Keeping Your Properties Safe during the Holidays

The holiday season is rapidly approaching.  Along with family get-togethers, decorations, and presents, the holiday season poses a unique set of risks for property managers, including everything from apartment fires to a higher risk of property theft. While it will never be possible to prevent all adverse events, there are many precautions both you and your residents can take to prevent these potential issues from spoiling the holiday season.

Here are some ways to lower your property’s risk:

  • Provide your residents with a safety guide that includes tips on keeping their apartment or home safe during the holidays; paying careful attention to fire safety issues such as burning candles. Another potential hazard is the combination of a dry Christmas tree coupled with lights burning around the clock. Trees need to be watered regularly, and lights turned off when the resident is not at home.
  • The safe usage of outdoor lights should be addressed as well. If your residents typically decorate their patio or balcony, they need to make sure that lights are designed for outdoor use and that the lights are not resting on any flammable materials.
  • If your property’s units have working fireplaces, have maintenance check each fireplace to ensure that it’s in prime working condition without any obstruction in the flue. Ideally, maintenance should spend a few moments with residents not familiar with working fireplaces to ensure that they’re comfortable using the fireplace safely.
  • Address potential parking issues in your community before the holidays.  Many residents may have visitors, creating potential parking nightmares. If possible, offer extra spaces, but make sure residents are aware that parking in another resident’s assigned spot will result in the offender’s vehicle being towed.
  • Keep a closer eye on strangers on your property. Property theft increases dramatically during the holiday season, with criminals well aware of the pile of presents that can likely be found in apartments during this season. The same advice goes for deliveries. Make sure that delivery personnel leave parcels in your office, not in front of your resident’s door.
  • Lastly, many residents may be out of town in late November and December. Again, keep an eye out for strangers, and caution your residents to leave a light on inside, and arrange to have a neighbor park in their spot if possible. They’ll also want to stop newspaper delivery or have a neighbor collect them.

The holidays can be fun, but they can also be stressful. By addressing these common issues head-on, you’ll help to ensure that the holidays are not ruined for anyone.

Article from

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Mobile marketing strategies for real estate: Responsive design and mobile-friendly website can help capture more business

This post is part of a series on mobile marketing strategies for real estate. According to the National Association of Realtors, 89 percent of home shoppers use a mobile device during their search. Furthermore, 68 percent of them contacted a real estate professional based on a mobile search. And 21 percent of them found a listing agent based on their mobile search. Those are pretty staggering stats, and proof that real estate consumers are using mobile more than the average consumer. That also means that as a real estates professional, you cannot afford to ignore mobile users.

One of the most important things you should do to attract mobile users is to create a mobile-friendly website. Studies show that 79 percent of mobile users who find a site difficult to use will look for the information they need on another site and never return. That means if your competitor has a mobile site and you don’t, you’re sending them a ton of business. And you’re not even getting referral fees! But don’t panic, because creating a mobile-friendly does not have to be expensive, or even difficult. Sometimes it can be downright easy! Here are your three options:

Simply change your template! If your website is on a WordPress template, then your solution could be as simple as changing your template to one that is “responsive.” A “responsive” website is fluid, and will automatically respond and resize itself based on the device that is being used to view it. You can browse through some WordPress responsive templates here.
Build a mobile website. This is a “mini” version of your existing website. There are tons of mobile site builder applications that you can use to create a mini site just for mobile users. Most of these apps are simple to use and relatively inexpensive. Some of my favorites are MobDis, goMobi and YoMobi. They offer a variety of easy-to-customize mobile templates. Once your mobile site is built, you simply add a bit of code to your existing website that detects and auto-redirects mobile users to your mobile site.
Build a responsive website. If changing your website template to a responsive design is not an option, then you may want to simply start from scratch with a whole new website, built with a responsive design. This option is more expensive than simply building a mobile site, but it’s better for several reasons. Responsive sites are fluid, so whatever new screen size is the next big thing, your site will respond and work. And because there is no redirect of mobile users to a different site, it’s better for the overall search engine optimization (SEO) of your site.

Now that you know what your mobile website options are, you can choose one that fits your needs. But stay tuned, because before you actually build that mobile site, you should know exactly what mobile consumers want and need when they land on a mobile website.

Next week I’ll share a post with information and tips on what consumers are looking for on mobile websites. Building a mobile-friendly website is just one piece of your mobile marketing strategy. Another very important strategy is to make sure you are optimized for local search. Be sure to read my previous post, “3 key strategies to optimize business for local search on mobile devices.”

Marci James is the director of marketing at Obeo, which provides interactive virtual tours, professional photography, virtual redecorating tools and custom real estate marketing solutions.

With The Fed Still Accommodating Is It Better To Rent Or Own?

As I’ve anticipated for weeks the Federal Reserve said on September 18th that it would continue buying bonds at an $85 billion monthly pace for the time being. The Fed is concerned that a sharp rise in borrowing costs in recent months could hurt the housing market as well as the rest of the economy.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke refused to commit to so-called “tapering” of its bond purchases later this year, as he had previously suggested. “There is no fixed calendar schedule. I really have to emphasize that,” he told a news conference. “If the data confirm our basic outlook, if we gain more confidence in that outlook … then we could move later this year.”

Everyone from Wall Street to Main Street breathed a huge sigh of relief. The yield on the 10-year Treasury, the benchmark for mortgage rates, fell over 5% down to 2.71%. As the CEO of homebuilder Toll Brothers (NYSE:TOL) said in a CNBC interview before the Fed’s announcement, the demographics don’t change no matter what the Fed decides.

“Our average house is over $600,000, so we sell to the second, third time move-up,” CEO Doug Yearley said in the interview. “They [our home buyers] don’t have the mortgage issues. Twenty percent of our buyers are all-cash and those that get a mortgage put 30 percent down.”

How about the rest of the population demographics, the ones who don’t have that kind of money? Yes, the 90% of the population who isn’t cash-rich with upper middle-class incomes. The CEO of the nation’s largest publicly-traded residential apartment REIT, Equity Residential (NYSE:EQR) stated emphatically that more people than ever will choose to rent rather than own a residence.

CEO David Neithercut told CNBC that “the rental market in NYC is on fire and we have every reason to believe it will stay that way”. The same is true in most major metropolitan areas. Even if mortgage rates settle lower in the months to come, the vast majority of the U.S. adults who don’t already own a home will not be able to afford or qualify for the high cost of home ownership.

When one factors in property taxes, insurance and maintenance to the monthly mortgage expense it’s easy to see that renting is still the more affordable option. Neithercutt pointed out that the “Millennial Generation” wants to live in areas where the cost of housing it too expensive to buy.

“There are 4 million people turning 21-years old every year in this country…there will be 1.3 to 1.4 million households being formed every year and institutional grade; core multi-family [rental housing] will attract a significant percentage of them.” The CEO of Equity Residential also said that 43% of the units they own and manage are occupied by single individuals. “They have no intention of moving to the suburbs and buying a single-family home.”

Millions of renters under the age of 35 are choosing to live in the city and can only afford to rent. They’re getting married later in life and moving to the suburbs later as well. Demographics is the key to why the number of adults who chose to rent a residence will continue to grow. This can lead to increasing business opportunities for property managers in all regions.

Sourced from Property Manager


Pit Bulls Find Shelter in Fair Housing Act Against Breed Restriction Laws

Just because municipal bans are being lifted on pit bulls and other dogs that are perceived as dangerous doesn’t mean that multifamily landlords still may not find comfort in allowing the animals as pets or assistive animals.

Concerns over permitting feared breeds or those that have made headlines for dangerous behavior – specifically pit bulls – at apartments has heightened in recent years. Landlords who fear liability issues have especially raised questions about allowing such animals that provide service or assistance to disabled residents or applicants, or amended pet policies to restrict them altogether on property.

Breed Restriction Laws Gradually Being Lifted

Cities are slowly lifting bans that have kept pit bulls at bay in some cases for more than two decades. Townships in Michigan and Kansas have recently wiped out sanctions, and one Colorado city is talking about tossing a 25-year code.

Regardless of whether a city keeps a ban or dismisses one, landlords will likely hold steady on scrutinizing the animals when a resident or applicant requests to bring one on property, says a California Fair Housing attorney who hears the steady drumbeat of concern from clients.

“I do not think (the bans) will have any effect on owner’s pet policies,” said Lynn Dover of Kimball, Tirey & St. John, LLP. “I think those who ban pit bulls and other ‘dangerous breeds’ will do so whether there is a city ordinance in place or not. And unfortunately, some residents will try and get around those bans by producing verification of disability and disability-related need for an assistive animal.”

As April’s Fair Housing Month approached, the firm, which specializes in multifamily law, issued a reminder to clients about the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) and Department of Justice’s joint statement issued last year on assistance animals for people with disabilities. The statement confirmed that assistance animals aren’t pets and that breed, size, and weight limitations may not be scrutinized when determining whether an animal should be accepted as an assistance animal. Instead, each animal should be individually considered.

Service Animal Exemption Requests on the Rise

Landlords and policies are being challenged more and more by residents who claim their animal is needed for service or assistance and request an exemption to no-pet policies, Dover says. Landlords frequently report that residents or applicants present documentation that appears to support that an animal is qualified to provide service or assistance to a resident, who may or may not have a disability. Typically, the paperwork comes from one of the Internet service animal registries that offer official-looking service animal apparel and documentation for a fee.

Many times the animal in question is a pit bull, Dover said.

“There is an increase in people going onto a website and paying to get these certifications and other documents. We seem to be getting at least as many, if not more, inquiries then we’ve had in the past,” Dover said.

Clients, she said, are often confused about what defines a service animal and whether companion animals should be considered pets. Many are also unsure what kind of documentation is acceptable for the animals to be allowed.

It’s important for multifamily professionals to realize that trained service and companion animals are types of assistive animals and fall under Fair Housing rules. Denying a resident either of these could ultimately lead to potential fair housing liability.

Determining Disability Is Key to Service Animal Exemption

Kimball, Tirey & St. John often gets inquiries about what residents have to prove for an animal to be accepted under the FHA.

The ultimate determining factor is not whether the animal is classified for service or assistance, rather whether the resident or applicant is disabled and needs the animal because of the disability.  Dover said that landlords can require written verification that the resident is disabled and has a disability-related need for the animal.

However, landlords can’t ask about the nature or extent of the disability. They can ask for verification that the person meets the definition of disability under relevant fair housing laws.

Official-looking documents, capes, collars and badges don’t prove that the person is disabled and has a disability-related need for an assistive animal.

“Sometimes managers get scared because they don’t want to be accused of Fair Housing violations,” Dover said. “But I think it’s important for housing providers to recognize that these types of documents are not a valid form of verification and they are entitled to verification of disability and disability-related need for the animal, unless it’s apparent.”

Property Pit Bull Bans Require Burden of Proof

With regard to pit bulls, landlords must prove that allowing pit bulls, or any other breed for that matter, as assistive animals poses an undue financial or administrative burden in order to legally keep them off the property.

And just because the current insurance provider – which also has fair housing responsibilities to the extent of insuring housing – denies coverage is not enough for landlords to refuse the animals. A landlord is expected to ask their insurance carrier to make an accommodation for a disability-related situation.

In the event the carrier doesn’t make an accommodation, the burden is on the landlord to seek alternative insurance from a carrier that will make an accommodation for disability. If no comparable insurance provider can be found, only then can a landlord have a valid defense that allowing a pit bull is an undue burden, Dover said.

At the same time, landlords would need to battle city hall over a municipal ban if a resident or applicant proved a disability and disability-related need for a pit bull or any other banned animal.

“If a city had a pit bull ban, I think a landlord would have a responsibility to request the city to waive the ban when a resident wanted to have a pit bull as an assistive animal,” Dover said. “Cities cannot take away rights given by the federal or state government, and cities also have fair housing responsibilities.”

Source from Property Manager Insider

The Mortgage Market Is About To Get Smaller

As 2014 begins a bureau created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), will set new rules concerning mortgages. Lenders will be required to verify and inspect borrowers’ financial records. The rules discourage lenders from allowing borrowers to carry total debt payments totaling more than 43 percent of the person’s annual income.

That debt also includes existing debts like credit cards and student loans. Starting January 10th the CFPB will put into force a national standard for issuing mortgages that could help prevent the housing crash of 2008 and 2009. Earlier in 2013 CFPB director Richard Cordray called the new rules “the true essence of ‘responsible lending.”

All kinds of consumer advocates and mortgage professionals are lauding the new CFPB requirements. The new rules not only provide more responsibility for lenders, but it also protects them from lawsuits. “Lenders are going to be crossing their t’s and dotting their i’s like never before” said Bob Walters, the chief economist for Quicken Loans.

On the downside, there will be a big number of people who should have been able to qualify for mortgages that won’t be able to and will be shut out of the home-buying market. If you add to that the fact that mortgage rates have risen in the past 6 month and are predicted to gradually move up to the mid 5 percent range by the end of 2014, you can see that the mortgage market will be shrinking.

Others have commented that there’s a good chance that limits on the size of some popular mortgages will be lowered during 2014. CFPB director Corday noted that in the years leading up to the 2008 financial crisis, consumers could easily obtain mortgages that they could not afford to repay. In contrast, in subsequent years banks tightened lending so much that few could qualify for a home loan.

The new rules seek out a middle ground by protecting consumers from bad loans while giving banks the legal assurances they need to increase lending, he said in a press conference at the start of 2013. The new rules will limit offers like teaser rates that adjust upwards and large “balloon payments” that must be made at the end of the loan period.

They include several exceptions aimed at ensuring a smooth phase-in and protecting access to credit for underserved groups. For example, the strict cap on how much debt consumers may take on will not apply immediately. Loans that meet separate federal standards also would be permitted for the first seven years.

Balloon payments would be allowed for certain small lenders that operate in rural or underserved communities, because other loans may not be available in those areas. The bureau also proposed amendments that would exempt from the rules some loans made by community banks, credit unions and nonprofit lenders that work with low- and moderate-income consumers.

You can learn more about the details that the CFPB’s website which is a great source of information on new laws that govern the use of credit and consumer rights. Property managers, here’s an idea for you. Why not send a link to this article to your owner-clients and your prospective client list as a “heads-up” for the year ahead.

As I often like to remind us, being a font of information and the latest insights can separate you from your peers, leading to more referrals and a bigger  book of business. On second thought, if you send this article to your owner-clients and your prospective client list, maybe it would be more prudent to copy and paste sections and leave off the last 3 paragraphs.

Article Source from

How to prepare your property for rent


Brown and Glenn Realty specializes in property management. In today’s rental market single-family homes have a huge presence on the rental scene.  It is not just about apartments these days. In today’s economy renting your home instead of selling can be more profitable.

Before you put your property on the market there are a few things you need to do to prepare your property for rent. It is important to have a house that is move in ready because renters are not looking for fixer uppers.

One of the first things you need to do is inspect the house. Make sure there are no leaks from the roof to the pipes. Fix any problems that you already know about or discover in your inspection. Clear the gutters, if necessary. Prepare the yards by mowing, pruning, gardening and weeding as necessary. Repair any faults in the driveway.

Also, check all wall switches and electrical outlets for proper function. Check all lights and replace any dead light bulbs. Replace the air filters in your ventilation systems. Test all steps and stairs for soundness, and repair as necessary.

Also, repaint or replace the wallpaper, if necessary. A potential renter is looking for a move in ready property that is aesthetically pleasing and clean.  Clean the entire house. This includes bathrooms, cabinets, windows, and carpets. Eradicate any pests.

Many of these things a property owner can do themselves if they choose; however, hiring a professional will not only save you time, but potentially money in the long run.

If you have questions about what it takes to get your property rented quickly contact us at 704.332.7734 today to learn more!