Month: September 2013

The Importance of Hiring a Moving Company – and How to Get the Best for You


Matthew Whitaker - Thursday, September 26, 2013

As anyone who has ever moved anywhere knows, moving can easily be a very stressful and frustrating event. We’ve all been in the position of having to pack up everything (without losing anything in the process), load it up, move heavy furniture, transport it all (often over long distances), unload, unpack, and arrange – a high-stress, high-effort affair that just about everyone dreads. When you’re moving into a rental home in Birmingham, you want to avoid as much of that stress and struggle as possible. That’s why hiring a moving company is not only a good idea; it’s a great one that can best ensure you have a successful (read: uneventful) move. This article offers great advice on how you can find the best moving company that works well for you. Here are our favorite tips and recommendations. Get Referrals Use your network of contacts – including friends, family, and co-workers – to give you referrals of licensed, reputable companies that have worked well for them. This can help you weed out the not-so-great from the great and wind up with a resource you can trust. A local real estate agent or property management company is also a great resource. Search Online Use the internet to look up the credentials of each option so you can find a fully licensed and insured company. These websites will often give you a lot of details you’ll need to know, such as how far they can transport your goods; what you’ll need before the move; their specific procedures for packing, transporting and unpacking; and insurance and replacement policies for breakables. Ask Questions and Get a Consultation As you contact each option on your list, ask any question you want. They need to make you feel comfortable about the move before you hire them. Also ask for a consultation. They can come to your home and tell you how much it should cost and answer specific questions about certain items. If you need help with the moving and rental process, and are looking for a rental house in Birmingham, contact gkhouses.com today and call 205.940.6363.

Looking for Affordable Rentals? Birmingham Is the Place


Matthew Whitaker - Wednesday, September 25, 2013

One of the most common factors in renting a house anywhere to many tenants is price. Housing can be expensive and typically takes up at least 30% of a household’s budget, so it only makes sense to find the best deals and most affordable options. For those looking for rental houses in Birmingham, you’re in luck: Birmingham happens to be one of the most affordable cities for renters. According to Kiplinger’s: “Birmingham holds appeal for people of all ages. The metro area, which includes the neighboring city of Hoover, offers budget-friendly Southern living with a big-city feel.” Specifically, the report showed that the average monthly rent tenants pay in the metro area is $685 on a median household income of $27,307 – which means the average rent is right at 30% of monthly income. (The national average is $899 per month on $32,051, or 34%.) Also, cost of living is 11.8% below the national average, with a rental vacancy rate of 11.6%. What’s better is that the area’s unemployment rate is 5.6%, which is over a full point lower than the state rate of 6.8% and two points below the national rate of 7.6%. For tenants in the Magic City, that’s great news. Birmingham real estate has seen a renaissance of sorts lately, as more opportunities for housing and employment alike have come to the metro area. Prices have also risen by 4% over the past year, suggesting there’s a lot of healthy activity that benefits everyone from owners to renters. In short, Birmingham, AL is one of the most affordable places to live not just in the Southeast, but in the country as a whole. If you are looking for homes to rent in Birmingham, AL and want to take advantage of the city’s affordable living, contact gkhouses.com and call us today at 205.940.6363.

Mortgage Rates Steady, But What About Next Week?


Matthew Whitaker - Thursday, September 19, 2013

The latest reports indicate that mortgage rates across the country are holding fairly steady at 4.57% – near the highest level (4.58%) we’ve seen in two years – but that could change soon. The average mortgage rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has steadily increased over the past year as the economy has recovered. At this time last year, the rate was 3.55%, so a full point increase is a substantial upward move. That move could continue next week as the Federal Reserve takes a look at its bond purchasing program. For several years now, the Federal Reserve has engaged in a consistent bond-buying program designed to keep the nation’s interest rate low to encourage lending and spur economic growth. The record-low mortgage rates we’ve seen over the past few years – including an all-time low of 3.31% in November, 2012 – are a direct result of the Fed’s actions in the markets. Now, though, the Federal Reserve is considering reducing the amount of bonds it purchases on a regular basis, which would likely spur a rise in long-term interest rates and thereby increase mortgage rates sooner rather than later. That is not necessarily a bad thing; our economy as a whole is improving, especially in the state of Alabama as we are no longer in a recession. Higher rates because of economic improvement mean more buying activity, ultimately, since affordability should also rise. Those looking to make a purchase in the very near future should still keep an eye on rates and make sure they get the best long-term deal for their investment. If you are looking for a Birmingham, AL property manager with deep experience in the local market, then call on gkhouses.com. Call us today at 205.940.6363 to learn more about managing your Birmingham rental houses with ease.

Birmingham Real Estate Update: A Big Investment and Rising Prices


Matthew Whitaker - Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Birmingham real estate market in the past week saw two pieces of good news that speaks well for the future of real estate in the greater Birmingham area and its overall economic potential – great news for investors, property owners and tenants alike. Home Prices Rise in August A report released by the Birmingham Association of Realtors, courtesy of data from the Birmingham Area Multiple Listing Service (MLS), suggests that housing prices rose in the Birmingham area last month. In August, the median home price rose by 9% to $169,000. Also, home sales rose by 4% in August from a year ago; 1,185 homes were sold in the area. We previously discussed how home prices grew by 3.9% from July 2012 to July 2013, so this monthly increase is another positive sign that the area is moving in the right direction. One thing to suggest that the trend has staying power: the number of homes sold in August (1,185) is very similar to numbers seen in previous months, like July (1,187), June (1,128), and May (1,255). Outside Developer to Make Big Investment It was also announced that The Redmont Group, a developer based out of Hawaii, will make a substantial investment of $50 million in downtown Birmingham over the next five years. The group has already started two projects: an apartment complex in Five Points South and an annex near Innovation Depot. This news is great for the metro area because investor capital is one of the fuels for a city’s economic engine. Real estate activity naturally increases when investors come to the city, and what is going on in Birmingham is no exception. If you are a developer, investor or tenant in search of homes to rent in Birmingham, AL and need qualified expertise in area real estate and property management, contact gkhouses.com and call us today at 205.940.6363.

Want to Flip Houses? It’s Not as Easy as It Looks


Matthew Whitaker - Saturday, September 14, 2013

Flipping houses – buying a home for below-market value, quickly repairing or renovating the interior and exterior, and then putting them on the market for staggering profit – is something that television and infomercials has made look easy.

We’d all like to be the kind of high-flying real estate tycoons that can pluck up downtrodden properties and turn them into jewels that sell for 20-50% ROI, but in reality, flipping houses is significantly harder than it appears on television.

And with today’s recovering real estate market, a lot of people have gotten in on the game, making the house flipping arena extraordinarily competitive.

Now, the best deals go quickly and even solid properties with house-flipping potential are becoming harder to find. You also need substantial cash reserves to get into the business if you don’t plan on taking out mortgages – and as the article above discusses, you then have to deal with prepayment penalties for mortgages and the prospect of paying off loans with interest on homes you can’t flip.

Fortunately, there are other ways to profit from the real estate market that don’t entail the crazy world of high-stakes house flipping.

Turn Your Properties into Rental Properties

Demand for house rentals has been higher over the past few years than ever before. Each home that you turn into a rental house can turn into a steady stream of income from your tenants that not only delivers profit, but also steadily pays down the underlying mortgage on your properties.

Of course, being a landlord is hard work in and of itself, and arguably takes as much effort – if not more – than flipping houses. There is less risk with being a landlord, though, especially if you turn to a property management company to handle the administration and day-to-day burdens of running your real estate empire.

If you want to pursue the path of turning rental properties into income, and are looking for a Birmingham, AL property manager, call on gkhouses.com and contact us at 205.940.6363.

Birmingham Real Estate Update: Home Prices Rise


Matthew Whitaker - Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The housing market is hit or miss across the country as a whole, but in Birmingham at least, it seems to be a hit so far. According to CoreLogic, home prices in the metro Birmingham area grew by 3.9% from July 2012 to July 2013, which is the highest yearly increase in the state. Next was Dothan (3.6%) followed by Mobile (2.1%). The state as a whole had an increase of 2%. This number was pulled down considerably by a dramatic decrease in a few key areas, such as Huntsville (minus 6%), Decatur (minus 2.5%), and Auburn-Opelika (minus 2.4%). Those looking for home sales in Birmingham, then, have to be pleased at the rate at which Birmingham home prices are rising relative to the rest of the state. Plus, with an increased national spotlight on Birmingham and its growth and revitalization, more interest in real estate within the city will surely come in the near future to further increase home prices. As a consequence of rising home prices, more people in Birmingham are looking to sell their home. Over the last year (July 2012 to July 2013), home sales in Birmingham increased by 24% after falling by 4% in 2011. The median home price was also up by 21%, according to the Alabama Center of Real Estate (ACRE). Alabama real estate as a whole may not be picking up quite as quickly as we’d all like, but when you look to the metro Birmingham-Hoover area, home prices are rising well above the state average and are on a positive upward trend. If you are in search of homes to rent in Birmingham, AL, or need a property management company who can provide you with trusted and reliable Birmingham property management, contact gkhouses.com and call us today at 205.940.6363.

Are You Making the Most of Your Rental Property Opportunities This Fall?


Matthew Whitaker - Thursday, September 5, 2013

September is the final month of perhaps the most active season of the year when it comes to rental properties. Source: www.flickr.com During the summer, property rental spikes because a large number of people are hunting for houses, condos, and other properties for college, job transitions, and other reasons to relocate. The weather is the most convenient for moving purposes, and the timing works well, too – kids are out of school; college-age kids have graduated from high school or are moving out of the dorms or apartments into houses; and many businesses are hiring during this time. Just because this activity will drop off a bit heading into the fall doesn’t mean your job is done, though. There are plenty of opportunities to seize this fall to increase your rental rates and make your properties just as attractive as they were in the beginning of the summer. College Students Move Often By the end of September, the majority of college students are settled in their living accommodations, be it a dorm, a privately-owned home or an apartment. That doesn’t mean they’ll stay there, though, especially if they’re in a dorm. Most dorm contracts are on a semester-by-semester basis. That means a percentage of college students will be considering moving off campus at the beginning of the winter term in January. Some off-campus students will be considering moving at that time, as well – plus, there are always transfer students and students who begin school in January instead of August. Be prepared to take advantage of these opportunities throughout the fall if you market extensively to college students. Just because it’s no longer the summer doesn’t mean there isn’t ample opportunity. Have Renovation Plans? Now’s the Time to Prepare Late fall is also a great time to renovate units and prepare them for the busy spring and summer seasons. Demand can drop during the late fall and early winter, so it gives you time to put into place any renovations, repairs or upgrades you want to carry out on your properties. Preparing for them now is a good step to making the transition as seamless as possible. A property manager can help you with your rental properties no matter what the season may be. Contact gkhouses.com at 205.940.6363 to learn more about managing your Birmingham, AL rental properties and making the most of your opportunities.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Your Landlord about These Three Things


Matthew Whitaker - Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Renting a house can be an exciting experience that results in a great place to live in a great location with the amenities and facilities you need. Source: commons.wikimedia.org Sometimes in the excitement, though, we forget to ask a few key questions that are important to address before we sign on the dotted line. Fortunately, most landlords are very receptive to answering these questions and want to help you know all the facts before you make the move. Three questions every tenant should feel free to ask about before signing a lease include having pets, making minor repairs and renovations, and satellite installation. Can You Keep Pets? Landlords differ on whether they allow pets, and the ones who allow pets sometimes restrict pet ownership to certain types of animals and sizes. It is important to ask these questions to your potential landlord – or even your current landlord if you are thinking about bringing home a new furry family member. Also, ask how many pets are allowed and how big they can be. There might also be a special deposit required for pets. Can I Make Minor Repairs and Renovations, like Painting? This is another common question tenants have but sometimes don’t ask. You may want to repaint your home, hang up decorations, change curtains into blinds and vice-versa, or make other adjustments to the property. It’s always a good idea to ask your landlord what you can do to modify your place when renting a home. Most landlords allow basic modifications, but it always helps to ask. Can I Install a Satellite Dish? Finally, some tenants may need to install a satellite dish and may assume that it is allowed on a specific property. As common as satellite dishes are these days, this is not always allowed. For example, most dish companies would like to install the dish on the roof (which we currently do not allow), so a deck or a pole in the yard is usually the only place that is possible – but that could be a safety hazard. There may be other considerations at play, too, which is why talking to your landlord is a great idea. When in doubt, ask – your relationship with your landlord as a tenant will be much stronger if you do. If you are looking to rent a house in Birmingham, AL, contact gkhouses.com for the consultation and properties you need to find the perfect place to call home.