Month: February 2014

Decisions, Decisions: To Buy or To Rent?


Matthew Whitaker - Thursday, February 27, 2014

The age-old question of whether to rent or buy continues in today’s housing market, giving each individual or couple considering a purchase a reason to reconsider. From USA Today, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage increased slightly this week from 4.23 to 4.28 percent. These numbers indicate we are still at historically low levels, but the increase may indicate a shift in the market. Economists are expecting home prices to continue rising this year, but at a gradual pace to somewhere around 5%. Although the market is still far below the pre-recession numbers of five percent and higher, many Americans are still fighting their way out of debt in an unsteady market – thus making the purchase of a home extremely difficult. Owning a home also presents the problem of numerous unexpected expenses that many families forget to budget for, including insurance and upkeep costs. By 2015, the National Association of Home Builders predicts the average US home will have a size of about 2,152 square feet, and the expected costs for such a home is somewhere around $250,000. The annual cost for a homeowner’s insurance policy with an average home would be estimated at $875. By and large a homeowner should be ready to spend one to four percent of a home’s value annually on maintenance and repairs, and this number tends to increase as the house ages. The heating/cooling ventilation systems in a home are expected to last about 10 to 15 years, but replacing them can end up costing you several thousands of dollars, and always seem to occur during poor weather conditions. However, we’ve reported on the rental market heating up with the rental vacancy rate dropping to 8.2 percent at the end of 2013. This rate reflects the percentage of units that, at any given time, aren’t being occupied. Renting a home evades these costly repairs, and renting insurance is typically less than $30 a month in the Birmingham, AL area. Hiring a professional to assist you in finding the right rental property is a key step in finding that perfect place to live in that doesn’t also break the bank. Contact us today for more information.

Decisions, Decisions: To Buy or To Rent?


Matthew Whitaker - Thursday, February 27, 2014

The age-old question of whether to rent or buy continues in today’s housing market, giving each individual or couple considering a purchase a reason to reconsider. From USA Today, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage increased slightly this week from 4.23 to 4.28 percent. These numbers indicate we are still at historically low levels, but the increase may indicate a shift in the market. Economists are expecting home prices to continue rising this year, but at a gradual pace to somewhere around 5%. Although the market is still far below the pre-recession numbers of five percent and higher, many Americans are still fighting their way out of debt in an unsteady market – thus making the purchase of a home extremely difficult. Owning a home also presents the problem of numerous unexpected expenses that many families forget to budget for, including insurance and upkeep costs. By 2015, the National Association of Home Builders predicts the average US home will have a size of about 2,152 square feet, and the expected costs for such a home is somewhere around $250,000. The annual cost for a homeowner’s insurance policy with an average home would be estimated at $875. By and large a homeowner should be ready to spend one to four percent of a home’s value annually on maintenance and repairs, and this number tends to increase as the house ages. The heating/cooling ventilation systems in a home are expected to last about 10 to 15 years, but replacing them can end up costing you several thousands of dollars, and always seem to occur during poor weather conditions. However, we’ve reported on the rental market heating up with the rental vacancy rate dropping to 8.2 percent at the end of 2013. This rate reflects the percentage of units that, at any given time, aren’t being occupied. Renting a home evades these costly repairs, and renting insurance is typically less than $30 a month in the Birmingham, AL area. Hiring a professional to assist you in finding the right rental property is a key step in finding that perfect place to live in that doesn’t also break the bank. Contact us today for more information.

Super Spring Maintenance for Your Home: Tips from Professional Alabama Rental Managers


Matthew Whitaker - Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Believe it or not, despite the rounds of snow we’ve experienced, spring is almost here. Now is the time to assess the state of your house after a long and messy winter and see what needs to be done to your home in order to get it in tip-top shape for the upcoming months. No one, after all, wants to put up with a home that needs to be fixed. Therefore, use these tips to assess your home and then report any needed repairs so they can be taken care of promptly. Check Your Gutters Gutters are notorious collectors of leaves, sticks, gunk, and just about anything else that can collect in them. This is not good, since gutters serve a vital purpose: diverting rainwater away from your foundation. Check your gutters early and often, and see if now is the time to have them cleaned. Too much stuff in your gutters can also obscure repairs that may need to be made to the gutter system itself and make it impossible to fix them before it’s too late. Check for Water Damage Since we’ve gotten a lot of rain, ice and snow this winter, your roof has probably taken a beating. This is a good time to check your ceilings for tell-tale signs of water damage resulting from a roof that may have sprung a leak over the past couple of months. Look for:

Dripping from the ceiling

Light to dark-brown splotches

Mold

Hairline cracks (or larger ones)

You should also look around your floors and appliances for any other signs of a water leak. This includes brown stains, dark or black spots (mold), cracks, white residue on foundation walls in the basement, or any other small but noticeable sign of water infiltration. Check for Leaks You should also check for leaks – but not water leaks. If your heating bill was higher this winter than normal, it could be because of small air leaks throughout your home. This will unfortunately make your home more expensive to cool in the summer, so it’s important to find them before the hot months of summer arrive. Check around each window seal and door seal. Holding a candle or lit match to the seal and looking for drafts is a good way to find them. You may even be able to feel them. Also check around any appliance that connects to the outside. If there’s a possibility for an opening, air can get in – or out. Report any needed repairs to your professional Alabama rental managers and get your home ready for the rest of the year!

Super Spring Maintenance for Your Home: Tips from Professional Alabama Rental Managers


Matthew Whitaker - Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Believe it or not, despite the rounds of snow we’ve experienced, spring is almost here. Now is the time to assess the state of your house after a long and messy winter and see what needs to be done to your home in order to get it in tip-top shape for the upcoming months. No one, after all, wants to put up with a home that needs to be fixed. Therefore, use these tips to assess your home and then report any needed repairs so they can be taken care of promptly. Check Your Gutters Gutters are notorious collectors of leaves, sticks, gunk, and just about anything else that can collect in them. This is not good, since gutters serve a vital purpose: diverting rainwater away from your foundation. Check your gutters early and often, and see if now is the time to have them cleaned. Too much stuff in your gutters can also obscure repairs that may need to be made to the gutter system itself and make it impossible to fix them before it’s too late. Check for Water Damage Since we’ve gotten a lot of rain, ice and snow this winter, your roof has probably taken a beating. This is a good time to check your ceilings for tell-tale signs of water damage resulting from a roof that may have sprung a leak over the past couple of months. Look for:

Dripping from the ceiling

Light to dark-brown splotches

Mold

Hairline cracks (or larger ones)

You should also look around your floors and appliances for any other signs of a water leak. This includes brown stains, dark or black spots (mold), cracks, white residue on foundation walls in the basement, or any other small but noticeable sign of water infiltration. Check for Leaks You should also check for leaks – but not water leaks. If your heating bill was higher this winter than normal, it could be because of small air leaks throughout your home. This will unfortunately make your home more expensive to cool in the summer, so it’s important to find them before the hot months of summer arrive. Check around each window seal and door seal. Holding a candle or lit match to the seal and looking for drafts is a good way to find them. You may even be able to feel them. Also check around any appliance that connects to the outside. If there’s a possibility for an opening, air can get in – or out. Report any needed repairs to your professional Alabama rental managers and get your home ready for the rest of the year!

Birmingham Real Estate Continues to Heat Up


Matthew Whitaker - Wednesday, February 19, 2014

We’ve reported lately how Birmingham real estate has been heating up, and commented on how the city’s real estate scene is drawing attention across the country. That trend seems to be continuing, according to the latest stats released by the U.S. Census Bureau. According to the Census, more permits to build new homes were issued in 2013 than in 2012 for the Birmingham – Hoover market. This figure also beat the three-year moving average, which is a powerful sign of sustained growth. The Greater Birmingham Association of Home Builders agrees with the sentiment; they expect a slow but steady growth in new home construction each year until activity returns to pre-recession levels somewhere around 2018. And even though lending conditions are tighter than what we became used to before the market crash, and although fewer homebuilders are in business today than before, activity – in both price increases and in demand surges – should continue to rise. For 2013, 3,046 permits were issued. That means 3,046 potential new homes to add to the economy and provide a helpful boost to area prices, more than the 2,994 issued last year and the paltry 2,362 issued in 2011. The three-year average is just 2,800, meaning we are well on our way to higher numbers and bigger boosts. Investors in today’s market have an excellent opportunity to take advantage of real estate momentum and put down stakes in the Birmingham market. Market conditions aren’t quite ready for flipping, which means the best play is a sustained one: buying solid properties and watching them appreciate in value while turning them into rental properties and collecting rent revenue over the next few years. For this move, gkhouses.com is well situated to help. Contact gkhouses.com for more information and guidance on making a move in the Birmingham market.

Birmingham Real Estate Continues to Heat Up


Matthew Whitaker - Wednesday, February 19, 2014

We’ve reported lately how Birmingham real estate has been heating up, and commented on how the city’s real estate scene is drawing attention across the country. That trend seems to be continuing, according to the latest stats released by the U.S. Census Bureau. According to the Census, more permits to build new homes were issued in 2013 than in 2012 for the Birmingham – Hoover market. This figure also beat the three-year moving average, which is a powerful sign of sustained growth. The Greater Birmingham Association of Home Builders agrees with the sentiment; they expect a slow but steady growth in new home construction each year until activity returns to pre-recession levels somewhere around 2018. And even though lending conditions are tighter than what we became used to before the market crash, and although fewer homebuilders are in business today than before, activity – in both price increases and in demand surges – should continue to rise. For 2013, 3,046 permits were issued. That means 3,046 potential new homes to add to the economy and provide a helpful boost to area prices, more than the 2,994 issued last year and the paltry 2,362 issued in 2011. The three-year average is just 2,800, meaning we are well on our way to higher numbers and bigger boosts. Investors in today’s market have an excellent opportunity to take advantage of real estate momentum and put down stakes in the Birmingham market. Market conditions aren’t quite ready for flipping, which means the best play is a sustained one: buying solid properties and watching them appreciate in value while turning them into rental properties and collecting rent revenue over the next few years. For this move, gkhouses.com is well situated to help. Contact gkhouses.com for more information and guidance on making a move in the Birmingham market.

Is the Rental Market About to Explode? Property Management Blog


Matthew Whitaker - Monday, February 17, 2014

The real estate market as a whole is heating up, and it seems like with each month, progress is made. Could that progress be reaching a tipping point – from a steady recovery to a full-on boom? For the property management market, that could very well be true. According to the Wall Street Journal, the rental vacancy rate nationwide dropped by half a percentage point to 8.2 percent in the end of 2013, better than the 8.7 percent we saw in the last quarter of 2012. Rental vacancy is the percentage of units that, at any given time, aren’t being occupied. Higher vacancy rates are indicative of weak rental markets, primarily because people are instead choosing to buy homes. But with the market of the last seven years, buying a home hasn’t been the easiest endeavor for many Americans. In fact, in many cities across the country, rental markets have been red-hot at various points over the past half-decade. That could be true yet again as the vacancy rate continues to fall and rental rates continue to rise. Case in point: the nation’s median rent for vacant units (the amount requested by the property management company) was $746 in December. That was 3% higher than the December 2012 amount, and that doesn’t take into consideration inflation. What is notable about this figure is that it is twice the inflation rate of last year – 1.5%. Renting, then, is increasing in cost at twice the rate as virtually everything else a consumer can purchase. For those interested in real estate as an investment opportunity, this presents a chance to tap into a thriving market. Rental units will continue to be in high demand and rates will continue to rise as long as there is systemic uncertainty in certain parts of the real estate market – and that, today, mostly includes uncertainty about the economy as a whole. Hiring a professional to manage your rental property is a key step in the process of tapping into this opportunity. Contact us today for more information.

Is the Rental Market About to Explode? Property Management Blog


Matthew Whitaker - Monday, February 17, 2014

The real estate market as a whole is heating up, and it seems like with each month, progress is made. Could that progress be reaching a tipping point – from a steady recovery to a full-on boom? For the property management market, that could very well be true. According to the Wall Street Journal, the rental vacancy rate nationwide dropped by half a percentage point to 8.2 percent in the end of 2013, better than the 8.7 percent we saw in the last quarter of 2012. Rental vacancy is the percentage of units that, at any given time, aren’t being occupied. Higher vacancy rates are indicative of weak rental markets, primarily because people are instead choosing to buy homes. But with the market of the last seven years, buying a home hasn’t been the easiest endeavor for many Americans. In fact, in many cities across the country, rental markets have been red-hot at various points over the past half-decade. That could be true yet again as the vacancy rate continues to fall and rental rates continue to rise. Case in point: the nation’s median rent for vacant units (the amount requested by the property management company) was $746 in December. That was 3% higher than the December 2012 amount, and that doesn’t take into consideration inflation. What is notable about this figure is that it is twice the inflation rate of last year – 1.5%. Renting, then, is increasing in cost at twice the rate as virtually everything else a consumer can purchase. For those interested in real estate as an investment opportunity, this presents a chance to tap into a thriving market. Rental units will continue to be in high demand and rates will continue to rise as long as there is systemic uncertainty in certain parts of the real estate market – and that, today, mostly includes uncertainty about the economy as a whole. Hiring a professional to manage your rental property is a key step in the process of tapping into this opportunity. Contact us today for more information.

Rent a House in Birmingham, AL with These Two Secret Tips


Matthew Whitaker - Thursday, February 13, 2014

As we move toward the end of winter and approach the beginning of spring, the time to rent a house in Birmingham, AL draws near – which means you have less time to find and acquire a prime rental home in the metro area that suits your needs and gives you everything you want. Fortunately for you, those homes are not only out there, but are easier to find and rent than you might think. Here are two things you might not have considered that you can use to rent a home in the Magic City metro – and get more bang for your buck. Tip #1: Your Budget May Be Bigger Than You Thought The first step in renting or buying a home is to create a budget and find out how much you have to spend. If you have a spending range before you search, finding the right home will be far easier than without one. Experts tell you that you should budget 30-35% of your monthly take-home pay for housing. This applies for renting or paying a mortgage and covers everything associated with housing. There are a couple of things to note, though:

You don’t have to budget for property tax or private mortgage insurance;

You don’t have to budget for repairs like you would with owning a home.

This means you can actually afford more home than you probably thought. Tip #2: The Commute Matters – A Lot One aspect of renting or buying that escapes a lot of people when searching for homes is the commute time. Simply put, traveling to work costs money (unless you work from home). That cost needs to be factored into your planning. And while Birmingham isn’t New York City or Washington, D.C., traffic can be bad enough that you need to consider the time it takes to travel – and the associated costs – when selecting a home. Believe it or not, you can actually justify a higher rent for a bigger home based on gas savings alone. It’s crazy, but it’s true. Both of these can help you create a better budget for your home and find an ideal property that can actually give you more than you originally thought. Birmingham real estate is heating up. Are you ready to take advantage today?

Rent a House in Birmingham, AL with These Two Secret Tips


Matthew Whitaker - Thursday, February 13, 2014

As we move toward the end of winter and approach the beginning of spring, the time to rent a house in Birmingham, AL draws near – which means you have less time to find and acquire a prime rental home in the metro area that suits your needs and gives you everything you want. Fortunately for you, those homes are not only out there, but are easier to find and rent than you might think. Here are two things you might not have considered that you can use to rent a home in the Magic City metro – and get more bang for your buck. Tip #1: Your Budget May Be Bigger Than You Thought The first step in renting or buying a home is to create a budget and find out how much you have to spend. If you have a spending range before you search, finding the right home will be far easier than without one. Experts tell you that you should budget 30-35% of your monthly take-home pay for housing. This applies for renting or paying a mortgage and covers everything associated with housing. There are a couple of things to note, though:

You don’t have to budget for property tax or private mortgage insurance;

You don’t have to budget for repairs like you would with owning a home.

This means you can actually afford more home than you probably thought. Tip #2: The Commute Matters – A Lot One aspect of renting or buying that escapes a lot of people when searching for homes is the commute time. Simply put, traveling to work costs money (unless you work from home). That cost needs to be factored into your planning. And while Birmingham isn’t New York City or Washington, D.C., traffic can be bad enough that you need to consider the time it takes to travel – and the associated costs – when selecting a home. Believe it or not, you can actually justify a higher rent for a bigger home based on gas savings alone. It’s crazy, but it’s true. Both of these can help you create a better budget for your home and find an ideal property that can actually give you more than you originally thought. Birmingham real estate is heating up. Are you ready to take advantage today?

What You Need to Know about Renter’s Insurance– Tips from Professional Alabama Rental Managers


Matthew Whitaker - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

As professional Alabama rental managers, we at gkhouses.com are in the business of helping not just our owners, but our tenants. That means helping them protect what they own, which inevitably creates a need for renter’s insurance. But renter’s insurance can be confusing at times, which can lead to an outcome we don’t want for our tenants: not having enough insurance to cover their losses in the event of a disaster. When obtaining renter’s insurance for your rental home in Alabama, here are a few tips you should take into consideration. Obtain a Valuable Item Rider A basic renter’s insurance policy more than likely won’t fully cover everything you own – especially your valuables. When we talk about valuables, we are mainly talking about specific, high-value items that need special protection above and beyond the basic coverage options for most policies. These items include:

Jewelry

Heirloom items

Musical instruments

Works of art

High-value electronics

Stamps or other collections

Firearms

High-value sports equipment and vehicles

This rider is important because these items, and others like them, are typically limited in standard policies. Don’t Ignore Your Clothes Another overlooked thing about renter’s insurance is the value of your clothing. A lot of tenants have a tendency to undervalue their clothing and other mundane items when determining how much coverage they need. According to some experts, though, many people have $2,000 to $3,000 worth of clothes – especially since the average person spent $700 in 2010 at clothing stores. Once a year, evaluate how much your wardrobe is worth. Check for replacement value – how much would it cost you to buy that same item (or one similar to it) today? You Probably Need Insurance Finally, one of the biggest misconceptions about renter’s insurance is that you don’t need it. People constantly undervalue how much they actually own. Take your typical renter in a two-bedroom apartment. They own approximately $30,000 worth of possessions on average – more than enough for a good insurance policy. You won’t know how much you have until you go through and inventory your belongings from floor to ceiling. Figure out the worth and then you’ll be able to see how necessary a policy is for your rental home. Contact us if you need more help with protecting your assets and making the most of your rental experience.

What You Need to Know about Renter’s Insurance– Tips from Professional Alabama Rental Managers


Matthew Whitaker - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

As professional Alabama rental managers, we at gkhouses.com are in the business of helping not just our owners, but our tenants. That means helping them protect what they own, which inevitably creates a need for renter’s insurance. But renter’s insurance can be confusing at times, which can lead to an outcome we don’t want for our tenants: not having enough insurance to cover their losses in the event of a disaster. When obtaining renter’s insurance for your rental home in Alabama, here are a few tips you should take into consideration. Obtain a Valuable Item Rider A basic renter’s insurance policy more than likely won’t fully cover everything you own – especially your valuables. When we talk about valuables, we are mainly talking about specific, high-value items that need special protection above and beyond the basic coverage options for most policies. These items include:

Jewelry

Heirloom items

Musical instruments

Works of art

High-value electronics

Stamps or other collections

Firearms

High-value sports equipment and vehicles

This rider is important because these items, and others like them, are typically limited in standard policies. Don’t Ignore Your Clothes Another overlooked thing about renter’s insurance is the value of your clothing. A lot of tenants have a tendency to undervalue their clothing and other mundane items when determining how much coverage they need. According to some experts, though, many people have $2,000 to $3,000 worth of clothes – especially since the average person spent $700 in 2010 at clothing stores. Once a year, evaluate how much your wardrobe is worth. Check for replacement value – how much would it cost you to buy that same item (or one similar to it) today? You Probably Need Insurance Finally, one of the biggest misconceptions about renter’s insurance is that you don’t need it. People constantly undervalue how much they actually own. Take your typical renter in a two-bedroom apartment. They own approximately $30,000 worth of possessions on average – more than enough for a good insurance policy. You won’t know how much you have until you go through and inventory your belongings from floor to ceiling. Figure out the worth and then you’ll be able to see how necessary a policy is for your rental home. Contact us if you need more help with protecting your assets and making the most of your rental experience.

Making Your Home Freeze-Proof: Tips from Professional Alabama Rental Managers


Matthew Whitaker - Monday, February 3, 2014

It seems like the winter is almost over, but after enduring a blistering-cold December and January – where temps dropped at times into the single digits – we can’t say we’re out of the woods yet. In fact, more cold weather could strike at any moment, which means certain parts of your home are vulnerable to Jack Frost. As professional Alabama rental managers, we’ve endured enough icy winters to know the toll a cold snap can have on a home and those in it. Here are a few tips to make your home freeze-proof. Protect Your Spigots Believe it or not, your spigots on the outside of your home are actually points of vulnerability for your water pipes, which are notoriously vulnerable in many homes to a hard freeze. No one wants to deal with burst pipes, so one solution is to protect your spigots. Before it gets too cold, cover your spigots with insulation of some kind. You can purchase special hoods or sleeves, or you can improvise one out of dish towels, newspaper, and duct tape. If there are gaps between the metal and the side of the home, be sure to fill those as well. (Oh, and be sure to remove all hoses first.) Leave a Little Running Pipes most often burst because pressure builds up in the pipe due to water not having any place to go as it freezes and expands. To remedy this, leave at least one faucet in your home running during the night. You don’t have to open it all the way up; a small stream of water will do. This helps relieve the pressure that can cause a pipe to burst. Block Out the Cold One of the worst things about a cold winter is the cold air, the breezes that blow in through vents, cracks, and other openings in your home. If your home has a crawl space, cover or close the vents if there is no safety issue in doing so. Talk with your utility company; your furnace or water heater may need fresh air to function. Be sure to look for and fix any drafts that come in from the floors, walls, windows, and doors. Keeping cold air out of your home will also help with your utility bills in addition to keeping you comfortable and warm.

Making Your Home Freeze-Proof: Tips from Professional Alabama Rental Managers


Matthew Whitaker - Monday, February 3, 2014

It seems like the winter is almost over, but after enduring a blistering-cold December and January – where temps dropped at times into the single digits – we can’t say we’re out of the woods yet. In fact, more cold weather could strike at any moment, which means certain parts of your home are vulnerable to Jack Frost. As professional Alabama rental managers, we’ve endured enough icy winters to know the toll a cold snap can have on a home and those in it. Here are a few tips to make your home freeze-proof. Protect Your Spigots Believe it or not, your spigots on the outside of your home are actually points of vulnerability for your water pipes, which are notoriously vulnerable in many homes to a hard freeze. No one wants to deal with burst pipes, so one solution is to protect your spigots. Before it gets too cold, cover your spigots with insulation of some kind. You can purchase special hoods or sleeves, or you can improvise one out of dish towels, newspaper, and duct tape. If there are gaps between the metal and the side of the home, be sure to fill those as well. (Oh, and be sure to remove all hoses first.) Leave a Little Running Pipes most often burst because pressure builds up in the pipe due to water not having any place to go as it freezes and expands. To remedy this, leave at least one faucet in your home running during the night. You don’t have to open it all the way up; a small stream of water will do. This helps relieve the pressure that can cause a pipe to burst. Block Out the Cold One of the worst things about a cold winter is the cold air, the breezes that blow in through vents, cracks, and other openings in your home. If your home has a crawl space, cover or close the vents if there is no safety issue in doing so. Talk with your utility company; your furnace or water heater may need fresh air to function. Be sure to look for and fix any drafts that come in from the floors, walls, windows, and doors. Keeping cold air out of your home will also help with your utility bills in addition to keeping you comfortable and warm.