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Rochester NY – Top 10 Cities to Become a Landlord

August 1, 2011 by in Landlord Tips, Rental Market Info, Rochester Metro Area
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Rochester NY appears to be riding on a wave of positive press this year.  The July 28th article claiming Rochester as #9 of the ‘Top 10 Cities in America to Become a Landlord‘ is proof that this city is having quite a run.  Most recently, Rochester has showed up as the ‘#1 best city in America for easy commuting‘ and the ‘#4 Most affordable city in America‘.

Rochester NY Skyline from Ford St Bridge

Rochester NY Skyline from Ford St Bridge

According to CNN Money, the study’s publisher, a combination of low home prices, interest rates near zero and climbing rents makes investment opportunities in Rochester quite unique.  Rochester was spared from the huge collapse in housing prices, and this stability means home values are expected to increase over the next three years. Another contributing factor is that unemployment in Rochester hovers around 7 percent, a rate that is significantly lower than the national average.

Here’s the core stats that they looked at in the study:

Average home price (2011): $150,500
Projected home price (2014): $155,500
Gross rent (2011): $825
Projected gross rent (2014): $947

Top Tips for New Landlords: How to Build a Strong Lease and Relationship with Your Tenant

July 22, 2011 by in Landlord Tips
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Lease Agreement from EZLandlordForms.com

Lease Agreement from EZLandlordForms.com

Building a strong relationship with a new tenant and protecting your real estate investment is of paramount importance when crafting a lease agreement.  There are a multitude of considerations at this juncture that are essential to understand.  Brian Davis, Vice President of EzlandlordForms.com, is a seasoned landlord and top expert on landlord-tenant relationships.  Here he offers his top tips for new landlords as a helpful tool for navigating lease creation and the ongoing considerations of managing a rental property.

1. Understand the Fair Housing Act and how it applies to your rental.  When advertising for a new tenant, it is critical that landlords and property managers understand and comply with the Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from using any of the following criteria when evaluating potential tenants: race, color, national heritage, religion, gender, disability, and familial status. While that may sound simple on the surface, consider that stating in a rental listing “perfect for a single professional” is a violation of the Act (bias against familial status). Advertising only in your church’s newsletter discriminates by religion. What landlords can and should use to evaluate potential tenants is financial data, credit histories, and other background data.

2. Know your tenant by thoroughly screening each prospective renter to avoid problems down the road.  This can be accomplished by a few simple steps.  First, conduct a professional credit check to learn an applicant’s credit history and if they have been fiscally responsible in the past.  Bad credit can serve as a red flag and you may wish to avoid such tenants.

Next, ask for references from past landlords.  However, be on notice that while references from prior landlords are worth a quick phone call, they aren’t particularly telling, because tenants can give fake names and numbers, and even if they don’t, the old landlord may well be painting a rosy picture of the tenant in order to get rid of them.

What a landlord should verify are the rental applicants’ credit, employment/income (and historical stability), criminal background, and eviction history. When landlords run these checks, not only can they determine the best rental applicant, but the landlord can defend against any discrimination lawsuits by producing hard data used to choose one rental applicant over another.

3. Build an airtight lease agreement by knowing the laws that apply in your state through a state-specific lease.  Each state has slightly different laws that impact a landlord-tenant relationship.  Accordingly, use a state-specific lease instead of a general lease to best protect your real estate investment.  For example, California requires all lease agreements to include clauses mandated by Megan’s Law, and every state has different limits on security deposits, late fees, etc.

While not an exhaustive list, other elements a lease agreement should clearly define include: Who is responsible for paying the utilities, which appliances are included and who is responsible for maintaining them, whether the lease auto-renews and for what term, details surrounding fees and deposits, and whether is there an option to purchase – and if so what are the terms?

4. Understand the eviction process. Although many of us don’t wish to think about worse case scenarios, it is important to become familiar with the eviction process and be ready to start the process immediately when a tenant violates the lease.  While the specific documents required are different in each state, all states involve the same general eviction process. The landlord or property manager must serve the defaulting tenant with a particular notice, wait a specified period of time, file in court, attend a court hearing, schedule a date for the actual eviction, and so on, and landlords are well advised to understand this process before actually having to go through it, because it is extremely expensive and takes far longer than most landlords anticipate.

5. Devise a Moving In and Moving Out procedure and be sure it is clearly defined.  One helpful tool is a comprehensive walk-through checklist.  This document will be used for the landlord/manager to walk through the rental unit with the tenant and document the condition of the unit upon move-in and move-out.

6. Offer performance incentives: While most lease agreements include a late fee, landlords can further incentivize timely rent by offering a reward for early rent payment, renewing for a longer term period, and/or any other behavior you want to encourage. Rewards can range from the simple, such as rent discounts, to the complex, such as point systems where tenants earn points and exchange them for rebates, gift cards, updates to the rental unit, etc.

7. Establish a relationship with at least two good contractors. Landlords and property managers need at the very least a licensed contractor who can handle large jobs, and an inexpensive handyman who can affordably fix minor issues. Don’t wait until your tenants’ heating system stops working in January, or the roof collapses, as the time lost in trying to find a contractor by that time will cost real money. Instead form these relationships before you actually need them, and then you will simply be able to make a phone call and have the problem resolved immediately.

8. Stay capitalized. One of the most serious problems small landlords face is lack of cash, as being a landlord involves unexpected expenses. These range from tenants suddenly ceasing to pay their rent, to unexpected repairs, to lawsuits, but the only predictable aspect to these unexpected expenses is that they will happen, and with some frequency. Set aside a hefty amount of cash specifically for rental expenses, and resist the temptation to use it for anything else.

About ezLandlordForms.com:  ezLandlordForms.com is the premiere online destination for landlord information and legal forms.  Since 2006, the site has served landlords across the United States with state-specific lease agreements, eviction notices and other essential forms to help landlords protect real estate investments and build strong relationships with tenants.  If you wish to learn more about landlord-tenant tips, or how to build a strong lease agreement, please visit www.ezLandlordForms.com.

October 14th FFREIA Meeting – How to Profit In Tax Forclosure Auctions

October 13, 2010 by in Events, Free Resources, Landlord Tips
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Rochester has some great organizations for landlords, real estate investors and rental property managers to meet and share knowledge.  The Freedom First Real Estate Investors Association, or FFREIA, is focused on sharing best practices among Rochester’s real estate investor community.

Come to the FFREIA meeting on October 14, 2010 and learn how FFREIA members Matt Scherb and Steven King tap into the tax foreclosure market, and how they can help you build a real estate portfolio at a fraction of the usual investment cost. One of the biggest tax sales auctions is coming up soon at the end of October, so attending this meeting could be perfect timing for you to learn and profit from this profit-making investment area.

How To Find Great Properties And Make Big Profits In Tax Auctions

Where:  Monroe Voiture 111 at 933 University Avenue

Date:  Thursday October 14th, 2010

Time:  Presentation starts at 7:00pm

But no less importantly Matt has developed a search criteria that minimizes the risk and maximizes the return as he invests. He’s shared this strategy with other real estate investors who have successfully bid on properties for their own portfolios. Now they too enjoy significant passive income from their investments.

Matt Scherb  is a Canadian national who focuses one-hundred percent of his real estate activity in the United States. He has attended numerous Western New York auctions, primarily in Rochester & Buffalo, and secured properties for, literally, pennies on the dollar. During the last few years Matt’s auction purchases have never exceeded $7,000, and he has purchased single family homes for as little as $3000 and duplexes for $4,800.

Come to the FFREIA meeting on Oct 14th and find out how you can do it too!

…Read more on the FFREIA website.

10 Tips for Writing Great Apartment Listing Descriptions

September 19, 2010 by in Apartment Marketing, Landlord Tips
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Ok, you managed to take a bunch of great apartment photos, and get them uploaded to your Newdigs listing. Now you need to write a compelling description of your rental unit. The more life you can breathe into your online listing, the easier it is for a prospective renter to see themselves living in your unit. As with most other purchases in life, an apartment is generally sold on emotion… so get them fried up about living at YOUR apartment!

Here are Newdigs’ Top 10 Tips for Great Apartment Listing Copy:

1. Include all the information you can about the property itself.
the street it’s on, the size of the unit, access to parking and laundry, how many units in the property, special features like water views or a gas fireplace. Build up a clear picture of what you’re marketing.

2. Describe the neighborhood in detail.
Renters can find demographics and other stats, but what’s within walking distance? Is this a hip neighborhood with lots to do at night, or is it a ‘bedroom community’ where there is nothing but residential housing in every direction?   Why would someone want to live in your place?

3. Avoid going crazy with the superlatives.
Describing an apartment as “charming” or “amazing” might sound nice, but ultimately it doesn’t give apartment hunters any real information.

4. Help apartment hunters see themselves in your property.
Instead of saying that the apartment has a balcony and a fenced yard, you might say, “Imagine yourself relaxing with your morning coffee on the back balcony while you effortlessly keep watch of your dog secured in your fenced back yard.”

5. DON’T violate Fair Housing Laws. It should go without saying that apartment ads should never be excluding of ‘protected classes’ by suggesting that the owner will only rent to Catholics or non-gay tenants. But it can be easier than you think to be in violation. Suggesting that the unit is perfect for handicap tenants or seniors because of its ramp access and low counters can be considered steering. You can however, highlight that the unit does have ramps and low counters. See HUD’s website for more information.

6. Let them know you’re a great landlord.
Because the rental market is still terribly inefficient, renters often have no way of knowing if they are dealing with a reputable landlord. Put prospective renters at ease by offering past tenant referrals, or mentioning any accolades you may have received.

7. Give buyers a sense of the property’s history.
Mentioning recent renovations, or the fact that it has had the same owner for 30 years, will show apartment hunters that you know all there is to know about this apartment.

8. Correct grammar and spelling count.
If you don’t have someone who can proofread your work, try reading it aloud to spot any errors.

9. Address any cost of living in your apartment beyond rent. In Rochester, NY and much of the North East, utility costs in older apartment units can often exceed $300-$500/month. You’ll have a very angry renter if they budgeted for $600 rent and $100 in utilities.

10. Be Original. Statements like, “can’t miss” or “must see” get seriously overused in property listings. Take the time to think of a new way to describe what the property offers.

There you have it. Now you’ve got the framework to go out and create a rockin’ listing. With these tips you should have your vacancy filled in days, not weeks.


How to Use Photos to Rent Your Apartment Quickly

September 13, 2010 by in Apartment Marketing, Landlord Tips
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Industrie Lofts

Industrie Lofts at High Falls Rochester

You have heard it a million times for a reason, photos really are worth a thousand words. When it comes to advertising property, a photo is probably worth about five thousand. In this era of digital cameras, video capable cell phones and $100 video recorders there is no excuse for a property owner to create a listing with no photos.  Poor listings with no photos are the number one reason that apartment vacancies extend beyond one month for the less savvy landlord.

For those of you familiar with Craigslist, one of the many limitations of the site is that it only allows four images on a listing. Newdigs’ users can upload an unlimited number of photos because we realize that renters demand as much information as can be provided. The more a renter can discover about your property online, the more qualified that lead is for you as a landlord. The last thing you want is for your email and cell phone to blow up with useless leads inquiring about every aspect of your listing.

So what pictures should you include? We recommend a minimum of:

  1. Front of property showing the property’s ‘curb appeal’
  2. Back of property highlighting the yard or possible off-street parking
  3. Main bedroom
  4. Secondary bedrooms
  5. Family room
  6. Dining room or other living area
  7. Bathroom
  8. Kitchen
  9. Special features – Fireplace, water-view, balcony or the like

Keep in Mind:

  1. Clear away clutter from view – close the toilet seat, clean up messy areas
  2. The subject of the photo (house) should take up at least 80% of the screen
  3. Don’t include pets or people in photos
  4. Use an SLR camera with a wide angle lens if possible – a photo of the corner of your bathroom doesn’t help anyone.
  5. Try not to catch yourself in the mirror
  6. Pay attention to lighting – take interior photos mid-day and exteriors are best nearer to sunset or sunrise, and avoid those really cloudy days
  7. You can HIRE NEWDIGS to take professional photos for you. We’ll even put up a lawn sign, create the listing, and post the listing for you.  Call us at 585-678-6900.

Virtual Tours, Slide-shows and Video Tours:
You have likely heard it said that you should include a virtual tour of your listing. In our humble opinion, they are pretty cumbersome and rarely give a user a much better impression of the property than a dozen good photos. If you feel that it genuinely adds value to the advertisement and gives a perspective on the property that the photos can’t, go for it. Many ‘virtual tours’ are nothing more than photos edited together and played in a movie mode. These slide shows are ok, but don’t hold a candle to a professional video tour. We are most impressed with these professional video tours. Last week we had Patrick Bayer from HouseFinderTV.com stop by our office to show us their work. We were so impressed that we will soon be offering their services on Newdigs!

In Closing:
Never be afraid to use more photos than you think you need. An interested renter will want to know and see everything they can about their potential new digs before scheduling a walk-through or signing the lease. As a landlord you only want to be dealing with highly qualified renters so you aren’t wasting time with window shoppers.