Thursday, December 29, 2011

Did you know

The new year is just around the corner. Are you planning for the next year to be better than this year? Are you planning to make more money? If you don’t have a plan then you have NO PLAN.

Here is the proverb for 2012.

Consistency will make you a winner.

If you are not consistent in all that you do, you will not win. Keep doing what makes you successful. Continue to make those phone calls. Continue to farm a certain area. Continue to go to Chamber meetings.If you don’t then you will not be a WINNER!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Did you know

Dealing with a leak in a ceiling can be so simple. It can also be devastating. Here is what happened. Just to give you a heads up, this could have been a nightmare from hell if not handled properly. It is imperative that as a property manager you have qualified vendors to handle repairs. When you get some “Johnny come lately” who is not trained or educated, you have a nightmare waiting to happen.

Thanksgiving Day tenant calls and says water is pouring out of the ceiling in the kitchen. There is a bathroom above the kitchen so the natural assumption is that something in the bathroom is leaking. A plumber is called. Plumber goes to the house. Talks to the tenants. They state that they very seldom use the upstairs bath. When they did use the bathtub, they would soak in the tub. They never mentioned the use of the shower.

Plumber turns water on at sink and tub. No water appears in the kitchen ceiling. He flushes the toilet multiple times. No water appears in the kitchen ceiling. He does a pressure test on all the lines. Again nothing happens. Since there appears to be no problems with the plumbing we wonder if it may be from the vent in the roof. Now we send out a roofer to check for leaks in the roof.

A very reliable roofing company states that this roof is the worst roof job they have ever seen. They do the best they can and repair multiple places but state that this is a just a “band aid” and the roof needs replacing. At this point, we make an assumption. You should never assume anything. You know what they say about the word “assume”. It makes an “ass” out of “u” and “me”. We assume the problem is fixed. WRONG

3 weeks later we get a call that water is pouring out of the ceiling again. We again send the plumber. After talking to the tenants again, he finds that they have periodically been using the shower. The shower has a hand held shower head. What had been happening was they had been using the hand held shower head sometimes and it was spraying on to the spout on the tub. The spout was not sealed properly. The water would go behind the spout and leaking through the ceiling.

Here is where it gets really interesting. Plumber begins to remove as much insulation that is between the floors as he can. He can not get to all of the wet insulation. Now the untrained plumber or property manager would pull out as much insulation as they could and say all is fine.

The PROFESSIONAL plumber or property manager should call a company that can guarantee that there is no chance of mold. Wet insulation is a breeding ground for mold. This must be dried down in the proper way with knowledgeable trained people.

Thanks ServiceMaster. You are the best!!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

No matter how you try, the general public does not realize all of the laws that you are required to abide by and do the right thing. 8 years ago Mountain Manager and Associates was born. The Georgia and North Carolina Real Estate Commission have the duty to audit of my books. They wanted to make sure we are doing every thing the correct and legal way.

Reading the North Carolina back page has always made be wonder, “am I doing it correctly.” Will they come after me if I am not doing it correctly? I know I am guilty. I know I am doing it wrong. All those classes that I have taken about trust account, just went out the window.(My insecurity came into play, can you tell)

I received a letter in March from the Georgia Real Estate Commission wanting certain documents. Immediately, I sent the information by certified mail. I waited and waited.

They responded 6 months later with a critic of what needed to be done!!!

I had been pleasantly surprised. I found out that they are not the Gestapo.

The general public does not know all the laws that a property manager and/or real estate agent has to abide by.

As a property manager we have a fiduciary responsibility to the owner of the property. We are required to protect them. This can be very difficult when owners think they know more than we do. We must overcome this and continue to protect them, no matter what they say. That doesn’t sound very nice!! We need to educate owners on the laws that can cause them problems and do it in a nice way.

There are issues of MOLD, LEAD BASE PAINT and FLOODING to name just a few.

Today I had a conversation with an owner who owns a home that was built before 1978. More than likely it was built in the 1950’s.

I told him that there are certain words that put the fear of GOD in me. LEAD BASE PAINT and MOLD. It is imperative that the tenant does not say these words. The house needs to be free of mold. It also needs to be free of lead base paint. If it does have lead base paint it needs to be repair by a Certified Lead Base Paint contractor. At this time, I am not aware of any contractor who is a Certified Lead Base Paint Contractor in the mountains.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Did you know

Putting the right person in the right house is a win win for both the tenant and the landlord. The landlord wants a tenant who will pay the rent and take care of the property. The tenant wants the landlord to take care of the property and give them “Quiet Enjoyment”(They want to be left alone to enjoy the home)

It all starts with the application process. It can be very quick or it can take some time.It all depends on the landlord or the property manager. Either one can do it with the same tools, IF they want to do it RIGHT.

As a landlord you can shake their hand and say, “The house is yours. When can you move?”


You can give them an application. Ask them to fill it out. You will then begin the process IF you want to “Put the right person in the right house so you both win.

As the landlord you want to find out if they have the income to afford your property. The best way to do this is to verify their income. You can use their last paycheck, tax return or 1099 form. If they are paid cash, then they probably don’t file a tax return and probably won’t be renting your house.

You also want to talk to their existing and previous landlord. Now you may ask.
“Why should I talk to their previous landlord.?” The best reason of all. If you talk to the existing landlord they may want the tenant out asap and they will lie to you. If you talk to the previous landlord, they will tell more than likely tell you the truth.

Now the last step. It is now time to get a background check and credit report. Times the way they are, it is part of the process to do a credit report. You do not want to base everything on the credit score. For several years, I did not do background checks. I felt that I could tell if there was a problem. I was “SMART” I could “read” this people. Boy, was I wrong. I really don’t like admitting that I am wrong but I decided it was time to do background checks with a prospective tenant told me that he had been convicted of a

sex offender. I thought he was a good guy. BOY WAS I WRONG!!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Did you know

When someone comes to your house to cut the grass, clean your windows, or build a deck, they may or may not have insurance. One type of insurance they need is liability insurance. This type of insurance will cover them if they cut your grass and the lawnmower blows a rock and breaks your window. Your window will be replaced using their liability insurance.The other type of insurance is workman’s compensation insurance. This insurance covers them if they fall off the lawnmower and hurt themselves.

It is imperative that you check to see if they have both kinds insurance. There are a lot of people that work here and don’t have insurance. Ok,what is the big deal if they don’t have liability insurance or workman’s compensation.

Do you know that if these people do not have workman’s compensation that they can come after you if they are injured on the job. The job happens to be on your property.You can be held responsible. Sometimes they will even say, “Oh, I will just sign a waiver.” I am not an attorney or an insurance agent BUT my understanding is that this form does not eliminate the possibility that they can come after the owner.

Over the past several years talking to multiple insurance agents in the area, it is my understanding if someone comes on to your property and they get injured they can come after you for compensation.

When a property management company has a lawn guy, window washer or carpenter come work on your house, you, the owner is hiring this person. The property management company is not hiring these people. The property management company is hiring on behalf of the owner.

So how does the owner and/or property manager protect themselves when hiring people who do not have insurance?

The most common way is to just not worry about it. If they get hurt then worry about it when it happens. This is probably not the smartest way to handle it but it is the most common.

The second way to handle it, is to not hire anyone that does not have insurance. This is particular difficult to do, since may people do not have insurance.

The third, and for me the most successful, is to form a Maintenance company that covers all workers that do NOT have insurance. It is expensive but well worth the risk.

A couple of years ago, a work order was issued to remove a sign from a building The worker went out to remove the sign and fell from the ladder. $25,000 later he was back at work. If there had not been workman’s compensation insurance, the owner would have been at risk. I am not willing to take that risk. Are you?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Did you know

Working with tenants is an experience and can be trying to say the least. Now you may think that it is trying because of the tenants but I am not talking about the tenants. In this particular article I am talking about the landlord that is renting to the tenant. This tenant want to move into a house that we handle and their existing landlord is being difficult to say the least.

When a tenant puts in an application with Mountain Manager we then begin to process the application. We run a credit and background check. We verify the income by asking for a current pay stub. We verify that the tenant is still working at their existing job by calling the employer. We will call their previous landlord to verify that they have paid their rent on time. They did not abuse the property and they had no NSF or late fees.

We also do this with the existing landlord. The previous landlord will tell the truth but the existing landlord may not. They may tell you they are great tenants because they want them to move.

We want to make sure that what has been written on the application is true and accurate. This is not always an easy thing to do but we do try hard.

Today I experienced something that is just so unbelievable, it may be too hard to believe.

Here is the story. A prospect tenant submits an application. We run the credit and background check. It was good. We verify employment with a current pay stub and call the employer. Verified. We call former landlord. Also good. Now we need to call existing landlord.

This particular landlord requires that we mail the verification form to them. They would not do it over the phone. Ok, I understand. They don’t know who we are and need to make sure they do not give out information to the wrong people.They would not allow it to be faxed. So I asked if I brought the form to their house, would they fill it out.

The wife said her husband had to fill out the form. So I asked, “What time do you expect him to be home?”. She said, “He should be home between 5 and 6.

I planned my visit so I would arrive at their home by 6pm. When I arrived, I rang the the doorbell and “Mr. Smith” came to the door. I introduced myself and explained why I was there. I gave him the form that needed to be filled out. I also showed him the permission form from the tenant that gave him permission to fill out the verification form.

He then said, “ Do you have a copy of the permission form?” I said, “No, I do not.” With that he began to close the door and I said, “There is no reason to act like this. If you want a copy, can you not make a copy?” Then the door closed. It closed quietly but what an insult. I can not explain the anger I felt when he closed the door in my face.

I then went to a convenient store close by and purchased gas. While there asked if they had a copy machine. They did. I then said, “ I will be more than happy to pay for the copy, How much is it?” I love living in this fabulous area! They did not charge me. There are so many wonderful people here that are just plain NICE. It is so refreshing.

Not the case with Mr Smith. Now back in the car and off I go to his house again. Once there, I ring the doorbell again. No one comes. Wait and wait. I ring the doorbell again. Then a management decision is made. I get in my car and say to myself, “Prospective tenant, you now are approved:”

Aa I am driving away, the wife comes to the door.

The prospective tenant is called. She is told the following: You are approved. You need to move as soon as possible. No one needs to be subject to a person like this landlord that I just met. If you did not pay your rent on time, you will with Mountain Manager. If you did not take care of the place, you will with Mountain Manager.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Did you know

as a property manager we have a fiduciary responsibility to the owner of the property. Fiduciary is one of those words we learn when taking the real estate exam. Fiduciary means “founded on faith or trust”. This mean as a property manager,our loyalty is to the owner of the property. We represent the owner not the tenant. We protect the owner. We look after the owner and make sure his/her property is safe. We have a responsibility of giving the owner a feeling of trust or faith in representing them. Being a member of NARPM (National Association of Residential Property Managers) has instilled in the importance of representing the owner not the tenant.

I came to property management as a residential and then commercial real estate agent. Sometimes I would represent the buyer and sometimes I would represent the seller. It changed from deal to deal. For many agents like myself, it was difficult to really understand the concept of “Representing”.

In many ways property managers are similar to attorneys,preachers and bankers. We need to keep all information confidential and put the client/owner’s best interest at heart.

We are required to follow the laws of the state the property is located and of course, the federal laws that govern.

This task is not always a defined course. Tenants do not understand why we do what we do. We are the bad guys. The tenants that are “well to do”, do not understand when we make statements like “ when we come to inspect the property we are checking to make sure the smoke detectors are in working condition, we are making sure the furnace filters are being changed, we are making sure that you are not growing pot in the basement and we are making sure you are not doing meth in the garage.” They resent the statement. We also explain that we are required to say this to everyone.

.If we only say that statement to the “not so well to do” then we are discriminating. Just because someone is well dress and speaks well does not mean they can not be doing those illegal activities. We must make all statements to all people.

Being a property manager is not as easy as it seems. It is more than just collecting the rent and paying the owners.

Professional Property Managers abide by all the laws of the land.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The North Carolina and Georgia Real Estate Commission sends out a quarterly Newsletter during the year. One of the major topics recently in both publications have been issues with property management companies and property managers.

Over the past 2 years real estate sales have been horrible. Nothing is selling except foreclosed properties for the most part. Because of this, there are some agents who have decided, “I will manage rentals to make money” but do not take the time to take property management classes to learn how to do it. Since they hold a real estate license they can go into property management without any additional training.

I just found out there is a property management company in Atlanta doing business and does not hold a real estate license. When you manage property for others, in Georgia and North Carolina you are required to have a real estate license There are some states that do not require you to have a real estate license.

If you are thinking about hire a property manager,here are so questions you need and must ask.

  1. Are you a licensed real estate agent? Ask for a copy of their license.
  2. Are you affiliated with a licensed real estate company?
  3. If you are an agent not a broker, Is you broker aware that you are managing property for others?
  4. How do you screen prospective tenants?
  5. How do you handle repairs?
  6. Will all repairs be done, if requested by the tenant?
  7. Do you go to court if the tenant has not paid the rent?
  8. How do you serve the demand letter for non payment of rent?

Now you have asked all the right questions of this particular property manager and you feel they are good at doing what they do best. You have two more thing you need to do. Ask for references but do it a little differently. Instead of them giving you the owners that really love them you go to their website. You choose 3 properties that they manage. Then ask them for the owner’s name and contact information for each of those properties. You then call those owners. Ask them what they like and dislike about the property manager.

Now do the same thing except ask for the tenant’s name and contact information for 3 of the properties. See what they like and dislike about the property manager.

At this point you have a pretty good idea if this is the kind of person you want to manage you most valuable asset!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Did you know

owning real estate is not for the young at heart. It is an investment that needs attention by the purchaser/owner. If no attention is given, then it is a sure thing that your real estate (investment) will go down in value unless the property is sitting on top of a gold mine or you strike oil. Both being highly unlikely. However, if there is any chance gold could be discovered in Young Harris, please let me know. You know, Dahlonega is not far from here, so you never know. Any thing is possible.

You can buy stock and just let it sit there. You do not have to give it any attention. It will go up or down no matter what you do. Hopefully while it is sitting, the stock will increase. Sometimes it does and sometimes it does not. Stockbrokers will tell you that when buying stock, it is for the long haul. Don’t try to make money overnight. Those day traders always amaze me. They are really working the system. Some are successful. Many are not.

The same applies to real estate. You need to own the property for the long haul. Yes, there are people out there that are “Flipping” property. Some are successful. Many are not. Several years ago there even was a show on TV about Flipping property. This show gave way to anyone and everyone investing in real estate. They had the “Bug” They needed to buy real estate and “FLIP” just like all those people on TV and make a fortune. Many were not success and many were not.

The reason that Some are successful in real estate and the stock market is they have done and continue to do their homework. They spend the time and the energy watching the market and the trends. They talk to stock brokers and real estate agents. They don’t just talk to one. They talk to many. Get their thoughts and ideas on what is happening. Is it time to buy or sell? Then they make an educated decision on how to proceed. If you do not do your homework, You will not succeed unless you are lucky. If you are lucky then go buy a lottery ticket. Much easier.

Buying real estate right now is the absolute best time that I have ever seen in 30 years. If you are thinking of buying, Spend time talking to several real estate agents, bankers, property managers and appraisers. Look at multiple houses or commercial property. Do not under any circumstance, look at one house or commercial building and decide to buy it. You have not done your homework. You are probably making an “Emotional” decision. The property has a fabulous view or it is on the lake or is on an unbelievable creek with rushing water. As always, if you don’t buy this property, there will be another property. In the past, I have always told my daughters, buying property is just like dating, “If you wait long enough there will always be another one just as good”. Don’t become emotional about buying. Write down the positive and the negative of the property and then make a rational decision about buying. Spend a lot of time analyzing the property or properties.

People who invest in real estate are a totally different breed then ones who invest in the stock market. Both are risk takers and both have a flair for adventure. They are after the American Dream. Own real estate and become rich. Isn’t that what we are all wanting.Many think that if they do what they see on TV or the Internet that they will become rich. No hard work needed. This is a BIG WRONG. Lots and Lots of hard work. The work is using your brain and some of your brawn. Buy a house at a good price. Then go in and make cosmetic changes only.

Find a real estate agent willing to spend the time, energy and the expertise to help you achieve the “American Dream”

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Did you know

that when you purchased your home in the mountains to use as a vacation home or to retire when the time was right, that now you have decide to sell, you can’t give it away.

Your investment just went down the drain. You have had it on the market for 2 years and no one wants to buy this beautiful home at $100,000 less than you paid for it. What can you do.

Recently, this has become the new reality for many homeowners. You can let the property sit empty. Deteriorate every month because no one is not living in it or you can become a “Landlord”.

At first, becoming a landlord seems like a daunting task. The current real estate market has put many people in a position where their home does not appraise for what is owed on the mortgage. A homeowner turned Landlord may be more knowledgeable about the property than the average investor.

You have managed your own household by cutting the grass, cleaning gutters, paying utilities, being a good neighbor has now found that you are managing a tenant. You know that will take excellent care of your property because you did, so why shouldn’t they do the same. WRONG

Tenants have good intentions to try to take care of the property but it is not their top priority. They have no incentive to do so. Dealing with tenants takes a certain type of person. If you a very nice person and allow others to get their way, turn your property over to a property manager who deals with tenants on a day to day basis.

Being a landlord is not difficult, you just have to be consistent. It is like raising children, if you give them an inch, they will take a mile. So be consistent on each of these items and you will be successful.

1.You need to be a person who can enforce the lease. If the lease says that rent is due

on the 1st of the month. Then you need to enforce this. Don’t let them pay late with

no late fee. If you allow this to happen then they will always be late. Why should they

pay on time, if you allow them to be late. Also, if you ever do go to court, this will be

held against you.

  1. Have a policy on how repairs are to be handled. Do they call you at any time day or night? Do they email you the repair request? Repairs should be handled in a timely fashion. You need to handle repairs to protect your property.
  2. Know the laws of you state and county. When is the rent considered late? In North Carolina you are required to give the tenant 5 days grace period. What are the laws about sexual offenders? What questions can you ask and not ask regarding handicapped people?
  3. Have the tenant do a move in inspection. This must be documented. Have them list any damage before they move into the house.If it is not, you will regret it when they move out.
  4. Do not give keys to tenants until proof of utilities are in their name. Did you know that if you have the utilities on in your name and they move in without changing to their name, you can NOT turn the utilities off.
  5. Do not under any circumstance, do the move out inspection with the tenant. Do the inspection, using the inspection form the tenant filled out when they moved in. Once you have inspected, write or email them and give them a list of any problems.

  1. If you have allowed dogs or cats to be in the home, do NOT return security deposit

until you are sure there are no fleas. This is usually 14-21 days after they have left.

Protect your investment by using these suggestions. You will be happy you did.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

DId you know

That renting a house requires much more preparation than you think. When you put your house on the market to rent, it is a whole other ball game then when you are selling. Tenants expect and demand more. So Is your house “RENT READY”? Let’s see.

Are all appliances in working order and “CLEAN”? This means “white glove clean”

Have the furnace filters been changed? Then tenant will be responsible for changing them if you have it in your lease.

Are all gutters clean? The tenant will be responsible for cleaning them if you have this in your lease.

Do the smoke detectors and CO detectors have new batteries? You want the tenant to be responsible for putting new batteries if the old one’s fail. Call me and I will explain why.

Is the house “CLEAN”?

Have the carpets been cleaned?

Does it smell good when you open the front door?

The house really really needs to be clean which includes carpets, windows(inside and out) and smells good when the prospective tenant looks at the house. Don’t use artificial smell devices. Tenants know when you are trying to hide something. Does this really need a explanation?

Are the flower beds mulched and free of weeds? If they are not, then the tenant won’t do what you should have done.

Does the outside of the house need pressure washing? This is protecting your property if you require the tenant to do this. They won’t clean it if you won’t clean it.

Does the inside need painting? If so, choose neutral colors but not stark white. They want something that looks good. They don’t want to rent something that has a “USED” look.

If these things are done then you have a better chance of renting your house at a better than average rent. If your house is not in top notch condition then you will not.

Here is why. A tenant thinks if the house is dirt or not well kept then the owner will take less. The prospective tenant will let the property manager know that there are other houses available that are in better condition at the same price. So why should they pay the same price for an inferior product.The tenant also feels if they take, this less than average home, they don’t need to take care of it. The owner doesn’t take care of it, so why should they take care of it.

One of the reasons a tenant will pay your price or even more is they are not the kind of tenant you want. They credit is bad. When I say bad, I mean not only is their credit score low but they have judgements against them, multiple collections, and IRS liens. They also forgot to tell you about their criminal record. Sometimes they will offer to pay 6 months in advance just so you will rent to them. You need to run not walk from someone who has these types of credit reports.

A local realtor has been writing articles every week in North Georgia News and Towns County Herald about staging homes for sale. Check her articles out because the same principles apply to renting your house. If the yard, house and inside are not in top notch condition, then it will be difficult to rent, sell or give away at any price.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Did you know

All property managers are not the same. Their services vary as much as their qualifications. If you are looking for a property manager, take the time to decide if they are the right property management company for you. Interview several before making a decision. The company that you decide upon will be handling your investment which is, more than likely, one of the largest investments that you have.

Here are a few questions that you may want to ask them.

How many properties do they manage?

How many leases do they do each month?

How many houses do they have available for rent?

How long does it take them to lease a house?

How do they collect rent?

How do they handle repair requests?

Do they only handle rents or do they also sell properties?

One of the most important question is:

How long have them been managing property? If they are a start up company, you don’t need them to get experience on your dime. It is hard to beat experience as a teacher. Do they know the procedures for evicting a tenant. There is nothing negative about being the new kid on the block. The question is, have they done their homework. Are they familiar with handling mold, a tenant paying partial rent, dealing with roommates, monies owed after the tenant moves out and the list goes on and on and on.

Being in the mountains and a rural area, many might forget that technology does drive businesses and property management is no exception. How do they collect rent. Do they allow credit cards, ACH or tenant paying online? Is their website secure? Property managers need to be on the cutting edge of technology.

Real Estate companies general don’t have this stuff. They are doing their best to sell property not be a property management company. This tells you that they are not serious about being a property management company. All they want to do is sell property and are biding their time by doing property management until the sales start coming back.

Take the time to be informed before you decide who you will use to manage one of your largest assets. You can always change your mind but it will cost you more in the long run if you choose someone that is not qualified but is “So personable”. Take your time and ask questions and then more questions.