Tag Archives: tips

Let Your Tenants Paint, but with 4 Specific Conditions

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Landlords often paint their properties in shades of white or gray, which are great colors to choose because they are easy to maintain, and they make rental units easier to show.

Your renters, however, might prefer more vibrant and interesting colors in the place they call home and might wish to repaint. Is it ever appropriate for tenants to take the job upon themselves? If you agree to let your tenant change the paint color, who should pay for it?

1. Tenants Should Always Check with You First

Color harmonization can improve a person’s life. But even so, this is not a basic human right or need.

If your tenant paints without your blessing, you can deduct from their security deposit the amount it will cost to repaint, assuming they don’t return it to the original color before departing.

It’s wise to have a paint policy in your lease to make sure there are no surprises. If you allow your tenant to paint, here are some ways to go about it:

  1. Discuss a color
    Pick a suitable color scheme consisting of one or two hues. Sometimes, a tenant will feel as if it’s a vast improvement to simply change the color of a single wall.
  2. Go pro
    Consider hiring a pro to make sure the job is done right. If you do the work yourself, put extra care into protecting the floors and woodwork. If you let your tenant paint, you can deduct any money spent toward cleanup needed when they move out.
  3. Don’t paint wood
    Avoid painting woodwork and other surfaces that haven’t already been painted and that would have to be stripped to restore them to their previous unpainted state.

There is a good chance you’ll have to restore the original colors when your tenant moves out, but if you do an excellent job that significantly improves the look and feel of the unit, you might be able to rent the place with the new colors.

2. You Can Veto a Color

If your tenant feels out of place because of the color scheme, don’t laugh. The colors in a home can affect a person’s moods and overall sense of wellbeing. However, that doesn’t mean you should allow a tenant to paint the kitchen red. Reds and pinks are some of the most difficult colors to cover up.

Feng Shui and Color

Color plays an important part in the ancient Chinese art of space harmonization — or Feng Shui — and many interior decorators use Feng Shui principles to balance energies in the home. Color harmonization at home can help your tenant relax while boosting concentration. It can also enhance social interactions by helping visitors feel more comfortable.

Balancing the Elements

Although landlords and real estate agents think of white and gray as neutral, Feng Shui practitioners don’t. Both colors represent metal, and they give a space a sharp or crisp quality. Earth and wood tones, water colors (such as blue), or the reds and oranges of fire could be more relaxing, inspiring, and generally beneficial for your tenant.

3. Do a Good Job

Few tenants are professional painters, and even if you like the colors your renters use, you may not be happy with the workmanship.

But if you do allow them to paint anyway, here are some tips:

  • Acknowledge good work
    Recognize a good thing when you see it. If your tenants do a professional job, and the colors are attractive, don’t be too set on going back to neutral colors when they leave. Reward the tenants for their good work with a full refund of their painting deposit if you plan to leave the paint as is.
  • Allow them to nest
    Tenants are more likely to stay if they feel they have the freedom to decorate according to their taste, and they save you the trouble of having to do the painting yourself, which is part of regular maintenance.
  • Put it in writing
    Get a written agreement before allowing your tenants to paint. Among other things, the agreement should stipulate if and how the tenants are reimbursed if they pay for materials and labor.

With a few exceptions — notably New York City — no state or local laws require landlords to repaint when a tenant moves out. It’s important to know, however, that some small-claims courts have considered periodic repainting a condition of habitability in the case of long-term tenancies. That’s an incentive to give the green light (or the lime light, or maybe the emerald light) to tenants with the motivation to do the job themselves.

4. Make Them Pay for All (or Some) of It

For some landlords, it’s a standard practice to repaint between tenancies, and once a rental is occupied, the paint job can be expected to last for at least a year. If you select quality tenants and choose quality paint, you won’t have to repaint for three to five years.

If tenants wish to repaint during the first few years of occupancy, it’s reasonable to expect them to pay for paint and materials. Over the years, paint ages and loses its luster. Repainting then becomes a maintenance issue, and responsibility reverts to the landlord. Every material, including paint, has a natural life expectancy.

A willingness on the part of both landlord and tenant to negotiate is always beneficial.

A common solution is for you to purchase the materials and the tenant to contribute their time and labor (as long as they do a good job).

 

Credit to Chris Deziel

Chris has owned and managed 4 rental properties in Santa Cruz, CA, and Salida, CO and is a DIY handyman expert for popular sites like Pro Referral.

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4 Easy-Living, Universal Design Tips for Any Home

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One of the basic principles of universal design, also called ageless design, is that it makes homes more practical and safer for everyone — not just the elderly or people with limited mobility.

These days, universal design features are an everyday fact of life for many households, with architects and other professional designers adding universal design ideas as a matter of course.

You don’t have to be a pro designer to incorporate this smart thinking into your own home. If you’re remodeling or simply adding a few upgrades, be sure to keep universal design features in mind. There are lots of resources that’ll give you some great starting points.

As we remodel our 1972 ranch-style house (we’re on the multi-year, budget-as-you-go plan), my wife and I have incorporated several low-cost, easy-to-do UD features. A few of our favorites:

1. Switch out doorknobs for lever-style handles. Doorknobs require lots of dexterity and torque to open; with levers you simply press and go.

Makes sense for folks with arthritis, of course, but think about an emergency situation when everyone, including small kids, needs to exit fast: A lever handle is a safe, foolproof way to open a door.

A big plus: Levers are good-looking and can contribute to the value of your home. A standard interior passage door lever in a satin nickel finish costs $12 to $25; you’ll pay $25 to $50 for a lockable lever set for your bath or bedroom. Replacing door hardware is an easy DIY job.

2. Replace toggle light switches with rocker-style switches. Rocker switches feature a big on/off plate that you can operate with a finger, a knuckle, or even your elbow when you’re laden with bags of groceries.

Rocker switches are sleek and good-looking, too. Ever notice how conventional toggle switches get dirt and grime embedded in them after a couple of years? No more! You’ll pay $3 for a single-pole rocker switch, up to $25 for a set of three-way switches.

3. Anti-scald devices for your bathroom prevent water from reaching unsafe temps. An anti-scald shower head ($15 to $50) reduces water flow to a trickle if the water gets too hot. An anti-scald faucet device ($30 to $50) replaces your faucet aerator and also reduces hot water flow.

Anti-scald valves — also known as pressure-balancing valves — prevent changes in water pressure from creating sudden bursts of hot or cold water. An anti-scald valve ($80 to $170) installs on plumbing pipes inside your walls. If you don’t have DIY skills, you’ll pay a plumber $100 to $200 for installation.

4. Motion sensor light controls add light when you need it. They come in a variety of styles and simple technologies. I like the plug-in sensors ($10 to $15). You simply stick them into existing receptacles, then plug your table or floor lamps into them. When the sensor detects motion, it turns on the light.

They’re great for 2 a.m. snacking, or if your young kids are at that age when they migrate into your bed in the middle of the night. The lights turn off after about 10 minutes if no more motion is detected.

 

Credit to John Riha

John Riha has written seven books on home improvement and hundreds of articles on home-related topics. He’s been a residential builder, the editorial director of the Black & Decker Home Improvement Library, and the executive editor of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

 

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3 Simple Steps to Building a Referral-Based Business

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With 20+ years working in the real estate sector, most of my best (and favorite) clients have been the result of someone else’s referral.

In any given year, 85% – 90% of my business is directly attributed to referrals. Imagine what your business would be like if every day your phone rang or your inbox received new messages from people who already trusted you because they heard great things about you?

It’s called building a referral-based business and it’s easier than you might think! Here are 3 tips that have helped me build a referral-based business that thrives.

Tip 1:  The Relationship

The relationships you build with your clients are vital to your business. Most agents and investors tend to focus more on the transaction rather than the relationship with the other parties involved with the deal. Transactions come and go, but relationships can last for an entire career and beyond.

Building trust, keeping the client’s best interest at heart and doing the right thing is the foundation for building a lasting relationship. It’s easy to feel compelled to get the latest tool or gadget that will solve all of your lead-generation problems. The issue with this approach is that most real estate professionals fail to develop lifelong relationships that can result in far greater business success over the long term. While many buyers go online to search for properties, the majority of them will be happy to continue working with the person who provided them a great service and opportunity in the past, not a stranger who electronically reached out to form an e-relationship.

Tip 2:  Build a Reputation People Can Count On.

When someone refers a friend, family member or colleague to you, they need to be assured you are going to provide the level of care that they were promised – so it’s important that you build your reputation around what you can deliver.

Building a reputation can be as easy as just doing what you say you’ll do. When you commit to a task and follow through, it builds trust. It is important to note that you must be consistent and don’t over-promise. If you commit to something, you must see it through or risk losing trust. Most people are quicker to share a bad experience than a good one, so you must understand your capabilities and act in accordance with them. If you’re not able to help, offer them a solution or refer them to someone who can.

Tip 3: Stop Prospecting and Start Cultivating

How should you spend your marketing time and effort? The answer is simple: build relationships, serve your customers and ask for referrals.

When you focus your attention on your relationships, generating leads is more fun too! You’ll look forward to picking up the phone to chat with them and you’ll enjoy taking them to lunch. Lead-generation won’t be a chore, but an opportunity to connect with some of your favorite people. What better way to replicate your best clients than by spending time with them? Here are some ways I have found success in generating referrals:

  • Make the call. Sometimes there is a specific reason for a follow-up call with a past client, but often you are just calling to check in and talk about the market or a home you saw on caravan. So many times I’ve made impromptu calls and heard them say, “I was just thinking about you, my friend is planning on selling”. It is a win-win and I am more than happy to take the information and follow-up. The important thing is that you are calling to remind them you are still there. If someone doesn’t hear from you, they’ll assume you’ve moved on. It’s the single most important reason for the call.
  • Write a hand-written note. Set a goal for how many notes you want to write each day and write your daily notes before you check your email. A good hand-written note only needs to be two or three quick sentences… simple phrases like “Thinking of you today” or “It was nice talking with you” will suffice! Everybody appreciates a handwritten note.
  • A short visit to your key referral sources. For example, in the autumn season, you can drop by with a pumpkin carving kit. Over the Fourth of July, you can bring a BBQ item or an American flag. The point is for you to get face-to-face time with your current and potential clients and when you’re working by referral, face-to-face communication is the best by far.

So there you go – 3 tips that can help you build a business that levels out the peaks and valleys of real estate sales. Before I sign off, I will say that it is important to set goals and stay at it. Implementing a referral-based business takes time, so track your activities and be consistent with your prospecting. These efforts will help you achieve your goals and before you realize it, daily lead-generation, client calls and handwritten notes will become part of your subconscious.

 

Credit to Kathleen Finnegan

Kathleen Finnegan brings more than twenty years of selling real estate, office management and investment ownership to her role as real estate agent at Berkshire Hathaway Home Services in Calabasas.

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8 Tips for Real Estate Investing Success

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As you prepare to become a successful real estate investor, I encourage you to take the following tips into consideration. They have helped me greatly as I have navigated my way through the world of real estate–and life in general. I hope these tips will make just as big of an impact on your life as they have had on mine.

Tip #1: Create a game plan.

Decide what you want to accomplish and outline the steps that you must take to get there. Who will be involved? How will you meet them and gain their cooperation? How much time will it take? Where will you find this time? How much will it cost, and where will you get this money? What’s the risk? How will you handle it?

This plan will serve as your guide each day, so you need to get it right. That brings us to the next tip…

Tip #2: Have an expert review your plan.

The first real estate investing plan I created involved me single-handedly buying 100 houses in a year. And it listed several different marketing strategies that were completely cost ineffective. I had a friend of mine (who isn’t even involved in real estate) review the plan, and he said it looked good. How silly of me!

About eight months into working this over-reaching and misguided plan, I had an expert investor review it. He tore it apart, and together we reconstructed a better plan with more realistic goals (buy 12 houses, not 100) and a more effective marketing plan. 

Shortly thereafter, I bought 6 houses, and I actually felt good about my progress. Six out of twelve feels much better than six out of 100!

Tip #3: Don’t give up.

The life of a new real estate investor is filled with countless highs and lows. You’re on a high when you think you have a property all locked up to purchase, and then you hit a low when it suddenly falls though at closing.

Or you’re on a high when you finally do close on that house, but you hit a low when you hit a 3-week dry spell and it feels like you couldn’t get a seller to agree to your price–even if you paid double.

I hit a personal low when I was jobless and $5,500 in debt from fruitless marketing attempts. But I got up early each morning and worked toward my goal of financial freedom. Even though a voice in my head told me to give up, I never did.

That’s probably the #1 key to success: Don’t give up. Even someone who’s as dumb as a box of rocks will eventually succeed if he doesn’t give up.

Tip #4: Take baby steps.

When you break it all down, big goals, big dreams, and big plans are nothing more than a series of miniature action steps or “to do” items. When you dissect the daily life of a successful investor, you’ll find that he or she does 8 to 12 things each day that are real estate related.

One item might be “Watch DVD #5 in the new investing course I bought.” Another item might be “Call the title company about the name on the warranty deed” or “Meet the inspector at the house on Watson Street.”

All of these little tasks each day add up to what is, or what eventually will be, a large and highly profitable real estate investing operation. So don’t toss that “to do” list by the wayside, thinking that your small efforts today don’t mean much. They mean everything.

Tip #5: Become comfortable with discomfort.

I was actually nervous at the first real estate investing meeting that I attended. I was wondering if I would say something stupid or if I wouldn’t fit in. After all, most of the investors in the room were 40 or 50 years old, and I was 22.

But by the third meeting I attended, I became comfortable with the crowd. Had I quit after the first meeting, I would have missed out on the very information that enabled me to buy so many properties.

I’ve learned that one of the biggest keys to success is persisting though uncomfortable situations until they eventually become comfortable. This is where true growth occurs.

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Tip #6: Do what you say you’re going to do.

As a real estate investor, your reputation means everything. They say it’s a small world, but the world of real estate investing is even smaller. So be honest, be courteous, and for heaven’s sake, do what you say you’re going to do. If you say you’re going to buy another investor’s house, by golly, you better move mountains–if that’s what it takes–to buy it!

Otherwise, your name will eventually become mud, and you’ll have a tough time buying from not only that investor, but just about every other investor in town. Believe me, I can count at least 10 local investors of the top of my head who I will NOT do business with because their word means nothing. And I know several other investors who won’t deal with them either. You DO NOT want to be black listed.

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Tip #7: Be on time.

Showing up late is just about one of the most disrespectful things you can do to another real estate investor, inspector, contractor, or anyone for that matter. It shows them that you don’t value them or their time, and time is MUCH more valuable than money. Money can be replaced. Time cannot.

When someone shows up late for a meeting with me, they instantly lose credibility. And there are countless other investors who feel the same way I do. On the other hand, when an investor or business associate shows up on time or early, it makes me want to smile, reach out my hand, and strike a win-win deal.

So be on time. You’re much more likely to create trusted allies who can help you along your path to success.

Tip #8: Eliminate certain activities.

I’ll wrap up with one more tip that is closely linked to the first tip, “Create a Game Plan.” That game plan will involve a series of goals and steps or “to do” items that you must follow to become successful. But what many people don’t seem to realize is that for all of these things to happen, certain activities in your current schedule must be REMOVED.

For example, if you’re going to attend two real estate meetings and make five offers per week, what must go? Possibly TV time. Possibly a friendship. Possibly your workout plan. Of course, what has to go is unique to each of us, but you must realize that if you’re an extremely busy person, you’ll have to make some TOUGH sacrifices.

But these sacrifices are only for the short run. If you have to quit your exercise program to have enough time for real estate, for example, then so be it. You can resume in two years after you’ve achieved financial freedom through real estate. And you’ll have more time to exercise than ever.

Early on in real estate, I gave up friendships, exercise, sleep, vacations, and leisure time. How much you give up depends on how quickly you want to become financially independent.

It can be a tough to integrate all of these tips into your daily routine at once. So for now, I encourage you to focus on the one tip that you think can benefit your investing business the most. After you’ve turned that tip into a habit that’s part of your daily routine, then move on to the next. Keep moving forward and never give up, and you’ll be a successful and financially free investor in no time!

 

Credit to Doug Smith

Doug Smith has bought and sold over 40 properties using almost every method–wholesaling, rehabbing, landlording, subject to, lease options, and more. He is the founder and president of MyHouseDeals, a company that provides a constantly-updated list of bargain-priced investment properties in some of the nation’s largest metro areas.

 

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7 Ways to Help New Agents Succeed

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When prospective agents come into Matt Schwind’s office, he asks them why they want to get into the real estate business. Many say they love houses or HGTV, but those answers are red flags, says Schwind, managing broker for the Bettendorf, Iowa, branch office of Ruhl & Ruhl, REALTORS®.

“The real estate business isn’t about houses. It’s about people. And if you can’t communicate with people — not by text or e-mail, but face to face and on the phone — then this isn’t the right business for you,” he says.

A big part of Schwind’s job is to recruit and coach new salespeople. Unfortunately, a high percentage of new agents barely make it through their first year.

Schwind and other brokers have some tips on how owners, managers, and team leaders can help newbies buck the trend and make it through year one:

1. Emphasize to them that they’re starting a small business. “I explain to them that if they were going to open a coffee shop, they wouldn’t expect to make money for the first three to six months,” Schwind says. “Real estate is the same way.”

Saving enough money ahead of time or having another source of income (like a spouse’s salary) is the only way to actually make it through those lean times.

The top 10 percent of earners in real estate made $178,770 in 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median annual wage was $43,430 in May 2014. But the lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,880.

“It’s a tough business. New agents have to be realistic. They probably will go backwards a little financially before going forward,” Schwind says. “You will give up about two years of your life to enjoy the next 10.”

2. Be realistic about prospecting. David Bracy meets with his new agents every Tuesday. They talk about prospecting methods, and he offers advice and ideas for staying on track.

“If they come in and tell me they only had three appointments that week, I already know what is going to happen to them in six months: They won’t be in the business anymore,” says Bracy, vice president and managing broker of the Koenig/Rubloff Realty Group of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Magnificent Mile and Gold Coast offices in Chicago.

New agents need to understand that they’re not going to get paid if they’re not producing, says Eric Bramlett, broker-owner of Bramlett Residential in Austin, Texas.

“They see the TV shows and are looking for a quick buck in real estate,” he says. “But you actually have to pound the pavement and make lots of cold calls.”

3. Endorse office presence. As much as technology allows agents to do business outside of the office, there is a huge disadvantage if they aren’t involved in the synergy of the office atmosphere, Schwind says.

“If they stop coming into the office, they aren’t engaged in the business,” he says.

Schwind encourages his new agents to come to the office at least 40 hours a week and attend all the company trainings his brokerage has to offer.

4. Consider setting up mentorships. By officially placing new agents side by side with senior agents, they’ll not only get on-the-job training but also connect with an established pro. Rookies can go out on home tours, assist at open houses, and tag along on listing appointments before they do it on their own, Schwind explains. Make sure the mentors are rewarded for their time too.

5. Value customer service first. Schwind doesn’t hang photos of his top salespeople in his office lobby. Instead, you’ll find pictures of his company’s top-rated agents in customer satisfaction.

“It’s one of the things we value highly,” he says. “Those rewards are given quarterly, and they can’t be bought.”

New agents are eligible for the award, which are based on customer surveys and feedback, and Schwind finds it motivates his team.

6. Teach them the ins and outs of open houses. An open house is an opportunity to meet potential clients, so tell your new agents to invite the neighbors, Bracy says. “Eighty-two percent of those who walk into an open house buy real estate in the next 12 months,” he adds.

Don’t talk about the dishwasher; instead, coach agents on how to get open house guests to talk about themselves, Bracy says. He gives his rookies a script and series of questions for interacting with open-house guests.

“They need to create the condition where that person is talking twice as much as they are,” he says. And for safety, Bracy always has multiple agents at every open house.

7. Help newbies connect with an experienced closing team. A new real estate agent and a new mortgage broker are a bad combination, says Bramlett. Ideally, a new agent should be paired with a closing team that can answer questions or quietly step in if they see a potential mistake.

“A good closing team will typically know more than their role in the transaction,” Bramlett says, adding that it’s a key part of giving new agents the tools and resources to stay on track.

“I can’t make a new agent be committed,” he says, “but I can show them the way.”

 

Credit to Lee Nelson

Lee Nelson is a freelance journalist from the Chicago area. She has written for Yahoo! Homes, TravelNursing,  MyMortgageInsider, and ChicagoStyle Weddings Magazine. She also writes a bi-monthly blog on Unigo

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