Jun 30

We do all the normal screening stuff such as CCAP, proof of income, proof of current address, requiring a government issued picture ID – without an ID they can give you any name and all of your screening will fail, etc.

When it looks like a tenant is acceptable on paper, then we break out our super tool: A home visit to their listed current address without an appointment. (If you set an appointment they will be at mom’s house to meet you)

We reject close to one in four with this final step. They don’t live there, a couple of times the address they gave was  a vacant lot, they have a pit bull larger than my manager, all the screens are pushed out from the inside, the yard and house is less clean and orderly than the local dump, there is no furniture, just a flop house for druggies, etc.

Your application needs to let the applicants know in advance you will be doing this. Our language in bold at the end of the authorization to pull credit and talk to prior landlords is:

” I understand that Affordable Rental Associates, LLC will verify my current residence in person”

Jun 20

Since yesterday’s post on Milwaukee rent stats I’ve spoken to a number of people, both landlords and tenant advocates, who felt rents had significantly increased in Milwaukee over the past couple of years.

I took a look at this using Rent-O-Meter’s rent analytic tool.  (I highly recommend this tool for accurately  setting residential rents) In moderately priced neighborhoods both on the Southside and Northwest, their data is showing that for two bedroom units rents have actually dropped quite a bit from 2016.  Three bedroom unit rents remain stable.

Not sure what to attribute this to.  There has been a softening of occupancy levels over the past year or so, which nearly always causes price corrections.  No money/low money mortgages are reappearing.  That temporarily drives up vacancies, but as we saw in 2008, that bubble pops.

 

 

Rent-o-Meter data NW Milwaukee

Rent-o-Meter data NW Milwaukee

Jun 19

Rents have not changed significantly in Milwaukee (2008-2012) compared to 2013-2017)

What has changed significantly is the number of people paying over 35% of their income in rent.  That percentage DROPPED from 50.1% in 2008-2012 to 45.9% in 2013-2017.

While there is still room for improvement, it looks like the financial status of Milwaukee’s tenants is improving.  This is a good thing for all.

Table is from the US Census Data:
Milwaukee Rental Data From US Census

Milwaukee Rental Data From US Census

Jun 17

I had seen this years ago and then forgot about it until I ran into it this morning while searching for something.

A real wealth of info, of course much of it slanted towards tenants rights. Some of it is outdated, such as the eviction notice grid does not contain 5 Day Breach for Month to Month.

We should work to get eviction prevention (very different than eviction defense) as part of this, as well as more tenant responsibility focused pieces.

Eviction prevention is providing the resources and tools necessary for tenants to succeed. When tenants fail, landlords suffer or fail.

http://wilawlibrary.gov/topics/landlord.php

 

Apr 04

From a Fair Housing perspective, you probably must account in some manner for the value of the Section 8 payment when calculating an income multiplier guideline.

I’ve read of the argument made in other jurisdictions that if an owner is using a rent multiplier, that it should be on net rent to the tenant. This is probably not a workable answer for either tenant nor the owner. If the net payment by the tenant is $20 with a three times multiplier, a $60 per month income is not going to cover living expenses like heat and lights. A good discussion of this issue from a while ago is at: Bigger Pockets

In WI you must include the value of child support, food stamps and perhaps* Rent Assistance Vouchers in income calculations. So if the gross rent is $800 and the tenant receives $700 RA, $500 in food stamps, they would need to earn $1200 additional to meet the three times multiplier.

*Wisconsin Lawful Source of Income definition:

Wis Admin Code DWD 220.02(8)  “Lawful source of income” includes, but is not limited to, lawful compensation or lawful remuneration in exchange for goods or services provided; profit from financial investments; any negotiable draft, coupon or voucher representing monetary value such as food stamps; social security; public assistance; unemployment compensation or worker’s compensation payments.

There is a 1995 federal case, Knapp v. Eagle Property Management Corp, that found the value of Section 8 vouchers are not required to be included as income.

But that was nearly 25 years ago. Sentiments have changed over that time. I believe that if Knapp was tried today the court would find against the owner on this question as concepts like disparate impact were not widely argued then. Today we are restricted by HUD in using criminal records in screening because of the disparate impact on members of protected classes.

The plain language reading of the WI code makes not including the voucher value in the rent multiplier calculation open to expensive litigation, which the Knapp court determined that their insurer had no duty to defend.

To form your own opinion on this and other WI fair housing standards, a good starting point is:

STATE OF WISCONSIN Fair Housing Plan Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing and Actions to Overcome Them Update to the 2015-2019 Consolidated Plan

Jan 30
As we are in an industry that many of us have or had mortgages, it is probably a good idea to keep an eye on your credit report for a while, again…
 
 


The server, running an Elasticsearch database, had more than a decade’s worth of data, containing loan and mortgage agreements, repayment schedules and other highly sensitive financial and tax documents that reveal an intimate insight into a person’s financial life

But it wasn’t protected with a password, allowing anyone to access and read the massive cache of documents.

Jan 28
We have probably all been holding our breath to see if rental property ownership and management would be eligible for the new 20% small business tax deduction.  Last week it became clear that we are.  There are some documenting requirements that take effect this year that you need to learn more about.
From the IRS:
.03 Safe harbor. Solely for the purposes of section 199A, a rental real estate enterprise will be treated as a trade or business if the following requirements are satisfied during the taxable year with respect to the rental real estate enterprise:
• (A) Separate books and records are maintained to reflect income and expenses for each rental real estate enterprise;
• (B) For taxable years beginning prior to January 1, 2023, 250 or more hours of rental services are performed (as described in this revenue procedure) per year with respect to the rental enterprise. For taxable years beginning after December 31, 2022, in any three of the five consecutive taxable years that end with the taxable year (or in each year for an enterprise held for less than five years), 250 or more hours of rental services are performed (as described in this revenue procedure) per year with respect to the rental real estate enterprise; and
• (C) The taxpayer maintains contemporaneous records, including time reports, logs, or similar documents, regarding the following: (i) hours of all services performed; (ii) description of all services performed; (iii) dates on which such services were performed; and (iv) who performed the services. Such records are to be made available for inspection at the request of the IRS. The contemporaneous records requirement will not apply to taxable years beginning prior to January 1, 2019.

.04Rental services. Rental services for purpose of this revenue procedure include: (i) advertising to rent or lease the real estate; (ii) negotiating and executing leases; (iii) verifying information contained in prospective tenant applications; (iv) collection of rent; (v) daily operation, maintenance, and repair of the property; (vi) management of the real estate; (vii) purchase of materials; and (viii) supervision of employees and independent contractors. Rental services may be performed by owners or by employees, agents, and/or independent contractors of the owners. The term rental services does not include financial or investment management activities, such as arranging financing; procuring property; studying and reviewing financial statements or reports on operations; planning, managing, or constructing long-term capital improvements; or hours spent traveling to and from the real estate.

I read this as 250 hours of you, your employee’s or even contractors’ time, which is illogical, but as this is the government … Others, much smarter than I interpret it similarly

From JDSupra:
To qualify for the safe harbor, a rental operation must meet three requirements. In general, it must (1) maintain separate books and records for each rental enterprise, (2) involve the performance of at least 250 hours of rental real estate services each year (which, according to Treasury officials announcing the safe harbor, may be performed by employees or contractors other than the taxpayer), and (3) maintain contemporaneous records regarding the rental real estate services performed. Certain rental real estate arrangements are excluded from the safe harbor, such as real estate rented or leased under a triple net lease, as specifically defined in the proposed revenue procedure.

From Journal of Accountancy

 Under the proposed safe harbor, a “rental real estate enterprise” would be treated as a trade or business for purposes of Sec. 199A if at least 250 hours of services are performed each tax year with respect to the enterprise.The IRS says this includes services performed by owners, employees, and independent contractors and time spent on maintenance, repairs, rent collection, payment of expenses, provision of services to tenants, and efforts to rent the property. However, hours spent in the owner’s capacity as an investor, such as arranging financing, procuring property, reviewing financial statements or reports on operations, and traveling to and from the real estate will not be considered hours of service with respect to the enterprise.

Jan 20
Note, this began as a discussion between myself and another well known Milwaukee investor.
 
I have been an investor in Milwaukee real estate since the seventies. I have seen the market roller coaster many times. My belief for the coming months is:
 
In the next 12-18 months, we will get to near 2008 levels of correction both the mid-upper end of the market and the lower end, with the middle being less affected. Trump could make it worse, or Trump could make it better. It is not in Trump’s nature to not be involved an issue of this potential magnitude.
 
Mid-upper, 350k-1.5M range depending on the location, valued home sales will suffer as interest rates rise and the limits on tax and interest deductibility make them less affordable for those who are currently, marginally able to have such a home. In some markets, such as south FL and NYC, we’ve already seen discounting in the upper segment. It will get worse. Not many people, including politicians, feel sorry for the overextended Yuppie with the leased BMW in the drive of his McMansion that is filled with furniture bought on credit while working at a job he got with his degree that came with a significant college loan debt.
 
Low value (sub 100k) homes will take the hit as wages have remained static and interest are rising. We have been returning to “soft” underwriting. This is a segment where homeowners are more likely to quit when it gets hard. Those owners will fail. Unfortunately, no one in power truly cares when a poor family loses their home. The Dems say they care, but many secretly rejoice as each failure allows them to increase their political base by verbalizing outrage and empty promises of help. The Reps loyalty is more to the bankers than the homeowners. Rand Paul cannot change the world by himself.
 
Learning from the 2008 debacle, the government will prevent the full-on implosion of the middle. Too much economic and political damage if the voting class loses their homes again. But I still expect a 10-20% discount when owners must sell.
 
Throughout my career, when owner-occupied housing has suffered, rents and/or occupancy rise. Beginning in 2008 and continuing to this day, we’ve seen the most robust rental market of my career. In 2005-2007 we had our worst vacancy rates as every good tenant was suddenly, and temporarily, a homeowner.
 
When the economy is terrible opportunities abound.
 
In Carter’s 1980, prime rate was 21% at one point. Nobody was buying, well nobody but me and a few of others. I bought a hundred fifty units in the ten years between 79 and 89 when owner-occupied mortgage rates were consistently over 10% and rental mortgages near impossible to obtain.
 
In 79-89 we bought properties that worked at the 10-12% interest we were paying. I structured my buys so that I survived and made enough to support my family. When rates fell, values increased. Interest rate chart.
 
The longer the downturn goes on, the higher number of tired landlords, or their estates, will be seriously motivated to sell. They will create ways to make to make sales happen. Much of my purchases in 79-89 were owner financed because banks were not even enthusiastic about lending to owner-occupants at the time.
 
The combination of Amazon and remote working arrangements killed most commercial property value. My daughter does something important for AT&T corporate. She has worked from her living room for the past five years, and AT&T sold her former office.
 
The Chinese are selling off their US holdings.  WSJ: Chinese Dumped $1 Billion of U.S. Real Estate in Third Quarter, Extending Recent Retreat (Dec. 4, 2018)
 
Millennials don’t buy homes. They live in mom’s basement, or they rent. 
 
My three-year view:
 
I have good feelings about residential rentals across most segments. This will only hold true if:
• You have fixed rate financing; or
• You structured your purchases so that they still cash flow at 12% interest.
 
I think flipping will be a flipping foolish thing to do for the foreseeable future. Even if you are buying well today, you are buying higher on the price curve than you will be selling at three to six months from now.
 
Keep your powder dry for the next six to twelve months, i.e., hoard cash. Opportunities will abound.
 
Warren Buffet: “Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful.”
 
Jimmy Buffet: “If life gives you limes, make margaritas.”
 
Further reading: (A lot of WSJ pay-walled articles, but they do some of the best research.)
 
 
 
 
 
 
Jan 13

The Spring 2019 Apartment Association Landlord Tenant Law Boot Camp is February 9th, 2019. (Less than a month away.)

Even though I know the law well, we’ve sent our staff.  It is good for them to hear the rules from someone else.  Plus if they learn one new thing, it more than pays the modest cost.

Tristan knows the latest law, but that’s the easy part.  He also is one of the most prolific landlord tenant attorneys in Southeastern WI.  That gives him great insights into how the courts are ruling today and what the most recent “Gotcha’s” are.

At $179 for members, it is far cheaper than learning from your mistakes.  Not only does it help prevent costly errors, you also will learn how to screen better and other things that will result in profitability.

AASEW Landlord Boot Camp 2019

WHEN: Saturday, February 9, 2019

WHERE: Four Points Sheraton 5311 S. Howell Avenue, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 53207 (Across from the airport)

Registration opens at 7:10 AM

The seminar runs from 8:30 to 5 PM with a 30 minute break for a complimentary lunch. There will be a one hour question and answer session afterwards, ending promptly at 6 pm. Many will find the Q&A invaluable, therefore you may wish to arrangements to stay until 6 pm.

Updated to include information from Wisconsin ACT 317!

INCLUDED: 100 plus page manual to help you put what you learn into practice.

 

More info and sign up at LandlordBootCamp2019.com

Dec 02

Last week my son sent me the following text:

I read this from time to time and thank you for it

The Public Policy Forum a few months back said Milwaukee’s really short of low-cost rentals. If more people went into the business, researchers said, it could help. Yet Ballering, who’s owned for 32 years, told his son to find another occupation: “It’s such a difficult business,” said Ballering.

“There’s better things to do with your life.”

Not what a city in need of rental housing wants to hear from entrepreneurs who provide it.

Source: http://archive.jsonline.com/news/opinion/59534347.html/

The back story:

My son was nearing high school graduation.   I asked him what his plans were.  He said that he was going to follow me into the rental business.  He was initially upset with me when I told him no.  Today he is happy as a partner at a major marketing firm.

Although being in rental housing has done well for me, it is a harsh business.  There is little to no appreciation for the amount of work and risk involved. Many who enter the industry leave broke and broken. Your properties get damaged, your tenants do not pay and, to quote the late Rodney Dangerfield, we get no respect.

The government, who would benefit from successful rental housing, seldom support us or gives us the tools we need to succeed.  As an urban housing provider, you become responsible for the misdeeds of your tenants, while those who commit crimes are often not prosecuted.

There is an eviction crisis.  Yet instead of putting resources towards the causes, poverty and social issues, those claiming to want to solve the problem are providing more resources to free legal helps so that the nonpaying or disruptive tenant can stay a month or two longer due to an undotted i or uncrossed t.

So, yes, being a marketing professional seems like a much better life.

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