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Do I Give Back the Security Deposit?

As the owner of a rental property, you are constantly experiencing “tenant turnover”: when one tenant moves out, and a new one moves in.

Usually, this process can go pretty smoothly, especially if you’ve been able to find a new tenant quickly and painlessly (with the help of a property management company, perhaps). It might get trickier, however, if any problems arise concerning the old tenant’s security deposit.

If all goes well, your property will be in relatively the same condition it was when the tenant moved in, and you’ll be able to give them back their deposit, no questions asked. Of course, it’s not always that simple. Here are a few things to keep in mind when trying to decide whether or not your tenant should get their security deposit back.

Are terms on the security deposit outlined in your lease?

Make sure you review the lease for the specific language and terms concerning the security deposit. You may also want to consult a property management company or lawyer concerning your tenant’s rights in your state. It is imperative that you understand the law, and act within it, in case you find it necessary to withhold a tenant’s deposit return.

Is there damage done to the property beyond “normal wear and tear?”

Usually, normal wear and tear on a property cannot be considered enough of a reason to hold back a tenant’s security deposit. Matted or worn out carpet in high traffic areas, for example, would probably be considered normal wear and tear. Broken fixtures, on the other hand, could be considered damage.

Are you sure the damage was caused by the tenant?

Hopefully, you have good documentation of the property flaws that were there before the tenant moved in. If not, it may be your word against theirs when it comes to whether or not they inflicted the damage you are accusing them of. Review any pictures you took, communication from the tenant, or service/maintenance receipts to try to get a good picture of when the damage might have happened.

Did the tenant inform you of needed repairs or maintenance?

Your tenant should let you know when something is broken (think sprinkler heads, garbage disposals, dishwashers, etc.). If they don’t, the damage could get worse, and you might be justified in withholding their deposit. Again, it depends largely on the terms of your lease and tenants’ rights in your state.

Is the tenant caught up on payments?

If the tenant is behind on rent or utility payments, you may be able to keep the security deposit to cover those things. Similarly, if your tenant didn’t give you the proper amount of notice before vacating the property, you may be able to withhold one month’s rent from their deposit return.

Hopefully, tenant turnover will go smoothly and you won’t have to fight over whether or not to return a tenant’s deposit. If you need help managing or making decisions like this about your rental property, consider hiring a property management company. Real Property Management can help you manage all aspects of your property, from marketing and showing to payment collection and evictions. Give us a call at 480-719-1243 to see how we can help you turn your rental property into a profitable investment.

Choosing Flooring for Your Rental Property: 4 Options Explained

When it comes to outfitting your rental property, few things can make as dramatic a difference as flooring can. Not only can flooring change the entire look of your property, but it will also make a big difference in how easily your tenants are able to clean and care for the home.

Flooring options can get overwhelming—which you’ve surely realized. If you’re ready to update the floors in your rental property, but are drowning in a sea of excess information, we’re here to get you started on the right foot. Take a look at this quick overview of four of the most popular flooring types. Hopefully we can help make this decision just a little easier!

Hardwood

There’s no doubt about it—hardwood floors are beautiful. It’s hard to deny that there’s just something about real hardwoods that add character and sophistication to a home. Unfortunately, that character comes with a price, in more ways than one. Not only is hardwood the most expensive option for your floors, it’s also the most difficult to take care of. Real wood, as you can imagine, does not do well with spills, extreme temperatures, or hard knocks. It can warp, chip, scratch, or stain. It requires a good amount of attention and upkeep to keep it looking good.

Newer hardwood options, like engineered hardwoods, are much easier to take care of, offering a protective coating that prevents warping and scratching. These options may be less susceptible to wear and tear, and they will definitely look great, but they will still be more expensive than some of your other choices.

Tile

Tile is almost a given in bathrooms, but some homes incorporate it throughout, especially those in warmer climates when a nice, cool floor is considered a bonus. Thankfully, tile has come a long way in terms of style. Different sizes, patterns, and designs can get you everything from a contemporary to a luxe look. Wood look tile is especially popular these days, giving homeowners the look of hardwood without any of the hassle.

Tile has its downsides, too. Depending on the style you choose, it can be fairly expensive. And while cleaning the tile itself is a breeze, keeping the grout clean is another story.

Laminate

Laminate floors have gone up and down in popularity over the course of their existence. Many people see them as an inexpensive alternative to hardwood floors, while others see them as a poor substitute for the real thing.

One thing is for certain: laminate will, almost always, be your cheapest “wood look” option. The care of laminate is somewhere in between tile and hardwood: it isn’t quite as indestructible as tile, but is definitely more durable than hardwood. If you’re looking for a cost effective option that will hold up reasonably well and will add a slightly nicer look to your space, laminate may be your best option.

Carpet

Of course, no discussion of flooring would be complete without mentioning carpet. Carpet is tricky in rental properties: it can be difficult to strike that perfect balance of high quality, affordable, and durable. Bad carpet will look dated, matted, or worn down fairly quickly. Picking the wrong color could result in stains galore, constant cleanings, or replacement sooner than you bargained for.

That being said, carpet is a “cozy” option that feels very homey. Many people prefer having carpet in their bedrooms, and some prefer it in main living areas as well. Bottom line: don’t be afraid of carpet if you like the idea of it, but do take the time to choose your carpet carefully.

Flooring in your rental property can make all the difference when it comes to keeping your property in good shape for years to come. When choosing flooring, take into account your target market and what they might be looking for, and search for options that meet those needs.

Looking for more help managing your rental property? Contact Real Property Management. We have years of experience helping property owners manage any number of rental properties, handling everything from marketing to evictions. Fill out our online form to get started on your free management quote, or give us a call at 480-719-1243.

Insurance for Your Rental Property

Insurance is one of those things that no one wants to deal with…until they really need it. Ideally, you’ll never have to face the situation with your rental property where you’ll have to file some sort of claim with your insurance, but unfortunately, things happen!

If you are renting out your property, insurance may work a little differently than it does for other homeowners. Here are a few things you should know about when it comes to insuring your rental property.

Regular homeowner’s insurance probably isn’t enough

This will depend on your insurance company and maybe even your specific policy, but your typical homeowner’s insurance policy is probably inadequate for renting out your home for any extended period of time. The best thing to do is consult your insurance company for details about your policy, and for information on other types of policies you might need instead.

Landlord insurance exists (and you probably need it)

There are specific policies for landlords, and chances are, you’re going to want one. This type of policy might be a little more comprehensive than a typical homeowner’s policy, covering not only the physical dwelling itself, but also any personal property you have at the home (things you’ve left there for the tenant’s use). It may also include some form of liability insurance, in case your renters are injured in a disaster.

Landlord insurance can be more expensive

Since landlord policies usually cover more than a homeowner’s policy, you may end up paying more to get that level of coverage. Considering the costs that could be incurred from a disaster, however, the additional cost is probably worth it to make sure you are truly protected.

Avoid “cash value” policies

These policies may be cheaper, but that is for good reason. If your home is damaged at all, this type of policy will only give you the depreciated value of the home, rather than the cost to replace/rebuild it. That is, if your home has aged at all, you may be paid only a fraction of the amount you need to recover your losses.

Consider requiring renter’s insurance

Some landlords require their tenants to have renter’s insurance, and that might be a good idea. If damage does happen to an occupied home, the home itself (along with any of your property) will be covered by your insurance, but your tenants’ belongings won’t be. Their contents need to be insured separately. This will help avoid any conflict over these contents.

Insurance can be difficult to figure out, but it is more than worth your time to make sure that your rental property is properly insured when you rent it out.

If you need help figuring out insurance on your rental property, or if you want more help managing your rental, contact Real Property Management. With experience in all aspects of property management, they can help you make sure that your investment is profitable and free of hassle. Contact Real Property Management at 480-719-1243 today for a free management quote.

4 Energy Saving Tips for Your Rental Property

When it comes to your rental property, your bottom line is everything. That’s why anything you can do to cut down on your costs is vital to your overall success in property investment. One thing that can have a drastic impact on your cost is your monthly energy bill.

Energy bills can vary greatly depending on the size and type of your property, as well as its location. But despite these variable factors, there are several things that you can do to save energy—and money—at your rental property. If you pay the energy bill, you’ll enjoy the savings directly. If that responsibility falls to your tenants, they’ll appreciate you passing on some savings to them. Here are a few of our favorite tips.

Upgrade your appliances

Energy saving appliances abound nowadays, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a good option for your property. Look for appliances that are Energy Star certified; this means that they are designed to operate more efficiently—saving energy, and saving you money. If you’re unable to upgrade all your appliances at once, start with the ones that typically use the most energy, namely the central A/C system, the clothes dryer (if included with your property), and the water heater.

Change the light bulbs (finally)

You’ve probably been hearing about CFL or LED light bulbs for years now, but it can be easy to just keep buying the same standard light bulbs over and over again. Well, if you really want to get serious about energy savings, changing out your bulbs can actually make a big difference. CFL bulbs, for example, last much longer than traditional bulbs, and also perform better, giving off more light with less energy. It’s true that they do cost more initially, but the savings bring you lasting benefit.

Create some shade

Natural light in your home is a great thing…until you realize that it’s heating up your home and causing your energy bills to skyrocket. Thankfully, there are some things to you can do to control the amount of sun that gets into your home. The quick and easy solution is window treatments. Blinds are relatively cost efficient, effectively blocking out rays with a quick and easy solution. Shutters look great and work well, but will be a little more expensive. You might want to avoid hanging your own drapes over windows, instead letting your tenants make that decision, but it could be a good idea to hang a curtain rod to make things easier for them. If you want a nice-looking, longer term solution, you could consider planting some shade trees outside to strategically block the sun from your windows.

Get the right thermostat

You can whatever bells and whistles you want for your house, with the ability to program everything from your smartphone. Go crazy with programmable lights or security features if you want, but the thing that will make the most difference in your energy savings is your thermostat. Getting a nice thermostat that is (at the very least) easy to program could make a big dent in your energy bill. With such a thermostat, your tenants can set schedules and settings that will give them more control over the temperature in the home, allowing the central heating and cooling systems to run only when needed.

With a few small changes, you can make your property much more energy efficient, which means savings for you and your tenants. It’s a win-win that will make your property that much more attractive to renters!

Want more help maximizing your profits on your investment property? Give Real Property Management a call. We have years of experience helping property owners market and fill their properties, managing everything from rent collection to evictions. Get a free property management quote online, or give us a call at 480-719-1243. We look forward to hearing from you!

How Do I Evict a Tenant? The Basics Every Landlord Should Know

With any luck, you’ll never have to evict a tenant. Hopefully, if you take your time screening your tenants during the application process, you’ll be able to avoid evictions; however, even if you take precautions, circumstances can and do arise that might make an eviction necessary.

How do you know if it’s time to evict? How do you begin the process, and what will that process look like? An eviction can seem pretty intimidating, but if you start the process well informed, you can help things run as smoothly as possible. Here are some basic things every landlord should know about the eviction process.

Stick to your lease.

Your lease agreement is extremely important for a lot of reasons, but when it comes to evictions, it can make or break your entire case. Make sure you take the time to outline any and all terms of the lease very clearly. It is worth hiring a lawyer or property management company to help make sure your lease is exceptionally clear.

Be very direct in your communication.

If your tenant is failing to abide by the terms of their lease, you need to tell them that. Be specific about the problem. Are they failing to pay their rent? Do they have unauthorized residents at the property? Are they keeping a pet without authorization? Are they damaging the property in some way? If these things are happening, you need to offer them a chance to rectify the situation, based on the terms of the lease. You might start with a casual reminder that increases in seriousness if your requests continue to be ignored.

Don’t do anything rash.

If your tenant is violating your lease agreement, you probably feel pretty frustrated and cheated. That being said, be careful not to do anything that will get you into trouble as well. Trying to kick someone out of your property, without a court order, is not legal. This means that you can’t do things like remove belongings from the house, change the locks, or turn off the utilities. Doing any of these things will hurt your case substantially.

Give a formal eviction notice.

If your attempts to get the tenant back on track continue to be ignored, you’ll need to give them a formal eviction notice. The details of what needs to be included in this notice vary from state to state, but typically, you’ll need to include a reason for eviction, what would need to be done in order to avoid the eviction, and a date by which the action would need to be taken. If you want to make sure your notice includes all necessary information in order to be legally recognized, consult a lawyer.

Don’t make it personal.

No, you probably won’t be able to remain friends with your tenants after evicting them, but you need to do your very best to keep things civil and business-minded. Stick to your lease. Keep the focus on the fact that they aren’t keeping the lease terms. If possible, you can even try to stay out of it entirely, by hiring someone (like a property management company) to handle your eviction for you.

By being careful about your processes, you might be able to avoid evictions in the first place. However, if one does become necessary, make sure you handle it appropriately and fairly. When all is said and done, brush it off and move on to better tenants.

Need help protecting yourself from bad tenants? Or help handling tricky tenant situations? Real Property Management helps property owners run their properties smoothly and effectively, without the hassles or headaches. Contact RPM today to see how we can help you stay on track with your rental property.

What Do Property Management Companies Do?

If you own one or more rental properties, you have probably heard of property management companies. But do you know what these companies actually do? Would hiring one benefit you as an investor?

Obviously, we think the answer is yes. But don’t just take our word for it! We’ve broken down the different jobs of a property management company, to give you a good look into what having one could do for your properties, your sanity, and your cash flow. Take a look.

Marketing.

Marketing your rental property can be very tricky. Where is the best place to post your ad? Is anyone actually going to see it? How can you be sure that the right people will see it? Making sure your property is not only marketed, but marketed well, can have a big impact on your success as an investor. Property management companies have had a lot of experience in the area, and know how to best get your property in front of the right people, to fill vacancies quickly.

Tenant communication.

Even if you really like your tenants, it’s definitely nice to be able to hand off the reins of tenant management to someone else. Property management companies can handle communications with your tenant, from scheduling showings, to maintenance requests, to complaints about the property. While it’s definitely important for you to form some kind of relationship with your tenants, you shouldn’t have to answer the everyday complaints and mundane questions they might have. Let a property management company do that instead!

Cash management.

If you don’t stay on top of your renters for their monthly payments…well, you might not get paid on time. However, it’s true that it can get pretty awkward to feel like you’re constantly chasing after someone to give you money. A property management company can take care of all of that—including late fees—so that it never gets personal and you stay ahead of the problem. A property management company may even be able to help you determine how much to charge for rent (which is always a good thing to get right!).

Managing repairs.

Part of home/property ownership is making regular repairs to your property and keeping it well-maintained. Whether it’s an emergency appliance repair or a routine landscaping, managing all of this can become time consuming and annoying. Property management companies know who to work with (and who to avoid) for these types of jobs, and can manage the projects without your help. It’s just one less thing for you to worry about!

Evictions.

It’s every landlord’s worst nightmare, but at least when you use a property management company, it doesn’t have to get awkward or personal. A property management company can handle notifying your tenant of their pending eviction, keeping in mind all the laws pertaining to evictions in your state. This means that your eviction will be handled correctly, and as quickly as possible, with little work to be done on your part.

If you’ve ever been curious about how a property management company might make property ownership a little easier on you, give Real Property Management a call at 480-719-1243. We’d love to chat with you about your specific property, as well as your goals for property ownership and investment. So contact us today for a free management quote; we can’t wait to help you succeed!

Filling Vacancies Quickly: 6 Easy Tips

As a rental property owner, a vacancy can be your worst nightmare. If your property is vacant, you don’t have any incoming cash from it—plain and simple.

This is why, if you have an upcoming vacancy or are ready to start renting out a new property, you should work to fill the vacancy as quickly as possible. We’ve listed a few tips below for making this process as quick and painless as possible.

Market early.

Just got 30 days notice from your current tenant? Closing on your new property in a couple weeks? Now is the time to start marketing. Chances are, you’ll find a new tenant that works with your timeline, and then you can move on to more important things, like prepping the house for move-in.

Market smart.

Just as important as when you market your property is how you market your property. Online listings can be effective, but only if posted to the right places. Make sure that you do what you can in your listing to weed out anyone who isn’t completely serious about renting your property.

Try an open house.

Particularly useful if the property is already vacant, an open house gives you the chance to show your property to multiple potential tenants at once, without having to schedule separate showing times. This could be a very efficient way to get your property filled quickly. But only if you…

Make sure the property is “show-ready.”

Don’t make your potential tenants imagine what it would be like freshly painted or cleaned. Take care of what you can in terms of updates and cleaning before you show it to potential renters. The look of a property that is “ready to go” will be much more attractive, and you’ll be able to fill your vacancy more easily.

Offer incentives.

If you’re feeling desperate to get a property rented out quickly, you might try offering some kind of incentive to your new renter. Maybe you’ll take a few hundred dollars off their first month’s rent, send in a housekeeper for the first two months, or throw in the first month of landscaping. Don’t go overboard (after all, you’re still trying to make money!), but do realize that a vacancy will cost you far more than these small incentives will.

Hire a property management company.

This is the absolute easiest thing you can do to fill your vacancies. A property management company basically takes over the reins for you, handling everything from marketing and filling your property, to lease agreements and payment collection. So sit back, relax, and let someone else deal with all the work!

So stop sitting on vacant properties and do something to fill those spots fast! Not only will you get more positive cash flow, but you’ll also get peace of mind.

Need more help filling your rental property vacancy? Contact Real Property Management to take advantage of our years of expertise in managing rental properties. We can give you a free management quote that will show you how simple it can be to own your rental property. Give us a call at 480-719-1243 today!

Landscaping For Your Rental Property: Dos and Don’ts

With spring approaching, you might be thinking of sprucing up the landscaping on your rental property. It’s certainly not a bad idea: updated, inviting landscaping can help make your property more attractive to potential renters, from the minute they pull up and see the front yard.

Of course, you probably don’t have the time or energy to put into going “all out” on the landscaped areas of your property. So how to find the right balance? We’ve come up with a few tips for you as you’re considering what to do (and what not to do) to up your landscaping game this season.

DO add some color.

Adding some color to the yard can make a big difference in terms of how attractive the yard is. Look for low maintenance flower bushes that will be able to withstand the elements. If you don’t already have one, make sure you install a drip system to keep the flowers watered (because the only thing worse than no flowers, is dead flowers).

DON’T cut out all the grass.

Some landlords are tempted to go as low maintenance as possible, getting rid of all the grass and instead opting for rocks or other options that require no upkeep. While there are certainly things you can do to make this option more attractive, it’s going to be hard to compete with a nice, green lawn. If you’re worried about upkeep, consider hiring a professional service to care for the lawn for you. The weekly cost will be more than worth it when you consider convenience and payoff.

DO think about the lighting.

Outdoor lighting can really add to the feel of a yard. Think about exterior lights on the house, for sure, but also think about lights lining pathways. This is a fairly inexpensive addition to a yard that will make it look well-designed. In the backyard, you could even add floodlights, so that your renters have a way to light the whole backyard, if they ever need it.

DON’T forget your target renter.

What kind of renter are you trying to attract? If it’s a family, make sure your backyard is fenced in and has grassy areas. You could maybe even consider adding a play structure or swingset. Want to rent to an older couple? They’d probably appreciate pavers throughout the yard (for easy access), a gardening space, and maybe a fire pit. As you think about the type of person you want to rent your house to, you’ll be able to get a clearer picture of what the yard should look like.

DO add variety.

Trees, bushes, flowers, grass, rocks, river rocks, pavers—all these and more can be mixed and matched to create an oasis in your yard. While you do need to think about maintenance, you should be able to find some options that are fairly low maintenance and will thrive in your climate. Adding variety will up the curb appeal of your home and keep the exterior interesting and visually appealing.

DO build in storage.

In the backyard, even a small storage shed can be a big draw. If a shed is out of the question, small touches, like a storage bench or a garden hose reel, can still be very appealing and add a nice little feature or two to the property.

When trying to create a property that is attractive to renters, don’t neglect the landscaping! It’s often one of the first things potential renters see, and it can help you fill vacancies quickly and keep your property a shining part of its neighborhood.

Need help maintaining your rental properties? Give Real Property Management a call. We can help you market, fill, and maintain your property, and assist you with rent collection, tenant communications, and even evictions. Contact us online or at 480-719-1243. We look forward to working with you!

YPN Top 40 Under 40!

Real Property Management East Valley is excited to announce that owner, Clint Rowley, has been chosen as one of the winners of SEVRAR YPN’s Top 40 Under 40 award!

This award honors 40 of the top real estate business owners and entrepreneurs in Phoenix. The winners will be honored with an evening of fine dining and networking. For more information on the other individuals and teams to receive the award please click here.

The 4 Most Important Things to Consider When Choosing an Investment Property

If you’re thinking about purchasing an investment property, you’ve probably quickly discovered that there is a lot to think about. How do you find just the right space, for just the right price, in just the right location? What criteria are you looking at, and what should you be looking at?

While there are plenty of factors to consider, we’ve narrowed it down to the four most important criteria you need to consider when finding a property to purchase. Think about them carefully as you search for a property that is right for your needs.

Property Type

Are you looking for a single family home, or for a multi-family unit? When making this decision, consider the fact that for single family homes, turnover is usually lower, tenants commonly have a more stable income, and the property is typically easier to resell when you’re ready. On the flip side, for a multifamily property, you’ll be able to collect more rent, and you may be able to fill it more quickly when you have vacancies. In either case, a property management company can help you take care of marketing and filling your property, as well as managing the financial side of things.

Location

When considering location, you’ll have to find a good balance of proximity and value. The truth is, if you have help managing your property (again, from a property management company) it doesn’t really matter where it is—your rent collection, maintenance, and repairs will all be taken care of for you. If you have this flexibility, you are more able to look for a location with a thriving market and good appreciation potential. Make sure that no matter where you look, you take neighborhood into consideration as well as town or city. Especially if you’re planning on a single family home that may house a large family, make sure you consider nearby schools and community features.

Price

Obviously, when purchasing property, price is a big factor. You want to find something within your own budget, of course; make sure you consider taxes, closing costs, and other fees when determining if the property is something you can actually afford. Along with this, you also want to find something that will turn a decent profit when you rent or sell. Make sure you know what comparable homes are renting or selling for in the area. If the monthly rent you’d be able to charge on a property won’t cover your mortgage, plus maintenance, while still leaving you with a worthwhile profit, it’s probably not worth it.

Condition

Along with the price of the property, you need to consider what condition it’s in. If the property needs considerable upgrades or repairs, that will add to your cost significantly. Don’t let a property in poor condition scare you, but make sure you are up to the challenge of fixing it up, taking both time and cost into account. Fixing up a property is no small task, but it could pay off big time. Knowing whether or not you are willing and able to fix up a property may change your shopping process. If you are specifically looking for a fixer-upper, for example, you may be able to search for properties within a lower price range.

As you keep these four criteria in mind, you’ll be well on your way to finding an investment property that meets your needs perfectly. If you need more advice or help finding or managing your investment property, call Real Property Management at 480-719-1243 today. We can help you keep your property in good shape, your cash flow high, and your stress level low. You can also contact us online for a free quote and to see how we can help you. We look forward to working with you!