Is the End of Rent Negotiation Near?

Posted by Teresa on August 31, 2010 under Housing Trends, Landlord Tips | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

tenantscreeningblog.comLandlords looking for good news, read on:

  • says that only 31% of you are reporting lowering rents this year, compared with 69% just a year ago.
  • The National Housing Council reports that vacancy rates are falling throughout the rental market, while demand is increasing.
  • According to a study by MPF Research, which analyzes apartment trends, June vacancy rates averaged 6.6% at the end of 2009 in the largest 64 markets in the U.S.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau’s vacancy figures, which include apartments and single family units were 10.6% in the second quarter of 2010—down from 10.7 in the fourth quarter 2009 and 11.1% in Q3 2009.

As units fill, rental property owners become more confident—and less likely to negotiate or reduce rents. Also becoming a thing of the past are the incentives many landlords initiated to fill vacancies—like large-screen TVs, free cable to go with them, and free rent offers.’s survey of rental property owners in June and July revealed that 56% of respondents said the number of vacancies dropped or remained steady from the previous year—good news in an economy which has not seen significant employment growth. Strength of local economies, not reflected in national reports, is given as one reason for increased demand for rental housing. Even small upticks mean people are more willing to sign leases, or parents are more willing to co-sign a child’s lease.

Another factor affecting rental demand is the continued weakness in the housing market. Homeownership fell in the second quarter to 66.9%–that’s the lowest it’s been since 1999. Financing difficulties and plummeting values continue to fuel the rental market.

Rental property owners, keep your eyes on both national and local vacancy rates and market rents, and react accordingly. Keeping up with data means you won’t make the mistake of undercharging on rent because you didn’t realize your market had improved!

Pre-screen all tenants as part of your standard application process. Background and credit checks will help ensure you rent to qualified tenants. For more landlord resources, including forms and information on tenant screening, turn to

Choosing a Property Management Company: Tips for Landlords

Posted by Teresa on August 27, 2010 under Landlord Tips, Tenant Screening & Background Checks | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

tenantscreeningblog.comLandlords are faced with making tough decisions every day. If you’re like the investment property owners we talk to, you regularly ask yourself questions like these:

  • Where should my next rental property purchase be?
  • What can I be doing to lower my vacancy rate?
  • When can I quit my day job?
  • Should I hire a property management company?

When it comes to question #4, we have some tips for you to consider when making that decision. Read on for ideas on how to choose a property management company.

First, take your time and do your research. Whether you own one or a dozen rental properties, the decision to outsource management is one of the most important ones you’ll make as a rental property owner. It can make or break your bank account—and even your business. Look at things like:

  • How do they handle tenant disputes?
  • What is their maintenance agreement like? Do they charge for labor and materials? Is there a surcharge on materials?
  • How do they conduct tenant screening?
  • What is their reputation in the community?
  • Do they offer online rent payment?
  • When do you receive rent payments?
  • What is their fee?

Understand that hiring a property management company means letting go of the day-to-day management of your rental business. The PM company will show the property, advertise vacancies, screen tenants, handle the paperwork and all the maintenance. If you are not ready to give up control, then hiring a management company won’t do you or the company any good.

Smart landlords know that you must manage the management company. It’s like having employees—and business owners must manage their employees. The property management company is representing you, so make sure you are 100% happy with how they are treating your property and your tenants.

Hiring the right property management company can lead to increase profitability through lower vacancy rates, better tenant satisfaction and lower turnover. You might even get some of your free time back! Do your homework and carefully consider all the implications before you sign any contracts.

Landlords, Is it Time to Change the Flooring in Your Rentals?

Posted by Teresa on August 24, 2010 under Landlord Tips | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

tenantscreeningblog.comWhen it comes to refunding security deposits, most landlords and tenants will squabble at some point over the flooring in the rental unit. Carpets get stained or wear out, hardwood is easily scratched, and vinyl flooring doesn’t always hold up to tenant wear-and-tear.

What is the best flooring choice for rental units? And how do you decide whether it’s time to switch to something new in your investment properties?

Ask a dozen landlords those two questions, and you’ll likely get a dozen answers. One thing most agree on is that carpet, while it can be the most economical choice, will often give you the most headaches.

Why? Carpet stains and odors are notoriously difficult to remove. A tenant’s pet, cigarette smoke and food odors are absorbed into carpets and padding and can permeate the air in the rental unit—as well as the sub-flooring below. However, in higher-end rentals, tenants may expect nice carpeting—just make sure your security deposit covers damage repair. Landlords know ruined carpeting can occur at every rent point.

  • Individual adhesive-backed vinyl tiles are the first choice of many landlords—for bathrooms, kitchens or even the entire unit. They are inexpensive, easy to install and easy to replace. Some landlords we’ve talked to prefer commercial-grade tiles over the less-costly home variety because they hold up better.
  • Tenants love hardwood floors. They look fantastic and add value to your rental unit, so if you have hardwood floors, make sure you advertise that fact! But what about caring for them? For homes that are lived in for years, it’s not as large an issue as it is for rental units that might have furniture moved in, out and around every 12 months. Some floor refinishers will recommend a harder topcoat if you inform them it’s a rental unit. Still, tenants can find ways to scratch and gouge the floors. Ask tenants to use floor protectors on furniture legs.

Furniture moving hint: When sliding furniture across a floor, put a thick sock on each leg to make it easier—and save the floor.

  • Consider painting the hardwood floor instead. Floor paint is tough and easy to apply yourself. It’s less expensive than refinishing the floors, and between tenants you can repaint it quickly. Make sure you allow it time to cure completely before allowing the new tenant to move furniture in.
  • Finally, landlords are starting to use concrete floors more often. They are inexpensive and easy to maintain. In addition, concrete is extremely durable and can be stained or colored to look very attractive. The key to a great looking concrete floor is proper polishing. Keep in mind that concrete floors tend to be hard and cold. Some landlords limit their use to kitchens and bathrooms.

Every landlord must balance initial cost, maintenance requirements and lifespan of flooring options before deciding which way to go. What issues have you encountered when replacing flooring in rental units?

Pre-screen all tenants as part of your standard application process. Background and credit checks will help ensure you rent to qualified tenants. For more landlord resources, including forms and information on tenant screening, turn to

Should Parents Buy Housing and Rent to College Students?

Posted by Teresa on August 20, 2010 under Housing Trends | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

tenantscreeningblog.comThe cost of tuition is bad enough at colleges and universities; but did you know room and board averages nearly $8,600 at private schools and over $7,000 at public schools? Parents are increasingly looking at purchasing investment property for their kids to live in, and then to rent when the child graduates.

There are several advantages to this option:

1. Purchasing offers tax benefits that are not available when paying college room and board. The interest paid on a mortgage is usually tax-deductible; college room and board is not.

2. Owning rental property offers parents additional tax benefits, with deductions for taxes, repairs, upkeep and depreciation. Travel to inspect, purchase and check on the property is also deductible in most cases.

3. Avoiding the housing shortages that many universities are experiencing—along with the steep fees that go with them.

4. Moving a student’s possessions back and forth can be either a time-consuming hassle or a storage nightmare. Keeping it in one place year-round is much more convenient. It can save parents time and money.

5. Whether parents purchase single-family homes, condos or duplexes, there are opportunities to collect rent from other students. A multi-bedroom house means roommates—and rents. A duplex can provide additional income while providing a student a place to live year round.

There are downsides to becoming an absentee landlord, too. All factors must be considered, but owning rental property while the kids are in college is a great choice for many families. Learning all about becoming a landlord is essential, and should include visits to a lawyer and tax advisor. Property buyers should check all the applicable leasing codes in the city and state where the property would be located, and always conduct proper tenant screening on all residents. (You may decide to exempt your own child.)

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only, and should not be relied upon as a substitute for obtaining tax advice applicable to your situation.

5 Reasons Landlords Should Verify Employment

Posted by Teresa on August 17, 2010 under Landlord Tips, Tenant Screening & Background Checks | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

  1. An incomplete tenant background check may not provide information on a lease applicant’s employment and income.
  2. Verifying the employer listed by a lease applicant will indicate his or her honesty—or lack of it. If you call the number provided and the telephone is not answered professionally (or at all) you might have reason to suspect the potential tenant is not being truthful. Certainly, exceptions apply—especially for small businesses.
  3. Long-term employment is an indicator of stability. However, recent economic difficulties have put many talented and dedicated employees out of work. Landlords may need to be flexible on their standards until the economy recovers. Requiring all tenants to have held their jobs for two years, for example, could mean a record number of vacant rental units for you.
  4. It can help you determine whether a potential tenant’s income source is lawful or illegal. Sure, it’s nice to have tenants who have plenty of cash to pay their rent. But if they’re not legally employed or cannot provide proof of income, like pay stubs, you could be asking for big trouble.
  5. Verifying employment can give you peace of mind. Renting to qualified tenants with jobs is the number one concern of most landlords. Confirming your lease applicants’ employment can keep your cash flow healthy and reduce turnover in your rental properties.

The best time to thoroughly check out a tenant’s employment situation is before the lease is signed. Following this tenant screening procedure on every applicant will ensure that you are not discriminating against any protected groups and that you will be leasing to only qualified tenants.

U.S. Government Shifting Policies to Assist Renters?

Posted by Teresa on August 12, 2010 under Housing Trends | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

tenantscreeningblog.comPoliticians and federal policymakers don’t always agree on how to best serve the U.S. economy and needs of taxpayers. One thing everyone can admit is that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae nearly collapsed in the recent housing crisis, with a huge loss of taxpayer money.

Some critics think an overhaul of the mortgage giants is in order; how long, they ask, can the government sustain guaranteeing 90% of mortgages? Others say the U.S. needs to shift its emphasis away from a goal of “homeownership for all.”

Homeownership in the U.S. fell to its lowest level in 50 years and projections say it could sink even lower. It’s now at 67% and is predicted to drop to 62% between 2012 and 2020, as millions of homeowners lose their homes to foreclosure. Massive government subsidies in the form tax breaks on mortgage interest and avoiding capital gains taxes incentives have not prevented the foreclosures millions of Americans are facing.

Now, government-sponsored home ownership incentives are in question. Some say the policies are outdated and have encouraged overinvestment in housing. The Treasury Department says it’s moving toward big changes—including promoting affordable housing for owners and renters alike. More rental housing assistance for lower-income and senior citizens could be on the way, too.

  • Government subsidies for home owners in 2009: $230 billion
  • Government subsidies for rental market in 2009: $60 billion

Experts say there are many advantages to renting over homeownership. It’s easier to move in search of work, for example. Right now, many families are “stuck” in homes they cannot sell and therefore cannot take advantage of employment opportunities in other cities or states. The lower cost-of-entry into rental housing allows people to save more money, too. Home ownership is expensive, and not always a wise investment.

Landlords could be seeing more qualified tenants, as rental housing assstance becomes more available to folks who need it.

Move Out Day Tips for Landlords

Posted by Teresa on August 9, 2010 under Landlord and Tenant FAQs, Rents and Deposits | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

tenantscreeningblogWhen a tenant informs you that they will not be renewing their lease, provide them with move-out instructions. Written notice of your expectations is always a good idea when it comes to dealing with tenants.

What Should Move Out Instructions Cover?

  1. The first item should be that a written move-out notice is required from the tenant. This helps clear up any possibility of confusion over dates and terms of the move-out.
  2. Ask the tenant to provide an address to which you can return the security deposit, after deducting legitimate expenses for repairs or cleaning.
  3. Inform the tenant you will be contacting them to conduct the move-out inspection. Let them know this is not optional: you will need the tenant to be present to initial and sign the inspection list.
  4. Let the tenants know that according to the terms of the lease, the unit must be returned to the same condition it was in when they moved it. If they’ve painted a different color on the walls, they need to repaint it. If they don’t clean the unit thoroughly, you can hire cleaners and deduct the fee from the tenant’s security deposit. Any damage repair costs will also be deducted from the deposit.
  5. If there is a fireplace in the unit, let tenants know they must have it professionally cleaned before moving.
  6. Tenants might not know that the last day of the lease is the day they must be out. Inform them that any extra days will be charged a prorated amount of their monthly rent. To calculate daily rent, divide the total rent by 30.
  7. Ask the tenant to set the thermostat at whatever temperature you prefer.
  8. Utilities need to be transferred to you or turned off, according to what works for you. If ther is another tenant lined up, then obviously you don’t need to turn them off. Let the tenant know to inform the utility companies, including gas, electric, cable, water and sewer, of the last day they will be in the space. Warn them not to have the utilities transferred or turned off until the end of the last day of their lease.
  9. Let the tenant know where to leave any extra trash and where to drop off the keys.

One thing landlords can count on is that eventually, all of their tenants will move out. Whether it’s a good thing or bad, it can be a smooth process when you’re organized and approach each move-out the same way.

Can the Worst Places to Live be Smart Investment Opportunities?

Posted by Teresa on August 5, 2010 under Housing Trends | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

tenantscreeningblog.comPersonal finance news site reports today on the ten worst places to live in the U.S., based on (among other factors) the unemployment rate, climate, health data, crime rate and number of foreclosures.

And recently, shared how 24/7 Wall St. combined unemployment rates with foreclosure figures for the first half of 2010 to come up with the ten worst real estate markets in America.

How do the two lists compare? As expected, California has a number of entries on the “worst real estate market” list, but only two for the worst place to live list—taking the number one and number six spots.

In this town, even the cemetery is bankrupt
At the top of the “you don’t want to live here” list is El Centro , CA, because it has the highest unemployment rate in the country—at 27.5%, it’s just ahead of Yuma, AZ. Of course, the city’s location just over the Mexican border means the unemployed are mostly field laborers, with fluctuating employment rates typical for that sector.

Los Angeles made the list because of its terrible pollution, but is cited for its awful traffic problems too. Perhaps the two are related?

On the top ten worst real estate markets, California can boast numbers three through seven, with Modesto, Merced, Riverside, Stockton and Vellejo, respectively. But that’s not all—Bakersfield takes the number nine spot, too. Yes, California is a mess, with state budget cuts helping to drive unemployment rates in these cities to between 15.7% and 17.3%.

What doesn’t happen in Vegas? Jobs!
Las Vegas also shows up on both lists: it’s number one for worst real estate market, and number four for worst city to live. With neighborhoods standing completely empty and a 12% foreclosure rate for 2009, home prices continue to fall. Paired with an unemployment rate of 14.5 %, there’s not much happiness going around in Vegas.

Over on the east coast, Florida is represented on both lists; with Miami number nine in worst places to live; Cape Coral-Fort Myers and Port St. Lucie showing up as numbers two and ten for worst housing markets. Miami is right behind Detroit on Children’s Health magazine as worst place to raise a family, due to crime, education, economics, cultural attractions and health issues. On top of that, there have been nearly 40,000 foreclosures in Miami. Just up the road, Port St. Lucie’s high unemployment rate at 13.4% and foreclosures at 3.05% make for one tough real estate market.

Lists like these can work to a real estate investor’s advantage. Some experienced landlords (with nerves of steel) have experienced success by purchasing investment property in down markets. Reports of $10,000 homes in Detroit, MI (number three on the list of worst places to live) are common. And as the auto industry begins its rebound, the up-and-down cycle could be turning up again. Smart investors tread carefully into depressed markets, with eyes wide open, looking for deals.

Waiting for the Right Tenant

Posted by Teresa on August 4, 2010 under Landlord and Tenant FAQs, Landlord Tips | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

tenatscreeningblog.comWhen rental units sit empty and you’re starting to feel desperate, it can be tempting to lower your standards and sign a lease with the first tenant who shows you the money. Experienced landlords might remember doing just that—and living to regret it.

Rather than leasing to a tenant who doesn’t meet your qualifications, try to figure out why your units aren’t renting. Fix those issues and you might find the right tenant will come along sooner than you think!

10 Possible Reasons Your Rental Units are Vacant
1. The rent is too high. Check the market. Do your homework. In most markets, tenants have lots of choices. Reducing your rent is better than collecting zero rent.

2. The condition of the rental is not acceptable to good tenants. Does it look pristine or shabby? Are the railings solid or wobbly? Does the property need a coat of paint? New lighting fixtures? Ask yourself if you’d pay your rent to live there.

3. You are letting good tenants walk away. If you have a qualified applicant, don’t let them get away! Close the sale.

4. You’re not marketing the property enough. Expand your reach. Create appealing ads with great descriptions and get them out there. Put signs on the property (make sure they’re in good shape). Put arrow signs on the corners if it’s allowed.

5. The right tenants aren’t seeing your ads. Who is your ideal tenant? Where do they hang out? Whether it’s the laundromat down the street, a nearby coffee shop or Craigslist, put your ads where your best tenants will actually see them.

6. You’re not making it easy for potential tenants to reach you. Do you have a website, email and cell phone? Does your phone plan have texting? A lot of young people use texting over talking, and Gen Xers and Baby Boomers are more likely to email.

7. Your building or property manager has a bad reputation. If your current tenants are not happy with either, they are probably telling others. Ask them.

8. Your competition is giving tenants a better deal. Are there “free rent” signs on nearby properties? Find out what your competition is doing and match or beat them.

9. Your property management company (is it you?) is not doing its job. Take a hard look at how successful the rental management has been. Too many vacancies are not acceptable. And is you decide to replace them, make sure you put up “under new management” signs on your property!

10. The property looks unsafe. Visit your properties at night. How is the lighting? Are there people hanging around? Do shrubs and trees cover the windows? Fix these problems for your current tenants and potential tenants will feel safer, too.

If none of these factors apply, then you need to do some investigative work. Potential tenants won’t tell you why they decided not to sign your lease—they just go away. Follow up with the next interested, qualified tenant who disappears. Find out why they don’t want to live in your rental property. Poll your current tenants to find out what they like and dislike about living there. You need to know what’s wrong before you can fix it!