Managing Residential Income Property: One Simple Bit of Timing Can Make a World of Difference

Having been born and raised in SoCal, doing business there for over three decades, many of the lessons learned in nearly a decade of working in other states have been informative – an understatement if ever there was one. I’ll bet if you’re invested in a midwestern state, the thought of a last quarter vacancy freezes you in your tracks, pun intended. A November vacancy in San Diego is irritating, even a tad worrisome, but it gets filled. Instead of happening in a couple days or weeks, it might be a month. That’s an eternity around these parts. Yet that’s relatively overnight compared to dealing with having to rent up a unit in chillier climates, especially when it’s cold, wet, and holiday season. However, if escrow is closing on your latest acquisition in the winter, or you find yourself taking over units with leases rolling over then, what to do?

As usual – it’s all about planning.

It varies a little from market to market for local reasons, but there’s always a range of months when having leases roll over is preferred. Yeah, I know, Duh. Still, when closing on vacant units this time of year, or when taking over leases expiring now, it’s easy enough to eliminate the problem. Simply give new tenants or tell existing tenants they have a choice. They can sign say, a six month lease, or an 18 month lease. Either way you’ve eliminated the problem. The lease(s) will be timed to expire within the prime leasing season. But what if you own a couple dozen doors or more, maybe a lot more?

Do what builders and developers have been doing forever. Understand your market’s absorption rate. That is, the rate at which it can absorb vacant units – how many at a time? How many units can you or your management firm lease in 30 days? Is it a different figure just one neighborhood over? Maybe, maybe not. It’s almost a matter of sanity maintenance, isn’t it? Even if you’re in a market in which everything rents overnight with a 3 X 5 card on the front yard tree, having to mess with 10 new vacancies simultaneously isn’t any less of a pain. I know, because I’ve seen me do it.

Many members here talk about how they’ve learned to specialize in various markets for their long term investments. Using this method of staggering rollover times is, for most, a practical matter of self defense. By spreading out a bunch of leases over six months, you’ve created for yourself an orderly process in which you haven’t antagonized the local absorption rate. This also aids tremendously, your ability to plan various work projects around vacant units. Getting work done in the winter in potentially extreme weather is to be avoided when possible. By ensuring your vacancies will pop up during the prime rental season, and during reasonably decent weather, you’ve gone a long way towards eliminating logistical pains in the rear, not to mention your bank account. Also (Captain Obvious alert!!), by scheduling any vacancies for the best renting season, you’ve also virtually guaranteed yourself a far greater slice of the tenant pie. You think you don’t want dead of winter vacancies? Tenants aren’t exactly out in droves, looking for their next place right after finishing their second piece of pumpkin pie.

Now’s the perfect time to address this problem. Give your tenants notice that rollover time will mean a shorter or longer term lease. You’ll quickly find out that for the most part, they’ll be grateful for the change.

Author: Jeff Brown

Jeff’s Website: http://www.bawldguy.com

Three Tips for Insuring Your First Home

Your House Should Be Fully Covered

The coverage on the insurance policy should reflect an amount that can adequately take care of the cost of rebuilding and refurbishing your entire house in the event that you lose it completely. Insurance companies may use a cost estimator to ascertain the cost replacement estimate, but you can have a home builder assess your home and furnish you with an estimate of the rebuilding cost. This should include the unique and/or expensive details of your home (if there are any). You do not want to end up being underinsured. Once you have the estimate for rebuilding, you will need to figure out which coverage to take. The choices are:

  • Guaranteed Replacement Cost Coverage – The insurer bears the cost for the rebuilding your home in spite of that cost. Very few insurers are offering these policies now.
  • Extended Replacement Coverage – This coverage involves the capping of the payout you would receive to approximately 125% of the insured value of your home.
  • Inflation Guarantee (or Guard) – This is a feature that ensures the insured value of your home stays on par with that of the marketplace.

Strive to get a reliable appraisal and extended replacement coverage along with an inflation guarantee. These will place you in a good position.

Liability Insurance

Home owners are sometimes caught off guard by third party claims for an injury someone incurred at their house or damages they caused to their neighbor’s property. These things happen, so protect yourself by ensuring your home insurance includes a liability insurance policy. Liability insurance gives the homeowner protection against any third party claims of damages and personal injury that occur on their property or are caused by them. Someone may fall and hurt themselves while on your property, or in the case of neighbors living in close proximity, your child could be playing and accidentally cause damage to their property. Liability insurance takes the burden of paying for medical bills or damages from your pocket, as the insurance company will take care of it.

Get Additional Coverage for Your Valuables

The standard insurance policy covers you home and possessions against eventualities such as natural disasters, fires, theft and accidents, but only does so indirectly for certain assets. Homeowners are sometimes caught off guard when they suffer from a disaster and realize they will not receive full compensation for certain valuables inside the house. The standard HO-3 policy takes care of the structural aspect of the house along with its contents, but there is limits the compensation for expensive possessions such as artwork and fine jewelry. You can obtain full coverage for them by paying a little extra on your policy each year.

Home insurance keeps your home safe even while you are away on vacation. This gives homeowners a sense of protection. Make an inventory of your property, as this will save you the time and expense if the need to file a claim arises.

On the Move? Use These Packing Tips and Tricks

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Let’s face it – moving is hard. Along with the stress of leaving a familiar place and adapting to new surroundings, moving means packing, loading, transporting, unloading and unpacking everything you own – as well as everything you forgot you owned.

While relocation may never be completely carefree, there are ways to ease the anxiety. A well-thought-out approach to boxing up belongings can help simplify the moving process and bring you one step closer to making your new house a home.

* Box it up. To be prepared for packing, seek out a large quantity of clean, sturdy containers in a variety of shapes and sizes. When selecting boxes, you may choose to purchase new ones, helping to ensure they can withstand the rigors of moving. You can also purchase dividers, which come in handy for packing glasses and other small, fragile items. No matter what you are using, remember not to over-pack. As a general rule, heavier items should be placed into smaller boxes to avoid too much strain on the box (and your back).

* Leave it. The easiest packing is no packing at all. Moving is the perfect time to clear the clutter out of your life. Before boxing up your belongings, decide what to keep. Clothing and housewares in good shape can be donated, and broken or unused old items can be tossed or given to someone who can repurpose them.

* Mind the supplies. The right tools can go a long way toward easing the moving process. Pick up plenty of quality wrapping material, like Bubble Wrap Brand cushioning, as well as strong packaging tape to help make boxing up your belongings a painless process. Don’t get caught up in common frustrations that cause stress and waste time, such as tape that constantly tear or splits or struggling to find the tape end. Choose a quality tape, like Duck brand EZ Start packaging tape (packagingtape.com), for your moving needs; the brand’s Frustration Free special release technology ensures that you never lose the tape end. And EZ Start unrolls smoothly and easily, without splitting or tearing.

* Organize and prioritize. Pack from room to room and label boxes based on box contents, where boxes will be unpacked in the new location and priority. EZ Start packaging tape provides a solution here, too – with different prints to choose from, boxes can be organized and prioritized according to the particular design used.

* Get help. Be organized to help the entire moving day run smoothly, so that your volunteers aren’t waiting around for a job to do. Providing tasty snacks and drinks is a thoughtful way to say thank you, as are gift cards for coffee, movie theaters or their favorite stores.

* Pack a survival kit. Moving can be exhausting, and an all-day move may not wrap up until late in the evening. Don’t spend your first night in your new home unpacking. Instead, pack a survival kit or an “Open Me First” box with essentials to get you through that first night. Make sure to include some fun items, such as your favorite movie or a batch of brownies, to reward yourself for a hard day’s work.

Moving day may never rival a beach vacation, but these simple tips can make it a lot less stressful and help you enjoy your new home faster and easier.

Courtesy of BPT

DIY Energy Savings – Quick & Easy Tips

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Here are 5 things you can do to successfully reduce your home energy consumption and save money in the process courtesy of Washington Energy Services in Seattle, Washington:

1. Seal the leaks around windows and exterior doors. This is easy to do, and will help your home keep the heat in. Caulk, spray foam or use weather stripping and it will have an impact on improving your comfort and reducing utility bills. Don’t want to fuss with this – contact a handyman, or a reputable window, insulation or painting company. Many of them provide this service.

2. Fix your insulation situation. Insulation is typically the #1 way to save energy in your home. According to the Department of Energy (www.ornl.gov) “heating and cooling account for 50 to 70% of the energy used in the average American home. Inadequate insulation and air leakage are leading causes of energy waste in most homes.” And according to EnergyStar, you could “save up to 10% of your total annual energy bill” just by sealing and insulating.

3. Clean and seal heating ducts. Almost 20% of the air that moves through your duct system is lost due to leaks and poorly sealed connections. Over time, ducts can sag or collapse. Vermin and other animals can chew holes in crawl space duct work. Ducts can also come apart at the seams. When this happens, any air that should be going to the rooms in your home is instead being wasted by ending up in your attic, your walls, or under your house. If duct tape was used on your duct work originally, it’s best to have it replaced with aluminum or foil tape. Traditional duct tape deteriorates quickly. Metal seams should be cleaned and then sealed with duct mastic, which doesn’t crack. It creates a permanent seal.

4. Let your equipment breathe. Your heating and cooling systems depend on a flow of air to maximize their efficiency. Homeowners can take easy steps to help – change the furnace filter, and check for leaves/debris around an outside heat pump or air conditioner. A clogged air intake outside or dirty indoor furnace filter limits air flow to the equipment and causes it to function inefficiently. It can eventually lead to costly breakdowns and repairs. This is similar to changing the air filter in your car. Electronic filters typically need cleaning at least twice per year and paper filters need replacing. Check your product warranty for your manufacturer’s specific instructions.

5. Open those registers. Many people close floor registers to push heat into certain parts of their house. Since about the late 60’s the products installed in homes have been forced air furnaces. These are designed for a specific amount of air to flow through the furnace while operating. The duct work is designed for this amount of air also. When air registers are closed it reduces the airflow and allows heat to buildup in the system. That heat has to go somewhere, and that somewhere is up the flue and out of your house. Closing 1 or 2 registers is fine in rooms that get too hot. Keep as many registers open as possible so your furnace can operate at maximum efficiency. This is the same for heat pumps and central air conditioning. Airflow is key to efficient heating and saving money.

Not sure where to start to make your home energy efficient? Consider a home energy audit. A certified audit uses the latest technology to analyze your house, measuring heat loss, combustion and air leakage. An audit will show you how your home uses and wastes energy. This will help you prioritize what you can do to get the most energy savings. Learn more about audits at washingtonenergy.com.

By: Gretchen Marks

Department of Energy – http://www.ornl.gov/sci/roofs+walls/insulation/ins_01.html
Energy Star – http://www.energystar.gov/
Washington Energy Services – www.washingtonenergy.com
http://www.articlecity.com/articles/environment_and_going_green/article_1146.shtml

Secrets of a Solid Home Inspection

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Selling, buying or just putting a house on the market may raise many questions. Can I get a good price? Are there any problems I should fix prior to listing my house? If I buy this house, will I encounter problems that may make me regret my decision?

The sale price of a house depends on many factors, including the market, location, size of the property, age of the house, condition of the structure, what appliances might be included in the sale and even how nicely the property and building were landscaped and decorated – just to name a few.

Having a qualified professional inspect your house prior to putting it on the market – or for prospective buyers, before closing on a sale – can help guide your decision. But many homeowners and prospective buyers are unsure what’s included in a standard home inspection, according to the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). A qualified home inspector will review these aspects of a property:

  • Roof, attic and visible insulation
  • Foundation, basement and structural components
  • Walls, ceilings and floors
  • Heating and central air conditioning systems
  • Windows and doors
  • Water fixtures and faucets
  • Decks

Nearly two out of three homeowners recently surveyed by ASHI reported they saved a lot of money as a result of having a home inspection during the selling/buying of a house. Sellers use inspections to help determine potential problems that can be repaired or replaced prior to listing – potentially getting them a higher sale price. And buyers use the inspections to determine if they want to invest in the property, or help negotiate for a better price that would include the repair and replacement of potential problems.

Not all home inspectors are certified and licensed. ASHI’s “Find an Inspector” tool allows homeowners to locate an inspector in their area. Always check with your local inspector for a complete list of services provided.

“It’s important for homeowners to do their homework before hiring an inspector,” says Kurt Salomon, ASHI president. “Look for a home inspector certified through the ASHI Certified Inspector Program, which is the only home inspection association program approved by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.”

The following elements are not included in a standard home inspection:

  • Septic system
  • Electrical wiring and plumbing that is not readily accessible (for example, behind drywall or plaster)
  • Water conditioning or softening system
  • Swimming pool
  • Backyard fences
  • Lawn irrigation system
  • Household appliances
  • Compliance with local codes
  • Appraisal to determine market value

Before hiring a home inspector, inquire about what is covered in the inspection and ask to see a sample report. Although some inspectors provide ancillary services, it may be necessary to consult a specialist for concerns that extend beyond a standard inspection. Often your inspector will help you make this determination.

Hiring a certified home inspector and having questions answered before putting your house up for sale – or before finalizing a purchase price – can not only help save money, but also allow you to go through the process with more peace of mind.

Courtesy of BPT

10 Tips to Help you Save Home Energy

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Before you spend money on the latest energy-efficient gizmo that’s supposed to save you money let’s look at some energy saving ideas that will really help you save home energy. The strategies that we will look at maximize the effort you put in and help reduce your home energy consumption.

First sit down and think about all the different ways your family uses energy around the house. Now put an approximate type and cost of energy used. You may have trouble breaking down the cost but try to do it. Now all you have to do is find ways to save on your resources at the same time cut your costs. You may have to think creatively but it can be done.

So here are some tips to get you started:

– Turn the lights off when you’re not using them. This is really simple and easy to do. Do you really need your bedroom light on when you’re in the living room? Do you leave lights on when you leave the house? Do you even need more than one light on in a room for what you are doing? Believe it or not it makes a big difference.

– Turn all electronics and other appliances off when you’re not using them. No one can do everything at the same time. Can you really listen to a radio watch television and use your computer all at the same time?

– Set your thermostat down a couple of degrees in winter or up in summer, to conserve energy. And dress appropriately indoors for the time of year it is. For instance in winter, put on a sweater or some extra clothing, or may snuggle under a blanket to stay warm. In the summer, wear less and stay cooler naturally.

– Only turn an appliance on when you have a full load. This is true especially for the washing machine, dryer and even the dishwasher. It is amazing how much extra energy is used doing multiple small loads in comparison to one full load.

– Do regular maintenance on your appliances. Keeping them clean means they don’t have to work as hard. Changing filters reduces the energy needed to accomplish a task. Regular care will also mean any maintenance bills that you might come up against may well be cheaper.

– Be careful how you use your water. Like when brushing your teeth or washing your hands, use only the water you need. Don’t let the water run the entire time. Also, try and use less water if you take a bath, or control your shower times.

– Simply let your hair air dry, instead of using a blow drier every day.

– Lower the temperature on your water heater to 120 degrees F.

Don’t forget the bigger projects as well.

– Seal the cracks around your doors and windows. You are paying for your hot air that escapes through cracks all around your house. You need to make sure you are doing all you can to keep the warm air you’re paying for inside your house.

– You also need to check your house’s insulation. Though this has been done by many homeowners nevertheless you still need to do it before you pass it over. It is probably the biggest thing in reducing heating costs.

Now some of these things may seem trivial to you but let me assure you that even the small things add up over time. And really most of them you won’t even notice the difference to your life except your bills.

These tips and suggestions will make your home more affordable, and take some strain off of our world’s resources. Just think if all of us would just made a few of these changes to how we do things on a daily basis it would make a huge difference.

By: Dave McIntosh

http://www.articlecity.com/articles/home_improvement/article_7258.shtml

Moving? Make Sure Your Possessions are Protected

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The average American makes 11.7 moves during a lifetime, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s about one in six people pulling up stakes each year.
With so many on the move to new homes, new cities and new opportunities, it’s important to protect household items while in transit or in storage before arrival at the new location, according to Charles Valinotti, head of product and underwriting with insurer QBE.
Your homeowner’s insurance policy will protect your personal possessions, whether they’re located in your home or in a moving truck. However, Valinotti cautions that there may be a time limit attached to the coverage, such as a 30-day period, and your policy may only cover up to certain dollar limits on property being moved or stored.
“Ask your agent to explain the level of coverage, what exactly is covered and confirm that your items are insured if you have to store them,” he says.
Other points to keep in mind as you hit the road:
* If you’re using a professional moving company or shipper, verify that they’re insured and bonded to cover damage they may be responsible for. Valinotti says to keep in mind most movers limit their responsibility to basic damage amounts. “You may want to check into buying additional insurance to make sure you’re adequately covered during your move.”
* If you’re packing and moving yourself with a rented truck, take a look at your auto insurance policy. Many policies will cover rental trucks, but only up to a certain weight. “Don’t assume your policy covers you when you’re behind the wheel of a 26-foot, 13,000-pound moving truck,” he says.
* In a self-move, careful packing is critical, as well as keeping your property locked up and secured along the way.
* Note the condition of your items being relocated. Then if you have a claim, the condition of your possessions will be documented.
* Know the value of high-dollar items that will be making the move. “Make a complete list of everything,” Valinotti suggests. “Take photos and, if necessary, get appraisals of these items before the move.”
Valinotti says before a move is a good time to review your overall insurance coverage to make sure you’re adequately covered and whether you need to increase your limits. “A good look at insurance coverage every couple of years is something everyone should do,” he says. “And you don’t have to wait until you’re ready to pack up and relocate.”

Courtesy of BPT