Aug 29

For years I struggled with setting rents. Too much under market rents and the properties did not perform as well as they could. Too much over market rents, they sat vacant and do not perform as well as they could. There seems to be a theme developing here. 😉

To succeed you need to know what others are charging for rent in your very specific market. To that end, we spent a lot of my time, my staffs’ time and effort trying to collect comparable rents.

Ten, fifteen years ago our team manually enter details from for rent ads in the local papers, Craigslist, Zillow and anywhere else we found them. Then we would combine that information with city property records, trying to get an accurate view of what the market rent was for a particular unit. This was expensive and annoying.

We tried freelance data collectors through oDesk (now UpWork) to collect and correlate the records. Better, but still costly and the results still were not exactly what I wanted.

Then I saw promise in AI and Machine Learning, using tools like BlockSpring. Better results, but then Craigs and others started blocking automated collection tools.

We went back to manual data collection where we had to and automated what we could.

We were doing the rent surveys once or twice a year due to the hassle and costs. Quarterly would be better to catch trends.

I had looked at Rent-O-Meter in its early days. It seemed promising but had far less data than even our rudimentary data set.

Last October I relooked at Rent-O-Meter. Wow. We have been using it ever since.  They have both a free version and a free trial of the “Pro” version that goes for about $200 per year.  Setting one rent wrong will cost you more than that. You may want to take a look.

Note: while this may sound like an ad for Rent-O-Meter, it is not.  I’m just a happy, paying customer of theirs.

Jul 31

https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/healthy_homes/smokefree

This rule is helpful for private owners who wish to ban smoking, as well as offering a marketing opportunity, I guess, for owners that permit smoking.

I agree with HUD on this, the advantages of smoke-free housing outweigh any market advantage of allowing smoking.

https://archives.hud.gov/news/2016/pr16-184.cfm

HUD’s smoke-free rule will reduce damage and maintenance costs associated with smoking. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HUD’s national smoke-free policy will save public housing agencies $153 million every year in repairs and preventable fires, including $94 million in secondhand smoke-related health care, $43 million in renovation of smoking-permitted units, and $16 million in smoking-related fire losses. It is estimated that smoking causes more than 100,000 fires each year nationwide, resulting in more than 500 deaths and nearly a half a billion dollars in direct property damage.

Feb 23

The first question you must ask is ‘What is the market for similar units today?’

Market rates can change quite a bit in both directions.

If an area is suddenly overbuilt or there is the loss of a major employer, rents can go down. In those cases even keeping the current rent may cause you to lose a great tenant.

If the rents have gone up a lot, then you may be leaving too much money on the table.

You can look at a bunch of local ads and Craigslist to get an idea. This can be a lot of work. I cheat and use rentometer.com (they have a free level, but we do enough to make the pro version worth while) Then go and look at their comps to see where you should be as all three bedrooms in Anytown, USA are not created equal.

For a great tenant we do not raise to market, but will often raise a bit. There is a cost to turning a unit in prepping, advertising and lost rent.

If you are not planning on selling the place, getting the last 5% of rent  may be a fools errand. On the other hand if you are selling a place, 5% of additional rent can be thousdands of dollars of added value.

Sep 27

Attorney Tristan Pettit, you know, the guy that writes the standard legal forms for Wisconsin Legal Blank, is doing his landlord-tenant Boot Camp again on Saturday, October 7th. There are still a few seats left.

You get a full day of landlord-tenant law training for the price you’ll spend for 30 minutes of attorney time after you make a mistake in this complex area of law,

All the details are at:
http://www.landlordbootcamp2017.com

But the proof of value is I send my staff to Tristan’s Boot Camps.  Even though I know the laws, it is of great value to have staff learn what they need to be concerned about in a different setting than the office.

Feb 09

For the past couple of years, we have sold out both the spring and fall sessions of Attorney Tristan Pettit’s AASEW Landlord Tenant Law Boot Camp.

It looks like we are on track to do the same for the upcoming February 18th, 2017 Boot Camp.

Last fall I waited too long to sign up my new staff members and could not get them in. I signed up three staff people very early for this one. 😉

You may ask ‘Why would Tim pay $537 plus wages to send three people to Boot Camp when he knows the laws so well?’

The answer is easy: One small mistake or missed opportunity will cost us far more than this. It is important that my folks know the law as WI landlord Tenant Law is not always what a reasonable person would assume it to be. And this is ever evolving, with both new laws, new interpretations by courts and new tricks by tenant advocates*. This is not the first time we’ve sent staff either.

This course is presented by Attorney Tristan Pettit. Tristan’s law practice focuses on landlord-tenant law, he is a current board member of the Apartment Association as well as former president, and drumroll please, he writes all the standard landlord tenant forms for Wisconsin Legal Blank.

If you want to go, now that my seats are secure ;-), you can sign up online or call Joy at the Association 414-276-7378 and reserve a spot.

http://www.landlordbootcamp2017.com

* Most “tenant advocates” only advocate for tenants that break the rules. This ultimately costs the rest of the good tenants more in increased rents and decreased service or more noise and disruption
 but this is another story for another day.

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