5 Tips to Help You in Your Final Walk Through Before Buying a Home

House HuntingYou’ve found the home you love, made the offer, and the seller has accepted. You’ve gotten your inspections done, your loan is being finalized and an escrow closing date has been set.

Great. But you’re not quite finished yet.

Your next step is a final walk-through, arranged through your real estate agent, at least a week before closing. The goal: Ensure the property’s condition hasn’t changed since your last visit, that any agreed-upon repairs have been made and that the terms of your contract will be met. Depending on your contract or local customs, a walk-through may be informal or more formal. In a formal arrangement, you will actually sign a contract addendum confirming that you’ve done your walk-through and everything is as it should be.

Here’s what you need to know for your final walk-through:

1. A final walk-through isn’t a home inspection. You’ve already done that by now (or should have).

2. Take your contract with you. You might need to refer to it while on site.

3. In many markets, the buyers and sellers never actually meet in person. But if everyone is agreeable to the idea, perform the final walk-through in the seller’s presence. He or she knows the home better than anyone else and should be able to answer your questions and provide some color on the history of the home.

4. If the home is vacant, it’s even more important to do a final walk-through. Since your last visit, for instance, someone might have left a faucet dripping, inadvertently causing water damage.

5. Take along a checklist of things to do during the final walk-through, including:

-Check the exterior of the home, especially if there have been strong wind or rain storms since your last visit.

-Turn all light fixtures on and off.

-Make sure the seller hasn’t removed any fixtures, such as chandeliers, that he or she agreed to leave behind.

-Check all major appliances.

-Turn heat and/or air conditioning on and off.

-Turn on water faucets; check for leaks under sinks.

-Test the garage door openers.

-Flush all toilets.

-Open and close all windows and doors.

-Do a visual spot-check of ceilings, walls and floors.

-Turn on the garbage disposal and exhaust fans.

-Check the status of any agreed-upon repairs.

-Check screens and storm windows. If they’ve been stored, make sure you know where they are and that they’re in good shape.

-Look in storage areas to make sure no trash or unwanted items remain. Old paint cans or hazardous materials are often left behind by the seller.

-Do a quick check of the grounds. Some sellers have dug up and taken plants (even small trees or bushes) with them.

 

Taking an hour for one last inspection is a good investment in your time. After all, you don’t want to spend the first weeks in your new home cleaning up or making unexpected repairs.

When and How Often Can a Landlord Access a Tenant Occupied Property

property_management_featureEven though you are the rightful owner of your Chico rental property, the law is quite clear on when and how often you can access that property when it is occupied by a tenant.

Each state has set up strict limits on the regulations regarding accessing the property, and violating that can actually be illegal. Before you enter your occupied rental property, make sure you are familiar with the conditions imposed by your state.

Entering for Maintenance and Upkeep:

Performing maintenance and upkeep tasks on the rental property is your right as the owner, but the means by which you gain entrance to the property is conditional upon providing the tenant enough notice.

Most states require that landlords deliver a written notice of the intent to enter at least 24 hours in advance, what is considered a reasonable time period. Your right to enter is also limited to normal business hours—between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on weekdays only.

Some states require that landlords can only give a notice to enter if there is actual maintenance to perform. You can’t perform a surprise inspection or a walk through with no intent to repair anything. If you enter the rental property for maintenance and the tenant is not home, it’s required in some states that you leave evidence of your entry, such as a note or signed business card, for the tenant.

Entering if There is an Emergency:

In very limited circumstances, you can enter the rental property if there is an emergency that would cause damage to the property or harm to a person if you did not take care of it.

An example of this might be accessing an upper floor apartment because the downstairs tenant reports water dripping from the ceiling. In an emergency, you can enter the property at any time, any day of the week, whether the tenant is home or not.

You do not have to deliver a written notice to enter in an emergency, but it’s always a good idea to document your actions with a written letter explaining the circumstances and what you did to resolve the problem.

Entering to Show Your Property to Buyers:

When you decide to sell your rental property, the law allows you to show it to prospective buyers, even if it is occupied by a tenant. However, the conditions of entry are strict as well.

To let your tenant know of your intent to sell, you must deliver a written notice in advance. Each state has differing time limits.

For example, in California it is 120 days. After that, you must give the tenant a written notice or an oral notice at least 24 hours in advance that you intend to bring potential buyers into the unit. Stick to normal business hours and only on weekends.

You can work additional scheduling out with the tenant and should only deviate with the tenant’s permission.

Review Landlord/Tenant Rights in Your State:

While entering your own property may seem like a non-issue, it’s actually a big deal to tenants who sign a lease agreement. They are entitled to quiet enjoyment of the property and are also protected from unwanted or unlawful entry—even from the owner or landlord. Protect yourself and your business by sticking to the established guidelines in your state for landlord entry.

Landlord Tips for Preventing a Dispute with a Contractor

HomepageContractor1The potential for disagreements with contractors is high, so follow these 10 steps to protect yourself and your rental property from costly disagreements and miscommunications:

1. Make sure to get everything in writing, and take notes on the conversations you have

2. Do not rush into hiring a contractor. You want to wait and make sure you have all of the information you need in order to make an informed decision.

3. Shop around. Talk to people, ask questions, and do as much as you possibly can to learn about the project before you start on it.

4. Check out the references of your contractor before you sign the contract.

5. Check on the contractor’s license, and make sure they are properly licensed to do the job you are considering hiring them for.

6. Ask how “extras” will be handled, and make sure that these procedures are part of the contract.

7. Never sign a document or paper unless you understand the full meaning of what you are signing.

8. Have an open line of communication with the contractor. You want to talk to them before they start work on the project, and while they are working on it.

9. Be reasonable when working with your contractor. Construction projects hardly ever go as planned. When something unexpected comes up, see how your contractor handles the situation. If he is acting responsible and it seemed like the right way to handle the situation, then be reasonable about it.

10. Check references. This is the most important step and often overlooked, so we have mentioned it twice. Be sure to thoroughly check all references given.

What to do When a Tenant Abandons a Rental Property

Even the best of Chico landlords deal with nightmare tenants. Besides landlord-tenant disputes and resident enew_apartment_housevictions, another headache that can come with the job is resident abandonment. What do you do when a resident abandons the property without notice? Before you clean out the unit and list it for rent, it’s important to follow the correct legal procedure for dealing with property abandonment.

Give notice before entering:

Even if multiple neighbors tell you they saw the resident move out weeks ago, you still need to give the tenant advance notice before entering the property. Send a written notice, contact the resident numerous times, and give them the appropriate advance notice required by your state’s laws. As always, double check your state and local rental laws before moving forward.

Document the inspection:

Be very careful when you enter the unit. Legally, you don’t have possession of the property yet. The resident could be out of town or in the process of moving. Bring a witness with you for the inspection and use a camera or videotape to document the condition of the unit. Photographic evidence will show what was abandoned and the value of the belongings in case a claim is brought against you by the tenant for disposing of their belongings. Check that the resident didn’t leave any dangerous or hazardous conditions when they left the unit. Look for signs of abandonment, such as missing furniture or expensive electronics.

Don’t throw anything out:

Your first reflex may be to clear the unit of all the tenant’s personal belongings, but not so fast. When a resident abandons a unit, the law requires you to care for the personal property and return it to the tenant. Disposing of items prematurely could result in a claim from the tenant that you owe them for the items they left behind, leaving you with a hefty replacement fee (especially if you haven’t documented the items that were abandoned). Check how long your state law requires you to hold the belongings.

Decide on the best course of action

Once you’ve confirmed that the resident has abandoned the unit, the best course of action will probably be to go forward with your state’s procedure for abandonment. This usually involves holding the tenant’s property for up to one month and letting them know where their belongings are being held and where they can be claimed. Depending on the situation, evicting the resident or having them sign a release of rights of possession (if they can be reached) is also an option. Consult professional legal advice to find out the best way to proceed in your situation.

Resident abandonment puts landlords in a tricky situation. Do your research on state and local laws concerning abandonment and follow them closely to protect yourself from legal trouble.

Landlord Guide to Written Notice Letters

you've been servedBeing a Chico landlord means you’ll have to communicate with your tenants frequently about a range of topics, from repairs to rent notices. While phone calls may be easier, you’re leaving yourself open to disputes unless you communicate in writing.

When you must communicate something serious to your tenants, like a pay or quit notice or lease termination notice, not only must it be written properly, but you must deliver it by the appropriate process outlined by your state.

Create Written Notices to Tenants

Written documentation is critical when you are communicating with tenants about terminating a lease or starting the eviction process. State laws require these notices to be done in writing, with variations from state to state on the details of the process. Landlords can lose disputes in court simply for failing to follow their state’s laws that outline the landlord/tenant communication process.

It’s also in your best interest to keep written documentation of other types of communication besides notices, such as conversations about landlord repairs, notices to enter the rental property and follow ups on lease violations. If you end up with a tenant dispute that goes to court, such as over a repair or a security deposit, your written notices are evidence showing your side of the story. Written notices also confirm dates, times and situations that may be hard to remember several weeks, months or years after the fact.

Proper Delivery of Written Tenant Notices

In most states, there are three ways that you can officially leave written notice with a tenant.

1. Personal Delivery

You can hand the written communication to the tenant, either at the rental property or at the tenant’s workplace. Even if the tenant refuses to take the letter, you can leave it near him, such as on the front step or on his desk at work. Make a note of the delivery time and date on your copy of the notice

2. Substitute and Mail

You can leave the written communication with someone who lives with the tenant, such as another adult or an older teenager. Make a note of the deliver time and date on your copy of the notice, as well as the full name of who you left it with. That same day, you must send a copy via certified mail to the tenant’s address. Note the day on your copy.

3. Nail and Mail

If the previous methods don’t work, you can affix the written notice to the door of the property. That same day, send a copy via certified mail to the tenant’s address. Record all the steps on your copy of the notice.

Storing Tenant Notices

If your written communication has to do with evictions, repairs, leases or disputes, it’s wise to keep copies in a folder in your office. Start a file for each one of your tenants and add to it as needed. You may never need the correspondence, but if you do, having written documentation of a tenant episode may just make things easier for you, in or out of court.

5 Ways to Make You a Better Chico Landlord

logoEveryone focuses on making personal and professional goals aimed at looking at the past and applying those lessons toward a better future. As a Chico landlord, it’s a good opportunity for you to make some changes to improve how you run your business.

Here are 5 tips for landlords that you can do to really make a difference in becoming the best landlord you can be:

1. Take time and spend money to find good tenants

Good tenants are the critical component of making your business a success.

Taking the time to find ones that will respect the property, pay on time and stick to the rules is imperative. Make the commitment to perform thorough tenant screenings on applicants to reduce the risk of getting into a contract with renters who won’t work out.

If you haven’t been happy with your current tenant screening process, it’s not too late to make some changes starting now. Also, don’t forget to make sure you do your homework when choosing a tenant screening company to handle your background checks.

2. Say goodbye to bad tenants

Make the decision to stop tolerating bad tenants.

Tenants who are a drain on your resources, cost you money and bring down your business don’t deserve any more breaks. Getting rid of bad tenants will solve a lot of your problems, so be assertive and commit to action when they violate the lease agreement. Choose between non-renewal of the lease, notices to pay or quit when they are late, or notices to comply or quit when they cause trouble.

3. Streamline landlord tasks

Your time is valuable, so stop wasting it.

Technology allows landlords to streamline many of the processes that used to take lots of time or lead to mistakes.

Maybe you are currently driving to the bank all the time to deposit checks. Instead, set up electronic deposits from the tenants to your bank account.

Maybe your residents are filling out maintenance requests by hand and dropping them at the office. Instead, update your website to include an electronic maintenance request.

Maybe you are still holding on to that cell phone you bought 5 years ago that is slow to text and doesn’t include handy apps like calendars, appointment reminders and GPS mapping. Instead, get a smart phone and simplify dozens of tasks immediately.

Choose at least one new way to harness the power and convenience of technology and make your life a little easier.

4. Review relationships with services and contractors

You need service companies and contractors you can depend on. When you have a problem with your rental property, the service companies you work with need to be prompt, affordable and flexible. Whether it’s the plumber, exterminator or carpet cleaner, take the time to evaluate your current contracts, rates and other aspects. Then, make appointments as needed to renegotiate so that both of you are getting the best out of the relationship.

If you haven’t been happy with a service but are holding on out of some kind of loyalty, get tough and start shopping around for something better.

5. Plan for quality upgrades

Never let your rental properties look run down or outdated.

Take a look at each property and determine what kind of an upgrade your property needs. Keeping your rental properties updated and comfortable has many benefits, such as attracting higher quality tenants and maintaining the property’s value.

Depending on your budget, you can look at new carpet, upgrading an appliance, invest in landscaping or something else that will boost the property value and each tenant’s overall happiness with the unit.

Hopefully these tips are helpful in your venture to become the Chico landlord everyone wants to rent from!

Common Staging Misakes

Home staging is a useful tool to control the message as you market your property. By taking the livingroomtime to declutter and rearrange furniture, you’ll position yourself to attract the largest pool of potential renters possible. Improve your listing photos, showing success, and quality of applicants by staging your property to play to its strengths. Here are some common staging mis
takes that can throw off the look and feel of a space, and easy solutions to fix them.

There’s not enough light.

Good lighting makes a space look inviting, attractive, and comfortable. Bad lighting also results in low-quality listing photos. Improve the look and feel of the rooms on your property by making sure there light sources in each room. While windows that let in natural light are ideal, you can improve the lighting in the room by adding an overhead light or a smaller lamp.

The furniture is the wrong size.

Oversized furniture in a small room will make the area look even more cramped and awkward. Prevent the room from looking off-balance by measuring the space before bringing in the furniture. In large rooms, don’t be afraid to place couches and chairs away from the walls and grouped together to make the room look cozier. If you have dark furniture, using light-colored slipcovers makes large or heavy items seem smaller. You can also remove a piece or two to lighten up the space.

Weirdly positioned artwork

Hanging artwork on the walls is an easy solution to keep a room from feeling too bare and sterile. Similar to having furniture in listing photos, the placement of artwork gives viewers a better feel for the size of the room and the amount of space relative to the objects. However, art that’s in the wrong place can look strange or even give a false impression of the space. A large frame in a smaller space, such as a bathroom wall or narrow corner, can make the room feel even more cramped. Art that’s hung too high or isn’t large enough (like a frame above the sofa) can make the space look awkward.

Instead of going out and buying a large canvas, hang your art displays to scale by decorating with a gallery wall and making sure the size of the artwork is the right scale for the items around it. Help your art blend in and add to the décor by hanging the canvas so that the center of the piece is at eye level.

There’s no texture.

Keep your rooms from looking dull by adding color and texture. Remember that not everything needs to match. A fruit bowl on the counter, throw blanket on the couch, or basket on a shelf adds texture and dimension. Focus less on everything ‘matching’ and being from the same period or style – instead, don’t be afraid to mix things up and go with what you think looks good.

How to Get Rid of Ants in Your Chico Property

Ants-II-iStock_As a property owner, you are always looking for ways to reduce your expenses to get rid of ants.  Some landlords are way too quick to just call for help when they could very easily do it themselves or find an alternative solution.

Here’s some helpful advice when it comes to dealing with ants:

Ants Don’t Like the Heat

Ants tend to make their way indoors during times of excessive heat, so there’s not always a whole lot you can do at this point.  Spraying for ants might not work since nature will continue to drive them inside.Normally, you get ants because they are looking for a food source or water.  But if the heat is what’s driving them inside, they’re going to keep coming and there’s not a lot you can do to get rid of ants.

Keep Your Food Sealed

This might seem like an obvious one but if you’re experiencing trouble with ants, make sure that you put all your food in plastic containers or ziploc bags around the kitchen area.  Ants especially love sugary substances so make sure that you wipe down and clean up any juice spills or dirty dishes.

Dry Them Out

If ants can’t eat or drink, they will tend to die off or move on.  One tip that really works well to get rid of ants is to make sure your sink area is completely dry once you’re done cooking or cleaning dishes.  That way, the ants won’t have anything to drink and they’ll have to find water somewhere else, hopefully outside of your house.

Ant Traps and Spray

Ants are pretty dumb but apparently not quite dumb enough to walk right into an ant trap.  Bug spray works pretty well but you have to be careful spraying that stuff around your kitchen area. Try and avoid spraying on surfaces that you will be eating off of.  Spraying in cracks or corners where you won’t ever place food is always best.  Find the entry and exit points and try to spray there too.

Hopefully, all these efforts will combine to help you get rid of ants in your Chico rental property!

How to Say “No” to Tenants

Successful landlords have learned how to be effective business managers. Real estate investment is a business, and as a Chico landlord, you are responsible for making the necessary decisions that allow your business to be profitable, all while staying within the law. One of the most effective things a landlord can do in order to run a business effectively is to learn to say no.No more

While this may sound cliche, mastering the skill of saying no can help you keep your sanity, streamline your business practices and make things easier for you and your tenants in the long run.

Embracing the Word “No”:

Modern culture has somehow changed someone’s polite refusal to do something into a harsh shutdown of conversation. When you say no to someone, you probably feel rude, mean or uncaring. However, in the right situation, learning to say no is both empowering and freeing. It helps you assess responsibility, limits your time focused on unnecessary tasks and gives you a chance to prioritize your goals.

Many people also associate negativity with saying no, with the idea that someone who always says yes is more likeable and eager to please. As a Chico landlord, neither of those characteristics really benefit you. Instead, by saying no to some things, it opens up the doors for you to say yes on other requests and sets the tone for the landlord/tenant relationship that you are not a pushover and won’t capitulate under pressure.

Successful landlords have learned this technique, and if you can master it, your management abilities will definitely improve.

6 Tips for Saying No to Tenants:

As a Chico landlord, learning to say no can be difficult and it may take you several instances to gain enough confidence to deliver your message. When you follow these tips, it can help you master this important business skill practiced by the most successful landlords.

Here are 6 helpful tips on saying no to tenants:

1. It takes practice

It may take some practice with saying no before you feel comfortable doing it in real life. Run through scenarios in your mind and formulate answers to requests where you say no.

2. You don’t have to be mean

Remember that when you say no, you never have to be mean or rude. It’s a real skill to turn down requests in a polite manner using language that is clear and concise but not abrupt or negative.

3. Body language is important

Your body language and tone of voice is a key part of delivering an effective no. Make eye contact, keep your voice even and firm, and deliver your decision with an explanation if needed.

4. Don’t apologize…too much

Many people bundle up a no with profuse apologies, which minimizes the effect of the conversation and suggests room for negotiation or another petition. Avoid overly apologizing—one simple and sincere apology will do.

5. Be respectful

Make sure you are saying no to the situation or request, not to the person. Being polite and respectful to the tenant while denying the request emphasizes that you are clearly focused on the business decision you are making, not putting the person down.

6. Explain your reason clearly

Offer an explanation as part of the message. When you can present your reasons clearly, the other person is more likely to accept your answer as final. They may not like it, but at least they will see your reasoning.

These tips can help you boost your confidence and get you mentally ready to stand your ground as needed when it comes to managing your business and making appropriate decisions for how you are handling your property.

Scenarios for Saying No to Tenants:

In a perfect landlord/tenant relationship, there would be no conflicts with tenants or instances where you would have to say no to someone. However, real life requires successful landlords to be able to deliver the no messages and gently but firmly decline requests.

Here are some scenarios based on real life situations where landlords said no gracefully, and how it benefitted their business:

Problem: Overly Demanding Tenant

Christina has a tenant who is extremely demanding. The tenant, Anna, frequently calls or emails Christina with maintenance demands that must be fulfilled immediately. In order to get results, Anna often vaguely threatens to contact various authorities, such as her lawyer, the police or a local tenant landlord group. Christina always jumps whenever Anna puts in a request for something, because she is intimidated by Anna’s demands and threats.

This has resulted in many late night visits, expensive after-hours fees for service companies and plenty of stress for Christina.

Solution: Christina decides to say no to Anna’s frequent immediate repair and maintenance demands.

Unless the repair threatens the safety of the tenants, would damage the property somehow or otherwise affect the warranty of habitability, Christina says she will address the maintenance in a timely fashion. On this call and for the next several “urgent” request, Christina tells Anna that the requested service is not urgent, she won’t be addressing the nonessential repair immediately and that she will resolve the issue within the week and keep Anna informed of progress.

Each time Anna protests, Christina calmly says no, explains that her approach is well within the legal requirements of landlord responsibility and that she will be sending a written statement of the course of action to Anna and keep one for her records. After several similar incidents where Christina says no, Anna’s requests are fewer and more respectful.

Problem: Denying a Tenant Request

Davis is a landlord who has been fielding calls from other tenants about noise, parking problems and other lease violations from the guest of one of his tenants, Marcus. It seems that Marcus’ girlfriend has been staying at the rental unit almost every night and day, and it is evident that she is the cause of much of the problems. When Davis confronts Marcus about the girlfriend and the lease agreement violations, Marcus asks if his girlfriend can move in and be on the lease agreement. Davis knows that while Marcus has been a good tenant, the girlfriend has proven herself to be nothing but trouble.

Solution: Davis tells Marcus that he will not allow the girlfriend to be added to the lease agreement and that Marcus is in fact responsible for the actions of any guests to the rental property.

Davis is firm when he tells Marcus that if he cannot remedy the situation with the girlfriend’s behavior, Marcus will receive a 30 day notice to quit for lease violations. When Marcus protests, Davis shows him the place in the lease agreement about guests and violations and reiterates that the next report means official action.

The next time the girlfriend visits, she violates the lease agreement again and angers other tenants, who notify Davis. Davis delivers the official notice to Marcus the next day, and receives a desperate phone call begging him to reconsider. Davis says no, and sticks to his timeline as outlined in the notice. When Marcus moves out, other tenants express their appreciation for how Davis handled the situation. It goes without saying that other tenants internalized that Davis is not a pushover when it comes to enforcing the lease agreement.

Problem: Pushing the Boundaries for Late Rent

Marissa is a landlord who delivered a late rent notice last week to Brian. After several days of trying to get in contact with him, Brian finally calls and states that he will pay the rent as soon as he can, probably a few weeks. He asks that Marissa toss out the pay or quit notice and stop the eviction process until he can pay because he promises that it will only be this once. Brian then offers to pay partial rent soon and the balance later. He indicates he is willing to do payment arrangements as well—anything to stop the eviction process.

Solution: Marissa knows she is in a tough situation and needs to be firm on what she will accept.

At the beginning of her journey as a landlord, she decided that she would never accept partial payments or do payment arrangements, so she stands firm and delivers a solid no to the tenant. Marissa reminds Brian that if he could come up with the full rent payment plus late fees, she would stop pursuing the eviction. She tells Brian that the eviction process will go forward as planned until the rent is paid in full and after a certain point, she will not accept rent.

Despite his promises to pay and his attempts to get her to call off the eviction process, Brian never did follow through. By the time Marissa realized that he wasn’t going to pay the rent, the eviction process was well underway. Had she waited to start the process until she realized that, Marissa would have endured several more weeks or months with no income while the eviction process got started.

Consequences of Saying No

The benefits of saying no when it is appropriate are huge, but there are some downsides and consequences of taking a stand. Anytime you refuse someone, they will most likely not be happy about it. In a business relationship, you’ve got to set limits and being a landlord is no different. Knowing when to say yes and when to say no is a key part of a successful management strategy.

Whether a tenant gets angry, gives you the silent treatment or turns passive aggressive, sometimes the consequences of saying no can feel personal. Above all, don’t take it personally because feeling slighted when refused is simply human nature. As a landlord, you must own your decisions and realize that you are making them for specific reasons. When you are educated about what it takes to run your real estate business, your confidence in making the right decisions will carry you through any guilt you might feel.

Why Hire a Property Management Company?

business meetingProperty management involves many tasks like collecting rents, doing maintenance and repairs, and finding the best tenants. Chico homeowners who handle property management on their own spend most of their valuable time handling all these aspects. Such homeowners need someone to help them with managing their Chico property. In such situations, property management is ideal.

What does a property management company do?

-A property management company directly deals with tenants saving you time and worry over marketing your rentals.

-They help you find ideal tenants and negotiate on your behalf for rental agreement.

-They collect rent, handle all maintenance and repair issues.

-They respond to tenant’s complaints, and even pursue evictions.

-They are aware of the federal, state and local property management laws and deal with legal issues.

-They have specialized property management strategies and years of experience for reaching potential customers. Whether your property is a single family or a commercial complex, they can market it to get maximum income.

-Hiring a property management company makes sense because it can save you time and effort. As they are well versed with different techniques of property management, they can earn the highest possible returns on your investment.

 

Choosing the right property management company is also very important. Ask the following questions while interviewing a property management company:

-Ask how they can help you keep down the costs

-Ask them whether they can provide any references

-Ask them about their fee structure

-Ask how they handle emergency client requirements and maintenance issues

-Ask how they deal with legal issues

-Ask how long it will take to find tenants