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TOTAL PROPERTY MANAGEMENT, LLC

Residential-Commercial Leasing & Management


Our Blog

An ongoing series of informational entries

Sluggish Market? Turn Your Home Into a Rental

October 30, 2020

As home prices drop in some areas in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, sellers are increasingly reluctant to enter the housing market. While some intend to stay put until the economy recovers, others are looking for ways to offload their property without selling.


For homeowners who need to move but aren’t ready to sell due to the pandemic, converting the property into a long-term rental is an ideal solution. Unlike vacation rentals, long-term rental properties offer stable income without the legal complexities of short-term rentals.


Is owning a rental property right for you?


Converting a primary residence into a rental property has significant advantages, including passive income and the ability to wait until your home’s value appreciates. However, it’s important to understand your obligations as a landlord before taking this step.


Landlords are responsible for maintaining their property’s condition and adhering to all applicable building codes and safety standards. This includes handling both routine maintenance and emergency repairs, which can pose a problem to landlords with full-time occupations or limited finances.


The costs of maintaining and repairing a home can be significant. For example, at an average $2 per linear foot for a two-story house, a smaller project like gutter cleaning could easily run you hundreds of dollars a year. While a major repair like replacing the home’s HVAC system could run up to $40,000.


For this reason, it’s important to ensure you have the time and money before becoming a landlord. If you have the finances to maintain a rental property but not the time, Total Property Management can stand in for hands-on landlording.


How to find trustworthy tenants


The right tenants make a landlord’s job much easier. While you may feel pressured to get a tenant into your home as quickly as possible, taking time to thoroughly screen tenants pays off in the form of reduced wear and tear and a lower likelihood of evictions.


Screening tenants requires collecting personal information. It’s your duty as a landlord to safeguard this sensitive information in accordance with privacy laws and gain consent before performing a background check. Many landlords opt to use a third-party background check service to avoid privacy pitfalls.


While background checks are important, don’t discount the value of a face-to-face (or, during COVID-19, screen-to-screen) interview. Asking renters about their history and household, meeting pets, and discussing expectations can provide more insight into a potential tenant than any credit score.


Showing a rental property safely during the pandemic


Screening tenants via video chat is just one way that landlords can use technology to their advantage during the coronavirus pandemic. Landlords can also use video-calling apps to offer remote tours of rental properties, digital document sharing to submit applications and sign leases, and e-transfers to accept application fees, security deposits, and rent payments.


When renters do visit a property in-person, either to tour or to move in, landlords should put cleanliness at the forefront. Have the property professionally cleaned before marketing it and ask everyone present to use hand sanitizer, wear masks, and practice social distancing.


Landlords should also put clear policies in place in the event that the coronavirus pandemic affects a tenant’s ability to pay rent. It’s in a landlord’s best interest to work with tenants while eviction proceedings are temporarily suspended during the pandemic, but that’s hard to do if tenants don’t communicate about financial difficulties. By communicating up-front about policies regarding rent reductions and deferrals, landlords provide a clear path forward for tenants facing short-term financial problems.


Converting your home into a rental can be a smart alternative to selling your home in a slow market. However, becoming a landlord isn’t for everyone. Think carefully about whether you’re up for the challenge and responsibility of rental property management before converting your home. If not, talk to a real estate agent to discuss the best strategies for selling your home at a great price.


If you’re preparing to convert your home into a single-family rental, let the experts at Total Property Management take the helm by handling everything from marketing your property to screening tenants to keeping your property maintained. Call today for more information! 864-350-9802

What does an open API mean for Property Management companies?

August 17, 2020

Take a second and think about how much information you collect from your residents, owners, and their properties each day. From your books to your residents’ technology adoption, there’s a well of hidden value buried underneath the surface. Many property management companies already know that they’re sitting on all this data that can help them make their operations more efficient and inform sound decision-making—and that’s precisely the reason why an open API is so timely.

So why has Buildium released an open API? It all comes down to the property management industry’s appetite for access to data and how property managers can benefit from it.

Patrick Rubeski, VP of Engineering at Buildium says, “Here, what you’re seeing is more of a pivot in the industry around access to data and ease—and enablement—of using that data to help make good business decisions. Now you actually have the ability to access your data through myriad tools—and even to build your own tools.

And that becomes really important because in the industry we’re seeing an enormous amount of activity. There are really great products up and down the stack. What this gives you the ability to do is integrate with those products with ease and also do it in a really custom way if you want.”

In the following post, you’ll not only get a primer on what an open API is, and how you can contemplate using it, but also hear directly from those who envisioned and built Buildium’s new, open API.

For a technical guide on everything Buildium API, visit developer.buildium.com.

What’s an API?

An Application Programming Interface (API) is a set of rules and definitions that allow different pieces of technology to communicate with each other. A well-built, secure, and well-documented API is a foundation for software development. An open API essentially gives any developer the possibility to create software to plug into an external platform (in our case the Buildium application) to either write or extract certain data.

Buildium Open API

Generally, the integrations that take place fall into 3 categories: customer integrations, direct partner integrations, and a marketplace—where entrepreneurial developers can sell their own inventions (more on this later). These aren’t new forays in the tech world by any means, but a true open API and marketplace wasn’t common in the property management industry, until RealPage introduced RPX to push our industry to think differently.

How does an open API work in property management software?

At its core, an API helps connect two different systems and serves as the point of contact that does the communicating and heavy lifting. As mentioned above, an API lays out the specific rules (or protocols) that need to be followed to gather or send the requested information. It’s not exactly like getting the keys to the castle because you always have to rely upon an intermediary that has its own set of very specific rules.

To understand the inner workings of an API, it’s necessary to define the key components that help it work properly.

API Endpoints: The digital doorway between two systems—it’s the place where both systems interact. An endpoint is the way the API can access the data that’s being requested. What those are depends on the rules of the API.

API Key: The authentication code or password that each API integration needs to connect and also identify the system making the request. Every time happens a record of it is kept so that the system can keep tabs on everything, which is especially useful as APIs get more popular. Usually, each API key is associated with specific access permissions.

API Request: This is the whole reason you set up an API integration—to make requests to send or receive data. An API request happens when a developer adds an endpoint to a URL and makes a call for that data.

Now that you have an understanding of the key terms in an API, let’s get into how you can use it.

What can property management companies do with an open API?

Like most things, you want to know how any piece of technology is going to drive value for your business and customers. Just because a new, shiny technology exists, doesn’t mean it’ll be worth doing.

As many are already aware, property management platforms exist as a central hub for property management operations. And since it’s an efficiency-driven industry, where scale can drastically affect profitability, the more property managers can do inside of a single platform, the more profitable they’ll be.

Reporting & Workflows

Now let’s just use the Buildium API as an example to understand what property managers can actually do with it. From leasing metrics to resident technology adoption, the Buildium API opens up over 20 powerful endpoints that let you easily retrieve core data sets in real-time, through standard HTTP requests. According to Howie Mulcahy, Software Development Manager, “we see two main things that are popping out now as we get more feedback: reporting and workflows.”

Regarding reporting, a community association property management company might need a custom report for their board—and so getting that data and feeding it into another dashboard might make sense.

When it comes to workflows we are talking about integrations that assist in the property management operations and tasks. A property management company might need to pull some data into a Google sheet for example to help with the turn over. No matter which of the two categories, it’s critical to calculate how much time will be saved. If you break down an individual task, how much faster did you just make that single task for your team?

Open API or not, the fact is that many property management companies may not want to develop and maintain software that relies on an integration—and that’s completely legitimate. This is where the marketplace concept picks up speed.

The Marketplace Concept

When you think about a marketplace, you’ll usually imagine market leaders like Salesforce’s AppExchange and Atlassian’s Marketplace, who have successfully created a culture and business model that attract entrepreneurial developers to create new pieces of software. For many small businesses, the absence of development is an incredibly attractive prospect, since they won’t have to pay for their own development team.

Additionally, a powerful concept that sits behind any marketplace is the idea of the democratization of that technology. A marketplace can level the playing field and lead to new startups that find their niche if they do it well.

An open API brings so many more possibilities to the table—many of which are hard to envision at the start. One thing’s for certain, if an open API makes the property management tech stack simpler for most property managers, then it will be successful.

And to sum it all up Rubeski points out,“You now have access to that data to use as you want throughout your ecosystem—throughout your technology stack. And that’s a really empowering thing.”

Tenants Are Protective of Their Deposits: 5 Ways To Avoid Conflicts

August 3, 2020

If you’ve been a landlord for a while, you’ve probably noticed that tenants are extremely protective of their deposits. It doesn’t matter if the deposit is only $200 – tenants get upset when they don’t get their full deposit back.

Tenants know there are plenty of valid reasons you can use a portion of their deposit. However, deducting any amount of money from a deposit can lead to conflict.

You probably don’t want to spend your time arguing with tenants over a few hundred bucks, so here are 5 ways to avoid the potential for conflict around deposits.

Tell your tenants if you automatically clean after a vacancy

Tenants want to get every penny of their security deposit back after they move. One way they try to get their deposit back is by cleaning the rental unit as clean (or cleaner) than when they moved in. This way, they figure the landlord won’t need to deduct any cleaning expenses from their deposit.

Tell your tenant if you automatically hire a professional cleaner to clean your rental units after every vacancy, regardless of the unit’s condition. Give your tenants the courtesy of knowing ahead of time that you’ll be cleaning the unit so they don’t waste their time and energy.

If your tenant spends a few hours detail cleaning the unit only to find out you’ve deducted the cost of cleaning from their deposit, they’re going to be upset, and for good reason. If a tenant leaves the unit as clean as it was when they moved in, you can’t deduct cleaning fees from their deposit.

To keep it legal and to keep the peace, if you haven’t collected a non-refundable cleaning fee, you need to give tenants the option to clean the unit themselves. If you still want to use your own cleaner, that’s fine. You just can’t deduct the cost from the security deposit if the tenant has already cleaned the unit.

Don’t hire a cleaner if you don’t need one

After a tenant vacates, evaluate the unit to see if it really needs a professional cleaner. You might need to shampoo the rugs if the tenant didn’t go that far, but don’t hire a professional house cleaner out of habit if the unit doesn’t actually require cleaning.

Don’t use any portion of the deposit as rent

When a tenant moves out, they might ask or expect you to use their deposit for rent in order to get out of having to pay rent. Decline the offer without exception.

Using a tenant’s security deposit to cover the rent under most circumstances isn’t legal, even when a tenant makes the request. By giving into their request, you’re putting yourself in a vulnerable position where the tenant might turn on you later. For example, say you use their security deposit to cover their last month’s rent, just like they asked. Don’t be surprised if your tenant sues you for not returning their deposit on time and using it as rent.

It’s great if you can prove your tenant was the one who made the request, but you still have to show up in court and spend your time, energy, and money to fight the lawsuit.

Specifically separate fees from deposits in the lease

Deposits need to be fully refundable, but fees can be non-refundable.

If you have any routine charges at move-in or move-out, collect those non-refundable fees separately in addition to a security deposit. For example, if you automatically clean after a tenant vacates no matter how clean the tenant leaves the place, that cost should be designated as a non-refundable fee and should not be taken out of the tenant’s deposit.

If you take a cleaning fee out of a security deposit after a tenant cleaned the unit, the tenant will probably ask you to refund the amount you took from their deposit.

How to separate fees from deposits

Say it costs you $75 to hire a professional cleaner after every vacancy. Get a $75 non-refundable cleaning fee in addition to your tenant’s security deposit when they sign the lease. When the tenant leaves, they will have already paid your cleaning fee and they’ll hopefully get their full deposit back. Doing it this way will make them happy and will keep your deposit deductions legal.

Whether you deduct the $75 from the security deposit or collect a cleaning fee up front, your tenant will pay the same amount of money. However, a properly separated cleaning fee won’t make your tenant feel like they’re getting the short end of the stick.

Keep all receipts for repairs and send copies to your tenant

South Carolina law requires all landlords to provide a written description and itemized list of damages and charges a security deposit isn’t being refunded in full.

Keep all receipts for work done after a tenant vacates your rental property and send copies with an itemized list to your tenant. Make sure the copies you send to your tenant are paid receipts and not just invoices. If you send invoices, your tenant might wonder if you paid less than the invoice shows.

Try not to use overpriced services to avoid creating more tension.

Video record all your walk throughs

For your protection and to avoid potential for arguments, video record all of your walk throughs including the walk through you do with your tenant before they officially move out. This way, you’ll have video documentation of what you asked the tenant to repair in order to get their deposit back.

Being a landlord is hard work, but it doesn’t have to be

Do you enjoy the hard work of being a landlord? Wouldn’t it be great if someone else took over the majority of your responsibilities? A property management company can!

If you don’t have time to be a landlord and want to get back to building your investment portfolio, we can help. At Total Property Management, LLC we’ll handle all the landlord duties that keep you from growing your passive income. Contact us today and we’ll provide a free analysis to determine how our property management services can benefit you.

10 Lead Generation Sources for Real Estate Investors

July 20, 2020

For real estate investors, leads are the name of the game. In order to make savvy investments, you need a constant influx of new opportunities. And if you consider that only one or two deals out of a hundred will ever come to fruition, you need a well-lubricated funnel that continues to provide lead after lead after lead – indefinitely.

Try These Lead Gen Tactics

The more sources of leads you have entering into your funnel, the more likely it is that you’ll find good opportunities. Here are some of the top lead sources to consider:

Personal Network

Start with your own personal network. If you’ve been in the real estate investing game for a while, most of your friends and family members likely already know what you do. However, if this is a new venture for you, be sure to keep people informed. You don’t have to send out any official announcement or anything. Just drop it casually into conversation when you see people. This increases the chances they’ll send leads your way if they hear of anything.

Real Estate Agents

It’s helpful to have a handful of real estate agents in your corner. They know the market better than most and can help you identify opportunities before they enter the MLS. They’re also great resources for valuating properties, running comps, and getting a feel for which areas are worth investing in.

Property Managers

In addition to real estate agents, you may find it helpful to have a property manager on speed dial. They typically know when investors are getting ready to unload properties and can help get you in touch with their clients who may be looking to sell. If nothing else, they have a wealth of information on specific real estate investments in your area.

Investment Groups

You’ve seen them advertised before, but what exactly are investment clubs?

“Real Estate Investment Clubs bring together real estate investors to network, and learn about industry trends,” insider Kathy Fettke explains. “You don’t have to be an experienced real estate investor to join a real estate investment club. You just have to be eager to learn. You can expect to meet plenty of seasoned investors who have been in your shoes, and are excited to show you the ropes.”

If you rub shoulders with the right people in an investment club, you may even gain access to leftover leads. There’s also the potential for pooling money together with other savvy investors so that you can go in on larger deals together.

Driving for Dollars

Driving for Dollars is a concept that’s become incredibly popular over the last decade. It involves getting in your car, driving around town, and looking for houses that appear to be distressed and/or uninhabited. (Both of which are indicators that someone may be willing to sell the property at a discounted rate.) Any house that fits your criteria goes into a spreadsheet, which is then researched via tax records.

Driving for dollars requires a lot of time – and following up with these leads can be challenging – but the results can be fruitful. Here’s a guide on how to do it well.

Off-Market Portals

While the MLS and websites like Zillow will help you find houses that are already for sale, some of the best real estate investments involve off-market properties. You can keep an eye on these properties by using off-market portals like Roofstock, HomePath, Auction.com, and the BiggerPockets Marketplace.

Expired Listing Services

When a property is listed on the MLS and it expires, this is a pretty good indicator that it was overpriced. It’s also likely that the seller is sick and tired of dealing with the property. This is where you come in. You offer a discounted purchase price and close the deal. There are a number of services that sell expired listings. Find one you’re comfortable with and use it for an extra flow of leads.

Social Media

Create a social media presence and let people know that you’re a real estate investor in the area. Share content, post listings, and interact with your followers. You never know when someone will see your name and give you a call.

Direct Mail

Even in the age of social media and digital advertising, direct mail still works. If you see a property that you’re interested in, consider sending a letter to the owner to let them know that you’d love to purchase their property. If you’ve already run your numbers, you might even give them a purchase price that you’re comfortable with.

Print Advertisements

You’ve probably seen those simple little signs around town that read, “We Buy Houses!” And while they might seem basic and ineffective, they really do work. Consider doing some print advertising to facilitate some offline lead traffic.

Find Your 80-20

Are you familiar with the Pareto principle? It states that approximately 80 percent of results stem from 20 percent of the efforts. This phenomenon seems to be true regardless of the subject matter at hand. Whether it’s studying for a test, detailing a car, or generating real estate leads, 20 percent of your energy and effort will produce 80 percent of the results. As a real estate investor, your key to success is to find out which 20 percent is worth your time.

Another way of looking at the 80-20 rule is that you should be spending 20 percent of your time generating leads and 80 percent of your time converting them.

Either way, be mindful of how much energy you’re spending on lead generation and optimize in order to maximize efficiency and get better results.

Partner With Green Residential

At Green Residential, we take care of the time-consuming details and grunt work that prevent you from spending your time wisely. In other words, we deal with tenant screening, rent collection, repair coordination, property marketing, and all of the other administrative details so that you can focus on generating more profitable leads.

Seven Home Inspection Nightmares and How To Fix Them

July 13, 2020

 by Mekaila Oaks with Redfin


Closing on a home is exciting, but sometimes you encounter “inspection nightmares” that can break the deal. As a seller, inspection surprises can force you to spend thousands of unexpected dollars to get your house ready to sell. As a buyer, these surprises may preclude you from signing off on the home of your dreams. To help you know what to look out for during your next home inspection, here are some commonly encountered home inspection nightmares, as well as some advice on how to handle them:

1. Foundation issues

If a home inspector finds a problem with the home’s foundation — or if the grading is sloped the wrong way — it will present a hassle for the seller and the buyer alike. Damp or wet crawlspaces may result from water seeping toward the foundation, or windows and doors may show uneven gaps — a sure sign that grading issues are causing the foundation to fall out of alignment. Sloping floors and cracked concrete are additional indications that a home’s foundation is in need of repair. Since the foundation is responsible for supporting the entire home, fixing it will cost a pretty penny; buyers may shy away from a home with foundation issues.

Expert advice:

Issues with a home’s foundation may occur in any age and location. Older homes are typically more prone to movement and damage due to older building practices which lack adequate support as well as seismic support. Cracks are also common and could be an indication of a problem. Some concerning cracks are those that are over 1/4″ wide, cracks that run horizontal, and stair stepped cracks. Hydraulic cement and sealants are available from most hardware stores to seal cracks to prevent water intrusion. 

Some foundation issues can be minor while others can be very significant. So it’s important to have experienced experts perform foundation repairs, such as licensed foundation professionals, rather than a handyman. In some cases the foundation needs to be reviewed by a structural engineer to specify the needed repairs. Foundation repairs are not the time to let a seller bring in unqualified contractors to perform these repairs. It’s important to understand the scope of the work needed, which may require the buyer hiring a structural engineer. – Daley Home Inspections

2. Water problems

Water issues in many forms can be another home inspection nightmare. Standing water in the basement could mean there is a major issue in the plumbing to address. Water stains on the ceiling could be indicative of roof damage or pipe issues. Bills for broken or cracked water lines will add up, plus, you may have to deal with the local municipality on some water issues. Water problems can be expensive to fix, but plumbing to the main water line generally falls to the seller’s responsibility.

Expert advice:

Make sure ALL plumbing is checked for proper function. In most cases, this is missed. Make certain that the hot and cold side both work simultaneously, as they should. Once you purchased the property, it becomes your responsibility to repair. It’s the little things that can add up. – Total Property Management

When a home inspector uncovers evidence of water damage the question is whether it’s a water supply leak (under pressure) or a drain pipe leak (not under pressure). The first step is to have the leak reviewed by a licensed plumber. They’ll have specialized equipment that can determine whether the leak is under pressure or not. Once this is confirmed, the plumber can determine the best path forward for suitable repairs. – Careful Home Inspections

3. Pests

When looking through your home for any pests — bugs, small rodents, etc. — the biggest issue to keep an eye out for is termite damage. Termites can eat the house from top to bottom, especially if you have wood framing. You must get rid of them and replace any wood they’ve eaten to keep the structural integrity of the house. You’ll need to monitor the house for a short time to make sure they don’t reappear.

Expert advice:

Rodent and squirrel activity in an attic can cause damage to the attic insulation or electrical wiring. Rodent droppings and urine can be unsanitary, while chewed electrical wires can become a fire hazard. Pest companies or critter control contractors can correct this condition by sealing off rodent entry opportunities on the exterior roof and walls. Trimming tree limbs overhanging the roof or possibly removing a tree can help fix the problem as well. – Atlanta Property Inspections

electrician fixing outlet

4. Faulty electrical wires

House fires are often caused by faulty electrical wiring. If an inspector finds this problem during a home inspection, there’s a chance someone will have to spend hundreds to thousands of dollars to rewire the home. Home inspectors are not allowed to open up walls and ceilings, so problems like these often go unnoticed. Inspectors will check electrical panels. If they’re not up to code, are missing labels, or aren’t up to capacity, you will have to address the issues. Exposed, spliced, or taped wires need to be fixed before walkthroughs. You’ll need to hire an electrician to further inspect your electrical wires and help fix this home inspection nightmare.

5. Mold and rot

Mold isn’t always a problem, but it can easily become a home inspection nightmare if gone unnoticed. Home inspectors may find black mold, for example, in a basement or crawl space. Mold can be a major health hazard, especially black mold, and may lead to asthma or other serious health issues. Mold usually indicates larger problems in the home, such as cracks in the foundation or plumbing issues that need to be addressed quickly.

Rotting in framing or around wood decks, windows, or doors is also usually indicative of larger problems. This could be the result of leaking pipes, mildew, or any kind of moisture issue that causes wood to break down. You need to find the problem and address it before more problems arise.

6. Roofing problems

Roofing problems aren’t always cause for alarm, but when a home inspector sees structural damage, mold, or flashing damage, the roof is generally in serious need of repair. Sometimes, buyers can negotiate with the seller to cover this repair cost. Other times, you might have to take on the repairs yourself after closing on the home. It varies from housing market to housing market, so discuss your options with your realtor before determining whether you want to close on the home or choose another.

Expert advice:

There are many warning signs to look out for that the seller or inspector could miss. One of the most obvious is curled shingles near the bottom edge of the roofline. As the sun takes its toll on shingles, they can become brittle. If you see a curled shingle–or granules in your gutters or on the ground–then you can rest assured that the roof needs to be replaced as soon as possible. Other signs to look for are dents in the gutter system and on top of roof jacks. This indicates that a hail event took place at some time in the past. Hail hits on a roof can cause shingles to lose their seal and granules to dislodge from the shingle surface, allowing water to penetrate. – Lee Brothers Construction

7. Asbestos and radon

Many home inspectors are now offering radon testing as an add-on service and asbestos testing if they feel there’s a need. A positive asbestos or radon test is a sure sign that your home has a significant indoor air pollution problem and has been exposed to asbestos or radon. If this is the case, it needs to be addressed immediately. While you can address some remediation yourself — i.e., you can buy and set up a radon kit — it’s by no means as effective as hiring a professional. Asbestos removal, in particular, can be dangerous. Always hire a professional when removing and remediating indoor air pollution sources.

The Nightmare of Home Warranty

June 22, 2020

More and more single-family homes are being marketed with a home warranty policy. This is the Owners way to protect themselves if something breaks, the warranty policy will cover the expense and the buyer will be 100% satisfied. But, in our personal experience, home warranties are more of a nightmare than a benefit to investors and landlords.

What do Home Warranties Include?

A basic home warranty policy will cover home appliances, heating, cooling, plumbing, and electrical systems. Premium policies will add roofs, well systems, pools, lighting fixtures, and sprinkler systems. A one-year home warranty policy will range from $300 to $800 per year, possibly more depending on the age of your home. After paying a small deductible -in addition to your yearly premium- the repairs or replacement is typically free. Sounds good, right? Wait until you read the fine print.

Home Warranty Exclusions, Exceptions and Denials

Home warranty policies are full of exclusions and exceptions and it is in this area that they leave the door wide open to deny your claim. Repairs are often denied based on the following conditions which they reserve the right to determine:

Lack of Maintenance

Improper Maintenance

Improper Installation

Pre-Existing Problems

While the policy may cover “plumbing” for example, they will usually not cover the parts that fail most often including showerheads and diverters, faucets, or anything between the foundation and the street. If your pipes freeze, that’s not covered either.

The home warranty company also controls the decision of whether to repair or replace. If they do decide to replace, say the furnace, many policies will only pay up to $1,000 toward a replacement leaving the owner to foot the additional $2,000 to $5,000.

Home Warranties and Tenant Satisfaction

Tenants expect the unit they live in to stay well maintained and fully functioning. If a tenant decides to renew their lease, it is usually based on how well the owner responds to their maintenance calls. When a tenant calls in a repair, they expect it to be taken care of as quickly as possible.

Here lies the problem when using a home warranty company to handle the repair. In our many years of experience, home warranty companies seem to work on their own time. Urgency has never been apart of their game because they’re simply the middle man. Once they have a work-order submitted and the deductible paid, they’ll dispatch that information to a local company in the area without regard to their schedule. It could be days before an appointment is set with your tenants and this simply doesn’t sit well with tenants who are facing sweltering summer heats. Because of this, it’s likely you’ll be giving your tenants rent credits and possibly reimbursing any accommodations they needed.

We as your property manager do not have control over who does the work. The home warranty company will decide that. They frequently opt for new contractors or the cheapest one. You can easily see how the quality of work will suffer. Tenant satisfaction will below. Overall frustration will be high.

Home warranty policies are one of the biggest landlord rip-offs that we have ever seen. We hate losing control of who is doing the work on your investment. We hate losing control over how long it takes to get the work done. We hate having to spend your money paying out rent credits because the home warranty company can’t get their act together.

We would rather create 100% owner and tenant satisfaction by using our preventative maintenance schedule, our 24-hour maintenance call center, and our tried and true maintenance team. All of this is already part of your property management contract, so why pay for anything else?

9 Simple Ways To Increase Your Vacation Rental Income

June 8, 2020

Vacation rentals are among the most popular real estate investments. Not only are they fun and flexible investments, but they can also be highly profitable. The question is, are you maximizing your rental income profits?

Here are a few simple ways you can boost revenue and bolster your ROI:

Set a Competitive Rate

As you’ll see throughout this article, bookings are the linchpin to vacation rental property success. The more you keep your property rented out, the higher your revenue. And the starting point is a competitive rate.

People get far too caught up in the price per night and how much they’re charging, when they should really be focused on setting competitive rates that allow the property to stay booked for more days each month.

Getting $500 per night for a property is great, but you’re only generating $7,500 per month. By renting it at $400 per night and upping your bookings to 25 days per month, you create $10,000 in monthly revenue. At the end of the month, revenue is what matters – not that you charged less per night.

Take Great Listing Photos

Nearly 100 percent of booking decisions are made online these days. Very few people have the ability to drive by a vacation property or visit in person prior to booking. For the most part, bookings are done online with nothing more than a listing, some reviews, and a map.

If you want to secure more bookings, you need to pay for professional quality listing photos. You’ll get your money back in the first month.

Speaking of listings, take time to develop crisp copy that sells your property and addresses any and all questions or common points of friction. This is your one chance – take advantage of the opportunity to wow potential renters!

Collect Social Proof

A good listing is a must, but prospective renters want more than just your promotional spiel. They want to know what other renters think. And this is where social proof comes into play.

“Social proof is the positive reaction that’s generated when people see that others are doing the same thing and assume that it’s the right thing to do,” industry insider Carla Chicharro explains. “It’s kind of how trends begin – someone starts a new trend, many others follow and eventually, people like yourself join in because it’s really cool or appealing.”

In terms of a vacation rental, social proof includes things like customer ratings and reviews, certifications and credibility badges, celebrity endorsements, concrete data and numbers, media mentions, and glowing social media posts.

Upgrade and Update

When people vacation, they want to get away from the mundane nature of everyday life and enjoy luxury – even if it’s just for a weekend. You can appeal to this desire by investing in the right upgrades.

Cosmetic upgrades to bathrooms, bedrooms, and the kitchen are well worth the investment. Whether it’s a simple backsplash upgrade, an accent wall, or new flooring, you’ll almost always see a positive ROI immediately.

Establish a Point of Differentiation

If you’re in a highly congested rental market with hundreds of other similar properties, you have to find a way to set yourself apart.

Consider, for example, a popular beach town. If you’re trying to compete on price, you’ll always have someone who can go lower. What you want to do is win the battles where a family is choosing between three different properties that are all basically the same. You do this by establishing at least one point of differentiation.

A point of differentiation could be a chef’s kitchen, a hot tub on the deck, a theater room with an 80-inch projection screen, or complimentary use of a golf cart.

Don’t Forget About the Offseason

If you own a rental property that’s driven by high seasons – like a beach rental – it’s easy to forget about the offseason. However, this is the time when you can really bolster your revenue for the year.

Don’t be afraid to be flexible during the offseason. Consider lowering costs, offering one-night stays, and/or including steep discounts for month-long rentals.

Be Responsive

When people are renting a place to stay for a vacation, they usually want to make a decision fast. If there are three properties they’re interested in, they might send questions or requests to each property owner. Sometimes it’s the first person to get back with them that gets the booking. If you can’t be ultra-responsive, work with a booking company or property management service that can.

Create a Multi-Unit Property

Is there a way to turn a single rental property into a multi-unit property? In some cases, this is as simple as throwing up a couple of walls and adding some new appliances.

If you have a property that’s well suited for a multi-unit conversion, you could see a serious increase in cash flow. It’s not unreasonable to go from renting the entire property at $500 per night to renting each half of the unit for $350 per night ($700 total).

Modify Your Tax Classification

This last tip won’t apply in most situations, but it’s something to consider. Depending on where you’re located and how the property is used, you could look for opportunities to modify your tax classification.

For example, you might be able to add a certain number of beehives to your property and get it taxed as agricultural land. (Seriously! It’s a thing.)


Real estate investing isn’t for the faint of heart. It requires discipline, fortitude, and a willingness to embrace risk. But it doesn’t have to be something that frustrates you and causes undue stress. With the right approach, you can enjoy hands-free profitability.

At Total Property Management LLC, we work with Greenville-area landlords and investors to help manage the details of their rental properties. From finding tenants and drafting lease agreements to collecting rent and managing repair requests, our mission is to streamline your day-to-day responsibilities so that you can focus on the big picture. Contact us to learn more!

10 RENT COLLECTION MISTAKES NEW LANDLORDS MAKE

June 1, 2020

Rent collection is probably going to be one of your most gratifying responsibilities as a landlord. It’s a deceptively simple practice—all you have to do is collect money from your tenants at the first of the month (or whatever date is specified by your lease agreement)—and you’ll enjoy the influx of cash however you like.

But rent collection is also a point of vulnerability for your rental property. If you don’t have a solid procedure for collecting rent, or if you collect rent inappropriately, it can jeopardize the rest of your operation.

The Biggest Rent Collection Mistakes to Avoid

New landlords are sometimes blinded by the seeming simplicity of rent collection, and they end up making mistakes like these:

Not having a documented rent policy. If you’re relying on a basic lease agreement template, or worse, if you’re putting the lease together entirely on your own, you might skip over the rules for how and when you collect rent. Without a detailed, formal policy for how you’re collecting rent, you’re opening the door to tenants taking advantage of loopholes and legal problems in the future. Make sure you explain exactly how much rent is, when it’s due, how you’re willing to receive it, and whether or not you’ll impose late fees or other charges for violating the policy. Think it through, and try not to leave any gaps in your wording.

Never enforcing the rules. The rules are there for a reason. If a tenant violates one or more of your rules, make sure you point out the discrepancy. If they’re late with the rent, let them know and issue them a late fee in accordance with your formal policy. If you allow tenants to violate the rules, or if you don’t pay attention to the rent collection policy you wrote, tenants could take that as a cue that the rules don’t matter.

Irregularly enforcing the rules. It’s just as bad to enforce the rules inconsistently. For example, if you accept a late rent payment and fail to issue a late fee, then impose a late fee on the second late rent payment, you’ll be setting a bad example—and leaving the tenant confused. It’s much better to be consistent with the rules you’re enforcing. This is especially true if you’re working with many different tenants; if you’re seen as providing special treatment to one tenant, you could be the subject of a discrimination suit.

Accepting partial payments. In most cases, it’s unwise to accept partial rent payments, unless there are extenuating circumstances. You may believe that it’s better to get $500 instead of $750 for the month, but again, you’ll be setting a bad precedent. If you decide to accept a partial payment, make sure there’s a penalty, fee, or other measure to dissuade this behavior from occurring in the future.

Never issuing late fees. Most areas allow you to issue late fees for late payments, and it’s in your best interest to collect them. Late fees serve multiple functions. They’re a proactive effort to prevent tenants from missing payments. They’re a financial reminder to the tenant that late payments have consequences. And they’re a way to compensate you for your extra time and lost income.

Not tracking payment history. Make sure you have a stable, reliable tracking system to keep track of tenants’ rent payments. This is going to prevent you from charging fees inappropriately, and will help you identify tenants who are reliable (and tenants who have recurring issues). More importantly, these records will be important if you ever need to take action against a tenant; for example, if you’re evicting a tenant, you’ll need to have a reasonable demonstration that they haven’t been paying rent in full or on time.

Manually or inefficiently collecting payment. New and inexperienced landlords usually see no problem with collecting rent in an inefficient way. They may ask tenants to mail a check to them, or may even drive by the property to pick up a check themselves. However, these methods tend to be less secure and more time consuming for all the parties involved. It’s typically better to have an automated system in place, if you have access to one. Automatically withdrawing payments is reliable, consistent, and predictable. Failing that, an online payment system is ideal.

Moving straight to eviction upon nonpayment. After a few months of missed payments, you’ll be understandably frustrated with your tenant, but it’s not a good idea to move straight to eviction. Most states have some variation of a “pay or quit” law, which forces you to give the tenant an ultimatum; in other words, you’ll give them the option of paying what they owe or moving out. Only after you issue this can you move forward with more serious legal action.

Trying to force a tenant out illegally. There are also legal and illegal ways you can get the tenant to move off the premises. If the tenant has stopped paying rent, it’s illegal for you to bully them into moving out; for example, if you turn off the utilities, move out the appliances, or change the locks, you could eventually be the subject of a lawsuit. Make sure you follow the law precisely.

Doing everything yourself. Managing rent collection, from writing your policy to collecting monthly rent to following through with eviction, is complex. It’s not a job you can handle entirely on your own. For some people, a property management firm makes everything easier. For others, a bit of help from a lawyer is all it takes to solidify things.

Simplifying Your Rent Collection

If you want to prevent rent collection mistakes and streamline the process as much as possible, you’ll want to simplify your approach. The easiest path forward is to work with a property management firm, which will take care of rent collection on your behalf (as well as a number of other responsibilities). If you’re interested in a free consultation, or an analysis of your current properties, contact Total Property Management, LLC.

Memorial Day

May 25, 2020

Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Memorial Day 2020 occurs on Monday, May 25.

Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.

Early Observances of Memorial Day

The Civil War, which ended in the spring of 1865, claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history and required the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries.

By the late 1860s, Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to these countless fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers.

Did you know? Each year on Memorial Day a national moment of remembrance takes place at 3:00 p.m. local time.

It is unclear where exactly this tradition originated; numerous different communities may have independently initiated the memorial gatherings. And some records show that one of the earliest Memorial Day commemoration was organized by a group of freed slaves in Charleston, South Carolina less than a month after the Confederacy surrendered in 1865. Nevertheless, in 1966 the federal government declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day.

How To Pack For Your First Night In Your New Home

May 18, 2020

If you’re getting ready to move into a new house, you’ll want to begin the packing and preparation process as soon as possible. Starting early will help you stay organized throughout the process, and will give you plenty of opportunities to make corrections as you get closer to your move date. Beyond that, it will make your work much more manageable, and reduce the stress you feel as you get closer to your move.

Ideally, you’ll pack in a way that keeps you as organized as possible, while also providing you what you need as you need it throughout the moving process.

Packing Priorities

Let’s start by establishing three “tiers” of packing priorities:

Long-term storage. Long-term storage includes things you own but rarely use in practice. For example, your board game collection, your extra glassware, and your Christmas decorations can all be included in boxes for up to a few months without anyone missing them.

Regular needs. These are things that you use on a semi-regular basis, but you can do without them for a solid week without breaking a sweat. These include things like your secondary electronic devices, most of your furniture, and most of your clothes.

Immediate needs. Then there are immediate needs, which you’ll need to have on-hand throughout your entire move. We’ll dig deeper into these options in the next section.

You can start packing your long-term storage as soon as you know you’re going to move, sometimes months in advance. Your regular needs can be packed next, over the course of a couple of months or the weeks leading up to your move. Only pack your immediate needs a day or two before you’re ready to move, and keep them with you.

In all cases, make sure you use strong containers; if you’re working with a moving company, they may have specific boxes to provide you. Otherwise, you can invest in durable plastic totes, or look for sturdy boxes from businesses in the area.

Identifying Your Immediate Needs

Now, let’s look at your immediate needs. These are the items you’ll want to pack for your first night in a new home. Ideally, you’ll take everything you need while still minimizing the number of boxes you have to transport. Each person should have roughly 1-2 boxes or bags to bring if you do things right. Again, make sure these are clearly labeled and kept separate from the boxes being moved by your moving company (if applicable).

In case of a mix-up with the rest of your packages, or if you don’t plan on unpacking for some time, it’s a good idea to include everything you need for a full week.

Make sure you include these essentials for yourself:

Basic travel needs. Remember to bring your wallet, including some cash, credit cards, your driver’s license, and your keys. You won’t get far without them.

Toothpaste and toothbrushes. Other dental needs, including floss and mouthwash, obviously apply.

Toiletries. Bring soap, shampoo, and anything else you need to stay clean.

Medications.

Chargers and devices.

Clothes for a week. Be sure to have a few sets of clothes for different occasions, with some extra socks and underwear in case you need them before you’re able to tap into the rest of your packages.

A first aid kit. Buy a first aid kit or put one together yourself. You never know when you might need one, and you’ll be glad you have it if you do.

Additionally, you’ll want some supplies for your family, like:

Snacks. Don’t worry too much about food staples, but bring some snacks for the journey.

Sheets, blankets, etc. Depending on how the move went, you may want to bring some sleeping bags in case your beds aren’t ready.

Trash bags.

Towels.

Toilet paper.

Light bulbs. Your home may or may not be outfitted with the lights necessary to keep your living areas lit during the night.

A multi-tool (including a can opener). Bring along a Swiss army knife or something similar that can help you open cans, cut packages, and tend to other miscellaneous issues that might crop up.

Basic cleaning supplies. The previous homeowner likely cleaned things up adequately, but you can never be sure. Some basic cleaning supplies will make sure you’re ready for just about anything.

If you have kids, you’ll want to bring a bag for them that includes all the items we covered in the “personal” section above. In addition, you’ll want things to keep them entertained, like toys.

Making the Most of Your First Night

After the hassle and stress of moving, your first night should feel incredible. There are a few things you can do to make things even easier on yourself, and turn this into a night your family will remember forever:

Go meet the neighbors. It’s not as common as it used to be, but your neighbors will probably appreciate it; go say hi and introduces yourselves.

Get takeout. Sure, you could try and pack a bunch of ingredients for a home-cooked meal, but that’s only going to make things harder. Instead, commit to getting takeout.

Don’t worry about unpacking. Feel free to unpack your immediate needs boxes and suitcases, but don’t worry about anything else quite yet. There will be plenty of time to get acclimated and unpack.

Play a game. You may or may not have access to typical forms of entertainment, like television and Wi-Fi, so consider playing a game with your family. Bring along a deck of cards, or make a game out of unpacking or exploring the house.

Happy moving!!

2020 Real Estate Market Predictions

April 27, 2020

In 2019 we saw interest rates drop, housing inventory remain low and hot markets continue to heat up. Will those trends persist in 2020? Will an influx of new housing inventory come onto the market? Will younger consumers stop renting and start owning?

Here are five predictions that are likely to shape the 2020 housing market and help us answer these questions and more:

1. Rising rents will lead to more millennial buyers.

Contrary to widely held beliefs, most millennials actually do want to own homes as opposed to renting apartments. In a Chase Home Lending study, 70% of millennials surveyed said they would be willing to cut back on activities like spa trips, shopping and going to the movies to save money for a home purchase. That says a lot for this generation.

One major factor that's been holding millennials back from homeownership is an inventory constraint issue in the hottest markets. It has become increasingly difficult to buy a home in cities like Nashville; Austin, Texas; and Raleigh, North Carolina. In those cities, job growth has outstripped housing, leading to a sparse housing supply below the $300,000 price point. While young buyers in these markets possess the job security and earning potential to purchase homes, not enough good housing options exist at their price point. This has led to crowds of buyers waiting on the sidelines in 2019.

But there's a counteracting force that is beginning to shift the dynamic. New, luxury apartment inventory is flooding markets like Atlanta; Phoenix; Portland, Oregon; and Dallas, pushing up the median rent price and making the rent-versus-own argument a bit more balanced. A Realtor.com survey found that rising rents were the influencing factor that triggered 23% of millennial home buyers to make the decision to buy instead of rent. Expect this phenomenon to become more pronounced in 2020 and to influence more and more millennials to take the plunge into homeownership.

2. Baby boomers will sell their homes at a higher clip.

Zillow recently published a study that found baby boomers are preparing to sell approximately 27% of America’s homes between now and 2040. Many of these homeowners will ultimately be seeking newer, low-maintenance homes with fewer stairs to climb and smaller yards to maintain. So, think of that four-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath home in the suburbs that was built in 1985, has had one owner and has never been sold. There will be several thousand of those coming onto the market in 2020. This should help unclog the inventory pipeline problem that we currently have in the U.S.

3. There will be a new construction boom.

Due to the shortage of existing homes for sale, potential buyers are increasingly considering new construction properties. At the same time, in December 2019 the National Association of Home Builders reported that home builder confidence reached the highest level in 20 years. Mortgage data suggests the same, as mortgage applications to purchase newly built homes were up 27% annually in November 2019, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

According to economists at Fannie Mae, new housing starts are expected to reach their highest level since 2007 — the beginning of the housing crisis. In fact, Fannie Mae’s Economic and Strategic Research Group predicts builders will expand production by 10% in 2020. And this trend is unlikely to slow after 2020. The forecast for 2021 shows more than 1 million newly built single-family homes, which would mark a post-recession high. This would be well below the annual peak of about 1.7 million single-family housing units in 2005, but still a big improvement over the last few years.

4. Home prices will keep climbing, but growth rates will slow.

The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, which track U.S. residential real estate prices, noted a year-over-year increase of 3.3% as of October 2019 and suggested a similar trajectory for 2020. According to Craig Lazerra, managing director and global head of index investment strategy at S&P Dow Jones, “If people were waiting to see if house prices would actually decline, as they did in [the Great Recession] ... that’s probably not going to happen, at least given the current economic backdrop.”

In 2019, the biggest home price gains occurred in cities like Phoenix; Tampa; and Charlotte, North Carolina, which all registered price increases of more than 4.8% year over year. States in the Sunbelt and cities in Texas appear to show big gains again in 2020. Luckily for home buyers, the days of double-digit, year-over-year price increases are likely gone, even in the hottest markets.

5. Gentrification will continue in the fastest-growing cities.

Evolving socioeconomic and racial dynamics will persist in urban cores of America's fastest-growing cities. According to a recent report by the New York Times, urban neighborhoods are attracting wealthier home buyers in a pattern that frequently makes it more challenging for middle-class home buyers to purchase properties in the neighborhoods where their families may have lived for the last 40 years.

That said, many city planners agree that some forms of gentrification have yielded positive results for citizens of larger cities where impoverished communities were previously stuck in neutral for decades. Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; and Atlanta are examples of cities that I have observed manage gentrification in thoughtful ways, leading to positive change for longtime residents and new residents alike.

Overall, home buyers can expect the housing market to remain stable in 2020. This sentiment appears to be validated by economists, lenders and builders alike. A possible wild card could be the 2020 presidential election. But even in a big election year, and no matter the outcome, with unemployment at record lows and consumer sentiment near all-time highs, it is unlikely the housing market will suffer a downturn in 2020.

Work From Home

April 20, 2020

WFH is the new normal for many Americans. Here’s how to get your workspace functioning well — and looking great.

With social distancing mandates in effect across much of the country, many people working in industries deemed “non-essential” are doing their work from home. And while the constant stream of COVID-19 news, in addition to caretaking or homeschooling responsibilities, can make it hard to stay focused on work, modifying your space can help. An organized and visually appealing work area can help you feel more productive — and more relaxed.

Here are five tips for elevating your home workspace.

Commit to your space

For those of us who don’t have a home office — which is a lot of people — work-from-home routines can easily get derailed. Designating an area for work, even if that place is the bill-paying area in your kitchen, is a way to stay in your routine and get yourself in the work mindset. Whatever spot you choose, just make sure it feels like a dedicated and functional work area. That means adequate lighting, a comfortable chair — the right height for typing without strain — a seamless tech setup that allows you to take and make video calls without having to fiddle with plugs or wires, and an overall lack of clutter on your desk and the surrounding area.

Declutter

This seems obvious, but let’s level with ourselves. When do we really get around to cleaning our desks? Well, now’s the time. Toss anything that needs to be thrown out, pair like items with like, contain those stray pens in one nice decorative cup, and make sure you have all your workday essentials close at hand and non-essential items moved elsewhere.

Curate an inspiration board

Now that you’ve set the stage, it’s time to look ahead. And that wall you’re looking at beyond your laptop should inspire you. This is as good a time as ever to put together an inspiration board and fill it with what makes you happy, from images of your favorite people and pets, to pics of your goals (like that fabulous vacation you are going to take once we’ve all gotten through this tough time!). And yes, you can put your to-dos and important reminders up there too — but keep the focus on the positive and uplifting, and keep it right in your line of sight.

Do a background check

If video calls are part of your new day-to-day, think about what your colleagues are seeing behind you — like that pile of laundry or those mostly empty wine glasses. Keep things clean and uncluttered. And if you have the space, show off your style. Some good background options might be your favorite art piece, interesting souvenirs or a not-overly-stuffed bookcase. Lastly, remember lighting: Your space should be adequately lit, or it’ll look like you’re dialing in from a submarine.

Set the mood

Never got your dream office? This is your moment. We bet scented candles aren’t allowed in your regular workspace, but you get to make the rules at home. Aromatherapy diffusers are another option if you’re worried about curious kids or pets. And now your playlist can softly waft overhead rather than through earphones. Similarly, set out some healthy snacks to avoid refrigerator trips, and nosh away. It’s OK for your home office to feel like your home, and especially now, it’s important to take time to indulge yourself with some creature comforts that feed your soul and make you feel calm and inspired.

A LANDLORD'S GUIDE TO DEALING WITH WATER DAMAGE

April 14, 2020

Water damage…the words alone are enough to make any homeowner shudder with fear. But if you own rental properties, you’re going to eventually face a situation where you have to deal with water damage. What do you do? Who is responsible? Where do your renters go? Questions like these abound – so make sure have the answers before something happens.

Common Causes of Water Damage

Research shows that water damage is the second most frequently filed insurance claim in the United States. Roughly 37 percent of homeowners make claims against losses from water damage and rental properties are not immune. The most common causes of water damage include:

Overflowing toilets, which may result from clogged pipes or a faulty septic system;

Broken or leaky water heater;

Burst pipes, caused by old or poorly fitted pipes under or inside of the home;

Leaks and holes in the roof, which allow heavy rainstorms to dump large quantities of water into the home;

Fires, which require large amounts of water to quell;

Flooding from big storms or hurricanes.

What to Do When Water Damage Strikes

The vast majority of water damage claims can be traced back to one of the aforementioned causes. Some of them can be prevented, while others are outside of your control. Either way, a hasty response is important if you want to limit the damage. Here are a few suggestions:

Stop the Flow of Water

First and foremost, stop the flow of water into the home. This is the primary concern, as more water means more damage. If a tenant calls you on the phone and tells you about water damage, start by asking them to turn off the main water supply line to the house. (It’s for this reason that you should show every new tenant exactly where the main shutoff valve is located upon move-in.)

Once the water to the house is shut off, you and your tenant should immediately search for the source of the leak to make sure that the flow of water has indeed stopped.

Call in the Professionals

You don’t have much time to wait around. The biggest problem with water damage isn’t the actual standing water itself. Once the water recedes and you’re left with a wet and humid environment, it’s conducive to mold growth. This growth can occur in less than 48 hours. Act quickly!

“As soon as the water level drops, landlords need to visit their properties to assess the damage and work with the tenants, if there are any, to remove wet property,” real estate investor Anum Yoon writes. “Drywall and insulation will need to be removed and replaced, and the frame of the house will need to be inspected for water damage. Block homes are less susceptible to water damage than wood frame houses, but they can still be damaged by rising waters.”

Unless you have experience dealing with water damage in a past life, it’s best to call in the professionals and put them to work on the job. They’ll ensure everything is removed properly so that no mold growth can occur.

Know the Rules

In the immediate aftermath of water damage, both landlords and tenants immediately wonder who is at fault? In other words, how much is this going to cost me?

“The determining factor will be the legal decisions in the state, which help determine where exactly that line between liability and non-liability fall,” FreeAdvice.com explains. “Different states have differing attitudes…sometimes favoring landlords, sometimes favoring renters.”

The last thing you want to do is break the law and set yourself up for a lawsuit (on top of an expensive water damage issue). The best course of action is to get your tenant a temporary place to stay while everything is worked out.

Get in Touch With Your Insurance Provider

Finally, contact your insurance agent to inform them of the situation and to fill out the proper paperwork for a claim. Your agent will be able to help you determine what’s covered. If there are any discrepancies, you may need to hire an attorney to help protect your rights.

Preventing Future Water Damage

While you can’t do much about water damage that’s already occurred, there are plenty of preventative steps that you can take to lower the likelihood of a similar situation happening again. Here are a few suggestions:

Conduct regular inspections. Faulty pipes, leaky appliances, and roof problems are often to blame for water damage. By having a professional regularly inspect your home for signs of premature damage, you can ensure small issues don’t become costly catastrophes.

Educate tenants. Tenants need to understand the common risks that lead to water damage. They also need to understand what they can do to prevent issues. For example, you should educate tenants on protocol for insulating pipes or outdoor waterspouts when freezing temperatures approach.

Clear gutters. When there’s a leak in a ceiling or roof, the cause is often traced back to clogged gutters. Make sure the gutters on your rental properties are regularly cleaned. Better yet, install a gutter protection system that keeps debris out.

In addition to following these suggestions, make sure you have adequate insurance on each of your properties. This is especially important for units that are located in flood zones or other areas of concern. Find out the different options you have for coverage and spend as much as you can reasonably afford to protect your properties from going under water (literally and figuratively).

Hiring the Right Property Management Company

No landlord wants to wake up in the morning to a dozen missed calls and a panicky voicemail from a tenant whose property has been flooded. Not only does water damage leave you with a homeless tenant on your hands, but it can also prove to be an expensive issue that chokes out your cash flow. Therefore, it never hurts to have a little assistance.

When you hire a property management company, you instantly gain access to a team of professionals who are on your side and ready to help. Whether it’s water damage, late rent checks, or a minor inconvenience, a property manager will handle all of the details so that you can focus on the big picture.

For more information on the most respected property management service in the Greenville area, please contact Total Property Management, LLC.  Whether you have one property or a portfolio of dozens, we’d be happy to partner with you!

8 Tips to Make Security Deposits Less of a Headache

April 6, 2020

As ​a real estate investor and landlord, your job is all about mitigating risk and maximizing return. The more you’re able to accomplish these overarching goals, the more success you’ll experience. And while security deposits may seem like a small issue to outsiders, experienced landlords know just how much they impact both risk and reward. If you want to succeed, you must find ways to make security deposits less of a headache in your business.

Security Deposits: Not All They’re Cracked Up to Be

Rookie landlords often incorrectly assume that security deposits provide adequate insulation from major risks. However, the fact of the matter is that security deposits only provide marginal protection against minor tenant-induced damages.

Security deposits don’t cover major damage, which could run you thousands of dollars. And though it can be used to cover minor wear and tear, landlords generally face uphill battles when tenants disagree. (The courts typically take the side of the tenant when there’s any question about the damage.) Finally, consider that, in most states, you can’t even use a security deposit to cover unpaid rent.

Nevertheless, security deposits are important and should be collected. The key is to manage them correctly, so you don’t cause yourself more issues than necessary.

8 Security Deposit Tips and Suggestions

When managed properly – and combined with other safeguards – security deposits can provide some protection from damages. Here are a few suggestions:

Make the Property Tenant-Proof

The very best thing you can do is effectively tenant-proof your property. In other words, you can make it less likely that tenants will damage your property and that you’ll need to use the security deposit in the first place. Ideas include:

Install vinyl plank flooring instead of carpet (which easily stains and quickly wears down).

Use glossy paint on walls in high traffic areas (it’s easier to wipe down).

Make sure door stoppers are installed behind every door (to prevent holes in drywall).

Remove garbage disposals from kitchen sinks. (Garbage disposal-related problems are some of the most common issues in rental properties.)

Look for Applicant Warning Signs

When interviewing an applicant, pay attention to what they say and how they interact. In particular, internal alarm bells should sound if a prospective tenant complains about a security deposit. This typically means one of two things: either the tenant doesn’t have the cash to cover the deposit, or the tenant believes he’ll lose his money. Either scenario is bad news for you, the landlord.

Inspect the Applicant’s Current Residence

If possible, ask to inspect the tenant’s current residence before letting them sign a lease. This will tell you a little bit about how they care for their home – which is a pretty strong indicator of how they’ll care for your property. Does the individual seem clean and respectful, or more like a liability?

Ask for Previous Landlord Referrals

In addition to inspecting the applicant’s current residence, you should ask applicants to include at least one reference from a previous landlord (more are preferable). Then you need to place a phone call and speak with these references.

Landlords tend to shoot each other straight. If an applicant was a terrible tenant in the past, the landlord will let you know. They’ll also be quick to vouch for someone who pays on time and respects property.

Be Specific About “Normal Wear and Tear”

A security deposit is designed to cover damage that goes beyond normal wear and tear of a property. But what is “wear and tear” anyway?

Its described as the “deterioration that results from the intended use of a dwelling…but [the] term does not include deterioration that results from negligence, carelessness, accident or abuse of the premises, equipment or personal property by the tenant, by a member of the tenant’s household or by a guest of the tenant.”

However, even that definition leaves some room for interpretation. If you want to remove some of the guesswork from the equation, you can get specific about what you consider normal wear and tear versus excessive damage. Include these terms in your lease agreement and review them with every new tenant. These terms may not be legally binding in the eyes of court – you can never be certain what a judge will rule – but they certainly help strengthen your position.

Conduct a Thorough Move-In Inspection

The move-in inspection is one of the more critical steps in this entire process. It’s absolutely imperative that you conduct the inspection with the tenant and make notes on every little detail of the property’s condition. The best option is to video record the entire thing. This gives you both video and audio proof, should a tenant try to convince you that some issue was present prior to moving in.

Put Security Deposits in Separate Accounts

In many states, there are strict requirements on where a security deposit must be held in between the time a tenant pays the deposit and when the deposit is returned. But even if you’re in a state without specific rules, it’s wise to keep all security deposits in separate, interest-bearing accounts. This keeps your hands off the cash, avoids the risk of comingling funds, and even allows you to make a couple of bucks in interest.

Conduct a Thorough Move-Out Inspection

The move-out inspection is just as important as the move-in inspection. Again, conduct it with the tenant present and make clear notes on every little problem you find. This can be cross-referenced against the original video/notes. Handling this process in the presence of the tenant ensures total transparency.

Work With Total Property Management, LLC

At Total Property Management, LLC, we take pride in offering Greenville-area landlords premier property management services and white glove treatment. With industry experience, we’ve perfected a proactive and dynamic approach to residential management that remains unmatched by the competition.

Whether you need help developing contracts, screening tenants, or streamlining property inspections, we’re here to serve you. Contact us today and we’ll be happy to provide you with a free property management analysis for each of your properties.

House Hunting With Your Spouse: How To 

Get On The Same Page

March 30, 2020

For some couples, buying a house is as easy as buying a car. They schedule a couple of showings, find one they like, put in an offer, and the rest is history. But for most couples, it’s a bit more complicated. Arguments, disagreements, and friction are bound to ensue.

House hunting as a couple can be fun and exhausting – often at the same time. The more you prepare for the process ahead of time, the less likely it is that any one issue will become a barrier in your pursuit of buying a home for your family.

The 5 Big Challenges Married Couples Work Through

Every married couple has a unique dynamic. However, if you’re like other couples, you’ll face some of the same challenges. Here’s a look at a few of the important issues that may spark friction and disagreement (as well as some advice to help you get on the same page).

To Rent or Buy

One of the first points of friction sometimes occurs before the home buying process even starts. For some couples – particularly those living in large cities where real estate is expensive – there’s disagreement over whether renting or buying is the best option. And while it would be nice if there were a simple answer, there’s unfortunately no right or wrong way to go.

There’s always a case for buying. It allows you to own an asset that increases in value. It also ensures you aren’t throwing money down the drain every month. But there’s also something to be said for renting. When you rent, you don’t have to take on debt. You also have lower overhead expenses and no maintenance costs.

At the end of the day, this is one thing you have to work out together. However, you should never buy a house if both spouses aren’t ready to make it work. You need 100 percent commitment from anyone with a name on the mortgage.

Budget

Once you’re both on the same page about buying a house, the budget is the next issue you’ll have to work through. Hopefully you both have a pretty good idea of what’s considered affordable within the context of your household budget – but this isn’t always the case.

Things can get sticky when one person wants to live well below means, while another is comfortable stretching the budget. If you aren’t careful, you’ll end up in a situation where you want to spend $250,000 on a house and your spouse wants to spend $380,000.

As with most disagreements, the best solution is to meet in the middle. You don’t have to meet exactly in the middle, but there should be some give and take by both parties. Using the example above, a $300,000 budget would be a nice compromise.

Location

Where do you want to live? When partners have disagreements on location, it often leads to a stalemate in the search for a property.

As you work through where to live, think about factors like: proximity to work, school zones, resale value, direction of the neighborhood, and nearby amenities. You’ll both have to sacrifice, but you should be able to find a compromise.

Turnkey vs. Fixer Upper

Couples commonly get in arguments about the type of house they want. This usually happens when one spouse is handy – or thinks he’s handy – and the other one doesn’t know a wrench from a hammer. In these situations, the handy spouse likes projects and sees the value in sweat equity, while the not-so-handy spouse only sees stress and cost.

Regardless of which spouse you are, it’s important that you don’t completely shut down your spouse. A major fixer upper isn’t a good idea if both partners aren’t on board, but there’s also something to be said for putting your own stamp on a house.

Proactive vs. Patient

Do you and your spouse have totally different personalities? If so, one of you may be extremely patient, while the other one likes to go out and get things done. When it comes to buying a house, this can lead to some pretty messy arguments.

Prior to starting the search for a house, make sure you set some ground rules on how you’ll handle offers. If one partner is super emotional and likes making decisions in the moment, set a rule that says you’ll never make an offer on the spot. If one spouse is overly patient and analytical, set a 72-hour deadline where you have to make a decision on whether to offer or step away.

When you already have rules in place, it makes it easier to navigate the unique circumstances involved in every situation. It also removes a lot of the finger pointing that leads to arguments and hurt feelings.

Be Willing to Postpone

No house is so important that you should jeopardize the health of your marriage. After all, what good is your perfect house if your spouse is frustrated with you?

“If you and your spouse are butting heads, take a step back from the conversation,” DaveRamsey.com advises. “There will always be new homes for sale, but digging in your heels over a home-purchase disagreement will only create a divide between you and your significant other.”

When things get heated, step away and take some time to cool down. Once you have level heads, reconvene and discuss options again. If you have to continually do this, a three- to six-month break may be the best course of action.

Total Property Management LLC can help you in making this transition much easier.  Call us for all of your housing needs.

DO THE FIVE

March 23, 2020

Help stop coronavirus!

1 HANDS: Wash them often

2 ELBOW: Cough into it

3 FACE: Don't touch it

4 SPACE: Keep safe distance

5 HOME: Stay if you can

Should You Offer "First Month" Deals On Rent To Attract New Tenants?

March 9, 2020

You’ve probably seen ads offering reduced rent, free rent, or other discounts to tenants for the first month. Discounts are a central part of marketing and if you can offer a deal, why not?

While good rent deals will attract potential tenants, you’ll inevitably attract people with money problems. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t offer deals, but you’ll need to be strategic and extend your deals beyond rent reduction.

Choose your words carefully

Be intentional with the words you use to describe your deals. For example, avoid using words like ‘cheap’, ‘free’, ‘bargain’, and ‘discount’. Instead, use words like ‘complimentary’, ‘bonus’, and ‘reduced’.

Say you want to offer $400 off the first month’s rent. An ad that reads, “First month’s rent will be discounted by $400” sounds normal, but the word ‘discount’ makes it sound like a bargain bin deal. A more powerful choice of words is, “First month’s rent will be reduced by $400.”

The difference is subtle, but important. For many people the word ‘discount’ is subconsciously associated with lower quality bargains and, therefore, might attract the wrong people.

Offer the right incentives

If you want to use incentives to attract potential tenants, you’ll need to look beyond rent deals. There are many types of discounts, but not all are applicable to real estate. For instance, you could offer the second month’s rent free and call it a “Buy One, Get One” (BOGO) deal, but that would be awkward.

Make sure you offer incentives that make sense to tenants and provide value where it matters. Here are some examples of tenant-appropriate incentives:

Special lease terms. Depending on what details work for you, it’s possible to attract new tenants with special lease terms. For example, say you’re renting out a 10-acre property and the tenant is normally responsible for landscaping and yard maintenance. You may want to adjust the lease terms to provide landscaping and yard maintenance for the first 6 months of a two-year lease.

Reduce or eliminate administrative fees. You could offer tenants a reduction or elimination of certain fees when they sign a lease with you. For example, you could refund the cost of their application and background check. Background checks are usually less than $50 so it wouldn’t be an expensive refund. 

Eliminate pet rent. Just because you can collect extra money each month per pet doesn’t mean you should. Many tenants shy away from rentals that require pet rent because it doesn’t make much sense. Pets don’t use electricity or water like humans do, and tenants see pet rent as another way for a landlord to make extra money.  If you charge pet rent to cover the actual cost of hiring people to pick up poop and fix the landscaping that dogs dig up, you can probably afford to eliminate the fee for a few new tenants. Your existing tenants likely more than cover the cost. You’ll probably get plenty of inquiries by eliminating this controversial fee.


Incentives to avoid

Never offer to reduce or eliminate a tenant’s security deposit. It’s not so much about the money but the mentality behind not having to pay a security deposit.

For example, say your security deposit is normally $600. Any standard incentive might cost you that much (or more). However, allowing people to avoid paying a security deposit can make them feel like they don’t have to be as careful. For instance, when a tenant makes a $600 security deposit, they have “skin in the game” so to speak. There is something at stake for them. They know they’ll lose that money if they destroy the property or don’t pay the rent.

On the other hand, if there’s no promise of a $600 refund at the end of their tenancy, a tenant might not be too concerned with preventing damage. At the end of their tenancy, they might walk away from damages and refuse to pay you for the cost of repairs. If the damage costs less than $500 to fix, you may not be able to take them to court, or it could be more hassle than it’s worth. In that situation, you’ll not only have to pay for the damage, but you’ll have to spend time dealing with it.

The other problem with discounting or eliminating a tenant’s security deposit is you’ll have nothing to use to offset unpaid rent. If your tenant skips out on you and doesn’t pay rent – or worse, forces you to evict them – you’re going to lose a lot of money and you’ll have no source from which to recover your costs.

Not sure how to attract new tenants?

If you’re not sure how to attract new tenants, we can help. Our experienced team knows exactly how to attract, screen, and qualify the right tenants for your property.

We are real estate marketing experts who know what tenants want. If you’re tired of struggling with your own marketing, contact us today for a free analysis to see how we can help you attract the kind of tenants you deserve.

Putting TRUST in US

March 2, 2020

If you’re the landlord, does it really matter if a tenant trusts you? Absolutely. A tenant who trusts and respects their landlord is less likely to cause careless damage to the property. They’re also more likely to communicate with you and work with you to resolve problems.

Here are ways to earn your tenant’s trust:

Include electricity in the rent

You can build trust with your tenant by making their life easier. Reducing the number of individual bills they need to juggle and pay will help immensely.

If you’re renting an apartment to a single person or a couple, it’s easy to cover all utilities in the rent including electricity. Many tenants are looking for rentals that cover utilities because they want to know exactly how much money they’ll need to spend each month on housing costs. When electricity bills fluctuate, some people have a hard time keeping up with payments.

With electricity covered, a tenant has one less bill to worry about. It doesn’t matter if the inclusion costs them slightly more than their actual usage – eliminating a bill eliminates uncertainty. Your tenants will appreciate this. However, make sure you don’t overcharge for electricity.

There are pros and cons to including utilities in the rent. For example, some tenants don’t bother to conserve energy when someone else is footing the bill. However, depending on how your unit is set up, it might be worth it.

Don’t overcharge tenants for screening fees

Tenant screening shouldn’t be a source of income for you. Although law places no limit on the amount you can collect in application fees, you should only charge a tenant what it costs you. It’s reasonable to add five or ten dollars to cover your time, mailing supplies, and gas when necessary. However, a tenant will know when they’re being overcharged, and even if they get approved for the unit, the sour feeling of being overcharged will remain and will be a point against you.

Don’t charge the maximum allowable security deposit (without reason)

Individual cities and municipalities can have limits, so check your local laws before determining your security deposit amount.

With that said, if you are limited to a certain amount, don’t charge the maximum amount without reason. The majority of landlords charge a security deposit equal to one month’s rent, and that’s a fair standard to follow. Don’t be unreasonable. Tenants face unreasonable fees everywhere they go from taxes to overpriced food and other goods. Don’t add to their frustrations and don’t make tenants feel like you’re trying to rip them off.

The same goes for late fees. Just because you can charge more doesn’t mean you should.

Include yard maintenance in the rent

These days, who has time for yardwork? Most people are working 9-5 jobs that require long commutes and sometimes weekend work. When people come home from work, all they want to do is rest and relax. Some tenants are so busy they don’t have time to mow the lawn.

Including basic yard maintenance in the rent gives tenants a well-kept yard without any effort. Sure, they could hire their own maintenance crew (whenever they remember), but wouldn’t you rather know your yard is being taken care of on a regular basis?

Be willing to help when you don’t legally have to

Go the extra mile for your tenants! They will appreciate your generosity and they will feel like they’re more than just another source of income for you. When you need something from them later on, they’ll be more likely to agree to your requests, even if they are a bit inconvenient.

For example, say you have a tenant with a physical disability. Tenants are allowed to make certain modifications without your permission. However, some tenants will still call their landlord to get those modifications approved. Although it’s the tenant’s responsibility to hire someone to make the modifications, ask them if they’d like you to do it for them free of charge.

The modifications might be something as simple as installing special door handles, grab bars in the shower, or replacing a low toilet. If you can afford to cover the requested modifications, you’ll make your tenant happy and earn their trust in a big way, especially since many disabled people are on fixed incomes.

However, avoid asking a tenant with a disability if they need any modifications if they haven’t said anything. Wait until they approach you.

Tenants often get anxiety when moving out of a unit and worry about the small things. Regardless of who installs the modifications, let your tenant know they don’t need to remove the modifications when they leave so they don’t have to worry about anything.

Want someone else to do the work for you?

Being a landlord is hard work. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, we’re here to help. At Total Property Management LLC we have experience in property management. We will handle everything for you from tenant screening and rent collection to maintenance and repairs.  Put your TRUST in US here at Total Property Management, LLC.

WHY PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY IS SO IMPORTANT

February 24, 2020

We’ve all heard the old saying “A picture is worth a thousand words.” And, in real estate, pictures make a huge difference in how quickly you rent your home. Now, thanks to the continued advancement of technology, prospects can have an intimate look into the home they are interested in without ever leaving their couch. They are filtering through sites based on location, prices, school districts, square footage, etc. Once they have narrowed down their search to their liking, they are immediately flipping through photos.


Often, the photos are what’s piquing a prospects interest in your home and prompting them to take the next step in contacting their agent. That is why it is important to work with agents in getting professional photography done before putting your home on the market. Your agent should have the expert knowledge and connections to professional photographers to produce images that resonate and are appealing.  And the more photos the better, so choosing one or two won’t do the trick! Work with the real estate photographers that have an eye for the right angles, best lighting and provide high-quality photos to capture the best features of your home.

Homes with more photos move faster, which makes sense because prospects are doing more research than ever before. According to the National Association of Realtors 2017 study, Homes with one photo spent an average of 70 days on the market, but a home with 20 photos spent 32 days on the market. 


As time goes on and technology continues to advance, online platforms and visual tools become more robust allowing prospects more and more insight into a home before ever connecting with an agent. 

At Total Property Management, we live, work and play here, and are knowledgeable when it comes to what will move your home the fastest .  Contact us to help with your next rental. 

Exploring The BRRRR Strategy For Real Estate Investing

February 17, 2020

The profession of real estate investing is a diverse one which involves many varied approaches and strategies. An individual may find success pursuing one track, but another may fail doing the same.

It’s up to each individual investor to identify the system that works best for his or her situation, but there are at least a couple of tactics that have proven to work for nearly everyone. The BRRRR strategy is one of them.

What is the BRRRR Strategy?

BRRRR is an acronym that stands for Buy, Rehab, Rent, Refinance, and Repeat. The concept was coined a few years ago by Brandon Turner at BiggerPockets, but in truth, savvy investors have employed it for decades to build a portfolio of rental properties without tying up a ton of cash.

Here’s an overview:

The first letter stands for buy. You’re looking to purchase a property that (a) needs work, (b) has potential, and (c) can be purchased for less than it’s worth. This is by far the most time-consuming and challenging step in the process. You’ll have to conduct intensive deal analysis to calculate the cost of repairs, the monthly rental income, the value of the property after repairs, and so on. When accounting for repairs, many investors use the 70 percent rule. It states that an investor should pay 70 percent of the after-repair value (ARV) on a property minus whatever repairs it requires. If a home’s ARV is $150,000 and it needs $25,000 in repairs, the maximum purchase price would be $80,000. This ensures a healthy cushion to fall back on.

The rehab phase is arguably the most stressful. It’s during this stage of the process that you have to make the property livable and functional, but also reset the value (which will help when it comes time to refinance the property). When you’re rehabbing, the goal is to make the property safe and attractive to your target market of renters. Make sure you don’t go overboard. If you’ll be renting the unit(s) for $900 a month, you don’t need to appeal to renters who have a monthly budget of $2,500. Of course you want to do a good job, but don’t throw money down the drain!

Once the property has been rehabbed and it’s ready to live in, you put it on the market and begin looking for a renter. You want someone who is reliable (meaning that he or she has good references and no history of late payments or bankruptcies). A vacancy is the worst result of pursuing the BRRRR strategy. By thoroughly screening your tenants, you’ll reduce your chance of having someone walk out on you.

After the property has been purchased, rehabbed, and rented out for a few months, you can shift your attention to refinancing. This is where the magic happens. A conventional lender will come out and order a new appraisal. It will be able to offer you 75 percent of the updated appraisal value, and a new maximum loan amount … and that will almost certainly be more than your current loan amount. Thus, when you refinance the loan, you can take out the difference between the old and the new, which is cash in your pocket.

Done well, this strategy enables you to buy and rehab a property without losing any money. You’ll get it all back at the end when you refinance. Instead of having all your capital tied up in a single piece of real estate, you should be able to repeat the process over and over with multiple properties.

The BRRRR strategy isn’t foolproof. It can involve both opportunities and challenges. The inexperienced investor may encounter an array of setbacks, but this isn’t any reason to give up.

“Cash out deals can be a terrific part of your real estate strategy, or they can turn into a house of cards that come crashing down on your head,” Candice Elliott writes for Money Matters. “Run and re-run the numbers and make sure they work out before making any decisions.”

The Pros of the BRRRR Strategy

The BRRRR strategy can be appealing for a number of reasons. As you consider whether it will fit within your approach to real estate investing, think about the following pros:

High returns. People use the BRRRR strategy because it usually works. When it’s done right, you have the potential to enjoy massive returns. And the refinance-and-repeat facet of the strategy means you get to enjoy recurring, robust returns (on top of monthly cash flow).

Unlike other buy-and-hold investments in which you tie up your cash for years, this strategy is comparatively liquid. You’re in a position to pull out your money within just a few months.

Quality final product. In conclusion, a rehabbed property is in much better condition than one that’s falling apart. You complete the process owning a quality property that could be dependable and marketable for years to come.

The Cons of the BRRRR Strategy

The BRRRR strategy isn’t for everyone. There are a number of risks, including potential negatives such as:

Double the closing costs. As a feature of refinancing step, you’ll have to pay closing costs twice for each property. If you aren’t strategic about that, it can put a drain on your investment capital.

Risk of becoming over-leveraged. The BRRRR strategy can become addictive. If you aren’t careful, you could end up overextending yourself and shouldering too much debt.

Appraisal issues. The BRRRR approach relies heavily on the refinancing phase. If the appraiser comes back and tells you the property is worth less than you anticipated, you have a problem.

Partner With Total Property Management LLC

At Total Property Management LLC, we love working with Greenville landlords to help them accomplish their goal of becoming successful real estate investors with passive monthly income. If you’re interested in partnering with a professional property management company to streamline your daily challenges, we’d love to help.

Do You Need A Positive Cash Flow To Make Money With A Rental Property?

February 10, 2020

Buying and managing rental properties is one of the best ways to build wealth. If you purchase the right properties in the right neighborhoods, and keep them in good condition with good tenants, you should be able to cultivate a favorable return on your initial investments, and possibly end up with a source of recurring monthly revenue.

One of the most important elements to this strategy is purportedly cash flow—the amount of money you’re receiving in the form of rental income, compared to the expenses you face. Ideally, you’ll generate positive cash flow; for example, if you have monthly expenses totaling $1,500 (including annual expenses and emergency savings, accounted for on a monthly basis), and tenants paying a cumulative $2,000 in rent, you’ll be making a $500 profit every month, or $6,000 a year.

But in some cases, a positive cash flow may not be possible. Rent prices in your area may not be high enough for you to close the gap in your expenses, or your property may be more expensive to maintain than your originally thought. If this is the case, is your investment property doomed?

Optimizing for Appreciation

While some landlords make property investment decisions to capitalize on steady, profitable cash flow, others prefer to optimize for property appreciation. In most areas, properties tend to increase in value over time; if you purchase a home for $150,000, in several years, it might climb to $175,000. In a hot neighborhood or a fast-growing one, this rate of growth can be exceedingly high. For example, it’s not unheard of for property values to double in the span of just a few years. This isn’t the norm, but it’s possible if you’re able to time the market correctly.

In this way, you don’t need to have a positive cash flow. Neutral cash flow, or getting enough rental income to cover your expenses, is plenty; if that’s the case, your property will appreciate in value while you face no monthly expenses. When it’s time to sell the property, you can cash in on the growth and put it toward another property or another investment.

It’s also worth noting that optimizing for property appreciation allows you to tap into financial leverage if you’re getting a loan. Leverage basically allows you to invest with money that isn’t yours. For example, let’s say you buy a $150,000 property with a $50,000 down payment. You borrow $100,000 from the bank to pay for the rest. Several years pass, and property values in this area appreciate; you decide to sell the property, and it ends up going for $200,000. Let’s ignore the complexities of increasing equity through mortgage payments for a moment and say you use the $200,000 to first pay off your $100,000 debt to the bank. This leaves you with $100,000, or $50,000 of direct profit, assuming you were cash flow neutral this whole time. In other words, even though the property’s value increased by 33 percent, you saw a 100 percent return on your investment, since you capitalized on financial leverage.

Finding a Balance

Still, most landlords find the best approach to be a hybrid one; buying properties with the potential for significant long-term appreciation is highly valuable, but it’s also comforting to have the steady monthly income associated with positive cash flow. An ideal property is one that gets you the best of both worlds.

When buying a property, you’ll want to carefully examine the following variables:

Price (and monthly payments). Obviously, you’ll want to look at the purchase price and see how it compares to other houses in nearby areas. You’ll also want to factor in how much you’re putting as a down payment and how much you’re borrowing, ultimately accounting for your ongoing monthly expenses. If you’re responsible for utility costs or other fees, make sure you account for them too.

Upkeep and maintenance expenses. Different properties will require different levels of maintenance and upkeep as well. Be sure to evaluate the condition of the property, and account for any extra repairs it may need over time. For example, if the property is many decades old, you’ll want to account for a few thousand dollars per year of additional expenses.

Projected rental income. Estimating rental income can be challenging, especially if this property hasn’t been occupied in recent years. You can start by studying the rental history of the property (if it exists) and looking at current rental prices of similar properties in the neighborhood. Be conservative in your estimates here in case you struggle to find a tenant willing to pay your top-level estimates.

Neighborhood factors. For appreciation purposes, look at the neighborhood and its potential for growth as well. You’ll want to look at demographic patterns in the past few years, the trajectory of rental prices, new job opportunities on the horizon, and nearby amenities.

Building a Property Portfolio

Instead of finding one perfect property, you can also hedge your financial risk by investing in multiple properties simultaneously, building an entire portfolio that allows you to accumulate wealth in multiple ways. For example, you may invest in properties in multiple neighborhoods, accounting for discrepancies between your projected neighborhood growth and actual growth. Or you may have two properties dedicated to generating positive cash flow, with your other properties focused on long-term appreciation.

If you’re new to property investing, it may be wise to start with one property. But once you get a feel for the responsibilities of a landlord and property investor, you can work on fleshing out your portfolio.

Regardless of whether you’re buying your first rental property or trying to manage an entire portfolio of houses, Total Property Management LLC can help.  Contact us to learn more about our services today!

Why Hire A Property Manager?

January 27, 2020

Are you tired of being forced to sell your home every time you relocate for a temporary job assignment? Do you feel as if your current investments aren’t working hard enough for you?

It may be time to think about leasing your home with the helpful support of a professional property manager.

What comes to mind when you think of a property manager? Many people operate under the assumption that property managers are for real estate tycoons who own hundreds of rental properties and tenants.

But those types make up only a small fraction of a typical property manager’s client base. The majority of people who depend on a property manager are folks just like you, and fall into one of the following categories:

Professionals relocating. Whether employees are asked to move overseas for just six months or closer to five years, they don’t always want to sell their home because they know they’ll be returning. Instead of leaving the house vacant or putting it on the market, turn it over to the care of a property manager who can keep the house leased to responsible tenants.

Remote investors. Savvy businessmen and women understand that real estate is all about location and demand. This means that chasing the hot markets requires investing in multiple cities, states, or countries. For out-of-town investors with properties in the Greenville area, a property manager can take care of all the little details while the owner focuses on working on the overall portfolio.

Busy individuals. While some people have the time to manage their own properties, it doesn’t always make financial sense for others. Some people prefer to own real estate as an investment, but prefer to devote much of their time to other activities. In these cases, a property manager can give you the best of both worlds. The investor is able to own property while not having to spend any time on it.

Average Joes. You don’t have to be wealthy to find a property manager useful, either. Many individuals own a second property as a source of steady, supplemental cash flow. A property manager can ensure everything operates and functions smoothly without any hitches or vacancies.


How To Make More Space In Your House (Without Moving)

March 15, 2020

Growing families need growing spaces. But do you really have to move out and upsize every time your family expands? Is it possible to stay put and make the most out of the space you currently have? It may be more practical than you realize – and we’re going to show you how.

8 Ideas for Making More Space

Over the years, houses have gotten larger and the average household size has shrunk – yet we still seem to think we need bigger homes. What if the real solution to the need for more room is to maximize the space you already have? Believe it or not, there are plenty of methods and techniques you can use to get ahead.

Declutter and Purge

Before you do anything else, start by decluttering your home and removing the possessions that you don’t need or use. This will give you a blank slate to work with (and may even free up some significant space in key rooms). The 80/20 rule is a good principle to apply.

“When it comes to clothing, we generally only wear 20 percent of the clothes we own 80 percent of the time,” BudgetDumpster.com notes. “This rule tends to hold true for other things as well, such as video games, computer parts, books, DVDs, toys and more. Your mission is to get rid of the things you don’t use 80 percent of the time.”

There are plenty of decluttering methods, but the simplest method is to go room by room and separate everything into three piles: keep, donate/sell, and trash. Anything that doesn’t go in the keep pile should instantly find a new home – i.e. anywhere but yours.

Organize Your Stuff

Every item in your home should have a place. The more organized you are, the less you’ll feel like you’re crowded in by your stuff. Good organization utilizes closet space, shelves, cabinets, attic space, etc. If you’ve done a decent job of decluttering, this job will be fairly easy.

Make Rooms Multifunctional

Who says every room in your house has to serve one distinct purpose? Can’t you use rooms in multiple ways and reduce the amount of square footage you actually need? Here are some examples:

Your home office doesn’t have to take up an entire bedroom. Install a Murphy bed or nice pullout sofa and you can use it as a guest bedroom, too.

If you have a spacious laundry room, it could double as a craft room (or even a home office).

Get your kids to share a bedroom by creating built-in loft beds with space to play and study underneath.

Whatever your lifestyle, there are plenty of ways to get creative and utilize shared spaces to make a smaller house functional. It’s not as difficult as most people think it is.

Use Multifunctional Furniture

Any time you can use multifunctional furniture, you should. Whether it’s a kitchen table with built-in storage underneath or nesting tables that can easily be organized to account for your changing needs, versatile pieces free up space and give you room to breathe.

Give the Illusion of More Space

Do you actually need more space? Or do you just feel like you’re cramped? In most cases it’s the latter. And the good news is that you can create the illusion of more space without having to knock down any walls or put your house on the market. One trick is to use mirrors.

“Mirrors reflect light, which can make a living space feel more airy and spacious,” Shark Clean explains. “And because you’re reflecting the existing space in a room, you’re adding depth. The odd ceiling-to-floor mirror placed strategically around a room can completely transform it in an instant. Wherever possible, place a mirror opposite a window to harness natural light.”

Other solutions include using a light, monochrome color scheme (preferably white), leaving large expanses of floor space uncovered, and letting in lots of natural light.

Home Organization - Making Your Space Work For You

January 13, 2020

Tackle clutter and make your space work for you — with style.

For many people, the new year represents a clean slate and brings a renewed sense of possibility and enthusiasm. It’s a wonderful time to get your home organized in anticipation of the busy months ahead. Effective storage solutions and organization systems will enable you to enjoy your home to its fullest. Here are some tips to put you on track for an orderly and productive year.

Learn to let things go

The first step in any organization plan is purging. This can be the hardest part, but it is also the most rewarding.

Don’t keep things that aren’t functional or don’t bring you joy. Also remember that something you let go of might make someone else very happy.

If you’re not sure you can part with an item, store it in a box and see if you miss it or need it. This is a great litmus test for what’s truly necessary. If you don’t miss it after a set amount of time, donate it!

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good

Any organization effort is better than no organization effort. It’s best to approach a behemoth task like organizing your entire home in stages.

The house provides us with natural barriers. Think of each room as its own project and it will begin to feel more manageable.

And remember that it gets worse before it gets better, so don’t feel discouraged early on. Organizing is not something that happens in one day — it’s a journey and a state of mind.

Think outside the box store

A trip to your local organization store can be fun, but unorthodox storage solutions make for a more interesting space.

Beautiful, one-of-a-kind pieces can be highly practical and help make your home more functional. Make use of available and affordable materials, when possible, to stretch your home organization budget. You can craft solutions yourself or revitalize secondhand pieces that fit with your style.

The three Bs: bins, buckets and baskets

Oh, and jars. (But that doesn’t start with a B.)

Once you’ve whittled down your belongings to favorites and essentials, you’re going to need somewhere to store them. Baskets and buckets have a wonderful visual impact in a room — filling nooks, resting against chairs and adding texture and color.

They are also highly functional for storing everything from toys and blankets to magazines and shoes. 

Using jars in the kitchen to store dry goods can make open shelving a lot more appealing. Bonus: By keeping healthy ingredients in plain sight, you’ll probably end up using them more often.

Use your vertical space

If your home doesn’t have a huge footprint, vertical solutions are essential for staying organized. These can be implemented in a more practical manner — like stacking bins and boxes under your bed or in your closet — as well as through design decisions.

Capitalizing on vertical space draws the eye to different parts of the room and creates a sense of balance, in addition to saving important real estate on the floor.

The best reason to get and stay organized? You’ll save yourself valuable time — which means you can focus on doing things that really matter to you.

7 Organizational Tips For New Landlords

January 6, 2020

As a landlord, you have to stay organized if you want to succeed. You’ll be dealing with many types of paperwork, including property deeds, rental agreements, and tenant applications, and managing finances like mortgage payments, insurance payments, and rental income.

Keeping things organized is vital for several reasons:

Easy referencing. There are many occasions where, as a landlord, you’ll have to look back at some of the documents you’ve gathered or the history you’ve had with a client. For example, you might need to refer to a lease agreement to determine whether or not a tenant has violated your terms. Keeping things organized allows you to quickly make these references, and reliably find the information you seek.

Cost efficiency and ROI. Organization can also help you improve your cost analyses. If you keep detailed records on everything financially relevant, including your income, ongoing expenses, and periodic unusual expenses, you’ll be able to make better forecasts, and better estimate which of your properties are most profitable.

Legal matters. Occasionally, you may have to face legal issues as a landlord. For example, you may have to evict a problematic tenant, or you may face an audit. In these cases, you’ll need to be prepared to provide sufficient documentation to prove you’ve done things right. In these moments, you’ll be glad you were organized.

Fortunately, even if you’re disorganized in your personal life, there are some steps you can take to improve your organization as a landlord.

How to Stay Organized

These are some of your most important strategies:

Work with a property manager. Your first option is a fairly comprehensive one, but it might not be right for every landlord: work with a property management firm. Property managers are dedicated to controlling and organizing most of your responsibilities as a landlord. For example, they may collect payments on your behalf, help you find new tenants, resolve basic tenant disputes, and help you document all your expenses. In return, you’ll pay a monthly fee, which is easy to document and keep track of. By working with a property management firm, you’ll essentially have a built-in organizational element to your strategy, and your burden will be greatly reduced. Of course, not every landlord will want to work with a property management firm, since they may prefer to take matters into their own hands, but it remains a solid option for most property owners.

Operate digitally as much as possible. Another option is to digitally transform your property management strategy, relying on software, apps, and automation as much as possible. Working digitally, you’ll find it much easier to keep track of all your paperwork and messages; in fact, many management apps organize your materials automatically. Keeping things digitally also means you don’t have to make physical space for your materials, and you can easily make copies to back up your work. Certain elements of your digital strategy, such as collecting rent payments online, can also help your tenants stay organized.

Separate your files by property. If you have multiple properties or plan on owning multiple properties in the future, make sure you keep all your files separated by property. This is going to increase in importance with the number of properties in your portfolio. While it’s reasonable to keep some high-level files, such as a master spreadsheet where you track your income and expenses on a global level, if and when you need to make reference to past documents or transactions, you’ll be thankful to have everything segmented by property. This is true regardless of whether you store things physically or digitally; if you use digital file management, you can tag your files in multiple ways, turning your organization into a complex but intuitive web.

Understand and prepare for taxes. Taxes are a complicated matter for most landlords. You’re going to owe taxes on any rental income you make, but you should be able to deduct most of your expenses, reducing what you owe. You’ll need to provide evidence for every transaction, including both your income and your expenses, and that means setting up a dedicated file for tax-related documents. Of course, that also means working hard to understand how taxes work, long before they’re due.

Take notes and document everything you can. Over the course of your tenure as landlord, you’ll likely encounter many interesting and noteworthy situations; for example, a tenant may request a small repair or you may have to address a complaint about a neighbor. When these events inevitably unfold, it’s in your best interest to document them—even if they seem innocuous at the time. You never know when they could be the start of a pattern of behavior. Take notes, take photos and video when appropriate, and log them with the date they occurred.

Utilize automatic alerts. Part of staying organized is keeping track of all your to-dos, appointments, and responsibilities. It’s hard to keep all these things top of mind, especially when you have multiple properties to manage, but you can make things easier on yourself by utilizing a calendar app and a series of automatic alerts. Get notified when it’s time to inspect or maintain a property, and schedule yourself reminders to follow up on non-urgent repairs.

Commit to daily catch-up. Disorganization doesn’t simply happen one day; it starts gradually, then spirals out of control. If you commit to evaluating and addressing your standing issues on a daily basis, you’ll keep your work much more organized. Better yet, because it’s a daily task, it will eventually become an ingrained habit, and you won’t have to think about taking action; instead, you’ll do it intuitively, out of habit.

Enlist the Help of a Property Management Team

If you’re interested in buying your first rental property, or if you’re looking for help from a property management firm, contact Total Property Management LLC today! We’ll provide you with a free analysis of your current property and show you how we can make your life easier.

The 4 Reasons You Want Your Tenants To Renew Their Leases

December 30, 2019

As a landlord, you can’t ever sit back and relax. Just because you have good tenants in your properties at the moment, doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to stick around. It’s up to you to retain them by encouraging and motivating them to renew their leases over and over again. Do you have a plan for doing so?

Lease renewals are integral to being a successful landlord. But do you know exactly how important they are? Benefits include:

Avoid the Process of Finding New Tenants

From a practical point of view, finding new tenants is a logistical, resource-intensive mess. (Especially if you want a good tenant – not just a warm body.) Getting a lease renewal from an existing tenant saves you time and money spent conducting an inspection, cleaning the property, posting ads, showing the property, screening tenants, collecting money, explaining the lease, changing over utilities, etc.

Avoid Vacancy Costs

Vacancy is expensive. In addition to the resources it takes to find new tenants, there are expenses and holding costs associated with having an empty property for an extended period of time.

Lost rent (each month the property sits vacant) is the main sticking point. Then there are the mortgage, property taxes, insurance, and utility bills that still have to be paid, even if there’s no income. If you’re in a really tight spot, you could even have one of your properties go into foreclosure as a direct result of a prolonged vacancy.

Avoid Turnover

One of the frustrating things about turnover is that you have to “sell” the property to someone all over again. (In other words, you have to convince them that it’s worth leasing.) Renewing an existing tenant, on the other hand, isn’t nearly as difficult. They already know the flaws and justified them long ago. Whether it’s a tiny hole in the wall or a broken tile, they probably won’t ask you to fix it (unless they’ve already made a request.)

More Predictable

Even if your tenant isn’t the best renter in the world, there’s something reassuring about working with someone you already know over a total stranger. Predictability is a good thing in this industry and a lease renewal allows you to capitalize on this.

Tips for Getting Tenants to Renew

Now that you understand just how important lease renewals are, you can develop a game plan for actually getting tenants to renew. Here are some practical suggestions that many landlords find simple and effective:

Never assume that a tenant remembers when their lease is up or what was agreed upon when the lease was signed. It’s best to stay in constant communication in the months and weeks leading up to renewal. By informing them of expectations, the entire tenancy will be smooth.

Start early. Don’t wait until the last minute to ask a tenant if they want to renew. If they happen to turn down the offer, you’ll find yourself scrambling to find a new tenant. This will almost certainly result in some vacancy time. (In a slow market, it could lead to weeks or months of prolonged vacancy.)

Address concerns. When it comes to a renewal, tenants have this internal dialogue going on. On the one hand, they want to stay because they’re already comfortable and settled in. On the other hand, there are some shortcomings and concerns that tell them they should go. It’s your job to find out what those concerns are and proactively address them through word or action.

Think about ways you can incentivize a tenant to sign a renewal. This could look like offering a free month of rent, providing an upgrade (such as a new appliance or TV), or even giving the tenant a discounted rate.

Add some pressure. If your tenant seems on the fence about renewing and sort of drags their feet, you may need to apply a little pressure. Simply setting a deadline and asking for a firm yes or no is usually enough to get a decision.

You know your tenants better than anyone else. Based on your knowledge of your tenants and the aforementioned best practices, you can develop a repeatable process that helps you consistently retain and renew tenants.

Situations Where You Shouldn’t Offer a Renewal

In the vast majority of cases, renewing a lease makes sense. However, there are certain situations where offering a renewal may not be the best course of action. Here are some red flags:

Bad tenants. Just because you can renew a tenant, doesn’t mean you should. If you have a tenant with a history of making late payments, perhaps you could do better. There’s no sense in putting yourself through more stress and friction than you have to.

Change in plans. There could be a situation in which you decide to make a change. For example, do you want to add another bedroom to the house? Are you planning to sell in three months? Do you have a family member who wants to move in soon? Changes in plans may call for a non-renewal.

Significant increase in market rent. There are typically caps on how much you can increase rent on an existing tenant. But in rare situations where the market rent has increased dramatically from the time your tenant signed on, you might not be able to get a fair return with an existing tenant. Ending the lease and finding a new tenant will allow you to bring the price up to where it can be.

There may be other extenuating circumstances where a renewal isn’t the best way forward. Trust your instincts and always balance short-term gain against long-term ROI.

Work With Total Property Management LLC

At Total Property Management we take pride in our ability to offer landlords with comprehensive property management services at an affordable price. When you work with us, we handle the heavy lifting and small details so that you can put your focus on the big picture. 

The True Meaning Of Christmas

December 23, 2019


It's that time of year again. December has come and with it all the joys of Christmas. But what is the real meaning of Christmas? Is it the gifts under the tree, the lights in the windows, the cards in the mail, turkey dinners with family and friends, snow in the yard, stockings hanging in the living room, and shouts of "Merry Christmas" to those who pass us in the streets? Is this really Christmas?

For many people, Christmas is a time of sorrow. They don't have the extra money to buy presents for their children, family, and friends. Many are saddened at Christmastime when they think of their loved ones who will not be able to come home for various reasons. Turkey dinners may be only a wish and not a reality for some.

Yet, Christmas can be a season of great joy. It is a time of God showing His great love for us. It can be a time of healing and renewed strength. You see, Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of the Christ child. God sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to be born. His birth brought great joy to the world. Shepherds, wise men, and angels all shared in the excitement of knowing about this great event. They knew this was no ordinary baby. The prophets had told of His coming hundreds of years before. The star stopped over Bethlehem just to mark the way for those who were looking for this special child.

"So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." (NIV)

Merry Christmas from Total Property Management, LLC

When Making Your List and Checking It twice Remember These Steps On How To Enjoy Christmas Without The Stress

December 16, 2019

It’s no secret that things can get overwhelming around the Christmas season. 

The more strain you put on yourself, your family and your wallet, the less room you’ll have to truly enjoy the magic of the season. Remember, this time of year should be joyful! Don’t cave in to the holiday stress! Here are 15 ways to keep the merry in Christmas and have a slow holiday you can savor.

1. Make a to-do list.

And check it twice too. That’s what the pros like Santa do. Maybe you have a mental list of everything you need to do and when you need to do it. But it helps to have a written list or calendar to see the big picture. If your shopping needs to be done by a certain date, write that down. If your neighbors have a yearly bash on the second Saturday of December, write that down.

The point of this is to see everything in one place so you can get an idea of what’s happening and when. Don’t like how it’s looking? Reorganize your calendar and your to-do list to reflect the Christmas you want to have this year.

2. Avoid too many commitments.

Most likely, your December schedule is sure to include party invitations out the chimney. But you don’t have to do everything on your calendar. You are in control! Remember, you can’t be everywhere at the same time. You can only attend so many family dinners, drive so far, and give so much. Just like your money, you have limits with your time.

Be honest and reasonable about what you can handle, and speak up if it’s too much to juggle. Instead of going to five Christmas gatherings, pick one or two. You don’t want to burn out before Christmas Day even gets here! Prioritize your family’s time and only commit to what you want to do. It’s all about quality, not quantity.

Don’t let too many commitments throw your daily routine out of whack. Stick to your rituals and try to keep as much of your normal routine in place as you can during the scattered schedule of the Christmas season. If your average day starts with getting up, pouring yourself a cup of coffee, and reading the newspaper, don’t skip that. Having some normalcy can help keep you calm and focused on the day ahead. Plus, it’s a great way to stay level-headed . . . especially if your house is filled to the brim with guests for the holidays.

3. Don’t wait until the last minute.

Delaying something until the last minute is rarely a good idea. Christmas shopping is the perfect example of that! A lot of people wait until halfway through December and then dash to the malls in a panic to buy gifts. But the good news is, you’re starting early! Aren’t you feeling more relaxed already? You probably just added five years to your life!

Trying to do all your Christmas shopping or cooking in one weekend can push you over the edge. Instead, keep it simple! It might be easier to shop for one or two people on your list each day. The idea here is to have fun buying gifts for others and not make it feel like a chore.

Make a Christmas bucket list and fill it with fun and festive things to do throughout the season. 

4. Make a Christmas budget.

You saw this one coming, right? No shocker here: We’re reminding you to do your Christmas budget, again. So have you done it yet? Take some time to think about all your Christmas expenses and decide exactly how much you will spend.

Make a plan and don’t blow it! Avoid all the impulse spending, and when you max out your budget, that’s it. You’re done.

Be sure to include all the parties you want to go to and the cost of gifts, food and decorations. Despite all of the holiday hoopla, stick to your plan no matter what! 

5. Decorate like a minimalist.

We all like to be just as festive as the next guy. No one wants to be a Grinch. But don’t feel like you have to put up a Christmas tree in every room of your house. This isn’t Whoville.

Instead of decorating the entire house, keep it simple by decorating the tree and the mantel. Focus on your main living spaces where your family gathers most often. Take some of the pressure off yourself and ignore the urge to create a winter wonderland inside (or outside) your home this year.

6. Don’t spend all your time on social media.

Stay away from the comparison trap, especially at Christmastime. Hide your eyes from the perfectly curated Instagram feeds and the DIY rabbit hole of Pinterest.

Don’t waste this joyous time of year apologizing to your friends and family because you didn’t bake every item from scratch or create an elaborate story each day for that pesky Elf on the Shelf! 

7. Get rid of clutter before Christmas.

It’s out with the old and in with the new. No one wants to feel like their house is a cluttered mess with new gifts piled on top of old ones. So get rid of the clutter before Christmas gets here. For every new toy that you know the kids will open on Christmas morning, get rid of two. Make your kids a part of it so they know they’re donating their well-loved toys to others.

This is also a great time to sort through and organize your clothes, garage and kitchen (even those ratty Christmas decorations in the attic you’re still clinging to). Sell or donate the stuff you know you don’t use anymore, or wrap some of it up for gag gift exchanges.

8. Don’t shop at peak times.

Shop early, shop early, shop early. Since you started saving for Christmas early, you can shop early too. You’ll never have to worry about inventory being too low and having to stoop to tug of war with another desperate parent over the last Turbo Man action figure. Phew! You won’t have to worry about price gouging on popular items either.

If you can swing it, do a babysitting swap with a couple you know. They’ll watch your kids for a few hours and you can return the favor and watch their kids for a few hours when they need to go out. Everyone wins! You and your spouse can have a free evening together to go shopping—kid-free! Make the welcome escape a little date night for the two of you too. Grab some peppermint mochas and go Christmas shopping. You both deserve some one-on-one time.

Or keep your holiday stress level at bay and do all your Christmas shopping online. There’s nothing wrong with that! Plus, being able to see the item prices in your cart can help keep you from overspending. 

9. Ask friends or family for help.

Some stuff just has to be done. You can’t get rid of everything on the list. But if you start feeling the pressure, consider enlisting some friends or family to help you out.

Maybe that’s trading off with a fellow parent to cart your kids to and from Christmas pageant rehearsals, paying your niece or nephew to wrap all your presents (well, the ones that aren’t theirs), or picking up store-bought cheesecake for your Christmas potluck at work. Whatever it is, just make sure it’s in your budget, and get ready to feel the holiday stress melt away.

10. Avoid family conflict.

Okay, we know this one is tricky to navigate, especially around the holidays, but stick with us here. We all have family members who push our buttons: Aunt Betsy, in-laws, Granny Gertrude—whoever! Instead of going to the family event and trying to master the fine art of not stepping on egg shells the entire night, how about just avoiding certain topics and removing yourself from the conversation if things go south?

Believe it or not, it can be done. You don’t have to subject yourself or your family to a heated argument you don’t want to be in—boundaries, you know?

11. Host a potluck.

Just because it’s Christmastime, that doesn’t mean you have to stress yourself out making a full-on feast for the masses. Scale things back and reduce your stress level with a potluck dinner! Trust us. It isn’t as cringeworthy as it might sound. Have each one of your guests bring their favorite side dish or family recipe to the meal. Then all you have to worry about preparing is the turkey (or ham . . . or fish . . . or partridge in a pear tree.)

12. Don’t overeat.

Yes, it’s true: You can have too much of a good thing. Stressed spelled backward is desserts. If you cut back on all the holiday stress, then maybe your waistline will thank you too. You can still indulge in the sweet stuff. Just don’t go overboard. 

And don’t forget about exercise! It can help keep the Christmas pounds off and lower your holiday stress level. If you can’t make time to get to the gym, make time to move. Take the stairs at work. Get up every hour or so and take a lap around the office. Lift small weights while you’re on the phone or watching television. You can even bundle up and go on your own Christmas lights walking tour. Maybe your exercise is just combining your Christmas shopping with walking in the mall. Anything is better than nothing!

13. Stay healthy.

Being sick at Christmastime is the absolute worst, so do what you can to avoid it! If you wash your hands, stay hydrated, and avoid sick people, you can make it through cold and flu season safe and sound. P.S. Hand sanitizer is your best friend. Also, don’t burn the candle at both ends by staying up late and getting up early. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep this season.

Remember, stress can zap your immune system and make you more prone to catching those gnarly bugs. Keep the stress down and your spirits up by staying healthy this season.

14. Make time for downtime.

Keep your peace and quiet, and you’ll keep your sanity. It really doesn’t matter what part of the day it is—the early morning hours or the evening when the kids are asleep. Just make time to enjoy the things you love. Read a book. Do a Christmas devotional or Advent plan. Catch up on your favorite Netflix shows. Or dive into one of those cheesy (but you can’t look away) Hallmark Christmas movies.

15. Remember what the Christmas season is about.

Christmastime is meant to be filled with joy, merriment and thankfulness. Carve out time with family and friends to reconnect with one another. You want to actually remember Christmas this year, right? The idea is to be intentional. Don’t let the month go by in a total blur.

Slow down and think about what you really want to do this season. Don’t get so caught up in the hustle and bustle that you forget to enjoy the people you’re doing all this for. By starting early, you’ll be able to have a merry—and much less stressful—Christmas!

WAYS TO EARN A TENANTS TRUST and WHY IT MATTERS

December 9, 2019

If you’re the landlord, does it really matter if a tenant trusts you? Absolutely. A tenant who trusts and respects their landlord is less likely to cause careless damage to the property. They’re also more likely to communicate with you and work with you to resolve problems.

Here are ways to earn your tenant’s trust:

Include electricity in the rent

You can build trust with your tenant by making their life easier. Reducing the number of individual bills they need to juggle and pay will help immensely.

If you’re renting an apartment to a single person or a couple, it’s easy to cover all utilities in the rent including electricity. Many tenants are looking for rentals that cover utilities because they want to know exactly how much money they’ll need to spend each month on housing costs. When electricity bills fluctuate, some people have a hard time keeping up with payments.

With electricity covered, a tenant has one less bill to worry about. It doesn’t matter if the inclusion costs them slightly more than their actual usage – eliminating a bill eliminates uncertainty. Your tenants will appreciate this. However, make sure you don’t overcharge for electricity.

There are pros and cons to including utilities in the rent. For example, some tenants don’t bother to conserve energy when someone else is footing the bill. However, depending on how your unit is set up, it might be worth it.

Don’t overcharge tenants for screening fees

Tenant screening shouldn’t be a source of income for you. Although law places no limit on the amount you can collect in application fees, you should only charge a tenant what it costs you. It’s reasonable to add five or ten dollars to cover your time, mailing supplies, and gas when necessary. However, a tenant will know when they’re being overcharged, and even if they get approved for the unit, the sour feeling of being overcharged will remain and will be a point against you.

Don’t charge the maximum allowable security deposit (without reason)

Individual cities and municipalities can have limits, so check your local laws before determining your security deposit amount.

With that said, if you are limited to a certain amount, don’t charge the maximum amount without reason. The majority of landlords charge a security deposit equal to one month’s rent, and that’s a fair standard to follow. Don’t be unreasonable. Tenants face unreasonable fees everywhere they go from taxes to overpriced food and other goods. Don’t add to their frustrations and don’t make tenants feel like you’re trying to rip them off.

The same goes for late fees. Just because you can charge more doesn’t mean you should.

Include yard maintenance in the rent

These days, who has time for yardwork? Most people are working 9-5 jobs that require long commutes and sometimes weekend work. When people come home from work, all they want to do is rest and relax. Some tenants are so busy they don’t have time to mow the lawn.

Including basic yard maintenance in the rent gives tenants a well-kept yard without any effort. Sure, they could hire their own maintenance crew (whenever they remember), but wouldn’t you rather know your yard is being taken care of on a regular basis?

Be willing to help when you don’t legally have to

Go the extra mile for your tenants! They will appreciate your generosity and they will feel like they’re more than just another source of income for you. When you need something from them later on, they’ll be more likely to agree to your requests, even if they are a bit inconvenient.

For example, say you have a tenant with a physical disability. Tenants are allowed to make certain modifications without your permission. However, some tenants will still call their landlord to get those modifications approved. Although it’s the tenant’s responsibility to hire someone to make the modifications, ask them if they’d like you to do it for them free of charge.

The modifications might be something as simple as installing special door handles, grab bars in the shower, or replacing a low toilet. If you can afford to cover the requested modifications, you’ll make your tenant happy and earn their trust in a big way, especially since many disabled people are on fixed incomes.

However, avoid asking a tenant with a disability if they need any modifications if they haven’t said anything. Wait until they approach you.

Tenants often get anxiety when moving out of a unit and worry about the small things. Regardless of who installs the modifications, let your tenant know they don’t need to remove the modifications when they leave so they don’t have to worry about anything.

Want someone else to do the work for you?

Being a landlord is hard work. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, we’re here to help. At Total Property Management LLC we have experience in property management. We will handle everything for you from tenant screening and rent collection to maintenance and repairs.

Contact us today for a free analysis to see how we can do the work for you.

The SECRET To No-Fuss Holiday Decor? Use What You Already Have

December 2, 2019

Holiday decorating can be as simple as dusting off your flower vases, unrolling a spool of burlap and polishing your silver.

Hold your holiday decor horses! Before you purchase gobs of tinsel and piles of twinkle lights, take another look at items you already have — they may be the holiday embellishment you’ve been looking for.

By hunting through your cabinets and closets, you can easily re-purpose common household items into yuletide decor for your abode. Need a little inspiration? 

“Bust out the burlap! I’ve been known to use burlap for anything from tablecloths to a Christmas tree skirt. It’s so versatile and lends an organic, rustic vibe.”

— Brooke Wagner, Brooke Wagner Design

“Roll out brown or black butcher paper on your table like a runner. It somehow elevates everything you set on it. Plus, you can write your guests names on it in black marker (or chalk marker for black paper) instead of place cards.”

— Jenn Muirhead, Jennifer Muirhead Interiors

“Paint a wall with chalkboard paint. It’s the perfect themed accent wall that’s fun and creative, and it gets the kids involved, too.”

— Melissa Martin Molitor, MMM Designs-Interiors

“Tie ribbon on everything! Thread it through chandeliers or banisters. Or put festive printed fabric in picture frames and scatter them throughout the house.”

— Katie Schroder, Atelier Interior Design

“Place a set of teacups on a pretty tray, and fill each cup with a succulent or small flower arrangement. Or create a centerpiece by placing candles on a serving tray or cake stand.”

— Gita Jacobson, In The Deets

“Fill a large glass serving bowl — or maybe a punch bowl or trifle bowl — with whatever seasonal item you want. Just use the same thing so it looks purposeful and pretty.”

— Jenn Muirhead, Jennifer Muirhead Interiors

“Take an ordinary flower vase, and stick glass ornaments inside with a string of white lights. It’s a pretty display that’s simple and creative!”

— Wendy Berry, W Design Interiors

Ransack the fridge

“Dried fruit garland is still classic and sweet. Take a needle and thread to some popcorn, cranberries or dried sliced oranges, and string it up wherever you want to!”

— Jenn Muirhead, Jennifer Muirhead Interiors

“Cut up fresh fruit and put it in a pitcher before adding flowers for a centerpiece. Throw in some cloves and cinnamon sticks for added flair. For a dash of festivity, use oranges with cloves in them for place card settings.”

— Christine Estep, Jackson Thomas Interiors

“Use a vintage plaid throw as a tablecloth or runner. Or decorate a small tabletop tree with jewelry or ribbon.”

— Katie Schroder, Atelier Interior Design

“Repurpose one of your favorite scarves as a cozy centerpiece runner.”

— Gita Jacobson, In The Deets

“Instead of placing a star at the top of my Christmas tree, I’ll take a handful of fallen sticks and tie them together at the top of the tree with a raffia bow. I’ll also layer pine cones throughout my tree to balance out the glass ornaments for an organic, natural feel.

— Wendy Berry, W Design Interiors

“I gather sticks cedar branches, along with magnolia, holly, boxwood and pine. I spread them around the bases of containers or arrange them in colorful tea tins. It’s an easy way to bring in greenery without spending too much money.”

— Susan Jamieson, Bridget Beari Designs

“I love to add a garland of fresh greens around my dining room chandelier and hang ornaments from it. The fresh scent mixed with holiday cooking is wonderful.”

— Jennifer Stoner, Jennifer Stoner Interiors

“Scatter some festive items that aren’t necessarily holiday themed. For example, we’ll set out some naturally shed antlers in the fall or a tuxedo hat around Christmas. I’ll mix in a few of these types of things that feel seasonally appropriate but aren’t necessarily traditional holiday decor.”

— Summer Thornton, Summer Thornton Design

“Give a corner of your home a holiday touch with just a handful of tweaks. We made a sitting area more festive by adding new pillows (they needn’t have an overt holiday motif – a wintery look works just as well), some evergreen cuttings from the yard (with a few sprigs of berries), a stack of wrapped gifts, a scarf and bow for our deer, and a teddy bear found in the attic.”

– Chris Stout-Hazard, Roger + Chris

“Gather objects with a similar color scheme. I pull out all of my white and silver anything and group them together — candle holders, vases, pots, ribbon. Then I go to my neighbors’ yards for magnolia and holly cuttings and get laurel out of my own yard. I just keep everything green, white and silver — jumbled together it works.”

— Lesley Glotzl

“Repurpose a metallic vessel into a vase for displaying rich greenery or arrangements of holiday objects. A brass champagne cooler, a bright silver trophy cup or even small copper mugs could work perfectly. Add fresh pops of red with cranberries, pomegranates, deep-red apples or even a few red roses.”

— Kerrie Kelly, Kerrie Kelly Design Lab

The First Thanksgiving

November 25, 2019

The first Thanksgiving was held in the autumn of 1621 and included 50 Pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag Indians and lasted three days. Many historians believe that only five women were present at that first Thanksgiving, as many women settlers didn't survive that difficult first year in the U.S.

Thanksgiving didn't become a national holiday until over 200 years later! Sarah Josepha Hale, the woman who actually wrote the classic song “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” convinced President Lincoln in 1863 to make Thanksgiving a national holiday, after writing letters for 17 years campaigning for this to happen.

No turkey on the menu at the first Thanksgiving: Historians say that no turkey was served at the first Thanksgiving! What was on the menu? Deer or venison, ducks, geese, oysters, lobster, eel and fish. They probably ate pumpkins, but no pumpkin pies. They also didn't eat mashed potatoes or cranberry relish, but they probably ate cranberries. And no, Turduckens (a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken) were nowhere to be found during that first Thanksgiving.

No forks at the first Thanksgiving! The first Thanksgiving was eaten with spoons and knives — but no forks! That's right, forks weren't even introduced to the Pilgrims until 10 years later and weren't a popular utensil until the 18th century.

Thanksgiving is the reason for TV dinners! In 1953, Swanson had so much extra turkey (260 tons) that a salesman told them they should package it onto aluminum trays with other sides like sweet potatoes — and the first TV dinner was born!

Thanksgiving was almost a fast — not a feast! The early settlers gave thanks by praying and abstaining from food, which is what they planned on doing to celebrate their first harvest, that is, until the Wampanoag Indians joined them and (lucky for us!) turned their fast into a three-day feast!

Presidential pardon of a turkey: Each year, the president of the U.S pardons a turkey and spares it from being eaten for Thanksgiving dinner. The first turkey pardon ceremony started with President Truman in 1947. President Obama pardoned a 45-pound turkey named Courage, who has flown to Disneyland and served as Grand Marshal of the park's Thanksgiving Day parade!

Why is Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November? President Abe Lincoln said Thanksgiving would be the fourth Thursday in November, but in 1939 President Roosevelt moved it up a week hoping it would help the shopping season during the Depression era. It never caught on and it was changed back two years later.

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade began in 1924 with 400 employees marching from Convent Ave to 145th street in New York City. No large balloons were at this parade, as it featured only live animals from Central Park Zoo.

Turkey isn't responsible for drowsiness or the dreaded "food coma." So what isolated footballis? Scientists say that extra glass of wine, the high-calorie meal or relaxing after a busy work schedule is what makes you drowsy!

How did the tradition of watching football on Thanksgiving start? The NFL started the Thanksgiving Classic games in 1920 and since then the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys have hosted games on Turkey Day. In 2006, a third game was added with different teams hosting.

Wild turkeys can run 20 miles per hour when they are scared, but domesticated turkeys that are bred are heavier and can't run quite that fast.


Impress your family with these Thanksgiving facts!


Happy Thanksgiving from Total Property Management LLC

The Advantages Of Renting

November 18, 2019

Renting your property, instead of selling it, comes with a few important advantages:

Ongoing income. Instead of receiving a lump payment for your house, you’ll instead get the benefits of a monthly rent check. Assuming you’re charging more in rent than you’re paying in ongoing expenses, that means you’ll make a profit, sometimes several hundred dollars a month or more. Plus, you can always sell the property in the future.

Property retention. If you see your current house as a fantastic long-term investment, or if you have a sentimental attachment to the home, this option allows you to retain ownership of the property without it sitting empty. For example, if this is a home in a high-growth neighborhood, but you’re interested in moving to another location, this allows you to capitalize on that potential growth without abandoning your moving plans.

No selling stress. Selling a house can be extremely stressful, especially if you can’t find a buyer at the price you want. Choosing to rent the home instead of selling it can forgo, or at least delay that stress in your life.

The Disadvantages of Renting

No immediate cash influx. Many homeowners sell their home so they can have access to the cash necessary to make a down payment on their next home. If you don’t have the cash reserves to do this on your own, this could be crippling. Rental income can bring you a profit gradually over time, but it won’t bring you the sudden, significant cash necessary to fund your next home purchase.

Tenant screening. If you want to rent your property successfully, you’ll need to find a reliable tenant—that means someone interested in your property who has a significant, stable income and an extended job history, as well as plenty of references to back them up. The tenant screening process can sometimes be long and difficult, compromising the effectiveness of your renting strategy and adding more stress to your life.

Landlord responsibilities. As a landlord, you’ll have lots of responsibilities. You’ll need to maintain and repair the property as needed, collect rent from tenants, and in some cases, file for an eviction if your tenant is problematic. Not all people are cut out for this, especially if you’re trying to start a new life in a new city. There are ways around this, of course—you could always hire a property management firm—but you’ll still be responsible for making sure the property is properly cared for.

Factors to Consider

If you’re not sure whether you should rent your property or simply sell it, consider these important factors:

Neighborhood dynamics. The dynamics of your neighborhood may make your property better suited for sale or rent. For example, if half the homes in your neighborhood are occupied by homeowners and the other half are occupied by renters, you’ll fit right in by renting yours. However, if you own a big home in a well-off neighborhood where nearly all occupants are owners, you’ll have difficulty finding appropriate tenants.

Going rent prices in the neighborhood. It’s also important to pay attention to the typical rent prices for a property like yours in this neighborhood. You’ll need to charge monthly rent in an amount that’s competitive with similar properties or units. In some cases, that means an amount equal to or lower than your monthly expenses. If that’s the case, it may not be worth renting your property. Ideally, you’ll be able to charge a fair price that’s still in excess of your monthly expenses—and make sure you’re incorporating the costs of routine maintenance and unpredictable repairs into your cost estimates.

Physical proximity to the property. If you plan on tending to the property yourself, you’ll want to consider your physical proximity to that property. Occasionally, you’ll be tasked with things like yard work, simple maintenance items, and inspections. If you live in a nearby town, this isn’t a big deal, but if you live across the country, it becomes exceedingly difficult to manage. In general, the closer you are, the easier it’s going to be.

Emotional or financial attachment to the property. Consider your personal attachment to the property as well. Some people like the idea of renting the property so they can hold onto it, and possibly make it available to their children when they grow up, or move back into it eventually. Others want to retain ownership of the property because they believe it will significantly appreciate in the near or distant future. But if you have no attachment to the property, these factors won’t matter to you.

Personal financial stability. How much cash do you have available for the down payment of your next house? If you’re depending on an influx of cash to help you with your next purchase, renting may not be a viable option. But if you can save a down payment independently, renting may be a more promising opportunity.

Property management options. As a landlord, working with a property manager will make everything easier. They’ll handle tenant screening, rent collection, basic maintenance, evictions, and more. 

Whether you’re getting ready to sell your property or you’re interested in renting it to a prospective tenant, Total Property Management LLC can help. We have the property management services that can make your duties as a landlord much simpler. Contact us today to learn more about how we can serve your needs!


Exploring The BRRRR Strategy For Real Estate Investing

September 9, 2019

The profession of real estate investing is a diverse one which involves many varied approaches and strategies. An individual may find success pursuing one track, but another may fail doing the same.

It’s up to each individual investor to identify the system that works best for his or her situation, but there are at least a couple of tactics that have proven to work for nearly everyone. The BRRRR strategy is one of them.

What is the BRRRR Strategy?

BRRRR is an acronym that stands for Buy, Rehab, Rent, Refinance, and Repeat. The concept was coined a few years ago by Brandon Turner at BiggerPockets, but in truth, savvy investors have employed it for decades to build a portfolio of rental properties without tying up a ton of cash.

Here’s an overview:

The first letter stands for buy. You’re looking to purchase a property that (a) needs work, (b) has potential, and (c) can be purchased for less than it’s worth. This is by far the most time-consuming and challenging step in the process. You’ll have to conduct intensive deal analysis to calculate the cost of repairs, the monthly rental income, the value of the property after repairs, and so on. When accounting for repairs, many investors use the 70 percent rule. It states that an investor should pay 70 percent of the after-repair value (ARV) on a property minus whatever repairs it requires. If a home’s ARV is $150,000 and it needs $25,000 in repairs, the maximum purchase price would be $80,000. This ensures a healthy cushion to fall back on.

The rehab phase is arguably the most stressful. It’s during this stage of the process that you have to make the property livable and functional, but also reset the value (which will help when it comes time to refinance the property). When you’re rehabbing, the goal is to make the property safe and attractive to your target market of renters. Make sure you don’t go overboard. If you’ll be renting the unit(s) for $900 a month, you don’t need to appeal to renters who have a monthly budget of $2,500. Of course you want to do a good job, but don’t throw money down the drain!

Once the property has been rehabbed and it’s ready to live in, you put it on the market and begin looking for a renter. You want someone who is reliable (meaning that he or she has good references and no history of late payments or bankruptcies). A vacancy is the worst result of pursuing the BRRRR strategy. By thoroughly screening your tenants, you’ll reduce your chance of having someone walk out on you.

After the property has been purchased, rehabbed, and rented out for a few months, you can shift your attention to refinancing. This is where the magic happens. A conventional lender will come out and order a new appraisal. It will be able to offer you 75 percent of the updated appraisal value, and a new maximum loan amount … and that will almost certainly be more than your current loan amount. Thus, when you refinance the loan, you can take out the difference between the old and the new, which is cash in your pocket.

Done well, this strategy enables you to buy and rehab a property without losing any money. You’ll get it all back at the end when you refinance. Instead of having all your capital tied up in a single piece of real estate, you should be able to repeat the process over and over with multiple properties.

The BRRRR strategy isn’t foolproof. It can involve both opportunities and challenges. The inexperienced investor may encounter an array of setbacks, but this isn’t any reason to give up.

“Cash out deals can be a terrific part of your real estate strategy, or they can turn into a house of cards that come crashing down on your head,” Candice Elliott writes for Money Matters. “Run and re-run the numbers and make sure they work out before making any decisions.”

The Pros of the BRRRR Strategy

The BRRRR strategy can be appealing for a number of reasons. As you consider whether it will fit within your approach to real estate investing, think about the following pros:

High returns. People use the BRRRR strategy because it usually works. When it’s done right, you have the potential to enjoy massive returns. And the refinance-and-repeat facet of the strategy means you get to enjoy recurring, robust returns (on top of monthly cash flow).

Unlike other buy-and-hold investments in which you tie up your cash for years, this strategy is comparatively liquid. You’re in a position to pull out your money within just a few months.

Quality final product. In conclusion, a rehabbed property is in much better condition than one that’s falling apart. You complete the process owning a quality property that could be dependable and marketable for years to come.

The Cons of the BRRRR Strategy

The BRRRR strategy isn’t for everyone. There are a number of risks, including potential negatives such as:

Double the closing costs. As a feature of refinancing step, you’ll have to pay closing costs twice for each property. If you aren’t strategic about that, it can put a drain on your investment capital.

Risk of becoming over-leveraged. The BRRRR strategy can become addictive. If you aren’t careful, you could end up overextending yourself and shouldering too much debt.

Appraisal issues. The BRRRR approach relies heavily on the refinancing phase. If the appraiser comes back and tells you the property is worth less than you anticipated, you have a problem.

Partner With Total Property Management LLC

At Total Property Management LLC, we love working with Greenville landlords to help them accomplish their goal of becoming successful real estate investors with passive monthly income. If you’re interested in partnering with a professional property management company to streamline your daily challenges, we’d love to help.

Why Invest In Greenville

November 11, 2019

Nestled at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, you’ll find the quaint city of Greenville, South Carolina, known for our raging art scene, affordable living and gorgeous scenery. With less than 100,000 people living here, Greenville is perfect for those looking for a balance between the big city and small town feel.

No matter where you visit in Greenville, you’ll find that this place is steeped in Southern tradition and American history. It’s perfect for new families, college students and retirees alike! We are so confident that you’ll love it here that we rounded up some incredible reasons why you should consider investing in Greenville.

There is an abundance of outdoor activities year round:

Greenville is settled in an incredible landscape. Surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, lakes, rivers and waterfalls, you’ll never want to go inside. One of the most incredible outdoor features of Greenville is the 19.9 mile Swamp Rabbit Trail which was previously an abandoned railway line. Now, it hosts over 500,000 people per year. The trail is perfect for biking, running or even just taking a slow stroll through the city. If you’re looking for something more adventurous, Greenville also offers zip line tours, kayaking, hiking, sailing and even ice skating in the winter!

The cost of living is low!

Greenville is one of the most reasonably priced cities in the south, with the price of housing and transportation being significantly lower than fellow southern cities such as Atlanta, GA and Asheville, NC. In fact, in 2016, Yahoo Finance named Greenville as one of the most affordable places to live in the United States. Housing is also pretty affordable. The average home price is $250K, which is very close to the US average and fairly priced for the quality of life and economy.

It's a foodie's paradise:

One word: barbeque. Greenville is famous for this quintessential southern food (among other things). In fact, the South Carolina BBQ Association maintains a list called “100-mile bbq,” where restaurants are judged worthy of a 100-mile drive. Two of those restaurants are in Greenville: Henry’s Smokehouse and Bucky’s Bar-B-Q. If you aren’t a BBQ fan, Greenville will definitely have something for you as well. We recommend grabbing a steak at Rick Erwin’s or fried green tomatoes at Soby’s New South Cuisine. For farm-to-table lovers, hit up Roost for their Smoked Rabbit Street Tacos. And for dessert, don’t forget to grab a Chocolate Chili Bacon Milkshake from Grill Marks.

Downtown Greenville is full of things to do and see:

During the day, downtown is full of gorgeous scenery like Liberty Bridge that oversees Falls Park, home of the Reedy River Falls. At night, Greenville definitely knows how to party. The nightlife of downtown is lively all year long. Plenty of bars and restaurants are open late so you and your friends can spend the evening having fun. There are also 300+ events per year happening downtown from festivals to sports events — so there’s something for everyone!

Mild weather throughout the year:

For the south, Greenville has some pretty mild weather. With an average high of 78 degrees in the summer and average low of 33 degrees in the winter, it’s never really too hot or too cold here. Snow is also in short supply with an average of three inches a year. So, you may not be able to build that snowman, but we promise you won’t miss him.

Ready to invest in Greenville, give Total Property Management, LLC a call!

How To Use Other People's Money To Invest In Real Estate

November 4, 2019

To a middle-class worker with a moderate income and limited assets, the notion of investing in real estate seems far-fetched: something reserved for folks in the upper crust. Those people often say things like “It takes money to make money.”

But have you seriously considered whether this is actually true? If you do some digging, you might discover this is nothing more than a myth that discourages regular Americans from getting in the game.

Real estate investing is a viable option for many people … including those who aren’t yet wealthy.

What is OPM?

If you don’t have a ton of money in the bank, you’ll find it difficult to invest in real estate at a scale that builds instant and substantial wealth. You’ll need at least 15 percent (and likely 20 percent) to get a traditional mortgage on a property you don’t plan to live in personally.

Even if you’re buying cheap properties — say $100,000 size — you’ll need at least $15,000 in cash per item to get started. To someone who draws only a moderate income, this level of “spare change” can take years to save; and if you want to generate real wealth with land and buildings, you’ll have to do it 10 or 15 times before you’re liable to see significant income.

Thankfully, you don’t have to rely on your own money to invest in real estate. If you’re willing to get creative, other opportunities are out there.

Robert Kiyosaki, financial guru and author of the best-selling book Rich Dad Poor Dad, loves to talk about the concept of OPM, an acronym that stands for “other people’s money.” In terms of real estate and business, he believes using OPM at scale is the secret to building wealth where none has previously existed.

“There are two ways to get rich. One way is to use your own money. The other way is to use other people’s money, or as we call it at Rich Dad, OPM,” Kiyosaki writes on his blog.

“One (using your own money) provides small-to-modest returns, takes a long time to pan out, and requires some financial intelligence. The other (OPM) provides large-to-infinite returns, creates incredible velocity of money, and requires a high financial intelligence.”

For the majority of the population that doesn’t have the means to self-fund real estate investments at scale, OPM is the solution for building wealth. If you’re willing to get creative, it’s a solution that could be available to you.

Five Ways to Use OPM

There are a number of ways to employ other people’s money. Depending on your experience, connections, talents, skills, and willingness to absorb risk, you may find any of the following useful.

Seller Financing

Seller financing is one of the most common forms of OPM. In this situation, the current owner of the property transfers the title to the buyer along with a private mortgage or deed of trust. A promissory note that outlines the terms and conditions is also included. This note stipulates that the buyer now owes the seller the remaining principal balance.

Private Money

If you have a broad personal or professional network that includes friends, colleagues, or family members with deep pockets, you might be able to raise money from individuals and pool these resources to pay for your investment. Private money typically comes with strings attached, though — including higher-than-average interest rates.

Hard Money

Similar to private money, hard money can be used to cover a short-term loan. With this strategy, you find private lenders who specialize in lending sums to investors. You present your investment opportunity to them and they draw up the terms. Typically, hard money loans need to be satisfied within six months to a year. They also tend to be more expensive than other forms of lending.

50-50 Partners

If you’re willing to put in some sweat equity, time, and talent, you could find an investor who is willing to fork over all the money and become a 50-50 partner with you. The classic example is a house flip, in which one partner provides the capital and the other does all the repairs and marketing.

Bartering

Finally, you may be able to barter with people in order to obtain financing for a deal. This is especially common among real estate investors who own a business that offers a particular service. For example, if you own a landscaping company, you may offer to landscape all 15 of someone’s rental properties for free in return for a loan to buy your own rental property.

Exploring the Risks

Although OPM can be a great source of financing for real estate deals, it’s not a risk-free approach. As with any type of investment, you’ll still face a number of challenges. The key is to weigh the pros against the cons and to be honest with yourself.

As a real estate investor using OPM, you’ll have to make sure you’re disciplined enough to live below your means and consistently pay down your debt according to the agreed-upon timetables. Failure to do so could lead to your defaulting on the terms of your agreement — which could result in the seizure of an asset, or a lawsuit.

It’s also vital to remember that OPM puts your reputation on the line. People have placed their trust in you, and you can quickly sully your reputation by failing to follow through. This can kill your chances of negotiating future opportunities.

Use Total Property Management LLC to Leverage OPT

When you hear people use the term OPM, you may also hear them drop another acronym: OPT. It stands for other people’s time, a concept that goes hand-in-hand with the one we’ve been discussing.

When you learn how to leverage OPM and OPT — which tends to occur in the form of smart hiring and outsourcing — there really isn’t any cap to your potential as a real estate investor and wealth builder. You can live life on your terms and still reap massive financial rewards.

At Total Property Management LLC, it’s our primary aim to help Greenville-area real estate investors and landlords maximize their time by taking over the responsibilities that come with property management. For more information about how we can help you, please contact us today!

105 Lydia Street, Greenville

October 28, 2019

What a FANG-TASTIC LOCATION: Four private offices, conference room, and lobby area with receptionist area

Back warehouse space is occupied with it's own private entrance.

(furniture provided, if needed. Tenant will be required to get their own phone and internet service.) All other expenses will be covered by Owner, including cleaning as needed.

Rental Rate: $1250.00

Security Deposit: $1250.00

FULL SERVICE LEASE

Term can be negotiated

Let's UNRAVEL Your Fears About Hiring A Property Manager

October 21, 2019

Are you tired of being forced to sell your home every time you relocate for a temporary job assignment? Do you feel as if your current investments aren’t working hard enough for you?

It may be time to think about leasing your home with the helpful support of a professional property manager.

What comes to mind when you think of a property manager? Many people operate under the assumption that property managers are for real estate tycoons who own hundreds of rental properties and tenants.

But those types make up only a small fraction of a typical property manager’s client base. The majority of people who depend on a property manager are folks just like you, and fall into one of the following categories:

Professionals relocating. Whether employees are asked to move overseas for just six months or closer to five years, they don’t always want to sell their home because they know they’ll be returning. Instead of leaving the house vacant or putting it on the market, turn it over to the care of a property manager who can keep the house leased to responsible tenants.

Remote investors. Savvy businessmen and women understand that real estate is all about location and demand. This means that chasing the hot markets requires investing in multiple cities, states, or countries. For out-of-town investors with properties in the Greenville area, a property manager can take care of all the little details while the owner focuses on working on the overall portfolio.

Busy individuals. While some people have the time to manage their own properties, it doesn’t always make financial sense for others. Some people prefer to own real estate as an investment, but prefer to devote much of their time to other activities. In these cases, a property manager can give you the best of both worlds. The investor is able to own property while not having to spend any time on it.

Average Joes. You don’t have to be wealthy to find a property manager useful, either. Many individuals own a second property as a source of steady, supplemental cash flow. A property manager can ensure everything operates and functions smoothly without any hitches or vacancies.

Double, Double, Tenant Trouble

October 14, 2019

Whether you have a tenant who wants to talk on the phone, meet in person or only texts, it all boils down to one truth: the landlord business is a relationship business. Building and maintaining a professional yet personable rapport with your tenants is key to developing a lasting business relationship. Because at the end of the day, no matter how friendly you are with your tenants, you still need them to pay their rent on time.

Start off on the right foot. From day one, you want to work on developing a positive yet professional relationship with your tenants. That means making them feel welcome and comfortable at the property, and providing them with all the information they need to start their tenancy off right. That includes contact numbers, details on your expectations, important dates and locations of the nearest grocery stores, schools, bus stops, etc. And, make sure they know where to locate emergency shut off valves for water and gas in case they need them.

Document everything. This helps with your budgeting but also helps keeps track of your tenants’ payments and requests. Be sure to keep archives of all your communications and receipts. It will also help when a tenant has a question or disputes a charge.

Communicate early and often about repairs. Nothing is as frustrating to a tenant as not knowing when their refrigerator is going to be replaced or when you’re going to come and finally fix the shower door. Whether it’s a big repair or something minor, make sure your tenants know that you received their request and update them along the way in order to manage their expectations.

Always maintain your professionalism. If a dispute arises, and it’s getting heated, take a break to cool off. No matter what, you need to stay level-headed and professional. Stick to the facts, and your policies and procedures, and set emotions aside.

Be fair and be flexible. You don’t want to be a pushover, but sometimes giving a little goes a long way. If you are going to make an exception to a process or rule, be sure to document it, along with the cause and frequency. Is it a one-time grace period? Or something more long term? If you make an exception for one tenant though, be ready to make it for every tenant under the same circumstances.

Fall Maintenance To Do List:

October 7, 2019

The scent of pumpkin spice has begun to fill the air, sweaters are moving toward the front of the closet, and leaves are changing from their summer green to the vibrant hues of fall.

But before you cozy up with a fleece blanket and a cup of tea, take the time to tackle a few home maintenance projects.

Why is seasonal maintenance important?

The answer is simple: Seasonal maintenance can help keep your home looking and functioning properly, and save you money because you’ll catch problems before they get out of hand.

Plus you’ll get the added bonus of sleeping easier at night knowing you’ve taken all necessary precautions.

‘Tis the season to …

1. Rake it in

Few things are more beautiful than a yard speckled with crimson, gold and tangerine-colored leaves. But failing to dispose of them can kill your grass and inhibit growth in the spring months.

Grab your rake and enjoy the crisp temperatures of the season. You can always treat yourself to a pumpkin treat when the raking is done.

2. Clean the gutters

Speaking of leaves, when they clog your gutters, rainwater can’t flow through and will eventually spill over. So what, right? This overflow can damage your home’s siding, roof and foundation.

It’s better to remove the leaves from your gutters than to chance the buildup turning into a costly problem.

3. Check the roof

While we’re on the subject of the roof, fall is a great time to check that all shingles are in place and in good shape before winter snowstorms pop up on your radar.

4. Conduct a walking inspection

Take a walk around the exterior of your home, keeping an eye open for damage along the pathways leading to your doors. Cracks could mean loose cement or gravel, increasing the likelihood that someone could trip or slip and fall.

To ensure the safety of visitors, seal any cracks you see. Be sure to inspect the siding and foundation while you’re at it, and tackle any repairs as soon as possible.

5. Cracks and gaps can cause problems indoors too

When you shut doors and windows, make sure there aren’t any spaces allowing air to escape. If there are, seal them.

You may not think much of these little gaps right now, but you will when you open your heating bill and see how much you’re paying to keep the whole neighborhood warm, or when you find out that a mouse has made your cabinet his home for the winter.

6. Store summer staples

Patio furniture is susceptible to damage from winter weather. Since you probably won’t spend as much time outside — except for roasting marshmallows over the fire pit — move outdoor furniture, trampolines and other summer staples into storage.

7. Make it a clean sweep

Schedule a time to have your chimney and heating system cleaned and maintained, including swapping old filters for new ones. It’s important that everything is in good working condition to decrease the likelihood of house fires.

8. Pipe down

Shut off the water supply to exterior faucets and insulate your pipes before the weather dips below 32 degrees. This will help prevent pipes from freezing, bursting and flooding your home.

9. Take time to vent

Your dryer vent, that is. Cooler weather means more static electricity, which means lint buildup in your dryer can ignite more easily. Clean your dryer vent to help prevent this problem and keep it working more efficiently.

10. Testing … 1, 2, 3

Test safety devices, such as smoke alarms, and check the expiration date on your fire extinguisher. In case a fire ignites, it’s important to know that you and your family will be alerted and able to get out of the house quickly and safely, or able to extinguish smaller fires before significant damage is done.

11. Check your home insurance coverage

Can your insurance weather the storm? The final item on your fall home maintenance checklist should always be to call your insurance agent. Arrange a time to walk through your coverage to ensure your home will be protected, no matter what situation may arise.

What Are Valid Reasons For Filing An Eviction

September 30, 2019

No landlord wants to evict a tenant. The eviction process is usually time consuming, stressful, and messy, and at the end of the process you’ll be left without a tenant—and therefore with far less cash flow. That said, there are some circumstances where you won’t have much of a choice.

The laws dictating the eviction process will vary from area to area, so unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all blueprint you can use to guarantee a legally compliant eviction. However, there are some “good” reasons and “bad” reasons for evicting a tenant that you can use to determine the legitimacy of your considered actions, and from there, you can talk to a lawyer about whether you have the legal precedent to proceed.

Valid Reasons for Evicting a Tenant

In general, these serve as valid reasons for wanting to evict a tenant, and can spark the eviction process:

Chronic failure to pay rent. Your property is made available as part of an exchange; your tenants pay you rent every month so they can continue living there. If they stop paying rent, or if you continually face problems with collection, it could be grounds for an eviction. Note that a single missed or late payment probably isn’t a good foundation to evict your tenant. In most cases, it’s better to have a conversation about the issue and try to work out a solution. Only if the issue is recurring, with no effort made to rectify the situation, should eviction be your go-to option.

Deliberately or egregiously violating the lease agreement. Most good tenants will do their best to stay within the parameters specified in your lease, following the rules and conducting themselves in an orderly way. If they step out of line, a polite conversation or request is usually enough to deter the behavior. However, if a tenant seems to deliberately or excessively violate the terms of your lease, such as misusing the property or having pets when none are allowed, an eviction may be on the table.

Significant damage to your property. Tenants will inevitably cause some wear and tear to your property, whether they mean to or not. However, some tenants, through intention or negligence, may cause serious damage to your property—like punching a hole through a wall or setting the carpet on fire. If these incidents are repeated without the tenant offering to compensate you for the damage, you should have grounds for an eviction.

Significant health or safety hazards. It’s important to keep your property in a condition compliant with good health and safety standards. If your tenant violates that, egregiously or repeatedly, you may be all but forced to evict them. This usually involves unsafe or illegal conduct.

Chronic violations of noise or occupancy ordinances. Some tenants may violate ordinances that make life difficult for you, put you in a bad legal situation, or otherwise negatively impact the neighborhood. For example, if they’re frequently hosting loud parties into the early hours of the morning or if they violate occupancy ordinances in your local area, you may be able to evict them.

Certain property repairs and maintenance. To keep your building in good condition, you’ll need to conduct repairs and maintenance on a regular basis. Some of those repairs can be done with your tenant present, and most others can be done with the tenant vacating the property for a few hours. However, some repairs and renovations are intensive, or may pose a health and safety threat to the occupant. In these cases, a long-term vacancy may be required, and you may have grounds to evict the tenant to keep the property in good order.

Bad Reasons for Evicting a Tenant

These reasons, while commonly appearing, are invalid motivations to evict someone. Trying to evict someone for one of these reasons could lead to legal action against you:

Some tenants will be a thorn in your side without breaking the law, or make life difficult for you in a frustrating—but entirely legal—way. In these situations, you’ll be tempted to evict the tenant as a way of punishing them, or as a way to prevent future, similar behavior. This is considered retaliation and is not an acceptable motivation for eviction. For example, if they make a report to the health department that creates hours of work for you, that’s well within their rights. Attempting to evict a tenant after this could be problematic for you.

Any eviction that could be interpreted as discriminatory may also be disallowed in court. There are many possible forms of discrimination, including discriminating against someone based on their ethnicity, their race, their abilities (or disabilities), or whether they have children. Though it’s unlikely you’ll be directly motivated to evict someone based on prejudice, it’s important that you realize this potential interpretation exists, and that you have a crystal-clear case demonstrating why your eviction is not motivated by discrimination.

Withholding rent for a good reason. In some cases, a tenant may withhold part or all of their rent as a way to make things fair. For example, if they’ve asked you to patch a leaky roof, but you still haven’t responded, and they hire a contractor to fix the roof instead, they may withhold rent in the amount they paid the contractor. Evicting someone with a decent reason to withhold rent like this is unacceptable.

You also may be unable to evict certain “protected” tenants, depending on local laws. In many cases, tenants over a certain age or those who have lived there for extended periods of time (i.e., 10 years or longer) have more rights than other tenants.

Seeking Outside Help

Managing an eviction isn’t just legally complex, it’s also stressful. That’s why it’s usually in your best interest to work with someone else during this process, even if it costs a bit of extra money. Working with a lawyer is an absolute must, since you’ll want to make sure you’re operating well within the boundaries of your local laws.

However, it may be better to work with a property management firm; property managers will handle most of your property-related management responsibilities, including tenant eviction, new tenant screening, and maintenance.

If you’re interested in learning how a property management firm can make your life easier, and possibly even save you money long-term, contact Total Property Management LLC today for a free analysis!

Buying A House: It's Not For Every One

September 23, 2019

Conventional wisdom says, “Buy a house! It’s the American Dream!” Indeed, millions have found this works for them over the years … but many have also had the opposite experience.

In those cases, the people who don’t find home ownership to be practical, desirable, or financially prudent are folks who probably shouldn’t have bought a home in the first place. So the question becomes: How do you know if you’re ready to buy a house? And when is it clear that buying one could be the wrong decision?

Seven Reasons Not to Buy a House

The current home ownership rate among Americans is hovering around 64.2 percent — and has been in that region for several years. This is below the historic average and substantially lower than the most recent peak of 69.5 percent in 2004.

Although buying a home apparently makes sense for the majority of the population, the 35 percent who choose instead to rent may be on to something.

You Have Tons of Debt

Not all debt is created equal. There’s good debt and bad debt. A house with a mortgage is generally regarded as good debt, as opposed to such things as credit cards and car loans, which are more often classified as forms of bad debt.

If you currently have a lot of bad debt, this is not the time to take on any new financial obligations … even “good debt”! Right now, you need to focus solely on aggressively paying down your existing debt.

Every last penny you can squeeze out of your monthly budget should be going toward repaying the principle on whatever you owe. Buying a house will only delay your ability to pay off your other responsibilities, and it will entail greater interest charges and worsening credit.

You Travel Frequently

A house doesn’t take care of itself. It demands upkeep and maintenance. This means it also requires time and attention.

If you travel frequently — whether for work or pleasure — you probably won’t have enough time to address duties like mowing the lawn, pruning bushes, collecting mail, and using appliances and plumbing systems often enough to keep them functioning smoothly.

As a rule, you should be in your home at least 50 percent of the time. In other words, if you’re regularly out of town for 16 days or more each month, it’s simply not economical for you to own a house.

You’ll be House Poor

Will buying a house make you “house poor”? In other words, will you spend so much on the mortgage that you’re forced to cut back on basic necessities and comforts in other areas of your life?

Other financial gurus are willing to accept a less conservative benchmark, but financial expert Dave Ramsey suggests spending no more than 25 percent of your take-home pay on a 15-year, fixed-rate mortgage. So, for example, if you bring home $6,000 a month, your maximum mortgage payment should be $1,500 on a 15-year, fixed-rate term.

You Can’t Manage a Solid Down Payment

Although a bank might approve you for a loan that requires you to put only 3.5 percent down in cash, this isn’t a great idea for most borrowers. The lower your down payment, the higher your monthly payment.

If you can’t put down at least 20 percent in cash, you’ll end up paying for private mortgage insurance (PMI), which instantly makes your cost of ownership more expensive.

“PMI typically costs between 0.5% to 1% of the entire loan amount on an annual basis,” Investopedia explains.

“You could pay as much as $1,000 a year — or $83.33 per month — on a $100,000 loan, assuming a 1% PMI fee. However, the median listing price of U.S. homes, according to Zillow, is $279,000 (as of Feb. 28, 2019), which means families could be spending as much as $233 a month on the insurance.”

You’ll have to make your own decision, of course, but try to get as close to 20 percent as possible. If you can afford to put down significantly more — such as 50 percent — go for it!

Remember, the goal is to keep your monthly payment as low as possible so you have enough margin to live a comfortable and generous lifestyle.

Job Security is Iffy

Do you feel like your job security is questionable? Are you a freelance worker who sees dramatic fluctuations in income? Are you thinking about pivoting careers?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, now is not the time to buy a house. Wait until your general situation is more stable.

Renting is 50 Percent Cheaper

“If your main objective is to put a roof over your head, consider whether it’s smarter to rent than to buy,” real estate expert Elizabeth Weintraub writes. “In some real estate markets, it can be a bit of a stretch to meet the financial obligations of homeownership, while rents in those areas are 50% lower than a mortgage payment.”

Again, it’s just a general rule, but if renting in your area pencils out at 50 percent less than owning a home, then you should rent. This should enable you to save cash and prepare to make a larger down payment when homes become more affordable.

You’re Already Stressed Out

If you’re already stressed for other reasons, then adding homeownership to your list of responsibilities won’t be doing yourself any favors. If you continue renting for the time being, you won’t have to worry about repairs, maintenance, landscaping, and everything else that’s a feature of owning a house.

Let Total Property Management LLC help

Learn From Others: 15 Major Mistakes Landlords Make in 2019

September 15, 2019

As a landlord, you’ve probably learned the value of observing your peers. You’ve learned many excellent approaches by shadowing other landlords, but you can often learn more from their mistakes.

In 2019 and beyond, you can be an impressive landlord by simply observing and avoiding these common errors:

1. The Price Is Wrong

Be realistic with your rent pricing. Asking too little will diminish profits and potentially attract the wrong tenants. Asking too much will turn away great tenants and create more vacancies. Perform a market evaluation to determine the correct price for your property’s location, size, and amenities.

2. Your Advertisements Don’t Do It Justice

Put effort into your advertisements, highlighting features that your tenants are most attracted to. For example, a central AC unit can be incredibly appealing to tenants.

Be honest, take great photos, and give your tenants an attractive, but realistic view of your property. Also, use social media and other digital sources (such as Zillow or the MLS) to get the word out.

3. Prioritizing Filling Vacancies

Of course, you must fill your units, but if that’s your entire focus, you’ll likely miss out on something greater. You might drop your standards and accept tenants that will prove expensive in the long run. Or, you might neglect your current tenants because you’re hyper-focused on your empty units. Both can lead to a cash flow drag.

4. Being Too Lenient on Policy

You set the rules clearly in your contract, and you need to stick with them. Don’t accept late rent payments for any reason, don’t tolerate pets if you say they’re not allowed, and don’t budge on charging fees as dictated in the lease agreement. These rules are in place to make things fair for everyone, and if you give some tenants an inch, they’ll walk all over you.

5. Not Screening Tenants

Very few tenants come without a paper trail, and if you follow that trail, you’ll discover a great deal about who they are. If you want to avoid late payments, destructive tenants, and other troubles, you’ll use a screening service on every potential tenant.

6. Paying for the Wrong Upgrades

You can easily overpay for upgrades that aren’t worthwhile. Most rental properties don’t warrant stainless steel appliances and a top-of-the-line HVAC system. Usually, simple, inexpensive updates that look good and last will be most beneficial.

Choose upgrades that offer the most bang for your buck, typically with the least amount of maintenance. For example, carpet requires heavy maintenance—it rips, stains, and requires expensive cleaning. Vinyl flooring is inexpensive too, but it’s easier to maintain.

7. Deferring Maintenance

That leaky pipe under your tenant’s sink won’t get better because you ignore it. More than likely, it will turn into a larger problem that’s more expensive to fix. In some cases, it can even generate a lawsuit because you breached your agreement of regular maintenance. It’s not fun to make repairs, but it’s part of the job and something that should be done in a timely manner.

8. Being a Mystery Landlord

If you want good reviews from your current tenants, as well as less tenant turnover, you need to be available and responsive. Set office hours and respond quickly to communications. It’s a simple thing that goes a long way.

9. Remaining Uncompetitive

Most rental markets are competitive given the large supply of renters. If your market isn’t overburdened now, it likely will be at some point. You’ll need a competitive edge to fill more vacancies.

You might offer discounts or special promotions, give a gift to new tenants, offer cheaper applications, etc. Do something to set yourself apart from other rentals in your market.

10. Overpaying for Services

Keeping your overhead costs low is key to making money as a landlord. Landlords can’t do everything themselves, so they often hire out services. Lawyers, landscapers, insurance agents, repairmen, and others can all overcharge if you’re not careful.

Do a little research to find competitive rates. Ask your current providers if they’ll cut you a better deal. If they won’t, switch to a provider that offers a better rate for the same services.

11. Having Inadequate Insurance

While you’re trying to cut costs, don’t undercut your basic insurance policies. Good insurance that covers all your bases is essential to making a profit and protecting your investment. Look into different insurance policies offered to landlords. At the very least, you’ll want:

  1. Landlord’s insurance
  2. Liability insurance
  3. Building/property insurance
  4. Protection from threats specific to your area (i.e. flooding, natural disasters, etc.)
  5. There are other supplemental insurance policies you might also want to consider. Choose an affordable policy that will truly protect you in time of need.

12. Rushing Through the Check-Out Inspection

If a tenant damages your property or doesn’t clean properly, they should pay for it. That’s what the deposit is for, and if you want to maintain the condition of your property and keep your profits high, you’ll use it for its intended purpose.Additionally, document the condition of the property before a new tenant moves in so that the new tenant won’t be charged for something they didn’t do.

13. Treating Your Property Management as a Hobby

Even if you’re only being a landlord for a few hours each week, it’s still a business. A hobby gets put to the wayside, and you only work on it here and there as you have time. A business will get proper attention and the profits associated with it.

14. Ignoring the Laws

All landlords must abide by certain laws laid out by the federal and state governments. Research these laws carefully. You may want to ask a real estate attorney if you’re complying with all laws. Keeping your legal house in order will protect you in case you’re ever faced with a lawsuit.

15. Going It Alone

No landlord should try to take on the hefty responsibility of caring for a property and its tenants alone. That’s why there are property managers who have the resources and experience necessary to keep your property in tip-top shape for a small fee.

If you own a property in the Greenville area, we’re here to help! We’re happy to lend a hand so you can enjoy greater profits with a little less work.

For more information about our property management service, contact us today!

Seven Retro Trends Making A Comeback

September 3, 2019

Each year, fashion leaves a strong impression on the design industry and its offerings for the season. For 2020, the vibe includes handmade organic details paired with the sparkle of the ’70s disco club and the velvety softness of the ’80s.

But beyond the nostalgic hints that those artistic impressions carry, what lies ahead for interiors? How will we change and evolve in our home environment? Read on and see what speaks to your design style as we approach another new year.

Cork and recycled elements

Many manufacturers, designers and architects have focused their products and projects on a sustainable, environmentally friendly approach to home building and design. Thanks to modern technology, sustainable products don’t mean inferior quality, comfort or design.

In fact, these products celebrate eco-chic versions of modern or traditional designs in both elevated and affordable versions. While products like linoleum or cork flooring may have been long forgotten, they will see a strong comeback in the new season, thanks to its natural characteristics.

Abloom with florals

The traditional beauty of floral patterns, either abstracted or straight-up chintz, will continue to be the pattern to use, especially when paired with deep luxurious velvets and maximalist styled spaces. But home designer, beware: Chintz can be tricky. Its bold old-fashioned prints can easily turn to frilly English bed-and-breakfast if you’re not careful. When done right, the floral theme can add color, texture and just the right touch of classic elegance to your interior.

Handmade accents

Handmade items made with sustainable materials like jute, rice paper and clay will be all the rage in 2020. These elements go far in grounding a home, allowing its inhabitants to be in touch with the earth and their roots. The incorporation of natural materials popular years ago — like caning, rope, sea grass and bamboo — has a strong influence over modern furniture silhouettes and decor details. Elaborately embossed wall coverings, including gold rivets and metallic accents, give surfaces a beautiful tactile sensation and modern ambiance.

Plastic and acrylic

Increasing social consciousness around climate change has influenced the design industry to produce products accordingly. Plastics are being used for indoor and outdoor furniture frames, while water bottles are being used to create outdoor rugs and accents.

For a more luxe look, acrylic products are having a comeback, giving a room the architectural structure it needs without taking up visual real estate. Acrylic in a small space, like an entryway or sitting area, provides a surface that can be layered with more organic items and not feel fussy.

Authentic construction

The rise of digitally printed fabrics has created a true appreciation for real embroidery, thick wool boucles, linens and other artisan-inspired elements. Rich textural expressions are the theme of the upcoming season. Think velvet upholstery, hemp drapery, cork walls, wicker and jute for furniture and finishes.

Maximal artwork

The surge of minimalism and Scandinavian design, characterized by neutral colors and simple materials, is finally declining. In its place, bright colors and graphic patterns are becoming more prevalent in the home.

Don’t be afraid to mix colors, patterns and textures. Take a gallery wall to the next level by having it cover an entire wall, or add a dramatic large-scale piece to your space. In this case, more is more.

Metallic accents

And speaking of timeless metal accents, sparkle is still on the design scene for living room decor compositions. Add a hint of disco glamour and luxury by introducing bronze, gold and chrome details through decorative accents, furniture inlays, hardware, lighting, mirrors and accessories.

How Real Estate Investors Can Prepare For A Recession

August 26, 2019

Over the past decade, the real estate market has appreciated significantly. Especially in the last five years, it’s soared to unparalleled heights.

For investors who have been plugged in the entire way, the gains have been massive. But if history tells us anything, it’s that markets are cyclical.

The American economy won’t enjoy unbridled growth indefinitely. At some point, a recession will happen, and savvy real estate investors will be prepared. Will you?

Is a Market Crash Coming?

Recessions can emerge swiftly, but they don’t materialize out of thin air. When we look back and study past recessions, the warning signs are apparent. Three of the biggest indicators are:

Quickly escalating real estate prices. Appreciating real estate values are good, but hefty increases over a very short period of time can create a bubble. If there’s one thing we know about bubbles, it’s that they eventually burst. When the supply of properties outstrips demand, and listings sit for longer periods of time and then sell below asking price, you have the ingredients for an impending collapse. (At least a market correction is on the way.)

Slowing economy. When the larger economy begins to slow down or show signs of instability, you’ll see a trickle-down effect in real estate. Signs of instability include significant fluctuations in the stock market, rising unemployment, and a lack of borrowing among consumers.

Significant policy changes. Any time significant changes in tax or finance policy occur, consequences will surface further down the line. Sometimes the effects are positive, but other times they’re not.

Some observers perceive these three factors in today’s economy. Others argue we’re still firmly in a bull market.

Regardless of your personal opinion, recession will undoubtedly show up someday. Whether it happens in one month or a decade, you should be ready for it.

Five Ways You Can Prepare for a Downturn

If you believe a recession is coming down the turnpike, then get to work. With a few decisive steps, you can insulate your portfolio and ensure minimal losses. Here are five key suggestions.

1. Slow Down on Fix and Flips

Just before the start of a recession isn’t the ideal time to purchase a bunch of fix-and-flips. You’ll purchase a property at the market’s peak, spend money fixing it up, and then discover it’s worth less than when you purchased it.

The better time to buy fix-and-flips is when the market bottoms out and you can get a good deal on a property that will recover and someday be worth far more. Instead of fix-and-flips, you should look at buy-and-holds.

Put your money into stable neighborhoods where it’s easy to attract renters. If you treat these properties as cash-flow engines, you won’t have to worry about the property value hit they may suffer.

Common sense tells you they’ll recover eventually. In the meantime, you may continue to collect rent checks.

2. Build Up Cash Reserves

Savvy real estate investors don’t regard recessions as catastrophes. They view them as opportunities to purchase real estate at discounted prices.

In order to for you to do that, though, you must have sufficient resources. In the months leading up to a recession, you should do everything you can to boost your cash reserves.

This is not the time to be over-leveraged. You’ll want access to funds, and the only way to put yourself in a position to purchase discounted real estate is to pile up cash. When the time comes, you’ll be able to cut a check and buy properties outright.

3. Load Up on B- and C-Class Rentals

The good thing about owning rental properties is that there is still an abundance of renters during a recession. In fact, it could be argued that more people look to rent at that time.

But in order to reach these folks, you need the right properties in your portfolio. “Real estate investors tend to evaluate neighborhoods like school grades,” investor David Greene writes.

“A-class properties are the best spots in town, B-class is where the upper middle class lives, C-class is your average neighborhoods with lots of renters, and D-class properties are problematic with high-crime and high-vacancy rates.”

As a general rule — but particularly during a recession — you want your portfolio to consist primarily of B- and C-class properties. These are economically diverse markets that will experience less impact from a downturn in the market. They’ll produce consistent cash flow.

4. Open Lines of Credit

Though you want to avoid becoming over-leveraged in the days leading to a recession, access to funds is an undeniably desirable thing. Once the recession hits, it’s likely that banks and lenders will clam up and be less interested in dishing out loans.

This being the case, you should open up a line of credit today. This at least will give you the option, should a deal come along and you’re unable to get access to traditional financing.

5. Offload Risky Investments

If you own any risky investments, get rid of them. You have to be prepared for a 15-to-20-percent drop in rents, occupancy rates, etc. If you have a property that can’t withstand that magnitude of a hit, now’s the time to dump it and pool your resources into something else.

Call Total Property Management, LLC

Total Property Management, LLC  has developed a dynamic approach to residential management that’s helped clients remain profitable in both hot and cold markets.

To find out more about how we can help you accomplish your investment goals, please contact us today!

CURB APPEAL 101

August 19, 2019

Win home shoppers over before they even think about stepping foot inside.

A polished home exterior creates an inviting experience for visitors or passersby, which is especially important if your home is on the market.

Check out our tips to get the most curb appeal for the lowest cost — while turning your neighbors’ heads and getting prospective renters to your door.

Clean up

The easiest way to enhance curb appeal is dedicating a weekend to deep cleaning your home’s exterior.

Sure, you’ll want to trim bushes, sweep and mow your lawn, but there’s more to curb appeal than keeping a tidy front yard. Turn the nozzle on your garden hose to the strongest setting and clean off your driveway, sidewalk, windows and fence.

If dirt and grime are caked on your home’s exterior, you can rent a powerwasher for around $50 to $75 a day. Just avoid areas with caulking, like windows and doors, because you can strip some of the sealing. And as tempting as it may be to powerwash your roof, don’t do it — you may damage the shingles’ coating.

When it comes to your windows, spraying them with a garden hose isn’t enough. For maximum sparkle, clean your windows outside and inside. Instead of relying on a glass cleaner, try a mix of detergent diluted in warm water.

Add shutters

Shutters are an easy way to accentuate the size of your windows. They make your windows look larger and add visual interest by disrupting a bland exterior wall. For maximum curb appeal, choose a shutter color that contrasts with your home’s color to make it pop.

Paint accent areas

Paint is a quick and easy curb appeal booster. Instead of painting the entire exterior of your home, focus on the trim, door and shutters.

You can typically find a gallon of exterior paint for $20 to $30. But before you decide on a color, consider home exterior color trends, along with your home’s natural style.

Give your door a face-lift

If you don’t love your front door, you don’t need to dish out loads of money to replace it. Think beyond paint — consider adding molding, which offers a decorative frame for your door that welcomes visitors.

You can also add metal house numbers, which you can find for as low as $5 a number. And if seasonally appropriate, consider adding a wreath to your door as a bonus.

Replace your house numbers

If you’d rather not add house numbers to your freshly painted door, here are some alternative DIY ideas:

Paint a terra-cotta planter with your house number and place it by your doorstep.

Add house numbers to a post planter near your front porch.

Use your front porch stair riser’s real estate by hanging or painting numbers there.

Update your light fixtures

Replacing your exterior light fixtures is another curb appeal must. You can usually find outdoor sconces for around $20 at home centers. Just make sure your new light fixtures have the same mounting system. And if you want to save on lighting, a fresh finish can do wonders. Try spray-painting them — a can of spray paint costs around $10.

Keep porch furniture neutral

Just as you would aim to simplify the interior of your home so shoppers can envision themselves living there, the exterior of your home should be neutral and welcoming too.

Put your pink flamingo and wind chime collection into storage, and focus on porch decor that offers pops of color and character. You can find brightly colored outdoor chairs or throw pillows for $20 to $30 each.

Don’t forget the small things

These low-budget fixes make a big impact, so don’t forget the little details!

Hide eyesores: Place a small lattice fence or a side of paneling around your air conditioner, and hide your trash bins behind a small fence. You can also hide your hose in a pot or storage bench.

For help in getting your property "MARKET READY" contact Total Property Management, LLC

7 BEST PRACTICES IN TENANT SCREENING TO KEEP YOU LEGALLY COMPLIANT

August 12, 2019

Tenant screening is one of your best tools for maintaining your profitability as a landlord. It’s a way to weed out potential tenants who pose a risk to your property, or those unlikely to stay for more than a few months, and focus on the reliable, long-term tenants you need to turn a solid return on investment, or ROI. Generally, this means taking tenant applications before accepting new tenants, and reviewing information like past residences and personal financial history.

However, tenant screening can be complicated from a legal perspective. On a federal level, it’s illegal to discriminate against anyone for any number of reasons, such as:

  1. Race or skin color.
  2. National origin.
  3. Ethnicity.
  4. Religon.
  5. Disabilities or handicaps.
  6. Sex or gender.
  7. Pregnancy status or family status.

Many states offer additional protection against other types of discrimination, like discrimination based on age, marital status, or even sexual orientation.

You can be cited for discrimination for many different reasons, such as refusing to rent to someone based on one of the factors above, recommending a different property to someone based on the factors above, setting different terms for people who differ in the above characteristics, or in some cases, simply asking for information about one of the above factors.

Even if you have the best intentions, if you’re not prepared, your tenant screening process could be found to be discriminatory. That’s why it’s important to be proactive, and keep your tenant screening absolutely legally compliant.

Staying Legally Compliant

Do note that laws will vary based on your city, county, and state, but these are some of the best general guidelines for keeping your tenant screening process legally compliant:

Keep your policies firm and universal. It may seem like the best approach to trust your instincts or make accommodations on a case-by-case basis. That way, you can forgive problematic criteria in some applications where it makes sense and be more personally accommodating overall. However, this can get you into trouble. If your spur-of-the-moment rejection is based on a gut feeling, it could easily be interpreted as discriminatory. Instead, make a firm list of reasonable criteria for which tenants you want in your property, and apply those criteria to every candidate, universally.

Avoid asking for too much information on applications. The obvious word of advice here is to avoid asking about any factor that could be used in a discrimination case, such as existing disabilities, race, or ethnicity. But it’s important that you avoid asking for information that may be tangentially related to these factors, or could potentially inform you of an applicant’s specific characteristics. You’ll need to ask for several pieces of personal information, such as previous addresses, current income, past jobs, and references, but try to stick to these fundamentals, and don’t stray too far from that foundation.

Rely on a third party. If you’re worried about exercising the development of tenant applications and making all the major decisions yourself, you could rely on a third party to take care of things for you. For example, you could work with a property management firm that takes care of your tenant screening directly, so you have no direct say in what tenants you take on, other than to specify the general criteria. You could also use an app or automated process to accept or reject applications based on data like current level of income, which are not considered discriminatory.

Consider criminal records carefully. The Department of Housing and Urban Development recently released a memorandum to forbid landlords from having a firm, blanket policy on whether or not they accept people with criminal records as tenants. In other words, if you reject every application from someone with a criminal history, regardless of other factors, you could be found to be discriminatory. It’s okay to ask for this information, but make sure you consider it in the context of other information you receive.

Pay attention to new laws and developments. The laws on housing discrimination are complex, not only because they can be interpreted in many ways but also because they exist on federal, state, and local levels. On top of that, new addendums and new laws are near-constantly rolling out. In other words, even if you have a nearly perfect understanding of discrimination laws as they exist today, they could change by the time you’re ready to seek your next tenant. Accordingly, it’s important for you to pay close attention to new laws and new developments in your area.

Provided rejected applicants with a clear reason. It’s a best practice to send rejected tenant applicants a letter, with a clear explanation for why you rejected them. This isn’t just to be polite; it serves as a physical piece of evidence that excludes discriminatory practices as a reason why a tenant was rejected. For example, you might point out that their credit history makes them seem unreliable, or you might explain your policy of only hiring people with a full-time job.

Consult with an attorney. If you’re in doubt about any discrimination laws or whether your tenant screening practices fall in line with them, talk to a lawyer. They’ll know better than you do. In fact, even if you’re sure about your tenant screening process, it’s probably a good idea to talk to one anyway. They may be able to offer additional insights or strategies you can use to better protect yourself.

Outsourcing Your Tenant Screening

If you want to spare yourself the headache, the best thing to do is outsource your tenant screening work. You won’t have to get your hands dirty or stress about how you’re handling the operation; instead, you can rest assured that experienced professionals are handling your tenant acquisition in a controlled, legally compliant way.

If you’re interested in learning more about Total Property Management LLC tenant screening services, or if you’re interested in hiring a full-on property management firm, contact us today! We’ll provide you with a free consultation and help you determine exactly where your needs lie.

Great Mobile App For Evaluating Investment Opportunities

August 5, 2019

Property Evaluator is a great mobile app for investors who need to quickly determine the profitability of real estate investments. In addition, the app allows you to easily prepare professional investment reports to email to others.

When evaluating an investment it is important to take into account all of the potential costs you may incur during the life of the investment and how they may change over time. These costs include but are not limited to:

  1. Vacancy costs
  2. Leasing commissions
  3. Reserves for repair & maintenance expenses
  4. Reserves for HVAC system replacement and roof replacement
  5. Utilities, lawn care, and pest control expenses while home is vacant
  6. Hoa, mortgage, property insurance, and property taxes expenses
  7. Property management fees

Make ready costs (deep cleaning, professional carpet cleaning, paint, rekey, etc…)

For more details about the Property Evaluator app, go to https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/property-evaluator-real-estate/id372063167?mt=8

Tenant Harassment: When Problem Tenants Get Aggressive

July 29, 2019

Generally speaking, in tenancy situations, the landlord holds the power. They own the property, set the rules, and collect the money. In fact, the imbalance is such that tenants can find extensive information on landlord harassment online, including cases in which landlords engage in a variety of abusive actions and aggressive behaviors to get tenants to terminate their contracts. Far less recognized are those cases in which, for one reason or another, tenants are the aggressors in the relationship.

So what happens when you as a landlord, or your employees, is harassed by a tenant? Though it’s not as common, this sort of harassment does happen on occasion and it can be distressing and even threatening. Looking beyond the basic framework of eviction, which is typically the outcome in such circumstances, here’s what you need to consider – and what steps you can take – when a tenant is causing problems.

Disruption Versus Aggression

Before contending that a tenant is acting aggressively, it’s important to distinguish between common problem tenant behaviors and actual harassment. A problem tenant may not pay their rent on time, may have unauthorized guest overs, or may be loud or disruptive in their relationships with neighbors. Some even cause property damage, though not in a malicious manner.

The difference between a tenant who is causing problems and one who is actively harassing you has more to do with the quality of the actions than with the specific behavior. An aggressive tenant, for example, might threaten you or their neighbors in daily interactions, maliciously damage property with the intention of forcing you to do repair work, and they may even assault you, workers on the property, or neighbors. In addition to these actions, aggressive tenants might invite guests who are there specifically to be threatening or disruptive or withhold rent as part of their threat pattern. The nature of the actions matters more than the actions themselves.

Get At The Root

While some tenants are explicitly malicious and will act out, particularly during the weeks leading up to eviction, in some cases tenants may act aggressively because they feel that their requests are being ignored. If a tenant begins showing signs of aggression, such as withholding payment or making excessive noise or threats, the first thing you should do is meet with them to set out your expectations. Then give them an opportunity to discuss any problems they’re having as a tenant and see what you may be able to do to assist them.

Very few tenants will act aggressively because they’re having a problem, but it may happen from time to time, especially if you own a lot of multi-family units. Tenants may have had negative experiences at past properties that inform how they act now, and you should consider this an opportunity to help them correct course going forward.

Protecting Your Employees

If you’re a landlord who employs a property manager, maintenance staff, or other professionals to take care of your property and your tenant begins to harass them, you need to take swift steps to protect them. All employers must have a harassment policy, with those employing at least five people required to establish that harassment policy in writing. Ongoing tenant harassment of employees can also place you in a position of liability under OSHA’s guidelines, so you need to intervene immediately. If you fail to protect your employees, they could bring a lawsuit under OSHA.

Any time you experience harassment from a tenant, it’s important that you warn your employees. Though some aggressive tenants will focus their energies on you, others will also target your employees. Give them the option of performing their job duties in alternative ways, such as during hours you know the tenants is at work, and they know they won’t be harassed.

Work With The Neighbors

Just as you’re responsible for your employees, you need to protect other tenants from harassment. Though this may not be a legal requirement – typically landlords are not legally liable in such cases – the laws vary by area, and it is a best practice. At the very least, you need to maintain a relationship with your tenants such that anyone having a problem with a neighbor can come to you for redress. Ongoing harassment of neighbors would also be considered grounds for eviction.

Safely Evicting Aggressive Tenants

When dealing with a tenant who is harassing you, your staff, or other residents, the most obvious outcome is eviction, but you should proceed with caution. Keep a record of all threatening interactions and encourage your tenant to communicate exclusively in writing during this time. If that’s not possible, keep recordings of voicemails and notes about any in-person encounters. You might also encourage staff and other tenants to maintain notes about threatening encounters.

As with more mundane evictions – they do happen, of course – it’s vital that you follow the letter of the law. In fact, evictions are one of the primary reasons that landlords employ property managers.  Property managers have the experience necessary to carry out such procedures in keeping with local ordinances. This includes filing the appropriate paperwork and attending court hearings.

Tenant Management With Total Property Management

Working with tenants is the hardest part of being a property owner – and it’s why many landlords struggle to rent their properties successfully. If your operation needs a boost, then, it’s time to bring in the property management professionals from Total Property Management LLC.   We offer a complete set of property management services, including thorough tenant screening that will weed out the problem tenants. We also handle rent collection, maintenance, and eviction services so that you never have to handle a property management problem alone.

The Zestimate - Just Got An Upgrade

July 22, 2019

The Zestimate is now more accurate than ever, thanks to new technology that identifies and values home improvements you’ve made based on photos. Plus, now it incorporate even more data into Zestimates for homes on the market, and we update those Zestimates in real time. That’s in addition to the millions of data points that the Zestimate’s complex machine learning models examine for more than 100 million homes across the country.

Here’s the rundown of what’s new.

Seeing’ your home features

Zillow can evaluate photos of a home to, in a sense, “see” and value the home features you’re most proud of. Think of the bathroom you remodeled, the new quartz countertops in your kitchen or the beautifully landscaped backyard. Those features now factor directly into your home’s Zestimate, making it the first time the Zestimate can understand not just a home’s facts and figures, like number of bathrooms or bedrooms, but also its quality and curb appeal.

Homeowners want to make sure all the work they’ve put toward upgrading it is reflected in its Zestimate. Yet before recent advances in technology, there was no way for computers to look at photos of a home and get the same information that people do. The Zestimate now incorporates advanced technologies that make this possible.

Listing info added in real time

On homes listed for sale, the Zestimate now incorporates data from the home’s listing itself — including listing price and how long it has been on the market — in its calculations. These factors provide important insight into a homeowner and agent’s listing strategy and what the homeowner believes their home is worth, both key variables in how much a home ultimately sells or rents for. 

The results of all these upgrades? The Zestimate’s error rate on homes listed for sale is now less than 2%, meaning half of all Zestimates fall within 2% of the home’s eventual sale/rental rate.

Investment Property: How Much Can You Write Off On Your Taxes?

July 15, 2019

Learn how to navigate the tricky tax laws around investment properties, including ways to save.

There are certain things you can do as a real estate investor to help manage your tax bill and maximize your after-tax return on investment. To do so, however, you need to understand the primary ways in which investment real estate portfolios get taxed. You must also have a general grasp of some abstract concepts like calculating your tax basis, as well as the depreciation of capital investments.

Warning: This article is not going to make you an expert. But it will acquaint you with the basic terminology so you can be better prepared for a meeting with your tax adviser.

Taxation of rental income

The IRS taxes the real estate portfolios of living investors in two primary ways: income tax and capital gains tax. (A third way, estate tax, applies only to dead investors.)

Rental income is taxable — as ordinary income tax. That means you must declare it as income on your tax return and pay income tax on it. Unlike wages, rental income is not subject to FICA taxes.

Your income is everything you get from rents and royalties on the property, minus any deductible expenses. You can’t deduct everything though. You can only deduct mortgage interest and repairs you make that restore the property to its original minimally functional condition. You can’t deduct capital investments like new buildings, additions or renovations. More on these later.

Capital gains tax

The second tax bill you need to worry about is capital gains tax. The IRS taxes you on any net profits you get out of a property when you sell it. If you’re flipping the property and you’ve owned it for less than a year, you pay short-term capital gains tax, which is the same rate as your marginal income tax rate. If you’re in the 28% tax bracket, you’ll pay a 28% tax on short-term capital gains.

If you hold the property for 12 months, you’ll qualify for more favorable long-term capital gains. Depending on your marginal income tax bracket, these taxes could range from 0% to 15%. In every bracket, however, the IRS takes a smaller cut out of long-term gains than out of ordinary income or short-term gains.

Calculating capital gains

You pay capital gains tax on the difference between your selling price in the property and your adjusted tax basis. Your adjusted tax basis in a property is the original cost you paid for the property, plus any amount invested in renovations and improvements (including labor costs on these projects) that you have not previously deducted for taxes.

If you have deductions associated with the property, you subtract them from your tax basis. If your adjusted tax basis is higher than your sale, you have a capital loss. You can subtract capital losses from a given year from capital gains to reduce your tax bill. If you have more capital losses than capital gains, you can “carry forward” these capital losses into future years to offset future capital gains. If you have no capital gains, you can deduct $3,000 annually until you have recognized all your capital loss carryforward.

How to defer capital gains taxes: an intro to like-kind exchanges

The IRS provides an important exception to capital gains taxation, made-to-order for real estate investors: If you own an investment property, you can sell your property at a profit and roll your money over into another property within 60 days without having to pay capital gains taxes at all. This transaction is known as a Section 1031 exchange, named for the section of the U.S. Revenue Code that allows it. You cannot swap your rental property for a personal residence, or vice versa. For this reason, these exchanges are called like-kind exchanges, in that the property you replace it with needs to be substantially similar to what you sold.

The 1031 exchange makes it possible for real estate investors to defer paying capital gains tax, which is another advantage over investing in mutual funds, stocks, bonds and other securities or collectibles. Outside of a retirement account, you have to pay tax on gains in these items by April 15 of the year after you sold them.

Depreciation and amortization

This is a broad concept, so we can only cover the very basics here. When you buy investment property — be it a building, a computer or a horse — the IRS knows that the item won’t stay young and new forever. Over time, the property will decrease in value. Depreciation is the process of claiming a deduction to compensate you for the property’s decrease in value during the year.

Note: You can’t depreciate your personal residence. You can only depreciate investment property. For more information on the process of depreciation, see IRS Publication 946, How To Depreciate Property.

Land, of course, doesn’t depreciate. But minerals underneath the land do. If you are extracting oil or other minerals, or timber, for that matter, from the land, you will account for the gradual loss in value through a process called depletion.

Likewise, when you make a purchase of investment real estate or capital equipment with a useful life of longer than a year, the IRS knows you will be using that property to generate income for a long time to come.

Except in certain circumstances, the IRS does not allow you to deduct the full cost of your investment in the first year. Instead, you must amortize your investment over a number of years. For real estate, you must spread the deduction out over 27.5 years.

Passive activity rules

Again, these rules are complex. But in a nutshell, if you are a passive investor — meaning you are not working day to day in the business of managing your real estate investments — you are subject to passive activity rules. Basically, you can only deduct passive losses to the extent that you can cancel out gains from passive activities. These rules restrict your ability to use passive activity losses to offset capital gains elsewhere in your portfolio. Congress implemented these rules in 1986 to eliminate tax loopholes and abusive tax shelters.

Most individual investor landlords can deduct up to $25,000 per year in losses on rental properties, if necessary (subject to income limitation). Hopefully you won’t have to make use of this provision much.

Property taxes

Expect to pay property taxes to local and county governments each year. Your local government will assess the market value of your property at its “highest and best use” and charge you a percentage of that value every year. You can deduct property taxes against your rental income, though, provided the property tax is uniformly assessed throughout the jurisdiction and is not a special assessment.

Other tax deductions

Watch for opportunities to take deductions for these common real estate investment expenses:

  • Mortgage interest
  • Legal fees related to your investment properties or business
  • Mileage
  • Business use of your home (the home office deduction)
  • Advertising fees
  • Employees (but if they are working on capital improvements or renovations, you have to amortize their labor costs as part of your capital investment, rather than as a current year expense.)