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Generally speaking, in tenancy situations, the landlord holds the power. They own the property, set the rules, and collect the money. In fact, the imbalance is such that tenants can find extensive information on landlord harassment online, including cases in which landlords engage in a variety of abusive actions and aggressive behaviors to get tenants to terminate their contracts. Far less recognized are those cases in which, for one reason or another, tenants are the aggressors in the relationship.
So what happens when you as a landlord, or your employees, is harassed by a tenant? Though it’s not as common, this sort of harassment does happen on occasion and it can be distressing and even threatening. Looking beyond the basic framework of eviction, which is typically the outcome in such circumstances, here’s what you need to consider – and what steps you can take – when a tenant is causing problems.
Disruption Versus Aggression
Before contending that a tenant is acting aggressively, it’s important to distinguish between common problem tenant behaviors and actual harassment. A problem tenant may not pay their rent on time, may have unauthorized guest overs, or may be loud or disruptive in their relationships with neighbors. Some even cause property damage, though not in a malicious manner.
The difference between a tenant who is causing problems and one who is actively harassing you has more to do with the quality of the actions than with the specific behavior. An aggressive tenant, for example, might threaten you or their neighbors in daily interactions, maliciously damage property with the intention of forcing you to do repair work, and they may even assault you, workers on the property, or neighbors. In addition to these actions, aggressive tenants might invite guests who are there specifically to be threatening or disruptive or withhold rent as part of their threat pattern. The nature of the actions matters more than the actions themselves.
Get At The Root
While some tenants are explicitly malicious and will act out, particularly during the weeks leading up to eviction, in some cases tenants may act aggressively because they feel that their requests are being ignored. If a tenant begins showing signs of aggression, such as withholding payment or making excessive noise or threats, the first thing you should do is meet with them to set out your expectations. Then give them an opportunity to discuss any problems they’re having as a tenant and see what you may be able to do to assist them.
Very few tenants will act aggressively because they’re having a problem, but it may happen from time to time, especially if you own a lot of multi-family units. Tenants may have had negative experiences at past properties that inform how they act now, and you should consider this an opportunity to help them correct course going forward.
Protecting Your Employees
If you’re a landlord who employs a property manager, maintenance staff, or other professionals to take care of your property and your tenant begins to harass them, you need to take swift steps to protect them. All employers must have a harassment policy, with those employing at least five people required to establish that harassment policy in writing. Ongoing tenant harassment of employees can also place you in a position of liability under OSHA’s guidelines, so you need to intervene immediately. If you fail to protect your employees, they could bring a lawsuit under OSHA.
Any time you experience harassment from a tenant, it’s important that you warn your employees. Though some aggressive tenants will focus their energies on you, others will also target your employees. Give them the option of performing their job duties in alternative ways, such as during hours you know the tenants is at work, and they know they won’t be harassed.
Work With The Neighbors
Just as you’re responsible for your employees, you need to protect other tenants from harassment. Though this may not be a legal requirement – typically landlords are not legally liable in such cases – the laws vary by area, and it is a best practice. At the very least, you need to maintain a relationship with your tenants such that anyone having a problem with a neighbor can come to you for redress. Ongoing harassment of neighbors would also be considered grounds for eviction.
Safely Evicting Aggressive Tenants
When dealing with a tenant who is harassing you, your staff, or other residents, the most obvious outcome is eviction, but you should proceed with caution. Keep a record of all threatening interactions and encourage your tenant to communicate exclusively in writing during this time. If that’s not possible, keep recordings of voicemails and notes about any in-person encounters. You might also encourage staff and other tenants to maintain notes about threatening encounters.
As with more mundane evictions – they do happen, of course – it’s vital that you follow the letter of the law. In fact, evictions are one of the primary reasons that landlords employ property managers, like the professionals at Green Residential. Property managers have the experience necessary to carry out such procedures in keeping with local ordinances. This includes filing the appropriate paperwork and attending court hearings.
Tenant Management With Green Residential
Working with tenants is the hardest part of being a property owner – and it’s why many landlords struggle to rent their properties successfully. If your operation needs a boost, then, it’s time to get bring in the property management professionals from Green Residential. With over thirty years of Houston-area expertise, we understand your needs and the communities you serve.
Green Residential provides a complete set of property management services, including thorough tenant screening that will weed out the problem tenants. We also handle rent collection, maintenance, and eviction services so that you never have to handle a property management problem alone.
Wondering if Green Residential is the right fit for your property? Contact us today for more information about our property management services. Whether you rent to just a few tenants or have multifamily properties across the city, we’ll adapt our services to you.
Today, a growing number of rental properties are fully equipped with smart technology, including thermostats, video doorbells and security cameras, and smart locks. In fact, many tenants have suggested they would pay more for properties equipped with these tools. Still, while such technology is popular, it’s also a source of contention. That’s because these devices can give landlords a direct connection to their tenants’ properties – even more so than a master key.
As more properties come pre-equipped with smart technology, landlords and their tenants need to set clear boundaries about how these devices will be used and who controls them. In particular, tenants have expressed anxiety that landlords could use these tools maliciously or as a means of harassment, and proposals to equip some larger properties with smart home tools have been met with protestations.
If you’re a landlord considering whether to introduce smart home technology to your property, it’s important to gather feedback from existing tenants and give them options about what tools will be in their home and how it will be used. Unlike renters who elected to live in a property with smart home technology, these tenants require a more participatory approach when introducing new tools.
Smart Tech As Amenity
One of the most common framings for new smart home technology is as an amenity. In this era of amenity creep, not every property owner has the space to add a pool or a dog run. Smart home tech, on the other hand, is largely inconspicuous, cost-effective, and provides a solid return on investment. This is the framework most landlords rely on when installing new smart home devices in their properties, as well as green rationalization as many smart home upgrades can also reduce energy waste.
Security Versus Surveillance
Another way that property owners justify new smart home technology is as a way of increasing security. Video doorbells can keep packages from being stolen, allow tenants to screen visitors, and smart locks are typically more secure than standard tumbler locks. But, while smart home devices can make your property safer, some of those safety-enhancing features are the same ones generating concerns among tenants.
Take smart locks as an example. When one Manhattan landlord installed smart locks on property doors, tenants actually filed a lawsuit, claiming that the devices were a form of harassment and surveillance. Some also objected because, while the vast majority of people have smartphones, using the locks requires a smartphone app. This can be a problem for older tenants who aren’t tech savvy, but it’s the threat of surveillance that really bothers users.
Similarly, in another New York City case, tenants are currently fighting the installation of facial recognition technology that would provide frictionless entry – but would also inherently be a form of surveillance. In this case, the property in question is rent controlled and in a gentrifying area and many tenants worry that, in addition to being actively surveilled, that this new technology will substantially change the makeup of the area as tenants in the rent-controlled properties age and move away.
Abuse Potential Abounds
While there’s nothing inherently harmful about landlords installing smart home technology, the potential for abuse is real, and even those who choose to use smart home technology may worry about their privacy. Even if only accidentally, devices like the Amazon Alexa may record private conversations and even send them to outside parties, while tenants worry that the ways in which smart locks collect GPS information could be used in malicious ways.
It’s already common practice for abusive landlords to change tenants’ locks to push them out of properties and many worry that smart locks, which rely on little more than a few button pushes to change, could make this kind of aggression easier. As for facial recognition-based locks, tenants, especially those in urban areas, worry who that data may be shared with since facial recognition information is widely used in policing.
Setting Clear Boundaries
As a landlord, you can elect to install whatever technology you wish in your properties; while New York is currently trying to pass a law, there are not yet any laws regulating smart home technology in rentals. However, if you do choose to install such technology, it’s important that you work alongside your tenants to set clear boundaries. For example, it’s easy to require tenants to use smart thermostat technology, particularly if their energy bill is bundled with their rent. However, for those who don’t wish to use such tools – and if the payments aren’t bundled, you’ll have little say in this matter – it’s fairly easy to override smart thermostats and put them into manual mode, eliminating the data collection element.
On the other hand, when it comes to smart locks, which seem to have been the most contentious new technology, there is far less of a middle road. You can’t practically use a smart lock and a manual one at the same time without just double-locking the property. However, you can work with tenants to find the best “key” solution. Many smart locks work with either an app, code, or key card, so allow tenants to pick from among these options. You should also be open to adapting the system, including reverting back to a manual lock, if a tenant’s disability makes using a smart lock a substantial burden, as has happened with some older, visually impaired tenants in New York.
Ultimately, like so much else about the housing market, debates about smart home technology are largely generational, and you’ll have different conversations with millennials about how to use these tools than you will with older tenants. Setting out clear terms in your contract about how smart home technology will be used is also vital to settling any possible disputes, and you may need to offer a separate amendment if you install such devices in occupied properties.
The Tools You Want, The Support You Need
Whether you’re a landlord stumbling through the smart home debates or just hoping to keep the peace with your tenants, you don’t have to go it alone. The Green Residential team provides comprehensive property management services, including tenants screening, rent collection, maintenance, and eviction – and we bring over thirty years of Houston area experience to the task. Contact us today to learn more about how we can serve your properties because third-party management is what truly makes a property smart.
Anyone in the business world knows that names are important. A great name will stick out – it’s unique but clear, providing a sense of what the business does, likely contains keywords, and distinguishes your brand from other companies. But is what you call your apartment building or complex really that important? The audience for that name is likely much narrower than that of a clothing store or website, yet building names shape who will live there so you need to think carefully about what names you choose for your Houston area rentals.
If you’re in the midst of the naming process or thinking about rebranding your property, one of the most important things you can do is look at current naming trends. Recently, for example, there’s been a leap in properties named after people, strangely enough. Washington, D.C. is home to the Liz, Adele, and Jason, as well as the Henri and the Lacey. Boston is host to the Harvey, while New York has the Oskar.
Of course, in many ways, these personal names are a play on classic hotel names like the St. Germain, Marianne Hotel, though these have begun to fall out of favor. In another way, though, such apartment names are a rejection of tradition. A quick look at the most common words in apartment names reveals a sort of dull idyll; words like Park, Village, Creek, Oaks, and Crossing dominate the field. And to name a new apartment with these sorts of words today would suggest something dull and run down, certainly not anything desirable.
So what names are dominating the Houston apartment scene right now? Certainly you’ll see a lot of the old names – Crossing at White Oak or Camden Cypress Creek, but you’ll also catch sight of some newer names like The Carter and The Morgan. Other names strike a balance, like Residences at Gramercy or The Lofts Citycentre. These types of name read high end, though in a more classic, timeless way.
The Power Of Attraction
What you name your property is about more than just being on trend. In fact, if you’re having difficulty selling your property or attracting renters, it could be a matter of naming. Or, if you’re attracting tenants who aren’t a good fit for your community, your name may be sending the wrong message. Tenants looking for something trendy will apply to rent in these freshly named properties, but they’ll be disappointed to find a property called The Laura or The Harrison is actually an old condo complex. Meanwhile, if you’re trying to attract renters who want something more traditional, those old standby terms like Park and Village are your friend.
One reason that the new naming style works so well is that using people’s names makes it more likely that your property’s name will stand the test of time. After all, names may cycle in and out of popularity, but they tend to come back around, and they always come with a touchstone – a friend or relative with that name, a celebrity. Words like Park and Village, on the other hand, haven’t aged well. When naming your property, you want a name that will still be relevant in ten years. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself having to rebrand or face falling tenancy.
Skip The City
One piece of property naming advice that might seem counterintuitive is that you shouldn’t include the name of your city in the property name. Why not? In a city as large as Houston, putting Houston in the name doesn’t actually tell tenants anything about your property or the location. Neighborhood or even street name information is much more useful to potential tenants than knowing your property is in Houston. By putting the city in the apartment name, you can also skew search results online in ways that aren’t helpful to potential tenants or to you as a landlord.
Spelling, Shorthand, And More
Another common mistake that landlords make when naming their property is choosing atypical spellings. The Lofts Citycentre is a prime example of this. By opting for an unusual spelling of center – another similar case is town versus towne – this property will be harder for potential tenants to find. While they may be boring, words like park, creek, and village are easy to spell, which accounts for at least part of their popularity.
Similarly, you want to be careful about how you identify neighborhoods. In New York City, landlords can easily get away with references like SoHo or even DUMBO, which are widely recognized nicknames for specific neighborhoods. In Houston, though, many of the regional nicknames are slippery. Does The Heights refer to Independence Heights, Greater Heights, or somewhere else entirely? Meanwhile, trendy areas often pick up names that aren’t necessarily found on city maps, like the currently trendy area known as Pearland. If you mention a location in your property’s name, it should be one that’s relatively precise and widely recognized.
Finally, don’t forget about your basic address. Around the world, there are certain addresses that are iconic, and a growing number of luxury rentals are trying to leverage that tradition. Playing on One Hyde Park, variations on “one” are popping up around the globe, including One57 in Manhattan (157 W. 57th St.) or the AYKAN London One. Though it won’t work for every property, if your property’s address offers a potentially catchy name, consider running it past a focus group.
Get Your Name Out
Whatever you name your property, you need help to promote your property and get that name out there. That’s where Green Residential comes into the picture. We provide landlords with the full complement of property management services including property leasing, tenant screening, maintenance, and inspection, which means your properties are more likely to be in demand. We’ll even take professional photos to promote your property, applying our vision and experience to your perfectly named property.
To learn more about how Green Residential can help you make the most of your Houston area rental property, contact us today. With over thirty years of local experience, we understand the local real estate market and can reach the perfect tenants for your property. Get started today with Green Residential.
Real estate makes an excellent investment because you’re building equity into a stable market. Many commercial investors use it as a generous side income to build wealth for retirement. They lose a little on their taxes, but the remaining profits make it worthwhile.
Commercial investors know that the profits they make on their properties will be taxed according to federal law, but what about when you sell your personal residence? Homeowners profit on their transactions all the time—will Uncle Sam profit too?
There are some cases in which you’ll owe taxes on the profit of your home and others in which you’ll owe nothing. It’s important to understand the tax implications before you sell your home so you’re not blindsided come tax season.
Capital Gains Explained
The primary tax obligations for real estate are called capital gains. These are the taxes you’re required to pay when you sell a home for more than you paid for it. It applies to any property or possession that you’ve had for more than one year and that earns you a profit when sold. Because you’re making money on the transaction, it’s treated as a commercial transaction and is taxed as such.
Capital gains can be separated into two categories: short and long-term. Short-term capital gains apply if you’ve owned the house for less than a year. You’ll owe income taxes based on your ordinary tax bracket if that’s the case.
Long-term capital gains apply if you’ve owned the house for more than a year. The rates are significantly lower in this case, and some homeowners won’t owe anything depending on their income and filing status.
The Exception to Paying Capital Gains
The good news about capital gains is that you don’t always have to pay them, and most homeowners don’t. You can profit up to $250,000 when filing individually or $500,000 when filing jointly or as head of household without paying capital gains as long as you meet the following requirement:
The home must be your primary residence.
You must have been the owner for at least two years.
You must have lived in the home for more than two years over the last five years.
You can’t have claimed the $250,000 or $500,000 exemption on any other property in the last two years.
This is a pretty simple way to avoid major taxes on your residence, but if you don’t meet those requirements, you’ll owe capital gains tax according to IRS Publication 523.
The Cost of Capital Gains
If you don’t meet the requirements above or you’re making more than $250,000 on your home, you’ll want to calculate what you’ll owe. The actual amount you’ll pay varies based on your income. The latest tax laws put capital gains rates into three categories.
0 %: For those who make less than $39,375 individually or $78,750 for those married filing jointly or filing as head of household, you’ll owe nothing on the profits of your home.
15%: This applies to single filers who earn anywhere between $39,376 and $434,550. Those filing married jointly or as head of household must pay 15 percent if they earn between $78,751 and 488,850.
20%: This is the most you can be taxed, and it applies to those making more than $434,550 for single filers and $488,850 for those filing jointly.
Most states also have a capital gains tax, but because there is no income tax in Texas, you won’t owe anything on top of your federal obligations. This tax break makes Texas a great place to invest in real estate!
Other Ways to Avoid Paying Capital Gains
If you don’t want to pay capital gains and you don’t meet the requirements for an exemption, there are more complex ways to get around it.
Look for an Exception: Talk to an accountant or comb over IRS Publication 523 to see if you can find an exception to the rule. There are exemptions in there for selling the home based on work, health, or an unforeseeable event such as a death in the family.
Factor in the Repairs: Anything you’ve spent on repairing or improving your home over the last few years can be subtracted from your profits to reduce your tax obligation. Keep the receipts on any home improvement project—if it’s large enough, you might avoid taxes altogether.
Exchange or Swap the Property: Many homeowners or commercial real estate investors do a 1031 exchange instead of selling a property in order to avoid capital gains tax. This is a tricky loophole because you have to find someone willing to swap properties with you. However, it’s a great way to avoid a hefty tax.
Reporting the Home Sale on Your Tax Return
Typically, you won’t immediately have the tax taken out of your transaction like the withholdings from your paycheck. You’ll report the profits made on your home in the “income” section of your tax return on a separate line as your wages. The taxes will be calculated here.
Because the taxes will be taken out during tax season, make sure you have extra savings to compensate for the expense. You might not receive the return you’re used to, and you’ll probably owe the IRS money. Use the percentages above to calculate the potential taxes owed so you can be ready at tax season.
Get Expert Advice at Green Residential
Navigating the sale of your home is tricky, whether or not you have to worry about capital gains. To guarantee a successful close, you need a dedicated team with your best interest in mind. The realtors at Green Residential in the greater Houston area fit that bill.
Our staff has decades of experience in the Houston market. We know it better than anyone and can help you price and market your property appropriately. We’ll also help you find those tax breaks to minimize what you owe while charging you a lower commission rate with a flat rate fee. To see if Green Residential is a good fit for you, contact us today!
Inheritances can be messy ordeals. Trying to figure out how to distribute someone’s assets after their death can be a confusing process (even if they’ve outlined their desires in a will), and after that, you might end up with an asset you aren’t sure how to manage or sell. That’s on top of dealing with the emotional burden of losing a loved one.
Inheriting property is somewhat common. You might acquire your parent’s home when they pass, or a piece of property they were trying to fix up. But you might also inherit a rental property, or an entire portfolio of rental properties. Some of those properties might even have a tenant, or multiple families living in them.
What’s the best way to handle this situation?
Understanding Rental Property
First, you should have a basic understanding of how rental property works, and how your relatives used their specific rental properties. There are several motivations for owning rental property, most of which are designed to give you a financial advantage. With the right investment, you should be able to collect more in rental income from your tenants than you’re required to pay in ongoing expenses; this results in a stream of income that can supplement your main salary or, if you have many properties, allow you to retire and subsist entirely on rental income.
In other cases, rental property is acquired with the intention of an eventual profitable sale. The idea is that property values in most desirable neighborhoods increase consistently over time; collecting rental income can help you cover the maintenance expenses associated with a property, breaking even until you sell the home for a profit.
Ultimately, you’ll do one of a few things with this property:
Keep it and collect rental income. You could keep this rental property active and keep the status quo. If this is the case, you’ll be required to pay ongoing expenses like insurance and property taxes. In exchange, you’ll get the benefits of ongoing monthly rental income (assuming the tenants are reliable). While this is often a favorable situation, be aware that you’ll also be taking on significant responsibilities as a landlord.
Keep it and move in. If you like the shape of the property and you’ve been considering a move, you could plan to move into the property. Be aware that depending on your area, the tenant may still have occupancy rights; if you want to move in, you may have to provide notice to the tenant far in advance of your move-in date.
Sell it immediately. If you’re looking to dump the property as quickly and painlessly as possible, you’ll probably want to sell the property immediately. You can sell rental property with tenants still living in it; in fact, this often comes as an added incentive to the buyer. You’ll turn a quick profit, the existing tenants can continue living in the home, and you won’t have to worry about it anymore.
Sell it eventually, with profit in mind. If you’re interested in selling the property for the highest possible price, you may need to do some work and/or be patient with it. Allowing a few years for the neighborhood to develop or applying some major renovations can allow the property’s value to skyrocket.
How are you supposed to make this decision?
Start by taking inventory of the property or properties you inherited. Look at the specs. Determine whether there are existing tenants living in those properties. Do some research on the neighborhoods they’re in, and talk to a real estate agent if you can. Most importantly, tour the properties in person to determine their condition. This will give you a better idea of what you’re dealing with. For example, you might learn that the property would be extraordinarily hard to sell as is, or you might learn that your tenants signed up for a 3-year lease that just started, complicating matters.
Determine Your Goals
Next, think carefully about what your goals and priorities are.
Some people who inherit property want to make things as simple as possible. Others are willing to invest more effort upfront. If you’re trying to minimize the number of hours you spend on this property, your best bet could be selling the property outright. If you’re willing to put in a lot of work, you might take over landlord responsibilities. If you’re somewhere in the middle, you might consider keeping the rental property but hiring a property management firm to handle most of the day-to-day upkeep.
You might also prioritize profit. If you’re trying to accumulate wealth or if you’re trying to get as much as you can out of this property, you’ll want to do a thorough financial analysis of its current situation and future possibilities. In many cases, your best bet will either be maximizing the income you can get from tenants, or making changes that increase the total value of the property over time. Either way, you’ll have to put in extra work, and you’ll end up holding the property for several years.
You may also have a sentimental attachment to the property for one reason or another. This might be your childhood home, and you could imagine raising a family in it one day. Your parents could have wanted you to assume landlord responsibilities after their passing. You could just want to keep the property as a way to remember them. Don’t ignore these feelings; they can and should factor into your decision.
No matter which way you’re leaning, it’s important to talk to different professionals in the industry so you have a better understanding of how each decision could work.
If you’ve inherited a rental property, or believe you will in the future, and you aren’t sure what to do with it, contact Green Residential today! We have the right people who can help you sell the property or manage the property, should you choose to become a landlord and take over property management responsibilities.
Many prospective homeowners specifically look for a home they can “grow into.” They know their family and their needs are going to change in the coming years, so rather than buying a home that suits their current situation perfectly, they look for a home that could potentially serve their situation for years to come.
This is generally a good strategy, but it isn’t a perfect one, and there are some important caveats and considerations to keep in mind before you follow through on this type of purchase.
Key Areas of Growth
There are a few key dimensions of “growth” that the average homeowner will consider:
Home size. The number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, and total square footage of your house will dictate how many people it can reasonably accommodate. If you’re buying a home with a spouse, you may plan to have a couple of children. That means you’ll need more space for them to run around and play, and possibly bedrooms they can call their own.
Financial capabilities. You may also anticipate being able to afford a bigger house in the near future; for example, a promotion may be around the corner, or you may be getting consistent raises, year after year. Accordingly, you may look at homes slightly bigger and better than what your existing salary might allow. Of course, lenders won’t consider your future income—instead, they’re going to look at your current and past income when considering whether to approve you for a mortgage.
Amenities and local institutions. You may also look at the local institutions, organizations, and amenities in your area, even if you can’t use them right now. This comes into play if you’re planning a family; for example, if you plan on having children in the near future, you might want a home near a good school district and/or near a good park.
What Are the Risks?
Buying a home to grow into can be advantageous, since it helps you avoid outgrowing a home and keeps you comfortable for longer. However, there are some major risks to keep in mind:
Financial instability. Buying a bigger home, or one with better provisions, is going to cost you more money. If your income suddenly drops or if you’re faced with unexpected expenses, it may be tough for you to keep up. If you fall behind on your mortgage payments, or if you have to strain your budget to make ends meet, it can be both stressful and damaging to your financial wellness.
Bigger homes demand more intensive maintenance and upkeep. Having more space is nice, but that’s also more space that you’ll have to clean and maintain, and it presents more opportunities for things to go wrong. This won’t seem like a big deal when you move in, but over time, it can eat up your time and money.
Unexpected developments. It’s not possible to accurately predict the future. As the years pass, you’ll find that at least a few of your expectations become unmet. Having more or fewer kids than you thought, or dealing with a massive career change can render all your planning useless.
Setting the Right Timeframe
How far ahead should you be planning for your future needs? If you just got married and you plan on having four children with your spouse eventually, should you get a house with four or more bathrooms, or start with two and a half? It takes many years to build to a family of six, and much can happen in the meantime.
It’s tempting to look far into the future, but the further ahead you plan, the less easily predictable your needs will be. On top of that, the gap between your “current” needs and “future” needs gets bigger, which means you’ll spend more time dealing with unnecessary space, maintenance, and costs.
For most families, it’s good to plan two to five years in the future. That should give you enough runway to plan for most upcoming future events, but without wasting much time or money.
In addition, it’s important to plan as conservatively as possible when making your future-oriented purchase. Finding a home to “grow into” often means spending more money, especially upfront, but if you’re not careful, this could quickly exhaust your budget. Does your budget incorporate maintenance and repair expenses? Does it anticipate cost of living increases like property tax increases and higher bills? What are you going to do if you or your spouse loses their job?
In most cases, it’s wise to buy a home smaller and/or less expensive than what you can actually afford, even if you’re trying to buy a home to grow into. On top of that, it’s important to establish an emergency fund of several thousand dollars to cover your expenses if your budget doesn’t turn out as anticipated.
If you’re going to buy a house that meets most of your hypothetical future needs, you may have to make compromises on some of your present wants. If you try to buy a house that’s perfect in every way, you’ll not only have a hard time finding that elusive “perfect” home, but you’ll also likely end up regretting what you do purchase.
For example, if you truly need the extra space in a home to accommodate a bigger family, you may have to choose an older home, which may require more renovations and maintenance. If you want a home that’s close to good schools, you may have to pass on certain optional features, like access to a big yard.
Buying a home is always a complicated decision, but it’s doubly tough if you’re trying to find a home for your family to grow into. Working with a real estate agent can help ensure you make the right decision, and take all the right variables into account. Contact Green Residential today to learn more about how we can help you find the perfect home for your family in Katy, Texas (and surrounding areas)!
If you’re approaching retirement age, or if you’re just forward-thinking, you might consider buying a rental property as a way to fund your retirement. Properties are one of many types of investments that could collectively yield enough returns to cover all your living expenses and then some—assuming you have enough to invest in the first place. But are they an ideal choice for someone looking for a stable, enjoyable retirement?
The Perks of Rental Properties for Retirement
Let’s take a look at all the natural benefits and perks that rental properties offer the aspiring retiree:
Real assets. First, your rental properties are going to be real assets in your portfolio, giving you more control over how they develop. Even if the stock market crashes, people are still going to need a place to live, and that gives property an inherent advantage. It also gives them a predictable trajectory for value growth, especially since property is finite.
Predictable income. One of the biggest advantages of rental property for retirees is its function as a source of predictable income. Assuming you have everything in place, including a good long-term property investment, tenants who are interested in staying put for a long time, and a solid financial model, you can pull several hundred to several thousand dollars per month in excess of your ongoing expenses. That makes it much easier to budget your personal expenses (and indulgences).
Diversification possibilities. If you’re buying multiple rental properties, you can diversify your portfolio by selecting properties that occupy different niches. For example, you might own both single-family and multi-family properties. You might own properties in different neighborhoods. You might have some high-end and some low-end properties. This helps you cover your bases in case there’s a sudden, unexpected change to the real estate market in your area, or if one of your tenants leaves you with a vacancy.
Quick cash options. In many cases, you’ll be able to sell your property in a pinch. Rental properties always have the option of being sold to the highest bidder, even if there’s a tenant present. If you have significant equity in the property, that means you could raise tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars in the span of a few weeks. This is ideal for covering major unexpected expenses, or compensating for a market downturn. It also allows you to change your investment strategy if you see another lucrative possibility.
Inheritance planning. Rental properties are also a solid strategy if you’re planning to leave your children and grandchildren an inheritance. You’ll be able to collect rental income to cover all your expenses, hypothetically, then leave the properties for your inheritors to acquire; they can then continue taking rental income, acting as landlords, or sell the properties for their own investments.
The Downsides of Rental Properties for Retirement
There are, however, some downsides:
Ongoing effort and management. When you’re retired, you’ll likely want to minimize the number of responsibilities you have, and decrease the number of hours you spend working. However, rental properties can be demanding of their landlords. You’ll need to handle tenant requests, keep the properties in good order, collect rent, and deal with issues like vacancies and evictions. That said, if you’re interested in the benefits without having to deal with the ongoing time expenditure, you could always hire a property management firm to take care of these things for you.
Overexposure to the real estate market. Buying a property is usually a good investment, but there are some things that can turn it sour. For example, if new developments in your neighborhood start to cause property values to plummet, you could lose a good chunk of your initial investment. If rental prices start to decrease due to lower demand, your financial model could be compromised. There’s also the possibility of another real estate market downturn; at the wrong time, this could seriously compromise your financial integrity.
Rate of return. Property values don’t appreciate consistently; they can grow very quickly in desirable areas, or grow very slowly in stable areas. The combination of direct profits from your rental income and property value growth can yield you a fairly reliable rate of return, however, especially if you own multiple kinds of properties. That said, there are some investments that could yield a higher rate of return, in exchange for a higher risk (i.e., stocks). A good way to balance this is to use rental properties as just a portion of your portfolio, holding multiple types of investments simultaneously.
Initial capital demands. Buying a property usually takes a lot of money. Without a significant amount of capital available from the outset, you may struggle to get approved for a loan, and you certainly won’t be able to buy a property outright. Even if you do get a loan, your equity stake may be minimal, complicating your investment with excessive financial leverage. Because of this, rental properties may not be a retirement option for everyone.
Time to acquire properties. Not all properties are worth holding. Some are in low-rent areas, where rental prices are barely enough to compensate for the expenses of ownership. Some are in bad shape, and would require too much in maintenance expenses. Others are in bad neighborhoods with little promise for future growth. Finding a good deal on a property takes time and patience, which not all prospective retirees are willing to commit. It may take years, or even decades, to accumulate a real estate portfolio capable of generating substantial, consistent retirement income for you.
So are rental properties a good way to fund your retirement? The short answer is, they can be, especially when they represent one part of a broader investment portfolio. They’re even more attractive retirement options if you can reduce the number of hours you need to spend on them—which is where property management comes into play.
To learn more about how Green Residential can manage your rental properties, and keep your retirement hands-off, contact us today!
When you own a property, repairs are inevitable. Here are the five most common repairs you’ll need to perform for tenants:
1. Leaky pipes
Whether it’s a leak under the kitchen sink, in the bathroom, or out in a pump house, leaky pipes are common. Many leaks are caused by ill-fitting pipes and broken joints, but sometimes unintentional damage can be the cause. Other causes include:
When pipes are installed, all the connectors get wrapped in seals to prevent leakage. Over time, these seals wear out, and water can start to leak. Seals are easy to repair, and you may not even need to call a plumber. However, if you haven’t performed a specific repair before, it’s wise to call a professional plumber.
Clogged lines that burst
Some clogs can cause pipes to burst. Hopefully, you never need to deal with this kind of clog. You’ll definitely need to call a plumber, and it won’t be cheap.
Over time, rust can eat away at your pipes, and so can household drain cleaners. It’s wise to ban tenants from using drain cleaners and show them how to use a simple drain auger instead. You can buy cheap plastic augers for a few bucks, and it’s worth giving them to your tenants when they move in.
Too much water pressure
Water pressure is nice to have in the shower, but too much pressure can put a strain on your pipes and cause a leak. Have a professional contractor measure the water pressure to put your mind at ease about this one.
Frozen water expanding and contracting
Most pipes can withstand a few cycles of expansion and contraction from frozen water, but it’s not something you should bank on. If your property is located in an area where freezing temperatures are standard, make sure your tenants know to drip the faucets at night when temperatures drop below 32 degrees.
2. Broken appliances
Dishwashers, refrigerators, and stoves will start breaking down at some point. Some issues are easy fixes like replacing a burned-out lightbulb or replacing the heating element. However, other repairs will require a qualified repair technician. You can expect to pay $100 per hour for these services, but the good news is most repairs can be done in under an hour.
If you need to buy a new appliance, buy it used. Just be sure to document the cause of the service call because if the tenant caused the damage, they’ll need to pay for the replacement appliance. For example, some people use sharp objects (like an ice pick) to defrost the freezer and end up breaking through the body of the unit and causing irreparable damage.
3. A leaky roof
Roofs can leak for a variety of reasons. However, regardless of the source, leaks should be repaired immediately to prevent further damage. If you let a leak go too long, you’ll end up with problems like mold, rotted framing, and damaged ceilings.
Finding the cause of a leaky roof is the tough part. Leaks can be caused by:
Deteriorated materials due to age. Nothing lasts forever.
Damaged materials due to weather fluctuations. Tar is used to seal shingles together and direct sunlight melts tar. Also, the sun can cause shingles to become brittle and crack.
Leaky roof vent gaskets. All roof vents should be sealed with tight gaskets, but those gaskets can crack over time. Plastic vents are also susceptible to cracking.
Wind. A shallow roof slope invites the wind to lift shingles and push the rain underneath. Some roofing projects require a double layer, so be sure to have that checked out by a professional.
Debris, including moss and algae. Debris on the roof can trap water for a long period of time and allow it to seep into the house. Moss and algae can cause shingles to become displaced.
Holes. If you’ve ever wondered why people don’t remove those old TV antennas from their roof, it’s because they’ll need to fix a gaping hole and it’s not always worth it. If you decide to remove an antenna, remember to seal the hole.
Heavy snow. Sometimes a roof gives in to heavy snow. Not all snow is heavy despite the volume, so your roof could be completely okay for many years until there’s an exceptionally heavy snowfall.
Missing shingles. Sometimes shingles become displaced and fall off the roof without your awareness.
4. A pest infestation
Dealing with a pest infestation is one of the most frustrating things you’ll need to handle as a landlord. If your property is a single family home, it’s easier to tell if the problem was created by your tenant. However, with a multi-family apartment complex, it’s difficult to identify the source since bugs travel easily through walls.
Whether it’s ants, rodents, bed bugs, termites, cockroaches, or wasps, you need a plan to handle these calls immediately. Some landlords pass the responsibility of pest control to the tenant in the lease that takes effect a few weeks after the tenants move in. Once you have to field several of these calls, you’ll want to do the same.
5. Broken garbage disposals
Garbage disposals are one of the best kitchen tools, yet are so often abused. A well-treated garbage disposal shouldn’t break often, but tenants manage to find ways to break them anyway. Some people think a garbage disposal can handle anything you give it.
Hopefully, your garbage disposal calls will be simple burned out motors or stuck blades. If you have to deal with repairs more than once, you’ll be better off ripping it out completely.
Tired of frustrating repairs? Hire a property management company
Handling repairs is a full-time job. If you’re tired of dealing with even the simplest repairs, contact Green Residential and find out how we can help.
We’ve got decades of experience managing properties for landlords who have better things to do than field repair calls at 3 am. We’ve teamed up with local contractors who are experts in their industries. Our relationship with these contractors ensures we get the best repair rates to save you money. Contact us today for a free analysis and see how we can help.
You’ll spend more time in your house than any other space in the world during the years you call it home. Apart from sleeping there 50-plus hours a week, you’ll also eat, play, and possibly work out of your home.
It’s the epicenter of your life, and you’ll feel happier and more fulfilled all around if you enjoy living in it.
How to Enjoy Your House
There’s a difference between owning a house and having a home. If you aren’t careful, you’ll spend so much time stressed out about the former that it never evolves into the latter.
But life doesn’t have to be like that. Loving your life at home can be much easier than most people realize. Here are eight essentials that will help you maximize your enjoyment every step of the way.
1. Don’t Be House Poor
Far too many people make the mistake of buying more house than they can afford, which leaves them house poor. The first step to enjoying your home is to make sure it isn’t a financial burden.
There are various rules about how much house you should own, but the smartest approach is to stick with the most conservative measures. This leaves you with more wiggle room should something happen.
If you observe the rule that your mortgage should be no more than 25 percent of your monthly take-home pay on a 15-year mortgage, you’ll be golden. You also shouldn’t have any issue with a 30-year mortgage; it’ll just cost you more in the long run.
2. Don’t Create Headaches
As a general principle in life, don’t create headaches for yourself when they aren’t necessary. In terms of home ownership, this means you shouldn’t invest in upgrades, renovations, additions, or features that are going to drain more joy than they yield.
Take a swimming pool as an example. Some families use their pool every day in the summer and derive immense pleasure from it.
But for others, the pool can become a burden. It requires maintenance and upkeep costs, may be subject to zoning restrictions, etc.
If you’re going to use it only a handful of times a year, is it really worth it? Don’t create unnecessary headaches; in most cases, simpler is better.
3. Declutter and Purge
Nothing stresses many homeowners like clutter. Despite proof that clutter is bad for our health, many of us continue to wallow in it. Something has to give!
Take a week to declutter your house from top to bottom. Clean off surfaces, open cabinets, purge drawers, organize the garage, go through the attic … do it all.
You’ll be amazed by how much stuff you can throw away, donate, or sell. You’ll end up with a much tidier home that siphons off less of your mental energy.
4. Keep Your House Clean
Once you’ve decluttered your house, it’ll be a lot easier to keep it clean. Make a point of clearing out living areas each night before you go to bed.
It’s also worthwhile to schedule a cleaning day once every couple of weeks to dust, wipe down counters, clean bathrooms, and vacuum floors. If you do that regularly, it won’t become such a chore because you’ve let it go.
5. Fix Things That Break
At one point, homeowner Christina Tiplea was so fed up with so many items that broke and fell apart in her house that she and her husband considered selling.
“Do you have things like cabinets that are a little loose on the hinges or a water filter in your fridge that needs replacing? We actually had a lot of those little tasks around our house that seemed to pile up on our ‘one day we need to get around to that’ list,” Tiplea recalls.
For some, the problems are even bigger than these. Your punch list may include a new water heater, leaky roof, or rotting windows. But whatever the case, you recognize the feeling.
“Once we decided we wanted to make more of an effort to enjoy our house while we are still here, we decided to treat our home like we were listing it on the market anyway,” Tiplea explains. “Which meant fixing all of those little things on our to-do list for around the house.”
It’ll cost some money and may require a bit of elbow grease, but fixing things when they break — rather than letting them go for years because “it’s not that big a deal” — will empower you to enjoy the space more.
6. Entertain your Neighbors
Stop treating your house as a refuge where you can hide from the world. Though everyone can use some time to relax in privacy, your home should also be a place into which you invite others and entertain them (not to mention yourself in good company). This will give your house a much greater sense of purpose.
7. Let There Be Light
A dark home can feel depressing, dingy, and small. If your house feels more like a bat cave than a home, make some changes. Let in more natural light by replacing your window coverings, installing a skylight, or even just reorienting your furniture.
8. Do You
When it’s all said and done, this is your house. You shouldn’t let anyone else tell you how to enjoy it.
So, although most people should find the above tips helpful, you might have your own way of doing things. The most important thing is to make some kind of changes so you’ll be less stressed and more joyful. You do you!
Green Residential: Houston’s Real Estate Leader
If you’re a Houston homeowner, you have every right to take pride in your home. Some challenges inevitably come with keeping a house safe, functioning, clean, and organized, but a substantial amount of joy can be extracted from owning a home as well. Don’t miss out on that!
At Green Residential, we work with clients to help them buy and sell homes. But we understand that this is more than a business transaction; it’s a part of your life. As such, we take great care to walk our clients through the process, with meticulous attention to detail.
You probably aren’t in the business of owning rental properties for the joy and excitement it offers. Though there may be some level of fulfillment in knowing you’re connecting people with quality housing in your region, it’s ultimately about dollars and cents.
You’re trying to pay your own bills and turn a bit of a profit. But in order to make it work, you need tenants who pay on time and in full.
Simple Ways to Evaluate a Prospective Tenant’s Finances
There are few guarantees with tenants. You simply aren’t allowed by law to consider certain factors when you evaluate potential tenants (for discriminatory reasons), but there are other facets you can look into during the screening process.
A tenant’s financial situation is a detail you’re allowed to investigate (to an extent). You have a right to know whether a tenant can reasonably afford to pay the rent … though you may have to do some digging to find the answer.
Here are seven simple ways you can evaluate a prospective tenant’s finances in a smart and proactive manner.
1. Use a Thorough Lease Application
A thorough lease application will save you a lot of trouble as a landlord. Within the context of this discussion, a suitable application form gives you the chance to screen tenants and figure out their financial situation fairly swiftly and easily.
Be sure to ask tenants about their income. You want to focus on net pay — that is, the paycheck they bring home each month — not gross income.
You should also have a place to list references. Require at least one former landlord and the person’s current employer.
2. Verify Income
Don’t assume that what your applicant reports about his or her income is true. It’s worthwhile to verify the applicant’s income so you can be fairly certain.
“An important part of verifying a prospective tenant’s income and employment involves submitting an employment verification request,” real estate investor Erin Eberlin writes. “This request allows the employer to know that you have a legitimate reason for requesting the information — you are considering renting to this person — and it allows you to verify that the tenant works at the company and to verify their salary.”
3. Pull a Credit Report
If you want even more insights and protection, you can request a credit report on the applicant. This will show you the individual’s credit history and how much debt he or she currently carries. It may also let you know whether the person’s been evicted in the past.
4. Run Some Calculations
Once you have some numbers in hand, you should pull up that trusty calculator on your phone and run a few computations.
Begin by taking the monthly rent and dividing it by the prospective tenant’s monthly net income. This will give you a percentage.
Ideally, the tenant shouldn’t spend any more than 25 to 30 percent of the paycheck on housing. Any more could be cause for concern: Will your payment be a priority over other bills?
If you run a credit check, you’ll also know how much debt the person carries. Running a simple debt-to-income calculation will help you see how much of the monthly paycheck has to go toward debt payments. You want to be sure there will be enough left over to cover the rent.
These calculations aren’t foolproof — and the tenant still has to practice smart financial behavior — but they do provide some insight into how the future could shake out. They’re well worth exploring!
5. Call References
You asked for references on the application; now use them! It’s especially helpful to call past landlords and have a little one-on-one chat about your prospective renter.
Landlords are usually fairly honest with one another and won’t recommend someone who has a history of missing payments. Getting an endorsement from a past landlord will go a long way toward setting your mind at ease.
6. Ask Questions
It’s wise to go beyond the application and speak with the applicant in person. You may learn a lot more by asking questions over the phone than you will on a paper form.
In order to uncover potential financial issues or weaknesses, you could try several clever questions. For example, you might ask, “Do you have the money to cover the security deposit today?”
If the individual says no, this could be a sign the prospective tenant isn’t as financially responsible as he or she has been trying to appear.
7. Don’t Discriminate
Although there are certain questions you should ask, there are also a number of questions you can’t ask legally without risking the charge of discrimination.
You have every right to ask about income. And you can even verify that the income figures the person quotes are realistic. But where the income originates? That’s a different matter.
“If you are on welfare, receive food stamps, and get other kinds of benefits or public assistance, you can keep that information to yourself,” personal finance expert Paul Michael tells renters. “The landlord cannot pry, and cannot deny anyone tenancy based on that information. If he or she does, it’s cause for an investigation by the local authorities.”
Just use common sense. Put yourself in the shoes of a renter and think about how a particular question would make you feel. You have a right to know certain concrete information, but not necessarily the “why” behind those facts.
Screen Your Tenants With Green Residential
Tenant screening is one of the crucial procedures for a landlord to secure renters. If you’re hasty about it, you could end up with a tenant who doesn’t pay on time or who tears up your property.
If you’re too nosy, you could get yourself in legal trouble with the local housing authority. There’s a fine line you don’t want to cross.
At Green Residential, we provide strategic tenant screening services to all our property management and leasing clients. If you’re interested in learning more about these services and how we can help you manage your Houston rental properties, please give us a call!