When the housing market turns around, investors turn to property as an investment strategy. Investing in real estate has some advantages over other types of investment. You have the opportunity to enjoy a positive cash flow while creating equity in your property and sheltering your gains from state and federal income tax.
But before you buy investment property in Seattle, it pays to do your homework so you can avoid common real estate investment mistakes.
Consider the Metrics
When you look at a property for investment, think about its potential to generate wealth. Consider vacancy rates, where local residents are employed, historical growth trends, population growth and demographics. Look for red flags, like a major employer cutting back on jobs in the neighborhood. Predict who is likely to be looking for a home in the community – young professionals, families, or retirees – and purchase the type of home they may be interested in renting.
Conduct a Rent Survey
Do the math and determine how much rent you need to collect so your investment property works for you. Conduct a careful rent survey to discover if the property has realistic potential. Look at comparable properties in the neighborhood and learn how much they are currently charging for rent. Then see if there is enough demand for rental units like the property you are considering by surveying current occupancy rates.
Have the Property Inspected
Look over the property and take note of any problems you notice. Does the basement flood after a rain, or does it have a musty odor? Is the roof in good condition, and are the appliances in working order? You will also need to assess whether the electrical system meets local building codes and if the plumbing is up to par. Unless you are a professional, it pays to enlist the services of a qualified home inspector who can evaluate the home for structural and other problems. Hiring a pro can save you a lot of time, headaches and money down the road.
Assemble a Team
Successful real estate investors have an experienced team of professionals on their side to support their business. Find a good real estate agentwho knows the local market, an appraiser who can provide an honest evaluation of properties you are interested in, an attorney who specializes in real estate and a trusted lender who can provide financing for both you and your prospective buyers. Since buying a rental property means you will need to do routine maintenance, repairs and even remodeling, add an electrician, plumber, painter, HVAC contractor and others to your team. As an alternative, you can look to hire a property management company to do this for you.
Judge Cash Flow Properly
Investors need to take all the necessary maintenance, repairs and renovation costs into consideration when buying an investment property. You may want to allocate more than the estimates in case costs run over. If you are like many other investors in rental property, you may want to hire a professional property manager to take care of the property. Make sure to figure in property management fees when judging your cash flow so you will cover expenses. Avoid surprises by interviewing property managers ahead of time to learn about their services and fees.
Have an Exit Strategy
Of course, you need to buy the right property at the right price for the neighborhood, but buying is only one part of investing. The other part is planning an exit strategy for when and how you will sell so you can purchase your next property. You may want to purchase a property in need of repair, restore it to all its glory, and then sell at a higher price within the year. Or, you might hold on to the property, rent it out and then sell at a later date to offset the cost of renovation. Take financing into consideration when you think about the timing of your exit strategy. If you have a balloon payment or an adjustable rate mortgage set to go up, it can make sense to sell beforehand.
Establish Your Options
Say you do have an exit strategy, but it doesn’t work out. The bottom might fall out of the real estate market just at the time you were planning to sell, and the local rental market might be flooded at the same time. You will be glad you researched your options ahead of buying a rental property. If the house isn’t selling and you can’t get the cash flow you expected in rent, you might offer a buyer a lease-purchase deal. Or, you can go to the wholesale option and sell the property to another investor, albeit at a price that is below market. You may make a smaller profit, but selling at a critical time will allow you to cut your losses in monthly carrying costs.
By using these tips as a guideline you can go a long way in preventing unnecessary costs for rental property investors in Seattle. If you would like help buying an investment property in Seattle contact us today!
The month of May is synonymous with the beginning of spring. It's the ideal time for both landlords and tenants to inspectthe general condition of the rental property. Many landlords would rather call for professional help to ensure
that their property is thoroughly cleaned. However, this is not a viable option for everyone, especially if you're on a budget. Likewise, if you are the type of property owner who would rather clean your rental property on your own there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, by doing so, you'll be able to save money and set your schedule depending on when it's most convenient for you. A clean and well maintained property is essential if you're looking to attract high quality tenants. That being said, here are some of the best spring cleaning tips for your rental property in Seattle.
6 Tips for Successful Spring Cleaning
Tip #1: General Cleanup
A lot of property owners in Seattle dread the winter months. No doubt about that, as it's the time of year where general wear and tear on the landscaping happens. There is also debris accumulation that usually takes place in the gutter. In situations like this, hiring an expert is advised because they have the knowledge on how best to clean the property. They can also pinpoint the problems that happened during winter. However, if you'd rather do it yourself, we have some guidance for you.
You can start by clearing your property of the clutterthat's piled-up over the past months. In fact, this is probably the most important thing that you can do! There's a reason why it's called spring cleaning.
One of the best ways to do that is by making three piles: trash, donate, and keep. As you come across items, put them in their respective piles. Then, put away the items in the keep pile and throw away the ones in the trash pile. As for the donate pile, it would come in handy if you have already prepared a box for it. As you separate these items, make sure the piles do not get too big as it would be harder for you to keep up if it does.
Tip #2: Garbage Disposal Cleaning
In rental properties, disposals usually need extra attention, especially if they already have an awful smell. This can easily be remedied by cutting up a lemon and grinding it up in your disposal. This would help in eliminating odors. You can also try adding some salt and ice cubesin order to clean up the leftover residue.
Tip #3: Have You Cleared Out the Gutters?
Clogged gutters are usually the cause of leakage and poor drainage. This could contribute to a number of problems, such as foundation issues and even basement flooding. You can easily save yourself from experiencing any of this by keeping the gutters clear of gunk. This would allow the rainwater to flow freely and be diverted away from the foundation. As you clean, try to inspect the gutters to see if there are holes, cracks, and other damages. If you find any, these should be repaired as soon as possible.
Tip #4: Make Sure That the Air Is Clean
If your rental property is located in Seattle, chances are, it has gotten a little musty because of winter. This also means now is the ideal time to turn on your dehumidifier or air filter. Don't forget to open the windows as you 'clean' the air. This simple property maintenance will be greatly appreciated by your tenants.
Tip #5: The Furnace Air Filters Should Also be Cleaned and Replaced
Aside from cleaning the air you have to pay attention to the air filters. Make sure that there isn't any dust accumulation, because if there is; then it might be time to replace your air filter. Dirty, clogged air filters not only degrade the air quality in your property, they also raise the cost of your energy bill. By periodically replacing your air filters you'll ensure that your HVAC system is performing at maximum efficiency, allowing you to save on costly repairs in the future.
Tip #6: Spruce Up the Landscape
As you think about spring, the first thing that usually comes to mind are the 'gardens’.If you're looking to
attract new tenants to your rental property, the front yard is not a place to overlook. This will be prospective tenants' first impression of your property, so you want to make sure it's looking its best. Planting colorful flowers would make it look more inviting, but take extra care to ensure that you clear any bushes or trees as well.
As the season of spring enters, take the opportunity to do a thorough spring cleaning.By maintaining your property, not only will it help you attract high quality tenants, it will also help keep future repair costs in check.By following these tips mentioned above you should be well on your way to a well-maintained property.
If you plan on owning many rental properties in Seattle, you may be looking for an affordable property management company. You would want a manager who has the right skills, experience, and competence to handle every aspect of rental property management. Moreover, he or she must act in the best interest of the owner. Even though there are many management firms in Seattle, you need to be diligent when shopping for one. After all, not everyone who claims to be a responsible rental property manager is truthful. The following are some helpful tips that you can use to identify quality and affordable property management in Seattle.
6 Areas to Consider When Looking for Property Management
Get referrals from various sources
An easy way of identifying a property management company is to ask other people for referrals. These could be existing landlords, realtors, members of Property Owners Associations, family members, friends and work colleagues. Just approach them and ask for referrals or contact information ofproperty managers that they have worked with. One advantage of asking people you know for leads is that they will rarely mislead you. If anything, their suggestions will be subjective since it will be based primarily on their personal experiences. However, you can use this as starting point in your search. If during your research, you come across names that keep recurring, then the said contractors are probably dependable and worth interviewing.
Let your fingers do the walking
Thanks to the internet, you can literally find the names of affordable property management firms in Seattle by simply
conducting an online search. All you need to do is type into a search engine and instantly you will be bombarded with their contacts and website links. From there, you can follow up the links to their respective websites or online listing platforms to learn more about the individual service providers. The beauty with online searches is that you can customize the research to your specific needs. Some of these search variables include property location, size, and type. Consequently, it becomes easy for you to determine whether a particular company is worth your time or not.
Ascertain their reputation
You wouldn't want to hire a property management company that has a checkered reputation. Besides giving you a difficult time, such a manager is likely to mismanage your property and chase away high-quality tenants. After short listing the companies you may wish to hire, take the time to find out what other people think of them. You can conveniently get that information by going over the customer reviews and ratings on the Seattle property manager’s website, popular review sites, social media posts, as well as online listing platforms.
Examine their work
As mentioned above, not all who claim to be managers are good ones. You need to find out the quality of their services. You can do that by assessing the condition of the properties they manage as well as examining the vacancy advertising and tenant screening strategies. You should also ask for references of owners they currently work with.
Find out how they charge
If you want to find affordable property management, you must consider how the manager charges for his or her services. Ordinarily, most would cost anywhere between seven and ten percent of the total rental income. However, the focus should not just be to identify the one with the lowest quote.Instead, make an ‘apples to apples’ comparison of the services the companies offer. It is worth noting that a lower quote does not necessarily mean affordable service. It might be an indication of the level of competency of the manager or quality of service that he or she renders. You must find out exactly what the company will do for that price and opt for someone who offers the best value for the dollar.
Scrutinize their property management agreement
Most, if not all, credible property managers have professionally crafted management agreements which clarify the terms, cost, and duration of the contract. Furthermore, the agreement points out the duties, responsibilities, and liabilities of each party. Since the agreement is a legally binding document, you need to take time to review it thoroughly. Make sure it matches your property management requirements. If you have any questions or concerns it is important to point them out, as these could be possible points of conflict in the future.
While it may take a little work to find an affordable property management company, it's important you perform your due diligence to avoid headaches in the future. Investing in your property was a very careful and serious decision, no different to the consideration that should be given to the property management company you entrust with it.
Hopefully these tips help you with your decision and if you have any additional questions about property management we would be happy to help you.
A large percentage of Seattle area tenants come with some kind of a pet. Most pets (and responsible pet owners) are not a problem in rental properties. However, if you're a landlord in the Seattle area, you more than likely are somewhat apprehensive when it comes to pets in your property. The good news is that the risks can be minimized by following these tips:
8 Tips to Make Renting to Tenants with Pets Successful
1. Have the Prospective Tenant e-mail or Text a Picture of the Pet
This will allow you to better verify the pet is an acceptable and agreed upon breed/size and give you a document that can be referred to if it is ever discovered the pet is changed or replaced.
2. Check Pet References
Aside from the actual interview and screening of the tenant, it is also important to check on references from past landlords. It's ideal to call all their former landlords to have an idea if their pets have caused an issue in the past. Likewise, this will give you an idea of how the pet behaved in its previous home. If the tenant cannot provide a reference, then you should be cautious about renting the property.
3. Have a Clear Pet Policy
If you're going to rent a property in the Seattle area, it's important that your lease agreement includes the groundrules. Make sure that the pet policy is also clear. That means that your lease should explain what constitutes damage to the property, such as stained carpets or scratched woodwork. There may be instances where the pet would behave antisocially, a lease or pet addendum should clearly state the consequences of this.
You should always have a clear plan to deal with misbehaving or dangerous pets.
4. Emphasize the Tenant’s Personal responsibility for the Pets behavior
Make sure that it is clear the pet owner is responsible for any all damage caused by their pet. This might include property damage or perhaps medical expenses in the case of a dog attack.
5. Charge an additional refundable deposit for each pet rather than a fee or “pet rent”
Refundable deposits tend to give the tenant an incentive for being a responsible pet owner. After all, they will be able to get their entire deposit back if their pet does more damage. To the contrary, a non-refundable fee or “pet rent” will likely give a less responsible tenant a bit of an entitlement mentality, perhaps thinking, “since I’m paying extra for my pet, the landlord should expect some extra damage”.
6. Limit the Type of Breeds a Pet Owner Can Bring
In the Seattle area, most rental properties don't allow their tenants to keep aggressive dogs, such as Pit Bull, German Shepard, Doberman, etc. There's a reason for that; aggressive breeds are known to have a history of hurting someone. That means if the landlord has rented the home to an owner with an aggressive breed then there's a risk of being held liable if the neighbors or other tenants have been attacked. In addition, many insurance companies exclude specific “vicious” breeds from coverage. It is a best practice to limit the breeds accepted by you to those accepted by the insurance industry.
7. Provide weight limitations:
It is perfectly acceptable to provide pet weight restrictions. If your personal preference is to have only small pets, perhaps a 25-pound weight limitation would be appropriate.
8. Provide Age Limitations:
There is widely known that puppies (or other young pets) are more prone to destructive tendencies. It is a good practice to prohibit pets that are under a certain age, perhaps 12 months.
Every landlord seems to have different personal preferences or definitions for what constitutes a suitable pet for their home. It is important for a landlord to explore what they are most comfortable with. Much of this decision may be reliant on the type of property being rented (i.e. Condominium vs. a fenced back yard). In any case, following these basic steps and precautions will help to greatly limit exposure to any additional damage.
“There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.”
Dorothy’s infamous refrain from The Wizard of Oz rings true in the hearts of many a homeowner, both in Kansas and far from it. These four walls hold family and memories, heirlooms and heritage, both priceless and irreplaceable.
Your home is an investment. The money you put into it comes back to you in value. Plus, your home houses commodities far more precious and worthy of protection. Going off that train of thought, you might be asking yourself, “How do I increase the value of my home?” or “How do I increase my home security?” In reality, they’re not mutually exclusive ideas. Let’s consider a few key ways to increase both value and security at home at the same time.
Change Your Locks
Moving into a new house, or replacing a misplaced key, calls for the changing of the guard. Always switch out your locks, even if you think you’ll find that missing key someday. Even if you haven’t lost your key, it might make sense to change your locks after a period of time just to ensure your safety. Updating to state of the art lock designs ensures your home is protected by the latest technologies. Key code locks offer the ability to change entry codes for temporary entrants or periodically for basic security. A secure home proves to be one of value. After all, there is no price equal to feeling safe where one lives.
Use a Safe
A sturdy safe is an important second line of defense for your home and valuables. If a burglar is able to get around your locks and other security measures, a safe can stop them from swiping those invaluable family heirlooms and rainy-day cash. Consider an investment in a fire-rated safe to house your most precious documents and other items.
The first floor windows, front and back doors present the greatest opportunities for thieves to enter your home. Replace front and back doors with sturdy options with interior hinges to resist tampering. And, opt for solid surfaces rather than windows or glass side panels to deter intruders.
Furthermore, one-inch deadbolt locks on all exterior doors are recommended for increased strength and protection. And, metal bars securing sliding doors prevent forced entry. To address windows, consider window locks and break-resistant glass.
Finally, energy-efficient doors and windows add dollars to your budget in decreased heating costs. Plus, the increased curb appeal and energy savings bring value to your property.
Mix-Up Your Entry Codes
If you have a keypad installed on your door, be sure to change your home entry codes every few weeks. It’s a smart practice, but one that can be hard to remember on a regular basis. Consider setting an alarm on your smartphone or purchase a product which automatically changes the codes for you periodically.
Update Your Lighting
Modern outdoor lighting options bring security, personality and value to your home. Well lit entries and outdoor spaces give intruders little space to hide. Walk your yard at dark to visually discern where lighting is needed. Exterior and landscaping light boosts your home’s curb appeal and value. Consider motion activated fixtures for energy savings. Make sure to choose a lighting option that’s both bright and has decorative appeal, rather than a dim lit that may have better aesthetic appeal.
Upgrade Your Garage Door
Your garage door can be a penetrable point in your home as well. Installing an electric garage door opener or updating your current system can be a smart way to secure your house and the people in it. These days, you can find “high tech” options that give you the ability to open the door without ever leaving your car via Android and iPhone apps. Speaking of high tech, those new keypad locks installed on your other doors may be able to lock through your phone as well, allowing you to lock up from a distance should you forget to on your way out the door in the morning.
With an upgrade to your garage door, curb appeal gets a boost as well. After all, a sizeable portion of your home’s front exterior belongs to the garage door. This new entry allows you to express your personality
Install a Security System
Homes lacking alarm systems are three times more likely to be burglarized than those with them. In fact, often the stickers or yard signs placed in prime entry locations prove valuable in preventing unwanted visitors. Alarm systems, security cameras, motion lights and the like protect your property whether you are sound asleep or away for the night.These systems offer added assurance to parents when children are home alone.
Protecting your home with these simple keys guards you from the storm that results after an intruder finds his or her way into your family’s safe space.
All of these different security measures we’ve discussed will help guard your home and your family should the unthinkable ever happen. Plus, energy efficient options and curb appeal enhancing choices earn value for your home. Most importantly, you’ll be able to sleep soundly knowing that you’re safe from whatever intruders may try to throw your way.
Guest post provided by Sevan Locks & Doors
As a follow up of our last monthly blog post Tips for being a great landlord in Seattle here is the opposite end of the spectrum :)
Every Seattle landlord wishes for high-quality renters. Hence, they take every prospective applicant through thorough tenant screening procedures to determine the perfect fit. Prospecting tenants should do all they can to impress the property owners by excelling past the selection process and becoming great tenants. If you are a renter, the following are exciting tips on how you can be a great tenant in Seattle.
When renting property, you will have to provide personal information about yourself. Such may include credit history, employment background, income status, criminal history, as well as past tenancy records. Even though you wish to provide a positive impression, it is in your best interest for you to provide truthful and factual information. After all, your landlord will further investigate you, to determine whether or not you meet the criteria. Moreover, even if you manage to get through the screening using falsified records, eventually the truth will come out, leaving you in an embarrassing situation.
Go through the lease agreement
Every prudent landlord has a well-crafted lease agreement, which tenants must sign before moving into the house. Bearing
in mind that the agreement is legally binding, and will be a major determinant of the tenancy relationship, it is critical that a renter understands what the clauses therein state. Take your time and scrutinize each and every clause in the contract and make sure you not only know them but that you are willing to abide by them as well. If the agreement has provisions that are unclear or make you uncomfortable, seek clarification. Only sign a rental lease whose terms you fully understand.
Be conversant with the Seattle rental laws
A novel way of being a great tenant is to understand the local landlord-tenant statutes. Such familiarization will inform you of your rights, limits, and duties. Furthermore, it will protect both you and your landlord from contravening the law. For instance, knowledge of the 'Just Cause' legislation enlightens a tenant of what can warrant an eviction. As a result, the tenant can do all in his or her power to avoid violating those acts. It is worth noting also that the State of Washington does not have rent controls, which means a property owner can increase the rent as he or she deems fit. However, many municipalities govern the amount of a rent increase in a specified time period.
Pay rent promptly
A primary source of disagreements between tenants and landlords is late or unpaid rent. For this reason, if you wish to be a great Seattle renter, be sure to pay your rent promptly, using the allowable methods on the lease agreement. A brilliant trick is to prioritize your rent expenses above all the other expenditures that you might have.
Maintain respectful interaction with the landlord or agent
Throughout the tenancy period, make an effort to preserve constant communication with the property owner or management company. Such communication helps to form a personable, yet professional relationship. However, try and limit the interactions to a need-to basis. For instance when the landlord calls or pays you a visit, when you wish to send seasonal greetings, or when you want to air your concerns on relevant matters. In all of these interactions, make sure to use courteous, professional language and follow the proper communication procedures.
Keep all documents safe
When you enter into a Seattle lease agreement, make it a habit of safeguarding all documents relating to the tenancy. These include the rental contract, records of the condition of the property when you moved in, rent payment receipts, bill payments, as well as payment vouchers for repairs and maintenance services. Likewise, if there are any new agreements which you and the landlord enter into, but are not in the lease contract, make sure you have them in writing.
Take good care of the property
Once you move into the property, you assume full responsibility for it throughout the lease. For this reason, handle the asset with great care, like you would your own. Do not damage or misuse it. By so doing, you will ensure a mutually beneficial landlord-tenant relationship, and also minimize the cost and frequency of carrying out maintenance services. Be sure to familiarize yourself with how to operate the appliances and any other functional items in the home.
Notify the owner of your plan to move out or terminate the lease in good time
When you enter into a Seattle rental agreement, the assumption is that you will occupy the property to the end of the lease period. However, nothing bars a tenant from terminating the contract before its maturity. Nonetheless, as a sign of good faith, it is only fair for you to inform the landlord of your intention well in advance, so that he or she can follow through to ensure a flawless and friendly lease termination. Besides, bearing in mind that in the future you might require favorable referrals from previous landlords, it is in your favor to end the agreement well.
Installing new landscaping or making improvements to existing features is a major financial investment. There is great potential to increase the value of your home and to create a more enjoyable outdoor environment for you and your family to spend time in, so it's important to choose the right company for the job.
Scope of the Job
The first step in finding a landscape contractor is to determine what your goals are. Most contractors specialize in certain areas, so it pays to look for one that is an expert in what you need to have done. Some are hardscape specialists, focusing on building decks, patios, driveways, fences, and retaining walls. Others are focused more on the plantscape and may specialize in lawns, Japanese gardens, edible gardens or any number of other garden styles. If you don't know what you want, start by hiring a landscape designer to help you come up with a plan.
When reaching out to a landscape contractor, don't hang up the phone until you've asked them if they are licensed and insured for the type of work that you are requesting. Most states have a professional licensing program for landscape contractors, in which case it is mandatory that they be licensed. If this is not the case in your state, ask about their training, any certificates or degrees they hold, as well as their membership in professional landscape associations. Before you hire anyone, ask for a copy of their insurance binder and license and call the number provided on the documents to verify their validity.
The Process. Making Contact
Asking friends for referrals is a great way to start, asking a top rated management firm with BBB, that may manage your HOA, COA is also a great way , but you can also keep your eyes open for newly installed landscaping as you drive around town and attempt to find out who did the work. Often, the landscape company will post a sign in the yard they have just completed advertising their phone number and website.
Local nurseries are also in the habit of recommending reputable contractors to their customers. Contractors generally will meet with you at least once free of charge to discuss your project and many give free estimates.
Interviewing and Selecting
Try to find at least three or four contractors to come for an initial consultation to discuss your needs and explain their services. Ask them to bring a portfolio of photos of past landscape projects and prepare a list of questions in advance that cover these topics:
Years in Business
While contractors who have been in business for decades have experience and reputation behind them, new contractors with just a few years of experience may have fresh ideas and potentially cost less as they are just starting out.
Find out the contractor's experience level with the type of project you have in mind. This is just as important as their overall experience in the profession. The more specialized the project is, the more you need to check their credentials for doing that type of work.
Approach to Project
This is where you will really get a sense of the person you're dealing with and their competence with the type of work you desire. Someone who answers with great detail and a clear passion for what they're saying is likely to be a great match.
Landscape contractors should be well-versed in what does and does not require a permit. In most places, this includes decks and fences, sheds, gazebos and pools. Their familiarity with this aspect is a good sign of how experienced they are.
Don't hold them to it, but you certainly want to have an idea of what the bottom line will be. Ask what they have charged for projects of a similar scope in the past.
Length of Time to Complete Project
A major landscape installation can really disrupt your life - the yard will temporarily look like a bomb has gone of, the driveway may be blocked, it can be noisy, workers will invade your yard. In short, it takes over your life and you want to know that they are flexible and communicative enough to work with you on your scheduling needs and that they will start and do it until it is done, without taking a break for two weeks in the middle to go do another job.
Things like decks, patios and irrigation systems should come with some sort of warranty for defects in craftsmanship and improper installation. Plants are less likely to be covered because they are subject to weather, pests, disease and other forces outside the control of the contractor. Just make sure they are clear about what is and is not covered.
Post Installation Maintenance
It's ideal when the same company that installs the landscaping can also maintain it, because they will be aware of all the little details that a newcomer will not. However, if they don't offer maintenance service, it's no reason to not use them; it's just good to know up front.
Making the Final Decision
Listen to their responses and try to get a sense of their overall personality, professionalism, and competence. Trust your initial gut feelings, but also make sure to get numbers of past clients to serve as references.
You may choose to request a formal quote from as many of the candidates as you feel confident about - don't waste your time with any that make you feel uncomfortable or behave overzealously in attempting to sell themselves. Ultimately, go with the lowest price, best qualified candidate whose references confirmed that they are able to complete work in a timely and professional manner.
When you receive a formal quote from the contractor, look over it carefully and read all the fine print. It should cover the entire scope of work involved in step-by-step detail, from initial clearing and grading to the final clean-up, including the removal of debris.
Ideally, each step of the project includes numbers for labor and materials specified in the contract. It should also specify that the contractor will be responsible for obtaining any necessary permits, unless other agreements have been made in advance. The contract should also spell out a timeline for the project, and include a payment schedule.
Closing the Deal
The choice of a landscape contractor is one of the first steps in the process of having the property you've always dreamed of and will have a large influence on the value and quality of the finished product, as well your satisfaction with the process at every step of the way.
Before you make the final decision to sign the contract and write a retainer check, ask yourself :
Has the contractor demonstrated that they have the experience and qualifications for every bit of the work involved?
Do they seem like they will be friendly and enjoyable to work with and offer responsive customer service during and after the installation?
Have they answered all your questions?
If the answer to all these questions is yes, you have probably made the right decision on who to hire and should rest well knowing that you have turned over every stone in the process. In a short time, you will be enjoying your new landscape!
Guest Post Submitted by All Seasons Landscaping Inc. All seasons is a local landscaping company servicing Snohomish and King Counties.
Even though being a landlord in Seattle, Washington is rewarding, it comes with a myriad of responsibilities. For instance, you have to comply with the numerous rules, regulations and city ordinances related to property ownership and landlords-tenants relations. Such include the Seattle DCI, the Seattle’s Housing and Building Maintenance Code (HBMC), and the RRIO (Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance).
Furthermore, it is important to strike a delicate balance between keeping your tenants happy, maintaining the appeal of your property and ensuring the rental income flows profitably without interruptions. Lastly, you have to handle property-advertising, tenant screening, creating and signing lease agreements, as well as managing rent collections and eviction of bad tenants. Bearing all these in mind, how can you ensure you remain a good rental property owner?
6 Tips for Landlords in Seattle:
i. Handle your assets like a business investment
Many owners erroneously treat their rental properties like a pass time hobby as opposed to a business. Consequently, they fail to exert enough effort to see it thrive. Avoid falling into such a snare, and treat your rental property as a business you intend to grow and profit. Such an approach will help you implement systems and structures guaranteed to help your business flourish. For instance, create a reliable system for rent collection, managing repairs or maintenance requests, advertising vacancies and screening tenants.
ii. Have a customized lease
A source of conflict between the tenants and landlords emanate from unclear rules. For this reason, take the time to create a rental agreement that clearly defines your expectations of the tenant in as far as using your property goes.The agreement could address matters like rent, security deposit, maintenance, inspections and pets. The presence of clear-cut rules helps to eliminate unnecessary tenant-landlord frictions.
When customizing the lease, make sure not to include illegal provisions or clauses that contravene with Washington State or Seattle landlord-tenant laws. If you are not sure what to add, it helps to get an attorney who is familiar with the said legislation to review the contract.
iii. Thoroughly screen prospective tenants
As long as you have problematic tenants, you will always have challenges, no matter how hard you try in being a good landlord in Seattle. Therefore, make it a habit of thoroughly screening all your tenants before qualifying them. Only approve those who meet your screening criteria. Always be sure to follow the Fair Housing laws, and consider requesting for previous landlord referrals. Such vigorous screening reduces the chances of experiencing problematic tenants, late rent payments, damaged property or costly tenant evictions.
iv. Make your tenants happy
A proven way of being a great Seattle landlord is to keep your clients happy. Happy renters tend to stay in a house longer than disgruntled ones. Practical ways of doing that include respecting their privacy, treating all tenants with respect, honesty, and fairness, as well as listening to, and promptly attending to their concerns. Some issues, however, might be out of your control. For instance, a resident in the neighboring house, which isn't yours, might be playing loud music at odd hour inconveniencing your tenants. In such a situation, the best you can do is try to mediate between the two neighbors.
v. Get the rent right
An efficient way to succeed in Seattle’s rental market is to charge the right amount of rent. Even though you might wish to charge a higher price, overpricing your assets will cause potential quality tenants to rebuff your properties. Use the prevailing rental market rates in the area to establish your rent prices. Similarly, know what the Seattle laws have to say about the Security deposit, and overdue rent.
Additionally, make it simple for your tenants to pay their rents on time. For instance, you could provide several payment options including electronic rent payments. Lastly, make it clear to the residents what your policy on late rent is. For instance, does it attract any fees, and if so how much is the penalty, and how is it computed. You could also give incentives to tenants who pay their rent on time or in advance.
vi. Hire a Competent Property Manager
Running a successful rental property business in Seattle is quite involved. Many experienced owners prefer to hand over the responsibility to Professional Property Management companies. If you are a landlord in Seattle, instead of struggling to manage your rentals, consider having a professional do it for you. The manager has experience of what it takes to attract desirable tenants, collect rental income on time, maintain the property’s aesthetic pull and even handle tenant evictions.
Furthermore, the manager is conversant with Landlord-Tenant laws. They are, therefore, able to handle different rental issues in a smooth manner devoid of legal suits or costly disagreement. Besides, the manager will make your rental property business professional and appealing to quality tenants.
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When most people see a rental advertisement, they mistakenly presume that getting the property will be as straightforward as calling the phone number on the ad, and availing the rent and security deposit. In reality, however, it is a little more complicated than that.
For starters, there is a high demand for rental properties, which means you will not be the only one interested in moving into the property. Secondly, although the landlord desires to fill the vacant unit as quickly as possible, he or she wants nothing short of high-quality residents. Therefore, the owner will rigorously screen all applicants and scrutinize their rental application documents to identify qualified tenants.
In fact, many landlords determine their tenants, depending solely on the rental application. For this reason, it is critical to know how to prepare and present a successful request when looking for a house to rent.
Steps for submitting a successful Rental Application
1. Make a lasting first impression
Bearing in mind that you are most probably not the only interested applicant, leave nothing to chance. Do all you can to strike a good rapport as soon as possible with the property owner or agent. For instance, dress presentably and arrive early for the showing. Moreover, be polite, friendly, charming and enthusiastic during the showing. It is always best to start off on a positive!
2. Read and Understand the Landlord’s Screening Criteria
Once you decide that you want the property, the next step is to fill out the rental application. Although the application documents serve one primary purpose; to help landlords and/or the screening companydetermine if the applicant will likely have the means to pay rent, take care of the property, and be a responsible tenant, they might differ in content, structure, and requirements. It is, therefore, prudent to take the time to understand the owner’s screening criteria and application guidelines to ensure that you satisfy the requirements. Doing so will help boost your chances of sailing past all the vetting stages.
3. Fill out the application form as honestly and completely as possible
The Rental Application can be a downloadable copy or an online form. Whichever the case might be, take your time and fill it out accurately, completely, and truthfully.. Naturally, you might want to sound persuasive. However, when it comes to rental property, honest
y facts remains the best policy. Remember, the screening company is going to do a comprehensive background check on you. If they discover s any contradiction or discrepancy during the screening, your application may be disqualified.
4. Attach all the necessary documents
Use the landlord’s screening criteria as a guide to assemble all the required documentation. Many tenants, probably motivated by the urge to impress, often provide additional documents which the landlord or agent did not demand. Refrain from doing that and only provide the requested documents. If you feel the landlord did not ask for documents which you believe can help boost your chances, it is prudent to mention those documents in your discussions with the landlord. But generally speaking, stick to the guide.
Some of the relevant documents include
i. Reference Letters
You may need to provide good references from real estate agents, property managers, employers, colleagues, previous landlords and former neighbors. The references will demonstrate to the agent that you are a reliable and trustworthy resident that they can count on to pay their monthly rent and keep the property in good condition.
ii. Payslips or Proof of Income
You need to convince the screening company that you are financially stable and able to pay the rent. Effective ways of doing that include availing your past pay slips, bank statements, or even an employment letter from your employer.
iii. Proof of Identification
The screening company needs to confirm that you are indeed who you claim to be. Hence, they might request you attach a photo and copies of your identification documents such as the Governement Issued ID, drivers’ license, or passport.
iv. Pet references
In case you have a pet, you might have to provide a pet reference from your current or previous landlord, detailing the condition in which you left the property and the level of disturbance if any, your pet caused. Some landlords might also require a pet deposit or purchase pet liability renter’s insurance.
v. Deposit or Rental Ledger
In addition to the references from your previous landlord or property agents, you may need to provide a summary of your rent payment history. In most cases, how far the payment history should go will depend on the agent and the length of duration that you have been a tenant. If this is required, the details of what is required will be included in the rental application, so make sure to read the application in its entirety.
vi. Credit Rating
When it comes to credit score, various property managers might approach it differently. Some would ask you to provide your current credit score rating, while others might run your credit check themselves. If the check reveals a poor score, some landlords might out rightly reject your application. Others, however, may ask you to provide a financial guarantor who has excellent credit. If you know that your credit score may be an issue, try to arrange for a financial guarantor before submitting your rental application in order to make the process as easy as possible.
5. Verify your application before submitting
Before you tender your application, it is prudent to review it and confirm that it is worth sending. Ask yourself whether it meets the landlord’s screening criteria, if you have included all the necessary documents, and whether the information is accurate and devoid of grammatical and spelling errors.
At least three days after submitting your tenant application documents, send a follow-up to the landlord or agent inquiring about the fate of your request. While at it, respectfully reiterate to them your desire to lease the property, and your willingness to produce any additional information they may require to guarantee a successful rental application.
If you follow these guidelines while preparing your rental application, it should give you an advantage over many other applicants. While a successful rental application alone may not lead to securing the property, it definitely helps the screening company’s decision in deciding whether you are qualified to rent the property.
Seattle has one of the best real estate markets in the US. In 2015 alone, over one million new renters signed rental lease agreements in the city. This increased demand for housing naturally attracts property investors and higher rental prices. In fact, the prices have shot up significantly, with some properties even witnessing unprecedented percentage increments. With this new found fortune, it is easy to conclude that Seattle landlords are a happy lot. Well not all of them are. Even though the market seems to be on a bubble, some property owners still have to ensure the investment stays in good condition, deal with problematic tenants, handle the finances, source quality clients and comply with regulations. Furthermore, they have to compete with other landlords in the area.
No wonder knowledgeable property owners contract experienced property management companies to run the investments. If you are a property owner, you too should consider hiring a competent property management company and enjoy the following benefits.
1) Peace of Mind
Managing a rental property is challenging and at times utterly frustrating, more so when you have difficult clients, or you are unable to attract tenants to your property. There is also always the likelihood of property damages and other complications arising. If you, as the property owner, try to address these issues by yourself, you can certainly become stressed and overwhelmed. However, by enlisting a reliable property manager you will have transferred all the rent related headaches to him or her. Leaving you peaceful and free to attend to other equally important matters.
2) Active Property Marketing and Advertising
A frustrating time for a rental property owner is when the home becomes vacant, and there are no interested clients. At such a time, most landlords have to interrupt their daily schedules to market and advertise the vacant property. The opportunity cost of the empty house doubles since besides missing out on the rental income, the landlord has to commit his/her time and resources. Fortunately, you can avoid all these challenges with the help of a competent property manager. They know what kind of advertising and marketing tools are ideal and useful on your property.
3) Quality Tenant Screening and Placement
Every landlord longs for good quality occupants for his or her property. Unfortunately, most rental property owners have trouble screening new tenants carefully. This can happen either due to the urgency of filling the vacant property or lack of screening skills. Consequently, the tenant may end up being problematic much to the dismay of the landlord. Property managers, however, have a well-developed screening criteria that is equally applied to all prospective tenants. The screening criteria can easily pick out the red flags and weed out the potentially problematic tenants, leaving you with quality clients. In addition, in the rare case that there is a disgruntled tenant they will have the pleasure of dealing with their issues.
4) Avoid Legal Problems
A troublesome tenant can easily get a landlord into serious legal and financial problems. For instance, the tenant could sue for lease termination, eviction or seek compensation for injuries resulting from the landlord’s negligence. Professional property managers are conversant with various Seattle rental property codes and regulations such as the HBMC (Housing and Building Maintenance Code) and the RRIO (Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance). They will offer advice on the best course of action concerning tenant screening, evictions, lease terminations, security deposit handling, rent collection as well as property safety and hygiene. Their up-to-date knowledge will keep you from facing legal suits or paying hefty fines.
5) Improved tenant retention
Even high-quality tenants can choose not to extend their lease if they are unhappy with the property. If you want your clients to stay to the full length of the lease and even seek for a contract extension, look for a qualified property management firm. Most property managers have sufficient tenant-retention policies, which guarantees the tenant stays happy and willing to extend the contract beyond the lease period.
6) Improved Accounting and Bookkeeping
A property management company will keep accurate financial records on your behalf. Such records include rental incomes, penalties, as well as expenses for repairs and utility services. Moreover, the firm will help you with your taxation filing, identify your tax deductible areas and also aid in the preparation of the claim doc.
7) Tighter rental collection processes
The success or failure of your rental property investment depends largely on how you handle the rental income. The tenant must comply with the rent payment terms such as making payments in time. At times as a landlord, you can be too lenient in accommodating late payments, which might act to your disadvantage. However, if you contract a property management company, the firm will strictly enforce the rent payment terms, penalize the tenant for late payments or returned checks and even serve the occupant with an eviction notice when needed. They take the stress out of having to chase after your tenants for rent each month.
Overall, a property management company allows you to relax and enjoy passive income from your investment rather than spending your time and effort maintaining your property and keeping your tenants satisfied.
One of the most important reasons landlords hire a property manager is to help limit exposure to and manage the inherent risk of owning rental property.
Often, questions arise as to why it’s important to add the property manager as Additional Insured on the Homeowner’s or Property Owner’s insurance policy. Some of the key questions are addressed below.
Why should I list my Property Manager as Additional Insured on my Insurance Policy?
Experienced and well informed management firms are increasingly requiring the property owner to add the Property Management Company as Additional Insured on the owner policy. While often overlooked out of convenience or misinformation, it is a very important element of an overall risk management strategy not only for the property management company but also for the property owner.
What does “Additional Insured” mean?
The Additional Insured verbiage on a homeowner’s policy simply means that the coverage is extended not only to the owner of the property but also to the listed agent or Management Company. Some insurance agents and property managers will confuse “Additional Insured” with “Additional Interest”. They sound similar but are vastly different. “Additional Interest” does not extend coverage but will simply notify the property manager of policy renewals, cancellations, or policy changes. Another common misconception is that the Additional Insured verbiage will provide the property management firm with a financial interest in the property. Unlike a mortgage holder, the property management company does not have, or want, a financial interest in the property but nevertheless has a very insurable interest from a premises liability standpoint such as personal injury on the premises.
Why is adding the Property Manager as Additional Insured important to the property owner?
When a property manager is hired they take on almost all of the responsibilities as if they were the homeowner. As such, if something were to go wrong, such as personal injury, the Property Manager is often the target, in place of the owner, of any resultant litigation.
For this reason, almost all reputable property management firms have a strong indemnification and hold harmless clause as part of their management agreement. If the management company is properly listed as Additional Insured, the coverage will automatically be extended to both parties as needed.
In the worst of cases, if a major litigation claim takes place, it is likely that both Property Manager and Owner would be named as co-defendants. Having the owner policy extended to both, would create a unified defense, with one insurance company defending both, streamlining the defense process and significantly reducing total legal expenses for all for which the owner (or the insurance company) is ultimately responsible.
Why is the Additional Insured endorsement on the owner’s policy important to the Management Company?
Most Property Management firms carry General Liability Insurance as well as Professional Liability insurance which will offer protection from a financial loss caused by a mistake or wrongful act by the Management Firm. However, these policies don’t provide protection against matters concerning the home itself. This leaves the property manager vulnerable to claims regarding someone injuring themselves at the property, burglary, fire, water leaks, etc. When coverage is effectively extended to the Property Manager through the Additional Insured endorsement, the problem is solved.
Without the Additional Insured endorsement, the management company could be left to fend for itself and then seek reimbursement from the owner directly (or their insurance) for any losses under the indemnification clause. Needless to say, this alternative would be exponentially more expensive and time consuming for all.
Are Insurance Companies willing to add the property manager to the owner’s policy as Additional Insured?
Most of the larger insurance companies understand that doing so is in their customer’s best interest and will add the property management firm upon request for little or no additional cost. However, some of the smaller or specialized companies view adding a third party to the policy as taking on additional risk and refuse to do so. While there may be some merit to their viewpoint, it can be argued that using a professional management company will reduce overall risk and that since the owner is indemnifying the management company, they would eventually be faced with a payout on behalf of their customer. Accordingly, their total cost of a payout could be significantly reduced if they are in control of the claim from the beginning.
Helpful Tips for Setting Up Insurance For Your Rental Property:
·Make sure that your Insurance Agent understands that you are requesting the Property Management Firm be added as “Additional Insured”, not merely “Additional Interest”.
·Ask if there is an additional charge for the “Additional Insured” endorsement. If there is you may want to shop around but remember that the overall cost effectiveness of your policy may still be better even with an additional fee.
·Ask your Insurance Agent if there are any other products their companies offer that may be useful to you, i.e., lost rent protection, upgraded commercial policy, etc.
·If your property management company is contending that an Additional Insured endorsement on your policy is not important, carefully question their rationale and be sure you’ve contemplated the risk.
If we can answer any further questions please contact the T-Square Properties Office at 425.485.1800 or email@example.com.
Disclaimer: It is always recommended that you seek the advice of a local attorney to more about real estate laws and how they can impact you and your property.
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