debris that’s gathered. You don’t need an HGTV-worthy lawn, but you do want it to look nice.

Have the House Professionally Cleaned

At this point, the house is looking pretty good. All you’ve done is replace carpet, repaint the walls, update the kitchen, and address the curb appeal, but the property probably looks 10-times better than it did when you purchased it.

At this point, you’re essentially done. However, do your hard work justice and go ahead and pay for the property to be professionally cleaned. This will save you time and ensure that every look nook and cranny is dealt with.

Hire a Property Manager

At this point, you’re probably feeling optimistic. In just 72 hours, you’ve purchased a rundown property below market value, fixed it up, and can rent it at a competitive rate. In fact, you’re feeling so encouraged that you think to yourself, “Why can’t I repeat this process a few more times?”

In order to ensure repeatability (and maintain your sanity), it’s a smart idea to hire a property manager to handle the rest of the process for you. From property marketing and tenant screening to collecting rent and handling future maintenance issues, a property manger will do the heavy lifting so that you can focus on stretching your dollars further.

Contact Total Property Management Today!

At Total Property Management, we have an intimate understanding of the Greenville real estate market and have helped our clients manage their rental properties. If you’re interested in making your experience as a real estate investor and landlord as easy as possible, we’ve got you covered. Contact us today and we’d be happy to walk you through our comprehensive property management services.

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Five Problems Every Landlord Eventually Deals With

July 9, 2018

There are plenty of benefits that come with investing in rental properties and becoming a landlord. Not only do you (hopefully) enjoy the perks of an appreciating asset, but you also acquire some extra monthly cash flow and learn what it’s like to make money with real estate.

However, landlording is far from the easy and effortless job that many would like you to think it is. It’s difficult, stressful, time-consuming, and – at times – gut-wrenching. If you’re in the business for any period of time at all, you’re going to eventually deal with some of the following issues and problems.

Late Rent Payment

Good tenant screening processes will help you avoid putting deadbeats in your properties, but it doesn’t solve every issue. Sometimes even the best tenant falls on hard times and, halfway through their lease, suddenly can’t pay rent.

When you have a rude and combative tenant, it’s fairly easy to go after them and start the eviction process. (Typically, this is enough to get them to fork over the money.) The more problematic scenario is when you have a good, well-intentioned tenant who is going through a rough patch. You don’t want to throw them out on the streets, but you’re running a business – not a charity.

The key is to have a clear lease agreement and be firm with your rules. The moment you let a tenant pay rent a day late without consequence, they gain the upper hand in the relationship. Stick to your guns early on and it will be easier to take action later.

Neighbor Disturbances

Late rent payments are between you and the tenant. However, there are times when other people will get involved. For example, landlords often have to mediate issues with neighbors.

As we’ve discussed on this blog before, rental properties come with a legal covenant known as the right to quiet enjoyment. This covenant states that the tenant’s lease entitles them to certain rights that make life peaceful and private – such as reasonable privacy, freedom from disturbances, exclusive possession of the property, and use of common areas without interference.

If one of your tenants believes a next-door neighbor is violating their right to quiet enjoyment, they’re going to call you and request the situation be handled – regardless of whether the neighbor is one of your tenants or not. On the flip side, don’t be surprised if a neighbor contacts you one day to complain about your tenant.

“In some cases, complaints also come from the local police department and city hall, which issue fines to property owners for code violations such as failure to cut grass to maximum height,” Ron White writes for SF Gate. “Code violations often result in fines, and those fines ordinarily are charged to the landlord rather than to the tenants.”

Situations like these will really test you. You need to know what you’re going to do before you find yourself in a position like this. Otherwise, you’ll find it challenging to take a stance.

Helpless Tenants

If you’re a landlord long enough, you’ll interact with a variety of tenants. One of the more common stereotypes is the “helpless tenant.”

Helpless tenants are the people who call you every single time they have a problem. Not just when there’s a big problem – like the water heater stops working – but also when there’s a tiny problem – like a roach in the kitchen or a simple clogged toilet.

Helpless tenants are frustrating because they make everything seem like a big deal. Whereas most tenants will handle these problems on their own, they don’t seem capable of doing anything without first involving you in the situation.

The key is to find a way to help your tenants when they really do need assistance, while not enabling behavior that you know is foolish or unreasonable. Strict lease agreements help in this area.

Property Damage

There’s a reason you collect a security deposit when a tenant moves in. There’s almost always going to be some wear and tear at the end of a lease; you should expect to patch a couple of drywall holes, pay for a cleaning service, and fix small plumbing issues. But you’ll occasionally run across a situation where there’s rather extensive property damage to your house.

Once the property damage is done, you’re pretty much out of luck. While you can certainly use the security deposit, it may not pay for everything. In these scenarios, prevention is the best method. By inspecting the property periodically throughout the lease, you can hold tenants accountable and significantly reduce the risk of extensive damage.

Overwhelming Stress and Anxiety

There will be periods of time where money comes in and everything seems to be running like a well-oiled machine. Then there will be moments, like the ones discussed in this article, which lead to feelings of overwhelming stress and anxiety.

The good news is that you don’t have to deal with all of these issues and problems on your own. With a professional property management service, you can pay someone to take care of these issues while you focus on the big picture.

As with any job, there are plenty of pros and cons to being a landlord. While it’s easy to focus on the benefits and ignore the negatives, this ultimately does prospective landlords a disservice. If you want a full and accurate picture of what it’s like to invest in rental properties, you need to be equally aware of the good, bad, and ugly.

At Total Property Management, it’s our goal to help clients manage the challenging aspects that come with being a landlord. From property marketing and tenant screening to rent collection and even evictions, we can handle it all. Contact us today to get started

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8 Things Your Tenants Need To Know

July 2, 2018

In addition to clarifying your expectations for rent, here are 8 of the most important things you can help your tenants understand:

The rent due date is not negotiable

If your tenant is struggling to pay rent on time and can’t seem to come up with the money on a consistent date, that’s a bad sign. When your tenant first signed the lease, that was their opportunity to negotiate the date their rent would be officially due. If there isn’t a specific date that does work for them, they may be in bigger trouble.

No matter how well you know your tenant’s financial situation, avoid giving them the impression that they can pay their rent on different dates. Do whatever it takes to get your tenant to understand that the rent due date is not negotiable.

It’s understandable that circumstances change over time, and perhaps your tenant has changed jobs and has a new pay cycle. That’s different. If that’s what’s going on, you can adjust the due date going forward.

How to shut off the water at every point

It’s dangerous to assume that everyone knows how to shut off the water when needed. If a tenant hasn’t needed to perform a repair, it’s unlikely they’ll know how to shut off the water.

If your tenant doesn’t know how to shut off the water in an emergency situation, you could end up with severe water damage to your property. If you’ve got hardwood floors or any type of flooring that could be easily damaged by water, this is an especially important piece of information to share with tenants.

Make sure you have every new tenant practice turning off the water in front of you. If you just point out the levers when you walk them through the house, they might forget what to do when a pipe actually bursts.

Don’t forget the well water

If there’s a well on your property, make sure the tenant knows how to shut off the water supply to the hand pump, too. People usually hook up garden hoses to hand pumps, and if they forget to put away the hoses in winter, the connection could burst in a freeze.

This video of a man trying to contain a bursting flow of water shows the extent of damage that can occur when the water doesn’t get shut off immediately. Don’t hesitate to show a video like this to your tenants to let them know their personal belongings are at risk of being damaged, too.

How to turn off the gas

Whether you have a gas stove or furnace, your tenants need to know how to shut it off at all sources. In any emergency situation, such as a suspected gas leak, your tenant should know to dial 911. However, there are other circumstances where they may need to shut off the gas.

If you’re running propane on your property, your tenant needs to know how it works. Teach them how to open and close the valve on the large storage tank as well as the valve for the main source that leads to the house.

The shutting down of any gas-powered appliances located in the home should also be discussed.

Communication leads to better resolution

If you’ve ever had a tenant who doesn’t communicate, you can surely appreciate the ones who do. Your tenants need to know that hiding out isn’t going to help their situation.

For instance, if they can’t pay their rent, ignoring your phone calls and not contacting you for several days isn’t acceptable. They need to know you’ll have more respect for them, and be willing to work with them, when they make the effort to communicate.

Frozen pipes can and do burst

There is a special tubing material that can withstand the expansion that accompanies a frozen pipe. This special material doesn’t burst. However, you may not have that advantage and instead, you have to rely on your tenants to remember to drip the faucet on cold nights.

In a perfect world, your tenants would remember to look at the temperature daily in the winter, so they know when to drip the faucets. In reality, you may need to call them to remind them of a coming freeze.

If you haven’t already insulated your pipes and the areas they run through, check out this informational video from This Old House for some tips and tricks.

Report everything that breaks

Your tenants may not think certain things are a big deal when they break, especially when they’re used to landlords who don’t bother with major repairs. If that’s what they’re used to, they’ll be in the habit of creating workarounds.

For instance, when their cat ruins the blinds, they’ll just put up a blanket. Or when the toilet starts leaking, they’ll wrap a towel around the base. To your tenant, that might seem like a perfectly acceptable way to handle the problem.

Let your tenants know the importance of reporting everything that breaks. What’s minor to them may not be minor to you. Not everything will require fixing, but it should always be your call.

Landlords value the truth

Life happens, and tenants get themselves into situations they’d rather not discuss with their landlord. That’s fine when the situation doesn’t affect their ability to pay rent or involve property damage. However, sometimes it does, and your tenant tells you a story you don’t quite believe.

Tenants aren’t usually trying to be dishonest; they hide the truth when they’re embarrassed to tell you what actually happened. However, if their kid flushes a toy down the toilet, you need to know the truth, so you can solve the problem as quickly as possible.

When a tenant signs the lease, especially when they have kids, let them know that you understand things can happen beyond their control. Tell them you value the truth about every situation above everything else. Make sure they understand that telling the truth when something embarrassing happens is only going to earn your trust.

Let Total Property Management Help

We can’t prevent kids from flushing toys down the toilet, but we can help you build better relationships with your tenants through our professional property management services.

We make life easier for Greenville and it's surrounding area Home Owners by screening tenants, collecting rent, and handling those late-night emergency maintenance calls. Call us today for a no obligation quote to find out how we can help you with these services and more

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Tips on Managing Multiple properties:

June 25, 2018

Anyone can manage one rental property at a time. While it’s not always easy – and there’s a bit of a learning curve associated with it – it’s certainly manageable. But things start to get a little more challenging when you add multiple properties into the mix.

Multiple properties mean multiple tenants, multiple problems, multiple rent checks, and multiple headaches. If you’re going to put yourself in a position where you’re investing in multiple rental properties at once, you need a strategy for how you’re going to manage these properties.

Otherwise, you’re going to lose both your sanity and the shirt off your back.

One of the exciting things about real estate investing is that it starts to snowball. While it may take you a while to save up the money for a down payment on your first property, the second one comes much faster. The third and fourth ones are even easier. Before you know it, you have a large portfolio of properties and the passive income starts rolling in.

Unfortunately, the idea of passive income is often very overrated by those who don’t understand what it takes to successfully manage rental properties. If you want to find success – and enjoy some of the profits – you need a plan of attack.

When managing multiple properties, you can’t afford to be disorganized. Misplacing documents can lead to huge financial consequences and set you up for disaster down the road.

“From rental applications and invoices, to leases and inspection checklists, real estate investors tend to have a fair amount of paperwork to keep together for even a single property,” Kristy DeSmit writes for LawDepot. “With multiple rentals, it becomes a matter of survival to implement an organizational system for your business.”

Every landlord has a unique filing system they use to keep documents organized. Some choose to organize by property, while others prefer to file papers by tenant. Some even create a per-month-per-property filing system. Find something that works for you and stick with it.

If you have honest, cooperative, and trustworthy tenants who respect your property, pay on time, and don’t attempt to hide issues, your job as a landlord will be a breeze. If, on the other hand, you have dishonest tenants who trash your property and never pay on time, your life is going to be a living hell.

The number one piece of advice is to meticulously screen tenants and only sign lease agreements with people you feel confident in. While you won’t be able choose good tenants with 100 percent accuracy, you’ll end up with far more good tenants than bad ones when you use sound screening principles.

When you have multiple properties in your portfolio, you’ll discover that there’s tremendous value in repeatability. The more you can repeat processes from one property to the next, the more time and energy you’ll save.

Not only should you be using the same lease agreement from property to property, but you also need to have consistency in rent collection methods, screening practices, ongoing maintenance, landscaping, taxes, and other important issues. This leads to less confusion and greater profitability (both short-term and long-term).

You never want to intrude on the privacy of your tenants, but one of the best things you can do is schedule regular visits where you check in and see the property. This gives you a chance to build a relationship with your tenants and see for yourself if there are any issues or red flags. Once per quarter is a pretty good rule of thumb.

Turnover kills landlords. Not only does it increase the amount of work you have to do, but it also hurts your cash flow and forces you to throw money at things like cleaning and property marketing. By finding a way to minimize turnover, you can remove this burden from your plate.

From a very practical point of view, you should focus on fostering better relationships with your tenants. In response, your tenants are much less likely to just “up and move” whenever they feel like it.

“In addition to forming a relationship with your tenants, you can also offer incentives for lease renewal,” LandlordStation suggests. “If certain tenants have stayed for a few years, you can offer them a week or a month rent-free, for example. You can also offer a gift card (or some other form of a gift) to tenants who decide to renew their lease.”

While there are far more pros than cons, one of the downsides of being a landlord is that it’s hard to punch out. Whether it’s a Monday morning or a Saturday night, you always feel like you’re on the clock. And the more properties you have, the more this becomes true.

The key is to force yourself to turn off the phone and prioritize work-life balance. Even if it’s just a couple of hours per day, you need this time to yourself.

There’s certainly some value in managing all of your rental properties on your own. Not only does it allow you to save money, but it also gives you control over every aspect of the process. However, there comes a point in time where it simply isn’t practical any longer.

Hiring a property manager to help you out with the day-to-day responsibilities of managing multiple rentals is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. It’ll allow you to truly experience passive income at its best.

At Total Property Management, LLC, we’ve built a reputation as the most reliable and trustworthy property management company in the Greenville area. Whether you have one property or 50 properties spread out around the Greater Greenville area, we can help you manage your investments, maximize cash flow, and maintain peace of mind.

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Learn How To Become Good At Saying No:

June 11, 2018

Landlord Pro Tip: Learn How to Become Good at Saying “No”

Naturally, most of us are Yes People. Saying yes is easy, comfortable, and non-combative. When it comes to new opportunities, saying yes is easier than the alternative, which could lead to regret. Unfortunately, the more successful we get, the more opportunities, choices, and requests we’re going to encounter. Continuing to be a Yes Person eventually becomes crippling.

As a landlord, you have to learn how to say no. You don’t necessary want to become a No Person, but you should stop looking at the word in a negative light. Saying no can be challenging, but it’s often the best thing you can do for your career and sanity.

Successful People Know How to Say No

“We have an instinctive need for connection to other people—it’s essential to our survival. We worry that saying no will break these bonds,” says Vanessa Bohns. “Saying no stirs up intensely negative emotions—embarrassment and guilt.”

But do you want to know the truth? The most successful people in the world – including landlords and real estate investors – are good at saying no. This doesn’t mean they’re jerks. It just means they understand how to process choices and have learned how to provide honest answers, even when it’s more comfortable to respond in the affirmative.

7 Tips for Saying No as a Landlord

As a landlord, you encounter dozens of choices, decisions, options, and requests each and every day. From tenants and business partners to family and friends, you can’t go very long without having to make some decision. Learning how to say no more often will help you become more successful.

Here are some tips to help you get past this fear and enjoy the freedom of truly speaking your mind:

Set Boundaries Ahead of Time

You have to know exactly what you’re going to do in a situation before the situation ever occurs. If you’re making key decisions in the moment, your answer will be heavily influenced by situational factors and emotions.

As a landlord, you’ll be a lot more successful if you set boundaries ahead of time. You need to know exactly what your response will be when a tenant asks if it’s okay to pay rent a week late, or someone breaks a clause in the lease agreement. Once you set these boundaries, all you have to do is stick to them.

Remember It’s Business

It’s easy to let personal issues leach into business. But the moment you start making your landlord-tenant relationship personal is the moment that you lose all leverage and your ability to say no.

It’s really important to remember that you’re running a business. When you tell someone no for business reasons, it’s a lot easier and less emotional.

Slow Down

One of the biggest reasons people say yes is that they don’t take the time to actually think an issue over and come to a conclusion. As a result, they force themselves into saying yes as a way of eliminating discomfort.

“Feelings of anxiety generated by the possibility of saying ‘no’ can escalate into a full-blown threat response, an emotional state in which we have diminished capacity to process information and consider options,” Ed Batista writes for Harvard Business Review. “Slowing down the pace of an interaction or a decision-making process can allow us to catch up and make the choice that’s right for us, not merely the choice that alleviates our anxiety in the moment.”

Be Cognizant of Delivery

Not every no is created equal. You can give the same no to two different people and the way it’s received will be entirely unique in both situations. Some of this is on the person receiving the no, but a lot of it depends on how you deliver the message.

Your body language and tone of voice can do a lot to soften the negativity of a no. While a cold, hard delivery is sometimes necessary, there’s definitely a time and place for a warm, soft letdown. Being able to consistently differentiate between these situations will help you tremendously.

Explain Without Apologizing (Too Much)

“Offer an explanation as part of the message,” landlord Jennifer Maughan advises. “When you can present your reasons clearly, the other person is more likely to accept your answer as final. They may not like it, but at least they will see your reasoning.”

The key when explaining yourself is to avoid excessively apologizing. You don’t want to be the sort of person who says no and then spends five minutes expressing your guilt. This makes you look weak and wishy-washy.

Be Firm With Your No

Let your yes be yes and your no be no. That’s one of the simplest, yet most important pieces of advice you’ll ever hear in your life. When you say no, stick to your guns and maintain your no. As soon as you let a tenant or business partner change your no, you lose all leverage and credibility.

Practice Makes Perfect

Like anything else, you’ll get better with saying no over time. The more you say no, the more natural it’ll feel. The first few times might be excruciatingly painful for you. You’ll replay every little word and reaction over and over again in your mind. However, you’ll eventually get to a point where you can rest easy knowing you were honest. Practice makes perfect.

Green Residential: Houston-Based Property Management

As a landlord, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the decisions you have to make. While any one choice might not be such a big deal, they tend to add up over time and breed a feeling of inadequacy. Saying yes to everything becomes reflexive, though it’s rarely healthy.

At Total Property Management, we offer reliable and cost-effective property management services to Greenville-area landlords. That way, they can spend less time dealing with day-to-day tasks and more time focusing on the big picture: turning a profit. If you’re interested in getting your free Houston property management analysis, please contact us today!

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Six Ways To Make Sure Your Rental Property Stands Out

June 4, 2018

Although lease agreements, rent collection, property maintenance, and cash flow tend to get the most attention in landlording circles, it’s a grave mistake to overlook the importance of property marketing. Without a marketing strategy, you’ll find it difficult to stand out in a crowded market that offers plenty of inventory.

How to Ensure Your Rental Property Stands Out

The Greenville real estate market is booming, which means landlords like yourself can reap the rewards of rising rents and low vacancy rates. But if you aren’t doing everything you can to make sure your rentals stand out from the crowd, you aren’t maximizing the value of your investment.

Here are some moves you can make to heighten the initial appeal of your rental property.

Invest in Curb Appeal

When someone drives up to a lot for the first time, curb appeal makes the inevitable first impression. It’s also the last thing potential renters will notice when they pull out of the driveway or parking lot.

So if you’re going to spend on anything, landscaping out front is a good place to start. The first step is to clean up the yard, walkways, and porch. This means pulling weeds, getting rid of brush, trimming shrubs, pressure washing concrete and siding, and dealing with any other eyesores that detract from the property.

The next thing you’ll want to do is freshen up the landscaping with pine straw, mulch, pavers, fresh flowers, and anything else that makes a positive visual statement. It will probably take some time and/or money to address your property’s curb appeal, you need to regard this as an investment.

To be honest, most of the competition won’t be working this hard, so your efforts will be noticed and appreciated by prospective tenants.

Deep Clean the Property

You probably require your tenants to clean up the property before they move out, but you should nevertheless conduct a deep clean before relisting the property for the next tenant. You can either do the deep clean on your own, or spend a couple hundred dollars to hire a professional to handle it.

Though every room should get attention, make sure you focus especially on the kitchen, bathrooms, living room, and bedroom. It’s the details that matter.

In the kitchen, open up cabinets, cupboards, and appliances and clean inside. In the bathroom, make sure the mirrors are free of streaks and the tub/shower contains no grout stains.

In the living room, blinds should be dusted and baseboards scrubbed clean. In the bedroom, clean out the closets and remove any cobwebs that may have accumulated near the ceiling and/or light fixtures.

Take Great Pictures

Some renters look for signs and discover rentals when they’re driving around town. But the vast majority search for listings online and vet properties to some extent before they ever start driving. In that situation, listing photos can be highly influential.

“Keep in mind that the photos are what people see first. That tiny thumbnail image is the first impression people have about your property, so make sure it’s good,” Turnkey’s Lauren Bernal writes.

“If you can afford it, hire someone (or ask a photographer friend very, very nicely) to take professional photos of your place. It’s the difference between ‘what about this place?’ and ‘you’ve GOT to see this place.’ ”

Include Perks

Tenants love perks. Perks make them feel like they’re getting special treatment. The more you can include in your offer, the greater the odds that you’ll garner serious interest from good tenants.

Perks can include just about anything you feel comfortable offering. Examples include:

First month’s rent is free

Complimentary monthly cleaning service

Lawn care included

Rent-to-own option

Free gym membership

Month-to-month terms

Discount for early rent payment

The options are endless. Although you may not have a bunch of extra money to throw around, you can do subtle things that create a more enticing offer.

Be Competitive With Rent

Most renters are cost-conscious people. If you want your property to stand out, you need to be especially cognizant of your price and how it compares to similar listings in the region. If it’s at all possible, you’ll have an instant advantage over the competition if you can come in on the low side.

It’s easy to regard a low rental rate as something that costs you money. Instead, look at it as a tradeoff that could actually earn you more over the long haul. When you offer a competitive rate, you have a better shot at locking tenants into a longer lease agreement, or at least securing more favorable terms in other areas.

Stage the Property

Most properties are empty between tenants. You can enhance the image of your rental by arranging to get it professionally staged.

This can cost as little as a few hundred dollars, but it will strongly help potential tenants to picture themselves living in the property. The key with staging is to emphasize the strengths of the place and minimize the perceived weaknesses.

“Focus your staging efforts to enhance your property’s top selling points,” real estate blogger Kurt Jacobson advises. “Do you have a fireplace? Use lighting that helps highlight it as a focal point in the room. Do you have some lovely built-in bookshelves in your units? Draw attention to their utility by placing coordinated groups of books or other accessories.

“However, avoid clutter. You don’t want the tenants to be more focused on the accessories — their attention should be on the possibilities.”

Many property owners presume that property management is only about fixing clogged toilets and tracking down rent checks, but there’s a lot more to the business than emergency response. If you aren’t paying attention to property marketing, you’re missing out on an opportunity to expand your business and increase profitability.

At Total Property Management, we understand the significance of property marketing and the role it plays in attracting good tenants, keeping rent competitive, and ensuring positive cash flow.

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Looking For Your Dream Home

May 28, 2018

Whatever your "Dream Home" looks like.  Let Total Property Management be a part of making it come true! Check out our Available Homes to see if one fits your dream.....

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7 Powerful Tips For Reducing Late Payments

May 21, 2018

Most outsiders don’t understand just how much stress comes with being a landlord. They assume it’s a flexible job where you ride around town, check in on properties, fix a doorknob or two, and chat with tenants. But what they don’t realize is that it’s actually a struggle to keep the entire operation afloat. Chief among these challenges is consistently collecting rent payments on time.

The Secret to Collecting Rent On Time

As a landlord, few things matter more than cash flow. Without proper cash flow, you risk missing your own payments and/or generating a negative return on your investment. And while there are dozens of factors that affect your rental property cash flow, rent payments are perhaps the most serious element. If rent payments are late, or don’t come through at all, you will quickly find yourself in a compromising position.

You can have nine tenants that consistently pay their rent on time, but all it takes is one tenant to throw your cash flow and accounting statements out of line. The good news is that there are ways to reduce the frequency of late payments. The key is to develop a plan and implement it from the start.

Here are a few helpful tips and tricks:

Improve Your Tenant Screening Process

Believe it or not, good rent collection starts with stellar tenant screening. If you can get the right tenants in your properties, you don’t have to worry about all of the issues that usually come into play when there’s an irresponsible tenant.

As part of your tenant screening process, make sure you’re speaking with past landlords about the tenant’s payment habits. They should tip you off to any red flags. It’s also smart to look at credit reports and speak with past and present employers to get a feel for how steady their income is.

Require Tenants to Sign up for TVS

Tenants need to know that there will be long-term consequences for their actions. If they pay on time, it will reflect positively on them. If they consistently make late payments, they’ll be branded with a scarlet letter.

One suggestion is to notify tenants that you’ll be reporting all payments to the three credit bureaus through a service like the TVS database. (As long as you let tenants know in advance, this is totally legal.) This will brand them as either a “low risk” or “high risk” tenant, which will positively or negatively impact their ability to secure future housing.

(As a note, you can also use a service like the TVS database during your tenant screening process to increase your chances of finding reliable tenants who have a history of paying on time.)

Automate Rent Payments

The more you can streamline rent collection, the less likely it is that you’ll encounter a tenant who consistently misses payments. One of the best strategies is to require tenants to pay rent via “auto-pay.”

Auto-pay can be set up in a number of ways. The most common option is to set up an ACH transaction that automatically deducts the rent payment on the same day each month. The only downside is that the tenant actually has to have money in the account for you to get paid (so there’s nothing protecting you from a bounced check).

Reward Early Payments

Tenants who miss rent payments aren’t necessarily careless. In other words, it’s not like they just forget to make the payment every month. It’s much more likely that they have financial troubles and don’t have enough money to pay all of their bills. As a result, they tend to pay bills in cycles, which means you consistently get their rent payment late.

One way to move your bill to the top of the pile – so that you get paid before their paycheck goes to all of the other bills – is to reward early payments with a discount, refund, or credit towards the next month’s rent.

Enforce Late Fees

Encouraging early payments with rewards works for some people. Other tenants only respond when there are negative repercussions involved. By introducing late fees into the equation, you can encourage these tenants to stop making delinquent rent payments.

Late fees, in conjunction with a promise to report late payments to the three credit bureaus, will be enough to get most tenants to pay on time. The key is to actually enforce these late fees. Saying you’re going to tack on an extra charge and then failing to follow up will actually hurt you more than if there was never a late fee to begin with.

Don’t Listen to Sob Stories

Habitual late payers don’t get to where they are without being really good at making excuses. While the human side of you wants to be compassionate and work with someone who is in a bad situation, the business side of you has to ignore the inevitable sob stories you’ll get.

In most cases, sob stories come from the same tenants over and over again. One month, it’s a lost job. The next month, it’s a sick parent. The month after that, it’s an emergency car repair. While it’s possible that one of these issues may be genuine, you have to remember that you’re running a business – not a charitable organization.

Know When to Evict

You can only do so much. If a tenant continually refuses to pay rent, you can eventually pursue eviction as a legal consequence. While this is a long, complicated process, it could be the only way to save your property.

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6 Ways You Can Improve Rental Property Cash Flow

May 14, 2018

It’s doubtful that anyone becomes a real estate investor or rental property manager just for fun. You don’t take on considerable financial risk and spend a lot of time and effort to secure real estate, draw up contracts, and prepare a house to rent just because you don’t have something better to do.

No … you do it because it offers an opportunity to earn a robust and steady return on your investment. The question is: Are you spending enough time thinking about cash flow? And are you maximizing it for optimal long-term profitability?

Do You Understand Cash Flow?

For some this is elementary, but let’s go ahead and review the concept of cash flow, so you have a better grasp of what we’re talking about. (You’d be surprised how many people spend years in real estate investing and still don’t have a proper understanding of how cash flow is calculated.)

“Basically your cash flow is the money you have left over after you’ve deducted all of your expenses from your income,” landlord Bill Biko explains. “Rental income less mortgage payments less insurance less taxes less HOA or condo fees less reserve funds less vacancy funds.”

The key components in that equation — at least the ones many landlords often forget — are reserve funds and vacancy funds. If all your profits goes into your pocket and you don’t tuck away any funds for a rainy day (and it will rain!), then you can’t necessarily assume you’re cash-flow positive.

Bill talks more about how to determine actual cash flow in this article, but that’s the basic gist. If your cash flow is a positive number after all the expenses, fees, and savings are subtracted, then you’re what accountants call “in the black.”

That means you’re officially cash-flow positive. If your cash flow is a negative number, then you’re “in the red.” That’s a fancy way of saying your cash flow is horrendous because you’re losing money.

But even if you’re cash-flow positive, you could still be hanging by a financial thread. It should be the goal of every landlord and/or real estate investor to expand cash flow over time so there’s less stress, fewer risks, and meatier margins.

Six Ways to Boost Your Cash Flow

The good news for you is that there are plenty of ways to boost cash flow and grow more profitable. Here are a few of the top options and techniques you have available to you:

Lower Your Expenses

When you’re pursuing a better cash flow, the most obvious move you can make is to lower your expenses. This is easier said than done, of course but there’s always some fat in your budget that can be trimmed. Among the options are: switching service providers, passing certain expenses on to tenants, and installing more energy efficient appliances and materials.

Reduce Tenant Turnover

One of the single biggest cash-flow killers you can experience is high tenant turnover. With turnover comes extra fees, added expenses, the energy required to find new tenants, the risk of accepting poor tenants, and a likely vacancy period.

Reducing tenant turnover starts with choosing the right tenants in the first place. You need people who have a track record of consistency and no red flags. For your part, you have to be responsive, flexible, and accommodating (to a reasonable degree).

Refinance Your Mortgage

What do homeowners do when they suddenly feel under strain due to their mortgage? They refinance in order to lower their monthly payment and free up cash. As a landlord, you can do the same.

Refinancing your rental properties will extend the repayment term, and will simultaneously lower the payments and leave more money in your pocket. Depending on when you locked in your last mortgage, you may still be able to lower your interest rate.

Increase Rent

One of the more practical things you can do is raise the rent. But many landlords are afraid to raise rents on their tenants for fear of forcing them to move out.

Often, the fear is overblown. Most tenants understand that you’re running a business and you have to follow the trajectory of the market. What you have to be careful about is not to raise your rents too dramatically.

Not only will a dramatic spike in rental fees make it more likely a tenant will move out, but there’s a possibility you could also violate rent control and other laws in your area. If you can stay to increases of less than 10 percent (if that’s still in line with the local market rate), you should be all right.

Don’t Skimp on Repairs

Maintenance and repairs are a thorn in the side of most landlords. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to pour money into issues you didn’t anticipate … even when they’re small.

In fact, ignoring small problems or skimping on repairs could come back to haunt you in the form of much larger expenses down the road. “Commonly ignored problems we see that have the potential to escalate include plumbing, guttering and drainage issues, which are usually minor initially but can often end up costing a small fortune,” Property24 explains.

Offer Lease Options

One outside-of-the-box idea is to offer your tenants lease options. Most may not be interested, but there might possibly be some who are intrigued by the idea of being able to own the home they’re renting someday.

From your perspective, the best part about a lease option is that these tenants tend to take better care of the property (which means fewer expenses on your part) and they pay an additional monthly fee (and that’s more money in your pocket).

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Tired of Self Managing

May 7, 2018

Tired of self managing, let Total Property Management help!

Stressed About Collecting Rent?

If you are tired of trying to collect rent, call Total Property Management.  Let us handle everything related to your rental property.  We'll take the stress off of you!

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Buy Vs. Rent

April 23, 2018

This image sums up all that is involved when buying a home.  Why make things complicated and stressful.  Rent for at least a year until you know exactly where you want to be.  Renting = Convenience/Flexibility

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12 Steps to a Successful First House Flip

April 16, 2018

Television shows like Flip or Flop and Fixer Upper make it look easy to find an outdated, low-priced home and transform it into an incredible investment property.  The reality for most home flippers is a little different. It takes time, money, and expertise to flip a property, and most first-time flippers flounder as they try to regain control of their projects.

The road to a successful house flip is riddled with ups and downs. If you’re prepared with the right tools and knowledge during your house flipping journey, you’ll be much better off.

Here are the general steps you should take before flipping your first home.

Have the Right Mindset

Make sure this is something you really want to do. Rehabbing houses is challenging and comes with huge rewards as well as major setbacks. You might not make as much as you had hoped or experience greater stress than you expected. With the right mindset, you can maintain realistic expectations and be more satisfied with the outcome, whether your profits are great or small.

Get Finances in Order

Late-night infomercials and radio seminars will have you believe that house flipping has a low-cost entry barrier, but that’s not true. “Nobody is going to hand you a house for free, and you can’t go to Home Depot and they’ll give you your supplies for free,” Mindy Jensen, community manager at Bigger Pockets told US News. “If you are using credit cards and have no money, you can get into trouble quickly.”

Before you begin looking at houses and sketching designs for your remodel, make sure you can finance not only the home purchase but the rehab as well. Remember that lenders usually won’t finance you past the current value of the house, so you may have to look at less conventional methods to get adequate financing.

Choose Your Market

Rehabbing for profit doesn’t work in every market. Some communities aren’t interested in higher-end homes and fancy layouts, so you’ll have a hard time making money with your renovations. Do a little research on your chosen market to ensure it will support the updates you’re trying to make.

Find an Agent

At this point, you’ll want to start building up your house flipping team. Your realtor is one of the most important people on your team, as they’ll help you find the right houses at prices that can lead to a profit. Research real estate agents in your area, and try to use a realtor who has some experience in the house flipping sector.

Analyze Deals

“Without knowing what a good deal looks like, you can look at 1,000 houses and still have no idea what you’re doing,” explains J. Scott, author of The Book on Flipping Houses. He goes on to explain that understanding how value on a house is determined will keep you from making a bad purchase or throwing money into a renovation that won’t recoup a high return. Some renovations are less valuable to banks and appraisers than others.

The best way to analyze a property’s value is to examine comparable home sales in the area. Comparing these properties will show you how much you can reasonably ask for a rehabbed property.

Hit the Market

Now that you’ve done some homework and established some of your team, you’re ready to search for properties. Go out with your real estate agent and view lots of properties in your chosen area. This will give you a feel for what’s out there until you find the right home.

While you can find good deals through traditional avenues, oftentimes, the best way to find the perfect property is to purchase at an auction or find a wholesale property. Explore your options for finding more affordable properties that can increase in value with some work.

Start Making Offers

Not all your offers will be accepted, so it’s okay to make more than one. If you find a few viable properties, make a few offers. After negotiations, you should find at least one at a good price. This is also good practice for the future when you’re successful enough to rehab several properties at once.

“Before you make an offer, make sure you know the uppermost price you can pay for a house, and still make a profit,” advises Heather Levin of Money Crashers. “This includes your estimate for repairs, interest, and taxes. Remember to pad your estimate by 20%. If the homeowner or bank won’t sell to you for this price, walk away. It’s better to keep looking, than to risk going broke from a bad investment.”

Dot Your I’s and Cross Your T’s

After accepting an offer, handle the details, including a thorough home inspection and appraisal. If the numbers don’t match up, or the inspection results show more problems than you can handle, you can back out if it’s done within the window predetermined when you made the offer.

Set Your Budget and Scope of Work

Your bank or financier will probably give you a limit as to how much you can spend on this project, but you can come up with a number based on estimates from contractors.

Then, create a detailed scope of work that says what you need to do for a high-value rehab and how much you can spend in each area. Include a detailed timeline of demolition and rehab time as well. A schedule will keep your contractor on task so that your project doesn’t take longer than necessary.

Build a Solid Rehab Team

When you’re finally ready to start work, hire a great team of contractors. Most house flippers use a variety of contractors instead of one general contractor to save money, and all the interviewing, paperwork, and details can be a major undertaking. Work on this during the closing period so you’re ready to get started as soon as you have keys.

Prepare for the Unexpected

While work is being completed, oversee the project carefully. There will always be problems, whether it’s the wrong shipment of materials or the discovery of asbestos behind the walls. A solid contingency fund will help you weather the storm, as will a stout mindset and a focus on the prize.

Get to the Closing Table

When your rehab is finished, it will feel like the work is almost done. Staging the property and having professional photographs are two of the best things you can do to make this beautiful property appealing to potential tenants. Be patient during the inspections and appraisals, and be prepared for some of the things you’ll have to fix on your newly remodeled property. When closing day arrives, you’ll be ready for your check after a long process!

Contact Total Property Management

You might think that handling the rehab is the most difficult part of flipping a home, but it’s often finding a tenant. You want to get a good renter, which isn’t always easy.

If you’re flipping houses in the Greenville and its surrounding cities, Total Property Management can help. We know this area better than anyone, and our flat-rate management fees make it easy to find great tenatns without hefty fees. For more information about what our team can bring to your house flipping business, contact us today!

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Should You Include Utilities in Rent? 6 Pros and Cons to Consider

April 9, 2018

As a landlord, you have a great deal of control over your expenses and rental prices. Obviously, you’ll want to make decisions that maximize your potential profit and income stream, but not all decisions are so straightforward. For example, in most areas, landlords will have a choice of whether to pay for utilities out-of-pocket (and build utility costs into the rent at a fixed price), or whether to charge less rent and have the tenants take care of the utility costs.

There are advantages to each model, but you should know what you’re getting into before you make the final decision.

Advantages of Including Utilities in Rent

If you’re considering including utility costs as a built-in feature of rent, these are some of the biggest advantages to consider:

Payment streamlining. One of the biggest advantages is the financial streamlining you’ll see, for both parties. With rent and utility payments bundled together into one payment, it’s easier for tenants to budget their living expenses every month, and you can deal with the utility payments yourself. If there are any unexpected increases in utility costs, tenants won’t be as likely to become upset, therefore strengthening your relationship and minimizing tenant turnover.

Tenant convenience and attraction. Some tenants will specifically seek out apartments or properties where utilities are included. Renters who pay for utilities as part of rent don’t have to deal with putting the utilities in their name, which means they can move in faster and have fewer responsibilities to worry about. In most cases, that means you’ll be able to attract tenants faster, and move them in faster, reducing your total vacancy time.

Higher revenue streams. Incorporating utility costs into your rent structures means you’ll be collecting bigger revenue streams from your tenants. If you build in a buffer, charging slightly more in rent than you actually pay in utility costs, you can turn a slight extra profit each month. So long as your utility costs remain under control, this can help you stabilize or increase your income.

Disadvantages of Including Utilities in Rent

However, there’s also a strong case for letting your tenants handle utility costs on their own. These are some of the negative aspects of including utilities in the rent:

Higher financial responsibility and liability. Unfortunately, taking on those utility costs yourself means you’ll have higher personal financial responsibility, and possibly liability too. If you charge your tenants an egregiously high amount for utilities, instead of charging them a fixed rate based on historical utility costs, they could sue you for the difference. You’ll also be responsible for paying all the bills yourself, which could be a hassle under certain circumstances. Make sure you’re charging a fair amount, and stay on top of your responsibilities.

Unpredictable cost bases. Utilities can be unpredictable, even if you have historical information on which to base your pricing. The cost of raw materials can rise or fall based on supply and demand, and tenant usage may fluctuate unexpectedly from month to month. This can make your profitability less stable and less predictable, if utility costs are built into your rental income. You can compensate for this by estimating costs as conservatively as possible, but there’s still a margin of error you’ll need to account for.

Higher rental costs. When you build utility costs into the rent on your property, the total perceived cost is going to increase. Even though the total costs (rent plus utilities) of your apartment may be comparable to the others in your neighborhood, it will superficially look higher because the cost of utilities is included. This could turn some prospective tenants away unfairly, before they do the calculations for their budgets.

Other Considerations

There are other variables and important features you’ll also need to consider before you finalize your decision. For example:

Fixed vs. variable pricing. Consider whether you want to charge your tenants a fixed rate for all utilities, or whether you want to adjust the rate based on the actual utility costs. Fixed rates tend to be more convenient, but harder to predict. Variable rates are harder to manage, but are more reflective of actual costs.

Negotiation and price increases. During the tenant acquisition process, you’ll likely have to negotiate the utility rates. Be prepared for that. You may also need to renegotiate those rates if there’s a spike in utility costs in the future.

Structure and other fees. Are you going to charge your tenant utilities and rents as separate line items? Will there be any other fees you impose, such as going an excessive amount over a standard allowance for utility use, or being late with a payment?

Seasonal fluctuations. How are you going to account for seasonal fluctuations? During winter months, when heating is running nonstop, are you going to increase the rates you charge your tenants?

Utility splits. Are you going to charge your tenants for all utilities, or just some of them? Hypothetically, you could split this, charging your tenants for electricity but not water/sewer, for instance.

How do you plan to advertise your costs? Will you note that utility costs are built in, or treat them as a separate charge?

Energy efficiency. Are you going to make any upgrades to your property to make it more energy efficient? Doing so may require a significant upfront investment, but could save you lots of money in the long term.

There isn’t a straightforward “right” answer here, but there are some clear advantages to each approach. Spend some time evaluating the condition and nature of your property, considering how each advantage plays to your personal preferences, and finalizing the decision that will yield you the highest and most convenient profits.

If you’re struggling with managing the expenses, legal decisions, and day-to-day operations of your property, you should know that you don’t have to do it alone. Consider enlisting the help of a property management services firm, like Total Property Management—contact us today to learn how we can help you maximize your profits, while minimizing the effort you need to expend.

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How To Make A Temporary House Feel Like A Home

April 2, 2018

Do you wonder what it would be like to live in a house for more than a few months at a time? Or do you wish you could settle in for more than a couple of years before having to move to another city or state? While it can often feel like you’re the only one, there are thousands of other families in your exact situation. These include military families, individuals climbing the corporate ladder, athletes, and regular blue-collar folks who have to move around to make a living.

If you talk with other people who frequently move, you’ll find that the happiest people are the ones who know how to turn temporary housing into a home. Want to know how they do it? Stick around and we’ll fill you in on their secrets.

Give These 8 Tricks a Try

The trouble most people have with “temporary” housing is that it’s usually a rental property. And with a rental property come restrictions on what you can do. For those lucky enough to purchase a home and live there for a year or two, there’s the fear of pouring a bunch of money and effort into customizing and remodeling something that will be sold in a few months.

Whether it’s an apartment or house that you own for a short period of time, the following tips and tricks will help you transform it from temporary to homey with minimal effort and maximum enjoyment.

Unpack and Stay a While

When you’re so used to moving from place to place, you eventually reach a point where you don’t even bother unpacking completely. You just get out the basic necessities and leave everything else boxed up for easier packing. And while this makes sense for certain situations, unpacking will do you a lot of good.

Think about how much better you feel when you’re on an extended business trip or vacation and you unpack your bags. The simple act of hanging your clothes and putting it in drawers makes you feel a lot more “at home” than yanking things out of a suitcase. The same could be said for household items when moving. Instead of picking items out of boxes, actually unpacking and putting things away will put you at ease.

Paint the Walls

Nothing says dreary like boring white or beige walls in an apartment or temporary housing. It makes you feel like you’re in a doctor’s office, not your house. Thankfully, most landlords are okay with tenants painting the walls. Some will ask you to repaint with the original color upon move-out, while others will be happy for the complimentary update. Just make sure you run it by your landlord if you are renting.

Swap Out Hardware and Light Fixtures

Want to make a big aesthetic change without a ton of effort? Swapping out dated hardware and light fixtures is a sure-fire way to breathe new life into a stale apartment or house.

Like the paint, you’ll probably be asked to revert changes back to the original if you’re renting. Make sure you hold on to all of the original hardware and take pictures to remind you how everything was styled.

Incorporate Friends and Family

One of the reasons people have a hard time feeling at home in temporary housing is that they decorate with generic artwork and décor. While there’s nothing wrong with some trendy décor here and there, you can make your living spaces feel a lot cozier by including friends and family. Not literally – but in pictures and keepsakes. A gallery wall of your friends and family will instantly make any space feel comfortable.

Focus on the Bedroom

Your bedroom is your little sanctuary in a world of uncertainty. It’s where you wake up in the mornings and lay your head down at night. It’s where you nap, relax, and unwind. It’s where you watch a late-night movie and enjoy lazy Sunday mornings drinking coffee. If you want your house to feel like a home, it starts with the bedroom. Make this room feel like “yours” and the feeling will slowly spread to the rest of the house.

Manipulate the Scent

It’s amazing the power and influence a simple smell can have. In fact, you can probably think back to your childhood home and still recall what it smelled like. And if you were transported back in time to that same house, you’d experience a flashback of memories that you didn’t know were buried in your mind.

Memories, emotions, and feelings are all directly tied to smell. By manipulating the scent of your temporary housing, you can make yourself feel at home. This can be done through a variety of methods, including candles, essential oils, and plants.

Keep it Clean

There’s something to be said for having a clean house. It certainly takes time and effort to maintain a certain level of tidiness and cleanliness, but you’ll actually begin to enjoy the process if you make it a priority. As you clean, you’ll start to feel ownership over the place you’re living. Instead of just surviving, you begin to feel like a caretaker with a vested interest in the condition and quality of the property.

Think of it as Yours

When it comes to temporary housing, half of the battle is wrapping your mind around the situation and being okay with it. If you’re constantly thinking about the negatives, you’ll never feel at home. However, if you’re willing to focus on the positives and view the apartment, rental, or house as your own, everything will change for the better.

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8 Tips For Remote Landlording Success

March 26, 2018

There’s a lot of money to be made in rental properties. If you’re savvy and know how to select good properties, you get the dual benefit of steady, monthly cash flow and an appreciating asset. But is remote landlording ever a good idea? And if you do venture into the world of long distance landlording, how can you make sure you have success?

Why Are You a Remote Landlord?

Let’s start by being clear about one thing: remote landlording is not ideal. It comes with a lot of complications and isn’t something you should do without careful consideration. Having said that, there are three scenarios in which remote landlording becomes an option:

Job relocation. This is perhaps the most common reason people become remote landlords. They end up getting relocated to another city and decide to rent out their current home, as opposed to going through the trouble of putting it on the market.

Inherited property. When a parent or relative passes, it’s possible that their home enters into your possession as part of their will. If you don’t live in the city, and don’t have any intentions of moving, you suddenly become a long distance landlord by default.

Vacation rental. Finally, there’s the vacation rental situation. While it’s nice to have a place that you can visit every once in a while, vacation rentals take time and effort to manage.

There are probably a couple of exceptions, but generally speaking, you shouldn’t enter into a remote landlording situation outside of these three scenarios.

8 Tips for Long-Distance Landlording

Should you find yourself in a situation where you’re managing rental properties remotely, you have to be very strategic with your approach. The slightest misstep can compromise your entire investment and leave you in a vulnerable position.

The following tips will help:

Set the Right Price

When managing a property in your city, you have the ability to experiment with different things to see what works – including the price. When renting remotely, you have no such luxury. In almost every situation, it’s a good idea to rent below the going rate.

By setting a lower price than the competition, you instantly gain access to a larger pool of candidates (which increases your chances of finding a good tenant and reduces the time the property is vacant). You also have a greater chance of ending up with a long-term tenant. When renters know they’re getting a good deal, they’re less likely to move out of boredom.

Carefully Vet Prospective Tenants

Problem tenants are never good, but they’re a terror when you’re forced to manage a property remotely. One of the best things you can do is implement a strict vetting process for prospective tenants.

When vetting prospective tenants, one of the most important actions you can take is to talk with past and current landlords. This will give you some insight into their behaviors, honesty, and reliability. If you run into someone who has a history of making late payments, cross them off the list and move on. You don’t have time to be chasing down a rent payment when you’re hours away.

Utilize Technology

As a remote landlord, technology is your friend. It gives you the ability to communicate remotely, as well as streamline time-consuming, mundane processes like rent collection, accounting, and advertising listings. Find tools that you’re comfortable with and use them to make your job easier.

Get a Home Warranty Plan

One of the smartest things you’ll ever do when managing a property remotely is to sign up for a home warranty plan.

With a home warranty plan, many home repairs are covered and you don’t have to search for reliable, local trades people.   However, you still have to pay the annual cost of the home warranty plan (typically $350-$500) + a $55-$60 deductible for each repair that needs to be done.

Communicate Frequently and Effectively

Communication is paramount in any relationship, but it really matters when you’re managing tenants from afar. The more you communicate, the better off you’ll be. Not only does it remind tenants that you’re in the picture, but it also gives you a chance to prevent problems (rather than only reacting to them).

While email and texting are great in many situations, make sure you also connect via phone every once in a while. It’s a lot harder to misinterpret something when you actually hear the other person’s voice on the other end of the phone.

Have a Zero-Tolerance Policy

When you manage a property down the street, it’s easy to be a little lax with certain policies and give tenants two or three chances to get something right. When managing a property remotely, you have no such luxury. In fact, you need to have a zero-tolerance policy for breaking rules. This shows tenants that you’re serious about the terms of the lease agreement.

Check-In at Least Once a Year

No matter how good you feel about your property, who your tenant is, or how many other people you have keeping an eye on the rental, make sure you check-in on your property at least once a year. Nothing can replace seeing the property with your own eyes.

Hire a Local Property Manager

Want to know the real secret to successfully managing properties remotely? It’s to hire a local property manager who can handle all of the details for you. From finding tenants and collecting rent to scheduling repairs and evicting problem tenants, a skilled property management service can do it all.

Let Total Property Management help

At Total Property Management, we work closely with our clients to provide property management services that make tenants happy, keep rentals profitable, and put landlords at ease.

Whether you’re local to the Greenville area, or find yourself in a position where you’re managing a property remotely, we would love to help you with your landlording responsibilities.

Contact us today for a free property evaluation!

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What Are the Best Paint Colors for Rental Properties?

March 19, 2018

Seasoned renters know that unpleasant sensation when you walk into a rental property and see bright, clashing colors throughout the space. In some rooms, it can be overlooked, but a bright teal in the master bedroom could make it a challenge to sleep at night.

Without a promise that the rooms may be repainted, some of us would have left such a property without a second thought. “Color wields enormous sway over our attitudes and emotions,” declares Internet marketing guru Neil Patel.

“When our eyes take in a color, they communicate with a region of the brain known as the hypothalamus, which in turn sends a cascade of signals to the pituitary gland, on to the endocrine system, and then to the thyroid glands. The thyroid glands signal the release of hormones, which cause fluctuation in mood, emotion, and resulting behavior…. So, the bottom line is: use the right colors, and you win.”

Although his advice is aimed at website designers, it applies just as much to income properties. When you’re a landlord, it’s wise to use colors your tenants will like.

You can’t afford to drive people away due to poor paint choices. Here are some painting tips that will help you stay on track.

Avoid Bold and Daring

If you feel like making a statement with bright paint colors in your own home, that’s fine. But if you’re trying to attract tenants from various walks of life, bright colors will be a turn-off for many of them.

Not only will the paint clash with some prospective renters’ preferences, but they’ll stir emotions that might counteract what you’re trying to achieve. “I usually suggest to clients to avoid oranges and reds in any type of space,” says Lauren Colson, founder of LMC Interior Designs in Atlanta. “They make people feel anxious and angry.”

The same is true for bright yellows, rich browns, vibrant blues, and other statement colors. People tend to love them or hate them, so you’ll have difficulty reaching a broader audience with these hues.

Use Neutrals Correctly

Most landlords depend on neutral colors because they’re more likely to appeal to a wider audience of potential tenants. They’re a much safer bet than brilliant colors, but it’s still possible to employ them incorrectly.

To begin with, stark white walls can be a damper for tenants who hope for something more interesting. A lack of any color also fails to supply contrast for wall hangings, and it won’t look as good in advertising.

Grays, tans, and creams are more recommended for rental properties. Typically, it’s better to stick with lighter colors for the majority of the house, and slightly darker tones for areas such as the dining room or bathroom.

Gray is a trendy interior color right now, but you have to be careful with it. “Gray is a tricky, tricky color,” Colson says. “There are so many different hues of gray that if you’re not careful you can end up with an icy cold room instead of a warm retreat.”

Dark neutrals can also make a great statement without scaring renters. If you want to experiment with dark colors, do so in rooms apart from the main living areas.

“Separated dining rooms are the perfect place to try out a dark gray because they are supposed to feel cozy and inviting instead of open and expansive,” she adds. Darker neutrals also make suitable accent colors for baseboards, doors, and accent walls.

Use Paints That Don’t Show Dirt

Here’s another reason that stark white walls don’t work as well, both on the interior and the exterior: They show every speck of dirt. When you’re renting to certain tenants, especially if they have kids or children, lighter shades get stained and need to be repainted more often.

That’s going to mean a lot more money and hassle for you. But this doesn’t mean that white is completely off the table.

“You don’t have to paint your interior walls and cabinets mud brown or grimy gray to camouflage grunge and smudges until you get around to washing them,” explains an article from SFGate.com. “Paint sheens, techniques and colors that hide dirt are practically as easy to find as dirt itself.”

The article advises you to use washable paint at a medium gloss. This reduces excessive light reflection and makes blemishes less noticeable, and it can be cleaned fairly easily when the tenant leaves. The piece also suggests neutrals that consist of earth tones to hide smudges.

Use High-Quality Paint

When you paint your rental property, the ideal space will be relatively inexpensive, durable, long lasting, and easy to apply. Using the right kinds of paint will support this goal.

Painting your interior walls in a way that attracts tenants isn’t going to be your only concern as a landlord. You’ll also need to screen tenants, collect rent, promote your properties, evict tenants, draft contracts, and so much more.

With all that on your plate, the job can feel a little overwhelming. Total Property Management understands the hassle that landlords take on every day, and we want to offer our expertise in this area. 

We can help you choose paint colors and so much more. Our flat-rate fee makes us more affordable and accessible to landlords all over the city and the surrounding area. For more information about what we can offer your property, contact us today!

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The Snowball Effect: Attention Investors

March 13, 2018

You’re probably already familiar with the classic “snowball” effect. A snowball, rolling downhill, will accumulate snow around its exterior, and grow larger. The effect continues, but the larger total area of the snowball means even more snow is accumulated. The snowball rolls faster and faster, picking up snow at a faster rate, until it reaches massive proportions.

There’s a strategy you can apply to real estate investing that gives you access to the same kind of exponential return; once you build momentum, and choose your direction, you should be able to accumulate more and more revenue, eventually establishing you with independent wealth and a wide portfolio of different properties in your possession.

The concept is simple. You’ll start with one investment property, with the intention of maximizing its monthly profitability. For example, let’s say you bought the house for $150,000, and after all expenses, including your loan payment, property taxes, insurance, maintenance, and repairs, your monthly total is around $1,200. You then charge your tenants $1,700 per month in rent, resulting in a profit of $500 every month.

After a year of ownership, assuming you set aside this extra profit, you’ll have $6,000. After two years, you’ll have $12,000—and more than enough for a down payment on another property. So let’s say you find another property with almost the exact same specs as the first one. It’s $150,000, with $1,200 in monthly expenses and a profit of $500 per month. Now you’re making $1,000 per month in rental profits, and it only takes you one year to accrue another $12,000, which you can use to buy a third property.

Follow this pattern a few more times. Soon, you’ll have 5 properties, each making you $500 a month, for $2,500 per month, total. Hypothetically, you’d make $30,000 that year, potentially enough to provide a down payment for 2 or 3 additional properties. At 10 properties, you’d pull in $60,000 a year easily.

The approach has several advantages:

The model doesn’t require a significant upfront capital investment. As long as you have a few thousand dollars set aside for the initial down payment, you can scrape by as long as you have tenants filling your property.

The model is also appealing because of how it scales. When you first start, you’ll only have to worry about one property, which is a relief to newcomers. If at any point you feel overwhelmed with the number of properties you have, you can back out or sell some of them, meaning you’ll only ever manage as many properties as you want to manage.

Obviously, people love this strategy for its practically unlimited potential as well. As long as you keep adding properties to your portfolio, your revenue is going to grow. There’s no strict upper limit here.

One of the lynchpins of this strategy is your first property. It needs to be a near-perfect investment because it’s going to provide the initial foundation for your future. Assuming you’re new at this, your property needs to be exceptionally easy to manage; try to find a single-family home, and one that’s been recently built or renovated. The fewer instances of maintenance and repair, the better. You’ll also want to choose something with strong long-term growth potential, since this will soon be the oldest property in your portfolio. Carefully examine multiple candidates, and don’t jump the gun; wait until you find the right fit for you.

You also need to make sure you can turn a profit consistently with your first property, or you won’t be able to accrue the down payment you need for the second. There are a few things you’ll need to ensure to make this happen:

Plan for all your expenses. First, make sure you’re accounting for every conceivable expense you could face. That includes your loan payments (principal and interest), your property taxes, your insurance payments, and ongoing expenses such as property management, emergency repairs, seasonal maintenance, and other items. Build in an extra cushion to protect yourself from unforeseen expenses as well.

Set the right rent. Make sure you’re setting the right rent. It’s tempting to post a rent that’s a few hundred dollars over your costs, but if it’s too high for the area, you’ll never attract tenants. Do your research before you buy, and make sure your neighborhood can support the rent you need to charge to make a profit.

Choose good tenants and keep them happy. Finally, spend some time and effort recruiting the right tenants and keeping them there. It’s far better to find a stable tenant who will pay you consistently for months or years than to fill the void as quickly as possible at the risk of increasing your overall turnover.

Your first few properties should be easy to maintain, and “sure bets” in terms of profitability, but as you become more familiar with buying properties, you might start taking bigger risks or experimenting with variations of the strategy. For example:

Bigger profits. You could buy commercial property, or multi-family buildings that are harder to maintain, but have the potential to return you a much higher profit. The more properties you have in your portfolio already, the lower your overall risk will be.

Minimized demands. You might also optimize your holdings and services to minimize the amount of time you have to spend managing your properties. Instead, you can hire a property management service, and spend your time doing what you want to do.

If you’re tired of managing properties, or if you’d rather pursue other investments, you can always sell some of your older houses and rebalance your portfolio.

If you’re interested in becoming a landlord for the rental income, but don’t want to invest hours of your time every week, your best strategy is to secure the help of a property management service. If you’re interested in learning more about how property management can keep you profitable while sparing you effort.

Tip: Total Property Management offers investors an incentive for a portfolio of five or more homes.

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Renting Your Home After it Didn’t Sell?

7 Things You Need to Know

March 5, 2018

If your home won’t sell and you’re considering renting, you’re not alone. Plenty of people switch from homeowner to landlord when unexpected circumstances arise.

When your property won’t sell, renting it out sounds like a profitable alternative; a vacant home won’t bring in revenue. Although, renting your home will make you a landlord, and being a landlord isn’t easy.

Before turning yourself into a landlord, you need to know what responsibilities you’re looking at. Consider the following information before making a decision.

Real estate “seasons” apply to selling and renting your home

Zillow published a study in 2016 that concluded spring is the best time to sell a house. If you’ve been attempting to sell your home out of season, don’t expect it to automatically rent. The same seasonal rules apply to selling and renting your home.

People don’t generally move during fall and winter, although there are exceptions. During the holiday season, people are busy and money is tight. If you’re renting between December and February, be prepared to reduce the rent slightly below market value to ensure your place gets rented out.

Renting for emotional reasons is risky

Renting home because you didn’t get your asking price is an emotional decision that can hurt you. Becoming a landlord isn’t a quick fix to ease the burden of perceived loss; it’s a long-term commitment that takes time and money to sustain.

Renting your home because it sounds better than taking a loss on your sale price will cost you more money, time, and energy if you’re not careful. 

Consider feedback from your prospective buyers

The weather isn’t the only reason homes don’t sell. Other factors like price, condition, and neighborhood can be a large part of the equation. Additional factors specific to why your home isn’t selling may not be obvious to you, but your prospects will tell you if you listen closely.

There are many things buyers hate. What objections did your prospective buyers express? Take note of everything they’ve said, even if you disagree. The reasons your home didn’t sell might also be obstacles to renting it.

Crunch your numbers diligently

If your mortgage payment is $1,700 per month, but you can only rent your home for $1,500 per month, renting it out doesn’t make sense. Selling at a loss, in this case, is your best option.

Include details on showings in the lease

If your ultimate goal is to sell your house, when you rent it out, detail how and when showings will take place in the lease. Getting the tenant to agree to showing terms ahead of time will encourage them to be cooperative.

Being a landlord costs time and money

The cost of being a landlord is extensive, and shouldn’t be overlooked. Selling your home at a loss might be a better option, especially when you don’t have the time (or the desire) to manage tenants.

Some of the costs you’ll encounter as a landlord are:

Ongoing maintenance. Every home requires ongoing repairs and maintenance. When you lived in the unit, you may have been okay with a broken water heater and a leaky faucet. Your tenant won’t be.  In addition to large repairs, your tenant will call you for repairs that are so small, you won’t believe they noticed. Like the pulley for the blinds being slightly off balance, or a tiny hole in the weather stripping on a window. Be ready to get calls and emails often.

Property taxes. Have you noticed property taxes seem to rise but never decrease? There’s no way around paying steadily increasing property taxes as long as you own the home.

Evictions. At some point, you might need to evict a tenant for not paying rent or violating the lease. The prospect of evicting a tenant is intimidating when you realize how much the law favors the tenant.  For instance, if your property is vacant and someone decides to squat, you can’t kick them out for trespassing; they have renter’s rights in the eyes of the law. You’ll need to go through a formal eviction process to get them off your property. This process can take several weeks.

The same goes for a renter who stopped paying you rent. There’s a protocol to follow before you can even file an eviction, and if you make a mistake, you’ll have to start over.

High demand for your time. Between finding and screening tenants, repairs and maintenance, collecting rent, staying up-to-date with laws, and fielding calls from existing tenants, you’re going to be exhausted.  If you don’t have a reserve of energy strapped to your back, you’ll get tired quickly. Money isn’t everything. If you’re not okay with being on call 24/7 for your tenant, you don’t want to be a landlord.

Smart landlords hire a property management company

Being a landlord involves more than collecting rent and calling in repairs. It’s an unrehearsed dance between you and the tenant. When being a landlord isn’t your full-time job or passion, hiring a  property management company to take care of your tenants is the smartest solution.

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9 Small Changes That Will Reduce Tenant Turnover

February 26, 2018

Tenant turnover is the bane of most landlords’ existence. When a tenant leaves, you’ll need to spend hours cleaning the place up, hundreds of dollars placing ads and trying to market the unit, and on top of that, you’ll be left without a stream of rental income for as long as it takes to find a replacement tenant. After two or three rounds of this, you may become frustrated to the point you question why you even became a landlord in the first place.

While there will always be unexpected changes that force tenants out of your units (including job offers and family demands), tenant turnover is a variable you can control to some degree. Thankfully, reducing tenant turnover doesn’t have to be as complicated or expensive as remodeling your entire building; instead, a handful of simple strategies may be enough to keep your tenants happy (and paying rent longer).

Best Strategies to Improve Tenant Retention

Try using these strategies in tandem:

1. Take your time finding new tenants. When your property becomes available, your first instinct will be to fill it as quickly as possible; but that approach may harm your tenant turnover rate in the long term, leaving your property empty for a longer period of time. Instead, take your time finding new tenants, screening them carefully and evaluating them based on their rental history and reasons for seeking a new place. Opt for candidates with a strong credit history, and ones who seem the most stable (with few job and apartment changes in the past). The more reliable your tenants are, the longer they’ll stay.

2. Change the lease agreement. If you have a perpetual problem with tenant turnover, the root of the problem may be with your lease agreement; so, consider changing it. For example, if you currently offer month-to-month terms, and you find that most of your tenants bail within a few months, you could add a one-year or two-year minimum to entice longer stays.

3. Build a relationship with your tenants. Your relationship with your tenants should be a professional one, but that doesn’t mean a relationship shouldn’t exist. Start your bond right by introducing yourself personally, and having a friendly conversation with your tenants. If there’s ever a problem at the property, talk to them personally, and communicate with them on a regular basis. Your tenants will feel more comfortable at your property, and will be more likely to bring up any problems they have.

4. Be proactive about tenant satisfaction. Don’t wait for tenants to bring up every problem with the property on their own; instead, be proactive about ensuring tenant satisfaction. Send your tenants a message, asking them if there’s anything different you could be doing, or if there are any problems with the property. Stop by every few months for a personal check-in, and try to make yourself as available as possible. The longer a problem goes without being addressed or mentioned, the worse it’s going to get.

5. Respond to any and all requests with urgency. Hopefully, your tenants will actively inform you when they’re experiencing a problem, whether it’s a maintenance need at the property, or a noise complaint in the neighborhood. Whenever you get a request for assistance or action, respond to it with a sense of urgency. You don’t have to drop what you’re doing and make the repair immediately, but you should let your tenants know that they’re important to you, and that you’re taking their requests seriously. Your tenants need to know you have their backs.

6. Keep the curb appeal high. If you can, try to maximize the “curb appeal” of your property. People feel good when they come home to a building that looks nice on the outside (even if you can’t control what’s on the inside). Keep the lawn mowed and tidy, and consider planting trees, shrubs, and flowers to beautify the exterior. Wash the exterior of the building regularly, and occasionally add a fresh coat of paint.

7. Be transparent. Whenever you take an action or make a decision, be as transparent as possible. If there’s a delay in fixing something wrong with the apartment, let your tenant know why. If you need to raise rent, explain the circumstances that forced you to do so.

8. Reward loyalty. If you want your tenants to stick around as long as possible, make it rewarding for them to stick around. For example, you can resist rate hikes for as long as possible, or perhaps even offer a discount on rent the longer they stay with you. You could waive extra fees when appropriate as a gesture of good faith, or even leave them gift baskets and other rewards to thank them for being reliable tenants.

9. Avoid inconveniences where possible. No matter what, you’ll need to inconvenience your tenants at some point, but the fewer instances of inconvenience you create, the better. For example, if you need to mow the lawn, consider waiting until 9:30 instead of doing it at 6:30 and waking them up prematurely. If you’re scheduling a repair to their unit, try to schedule it at a time that works for them; ask for their availability before moving forward. These little compromises won’t make your life much different, but over time, your tenant will be happier with their living situation.

The Property Management Factor

If you’ve tried these strategies and you’re still frustrated with the ongoing management of your property, there is another option that can relieve you of the tenant turnover problem entirely: getting help from a property management agency. In exchange for a reasonable monthly fee, your property managers will take care of every process associated with tenant management, including collecting rent, making property repairs, and even finding new tenants when your existing tenants leave.

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7 Considerations Before Buying A Home Warranty

February 19, 2018

A home warranty sounds like a great deal. You pay a monthly fee and your repairs and maintenance needs are covered. While that sounds good in theory, it doesn’t work out that way in the real world.

If you’ve never dealt with a home warranty before, here are 7 precautions to consider before signing a contract:

1. A home warranty is not actually a warranty

Traditionally, a warranty is a “guarantee of the integrity of a product and of the maker’s responsibility for the repair or replacement of defective parts.” For instance, when you purchase a warranty for your new dishwasher or stove and it ends up being defective, the manufacturer will replace it or pay for repairs – no matter what’s broken.

A home warranty doesn’t fit the definition of a warranty. It’s a contract governing the repair or replacement of defective parts in your home; however, it’s limited and subject to strict rules. Not all repairs and problems are covered. In fact, most repairs aren’t covered, and homeowners are frequently denied claims.

Many home warranty companies deny homeowner claims citing the problem as “pre-existing” or claim owner negligence without inspecting the appliance. According to Today.com, “Home warranty companies have been the worst-graded category on Angie’s List for eight years in a row. Nearly half of the member ratings were unfavorable.”

Before sending a home warranty company your money, thoroughly investigate their reputation. If you can’t verify their integrity, tuck money away every month to cover your own repairs. Or, hire a property management company to get your repairs done professionally and on time.

2. You can’t decide when it’s time to replace your broken heater

Heat is an amenity every landlord is legally obligated to provide their tenant.  A lack of heat is considered a violation of the Health and Safety Code. Without heat, your unit is considered unlivable and the tenant has no further responsibility to pay rent.

If your tenant’s heater breaks and you’re counting on your home warranty company to replace it before your tenant gets mad, be prepared for some blips in the process.

Some home warranty contracts reserve the right to pay you out rather than replace your broken heater. If they pay you out, it will only be a fraction of what a new unit costs. You’ll be on your own to finance the rest of the project.

Meanwhile, your tenant will be without heat for as long as it takes to negotiate with your home warranty company. By the time you look into hiring another company, your tenant might already be planning on leaving or filing a lawsuit. They might even start asking for a refund on their rent.

Home warranty companies make money just like insurance companies.  Just like the insurance business, home warranty companies make their money from people who don’t use their services. While not all home warranty companies are unscrupulous, many are. The key is to do your research before signing a contract with any company.

3. There’s a waiting period

Most home warranty companies won’t let you use your plan for up to three months after signing up. The companies claim the waiting period is designed to prevent people from making a claim for a pre-existing condition. In that case, consider three months of fees to be your loss and their gain. The waiting period is understandable, but paying the fees while you wait is not.

Home warranty companies aren’t the only services with a waiting period. The famed roadside assistance club AAA has a similar policy, although their waiting period is only a few days.

4. Repairs will take longer to complete

Having to route all repairs through a home warranty company can prolong the resolution and frustrate your tenant. First, you’ll need to file the claim and wait for a response. Once approved, your request will be sent to a third party vendor who will need to review the claim and schedule a service call.

If your tenant has to take time off work to accommodate service calls, they’ll be especially annoyed if the technician can’t complete the job in one session. If the tech needs to order more parts and come back a second time, you can expect an angry tenant.

5. Hiring a professional property management company like Total Property Management avoids the lengthy repair process. We have access to a network of top-rated professionals in Greenville and it's surrounding areas, and prioritize requests based on what landlords need. The biggest benefit is your tenant doesn’t need to be home for the repair to take place.

6. Coverage is more limited than you think

Your home warranty won’t always cover the whole cost of what needs to be repaired. For instance, your air conditioner may not be completely covered. While you can get most broken parts replaced, you’ll likely need to pay for the expensive aspects like recharging it.

7. A true emergency won’t be prioritized as an emergency

When you call a local 24-hour emergency plumber or electrician, you can expect them to show up at your door within the hour. Others will show up within a few hours. Your home warranty company won’t necessarily be so quick.

Your contract will define a period of time they promise to “respond” by, but that doesn’t mean that’s when a service professional will show up at the door. You still have to coordinate with a third party vendor and your tenant. Depending on what’s wrong, the damage might be greater by the time a technician shows up.

When you hire a property management company offering maintenance with a quick turn around, you won’t be given the runaround and you won’t need to deal with third parties.

When does a home warranty make sense?

When you first buy an investment property, it might make sense to purchase a home warranty plan for at least a year while you assess the condition of the property. After that, you’re better off with an emergency repair fund.

It’s exhausting searching for a home warranty company that doesn’t play games; if you want to skip the roundabout, hiring a property management company is the efficient option.

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7 Tips To Make Your First Rental Property Easier To Manage:

February 12, 2018

Rental property is one of the best investments you can make, and on paper, it seems pretty easy to get started. All you have to do is buy a property, pay a flat mortgage rate, and collect rent in excess of your mortgage payments, right?

In reality, being a landlord is much more complicated. You’ll be responsible for all the home maintenance that comes up (which may be many hours a week, or barely any time at all), you’ll be legally responsible for keeping the property livable, and on top of that, if you have a problem tenant, you’ll have to deal with significant headaches trying to sort everything out.

If it’s your first rental property and you aren’t sure what you’re doing, you might be intimidated at the thought of all those responsibilities—plus all the variables of finding the most profitable property to purchase and maximizing your return.

Fortunately, there are some strategies that can make your life easier (and give you more confidence as a landlord).

1.Prioritizing Manageability

Try using these tips to make the process easier, less stressful, and less time-intensive:

2.Get your feet wet. You have to start somewhere; if you waited to get rental property experience before you bought a rental property, you’d never become a landlord. That being said, there are some ways to gain experience and prepare yourself for the realities of property ownership. For example, if you bought a home for your personal residence and have experience maintaining it, you’ll find it easier to manage a rental property that other tenants live in. If you practice some basic home repairs at someone else’s property, you’ll know what to do when you encounter the same problem at your rental property.

3.Focus on a single-family home at first. Commercial properties, and properties that house many families and tenants, will bring you more income than single-family homes, but they’ll also be much harder to manage. If you’re just getting started, you’ll want to start small. Find one single-family home to invest in, and practice managing that for several months—at a minimum—before you consider investing in something bigger.

4.Pick a newer property. Older homes are appealing for their charm, individuality, and maybe even their quirks—but they’re going to be a nightmare to maintain if you don’t have much property management experience. Instead, make sure your first property has been built within the past 20 years or so. Newer homes are going to be less vulnerable to wear and tear, and won’t need as many upgrades. For example, the electrical work will likely be up to code and installed with modern best practices, and the windows will be tightly sealed and reliable. As an added bonus, you may find it easier to keep a new property occupied than an older property.

5.Talk and work with other property owners. Experience is the best teacher, but you can take advantage of the experiences of others to learn the ropes of being an effective property manager. Track down and talk to other property owners in the area, and ask them about some of the biggest challenges they’ve faced so far (and how they’ve faced them). You might be able to find a networking event or social group for landlords in your area on a site like Meetup, or you could meet property owners through general networking events. Either way, try to find yourself some loose property “mentors,” and learn whatever lessons they can teach you about successful, profitable property management.

6.Get a network of contacts you trust. Next, work on building up a network of contacts that you trust. These should include general contractors and specialists in a variety of different fields related to your home. For example, you should have the contact information of a good plumber, a good electrician, a reliable lawn care provider, a general handyperson, and maybe even a lawyer or financial advisor. There’s no way you’ll be able to do everything yourself if this is your first property, so it pays to have a list of high-quality, affordable people you can trust to help you out. You can find these people through other property owners you know, or by tracking them down individually at networking events and other opportunities.

7.Be proactive with upgrades and maintenance. Try to stay as actively involved in the ongoing maintenance of your property as possible. If you notice a pinhole leak somewhere, get it patched immediately. Change the air filters sooner than you need to. Run regular inspections, and address even small problems without delay. This will prevent much bigger problems from forming, and will save you both time and money in the long run.

Screen your tenants carefully. You may be tempted to fill your property as quickly as possible; after all, the faster you get someone in your property, the faster you’ll start generating revenue. And it’s true that empty properties are one of the biggest threats to your profitability. However, it’s almost always worth your patience and diligence to screen your tenants carefully. Look for candidates that have a strong history of payments, a reliable job, intentions to stay in the area for several years, and a good attitude overall. Even if it takes you three months to find the right candidate, you’ll save yourself trouble in excess of the additional costs you bear.

Getting Additional Help

If these tips aren’t enough to make you feel more comfortable with the process of becoming a landlord and managing your own rental property, there is another option that will allow you to remain profitable while mitigating or eliminating almost all the stressful responsibilities. Hiring a professional property management service, at the right price, will spare you the strain of screening tenants, maintaining the property, and dealing with hectic outcomes like evictions—all while securing you the majority of your rental income.

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12 Pros and Cons of Investing in a Multifamily Home

January 29. 2018

If you’re considering investing in rental property, you’ve probably thought about the prospect of managing a multifamily home. In case you aren’t familiar, multifamily homes are exactly what they sound like; houses that are designed or structured to accommodate multiple families in different units within the home. They come in many forms, including duplexes and triplexes, and apartment buildings are considered multifamily properties as well.

There are many reasons to consider multifamily homes as a primary rental investment, but these aren’t the right investments for everybody. Before pulling the trigger on a multifamily home, you should familiarize yourself with the pros and cons of this property type.

The Pros

Let’s start by looking at the advantages:

1.Cash flow. As you might expect, hosting multiple families in one property means you’re going to see a larger cash flow. Assuming each family pays a margin over the actual costs of owning and maintaining the property, each additional family is going to boost your income—and your profitability. Accordingly, you’ll stand to make more of a profit with a multifamily home than you would with a single-family home.

2.Loan simplicity. If you’ve ever tried to manage multiple mortgages at once, you know the headache of dealing with multiple loans and multiple lenders. If convenience and simplicity are goals of yours, multifamily homes are ideal. If you purchase a duplex with a single mortgage, you’ll deal with far less paperwork than you would with the purchase of two single-family homes.

3.Insurance simplicity. Similarly, when you purchase a multifamily home, you’re only going to deal with one insurance policy. The insurance will be more expensive, of course, but you’ll get the same coverage across each individual unit, and you won’t have to open up multiple policies.

4.Risk mitigation. When buying a multifamily home, you’ll face less risk when it comes to tenants; because you’ll be dealing with two, three, or even more units, the risk for a total vacancy is low. Even if one tenant moves out, you’ll have your other tenants to keep your cash flow relatively positive while you try to fill the void. On top of that, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll have multiple problematic tenants at the same time; if one of your units has a problem with paying rent on time, the timeliness of the other units can make up for it. It’s a way of hedging your bets within a single property.

5.Competition mitigation. Competition for buying and renting single-family homes is somewhat high, since it presents an easy entry to the real estate investing realm. When you switch to investing in multifamily properties, you’ll have fewer people competing with you on bids and available units to rent. Multifamily homes also tend to be more unique, so you’ll face less immediate competition as well.

6.Long-term value. Single-family homes are often priced based on what families find appealing, which can be subjective and fluctuate significantly based on changes within the neighborhood. Multifamily properties, on the other hand, are priced almost exclusively based on how much income-generating potential they have. They’re bought and sold primarily as forms of investment, and therefore have more stable long-term growth (in many cases).

The Cons

Now for the downsides:

You’re probably already aware that multifamily homes are more expensive than their single-family counterparts. Though you won’t necessarily pay twice as much for a duplex as you would for a single-family home, when you start looking at homes with three or more units, prices can be a real barrier to entry. If this is your first investment property, or if you’re low on cash, multifamily homes may be too expensive to consider.

1,Management time. Each unit you have in a house is going to translate to more management responsibilities, and more time for you to spend as a landlord. You’ll be dealing with multiple groups of tenants simultaneously, multiple sets of appliances, and of course, multiple different schedules. Plus, if something goes wrong at the property, it will likely go wrong for multiple units at once, presenting heftier maintenance and repair bills as well.

2.Demand for experience. In the preceding section, we mentioned the fact that your competition may decline when opting for a multifamily home over a single-family, but the type of competition you face will also change. Multifamily homes, due to their advantages, tend to be investment targets for highly experienced investors. That means your competition will likely have years more experience than you do—and that might mean you’ll have a harder time finding tenants and pricing your units appropriately.

Multifamily units are inherently more complicated, and are prone to more strange occurrences. There are more types of complications that can arise; for example, if you end up with a noisy tenant, all your tenants from all your units may suffer, and a structural problem could drive down the value of your property immensely.

3.Availability. For many reasons, including lower demand, multifamily homes tend to be less available and less common than single-family homes. This means you’ll have a harder time finding the “ideal” property, and your options are going to be far more limited.

4.Regulations. Landlords already have to deal with multiple regulations about how property can be rented; with multifamily homes, regulations are even stricter. You’ll need to do your research beforehand to find out the laws in your state, or else you could risk fines or imprisonment.

Multifamily homes can be extremely profitable (and in some ways, easier to manage than multiple single-family homes). However, they’re also more complicated and challenging. If you want to mitigate some of the risk in managing your own property, and cut back on some of the effort and stress you’ll incur along the way, consider investing in a property management service.

What’s the Most Profitable Real Estate Strategy?

February 5, 2018

You’ve likely heard that investing in real estate is one of the most profitable financial endeavors you can undertake; real estate is responsible for many self-made millionaires, and is often found as a component of diversified investment portfolios.

The problem is, “real estate investing” can refer to one or more of several strategies, each of which have advantages and disadvantages, and a different potential level of profitability. So if you’re interested in making the biggest profit, which one should you choose?

The Major Options

Let’s start by defining the major options:

1.Buying for long-term value. The first option is to buy property with a focus on long-term value. The idea here is to purchase homes or buildings in neighborhoods with a high propensity for growth. If you buy a piece of real estate at a relatively low cost, wait a few decades, and sell, you’ll probably make a sizable return on your investment. Whether explicitly considered or not, this is a goal for many homeowners.

2.Rental properties. With rental properties, the goal is to collect more in rental income from occupying tenants than you pay on your monthly mortgage payment. Ideally, with minimal vacancies, you’ll make money every month. When you’re done with the property, you can sell it—hopefully for a profit—and move on to other endeavors.

3.House flipping. Some people also attempt to “flip” houses. In these cases, a prospective owner will purchase a property in poor condition, or one selling for an exceptionally low price, or one in a questionable neighborhood, and attempt to improve it through contract work and DIY projects over the course of a few months. The goal is to sell the home after a short period for a sizable profit.

So how do these options stack up to one another?

Cash Flow

There are a few ways to think about profitability, and one of the most important concepts is cash flow. Rather than focusing on an eventual gain, prioritizing cash flow gives you the ability to collect a consistent stream of revenue. This is advantageous because it will help you offset the ongoing costs of owning and managing a property, and give you more insight and control over your eventual profitability.

For example, let’s say your monthly payments (including mortgage principal, interest, taxes, and home insurance) amount to $1,200, with $100 set aside for maintenance and repairs. Assuming your property remains occupied with a rent of $1,600, that nets you a monthly profit of $400—all while you’re building equity in the home itself.

This is one reason why rental properties are one of your best options—especially if you’re not experienced in real estate investing. However, there’s always the possibility that your property remains unoccupied, or that you won’t be able to charge enough rent to offset your costs.

Long-Term Gains

You can also choose to focus on long-term gains. Housing prices fluctuate with some volatility, but overall, the trend moves upward at a steady rate. The past few years have seen price increases of 5 to 7 percent per year, and that’s an overall average—the rates in some fast-growing areas is far higher than that.

Assuming you’re making an optimal decision and waiting a decade or longer before selling, it’s not unreasonable to double your money (or triple it) on a single investment. Of course, you’ll also need to consider the additional costs you’ll incur with things like insurance, maintenance, and improvements over time.

The real key to profitability here is choosing the right property to invest in; areas with growing job prospects, improving schools, and attractive neighborhoods are good bets, but only if home prices haven’t caught up to the appeal. Look for homes below market price in these areas.

The Risk Factor

Different types of real estate investments come with different levels of risk, too. Long-term investments are generally safe, but take a while to pay off, while short-term investments are riskier but could pay off substantially and immediately.

The big risk strategy here is “flipping” houses; with this tactic, you’ll buy a house for a very low price, spend time and money fixing it up, and then sell it for a profit. The trouble is, many house flipping efforts end up far less profitable than they originally seemed. It’s difficult to gauge how much a home’s value can increase with any given upgrade, and it’s even more difficult to accurately estimate the cost of the repairs and improvements before you actually begin. Accordingly, only the most experienced real estate investors end up able to turn a profit with any kind of reliability—and even then, profits are limited.

Other Variables to Consider

There are also other variables you should consider when choosing a real estate investing strategy:

In general, adding more properties to your portfolio is going to increase your profitability and mitigate your risk.

The more experienced you are in buying and selling real estate, the better you’ll become at finding good deals and timing the market. Even after a few investments, you should have a better sense of future market trends.

Timing is everything, no matter what type of property you’re investing in; missing the mark by even a few weeks can interfere with your return.

Even the most experienced real estate investors know the results of their decisions are based at least partially on luck—it’s too hard to concretely predict where the housing market is headed.

The Most Profitable Approach

The most profitable approach is one that strikes a balance between short-term gains, long-term gains, and risk: investing in attractive rental property with the propensity to grow in value over the next several years. Of course, managing a rental property takes more effort than you might think; in fact, many landlords end up seeking a property management firm to help them with their core responsibilities.

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How to Let Tenants Know You’re Raising Rent

January 22, 2018

As a landlord, you obviously have a vested interest in your properties and want to do whatever you can to maximize profitability and enjoy the highest ROI possible. Sometimes this means increasing rent prices to account for new costs or increased demand. However, you can’t just arbitrarily increase rents whenever you want. There’s a process you must follow in order to legally raise rents and keep vacancy rates low.

What Justifies a Rent Increase?

You have the right to set your own rental rates, but what exactly justifies a rent increase? In most cases, one of these factors is involved:

1.Cost of living. Each year, the cost of living changes. Historically, it goes up every year, but there are some years where it remains the same. Over the last decade or so, the average cost of living increase per year has been somewhere around 2 percent. Thus, many landlords consistently raise rent by 1 to 3 percent per year, regardless of what happens.

2.Neighborhood improvement. Clearly, rent is more expensive in desirable areas. If something positive has happened in the neighborhood where your property is located, then it would stand to reason that rental rates would increase. For example, many neighborhoods experience significant increases when a major employer decides to place a corporate office nearby.

3.Property improvements. Did you recently purchase a new HVAC unit? Was the kitchen upgraded with modern appliances? Did you add on a bathroom? Property improvements almost always necessitate a rent hike in order to justify the expense. 

There are plenty of other situation-specific justifications for increasing rent, but one or more of these factors is usually involved. While it’s probably a good idea to explain to tenants why you’re raising their rent, you shouldn’t feel bad if you’re doing it to keep up with the market, move up with the neighborhood, or offset property improvements. 

Determining the Rent Increase 

As a landlord, the biggest decision you have to make is how much you’re going to raise rent. You obviously want to increase revenue as much as possible, but you don’t want to do so at the expense of losing a tenant and leaving your property vacant.

It’s important to understand that you’re legally obligated to provide adequate notice. While the laws and fair housing regulations do differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, most requirements are similar across the board. Here are some general guidelines:

You can’t increase rent in the middle of an annual lease agreement. For example, if your tenant signed an annual lease agreement 90 days ago, you can’t increase rent next month. You’ll have to wait until 12 months have passed before an increase is legally enforceable.

If you’re in a month-to-month agreement, it’s usually okay for you to raise the rent at the end of any month with a 15 day notice. Just try not to frequently blindside tenants.

If you’re increasing rent by a small amount (less than 10 percent), then you need to provide at least a 30-day heads up before hiking the rate up. If you’re increasing the rent by more than 10 percent, it’s usually required that you provide a 60-day advance notice.

It’s always wise to keep rent increases as minimal as possible. However, if you must increase a substantial amount in order to justify an added expense, make sure you run careful calculations.

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How Rental Property Cash Flow can fall and what to do About It

January 15, 2018

When managing a rental property, cash flow should be one of your highest considerations. Cash flow, of course, refers to how much money you have coming in from rent compared to how much money you’re spending on things like your mortgage, property taxes, insurance, and ongoing maintenance.

Ideally, you’ll be able to make a profit of a few hundred dollars per month, per family property in your portfolio. Assuming you’re able to establish that, your cash flow should remain relatively consistent for at least several months, since your loan conditions won’t change much, and your tenant will likely be contractually obligated to pay a fixed amount every month.

However, there are some conditions that can slow down your cash flow significantly, so it’s important for you to take proactive action to correct it.

How Cash Flow Falls

1.These are the main reasons why your cash flow could be interrupted:

Falling rent prices. There’s a chance the rental prices in your area could fall significantly. This could happen in response to a wave of criminal activity, falling test scores, a large movement of people away from the area, changes to job availability, or any number of other factors. If this happens, your tenants may demand lower rent prices to match the surrounding area; if you don’t give it to them, they may leave. Either way, you’ll end up with less income every month.

2.Vacancies are the biggest cash flow killers in rental property. If your property isn’t occupied, you’ll make zero dollars, but you’ll still be responsible for any ongoing monthly expenses. Your revenue model should include some excess funds to compensate for vacancy time, so a month or two won’t hurt you long-term. However, if you face a vacancy for more than a couple of months, your property’s profitability could plummet.

Missed payments. You might also experience a holdup in cash flow if your tenants frequently miss their payments, or miss multiple rent payments. It’s not a big deal if they plan on paying you that rent a bit later, but it can interfere with the cash you have on hand—and if they end up leaving without paying you what they owe, you’ll either end up with a loss, or a legal headache trying to get that money back.

3.Maintenance and repair costs. Your cash flow can also weaken during months of especially high maintenance and/or repair costs. Again, your budget should accommodate at least a few instances of repair per year (between 1 and 4 percent of the home’s value per year, depending on who you ask). However, your rate of repairs will not be steady or consistent. Some years will require heavy investments and large costs, while other years will be almost completely hands-off. You’ll have some months that require multiple expensive repairs, and when they hit, your cash flow can take a nosedive.

4.Insurance and tax costs. Though not often, your monthly payments for property taxes and home insurance will occasionally increase. When this happens, you’ll owe more money every month—but you might be temporarily locked into your current rent prices.

5.Management costs. Finally, you may experience lower cash flow if you enlist the services of a property management firm. The flip side here is that all your other responsibilities and stresses will disappear; the management firm will take care of things like repairs, tenant issues, filling vacancies, and maintaining the property, so while your cash flow may be reduced, your workload will be reduced as well.

Options for Improvement

So how can you turn the situation around and maximize your cash flow? Most of your options come in the form of prevention:

1.Choose your properties carefully. Some neighborhoods are going to be more prone to volatility than others. It’s impossible to correctly predict the trajectory of neighborhood rent prices 100 percent of the time, but with a bit more research and critical thinking (not to mention experience), you can select properties with a greater likelihood of increasing in value over time.

2.Screen tenants and keep them happy. Your first instinct, upon experiencing a vacancy, will be to fill the vacancy as quickly as possible—after all, the faster you get a new tenant, the faster your cash flow will be restored. However, it’s almost always better to wait, screening your tenants carefully and only accepting tenants with a strong history of on-time payments. You’ll make a short-term sacrifice to your cash flow, but you’ll end up with tenants who stay longer and pay more consistently as a result.

3.Opt for lease agreements. There are advantages to offering rental agreements with a great degree of flexibility, including month-to-month rentals, but it’s usually more advantageous to offer long-term lease agreements of 12 months or longer. This can help you lock in your rental prices for a longer period of time. They aren’t a guarantee that your tenants will stay, but they can help you create better models for your future revenue, and attract more serious long-term tenants.

4.Set aside a cushion for unexpected developments. You should always budget conservatively, and establish an emergency fund to help you deal with unexpected developments. For example, a tenant might choose to move out early for a new job opportunity, or your roof might suffer major damage that needs immediate repair. Having a financial cushion to fall back on will mitigate the short-term risks of low cash flow, and will buy you time to recover from the incident—whatever it may be.

5.Plan to occasionally raise prices. Some expenses will increase no matter what you do. To compensate for them, plan to incrementally raise your rental prices. Small increases—those less than 5 percent—will rarely be met with much criticism from your tenants, so long as they aren’t too frequent. Make sure you’re able to justify those increases with cost increases that you’re facing (or rising rent prices in your neighborhood).

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11 Creative Sources of Income Through Your Rental Property

December 27, 2017

The concept of investing and capitalizing on a rental property is fairly simple. You purchase a property with a low-interest mortgage, make necessary repairs, and rent it out for an asking price higher than your mortgage. You make money to pay off the mortgage quickly and/or make further investments to increase your revenue streams.

But there’s more opportunity for making money on rental properties than just collecting rent. In fact, there are dozens of ways that you could increase your regular income from your rental properties and make more money faster.

Here are some you should try.

1.Set Late Fees

If you’re trying to be likeable, you might allow a small grace period for late rent. It shows respect and kindness to renters, leading to less turnover. But don’t be a pushover about it. Many apartment complexes are more relaxed on their late fees than they should be.

Collect late fees for any renters who fail to pay on time. They signed a contract, and they owe you the money. The late fee helps people pay rent on time, and it protects you if a renter defaults on their payments.

2.Charge for Parking

When you’re in charge of an apartment complex, there are plenty of extra, in-demand things you can charge for, like parking spots. A lot of renters don’t own a car, so they’ll feel like they’re getting a deal if they don’t have to pay for a parking spot. Meanwhile, you’ll get to pocket a little extra for those that do.

If you don’t fill up your parking spaces all year long, you can also rent them out during events. One property manager made more than $7,000 during a 10-day strawberry festival in Florida by renting out his extra parking spaces.

3.Install Solar Panels

A few years ago, solar panels were ugly and expensive. It was rare that you could get a higher return than what you put into it. However, things are much different now. Power grids are changing along with the structure and affordability of solar panels. The price of solar panel installation has fallen by more than 60 percent in the last decade!

Now, not only are these panels economical, but they’re also an attractive thing for renters. When you’ve installed solar panels, you can sell energy to your renters, who can then sell the extras to the grid. It’s a win-win for everyone, and in a place like Katy, where it’s sunny often, it’s an excellent investment for your multi-family rental property.

4.Add Services of Convenience

The millennial generation are the most common renters, and they tend to prefer one-stop shops, even if it costs a little extra. You can turn your rental property into a profitable business with convenience services like babysitting, dog-walking, dry cleaning, concierge, coin-operated laundry, and more services.

If they’re affordable and convenient, renters are likely to pay for them. You’ll have an easier time filling your vacancies and padding your bank account at the same time.

5.Charge Based on the Unit

If you own an apartment complex with different units, base your rent based on what’s inside. For example, if one unit has an excellent view, a balcony, and central air, you can charge more than one with fewer windows and a window air conditioning unit.

If you have a cookie-cutter style apartment complex, there are still ways you can capitalize on prime apartments. You could base the rent on the view, which floor it’s on, or how it’s furnished.

6.Storage for an Additional Charge

If your complex has vacancies, an attic, a shed, or extra rooms, you can make a little extra by renting them out as storage units. Renters almost always need extra storage, and if it’s nearby, they’re happy to pay for it.

You might find that it’s even easier to rent out a vacant apartment for storage rather than to someone who will live there. You won’t have to worry about contract breaches or legal rights, and you can potentially make more on the storage space than you would on a renter.

7.Charge for Property-Related Services

Your landscaping services don’t have to be included in the price of the rent. You can easily build some extra cash by charging for little things like snow removal, lawn mowing, and basic non-essential maintenance. Call it an HOA fee, and ensure that the property always looks great.

You could also offer other services like housekeeping or deep-cleaning services. This is a double-edged benefit for you; it brings in a little extra revenue while keeping your properties clean and well-maintained between renters.

8.Increase Rent Strategically

Although a sudden rent hike will likely leave a bad taste in the mouth of your renters, there are strategic ways to increase rent. It starts with understanding your current market. Renters might leave in search of a cheaper apartment if you don’t raise your rent according to complementary units.

If you’re planning to raise the rent, make it worth the rent increase. If you’ve never repainted, repaired the leak under the sink, or replaced the carpets, your tenants won’t be happy with a sudden increase. However, small updates here and there can make a rent increase worthwhile to a tenant over time.

9.Charge a Flat-Rate

Charging a flat rate means you include a general cost estimation of utilities, including water, gas, garbage, sewer, and electricity in the cost of the rent. A flat-rate rent payment can be an incredibly powerful tool in the hands of a savvy property manager. It’s an attractive rental option for the renter who wants to minimize their responsibility and maintain a steady rent deduction each month.

It can also be positive for you. Although some tenants may use more utilities than their rent payment covers, others will use far less. You can pocket the extra and put it back into your units.

10.Hold Paid Classes

There really is no limit to the ways you can create revenue in your rental properties. One great idea is to hire a yoga, Zumba, or personal training instructor to hold classes on the lawn each morning for a fee.

You could also hold personal finance classes, self-reliance courses, or any number of useful gatherings. Your tenants will appreciate the convenience of these gatherings while growing closer as a community. You’ll reap the financial benefits and maintain tenant loyalty.

11.Hire the Property Managers at Total Property Management

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6 Tips For Making An Ugly Rental Property Look Good

December 22, 2017

Profit is the name of the game when it comes to investing in rental properties. You can’t let your emotions or design and style preferences get in the way. With that being said, many landlords end up with properties that are cheap, yet ugly. And while you don’t want to pour a ton of money into these properties, you do want to make sure they attract renters. Thankfully, there are some inexpensive and high-returning hacks you can try to give your property a little boost.

1.Hide Ugly Flooring - One of the telltale signs of an old, neglected house is ugly flooring. Whether its carpet, hardwood, linoleum, or tile, old flooring can be a major turnoff and often dissuades even the least sensitive renters. Thankfully, flooring is also one of the cheapest problems to fix.  If you have hardwood flooring that’s scratched, stained, or otherwise tarnished, you probably don’t have the money in your budget to refinish or replace (especially on the lower end of the market). In this case, the best thing you can do is invest in some inexpensive area rugs. If you really want to get trendy, try layering some area rugs for a unique look that adds appeal to small spaces.  If you have smaller house with carpet, your best bet is to replace the old carpet. You’d be surprised how affordable this is. And not only does it instantly make a house look fresher, but it also gives it a new home smell that will subconsciously make prospective renters like the property more.

2.Burn a Candle - Speaking of making your rental property smell good, it’s always a good idea to freshen up the place before showing it to a prospective renter. Even if you think the house smells fine, burning a candle can give it a nice, homey aroma. If you don’t want to overwhelm people, diffusing essential oils might be a better route.  “Avoid strong, polarizing scents such as patchouli, sandalwood or ylang ylang. Instead, go with relaxing scents such as lavender or uplifting scents such as grapefruit or Satsuma,” blogger Heather Levin suggests. “You can also unobtrusively add wonderful scents to your bathroom by adding a few drops of essential oil to a cotton ball, and hiding them on shelves or by the sink.”  A classic open house tactic that real estate agents use is to bake cookies or brownies in the oven a few minutes before people arrive. It makes the house smell good and gives you something to offer people.

3.Update Cabinet Hardware - It doesn’t take long for a kitchen to become dated – and considering that this is the most important room in a rental – you want to freshen it up however you can. The first thing you can try is updating the cabinet hardware.  Drawer pulls and knobs can be replaced relatively easily and cheaply, yet provide an instant facelift. In a small kitchen, you can probably remove and replace all hardware in less than an hour. You may also want to swap out hardware in the bathrooms, so account for this when purchasing the new hardware.  Though a little more time intensive, consider repainting cabinets if they look dated or are currently finished in a non-neutral color. Once you have the hardware removed, it’s actually pretty simple.

4.Spruce Up Countertops - While you have to stop somewhere, your little kitchen remodel might spill over to the countertops. If you have Formica or another cheap material that’s stained or visually unappealing, there are some options for fixing them up without doing a total replacement.  If you have the patience and it looks good with the rest of the kitchen, faux marble can actually create a really nice look. Another option is to paint the countertop black for a nice modern look.

5.Paint Walls a Neutral Color - Everyone has their own color preferences, yet few people are keen on bright colors like red, orange, or green. If your rental property has extreme colors, consider going with a neutral – such as white, gray, or beige. If nothing else, you’ll appeal to the masses and won’t risk turning away a prospective renter.

6.Enhance the Curb Appeal - Even for a rental property, curb appeal matters. People want to drive up to a nice home and will be turned off if there are weeds, mildew on the siding, trash in the yard, etc. While you probably don’t want to spend a ton of time doing yard work, there are some simple and rather effortless chores you can do to enhance the look of even the most basic home.  The first thing you’ll want to do is pressure wash the siding, sidewalk, driveway, and front porch area. You can rent a pressure washer or even use a hose with a high-pressure nozzle, if you don’t have the right equipment. The goal is to remove any cobwebs and loose dirt.  If the house doesn’t have shutters, spending a few hundred bucks on some shutters for the front of the house can change the entire look. (There’s no need to put shutters on the sides and back of the house unless you want to.)  Finally, plant some fresh flowers and mulch the bed a couple of weeks before showing the house. There’s something about a fresh pop of color that breathes some life into a house.

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10 Ways To Be A More Likeable Landlord

December 8, 2017

Property managers spend a lot of time behind a desk: working out rent payments, marketing properties, and handling paperwork. They may also spend time with tenants, on whom it’s smart to leave a good impression.

A tenant may love the property, but if he or she doesn’t like the manager or landlord, then the tenant is less likely to sign or renew a contract. But being liked isn’t everything.

In the long run, it’s better to have a solid marketing and rental strategy to support your property. You also need sufficient backbone to set strong policies and stick with them, even in the face of an intimidating renter.

Being liked and respected can help you fill vacancies and reduce tenant turnover, however. Human beings respond better to authority if it shows a pleasant demeanor and appears to have their best interests in mind.

You don’t have to be a tenant’s best friend, but you can create a positive impression. Are you a likeable landlord? If you aren’t sure, here are some tactics to work on.

1.Offer a Warm Welcome

The most loved property managers make tenants feel welcome. They present a welcome letter that has information about the neighborhood as well as the property. They may also provide documents that facilitate address changes and utility activation.

To the extra mile, help your tenants get adjusted to the area with directions to nearby grocery stores, takeout menus, and other amenities. Pay attention to details and stock the bathroom or leave a welcome basket on their doorstep.

Such extras don’t consume a lot of time or money, but leave a long-lasting impression on the tenant.

2.Be More Available

Tenants won’t feel like you value them if you aren’t available when they have a need. You should provide multiple ways to contact you, including phone numbers, email addresses, contact forms, and social media.

This is advantageous to both sides, since you probably want to know if a toilet’s overflowing, because it could cost you thousands in damage. You could also post a list of people to call if you’re unavailable.

For example, leave numbers for the plumber, electrician, and other contracted service providers so a problem can be handled quickly and professionally, even when you’re away.

3.Look Professional and Act That Way

Your appearance and demeanor also play a role in the impressions you make. Always dress neatly at work, especially when you meet new tenants. You might not work in an office, but you can still dress well and leave cut-off jeans and T-shirts at home.

Your behavior should always be professional. Follow the lease guidelines consistently and refer to them whenever issues arise. Tenants will respect that you stuck to the agreement they signed, even if they don’t like the outcome.

4.Be Online

If you have a larger property with multiple units, a website can provide a valuable service for your tenants. A social media presence can also help them stay connected with you and their neighbors.

It’s a good idea to maintain a presence on sites like Yelp or ReviewMyLandlord so prospective renters can get more feedback about your performance as the landlord. Online reviews can exert a lot of power over a customer’s purchasing decisions; generating great reviews on such sites will fill vacancies fast.

5.Implement Compassion and Flexibility

Tenants will occasionally submit requests that are not possible under the lease parameters. Other situations won’t be so black and white.

For example, the lease might say no pets, but your tenant wants to keep a betta tropical fish. In this case, the risks are minimal, and it might be in your best interest to let this one slide.

You don’t need to throw the rule book at your tenants every time a question surfaces. A little compassion and flexibility can go a long way toward commanding respect and heightening good relations.

6.Respond Quickly and Appropriately

Nobody likes to be ignored, especially when they have a pressing concern about their living arrangements. You should do your best to respond to emails and messages within 24 hours. Unless, of course, it’s an emergency, when you should respond right away.

It’s also worthwhile to cultivate a steady stream of communication with tenants. You might send out a monthly newsletter, draft email reminders, and check in with them on a personal basis. Stay professional and polite in all communications.

7.Don’t Accuse

Pointing fingers or confronting tenants harshly about an issue will only create more waves. The mess will become more difficult to clean up, and you’ll have left a poor impression. Don’t talk badly about tenants or give unpleasant replies when addressing a problem.

Work with people as much as possible. Don’t make yourself an unyielding force that makes problem resolution impossible. As long as you’re willing to maintain an open mind, your tenants are more likely to follow suit.

8.Stay Positive

Most individuals prefer to surround themselves with positive people. They will be drawn to a landlord who appears confident and content instead of miserable and difficult to talk to.

Tenant problems and emergencies are disconcerting for everyone. Try not to let a negative outlook show through, which can make tenants more anxious than they should be. Keep calm, and stay positive when you work through challenging and frustrating situations.

9.Remain Calm

Staying cool is just as important as being upbeat. A tenant might come to you in distress about a conflict with a neighbor or a plumbing issue. Panicking yourself or letting the stress get to you will make the situation worse and cause the tenant to lose confidence in you.

The same advice goes for situations in which a tenant brings you unreasonable complaints. Try to make your office a calm, inviting place. Tidy up a messy desk, install a scented candle, and greet tenants with a smile. It’s amazing what a calmer atmosphere can do for an upset renter.

10.Listen Actively

When tenants approach you with a concern, pay attention to what they say. Don’t allow yourself to zone out and think about dinner. Most important, don’t jump to conclusions.

Note the details and offer signals of affirmation, such as a passive comment or the occasional nod. Hear them out completely before you speak. Only after the tenant finishes talking, start to suggest solutions.

Make it clear that you heard everything and validate the person’s concerns. Then, devise an action plan to address the problem. This is one of the best ways to instill confidence and respect in you as a property manager.

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7 Myths about Property Managers

December 1, 2017

When you invest in real estate, things aren’t as easy as they seem on television. There’s a lot of stress, time, money, and hassle that goes into running a successful rental property, and going it alone makes things even more difficult.

Thankfully, there are property managers who can help carry some of the load. Have you heard some misconceptions that make property management sound unappealing? Well, don’t dismiss the process so quickly. Sometimes people mix fact with fiction, providing an inaccurate depiction of what it’s really like to work with a property management company.

Before you get too caught up in hearsay, let’s debunk some common property management myths:

1.Property management companies aren’t really necessary. I can do everything myself.

Investors often believe they can handle the ownership and management of a rental property on their own. They believe that by being the landlord and doing the repairs, they can make the most of their investment.

However, experienced property owners will say that you definitely need to hire help. It’s much easier to hire a single property management company than it is to keep track of a long list of contractors. With one company at the helm, you eliminate the confusion of communicating with a variety of contractors, and can enjoy your profits without hassle.

2.Their services are too expensive.

One of the most common myths is that property management companies are expensive. However, this is one misconception that’s inaccurate in more ways than one.

To begin with, rental properties typically only implement fees when someone is renting the unit, which means you’ll always have rental income to cover the cost. Additionally, property managers, like Green Residential, charge a flat fee for all of their services, which is often more affordable than being charged for each service individually.

Finally, your return on investment is typically much higher when you work with a property manager. They work hard to ensure the quality of living for your renters. In turn, you can raise the rent and attract top quality tenants. This increased rent often covers the property management fees and brings in a little extra each month.

3.Property managers can’t possibly preserve my property as well as I can.

It’s totally natural to feel you can handle your property best. You’ve invested time and money, so no one can possibly care about your property quite as much as you.

Although property managers can’t match the feelings you have for your property, they can make sure it’s extremely well cared for. You might love your property, but when you have other responsibilities, it’s difficult to find the time to care for your investment.

4.Property managers have your best interests at heart, and they have the time and resources needed to keep your property looking great. If your rental property does well, then their business does well. It’s a win-win for everyone involved!

5.My property is located in a small town, so no property managers will help out.

Many rental owners are concerned that their property falls outside a company’s sphere of care because it’s in a remote location. However, that doesn’t mean they’re entirely out of luck. Many companies will work with your property no matter where it’s located. They may not be able to travel to the property themselves, but they can work with contractors in your area to get the job done.

6.Property managers will take control of my rental.

Oftentimes, property owners want nothing to do with property managers because they’re afraid they’ll take control of the property. The owners will no longer have any say, and their income will suffer.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. You’re in no way signing away your rights as a property owner when you sign a contract with a property manager. You’re actually signing an agreement that someone will help you control your tenants.

With someone to monitor interactions with your renters and keep the property well maintained, you’ll be able to handle problems more efficiently as they come. Property managers can often spot problems before they happen, helping you to control of the situation, before it becomes a major issue.

7.I can find renters better than my property managers can.

You might be a great judge of character and have a history of putting good residents in your home, but that doesn’t mean you should attempt the process. Renting is a huge liability, and one bad renter can destroy the property.

In addition, there are a variety of legal criteria that many owners don’t know about, such as the Federal Fair Housing and HUD guidelines. Also, most owners don’t conduct background checks or credit checks. These are important because they help prevent illegal activity and make sure your renters will pay on time.

A professional management company will know how to handle the above situations and more. In addition, they also have experience screening clients, which means they know what to look for in good tenants, something you might miss. This keeps you legally and ethically covered when it’s time to fill a vacancy.

Property managers won’t handle my single-family unit.

A major misconception in the management world is that property management companies are only made to handle large, multi-family properties. However, they’re equipped to handle units of all sizes, from single family units to large complexes.

Everyone deserves the benefits of a good property management company. They can make a difficult project infinitely easier, and it’s always better to do your research before committing to the right one.