Property Management Blog

Proper Weediquitte in Your Vermont Rental

System - Monday, April 16, 2018

Due to a bill that passed on January 11th, 2018, cannabis will be legal in Vermont starting on July 1st. As your Chittenden County property managers, we still have the right to regulate the use of marijuana in our properties.

Let’s Hash Out the Fine Print:
  • You need to be 21 years old in order to legally possess 1 ounce of marijuana.
  • Landlords must give tenants consent to grow pot in their rentals.
  • Landlords can still legally ban the possession or use of marijuana in a lease agreement. They also can set restrictions on it.

Written by Grace Ruvelson

5 Items to Consider When Purchasing a Multi-family

System - Tuesday, April 10, 2018
{{ post.title }}

Buying an investment property can be an intimidating process, especially if it’s your first purchase.

Here are five factors you should consider when purchasing a multi-family property:

Profit and Loss Statement (P&L)

When evaluating a P&L, you need to analyze the numbers and anticipate other expenses that may arise and affect your bottom line.  For example, you will often see P&L statements without property manager fees included; however, if you plan to have a property manager, this will increase your expenses and therefore should be considered. I would recommend reviewing P&L statements from the last couple of years, if possible, to evaluate trends. 

Comparative Market Analysis (CMA)

Ask your Realtor do a CMA before presenting an offer to make sure you are paying a fair price for the property, especially if you will be making upgrades.

Leases

Obtain copies of leases for your review to make sure there are no significant concerns with the current leases. When reviewing the leases, the costs that you (the landlord) are responsible for and what the tenants are responsible for should be apparent, so there are no surprises after closing. This is also a good time to confirm tenants are paying their rents on time. As a new investment, it's better to start off ahead than behind!

Inspections

I highly recommend you have a professional inspector inspect the units, which should include an overview of the current condition of the electrical, plumbing, mechanical, and structural components. If issues arise, get a contractor quote so you are aware of how much repairs and improvements will be, even if you have done similar work in the past.

Rental Requirements

State and local requirements for rental properties vary. If you plan to finance, you’ll want to make sure the property complies with all local and state regulations before closing. Be sure to consider this before making an offer.

In summary, hire professionals to help you with the process! You will need a real estate investing team including, a lender (unless you are paying cash), real estate agent, attorney, property manager, and an accountant to assist with the process of making your purchase a smart investment.

Written By Kim Hart

Kimberly Hart - Realtor, The Hart Team

kwVERMONT

68 Randall Street

South Burlington, VT 05403

Mobile: 802.345.5300

Phone: 802.488.3498

Fax: 802.654.8505

Five Seasons Property Management’s Guide to Navigating Burlington, VT’s Student Rentals

System - Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Renting in Burlington, as a student, has the reputation of being competitive, chaotic, and confusing, but it does not need to be. Follow our guide to learn how to make finding your first rental a stress free experience.

Phase I: Plan

First things first, talk to whoever will be paying for your housing, or as we call them, your cosigner​. Let them know that you are wanting to live off campus next year, and hear their thoughts.

Once you got your cosigner’s approval, start to determine if you want to live alone or with a group of friends. Make sure everyone you want to live with is in communication with their cosigner as well.

Start to discuss and figure out your’s and your prospective housemates’ plans throughout your lease. Will one of you be studying abroad, taking the semester off, graduating early? Will one or all of you need a subtenant​ at some point during your lease?

Begin to think about and discuss your ​budget.​ Be mindful that utilities​ can impact it. This is the hard part, and it requires cosigner involvement. Here’s some Burlington rent ranges to help give you, your group, and your cosigner a better idea.

  • Studio: $800–$1,000
  • 1 Bedroom: $900–$1,200
  • 2 Bedroom: $1,400–$1,750
  • 3 Bedroom: $1,900–$2,300
  • 4 Bedroom: $2,900–$3,400
  • 5 Bedroom: $3,600–$4,100
  • 6 Bedroom: $4,250–$4,500

After considering costs, make sure you, your group, and everyone’s cosigners are all comfortable with your budget. Before you proceed to the next part of the process.

Phase II: Research

Now that you and your group have planned, you are ready to start looking at homes and apartments. While entering this phase, start to formulate a couple must have features for your future rental, like parking or laundry. Make sure everyone in your group is an agreement with these. Then start researching. We recommend that all groups elect one point person​, who can be the main person of contact for your group during this process. We have a lot of properties in Burlington, and it is likely that you and your group will be interested in more than one our rentals. After you have conducted your internet searches, it will be time for you and your group to start booking showings.

Here’s how you can schedule a showing at one of our homes.

  1. Go to our website, http://www.burlingtonproperty.management/
  2. Click on “Homes for Rent” button in the top ribbon on our website.
  3. Apply the features that suit you.
  4. Once you have explored and are interested, click on the “Agent Showing” button and schedule a tour. Do this for every property you are interested in.

Phase III: Tackling the Showings

This is the fun part, but it can also be nerve wracking for many students. Just follow our checklist, so it all goes smoothly.

What to do?

  • Meet us at the scheduled, date, time, and location.
  • If not all people in your group can attend the showing, make sure that whoever you send to the showing is comfortable, trusted, and prepared to attend the showing without the whole group being present. Sometimes not all group members will be able to see the rental that they are applying to.
  • Know the listed rental price of the unit, and be sure that you, your group, and your group’s co-signers are all comfortable with it.

What to ask?

  • Ask what is included​ in the rent. Specifically ask about utilities, parking, and laundry.
  • Ask about their sublet​ policy.
  • Do they allow pets? If so, is there an additional fee?
  • Who manages​ the rental? What is their process in emergency situations?
  • What is their application process?​ Is there an application fee?
  • What is the deposit​ on the unit?

Phase IV: Applying for the Unit

So you found the perfect first rental; now it is time to apply​ for it! Make sure your whole group and everyone’s cosigners are on board. This is where time is of the essence because you could be competing against other groups. Follow the property manager’s instructions for applying for the rental.

Here’s a quick tutorial on how to apply for our properties.

  1. Go to our website, http://www.burlingtonproperty.management/
  2. Click on “Homes for Rent” button in the top ribbon on our website.
  3. Scroll down to the address of the property you are applying for.
  4. Click on the “Apply Now” button. Make sure everyone you plan to be living with fills out an application.
  5. Fill out the application. If you are applying for more than one of our properties, list them under, “Address of the apartment you are applying for.”
  6. Do not leave any field blank on the application. If something does not apply to you, write “N/A.” If there is a number that you cannot fill out, use zeros.
  7. Once you have the application filled out click submit.

Phase V: Depositing and Signing

After we have received and reviewed applications for everyone in a group, we will email you with an instructions for submitting a deposit.​ We often have a surplus of great groups interested in our properties, so the group that is the first to get us their deposit, gets the unit. Once we receive your deposit, we will set up a time to sign your lease. We will email everyone a copy of the lease to look over beforehand and a co-signer agreement.​ It is crucial for every person planning to sign the lease gets their co-sign agreement filled out, and brings it along with a copy of their co-signer’s photo identification card to the lease signing. While at the signing, we will go over the lease with you and answer any questions. When we are finished reviewing the document, we will proceed to signing it. Congratulations! You are officially a tenant and have a home in Burlington, Vermont! Now that was easy!

25 Questions to Ask in a Property Manager Interview

System - Thursday, January 25, 2018
  1. How long have you been in business? We recommend hiring a company that has been in business for at least five years. This allows a long enough track record to call references prior to hiring.
  2. How has your business model changed during that time? This will tell you how responsive the company is to industry changes and the evolution of technology.
  3. Which property management services do you currently offer? Not all property management companies offer the same services. Be sure that this company offers a full suite of services that meets your needs.
  4. How many rentals do you currently manage? This will help you to gauge the company’s size and expertise. Be sure that the company isn’t stretched too thin given the size of their staff.
  5. Do you manage any other rental properties in my area? You want to be sure that your property management company understands the nuances of your local rental market.
  6. Which areas does your company service? If you own or are considering investing in properties in multiple cities or towns, having a large coverage area could be beneficial.
  7. Which types of properties do you manage? A property manager who manages single family rentals will have a different approach than someone who manages commercial or retail properties. Be sure to find someone within your market niche.
  8. How do you set your rental rates? Any credible company should be able to run a market analysis that informs rental rates based on a number of variables, including your local market, the unit size, the amenities you offer, etc.
  9. Which strategies do you use to fill vacant units quickly, without sacrificing tenant quality? This provides insight into their leasing strategies when pressed with a deadline.
  10. Can you explain Fair Housing laws? A good property manager should be fluent in all local, state, and fair housing laws.
  11. Do your team members have specialized roles, or are they generalists? You’ll want to know whether one person is responsible for managing your rental, or whether the company takes an all-hands-on-deck approach to service delivery (one person who markets the units, another who’s responsible for repairs and maintenance, another who’s an accounting expert, etc.).
  12. Which types of insurance do you carry? Look for companies that carry at least a $1 million general liability policy, as well as an errors and omissions policy.
  13. What are your monthly management fees? Management fees generally run anywhere between 8-12% of total monthly revenues, but can vary depending on the services offered.
  14. Do you collect management fees when a unit is vacant? If so, run away. Property managers should be incentivized to lease units quickly–and forfeiting a portion of their fee in the meantime is generally the industry standard.
  15. Can I cancel my contract without penalty if I’m unhappy? Avoid companies that try to lock you into a contract. You should be able to switch management companies if the service is sub-par.
  16. Are there miscellaneous fees that I should expect to incur? Some companies charge extra for marketing units, evicting tenants, turning over units, etc.
  17. What’s your procedure for qualifying tenants? Learn whether the company uses background, employment, credit, and landlord reference checks as part of their screening procedures.
  18. What is the average vacancy rate among the properties you manage? Consider whether this vacancy rate is above or below the area average.
  19. How long do units typically stay vacant after turnover? Look for companies that will have units rent-ready and leased up again within 30 days, which should give them plenty of time to refresh the unit and perform any repairs.
  20. What’s your process for handling service requests? You’ll want to know what the process is for tenants to communicate service requests to the PM, as well as your role in the process. Will you be making final decisions about repairs and maintenance? Can you require authorization for any expenses above a certain amount? Look for a company with a well-thought-out process.
  21. How often will you provide me with updates about my property? You should be able to obtain information about your property as often as you’d like. More sophisticated PM companies will leverage technology (e.g. online dashboards) to provide you with real-time information about your portfolio.
  22. What is your preferred method of communication? If you are someone who insists on speaking over the phone, but this property manager insists on communicating by text or email, this could be a mismatch. Look for companies that are willing to communicate through various media–not just with you, but with residents and vendors, too.
  23. Do you have pre-existing relationships with local vendors? Find out who the property manager subcontracts with, and whether any discounts are available through those relationships.
  24. Will you be able to provide me with investment advice or help me to grow my portfolio? More advanced property management companies will be able to help you to identify market opportunities–whether through the purchase or sale of assets–and help you to position your assets in a way that maximizes your return on investment.
  25. Do you personally invest in real estate? If so, that’s a good sign–it indicates that the property manager has an investor’s mindset and will hopefully care for your property the way that they care for their own.

Depending on your specific circumstances, you’ll probably have other questions to ask potential property managers; but this list of 25 questions to ask in a property manager interview is a good starting point.

You likely already know this, but always be sure to meet with property managers in person before deciding to hire them. This will give you a better feel for the person. For instance, was he on time? Did he seem organized? Was he transparent in sharing information with you? It’s easy to hide behind a guise online or over the phone; in-person conversations reveal so much more.

Five Current Trends in Student Housing

System - Thursday, November 23, 2017

Here at Five Seasons Property Management, we were not surprised to see these "five current trends in student housing." We expect our tenants, both to students and non students, to be demanding, and our properties and management never falls short of their expectations. Our owners hold us to a high standard, and we are always accountable to them. We understand how important our role is as property manager to both our owners and our tenants. At Five Seasons Property Management, we never settle, and we promise to go above and beyond for all your property needs. So go ahead, schedule a showing of one of our units, or contact us about managing your investment. If you are looking for a lucrative investment opportunity, give us a call; we would love to help you find the perfect investment property.

Original Article

10 Ways to Prepare Your Home for Winter

System - Tuesday, October 17, 2017
  • Clean air conditioners. Wipe down the unit, clear debris from the surrounding area, and hose off the unit. Once it's completely dry, cover the air conditioner and turn off the water shutoff valve, if your system has one. Remove window units and store them indoors to prevent window drafts. If you can't remove your window unit, close the vents and protect it from the elements with an air conditioner cover.
  • Drain sprinkler systems. You can tackle this one of two ways: Remove the water using the system's drain valves, or have a professional blow the water out with a large air compressor.
  • Turn off outdoor water supply. Make sure all exterior water spigots are turned off and all attached hoses or other devices are removed, drained, and properly stored.
  • Insulate pipes. This will help prevent your pipes from freezing and save money on your hot water bill. Insulate by duct-taping pre-slit pipe foam (available at hardware stores) around exposed pipes in your home's crawl space or attic.
  • Caulk air leaks around doors and windows.
  • Add more insulation if needed. If you can see the ceiling joists in your attic, you may need more insulation.
  • Test your thermostat. Turn it to heat mode to make sure the furnace kicks on and blows warm air.
  • Have the furnace inspected by a professional. Make sure it's in good shape to last through the winter.
  • Inspect and clean your roof and gutters.3. Replace damaged, loose or missing shingles/slates that may leak during a winter storm.
  • Install storm windows and doors.

Real estate investing is all about the numbers

System - Thursday, August 10, 2017
{{ post.title }}

There are many factors that go into evaluating an investment property. If it's a buy and hold investment, you'll need to evaluate the income and expenses not only that the current owner has, but more importantly that you intend to have. You will also want to include the vacancy rate, remodeling cost, and property management fees. If you are purchasing a fix and flip property, you will need to factor in your rehab and carrying cost, insurance, mortgage, anticipated market price and conditions when you go to sell, and other applicable fees.

Investing in real estate should be a non-emotional process and every decision must ultimately be based on the return. I always tell my clients before we begin negotiations to know the maximum price they want to pay for the property; that way the negotiations are tied to a number upfront and you know when it's time to walk away. If you want a good deal, especially in the current market where almost every offer is a multiple offer situation, you have to look for what I call an "ugly duckling" . This is the property that no one else wants.

At times you may have to walk away from a deal, because the numbers no longer generate the desired return and in the end it will cost you more. I would rather have a client walk away from a deal, than to be stuck with a property with minimal return or even worse, one that they are underwater on.

In conclusion, promise yourself to only buy deals that generate the desired return and use an experienced real estate agent, lender, and attorney that can help guide you through the process.

Written By Kim Hart

Kimberly Hart - Realtor, The Hart Team

kwVERMONT

68 Randall Street

South Burlington, VT 05403

Mobile: 802.345.5300

Phone: 802.488.3498

Fax: 802.654.8505

About Kim:

Kimberly Hart has always had a love for Vermont since she was young. She grew up in the Finger Lakes region of New York and holds a Master's degree in Environmental Health Science from the University of Albany. She started her real estate career in March of 2012 when she discovered she had a deep passion for the real estate field. Kimberly has helped several individuals, families, and investors with their buying and selling needs. Kimberly takes an analytical approach to buying and selling homes, whether someone is interested in a home for personal use now, retirement in the future, or purely as an investment. She is a highly motivated individual that will work diligently to find your dream home and negotiate the best deal for her clients. Kimberly delivers honest and personalized service that will keep you coming back for all your real estate related needs.

Landscaping

System - Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A good property manager is always looking for ways to improve a building’s value. With so much attention devoted to the building itself, it’s easy to overlook the value of enhancing a property’s grounds. However, there are a number of cost-effective ways to do so; and we expect many to be a part of the top summer landscaping trends of 2017.

Here’s a look at a few of the ROI-enhancing summer landscaping trends that are expected to gain popularity this year—you may want to give them a try!


Programmable Green Space

This landscaping trend has been popular for a few years, but we’re starting to see it grow in popularity now that more Millennials are forgoing homeownership in favor of renting. Programmable green space can be used for a range of activities, from cookouts to flag football, a Frisbee tournament or a family picnic. Programmable green space is particularly important for city dwellers, as it evokes the sense of a yard for renters living in a concrete jungle.

We like this landscaping trend because it’s relatively low-cost and can be repurposed in creative way. Not every building owner has a large courtyard to repurpose as programmable green space—and that’s okay. Even the smallest plot of land can be enhanced with open green space. Just make sure that it’s designed to be inviting to residents, and that they know that it’s intended for their enjoyment.

As an added benefit, programmable green space can serve as a buffer between buildings, increasing the perception of privacy and combatting the feeling of claustrophobia that’s common in dense urban areas.


Hardscape Elements

Boulders, stones, sculptures, and pavers can be more expensive on the front end than other landscaping materials, but we love these features because they are low-maintenance and long-lasting. Hardscape elements tend to look attractive regardless of the season or their age.

The same is true of an outdoor patio. Whether it’s made from concrete or individually placed pavers, a well-designed patio can draw residents to an underutilized space. Create a warm, welcoming environment by adding outdoor furniture and grills. This will help to create a sense of community, no matter the size of your residential property.

Just be sure to care for outdoor furniture properly! Replace fabric on cushions, throw pillows, and umbrellas to make the area feel fresh, inviting, and clean at a low cost. Adding a colorful outdoor rug is another easy, inexpensive way to make the space feel comfortable. Thanks to advancements in technology, there are plenty of outdoor fabrics to choose from that are both fade-resistant and waterproof.

Mainstream Sustainability

Sustainable landscaping features aren’t some fad that only pertains to property owners in hot, arid parts of the U.S. Indeed, mainstream sustainability is taking root in every part of the country; and as a result, it’s a landscaping trend we expect to see in abundance this summer.

Low-maintenance gardens involving drought-tolerant plants are becoming the norm. Many residents now assume that sustainable features will be a major part of a building’s design—for both economic and environmental reasons. For instance, plants should be chosen not just for their beauty, but also for their ability to withstand dry summers and cold, wet winters, depending on your climate.

Property managers should consider other sustainable elements, too. Outdoor furniture made from natural or repurposed materials is becoming more popular. Some popular materials include teak, eucalyptus, acacia, bamboo, and recycled metal and plastic. In addition, you should consider incorporating LED lighting, water-efficient irrigation, and permeable pavers. Remember: sustainability is not an all-or-nothing proposition; do what you can now, and add on over time.


Edible Plants, Front and Center

Just because your property doesn’t have traditional areas to landscape doesn’t mean you can’t add some outdoor gardening features for residents. A growing number of people are interested in caring for community gardens that produce fruit, vegetables, and herbs to share between neighbors. Many of these plants are also aesthetically beautiful, such as lavender. People want to know where their food comes from; and providing green thumbs with an edible garden to supervise achieves a number of goals in one fell swoop.

Small, edible gardens are great because you don’t even need much land to make them work. Vertical gardens are growing in popularity, as are rooftop and balcony gardens. The key to success is choosing an area that is best suited for the plants that you want to grow. The area should get ample sunlight, be protected from strong winds, and have access to sufficient water and drainage. Some suggest planting surrounding flora that attracts pollinators as a way of increasing your garden’s harvest.

Consider adding a space for composting as well. Place a large composting bin outside, and send around a fact sheet for residents that explains the benefits of composting, such as reduced waste and the ability to create fertile soil for the edible garden you’ve created.


Building a Sense of Community

Building owners and property managers have often overlooked the importance of outdoor areas. Consider this, however: not only do landscaping trends beautify your property, but the ideas we’ve outlined also build a sense of community between residents. Whether you tend to two units or two hundred, these landscaping trends can be used to draw residents to one another—and to your properties. The more connected that residents feel, the happier they are, and the more likely they are to stay. So this season, think outside of the box to enhance ROI.