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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,” 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!


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!

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.


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


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!

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.

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!


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


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

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.)

What To Unpack First In Your Next Move

July 8, 2019

Where are the towels? Who packed the cat food? When you're surrounded by boxes, what you need is a strategy.

So you’re finally in your new home, surrounded by piles of boxes, tired and glad that your relocation is about to end.

To fully complete your moving adventure, however, you need to unpack your belongings and make your new place feel like home. But where do you even begin?

First things first

No matter how much you want to get it over with, there are three important things to do before you can actually start unpacking.

Clean and prepare your new home. It’s easier to wipe down shelves, clean windows and mop floors before your belongings are in place. Make sure your home-to-be is spotless when your items arrive. If you can’t get to your new place early enough to do a thorough cleaning, consider hiring professional cleaners to do the job for you.

Inspect and organize your belongings. Check all the delivered boxes and household items against your inventory sheet to make sure nothing is damaged or missing. Then have each of your possessions taken to the room where it belongs. If everything was properly marked and labeled, sorting your items will be a piece of cake.

Set major furniture and appliances. Position your large furniture pieces and bulky household appliances first. Then you can put any smaller items you unpack later directly in their rightful places. Plan your interior design well in advance so you don’t end up moving heavy pieces around several times.

Tackle the necessities

What matters most when unpacking your items after a move is ensuring that your essentials are immediately accessible. So prioritize your belongings, and unpack only the necessities first.


You may not be able to unpack the entire bedroom right away, but you’ll definitely need at least the bed the day you move in. Reassemble the bed frame (if necessary), lay down the sheets, unpack the pillows and spread the blankets so you can get a good night’s rest — you’re going to need it!

Provided that you have a change of clothes and some comfortable indoor shoes (as well as curtains on the windows to ensure your privacy), the rest of your bedroom items can wait until you find the time and the energy to deal with them.

Bathroom items

Without a doubt, your personal care items, toiletries and medicines should top the list of the most important items to unpack after your move. Put out toilet paper and soap, find your toothbrush and toothpaste, hang the towels and the shower curtains, and unpack any other bathroom essentials you’ll need to wash away the weariness and stress of moving.

Kitchen necessities

Kitchens tend to take a very long time to unpack and organize properly due to the large number of items that need to be sorted and carefully arranged.

As soon as you’ve hooked up the large appliances, such as the fridge and the stove, move on to your smaller kitchenware. Plates, silverware and glasses should be the first to find their places in cupboards and kitchen cabinets, closely followed by cooking utensils, pots and pans, and pantry items.

Kids’ and pets’ items

If you have young children, unpack some of their favorite toys, books, games and blankets during the first few hours in your new home. Keeping your young ones happy and occupied will let you concentrate on your work and finish it faster.

Of course, you should also take care of your pets’ needs immediately upon arrival. It’s a good idea to pack adequate pet food and some of your animal friends’ favorite toys in your open-first box.

Finishing up

When you’ve unpacked the three most essential rooms in your home (bedroom, bathroom and kitchen), everything else can wait a bit. There are no deadlines to meet, so you can set your own pace when unpacking and decorating your new place — just unpack in order of priority without procrastinating.

If you stay organized, set reasonable goals, clean after every unpacking phase, and dispose of the packing materials in a safe and eco-friendly manner, your new surroundings will soon stop looking like a warehouse full of boxes and start feeling like home.

When Screening Tenants; Take Finances Into Account

July 1, 2019

You probably aren’t in the business of owning rental properties for the joy and excitement it offers. Though there may be some level of fulfillment in knowing you’re connecting people with quality housing in your region, it’s ultimately about dollars and cents.

You’re trying to pay your own bills and turn a bit of a profit. But in order to make it work, you need tenants who pay on time and in full.

Simple Ways to Evaluate a Prospective Tenant’s Finances

There are few guarantees with tenants. You simply aren’t allowed by law to consider certain factors when you evaluate potential tenants (for discriminatory reasons), but there are other facets you can look into during the screening process.

A tenant’s financial situation is a detail you’re allowed to investigate (to an extent). You have a right to know whether a tenant can reasonably afford to pay the rent … though you may have to do some digging to find the answer.

Here are seven simple ways you can evaluate a prospective tenant’s finances in a smart and proactive manner.

1. Use a Thorough Lease Application

A thorough lease application will save you a lot of trouble as a landlord. Within the context of this discussion, a suitable application form gives you the chance to screen tenants and figure out their financial situation fairly swiftly and easily.

Be sure to ask tenants about their income. You want to focus on net pay — that is, the paycheck they bring home each month — not gross income.

You should also have a place to list references. Require at least one former landlord and the person’s current employer.

2. Verify Income

Don’t assume that what your applicant reports about his or her income is true. It’s worthwhile to verify the applicant’s income so you can be fairly certain.

“An important part of verifying a prospective tenant’s income and employment involves submitting an employment verification request,” real estate investor Erin Eberlin writes. “This request allows the employer to know that you have a legitimate reason for requesting the information — you are considering renting to this person — and it allows you to verify that the tenant works at the company and to verify their salary.”

3. Pull a Credit Report

If you want even more insights and protection, you can request a credit report on the applicant. This will show you the individual’s credit history and how much debt he or she currently carries. It may also let you know whether the person’s been evicted in the past.

4. Run Some Calculations

Once you have some numbers in hand, you should pull up that trusty calculator on your phone and run a few computations.

Begin by taking the monthly rent and dividing it by the prospective tenant’s monthly net income. This will give you a percentage.

Ideally, the tenant shouldn’t spend any more than 25 to 30 percent of the paycheck on housing. Any more could be cause for concern: Will your payment be a priority over other bills?

If you run a credit check, you’ll also know how much debt the person carries. Running a simple debt-to-income calculation will help you see how much of the monthly paycheck has to go toward debt payments. You want to be sure there will be enough left over to cover the rent.

These calculations aren’t foolproof — and the tenant still has to practice smart financial behavior — but they do provide some insight into how the future could shake out. They’re well worth exploring!

5. Call References

You asked for references on the application; now use them! It’s especially helpful to call past landlords and have a little one-on-one chat about your prospective renter.

Landlords are usually fairly honest with one another and won’t recommend someone who has a history of missing payments. Getting an endorsement from a past landlord will go a long way toward setting your mind at ease.

6. Ask Questions

It’s wise to go beyond the application and speak with the applicant in person. You may learn a lot more by asking questions over the phone than you will on a paper form.

In order to uncover potential financial issues or weaknesses, you could try several clever questions. For example, you might ask, “Do you have the money to cover the security deposit today?”

If the individual says no, this could be a sign the prospective tenant isn’t as financially responsible as he or she has been trying to appear.

7. Don’t Discriminate

Although there are certain questions you should ask, there are also a number of questions you can’t ask legally without risking the charge of discrimination.

You have every right to ask about income. And you can even verify that the income figures the person quotes are realistic. But where the income originates? That’s a different matter.

“If you are on welfare, receive food stamps, and get other kinds of benefits or public assistance, you can keep that information to yourself,” personal finance expert Paul Michael tells renters. “The landlord cannot pry, and cannot deny anyone tenancy based on that information. If he or she does, it’s cause for an investigation by the local authorities.”

Just use common sense. Put yourself in the shoes of a renter and think about how a particular question would make you feel. You have a right to know certain concrete information, but not necessarily the “why” behind those facts.

Screen Your Tenants With Total Property Management, LLC

Tenant screening is one of the crucial procedures for a landlord to secure renters. If you’re hasty about it, you could end up with a tenant who doesn’t pay on time or who tears up your property.

If you’re too nosy, you could get yourself in legal trouble with the local housing authority. There’s a fine line you don’t want to cross.

At Total Property Management, LLC, we provide strategic tenant screening services to all our property management and leasing clients. If you’re interested in learning more about these services and how we can help you manage your rental properties, please give us a call!

Should You Become A Section 8 Landlord?

June 24, 2019

Section 8 housing is a federal program administered at the local level and is key to providing affordable housing to low income Americans. For those who qualify, this program can be life-changing, providing a stable home environment, giving children a safe place to grow up, and even helping them access a higher quality education. In order for Section 8 to function, though, landlords have to sign up qualifying properties for the program and accept vouchers from tenants – and this is where problems arise.

Today, there is a shortage of Section 8 apartments available, and many landlords discriminate against voucher holders.  However, despite rampant discrimination, some landlords seriously consider accepting Section 8 vouchers, and it’s often a mutually beneficial relationship.

If you’re considering becoming a Section 8 landlord, here’s what you should consider.

Tenants Face A High Bar

One of the main reasons that landlords are hesitant to join the Section 8 program is that they worry that they will get bad tenants and ultimately have to evict them. In many cases, though, what landlords characterize as a “bad tenant” is really cultural misunderstandings. Tenants in the Section 8 program often come from unstable housing situations where rule enforcement is lax and where they may not have formal leases. If you encounter trouble with your tenants, it’s important to try to understand their perspective. You’ll likely find that they were intentionally causing trouble, but were acting in ways that would have been acceptable in their last housing situation.

In addition to the fact that Section 8 tenants are often reliable and can learn to be good tenants, it’s important to recognize that they’re actually pre-screened and have to pass a high bar to qualify for the program. Not only does Section 8 screen for income, but tenants cannot have been evicted within the last three years for drug-related activity and, depending on the crime, many prior felons are disqualified. Anyone with a lifetime registration as a sex offender, for example, is permanently disqualified from Section 8, and other felony convictions must be at least five years in the past.

There’s A Wide Market

Rental markets rise and fall, but one thing that’s true about the Section 8 program is that there is a huge pool of potential tenants. Because the number of landlords for the program and available apartments is much smaller than the number of applicants in need, you’ll be able to fill vacancies almost immediately. Your property will also receive free advertising through the local housing authority, so you’ll be inundated with applications as soon as your listing goes live.

Steady Payment Process

The goal of Section 8 is to ensure that tenants with a low income level are able to afford housing, which means that they’re only responsible for a small portion of the rent. The rest comes from the government through the voucher system and if tenants lose their jobs or face a wage cut, the government will increase their share of the rent.

Not only does the government provide consistent rent to Section 8 landlords, tenants are especially timely about their payments. That’s because if tenants don’t pay their share of the rent on time, they can lose their Section 8 voucher. In this regard, these tenants may actually be more reliable than tenants who pay the full rent.

One thing you should be aware of is the fact that Section 8 does not pay security deposits, unlike private tenants, so you won’t have that added insurance if there is damage to the property. In most cases, though, this isn’t a serious problem. Many people think that Section 8 tenants are more likely to damage a property because they have less of a financial investment in it or because they are simply less responsible, but the opposite is true. Section 8 tenants often have to wait years to find housing through the program, and they are grateful to have an affordable place to live.

Increased Inspections

Depending on your current inspection schedule, you may be subject to an increased number of inspections by joining the program. That being said, experienced landlords say that anyone who views these inspections as a problem likely isn’t maintaining their apartments well enough. If you’re maintaining the vents, checking the smoke alarm, and performing other regular maintenance activities, then you’ll be more than ready for any official inspections.

Not only are official inspections more than reasonable, if they make you a more attentive landlord, then they’ll also likely save you from facing more expensive repairs. What could turn into a big leak or a large mold patch is caught before the damage gets out of hand.

It’s Easy To Join

Overall, it’s simple to become a Section 8 landlord. Since your property most likely already meet the required health and safety standards, all you have to do is fill out the appropriate paperwork. After that, your status will undergo an annual review to remain a member of the program. Your local branch of Section 8 will also assess your fees and determine whether you’re able to raise rents on an annual basis. Rents for Section 8 units are based on comparable units in your area, which means you may receive less than is normal for your neighborhood; all rents are on par with the city or state as a whole, however.

While landlords are responsible for signing their property up for Section 8, you don’t have to handle the subsequent concerns alone. Once you’re signed up, your property management team can help you negotiate your tenants’ needs, handle inspections, and provide additional screening. They can also address conflict between tenants and ensure that everyone is getting along properly.

At Total Property Management, LLC, we know the Greenville community intimately, and we recognize that all members of our city can make great tenants. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help with your property management needs, provide tenant screening support, and handle ongoing inspection and maintenance. You’ve made a space where everyone can make a home – let us help you keep it running.

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Why Hire A PRoperty Manager?

June 3, 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.

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9 Things Every Landlord Should Have At All Times

May 28, 2019

If you’re looking for a predictable job, there are plenty of career paths to choose from. Landlording isn’t one of them. It requires you to be on your toes – ready to face anything at any moment. To some, this is terrifying. To others, it’s an exciting opportunity that promises to keep things interesting. But one thing is clear: You need to be prepared for whatever comes your way!

As a landlord, you’re part real estate investor, part money collector, part handyman, and part enforcer. At any given moment, you have to be prepared to take off one of these hats and put on another. This means staying stocked with the following items:

1. Basic Tools

Even if you aren’t a super handy person, there are certain tools you need to keep in your car or truck at all times. In many cases, having a simple tool on hand can save you from having to call in a professional (which will cost you a pretty penny).

Some examples of basic tools you’ll need on hand include: hammer, screwdrivers, tape measure, power drill with various bits, utility knife, chisels, pry bar, various pliers, scissors, and a digital multimeter. If you’re comfortable with power tools and are capable of doing different odd jobs, it may also be helpful to have a battery-powered reciprocating saw and multi-tool.

2. Basic Maintenance Supplies

In addition to the aforementioned tools, there are certain maintenance supplies that you’ll frequently need. You’ll make your life a whole lot easier if you have them on hand and don’t have to drive out of your way to drop by the hardware store.

These supplies include: touchup paint, brushes, drop cloths, sandpaper, putty, putty knife, an assortment of nails, screws, and fasteners, wood glue, epoxy, caulk, electrical tape, duct tape, plumbing tape, pipe dope, plumber’s putty, paint scraper, spackling compound, and other items that are small and frequently required for odd jobs.

3. Cleaning Supplies

Cleaning can be a headache, but there are situations in which you’ll have to clean up a mess that a tenant has left behind. Having a cleaning bucket on hand will save you a lot of time and trouble.

Some of the items to keep stocked: mop and bucket, vacuum cleaner, spray bottle with generic cleaner, rags and sponges, paper towels, trash bags, squeegee, bleach, dish soap, scouring pad, and magic erasers.

4. Spare Keys and Bolt Cutters

It’s a good policy to limit the number of keys you give out to tenants. This limits the chances of things like subletting, criminal activity, and irresponsible behavior. However, you should always keep a spare key on hand for every property. This will save you a lot of time when a tenant loses a key or gets locked out of the house.

On a related note, it’s also nice to have a lock-pick set and pair of bolt cutters in your vehicle. Should a tenant abandon your property or change the locks without telling you, this gives you a way of getting into your property.

5. Notice Forms

As a landlord, you’ll find yourself in situations where you need to communicate something to a tenant in written form. While you can always head to your computer and type something out, it’s much easier if you already have commonly used notices on hand. You can then fill in the blanks with specific details and hand them out.

Notice forms are particularly important when you own a multi-unit development where there are things like fire drills, building repair work, or planned maintenance where workers need access to the residences.

6. Lease Agreement

It’s always a good idea to have a copy of your lease agreements with tenants. You don’t necessarily need to have these printed out – a digital copy will suffice. But whatever you do, be sure you can point to specific clauses and language if you need to back up something you’re saying with legally enforceable language.

7. Camera

With smartphones being so ubiquitous, this typically goes without saying, but you need to have a camera on you at all hands. This allows you to snap pictures or video of something you see on one of your properties – such as damage, trespassing, or a clear violation of the lease agreement. A camera can also be useful if you need to send pictures of a maintenance issue to a handyman or contractor before he comes to the site.

8. Important Numbers on Speed Dial

With all of the right tools on hand, you can tackle almost any project that aligns with your skillset. Having said that, you don’t always have the time or desire to take care of something. In these cases, it’s nice to have the right people on speed dial.

There are certain numbers you’ll always want to have plugged into your phone. These include an accountant, attorney, handyman, locksmith, real estate agent, investment advisor, and mentor.

9. Healthy Dose of Patience

For the most part, we’ve discussed physical items that you need to have in your possession. However, there’s also something to be said for possessing the right intangibles.

If you’re going to be a successful landlord for any period of time, you need to cultivate a healthy dose of patience. You’ll regularly encounter frustrating situations, and a patient approach will serve you well in these moments.

You shouldn’t have to wear so many hats at one time. While there’s a time and place for directly intervening and addressing issues as they relate to your properties and business, there’s no need to be on the clock 24/7. And that’s where we come in.

At Total Property Management, we offer landlords professional property management services that remove some of the friction, burdens, and pressures that come with owning rental real estate. From tenant screening and rent collection to property maintenance and accounting, we can handle it all. Contact us today for a free property management analysis!

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An ongoing series of informational entries


May 20, 2019

Rental properties can make for excellent investments. Not only do they increase in value over time, but they also produce steady cash flow. However, there’s a big difference between a low-maintenance, turnkey property and a property that needs its hand held every step of the way. Learning how to differentiate between the two before investing will increase your chances of being profitable and successful.

The 7 Features to Avoid in a Rental Property Investment

As an investor, you make your money when you buy. If you meticulously research your options and know exactly what you’re looking for, you’re far less prone to making a costly mistake that will haunt you for years to come. In particular, there are some features and factors that you don’t want to mess with. It’s recommended that you avoid any properties with the following:

1. Heavy Landscaping

Curb appeal is important. We’ve spent a lot of time discussing curb appeal on this blog and how it can quickly solidify a positive first impression and help landlords attract prospective tenants to their properties. But there’s a difference between having nice landscaping and too much landscaping.

Landscaping is always a touchy subject for landlords. Landlords typically believe tenants should play a part in taking care of the property, while tenants have no interest in mowing the lawn or pruning bushes. So when there’s heavy landscaping – meaning lots of bushes, flowerbeds, landscaped islands, and plants that require regular attention – frustrations can boil over. Either you have to pay for someone to do the landscaping, or it ends up looking messy and over-grown. (At which point curb appeal is non-existent.)

When looking for investment properties, try to find units that take a minimalistic approach to landscaping – just a few shrubs here and there. This will be enough to make the property look somewhat attractive without creating significant complications.

2. Swimming Pool

Swimming pools are nice, but they aren’t for rental properties. It takes nearly 810 gallons of water to fill a simple 6-foot-by-6-foot swimming pool to a depth of three feet. If you have a full-size pool, you’re looking at thousands of gallons of water – or the same amount of water a typical household uses in a month.

On top of the water requirements, swimming pools require a ton of maintenance. They need to be cleaned. The water has to be treated. Leaves have to be fished out. The list goes on and on. But the biggest risk is a leak. As a poorly maintained pool ages, it becomes susceptible to cracking and leaking, which can cost thousands of dollars to repair.

The moral of the story is this: Don’t buy a rental property with a swimming pool. It’s just not worth the hassle. If you think it’s necessary, spend a couple hundred dollars and give your tenants access to a local community pool.

3. Old HVAC System

One of your goals should be to buy a property that’s free of systems that need frequent repairs. Unfortunately, an HVAC system – which is prone to issues – is necessary for almost every rental property. So while you can’t necessarily buy a rental property without one, you can ensure the furnace and AC units are in good working condition.

If possible, look for properties that have HVAC equipment still under warranty. Or factor the price of a new system into your purchase and replace them before tenants move in. Not only will this save you money over many years, but it’ll also limit the number of headaches you have to deal with.

4. Carpet Throughout

Because carpeting is cheap, many rental properties on the lower end of the market will have it throughout the home. But this is less than ideal.

“Carpeting muffles noise, which is a great advantage in a multi-family unit. It also adds insulation and makes a room cozier,” landlord Chris Deziel admits. “But these drawbacks outweigh the benefits.”

For example, carpeting – particularly heavy-pile carpeting – can store mold and bacteria. Spills and pet accidents are also more visible, which means it needs to be replaced rather frequently. Finally, carpet fades quickly in rooms with lots of sun. This can create uneven patterns around furniture.

In lieu of carpet, look for rentals that have hardwood, vinyl, laminate, or ceramic tile. Each of these items is more durable, waterproof, and mold resistant.

5. HOA

If you’re in the market of buying high-end rentals that are intended for corporate clients and wealthy tenants, an HOA type community is perfectly fine. These individuals are accustomed to living in communities with rules and regulations and are likely to care for the property in a way that satisfies the bylaws. However, it’s a bad idea otherwise.

If you’re at the middle or lower end of the rental spectrum, an HOA will end up being nothing more than a source of frustration. Neighbors won’t be happy about having a lot of turnover and tenants are less likely to abide by the rules (which result in you fielding complaints from the HOA).

6. Garbage Disposal

Experienced landlords with lots of properties have a list of things they do to prepare a new investment unit for rent. Near the top of this list is garbage disposal removal.

While a garbage disposal might be convenient, it’s terrible for a home’s plumbing. No matter how well a disposal chops up food, it’s still allowing non-liquid substances to go down your drains. Over time, this leads to clogs and/or damage to the pipes themselves. You don’t need the hassle!

7. Screen Doors

A screened porch is a nice selling point. Everyone loves outdoor living space and it can serve as a competitive advantage when you’re up against other properties in the same neighborhood. But when it comes to rentals with tenants, it’s better to do without.

Screens often take a beating – from kids, pets, and otherwise – and will need to be replaced fairly regularly. Again, it’s not worth the hassle.

Real estate investing yields numerous benefits. But even the most optimistic investors have to admit that there are distinct challenges that come with the territory. At Total Property Management, LLC it’s our mission to help landlords manage their rental properties with less time commitment, greater efficiency, and maximum profitability.

For more information on our comprehensive property management services, please contact us today!

Our Blog

An ongoing series of informational entries

Seven Things To Consider Before Investing In A Condo

May 13, 2019

One of the beautiful and compelling things about real estate investing is just how much diversity and flexibility there is. Even when you zero in on a niche like income-producing rental properties, you have lots of choices. There are single-family homes, multi-family properties, and apartments. But most people forget about another lucrative niche: condominium units.

What Exactly is a Condo?

In a condominium – commonly called a condo – some parts are privately owned (such as individual living spaces) while others are collectively owned by all owners of the larger complex (like exercise facilities, parking lots, and landscaping).

“A less technical way to think of a condo is as an apartment that you own,” Jonas Elmerraji writes for Investopedia. “In practice, condos often take the form of an apartment or a similar shared complex, such as row townhouses, but theoretically a condo could physically be any kind of shared building.”

Condos tend to be found in places with high property values – like crowded cities, college towns, and vacation spots – where real estate is scarce and it makes sense for people to pool their money together to maximize resources.

7 Things to Consider Prior to Investing

Most people purchase a condo to be a personal residence or vacation home, but they can also make for solid investments. They’re especially attractive for beginner investors or people who want turnkey properties. That’s because condos tend to require fewer repairs, often have maintenance included, offer a range of stellar amenities, and can be cheaper than single-family homes in the same market.

Before investing in a condo, however, there are some things you’ll need to consider. Take a look:

1. Lender Requirements

“If you are planning to finance a condo purchase, there are often tighter restrictions on condos than detached homes,” real estate agent Megan Flynn writes. “For an investment property (condo or other), lenders typically require a 20-25% down payment and some lenders require the condo purchaser to live in the unit for up to one year before renting it out.”

Obviously the down payment portion of this equation doesn’t matter for an investor who is buying in cash. However, there isn’t a workaround for the latter aspect. Whether you’re buying in cash or financing the deal with a traditional mortgage, you’ll have to abide by condo-specific rules regarding residency.

2. Hold Strategy

In all likelihood, you’re looking to buy the condo as an investment that you’ll hold for a number of years. But on the off chance that you’re planning to buy, rent for a year or two, and then quickly sell for a profit, you’ll want to think again.

Generally speaking, condos don’t appreciate as quickly as single-family homes. They’re far better as long-term investments and short-term flips. You’ll want to bank on holding for at least five years. (Though there are exceptions.)

3. Assessments, Litigation, Etc.

When you buy into a condo you’re purchasing more than your residence. You’re also signing up to be part of the homeowner association (HOA) that’s responsible for maintaining the entire property (typically everything outside of your unit’s drywall). If you aren’t careful, you can end up buying into a condominium that has a special assessment (or is about to enact one).

As Flynn explains, “Special assessments refer to the fees charged by [an HOA] to cover condo building repairs (like a new roof, seismic upgrades, or siding repairs) that exceed the amount in the current HOA account. They are mandatory and can be costly (in the thousands of dollars per unit).”

As part of your due diligence, you also need to be sure the condo building isn’t under any sort of litigation. This can happen when there’s some sort of defect in the development. And if you buy into a condo with litigation, you’ll find it nearly impossible to sell until the issue is sorted out.

4. Maintenance

One of the major appeals of investing in a condo is that maintenance and repairs are often included in the HOA. While you’ll still have to handle the repairs inside your individual unit, you’re off the hook for landscaping and common areas.

5. Location

Obviously location is important with any piece of real estate, but it’s especially crucial when it comes to a condo. If you purchase a condo that’s on the edge of town or in an area that’s no longer considered desirable, it could rapidly depreciate in value. A condo in the middle of a growing urban area, on the other hand, will stay rented nearly 100 percent of the time.

6. Parking

Savvy renters may stay away from leasing a condo if they need reliable parking. Many complexes – particularly those in urban areas – have extremely limited parking. And even if there is adequate parking, it may require walking a long distance. This might seem like a little thing, but it can be a big deal.

7. Comparable Sales

Again, condos are intended to be held for a while. Having said that, you make your money when you buy. Be sure to analyze as many comparable sales as possible before putting in an offer.

Total Property Management, LLC

It’s one thing to be a real estate investor. It’s something else entirely to be a real estate investor and a landlord. The latter requires lots of time, a strong stomach, and a willingness to field phone calls in the middle of the night, deal with neighbor disputes, and chase down late rent checks. If you want to invest in rental properties without having to deal with the day-to-day troubles of landlording, you’ll need a friend in the business.

At Total Property Management, LLC we partner with real estate investors and property owners to help them manage their rentals. We take care of everything from finding and screening tenants to collecting rent and dealing with maintenance issues. This allows you to spend less time worrying about small problems and more time focused on the big picture.

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May 6, 2019

It’s a misconception that landlords get to sit back collecting rent checks from their tenants, without putting in much work. In addition to ongoing property maintenance, finding new tenants to replace vacancies, and regularly updating their knowledge on laws and property management, landlords sometimes need to respond to emergency repair requests.

For example, after a violent wind storm, the roof of your home may be damaged to the point where water is leaking through. You may encounter an electrical issue that poses a safety hazard to your tenant. There could also be an insect infestation that jeopardizes your tenant’s way of life. Either way, you’ll get a text or phone call from your tenant, and you’ll be responsible for resolving the issue as quickly as possible.

So what’s the best approach to resolving these issues as quickly and cost-effectively as possible?

Understanding the Nature of Emergency Repairs

First, you should understand what truly qualifies as an emergency repair, as well as what some of the most common repairs you might face are. Some repair requests from tenants are superficial, or are annoying at best—like a loose doorknob—while others deserve your immediate attention. How can you tell the difference?

Emergency repairs usually fall into one or more of these categories:

Health and safety risks. Any repair that jeopardizes your tenant’s health and/or safety needs to be fixed right away. This will prevent any lasting harm to your tenant (and any legal issues you might face in the wake of that harm), and show your tenant that you care about their well being.

Further damage risks. Some repairs get worse or lead to further damage if they aren’t addressed For example, a leaking roof could cause serious damage to your building, as well as damage to the tenant’s property in your unit.

Some emergencies could also prevent tenants from going about their daily life, such as a fallen tree blocking the driveway. These also deserve your immediate attention.

These types of repairs tend to get more expensive and riskier with each passing moment.

Inspections and Ongoing Maintenance

The ideal way to handle emergency repairs is to prevent them from being a necessity in the first place. While you can’t prevent all emergencies, you can minimize the risks of serious damage to your property by conducting thorough inspections whenever you have a tenant vacancy. Conducting regular maintenance on the property and responding to smaller repair issues quickly and efficiently can also reduce the chances that some bigger problem arises down the line. For example, inspecting the roof for minor areas of damage on an annual or semi-annual basis can allow you to make small fixes and upgrades that provide extra resistance against incoming storms.

Preparing an Emergency Budget

No matter how well you prepare, you should be prepared for at least some emergency expenses. The cost of repairs and damages can range from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars, so there’s no easy way to prepare for everything. Property insurance will protect you for some of the bigger-ticket items, but it still pays to have a bank of funds ready to disperse when you need it. Set aside a few thousand dollars for emergency repairs, or build to that level of readiness by stashing a few hundred extra dollars a month.

Immediate Responsiveness

One of the biggest factors for success when dealing with a tenant’s request or acknowledgment of an emergency repair is responding immediately. The faster you respond, the sooner you can mitigate damage from the incident, and the better you’ll look in the tenant’s eyes.

For starters, it’s a good idea to have some kind of communication protocol in place. If a tenant has a typical issue, they might send you an email or log the issue on some kind of online platform. But if they have an emergency repair to deal with, they need a more direct, urgent way to contact you; in some cases, this may be texting or calling your cell phone directly.

You’ll also need to have arrangements in place to enable you to respond quickly. For example, if you have a flexible job that allows you to leave for such emergencies, you’ll need to keep your phone on you at all times—just in case you need to respond to an emergency. If you don’t have that flexibility, you may want to establish a partner or point person who can field such requests in your stead, until you have a moment to step in.

If you can’t get to the property and start fixing things immediately, you can at least quell your tenant’s concerns by acknowledging the issue and pledging to get there as quickly as possible. Be transparent, and let them know exactly when they can expect you to arrive.

Building a Trustworthy Team

Though you may be able to handle some emergency repairs yourself, it’s more likely that you’ll need to rely on the help of a professional. The conventional approach to repairs is getting multiple quotes from different contractors to make sure you’re getting the best deal, but you won’t have the luxury of time on your side when dealing with an emergency.

Accordingly, it’s better to build up a team of reliable, trustworthy professionals you can count on to handle the job as cost-efficiently as possible—long before an emergency actually unfolds. Spend some time networking with other landlords and with contractors in your area to gain more connections and referrals. Better yet, work with a property management company so you don’t have to worry about handling the repairs yourself at all.

If you’re interested in being a landlord with as little stress as possible, you should hire a property management firm. Property managers will be on call to field tenant requests and handle certain repairs, so you don’t have to worry yourself about being constantly available or responding to repairs immediately. Contact Total Property Management, LLC today to learn more about our services, and how we can make your life as a landlord easier.

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Pet Friendly? 3 Animals All Landlords Should Ban

April 29, 2019

Pet policies – they’re a divisive topic among landlords, but among those who do allow pets, they tend to be straightforward. Tenants can generally have cats and small dogs, end of list. Some might allow a small fish tank, and really, no one would notice, or hamsters, but nothing more complicated. And few allow more than one or two animals on the premises; crazy cat ladies need not apply. Simple, right? Maybe not.

With millennials and Gen Z taking over the rental market, it may be time to think more critically about your pet policy, and what you allow. According to industry research, 35% of millennials have pets, and they aren’t always the traditional kind. Instead, you’ll find younger tenants inquiring about birds, saltwater fish, ferrets, or other pocket pets, and you need to be prepared. These three animals have no place in a rental property, and you need to put it in writing.

Anything Illegal

The obvious starting place when banning animals from your rental properties are the ones that aren’t allowed, which includes pigs, or any other sort of livestock, chickens, ducks, or any wild animals.

Rabbits Run Wild

One animal you definitely don’t want in your rental property is a rabbit. Sure, they’re cute and cuddly, but the fact is that rabbits are also destructive. They chew on everything, in large part because rabbits’ teeth continue to grow throughout their lives and chewing helps to wear them down. Unfortunately, if their owners don’t give them proper items to chew, they’ll attack your walls, doors, and cabinets.

Another reason to skip the bunnies? These fuzzy friends, like many animals, can make apartments smell terrible, and they require more space than you might think, so the smell isn’t contained. Rabbits do groom themselves, but they shouldn’t be given traditional baths or even dust baths, so there’s not much to be done about the smell.

Birds Bring The Noise

Pet birds come in many varieties, from tiny canaries to enormous parrots, but no matter their size, you do not want birds in your rental property. Like rabbits, birds are messy – they molt regularly, leaving feathers everywhere, along with bits of seed, and improperly maintained cages can smell quite unpleasant. But the main reason you don’t want to welcome birds into your rental is that, even when contained and well-cared for, birds are loud.

While it’s reasonable to expect pet owners to keep their dogs from barking, birds are supposed to make a lot of noise, often issuing loud vocalizations for minutes at a time twice a day. It can’t be prevented, but that doesn’t make it any less irritating. And some birds, such as macaws, have a screech that can be heard as much as a mile away. That’s far from ideal for close quarters living and could leave you dealing with noise complaints.

Ferret Free For All

Ferrets are very popular pet among young people, but as pets, they tend to exist in a grey area. As domesticated animals, ferrets can be legally registered, should be vaccinated for rabies, and many people see little difference between keeping ferrets and having a rabbit or guinea pig. So what’s the big deal about ferrets?

Like rabbits, ferrets need a lot of room. They need to run and burrow and, like rabbits, will chew on just about anything. Additionally, if the tenants haven’t had their ferret spayed/neutered, ferrets can smell quite unpleasant. All ferrets have scent glands, and these are generally removed during the spay/neuter procedure, but in some cases, scent gland removal can be needed a second time, and you don’t want a ferret marking your property with their scent glands.

Screening Strategies

Though there are obvious cases in which an animal should be excluded from your property, in other cases, you’ll need to carefully screen tenants and their pets to determine if they’re a good fit for your property. Some landlords, for example, are hesitant to issue a blanket ban on certain dog breeds, though they might refuse dogs over a certain size, you should always seek out all records regarding that animal to make sure they do not have a bite history or other record of aggression. You should also make sure you have every animals’ complete vaccination records and contact information for a veterinarian on file.

Pet-friendly properties can attract tenants, reduce tenant turnover, and are more family-friendly; you may even be able to charge higher rent for the privilege of having a pet, but that doesn’t mean pet-friendly properties should be a free for all. There need to be rules – and enforcement. That’s where your property management team comes in.

At Total Property Management, LLC we bring property management experience to every job and welcome each client.  Let us take over tenant and pet screenings and handle all the enforcement issues that come with welcoming pets. Our full-service property management package covers all the fine details.

If you need support managing your rental properties, contact Total Property Management, LLC today for more information on our services. From first contact to rent, maintenance, and even eviction, we do it all. Don’t let tenants and their pets run wild – just hand us the leash. 

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Rental Concessions: The Secret To Landing The Best Tenants

April 22, 2019

Do you have a property that’s sitting empty, that you just can’t seem to find a tenant for? If so, you’re not alone. Nationally, about 4.8% of homes sit empty, and when your property is empty, you’re losing money. You need to get someone into your vacant properties – and fast.

One solution that can push potential tenants to lease on the spot is offering concessions, a practice that ranges from offering a small rent reduction to upgrades and community-based perks, and the practice is growing in importance. According to industry experts, increased supply, particularly in the luxury home sector, means that potential tenants have their pick of countless great properties. Offering concessions can help you close the deal, and they’re an especially valuable tool for getting top tenants into your vacant properties. And when you think outside the box to show you appreciate their business, you show your star landlord status.

Here are a few ideas for unique concessions to get you started.

The Basics: Price Cuts

The most basic type of rental concession is also the most generic: a cost reduction. Though the amount depends on the market, a common offer is a free month of rent or reduced rent for the length of the lease. Are rental concessions a loss? Sure. But so is an empty rental and when you treat tenants well from the start, they’re more likely to renew their lease, cutting your financial losses down the line.

Ditch The Fees

If dropping a month’s rent seems like a lot, another popular way to attract great tenants is by eliminating upfront fees. Do you normally charge for an application fee, or ask for a pet deposit? Dispense with any or all of these to demonstrate to potential tenants that you’re serious about getting them into your space. Those little fees can add up quickly when tenants are already facing the financial stress associated with moving, but they’re not nearly so important on your end of the exchange.

Concessions In The Renewal Period

Though concessions are usually used to bring in new tenants, they’re also useful if you’re trying to keep existing tenants from moving out. Especially if you have a great tenant who you’ve built a positive relationship with, offering some type of special deal or upgrade can ensure that they remain with you in the coming year. For those renewing their lease, you might consider offering service-based incentives, such as biweekly cleaning services or gift cards for local restaurants and shops. When working with existing tenants, concessions are less about closing the deal and more about thanking them for their loyalty.

The Rise In Concessions

While concessions aren’t necessary, particularly if you rarely have vacancies in your properties or if your area is in high demand, they are on the rise, especially in big cities.  Even if you’re not a new construction or struggling to fill your vacancies, it can be hard to navigate the market without offering some little extras as a sign of goodwill and to keep up with your competition.

If you’re not sure how to navigate the real estate market with the added confusion of concessions, don’t worry – Total Property Management LLC is here to help. We know the Greenville market, and that means fewer vacancies for you. Contact us today to learn more about our property management services. Every minute your property sits empty, you’re losing money. Don’t let those rent checks slip through your fingers.

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SEVEN DEADLY SINS of managing your own properties

April 15, 2019

1. Setting Your Own Rental Rates

2. Chasing Rent Checks

3. Anemic Marketing

4. Renting To The Wrong People

5. D.I.Y Tenant Repair and Maintenance

6. Overpaying Contractors

7. Overlooking Housing Laws

Managing a property all by yourself without the help of a property management company will occupy so much of your time, and the thing is, the amount of time that you put into chasing after rent, screening for potential tenants, and fixing the broken sink, you could easily have used to either educate yourself, perform research, or invest in new properties. So while you might be able to save money managing the property firsthand, you will be losing time, which is your most precious asset. Sadly, time is often placed on a lower pedestal to wealth. However, it is important to keep in mind that while you can always generate income, you can never make more time.

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IS Renting a Property More Profitable Than Other Investments?

April 8, 2019

Many people look to buy rental property as an investment, much like they would invest in stocks, bonds, index funds, or other assets intended to grow over time. But is buying rental property inherently more profitable than other types of investments?

Expected Returns for Conventional Investments

Let’s start by evaluating the return you can expect from conventional types of investments. If you keep a diversified stock portfolio, or if you invest in an index fund that tracks the S&P 500, we can look at historical average returns to get a ballpark of what you can expect. Over the past century or so, the average annual return is close to 10 percent, though you can’t expect to get that return every year. Adjusted for inflation, that growth rate shrinks to about 7 percent, and nearly half of those gains come from dividends.

“Safer” investments like bonds have a much lower rate of return, at somewhere between 2 and 4 percent of your principal. So how do these returns compare to rental property investments?

Two Types of Returns for Rental Properties

For rental property, there are two types of returns to consider. First, there’s the return you’ll receive on a monthly basis; you’ll charge a rental price (ideally) higher than your total expenses, so you can pocket the difference as a monthly profit. You’ll factor in things like your mortgage payment, your property insurance, and your taxes, then hopefully charge your tenants an amount collectively higher than that total.

In reality, you probably won’t pocket much from this—at least not with one property. Depending on a variety of factors (which we’ll explore in a moment), you’ll likely count on a few hundred dollars per property, at most. That also doesn’t factor in additional maintenance costs you’ll face unexpectedly, or the money you’ll lose when your property is vacant. All in all, you might make $2-5,000 per year, plus or minus a few thousand dollars, which is likely a rate of return strictly less than what you’d get in an average stock portfolio.

However, there’s also another dimension of returns in the rental property world. Typically, property prices tend to rise over time. This is especially true in neighborhoods that get better over time, or in highly competitive areas. That means in addition to the monthly return you get from incoming rent checks, you can expect to make a profit on any property you sell in a competitive area. The rate of return here is highly variable, but should be enough to increase your total expected return.

Local Considerations

Much of your profitability will depend on the idiosyncrasies of your local area. Different cities have different rental prices, so two properties of equal value in two different cities may have drastically different rental prices (and accordingly, different monthly returns).

Of course, the rise or fall of your property’s value will also depend on local conditions. If the neighborhood consistently gets better, with better jobs, better education, and better resources overall, you’ll see a much higher return on your property as an investment. Foresight can help you here, but there’s never a guarantee in how a neighborhood will develop in the future.

Property Portfolio and Leverage Considerations

We also need to keep in mind that a robust portfolio of different properties could help you see a better and more consistent return than you’d see with a single property. Having lots of available properties will guard you against the possibility of vacancy since only a fraction of your total portfolio will be empty at any given time.

And unless you’re paying for all your properties outright, having more properties in your portfolio will give you more financial leverage, which, to put it simply, is a way of investing with money you don’t yet have. Though you’ll pay interest on your loans, the total increase in value on your properties would hypothetically be more than enough to justify those payments.

Degree of Effort

There is one serious disadvantage to investing in rental properties, which stocks and bonds don’t share; they require hours of time to maintain, and can be a major source of stress. If a tenant requests a repair, it’s important for you to respond to that repair request quickly. If a tenant misses a payment, you’ll need to follow up with them. In rare cases, your tenants may damage your property or refuse to leave in a timely manner; dealing with eviction cases can be daunting, and can cost you enough money to jeopardize the profitability of your entire operation.

For this reason, many investors take the expected return of a property with a grain of salt; you may make more money from this investment, but it will also take more time out of your day, balancing the advantages.

Diversifying Your Portfolio

Regardless of whether rental property is inherently better or worse than investments like stocks or bonds, they can be a valuable addition to your overall investment portfolio if you’re trying to diversify your assets. Rental properties are much different assets than stocks or bonds, granting you a “real,” tangible asset while also providing you with a steady stream of income. Property prices are also somewhat independent from fluctuations in other markets, making them valuable to own in the event of a market crash.

Are Rental Properties Right for You?

Overall, rental properties could provide a return far greater than your other investments, but they could also lose you money if you don’t know what you’re doing. They’re valuable additions to any portfolio if you take property investing seriously, but they do require lots of time and attention. Rental properties aren’t for everyone, but if you’re willing to put in the effort, they could be the perfect way to round out your investment portfolio.

If you’re interested in getting advice on your first rental property, or if you need help managing your existing portfolio of properties, contact Total Property Management, LLC today. We’ll help you with a free analysis of your property and provide you with the resources you need to manage it efficiently.

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Home Improvements That Could Actually Hurt Your Home Value

April 1, 2019

Styles come and go. Design trends fade, then re-emerge. Technology innovates and iterates.

When you’re a homeowner, improvements, renovations, remodels, and additions enable you to keep your house up-to-date and functional. You may also generally assume that such tinkering will enhance the value upon marketing the home. But this isn’t always the case.

Caution: Eight Home Improvement Projects That Might Depress Value

Certain home improvement projects command a pretty high return on investment. According to the 2019 Cost vs. Value Report, well-executed projects such as garage door replacements, minor kitchen remodels, wood deck additions, new siding, and bathroom remodels all command a fairly significant ROI.

But sometimes, a renovation comes back to bite. When you consider potential home improvement projects, you should avoid anything that may require lots of maintenance, is too niche-specific, or limits functionality.

Though a job may work for your family or fit your lifestyle, it could alienate prospective applicants, lower demand, and thereby diminish the value. Every specific real estate market has its distinctions, but here are eight home improvement projects that could hurt your home’s value.

1. Over-Improvements

There is such a thing as doing too much to a house or property and “over-improving” the existing structure. 

Some nice upgrades may improve your residence to become the nicest house on the block, but you aren’t necessarily going to be able to get a return on your improvements (even if the upgrades might justify the price on paper).

There’s such a thing as pricing yourself out of a neighborhood. That can be a huge mistake. You might not want to lay expensive hardwood flooring throughout your home if all the comparable properties have carpet and laminate.

Don’t add two bedrooms to your existing four if the rest of the homes in the neighborhood mostly have just three. Upgrade from laminate to granite perhaps, not quartz or marble, when most of the kitchens are basic. Practice discipline and stay with the crowd, or you might be unpleasantly surprised by the consequences.

2. Swimming Pool Addition

On first thought, adding a swimming pool to your backyard may sound great. You can picture yourself lying on a float, sipping a cold drink, and soaking up the rays on a hot summer day.

But this may be only part of the story. Pool maintenance rarely aligns with one’s expectations. An in-ground pool demands maintenance, cleaning, and care.

Pools are also known to leak, require new parts, and descend into disrepair. Many prospective applicants won’t even consider a property that includes a pool.  

3. Garage Conversion

Don’t care about parking your vehicle in your garage? You may be tempted to convert the garage into an extra bedroom, office, or play area for the kids.

If this is what you want to do, go ahead! But be aware that some prospective tenants may think a garage is a MUST on their checkoff list.

4. Bedroom Conversion

If you have two small bedrooms that share a wall, you might consider removing it and creating one larger space. But this could actually prove to be a poor financial move.

The number of bedrooms in a home is a key marketing tool, so you could hurt your rental rate by doing this.

5. Sunroom Addition

“A sunroom can be a great space to enjoy the outdoors away from the elements, but according to Remodeling, a sunroom addition is one of the worst home renovations when it comes to return on investment.

By all means, add the sunroom if you believe you’ll enjoy it … but don’t make the addition as an investment. You could be disappointed by the result.

6. Trendy Material Upgrades

Home design trends surface each year. The downside is, they often disappear as quickly as they emerged.

It’s fine to stay up to date with the latest designs, but you shouldn’t get too trendy with material upgrades if you plan to sell/rent within the next three to five years. You may have to remodel again in the interim, or risk taking a hit on the value of your home.

7. Bathtub Removal

“I’ve documented plenty of renovations where replacing a bathtub with a walk-in shower dramatically opened up a smaller bathroom. But some prospects, particularly those with families, still really want a tub,” home design blogger Nancy Mitchell writes.

The advice I’ve seen is that removing a tub from one bathroom is fine as long as there’s at least one other bathroom in the house that has one. 

8. Excessive Landscaping

“A garden overflowing with flowers, bushes, ponds, and fountains might be a relaxing oasis, but prospective tenants might instead see long spring and summer afternoons spent weeding and trimming,” personal finance writer Dan Rafter asserts. “An overly landscaped backyard requires a lot of upkeep, and many tenants don’t want to spend their weekends in the dirt.” 

The best rule of thumb is to clean up any messes or overgrowth and landscape within reason. Some simple flowers, greener, and well-mulched beds should be enough to boost curb appeal without overwhelming potential tenants.

At Total Property Management, LLC, we have a pretty good feel for the pulse of the Greenville real estate market. We work closely with investors, and landlords to maximize and protect their investments.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to market and rent out your home please reach out! 

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March 25, 3029

Do you own rentals and you find yourself saying "I don’t want just any tenants. I want the right tenants."

Total Property Management, LLC does more than just manage rentals we also offer TENANT PLACEMENT SERVICES.

Finding the right tenants is like holding a talent audition on a reality TV show. We help find the best candidates; you judge who wins (fairly of course). If you enjoy self managing your rental but the tenant selection process gives you the heebie jeebies, let Total Property Management, LLC help!

We personally show your property to all prospective tenants, completing a thorough background and credit check, and prepare and assist you with all lease documents to get you and your tenant through the move in process.  Call to find out more and pricing for this service.

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Marketing To Short-Term Tenants

March 18, 2019

Southern cities are popular with short-term tenants, particularly older “snow birds” who flock to warmer climates, but whether you want to attract snow birds to your properties or hope to reach a broader group of short-term tenants, you need to leverage your location. But what attracts travelers to your location? By learning to see your city through the eyes of an outsider, you can identify the attractions that will draw visitors to your properties.

Look Nearby

When advertising a property for long-term rentals, most owners will assess the neighborhood for various amenities – how close the property is to a supermarket, for example, or what schools or parks are nearby – and the same principle applies when marketing to short-term tenants. Not only do short-term tenants want to know where they’ll meet basic needs, like buying groceries, especially if they don’t have a car, but if they’re visiting for the first time, they’ll appreciate your guidance as a local. Not every highlight needs to be fancy, though for very short-term rentals it’s important to include features like restaurants, museums, and other tourist-focused spaces.

Don’t forget to talk to your friends or neighbors about what neighborhood features they like best or recommend to guests. We tend to only notice those things that we’re interested in, so asking people who have different hobbies about their favorite activities to appeal to the broadest audience.

Stay Up To Date

One great way to catch renters’ attention when writing your short-term rental listings is by featuring locations that no one else is talking about, and that means you have to stay up to date with local developments.  In addition to monitoring the development of new attractions in your city, it’s important to stay up to date with major events like concerts and sports championships. Short term rental rates often skyrocket if a major event is coming to town, like an arena tour, so flag those dates to be sure your rates are keeping up with the market and namedrop the event in your listing. You can also provide information on transport to the specific venue if you know you’ll be renting to visitors attending a specific event.

Know Your Audience

Short-term rental can mean several different things, depending on who you consider to be your audience. Snow birds, who typically rent properties for a few months at a time, are technically short-term tenants, but so are Airbnb renters who stay for just a few days. The problem, though, is that these two groups don’t typically want the same thing. As such, you need to know who your audience is when writing your property description.

In some cases, identifying your audience is easy because your property appeals to a narrow group. This is the case if you’ve invested in a property on a golf course, for example, or if your property is in the heart of a museum district. In other cases, though, you’ll have a more expansive audience that consists of tourists more generally; in that case, you’ll want to acknowledge the breadth of possible activities in your area.

Make Meaningful Connections

One popular feature that Airbnb has been developing over the last few years is their Experiences program, which has, by some accounts, lost money for the company because it doesn’t include mainstream attractions. As an independent owner, though, you have the option to make your own connections to events and activities. And, unlike Airbnb, you have the ability to make connections and provide activity insights without sinking a lot of money into the process. All you have to do is provide a simple guide.

Some of the most popular short-term rental managers provide visitors with a binder of local music venues, museums, restaurants, and sporting events, as well as information on where to get discounts for these events. It’s even better if you have an inside line on something special through a friend or local contact; giving visitors a peak of the city that they would otherwise only see if they were permanent residents can encourage them to rent from you again in the future.

Follow The Local Rules

Finally, whenever you list a property for a short-term rental, be sure that you know your area’s specific regulations. In the past, listing a property as available for a few days might have been odd, but there likely weren’t any rules against it. It’s important to be well-versed in these regulations, not just for your own security, but because your tenants can’t enjoy themselves if they’re being put in a risky legal situation.

Short-term rentals can be highly profitable, but when compared to longer contracts, they’re also far less stable and require much more work to manage – so what’s a landlord to do? One way to avoid the stress while ensuring that your tenants have a pleasurable visit is by employing a professional property manager. At Total Property Management, LLC we have experience and we know what brings visitors to our city.  And we also know what a big responsibility managing tenants can be.

If you need support managing your rental property, contact Total Property Management today. We can help guide you through the process of transitioning to passive rental income with our full-service team. From tenant screenings to maintenance and rent collection, we handle every part of the property management process. So stop juggling a never-ending cycle of tenants and let Total Property Management take over. There’s an easier way to take your rental to the next level.

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Property Management

Questions To Ask A Prospective Property Manager

March 11, 2019

You should take great pride in your rental investment. You’ve spent a lot of time, money, and research to find a good property, so hiring a well-qualified property manager to take care of it will set you up for either success or failure.

At Total Property Management, we’d like you to hire us as your property managers, but we also want you to be totally satisfied with your decision. Thus, as you interview various candidates and compare your options, ask the following questions first, so you’ll know you’re making the right choice.

1. How long have you been servicing properties in the area?

The prospect should tell you about their years of experience in the area, their time working in real estate, and other factors that support their expertise in this region.  

2. How many rentals do you currently manage?

The number will give you a sense of the size of their firm. Too few units will suggest inexperience or lost clients, while too many means you may not enjoy high-quality service. 

3. Are any of the properties you manage in the neighborhood of my rental?

Make sure the property management firm you’re talking to has experience with rentals in your specific neighborhood or at least nearby. Their experience in a particular market will increase your chances of success.

4. What are the best rental markets in the Greenville area?

To test the firm’s knowledge of the area, make sure their assessment of good rental markets roughly matches your own. You want to ensure you have similar concepts and will work together in harmony on rent pricing and service levels.

5. Which services do you currently offer?

A solid property management firm will list these on its website, of course, but the managers shouldn’t mind walking you through each activity and answering questions about it. If they don’t offer a certain service out of the gate, ask for it. Sometimes, a firm will be willing to adjust its services in response to your needs.

6. What are your fees and contract terms?

There’s no point in hiring a property management company if it can’t help you save money.  The more conscientious you are about your overhead, the higher the profits you’ll enjoy. It’s hard to make ends meet when you’re starting out, and you don’t want to pay exorbitant fees for this service.

Ask specifically about hidden fees to make sure you’re quoted the total cost up front. At Total Property Management, we don’t believe in making our clients overpay, which is why we offer a flat-fee service that makes it all easy for you.

7. How quickly do you process service requests?

Time is money for landlords. If you don’t believe it, imagine how much greater the damage will be for every minute an overflowing toilet runs without being fixed. You need a property management company that will respond almost immediately to service requests.

8. Describe to me how you would handle a common problem, such as a tenant who refuses to pay rent or an eviction?

A good property manager will confidently lay out the plan for handling serious tenant problems. Part of the reason you’re hiring them is to handle the difficult stuff, such as evictions. If the candidate presents an efficient plan that involves little kicking and screaming, you’ll know you’ll be in good hands.

9. What is your preferred method of communication and how long does it usually take to respond?

When problems arise, you need a property management team that responds quickly and without hesitation. Make sure they have a plan for handling emergencies.

In addition, make sure their communication style works for you. Some property management companies offer only email communication, but if you’re the kind of person who wants to call or text, that might not be enough for you. A communication match makes things easier.

10. Where will my funds be held?

If you’re working with a property management firm, they may collect and store some of your funds — such as security deposits and maintenance money — on your behalf. 

11. What is the percentage for lease renewals with your clients?

A low percentage will alert you that this company may not be as professional or respected as they claim. Property management services are in high demand, so if the business is successful, it should have a good record of client lease renewals.

12. What does the tenant screening process look like?

Tenant screening may be one of the most vital functions of a property manager. “Tenant screening can save you from thousands of dollars in lost revenue, court costs, and fees,” points out Sarnen Steinbarth of the Forbes Council.

Steinbarth explains that the right team can help you avoid the wrong fit, tenants who try to scam you, and serious later problems and damage with your tenants. So it should be done right.

Listen to the operation’s tenant screening process and make sure it includes all the checks and information you need to approve a tenant’s application.

13. Do you perform inspections?

Preventive maintenance and property inspections can save you a lot of time and money. Try to find a property management company that will perform such inspections.

14. How do you process payments from us and our tenants?

“These days, property managers should have client portals and electronic payment systems set up for convenience and record keeping,” says BiggerPockets. Don’t work with a property management company that’s still in the dark ages in terms of payment management.

Ask Total Property Management, LLC

You can ask any of these questions and more, and we’re pretty sure you’ll like what you hear. Whether you’re considering property managers for the first time or you’re ready to change from your current company, let Total Property Management cover your needs. Contact us today!

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10 Photography Tricks for Marketing Your Rental

March 4, 2019

When current homeowners think about renting their home, they usually understand the importance of market conditions, listing the home in as many places as possible, and basic staging strategies like clearing the home of clutter. But there’s one often overlooked skill that can make a big difference in how quickly your home rents—photography.

Spending the extra time to learn how to photograph your home, or working with a professional photographer can help your home rent faster—and might even net you a higher rental price.

Why Photography Is Important 

Why is photography so important? You’ll need photos when listing the home, no matter where you list it, and those photos are almost always the first thing prospective renters see.

First impressions. Today’s prospects look at photos of houses long before they visit them in person. If your photos don’t leave them with a good impression, they might never visit your home—and it will never enter into serious consideration for rent.

Online viewings. More than half of all prospective clients now find their eventual homes online, where photos are all they have to go on. Having solid photos can make a big difference in whether people give your home serious consideration.

Competition. Every homeowner attempts to use photos to show off what makes their property unique, and photos make it easy to do side-by-side comparisons. With such strong competition, having lackluster photography could result in a major loss.

Photography Tips for Marketing a Home

So what tips can you use to take better photos for your house? You can start by learning the basics of photography, but if you don’t have the time to study the art, you can use these strategies as a good intro for home-specific photography:

Invest in a good camera (and preferably, a good photographer). If you have the budget for it, you should hire a professional photographer. There’s no substitute for experience, so if you can afford to have someone take professional-grade photos of your home, you should go this route. Otherwise, make sure you’ve invested in a good, high-resolution camera. If you rely on the camera on your smartphone, your photos aren’t going to look nearly as attractive.

Use bright light whenever possible. Lighting will make or break your photos. For the most part, brighter light is better. Not only does it make your home seem warmer and more inviting, but it will also highlight some of your home’s best features. If you have large, open windows, make use of natural light by taking pictures on the afternoon of a sunny day. If not, make sure you have bright LEDs installed or use peripheral types of lighting to get the right shots.

Take a few dusk shots. That said, you might want to snap a few dusk shots, especially of the exterior of your home. Dusk can be tricky to work with regarding lighting, but it can frame your home with an almost mystical glow. It will also set your home apart from the millions of competitors who are only showing their property in the middle of the day.

Stage the home before photographing. This should be obvious, but before your photoshoot, stage your home the best you can. You’ll want to get rid of any clutter, remove all but the most important pieces of furniture, put away any personal items that aren’t universally appealing, and eliminate any trace of pet presence. That way, nothing in your shots will turn people away immediately.

Aim for a universal appeal. While you’re at it, aim for a universal appeal. If you have esoteric art hanging on your walls, try to replace it with something more neutral. Instead of using artistic angles in your photography, try something a little more conventional.

Add tasteful elements of color. Photos catch the eye easier and are more memorable when they have a strong splash of color in the mix. To achieve this, you could put a colorful bouquet of flowers on your dining room table, or have a basket of colorful fruits in the kitchen. It’s a small change that can make your photos stand out—and make your home seem more impressive.

Take photos from doorways. If you’re not used to taking photos, you might be tempted to take photos while you’re in a room, but it’s much more effective to take photos from a doorway. This angle will give viewers the sense that they’re walking into the room, and will show as much of the room as possible in a single shot.

Experiment with different angles and positions. Do experiment with different angles, and with taking photos from different positions in the house—even if you don’t think they’ll turn out well. When you’re reviewing photos later, you might be surprised at which ones work best, and you’ll be glad you took a chance on the unconventional approach.

Always take extra photos. While you’re at it, always take more photos than you think you need. There’s virtually no downside to the extra photos, other than a few extra seconds of your time, and they’ll give you more choices when it comes time to select which photos are included on your listing.

Tweak your photos to perfection. If you’ve never edited a photo before, Photoshop might seem intimidating, but you can learn some of its most basic features in half an hour or less. After you’ve selected some of your best contenders, open them to editing, so you can adjust the frame, the lighting, and other features. Sometimes, a few tweaks are all it takes for a “good” photo to become a great one.

If you need to rent your house as quickly as possible, or if you just don’t want to deal with the effort of listing your home manually, make sure you work with Total Property Management, LLC.  Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you rent your home quickly!!

Our Blog

An ongoing series of informational entries

New To Property Management; Handle These 5 Challenges Like A Pro

February 25, 2019

Buying an investment property to rent out is a big deal. You’ve taken on debt with the intention of eventually turning a profit. In the meantime, you’ve got to spend time and money handling situations that can be frustrating.

Being a landlord is challenging enough, but when you’re a new landlord, that challenge is tenfold. You don’t yet have the wisdom that comes from experience. So, here’s how to handle the following challenges like a pro:

1. Emergency repairs

Unexpected repairs are especially inconvenient when the situation is an emergency. For instance, if there’s a hole in the roof or a plumbing leak, you can’t put off the repair. You’ve got to drop what you’re doing, check it out, and call a professional. You could call a professional immediately, but unless it’s a severe emergency, it’s best to assess the damage yourself. Tenants sometimes downplay situations when it’s the result of their negligence.

Emergency repairs are not just inconvenient; they’re expensive. It’s important to maintain a reserve of funds in a separate account to use in emergency situations. Don’t allow yourself to be caught off guard with unexpectedly high service charges.

Emergency repair calls also challenge your work schedule and personal life. It’s frustrating to get a call at 3 am from a frantic tenant. In a perfect world, emergency repairs would only be needed during the day. Unfortunately, they often occur when you’re trying to get a good night’s sleep.

Unless you enjoy fielding calls at all hours in the night, hiring a property management company is the solution. A property management company eliminates your need to participate in the process – they’ll field the calls, call in for repairs, and work with the repair person or company.

2. Property damage

As a landlord, you have the right to use a tenant’s deposit to pay for damages beyond normal wear and tear. You also have the right to sue a tenant who doesn’t pay for damages they’ve caused. However, there’s no guarantee you’ll see the money. Even if you win a judgment against them in court, they could choose not to pay up.

When a tenant doesn’t pay according to their judgment, it will be an additional expense to pursue payment. If that tenant doesn’t have any money, you’re out of luck. You might be able to get an order to garnish their wages, but unless the damage is enormous, it might not be worth pursuing.

The other side is that a tenant might sue you for not returning their full security deposit, even if you did so legally. Always handle your security deposits professionally, meticulously, and according to the law.

Preventing serious damage begins with choosing renters carefully. It’s impossible to know everything about a person at first glance, but a thorough screening process can help. Background and credit checks are a crucial part of the screening process. If you’re tempted to disregard credit, think twice. While some people with bad credit pay their rent on time, many don’t. By running credit checks, you can choose a qualified tenant according to your credit requirements.

Another consideration to make is whether your security deposit is adequate enough to cover significant damage. Instead of using a low security deposit to entice a renter, consider requiring the maximum amount allowed (within reason).

3. Tenant complaints

Some tenants love to complain. The more tenants you have, the more complaints you’ll need to field. Although most complaints will be valid concerns, you’ll get a mix of questionable complaints, too.

To avoid getting stressed out, create a plan and have it in place as soon as possible. List the most common complaints tenants have in general, and how you’ll handle each one. Know who you’ll call and what you’ll say to keep things safe and legal. When receiving a complaint, keep the Fair Housing laws in mind. If the complaint has anything to do with the habitability of the unit, it should be a priority.

Create a documented escalation process as well. For example, handle the situation with a phone call first. If that’s not enough, request a meeting with the tenant and have them fill out a formal complaint. Requiring this process will filter out the nitpickers and chronic complainers.

Above all, always handle complaints immediately. A tenant will lose trust in you if you wait, or don’t handle the situation professionally.

4. Continual presence of law enforcement

No landlord wants tenants who constantly call the police. When there’s a legitimate reason to call the cops, it’s perfectly acceptable. The problem arises when a tenant calls them excessively for seemingly no reason.

The constant presence of police makes neighbors feel uncomfortable. They don’t know what’s going on. They won’t know if you’ve got a criminal living in your unit or not.

You can’t tell your tenants not to call the police, but you can advise them to limit their calls to matters of urgency. For example, say you’re managing an apartment building and a tenant has a problem with another tenant, but nobody’s in danger and no laws are being broken. Make it clear they should talk to you first.

Ultimately, better tenant screening will prevent this situation from happening.

5. Payment problems

Everyone has been late with the rent at least once. Life happens, and being late a few times is understandable. However, if chasing down payments is a regular occurrence for you, it’s time to change the way you handle payments. Maybe you’ve tried all the standard tricks like threatening eviction and late fees, but have you considered taking a rewards-based approach?

If your current efforts aren’t working to generate on-time payments, consider lowering the rent (slightly). Tell your tenant if they pay on time for the whole year, you’ll lower next year’s rent by $50/month. It will cost you a total of $600, and it might train your tenant into paying on time. You don’t have to continue the deal beyond one year.

Another idea is to set tenants up with automatic rent deduction. If they resist, offer them a 5-10% discount for allowing you to automatically collect the rent.

For tenants concerned with their credit, start reporting monthly payment history to the three main agencies: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Reporting monthly rent payments gives tenants an incentive to pay on time and helps them establish credit when they do.

Tired of dealing with inconveniences? Total Property Management, LLC can help!

If being a landlord has become inconvenient or frustrating, contact us to find out how we can help. Hiring a reputable property management company will ensure your investment property remains a source of passive income.

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Airbnb vs. Long-Term Rental: Which is The Best Rental Strategy?

February 18, 2019

While we often use oversimplified terms to describe real estate investments, every situation is unique. When it comes to rental properties and identifying the best rental strategy, some investors find short-term investments to be most profitable, while others prefer long-term rentals. Understanding how each could fit into your overarching strategy will allow you to make smarter, more informed decisions.

Understanding Short-Term Rentals

A short-term rental is usually the label people apply to properties that allow people to rent for anything upwards of a single night to as long as a few months at a time.

A condo on the beach in a coastal town would be an example of a short-term rental. People have the choice of staying for long periods of time, but generally stay for a weekend.

A house rented out using a service like Airbnb would be another example. These properties can typically be rented directly from the homeowner and listed for as little as one night at a time.

Also referred to as transient rentals or STRs, short-term rentals come with their own unique set of benefits. These include:

High earning potential. Because prices can be adjusted based on seasonal demand and other external factors – such as a nearby sporting event or tourist season – you’re able to generate maximum income during times when there’s lots of demand.

There’s also considerable flexibility with short-term rentals. If it’s a beach house, for example, you have the ability to use it when it’s not booked. This allows you to enjoy the property in multiple ways.

Short-term rentals aren’t perfect, however. You may face these challenges:

Strict guidelines. Many jurisdictions charge steep taxes and fees to rent short-term. Trying to navigate these laws can be time-consuming and costly.

Frequent maintenance and cleaning. When you have high turnover, you have to constantly clean and maintain the property. These little costs can add up over time and eat away at your bottom line.

There’s certainly potential with short-term rentals, but it won’t work for every property in every market. So much of it depends on where you’re located and what your specific needs are as a property manager.

Exploring Long-Term Rentals

Long-term rentals are more traditional and come with a unique set of pros and cons. The advantages of these sorts of investments include:

Steady income. The biggest benefit of a long-term rental is the predictability in income. Whether it’s a six-, eight-, or twelve-month lease, you know exactly how much money you’ll be receiving every month.  This gives you a dependable source of income and allows you to think strategically about how you manage the property.

Lower turnover. When you have a tenant signed to a long-term lease agreement, you don’t have to spend any effort finding new clients, marketing your property, or dealing with the challenges associated with high turnover. Not only does this save you money, but it also makes your day-to-day life as a landlord exponentially easier.

Paid bills. With an Airbnb or vacation rental, you’re responsible for paying all of the utilities – including gas, cable, internet, water, etc. When you have a long-term rental, the tenant almost always pays for these bills (or at least for some of them). When you add these savings up throughout a year, it represents a pretty significant chunk of change.

Long-term investments aren’t always a walk in the park. If you’re in the game long enough, you’ll also experience some of the following disadvantages:

Minimal flexibility. When you have a tenant signed to a yearlong lease agreement, there isn’t much flexibility on your part. In other words, you aren’t going to be able to stay at the property And if you want the tenant to leave (for a reason that isn’t covered by law), you’ll be hard pressed to do so.

Inability to change rates. As previously mentioned, short-term rentals let you change the rate to meet demand. You can even do so on a nightly basis. With a long-term rental, the rate is locked in for the life of the lease agreement. This forces you to leave some money on the table.

Tenant troubles. With a short-term rental, you’ll run across renters that you don’t get along with. However, you don’t have to deal with them for very long. With a long-term rental, you may be forced to associate with a problematic tenant for months or years at a time.

There’s a reason thousands of real estate investors choose long-term strategies over short-term rentals. They offer predictability and lower risk. They also tie your hands behind your back in certain situations. It’s imperative that you recognize both sides of the equation.

Choosing the Strategy That’s Right for You

Every real estate investor and property management professional is ultimately seeking the same thing: the optimal strategy that protects their underlying investment and allows them to maximize profits over an extended period. For some investors, this means putting money into lots of Airbnb rentals and learning what it looks like to properly market these property listings for big returns. For others, it’ll involve purchasing real estate with the intentions of finding long-term renters who stay for 12 months or more.

There’s nothing wrong with pursuing either of these strategies. At the end of the day, it comes down to how profitable and stable each method is for you. And you also don’t have to get married to one strategy. If you find that long-term rentals aren’t working, you can try out short-term listings for a while (or vice versa). Be firm, yet flexible and you’ll stand a much greater chance of being successful.

Work With Total Property Management, LLC

At Total Property Management, LLC, we take pride in helping Greenville's leading real estate investors and landlords manage their properties in a cost-effective and transparent method that maximizes the bottom line and provides superior peace of mind.

For additional information on any of our services, please contact us today. We’ll be happy to answer any of your questions and provide you with a free analysis.

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Eight Tenant Damages That Don't Count As Normal Wear and Tear

February 11, 2019

You collect security deposits as a means to repair damage caused by tenants and their guests. South Carolina law allows you to use security deposits for repairs beyond normal wear and tear. You can’t use a tenant’s security deposit for cabinet refacing or upgrading appliances.

Normal wear and tear refers to the deterioration of a rental unit under normal use where a tenant takes reasonable care of the premises.  

Landlords may use a tenant’s security deposit to cover “damages and charges for which the tenant is legally liable under the lease or as a result of breaching the lease.” For example, if your lease prohibits your tenant from installing custom drapery rods, and they do anyway, they become financially responsible for filling the holes and repainting the damaged area.

Tenants are responsible for repairing any damage beyond normal wear and tear. The following damages are not considered wear and tear. If your tenant hasn’t made proper repairs by the time they move out, you have a legitimate reason to use their security deposit to pay for those repairs.

1. Big holes in the wall

Unlike small pin holes, large holes in the wall are not considered normal wear and tear. Tenants must properly repair large holes, or you can deduct the cost of repair from their deposit.

Large holes are commonly caused when tenants drill carelessly through drywall, hammer too hard, hang pictures with large masonry nails, and install hardware that pulls the plaster off when removed.

Excessively large holes are often caused by roughhousing, arguments that turn physical, and being careless with furniture. It doesn’t take much to put a fist, a foot, or a chair through drywall.

Your tenant might attempt to repair large holes, but if they do it at the last minute by stuffing a sock in the wall and covering it haphazardly with a DIY kit, you can probably still use their deposit to pay for a professional repair. If they stuff something in the wall, it’s likely a fire hazard, so be glad when a DIY job is obvious.

2. Large stains, burns, and rips throughout the carpet

Carpet gets naturally worn down quickly.  However, if your tenant spills a cup of grape juice on your carpet, they’re responsible for cleaning it up. If they can’t get the stain out by the time they move out, you can use a portion of their deposit to pay for a professional to do it.  

In some circumstances, depending on the extent of damage, you might be able to use the tenant’s deposit to replace the carpet if the damage would prevent you from renting the unit. For example, a small stain in a corner wouldn’t be a good reason to replace the carpet. However, a large stain in the middle of the living room might be.

3. Cigarette smoke damage to the drapes and walls

Cigarette smoke can ruin walls and drapes. You may never get the smell of stale smoke out of your drapes. If that happens, you can charge the tenant for new drapes (or curtains).

Tar and nicotine cause a yellow discoloration that concentrates mostly on the ceiling since smoke rises. There’s also science that suggests thirdhand smoke on walls can cause health problems. If a tenant smoked in your rental unit, you’ll have to thoroughly clean the walls and ceilings before you repaint.

If you paint after every turnover, that’s considered routine. You can’t charge your tenant for routine painting, but you can charge them for the extensive cleaning necessary to prepare for a fresh paint job. If you don’t routinely paint after each turnover, you can charge the tenant for painting as well.

4. Missing appliances

If you own the appliances in your rental unit, your tenant can’t remove them from the premises without your permission. If you discover a missing appliance after a tenant moves out, you have every right to use their security deposit to pay for a new one.

5. Severe water damage

Water damage is an unfortunate yet common result when a tenant fails to report a leaky toilet or roof. If your tenant doesn’t tell you about a leak, and the ongoing leak causes severe damage over time, you can use their security deposit to cover repairs.

6. Missing screens or doors

Window screens are thin and easily ripped. When popped out, the fragile aluminum frames are vulnerable to damage. Ripped screens are cheap and easy to replace, but tenants won’t always tell you when they break. They might just remove a broken screen, frame and all, and toss it in the trash. If you find missing screens when a tenant moves out, you can charge them for replacements.

If you make your own screens, you can still charge the tenant for your labor, as long as it’s comparable to what a contractor would charge.

The same goes for missing doors. Some tenants remove bathroom doors and closet doors to create a bigger space. If they’ve kept the doors, you can deduct the cost of having them re-installed. If they don’t have the doors, or if the doors are damaged, you can deduct the cost of new doors from their deposit.

7. Piled up trash that has to be removed

It wouldn’t be worth your time to charge a tenant for trash removal if all they leave behind are a few bags you can toss in a dumpster on your way home. However, if they leave you with enough trash to require a trip to the dump, you can charge for removal and dump fees.

8. Unapproved paint on the walls

If your tenant paints without permission, you can deduct the cost of repainting from their security deposit, unless repainting is your routine after every tenant moves out.

Always provide receipts and records

It’s not uncommon for a tenant to sue a landlord for misappropriating security deposit funds when the landlord is legally justified in keeping the deposit. Tenants sometimes don’t understand their responsibilities.

Whenever you need to withhold a portion of a tenant’s security deposit, provide them with an itemized list of deductions (unless they owe rent), copies of receipts, along with photos of the damage whenever possible. Make it clear to the tenant that the repairs were necessary, and the damage fell outside the scope of normal wear and tear. Do everything you can to prevent them from filing an unnecessary lawsuit.

When handling tenant security deposits, make sure to consult your attorney to make sure you’re following state law. If you don’t have an attorney, consider hiring a property management company like Total Property Management, LLC to handle maintenance and repairs for you.

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What Does A "GOOD" Tenant Look Like and How Can You Find One?

February 4, 2019

One of the most crucial factors for success as a landlord is finding good tenants to occupy your property. But what, exactly, counts as a “good” tenant?

Good tenants are those that make your life easier and/or maximize your profitability. They pay the rent on time, consistently. They’re unlikely to move out, leaving you with a vacancy that compromises your cash flow. And they don’t cause many problems for your property or your neighbors—they inform you when something’s wrong, keep the property in good repair, and don’t make too much noise.

But how can you tell which of your applicants would make for good tenants, and how can you find more of them in the first place?

Signs to Look For

While sorting through tenant applications and conducting background checks, these are some of the most surefire signs of a tenant who’s only going to benefit you:

1. A good credit score

A prospective tenant’s credit score can tell you much about their payment history and fiscal responsibility. Credit scores are calculated based on credit history, payment history, available credit, and credit mix, so they can tell you how good a tenant is about paying their bills on time, and how much credit they have available. A credit score in the “good” or “excellent” range is ideal, but a credit score can’t tell you everything. Some prospective tenants won’t have enough of a credit history to tell you much, and others will be in the process of turning their life around.

2. A consistent history of payment

You can make a better judgment on a person’s probability of consistent payment based on how they’ve paid for rent in the past. Recent rent statistics will tell you how serious a person is about paying rent on time in the present, whereas a credit score may be due to actions taken years ago, and may be more due to credit card spending or personal loans. You can call the tenant’s previous landlord to get a feel for their payment history in the past.

3. Steady employment

You should also be looking for proof of steady employment. The longer a person has been working for an employer, the better, and the higher their salary or hourly wage, the better. These are signs that their income is sufficient and unlikely to be uninterrupted—which means there will be fewer excuses for missing the rent payment. You can also call their current employer to see how reliable an employee they are; the more glowing the reference, the more confident you should feel.

4. No criminal history

If your tenant has no criminal history, it’s a sign they try to live a responsible, respectful life—at least to an extent. However, if a tenant has been convicted of crimes in the past, that isn’t necessarily a reason to stop considering them as a tenant. Many people with prior convictions have learned from their past mistakes and are looking to rebuild a life, so make sure you consider criminal history alongside other factors.

5. Good references

You may have contacted some references already when you verified a tenant’s employment or rental history, but make sure you follow up with their other personal references as well—especially if you’re on the fence. Learn more about what the tenant is like, and whether they’d be a good fit for your property.

6. Politeness

It’s also beneficial to find a tenant who’s polite. Politeness in your interactions will mean faster problem resolution, and a better overall landlord-tenant relationship. Pay attention to how the tenant words their emails to you, and how they behave when you talk to them face-to-face or over the phone. Are they easy to get along with? Are they respectful?

7. Honesty

Honesty is underrated as a tenant quality, and it’s not the kind of thing you can determine from an application. If a tenant lies about their employment history, salary, or other personal information, you should consider it a red flag. Dishonest tenants may be less likely to pay rent on time, may come up with false excuses for missing rent, and may cover up damage they’ve done to the property. Pay attention to what they tell you on their application and in interviews, and look for inconsistencies.

8. Cleanliness

Finally, consider the tenant’s cleanliness and/or orderliness—which can also be difficult to tell. If the prospective tenant is always well-dressed and well-groomed, it’s a good sign they like to keep things orderly in their life. It’s a good indication they take their tenant application seriously, and they’ll probably be better at keeping your property clean and damage-free.

Do keep in mind that perfect tenants don’t exist. Chances are, you won’t find any tenants that have high marks in all these categories, so you’ll have to use your best judgment in the screening and interview process and choose the best possible candidates you can—avoiding the possibility of discrimination at all costs.

You’ll also need to do what you can to keep your good tenants around for as long as possible; after all, it won’t matter if you find good tenants if you end up having too high a tenant turnover rate. Charging fair rent prices, staying amicable, and resolving issues quickly are your best bets here.

Getting Help

Everything comes down to the quality of your tenant screening process. This refers to how you collect tenant applications, how you perform background checks on your applicants, and how you ultimately decide who resides in your property. This can be an overwhelming and time-consuming process, especially if you’re new to being a landlord, but fortunately, there are some key ways to get help.

Contact Total Property Management today if you’re interested in outsourcing your tenant screening process. We’ll take care of all the heavy lifting for you, so you can gain the advantages of managing a property with good tenants, without worrying about the difficulties of tenant screening.

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An ongoing series of informational entries


January 28, 2019


Initial costs are the costs you incur when you go to the closing for the home you are purchasing. This includes the down payment and other fees.

Recurring costs are expenses you will have to pay monthly or yearly in owning your home. These include mortgage payments, condo fees (or other community living fees), maintenance and renovation costs, property taxes and homeowner’s insurance. Property taxes, the interest part of the mortgage payment and, in some cases, a portion of the common charges are tax deductible. The resulting tax savings is accounted for in each item’s totals. The mortgage payment amount increases each year for the term of the loan because the tax credit shrinks each year as the interest portion of the payments becomes smaller.


Initial costs include the rent security deposit.

Recurring costs include the monthly rent and the cost of renter’s insurance.

Opportunity costs are calculated each year for both your initial costs and your recurring costs.

Net proceeds include the return of the rental security deposit, which typically occurs at the end of a lease.


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8 Things You Should Never Let A Tenant Do In Your Rental Property

January 21, 2019

Renting out a house to a random tenant comes with potential risks and rewards. In a perfect world, the tenant respects your property, delivers a rent check on time, and everyone is happy. But we don’t live in a perfect world and these sorts of renters are few and far between. To prevent yourself from being taken advantage of, it’s important that you take a firm stance against unwanted behaviors and actions.

8 Things You Shouldn’t Let Tenants Do in Your Rental Property

Tenants should be given some freedoms and the respect of privacy. However, as the owner of the property, you also have a right to set ground rules in regards to what they can and can’t do. As you develop your lease agreements, interact with tenants, and verbally set expectations, make it a point to outlaw and disallow tenants from doing the following:

1. Rent Without a Security Deposit

In tough rental markets where it’s hard to get a renter, you may be tempted to try any number of strategies to get someone to sign a lease agreement. And though there’s nothing wrong with incentivizing tenants, you should never let someone rent one of your properties without a security deposit.

For starters, a security deposit serves the practical purpose of helping you offset any costs that may stem from damage that’s left behind at the end of a lease. But in all honesty, it’s much more than this. A security deposit ensures that your tenants have skin in the game, which gives them more incentive to protect your property and treat it as their own.

2. Pay Rent Late

I’m sorry, I just started a new job and my first paycheck won’t come until the end of the month…My mom got sick and I had to send her some money…My child needed some cash for school supplies…The bank is closed and I’ll have to wait until Monday to get you the money…If you’re a landlord long enough, you’ll hear all of these excuses and every possible variation of them.

When you run across a pleasant tenant, it’s easy to want to help them out. So the first time they come to you with a late rent excuse, you let it slide. The problem in doing this is that it’s rarely the only time. As soon as you extend some leniency, most renters will see weakness and realize that they can do it again and again.

3. Have Pets on the Property

You may love dogs, cats, and other animals, but you should never allow pets in a rental property. As cute and cuddly as they may be, they’re also pretty nasty. Not only do they create messes with fur, dander, urine, and excrement, but they’ve also been known to chew on baseboards, dig holes in the yard, and attract bugs and fleas.

It may chase away a couple of interested renters, but having a no-pets clause in the rental agreement will ultimately protect your investment for years to come. It’ll also pay dividends down the road when you don’t have to explain pet smells and other issues to future renters.

4. List the Property on Airbnb

Some renters have been known to list their rentals on sites like Airbnb and Homeaway as a way of making some extra cash while they’re out of town or staying at a friend’s place.

Though Airbnb is a great resource for homeowners, it’s not something that you should give your renters an opportunity to use. In addition to outlawing any form of subletting in your lease agreement, you should have a specific conversation with your tenants to let them know that they can’t put the property on a service like Airbnb without your permission.

5. Smoke or Do Drugs

Make it clear to your tenants that you don’t permit smoking on the premises. This is something you’re legally allowed to include in a lease agreement, as it can cause damage to your property.

You should also vehemently oppose any sort of drug use or activity on the property. Not only is it illegal, but it could come back to bite you. Even if you have no direct involvement, you could be required by law to report any criminal activity that you know of. This can put you in a really tight spot, and it’s best to avoid it altogether.

6. Remove Landscaping

It’s always nice when you have a tenant who cares enough about the property to take care of it. In a single-family residential home, your tenant may be tasked with handling basic landscaping – such as mowing the lawn, edging, and picking up leaves. What you don’t want your tenant doing is making major changes to the landscaping without your permission. Make it clear that they shouldn’t be removing large branches, taking down trees, or planting new perennials without asking.

7. Paint or Renovate Without Permission

Much like with landscaping, you shouldn’t allow tenants to make any significant changes to the inside of the property without permission. The key word here is permission. You may decide that it’s perfectly fine for a tenant to do something like paint a room, refinish cabinets, or install new hardware, but they need to run it by you.

8. Automatically Renew Lease

An automatically renewing lease isn’t ideal for anyone. It’s easy for the renewal date to slip up on you and, before you realize it, you may be locked into another six months or a year with a tenant you don’t really get along with. You could also forget to change the terms of the agreement, which could mean missing out on raising the rate. Regardless, it’s wise to conduct renewals manually.

Let Total Property Management, LLC help:

Rental properties are investments. And with any investment, you have to protect the underlying asset so that it has every opportunity to grow in value. At Total Property Management, it’s our primary objective to help our clients protect their investments by providing premier property management services at a cost-effective price point.

If you’d like to learn more about our comprehensive services – which include property marketing, tenant screening, rent collection, accounting, repair coordination, property management in Greenville and more – please reach out and contact us at your earliest convenience!

Our Blog

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Yard Drainage-How To Identify and Solve Irrigation Issues

Guest Blogger - Angie Bersin with Redfin

January 14, 2019

Whether it is a miniature mansion or a humble cottage in the woods, your home is probably your biggest investment. Chances are the roof over your head is the biggest single purchase you will ever make, and protecting it is in your best interest.

You already know how important it is to maintain the interior of your home, but what about the space outside those four walls? Poor yard drainage can really take a toll on your home and its foundation, doing far more damage than a loose railing or broken shutter. If you want to protect your home and your finances, do yourself a favor and make sure you have the proper drainage.

Water: What to Consider When Buying a Home

Water is essential to life, but it is also a hidden danger for your home. Water is the universal solvent and given enough time, this simple element can carve great canyons – or destroy the foundation of your home.

If you want to avoid hassles down the line, you need to pay careful attention to the water situation. Proper drainage is essential for maintaining a healthy foundation, and without a good foundation, your entire home could be at risk.

Wet soil near the foundation should always be cause for concern, especially if it has been some time since the last rainfall. Even if the rains were recent, the presence of pooled water or lingering wet spots could indicate poor drainage. This could eventually lead to erosion or cracks in the foundation and a big repair bill.

It is also important to ask about any current irrigation systems on the property, as these could either help or hinder proper drainage. This is particularly important when searching for homes in areas with heavy rainfall, such as Seattle or New York. The presence of underground drains is a big deal when looking at a home for sale, so be sure to ask the real estate agent. If the agent does not know, be sure to follow up until you get the information you need.

How to Fix Common Drainage Issues

If you are in the market for a new home, it is important to take proper drainage into consideration. It may not be as exciting as a brand new kitchen or Jacuzzi tub, but drainage will play a huge role in your future home care expenditures. Buying a home with poor drainage could mean spending a fortune on upgrades and improvements while purchasing a property with good drainage could simplify your life and reduce the cost of ownership.

Things are a bit more complicated if the home you already live in is plagued by poor drainage. If your current home does not drain well, you could be looking at foundation problems and water damage down the line.

The good news is that yard drainage problems, even severe ones, can usually be fixed. There are a number of ways to address poor yard drainage, and each method has its pros and cons. Here are some fixes to consider when addressing a yard drainage problem on your property.

Update Your Current Drainage System

Fixing your gutters and downspouts is the simplest, and least expensive, way to improve drainage in your yard. Start by checking the gutters for blockages and broken areas, then replace any substandard materials. Here are the steps you need to take to make sure your gutters and downspouts are doing their job

Look for wet spots and areas of standing water around the downspouts. They could be indications of poor drainage or blocked gutters.

Go outside the next time it rains. Is the water flowing freely through the gutters and out the downspouts? If the water is not flowing, you need to find the blockage.

Grab your ladder, or call a roofer to check your gutters and downspouts. Replace any broken sections to restore proper drainage.

Keep trees trimmed to avoid fallen leaves. They could clog your gutters, especially in the fall when leaves are likely to build up.

If your gutters and downspouts are already in good shape, think about extending the downspout so the water runs further away from your home. There is really no downside to this simple home improvement, and this is always a good place to start.

Redirect Drainage into a Creek Bed or Rain Garden

Creating a creek bed is another relatively simple way to improve your yard drainage and channel water away from your home and its foundation. This simple landscaping job will redirect rainfall to a dry spot, or better yet to a rain garden. You can use the extra moisture in your gardening endeavors, all while the rest of the yard stays dry.

Pay attention to how your yard drains following a big rainstorm or sudden downpour. Identify the problem area you want the creek bed to address.

Dig a trench from the area of poor drainage, ensuring that the water is channeled away from your home and yard.

Use stone to fill in the area where the creek bed empties out. Monitor the stone and replace anything that washes

Creek beds offer an aesthetically pleasing advantage with the proper landscape design. You’ll want to make sure that the design of the creek bed looks natural in your yard, rain or shine.

If you decide to go the route of the rain garden, plant a blend of absorbent trees, shrubs, and flowers for properly handling the runoff. Here are a few examples of water-friendly plants that would make a suitable addition to your rain garden:

Fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides)

Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)

Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

Blue star (Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’)

River birch (Betula nigra)

American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)

Bladdernut (Staphylea trifolia)

Rain garden in the middle of a lawn with ferns and water absorbent plants

Consider Adding Rain Barrels

You can also improve your gardening and enjoy cleaner laundry by installing some rain barrels. These uniquely designed barrels will catch the runoff from those sudden storms, and you can use the soft water for gardening, household cleaning and anything else you like. Installing a rain barrel is easy – just follow the steps outlined below.

Choose a suitably sized barrel.

Place the rain barrel below your downspout.

Use an extension to connect the downspout to the opening at the top of the rain barrel.

Open the valve at the bottom of the rain barrel to collect pure rainwater for your garden, laundry, and other household uses.

Install a Drainpipe or French Drain

Installing a French Drain is another low-tech but highly effective way to deal with poor yard drainage. You will need some basic digging and excavating tools, and some sweat equity, but this project is well within your reach.

A shovel stuck in the ground against a young man digging the earth to install a drain

The trench for the drainpipe should be downsloping, roughly 5-6 inches wide, and the inlet must remain higher than the discharge area. You will need to check the drainpipe periodically to make sure it is not clogged or damaged. Failing to take these precautions could cause water to back up toward your home, potentially putting the foundation at risk. Drainpipes may require a bigger time commitment than other solutions but it’s a worthwhile investment.

Here are the steps you will need to take when installing that drainpipe:

Dig a trench that slopes down from your home and yard.

Put the drainpipe in place and cover it with stone, then refill it with the soil you removed to dig the trench.

Watch how the water drains the next time it rains.

Check the drainpipe or French drain for blockages on a regular basis and make any necessary repairs.

It does not matter where you live, or how much or how little rainfall you get. Poor yard drainage can damage your foundation and put your property at risk. If you are looking for a home, taking drainage into consideration could save you a lot of time, hassle and heartache. If you already own a home, improving the drainage could prevent erosion, enhance the soil and even give your gardening hobby a helping hand.

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Six Tips For Landlords To Stay Legal Under The Fair Housing Act

January 7, 2019

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 was created to prevent landlords from discriminating against tenants based on gender, race, color, religion, disability, familial status, or national origin. If you’re a good landlord, you’re probably not intentionally violating the act.

But it’s so easy for common conversation to fall into the gray area that could be interpreted as discrimination, so your job as a landlord is to make absolutely certain you don’t engage in any communications that have the potential to be misunderstood.

Here are six tips to keep in mind in order to avoid accidentally violating the Fair Housing Act when interacting with potential tenants.

Triple-check your advertising

When you need to find tenants to fill vacancies, it’s easy to type up a quick ad that describes your property, add a few photos, post it to Craigslist, and call it a day. But the Fair Housing Act requires a little more diligence to ensure nobody detects a note of discrimination, even if it occurs only by accident.

Phrases to avoid

Some phrases you regard as helpful might be perceived as discriminatory by others. They include:

“Perfect for singles”: this may be considered discriminatory toward families.

“Safe” and “exclusive”: these terms seem harmless but they could indicate a preference for specific groups

It’s always best to err on the side of caution. Most of the people you meet probably won’t misinterpret your intentions, but takes just one person who does and you could find yourself in a lawsuit.

When you use the Internet to advertise your property, do your best to describe it in a way that doesn’t suggest who would be the best match for the property. Instead, focus on the features and physical aspects of the landscape, the amenities, and what sets it apart from the rest.

Be cautious with your directions in your ads

At some point you’ll need to give directions to potential tenants so they can view your vacancies. Your directions could be posted in the ad, or you might email directions to interested parties or share them over the phone.

However you communicate with your prospective tenants, you should always make sure to provide directions with as much neutrality as possible. In other words, avoid referencing anything related to a protected class such as race, gender, religion, age, etc.

Even though you might be directly across the street from a church, it’s best to avoid using it as a landmark in your directions. Someone might interpret your reference to the church as a sign that you favor people who belong to it. This may sound tedious, but it’s the only way you can protect yourself.

Don’t anticipate your potential tenants’ needs

There is a term in the industry known as “steering,” with which you should be familiar. This refers to when a landlord attempts to direct a tenant to specific areas of a building, and guides them away from others, or discourages them from renting altogether based on a discriminatory reason.

This is illegal because it prevents a person from being able to make informed decisions, and can prolong their search for housing. Steering can show up in different ways, even subconsciously.

For example, you might have a Portuguese couple renting on one side of the building, and another Portuguese couple asking about vacancies. If you only show the couple vacant units next to your current tenants because you think it would be perfect for both couples to live near each other, that’s considered discriminatory steering.

It’s best to allow your prospective tenants to make their own decisions by providing them with information on all available units, even the ones you don’t think they’d want.

Don’t assume conclusions about perceived disabilities

It’s human nature to make assumptions when you see people you think might have a disability. A person with a cane or walker can make you think he will need extra help, or certain accommodations.

Such assumptions may not be accurate, unfortunately, and could be seen as discriminatory under the Fair Housing Act. It’s always better to let your prospective tenants tell you what their preferences are rather than making assumptions.

For example, you might see a prospective tenant using a walker and assume he or she wouldn’t be interested in a second-floor apartment. But you don’t know the reason the person is using the walker; he or she may be fully capable of walking up a flight of stairs, as long as the tenant doesn’t have to leave the apartment on a daily basis.

The only assumption you should ever make about your potential tenants is that they’ll tell you what they’re looking for. If you say you only have upstairs apartments with no elevator, it’s their job to let you know if they’re still interested.

Be very clear with written policies

Your property rules should be part of the packet tenants receive when they sign the lease, and if you’ve got an apartment complex, you can also post your rules in common areas. Be very clear about how you word your policies.

For example, if you say, “children should not roughhouse in the clubhouse” that could be considered discriminatory against children. Use neutral words instead. Change “children” to “people,” and you’re good.

If you already have policies in place, take some time to review them and see if you can detect any phrases that might reference a protected class. If you do, try to find a way to rephrase your points.

Be amenable to service animals

A lawsuit was recently settled in New York by a disabled veteran with PTSD who was refused a rental unit because of his service dog. According to the veteran, he made it clear that he had a service animal and the owner told him: “We do not accept pets. Thank you for your interest.”

In this case it would appear the property owner wasn’t aware that a service animal is not considered a pet. But that didn’t halt the lawsuit; ignorance is no excuse.

Service animals are not considered pets and prospective tenants cannot be rejected or charged extra rent or deposits just because they have one. So make sure you’re adhering to the law with regard to service animals, and don’t reject tenants thinking their service animal is the same as a pet.

Know your local eviction laws inside and out

If you find yourself in a position where you’re compelled to evict a tenant, you know the situation has gone too far. But even if your tenant is destroying your property, damaging appliances, and not paying rent, you are not allowed just to cut off the power, change the locks, or throw their stuff out on the curb.

To remove a tenant from your property, you have to go through the legal eviction process. If you don’t, and you end up in court suing them for damages, they could counter-sue you for breaking the law and you’ll be lucky if you break even.

It’s always best to know your local eviction laws to the letter in order to avoid any issues. Better yet, hire an experienced property management company like Total Property Management, LLC and you won’t have to worry about a thing.

You bought your properties as an investment, and you deserve to have more time to yourself. Contact us today to find out how our property management services can help ease the stress of being a landlord and give you more time to enjoy life.

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How To Live With Pets and Keep Your House Looking and Smelling Clean

December 31, 2018

We all love our furry friends. Cats, dogs, rabbits, gerbils…you name it. But for all of the joy that they bring us, it’s hard to deny the mess that pets come with. And if you aren’t careful, these hairy roommates can turn your cozy home into a smelly zoo.

6 Ways to Keep Your House Looking and Smelling Clean

When you look at the latest data, it’s clear that pet ownership is on the rise. Presently, 68 percent of all U.S. households have a pet, which is the highest point in history. Roughly 48 percent of the population has a dog, while 38 percent welcome friendly felines into their homes. The other most popular species include freshwater fish, birds, small animals (rodents), reptiles, horses, and saltwater fish.

Whether you have one pet or multiple, there’s no denying the fact that animals come with messes. From shedding and saliva to urine and feces, dogs, cats, and other small animals aren’t known for being clean. But that doesn’t mean your house has to be a smelly mess.

Here are some practical things you can do to maintain a clean, pet-friendly abode.

1. Keep Your Pets Clean

This may sound obvious, but the first step to keeping your house clean is to keep your pets clean. Any dirt, hair, or mess that you remove from them is less dirt, hair, or mess that ends up on your floors, furniture, or walls.

Dogs tend to be the messiest animals, since they frequently move between the indoors and outdoors. For best results, set up a little grooming station near the door that they enter and exit through most. Keep pet wipes, brushes, dry shampoo, dental chews, and ear cleansing pads on hand. This will prevent you from having to bathe your dog every time they get messy.

2. Restrict Your Pets’ Movement

There’s no reason your pets should have free rein over your entire house. This simply increases the amount of square footage you have to keep clean.

Ideally, pets should be restricted to main living areas – such as the kitchen and living room. It’s also wise to train them to stay on hard surfaces, which lessens the chances of damaging carpet, rugs, and furniture.

If you can’t train your pets to stay in a certain area, pet gates work well to seal off ingress and egress points. Better yet, do what pet owners did in decades past: restrict pets to living outside.

3. Have the Right Supplies on Hand

If you own pets, you need to be prepared for the messes they’ll make. No matter how well-trained your dog or cat is, they’re going to have accidents from time to time. Having the right supplies on hand will allow you to deal with them effectively.

In addition to good cleaning products and sprays, a powerful pet vacuum cleaner is an absolute must-have for dog and cat owners.

“If you have carpets and rugs, you need a vacuum cleaner that not only has great suction, but also a rotating brush to help pull the fur out of the carpet,” Jeff Flowers writes for Allergy & Air. “Depending on the type of pet you have, the fur may be tough to get out of the carpet. This is why having a vacuum cleaner with a rotating brush is useful. However, that same rotating brush may damage hardwood floors, which is one reason why it’s so important to look at various models closely.”

4. React Quickly

One of the worst mistakes you can make is to let a pet mess sit for a while. Whether it’s vomit, feces, or urine, leaving messes unattended can result in permanent staining and foul odors. Make it a point to clean up quickly and thoroughly, using the appropriate products to remove the unwanted substance and disinfect the surrounding area.

5. Make Your House Smell Good

From a cleanliness perspective, the biggest problem with pets is that they can make your house smell. In addition to cleaning up the visual messes – like pet hair and feces – do your best to clean the less obvious areas – including fabrics.

“Just about any fabric in your home can develop odors, so send everything you can through the washing machine,” pet blogger Ben Team writes. “This includes all of your bed linens, the covers on the couch cushions and throw pillows, and anything else in your home that is machine-washable. Always be sure to dry everything completely before putting it back where it belongs.”

As for carpet, it’s easy for smells to become embedded in the fibers over time. In addition to regular vacuuming, it’s a good idea to occasionally have carpets steam cleaned by professionals. This will reach deep into the carpet and remove those funky pet smells that drive you crazy.

If you find that your house still has a pet smell – even after conducting a deep clean – you’ll want to bring some other, more favorable aromas into the house. You have several options, including diffusing essential oils, attaching air fresheners to your HVAC vents, regularly simmering spices on your stovetop, and using things like potpourris in living areas.

6. Just Relax

While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a clean house, you may need to relax a bit. With more than two out of three households owning a pet, most people are going to be pretty understanding of the occasional mess. Do your best to keep your house clean, but don’t let it overwhelm you. Enjoy being a pet owner and choose to look at the positives.

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Seven Ways To Show Your Appreciation To Tenants OVer The Holidays

December 17, 2018

Tenant retention continues to be one of the biggest challenges in rental real estate. Every time you lose a tenant, it’s a small but unmistakable punch in your financial gut until you can find someone to take that person’s (or family’s) place.

You can try various tactics to improve tenant retention, but one of the most effective is showing gratitude. This is true for any business that hopes to keep its customers; as they say, you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

So this holiday season, why not put some effort into showing gratitude to your tenants? It will make them feel like they belong to your community.

It could persuade them to stay longer and work more from their end to improve the tenant-landlord relationship. If you desire greater tenant retention, consider the following seven ways to show your appreciation.

1. Put Together a Gift

Gifts are one of the simplest expressions of gratitude, yet they can speak louder than words. Who doesn’t like an unexpected gift on the doorstep when you arrive home after a long day?

The gift doesn’t have to be large … and it probably shouldn’t be if you have a lot of units. You don’t want to go broke!

It could be a simple gift basket, a holiday ornament, a memento of the neighborhood, or another classy but inexpensive gift. Include a thank-you card so your central message of gratitude is clear as part of the gesture.

2. Inquire About Your Tenants’ Well-Being

This is the perfect time of year to visit each unit and check in with your tenants. Ask about their premises and make sure they have no outstanding complaints or maintenance issues that you failed to handle.

Without getting too personal, you may also inquire politely about a tenant’s health, holiday plans, family, or other details to show you’re interested in their general well-being. It might surprise renters to have someone show a genuine interest in their everyday lives, and it can leave a very good impression.

People will be more likely to stick around and let their friends know about having a landlord who seems genuinely to care.

3. Make Some Updates

In the interest of saving money, some landlords don’t upgrade their holdings to meet the latest trends. The bright-orange linoleum flooring in apartment C might still be in great shape, but it probably won’t make most of your likely tenants very happy.

Invest some extra savings into make a few updates to each unit over the holidays. You might put in new flooring, paint the walls, replace appliances, or fix a rusty door. It’s gratifying for tenants to receive an upgrade of their living quarters beyond routine maintenance.

4. Grant a One-Month Rent Deduction

For a single month, perhaps in December, why not take $25 to $50 off the rental cost as a holiday gift to your tenants? The amount won’t break you, and it will endear your tenants to you. A rent deduction is so rare that it will feel like a special gift.

Again, include a thank-you card with this gift so your tenants understand it’s a gift that expresses your gratitude. It’s vital for them to understand the value they signify to you, if you want to maintain a good relationship with them.

5. Be More Accessible

Starting with this holiday season, you can make yourself more available in response to tenants’ needs, and more promptly rather than procrastinating. Take a day or two to go through old maintenance requests and complaints and address as many as you can.

At the very least, you might acknowledge each one so the tenants know you’re aware of it and ready to address the issue, even if you can’t get to it right away. You might also increase the times and methods by which tenants can reach you.

If you’ve only been accessible via an office phone number, for example, you might give out your cell phone number as well … with discretion, of course. You could also present social media or email avenues if you haven’t used these forms of communication in the past.

In order to catch up on requests and be present for your tenants, you might extend your office hours for a few weeks. Let everyone know this is their opportunity to address end-of-year needs. Tenants will appreciate the gesture, even if they don’t need anything at this time.

6. Lighten Up on the Rules

This method of showing gratitude should be reserved strictly for your very best tenants. You can probably let a couple of rules slide under certain circumstances for your excellent tenants without having them walk all over you in response.

For example, if a tenant who is always on time with the rent misses a payment around Christmas, you might waive the late fee this one time. Their gratitude will likely be as evident as yours.

Of course, it’s essential that you don’t allow tenants to do anything illegal, break serious rules, or put someone else in danger. It’s all right to let the less-important rules slide around the holidays; just don’t get carried away.

7. Hire Total Property Management, LLC

If you really want to show you value your tenants, give them the gift of a more professionally managed property. Maybe you do a solid job keeping up with DIY landlord responsibilities, but it’s difficult to maintain consistently high quality when you’re not an expert in every field.

Ideally, tenants shouldn’t have to wait until you have time to meet their landscaping and maintenance requests. When you have a property manager, such requests will be handled promptly and professionally by experts in the industry.

There won’t be any forgetting or procrastinating, and tenants will be overjoyed by the higher quality of living this small change brings. If you’re ready to take the leap from DIY landlord to using property managers for your rentals and the appreciation of your tenants, give us a call.

We’ll happily service your rental in Greenville and any of the surrounding region, which will make you shine as a landlord, just in time for the holidays. 

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A Look At Seven Millenial Housing Trends

December 10, 2018

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

7 Trends You Need to be Aware Of

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

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

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

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

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

2. Millennials Are Willing to Seek Out Co-housing

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

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

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

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

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

3. Millennials Are Researchers

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

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

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

4. Millennials Will Move Frequently

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

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

5. Affordability is Very Important

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

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

6. Millennials Aren’t Necessarily Independent

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

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

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

7. Proximity to Work and Play is Key

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

Let Total Property Management, LLC Help You

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

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Six Ways To Make Your Rental Property More Hands Off

December 3, 2018

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

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

The Appeal of Being Hands Off

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

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

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

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

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

Six Specific Things You Can Do

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

1. Set Ground Rules

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

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

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

2. Don’t Put Off Problems

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

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

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

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

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

3. Go With Low-Maintenance Landscaping

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

4. Set Up Automated Processes

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

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

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

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

5. Keep These Notices on Hand

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

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

Opportunity for lease renewal

Non-renewal notice

Rent increase

Intent to enter

Intent to make repairs or renovations

Late payment (or non-payment) notice

Violation of terms

Eviction notice

Intent to dispose of personal property

Transfer of ownership

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

6. Hire a Property Management Company

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

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

Partner With Total Property Management, LLC

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

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

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An ongoing series of informational entries

What Does It Mean When A House Has Good Bones

November 26, 2018

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

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

Good Bones … What Does That Mean?

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

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

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

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

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

1. Solid Foundation and Roof

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

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

2. Workable Floor Plan

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

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

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

3. Use of Quality Building Materials

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

4. Good Plumbing and Electrical

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

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

5. No Need for Major Repairs

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

How to Find a House With Good Bones

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

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

1. Look in Older Neighborhoods

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

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

2. Look for Telltale Signs of Major Problems

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

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

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

3. Hire Some Professionals

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

Contact Total Property Management LLC today

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

Contact us today to find out more!

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Six Landlord Hacks To Make Your Life Easier

November 19, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

1. Spend Less Time With Paint

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

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

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

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

2. Use the Same Materials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Call a Prospective Tenant’s Previous Landlord

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

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

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

5. Take Advantage of the Right Apps

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

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

6. Do Small Things for Your Tenants

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

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

Send tenants a $5 Starbucks card on their birthday.

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

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

Work With Total Property Management, LLC

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

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

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Seven REasons You Shouldn't Buy A Rental Property

November 12, 2018

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

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

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

1. You’re Drowning in Debt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. The House Has a Pool

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

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

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

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

6. The House is on the Water

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

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

7. The Numbers Don’t Work

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

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

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

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

Contact Total Property Management today!

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

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

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Eight Popular Home Trends That Happen To Be Green

November 5, 2018

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

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

1. Small Homes

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

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

2. Better Lighting and Appliances

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

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

3. Smart Home Features

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

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

4. Bamboo Materials

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

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

5. Water Conservation Features

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

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

6. Solar Roofing

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

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

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

7. Window Treatments

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

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

8. Passive Home Construction

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

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

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

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

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

October 29, 2018

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

Renting often gets a bad rap.

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

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

1. You’re throwing money away

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

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

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

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

2. You have no negotiating power

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Five Things That Cause Landlords To Quit

October 22, 2018

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

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

These 5 Issues Frequently Run Landlords Off

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

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

1. Late Paying Tenants

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

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

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

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

2. Emergencies on Nights and Weekends

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

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

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

3. Poor Cash Flow

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

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

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

4. Property Damage

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

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

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

5. Small Issues and Problems

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

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

Let Total Property Management Hold Your Hand

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

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

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