Month: April 2014

Carpet or Hardwood? Advice from Professional Property Managers


Matthew Whitaker - Thursday, April 24, 2014

What should the people who rent your home walk on? That is one question many homeowners and potential landlords don’t think to ask at the beginning. It’s understandable; there are a million other questions that come up in the course of putting a home on the market for rent. But what type of flooring you use – carpet or hardwood – actually makes a difference. Here are the pros and cons of each, from professional property managers. Carpet: Pros and Cons One of the most commonly-used flooring options is carpet. We’ve all grown up on carpet at some point. It’s soft and feels great under the toes. But not every homeowner wants it in his or her home. Pros

Cheaper than wood to install

Easier and faster to install than hardwood

Quieter

Warmer during the winter

More variety in style and design

Cons

Requires more upkeep

Harder to clean spills and get rid of stains

Not as durable

Doesn’t last as long

Hardwood: Pros and Cons After 1980, hardwood started coming on strong. Now, almost half of homes in the country have hardwood floors. Pros

Easier to clean

Lasts longer than carpet

Doesn’t stain

Made from a sustainable resource

Looks stylish

Cons

More expensive to install

Not soft like carpet

Takes longer to install

Less variety than carpet

Can be scratched, especially by large pets

There are other considerations, too. Take pets, for example. If you allow pets in your home, you may want to go with hardwood floors. Pets can tear up carpet and stain it, but can’t do much to damage hardwood. The décor and style you plan for the home may also dictate your flooring. Some schemes and themes go better with carpet, which is more versatile. Others may go better with hardwood floors. And then there are areas that involve water of any kind – kitchens, bathrooms, utility rooms, etc. Here, tile is best. Whichever you choose, think first of your flooring when deciding to renovate or remodel a home, and go from there. Some homeowners prefer the low-maintenance, high-style look and feel of wood, while others like the low cost of carpet. Consult with professionals at gkhouses.com if you need more information on making this and other choices.

Three Home Remodeling Tips from Professional Alabama Rental Managers


Matthew Whitaker - Tuesday, April 22, 2014

If you’re a homeowner, a bit of home remodeling may be in your future. Maybe you want to add to existing space, or maybe you want a new look for yourself or for tenants. No matter what your home remodeling project may be, a few handy tips can help ensure the project goes off smoothly – and ensure your home looks its best. Here are three home remodeling tips for your new home that will help you spend your money wisely, courtesy of professional Alabama rental managers. Timeless Is the Key When you are thinking of a remodeling project for your home, think timeless. In other words, look for finishes and fixtures that are appropriate and desirable no matter what era we’re in. There are certain features of a home that have that timeless quality. White crown molding, chrome and nickel finishes, marble, and dark-colored wood are all timeless, and are attractive in a wide variety of settings and homes. You can’t go wrong with these and others like them. Try to update your home with features that won’t ever go out of style. Match What You Do with the Neighborhood It’s important to make sure you match what you do in your home to the neighborhood, which includes the value of your home and homes around it. In other words, going overboard and pouring expensive upgrades into a home won’t really increase the resale value to where you want it to be, nor will it attract higher rents, if the homes around your home don’t match. The opposite is also true: don’t put cheap fixtures, finishes, and other trappings in a higher-end home. It’ll only detract from the home and put potential tenants and buyers off. Storage Is Always Needed Want to make your home look instantly more attractive to a potential buyer or tenant? It’s simple – add storage! Storage is always in demand. People can never have enough. So, whether you decide to expand a closet into a walk-in closet, add shelving, or increase storage capacity elsewhere, you are adding perceived value to your home. Anyone who lives in it will immediately appreciate the increased storage. Bonus points apply if you turn an empty attic into a storage space – or, better yet, a bedroom. The same applies to a garage or other room that usually sits empty and unused. Shelving in a pinch can expand any area’s storage, as can cubicles placed into the wall. Contact us for more tips for homeowners who want to make wise modifications to their homes for tenants and other users.

What’s Happening with Birmingham Real Estate? April Edition


Matthew Whitaker - Thursday, April 17, 2014

When it comes to news, Birmingham real estate is making plenty of waves. There is a lot of activity going on across the greater Birmingham area involving commercial and residential real estate alike, with several projects that promise to contribute to the local economy and generate buzz for the area. Here is the latest news on Birmingham real estate for April 2014. Brookwood Village Purchased by Cypress Equities Brookwood Village, the mixed-use development in Homewood featuring a 604,000-square-foot mall, 41,900-square-foot retail building and office building with 170,000-square-feet of office space, has found a new owner. Cypress Equities, a firm based in Dallas, recently purchased the development from Colonial Properties Trust. The new owners are focused on developing a new shopping experience for customers, as well as a new mixed-use experience for commercial and residential tenants alike. New Downtown Mixed-Use Development Announced A new mixed-used development has been announced, this time for the downtown district. RGS Properties announced plans to develop 36 apartments and 9,200 square feet of retail space, to go on the corner of 20th Street and Third Avenue South. Starbucks has already agreed to be in the new development, which could grow to more apartments and up to 55,000 square feet of retail space. There could even be a grocery store placed on the spot, which would be new for downtown Birmingham and a great addition to the area. The new mixed-use development will likely gain suitors quickly, considering the fact that UAB continues to expand into that area. It’s an exciting time to be in real estate in the Birmingham area. Birmingham real estate continues to heat up and opportunities continue to abound.

Watch These Trouble Spots for Your Home – Tips from Professional Alabama Rental Managers


Matthew Whitaker - Monday, April 14, 2014

We all want our homes to stay in the best shape possible. As tenants, you want to live in homes that are in tip-top shape. As professional Alabama rental managers, we want you to do the same – which means making timely minor repairs before they turn into major ones. Part of that responsibility is on the tenant to notice trouble before it turns into a major problem. Here are a few trouble spots that tend to warrant vigilance before they turn into bigger ordeals. The Ceiling You shouldn’t walk around your home with your eyes constantly on the ceiling – you’d run into things – but keeping an eye on your ceiling is important, for one major reason: water damage. Water damage takes the form of unsightly brown or yellow splotches that form when water infiltrates the home through the roof or eaves. Water damage is always cause for concern. You don’t want water seeping into the walls and causing rot, mildew and mold. As such, water damage is a threat to your health and that of the home. If you see any signs of water damage, inform your landlord or rental manager immediately. The Exterior Keeping an eye on the exterior of your home is also important, because signs of wear and tear can quickly turn into signs of damage. Water, again, is a big culprit. Rotting wood or cracking brick and mortar are signs that water is damaging the home. If left unchecked, it can hurt the exterior and even get into the foundation and cause problems there. If you have a crawl space foundation, water can damage the wood beneath your home. Termites can too, as can other pests, so if you see any signs of any of the above, inform your landlord. The Plumbing Finally, keep an eye on the home’s plumbing. Gurgling noises, stopped and clogged drains, drains that refuse to drain properly, leaks, and water spots in your cabinets and around your hot water heater are all trouble signs to notice. If you see any, inform your landlord so they can be repaired before they get out of control and ruin your experience. Check out more tips for tenants from professional Alabama rental managers at gkhouses.com.

Should I Put Appliances in a Rental House in Birmingham, AL?


Matthew Whitaker - Friday, April 11, 2014

When moving into a rental house in Birmingham, AL, we all want to customize our homes as much as possible. For many people, that means doing something with the appliances that may be there. This brings us to a common question: Should I put appliances in my rental home? Or is it too much trouble to bother with? To answer the question, we took a look at two key appliances that most consider: refrigerators and ovens. With the possible exception of washers and dryers, these are the most expensive appliances a tenant will consider placing in a property. In general, we suggest providing a stove/oven combination without a refrigerator for properties that rent for less than $800 a month. “Why not a fridge?” you ask. There are many reasons, including:

Refrigerators go out or go on the fritz, which costs money to fix and/or replace;

When refrigerators fail, you typically have to pay for the tenants’ food as well;

Units without a refrigerator rent out just as quickly as those with.

We haven’t noticed a decrease in the number of tenants who are willing to rent a home in the sub-$800 range that has a stove/oven combo but doesn’t have a refrigerator. At that price level, it is mostly an extra cost that could cost even more later. Besides, people rent homes, not the furnishings. For homes that cost more than $1,000 to rent, however, things are different. You should definitely include a refrigerator and a stove/oven combo, because that is what is expected at that price point. The advantages far outweigh the drawbacks. Another potential problem appliance is a dishwasher. We’ve found that they are very susceptible to becoming clogged and broken, which only drives up maintenance costs. For that reason, we recommend not placing dishwashers in units that rent for below $800 a month – and even going as far to remove them if they are already present. You can convert that space into a number of useful applications. In short, really take a look at the price point of a home and base your decisions on appliances on that fact. At a certain price point, it just doesn’t make sense to include certain high-dollar appliances, whereas it absolutely makes sense for higher rents. Contact us if you have any questions about appliances or any other aspect of outfitting a rental home.

Three Key Tips for Tenants from Professional Alabama Rental Managers


Matthew Whitaker - Monday, April 7, 2014

As professional Alabama rental managers, we have served countless tenants and owners alike who depend on us for our expertise in managing rental properties. For tenants, that means being a reliable and trustworthy representative of the unit’s owner who is just as concerned with serving them as serving the landlord. With that in mind, here are three tips that can help tenants during the course of their lease, ranging from dealing with property managers to knowing your rights. Get Everything in Writing For starters, when dealing with a property manager, make sure you get everything in writing. The last thing you want to have happen is a misunderstanding between something you’re entitled to or allowed to do and something you’re not. These misunderstandings can happen because of improper documentation. If you and your landlord have come to an understanding or agreement about something, be sure to document it. Understand Your Privacy Rights As a representative of an owner or the owner themselves, a landlord has the right to inspect the premises and maintain them in good order. This sometimes goes against a tenant’s ideas of privacy. To protect your right to privacy, be sure to be clear with the landlord about what is permissible and what isn’t. Typically, managers will give you advance notice when they have to enter your premises. Talk at length with landlords and managers before signing the dotted line if privacy is a concern of yours. Ask for Repairs Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for repairs. You have the right to live in a well-kept home. And the landlord has the responsibility of maintaining that well-kept home. That means making any needed repairs in a timely and sufficient manner. If something needs to be fixed, don’t be afraid to talk to your landlord or property manager to have it repaired in a timely manner. Be sure to contact us if you have any questions about your property and your rights and/or obligations.

How to Better Market Your Rental Properties – Tips from Professional Alabama Rental Managers


Matthew Whitaker - Friday, April 4, 2014

The rental market in Alabama continues to heat up, and as professional Alabama rental managers, we know how important it is to follow trends and take advantage of increased demand for rental properties. A big part of that is in marketing your rental properties to reach your desired target audience effectively and efficiently. But how can you better market your units to an audience that wants to see them? Take Advantage of Social Media Social media is one of the best ways to market a wide variety of products and services. After all, more and more people are joining social media every day – from young couples to retirees looking to downsize and get rid of a mortgage. Of all social media platforms available for marketing, Facebook is the best. Being on Facebook is a way you can share properties, tips, and advice for aspiring renters so that they see your properties. Consider using Facebook ads and promoted posts to further advertise your properties to your targeted audiences. Word-Of-Mouth Referrals One of the best ways to market any property is to tap into word-of-mouth marketing. Social media is a form of word-of-mouth, but the traditional, direct approach is always the best way to promote anything. You can work with your current clients to get the word out about your properties to the people they know. One way to make it easier – beyond just asking, which is always recommended – is to give your tenants an incentive to spread the word. People love gifts and love the chance to win something in a contest. Sponsor a contest held semi-annually in which you raffle off a great prize to people who give word-of-mouth referrals to their friends and family. If you have superb customer service, they’ll want to help anyway; this just gives them an extra incentive. Having professionals help with marketing, though, is always the best overall solution. That is one of the three top reasons to hire professional Alabama rental managers, and is a move that can make a big difference between a vacancy and a happy tenant.

Taking a Look at February Stats for Birmingham Real Estate


Matthew Whitaker - Thursday, April 3, 2014

Birmingham real estate has started the year in a strong way, even if the cold weather had more than few things to say about it. The theme so far in 2014 is delay: progress is there, but cold weather has delayed many closings that would’ve happened in January and February to March, April and May. While that is a nuisance for homeowners involved, it is something that should be corrected in due time as closings catch up to schedule. Median Prices Rise in February Based on the latest stats for the month of February, median home values in the Birmingham area rose by 8.3 percent from levels seen last February. Prices also rose by an even greater amount – 9.8 percent – from January’s figures. The median value of a home in the Birmingham area is now at $154,750, well above the $142,950 figure from February 2013. Demand Also Rises Part of the increase is due to increased demand. More homebuyers are in search of Birmingham properties, a trend driven by a wave of individual investors who see promise in the market, especially when it comes to rental properties. Case in point: There were 22.8 percent more sales in February than there were in January. Part of this increase is just making up for lost ground as a result of the spate of cold weather we endured in January, but most of it is due to the area getting closer to the peak homebuying season. The area’s inventory also fell as a result of increased demand. Our inventory-to-sales ratio now stands at 8.9 months, down from 10.8 in January. As sales increase, that ratio will fall closer to the equilibrium point of 5.5 months in a balanced market. Birmingham real estate is on a steady upward path, and improvement is anticipated throughout the rest of the year. Those interested in taking advantage can contact gkhouses.com and benefit from veteran guidance for income-producing rental properties.

Three Reasons to Hire Professional Property Management


Matthew Whitaker - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

If you are in real estate and own a portfolio of homes – or if you just have a single-family home that will be vacant at some point – what should you do with them? Should you attempt to rent them out and manage them yourself? Or should you turn to pros to do it for you? As providers of professional property management, we may be a bit biased. But the reason we are is simple: hiring property management just makes sense for many different reasons. Here are three reasons you should hire property management for you residential single-family property. You Need Help Marketing Your Property Having a property for rent doesn’t do much good if no one can find it. No one likes a vacancy. You can reduce the chances of your home staying empty by having professionals who know the market inside and out and can effectively market and advertise your property to your desired target audience. You Don’t Want to Deal with the Paperwork Everyone likes getting paid, but no one likes doing the paperwork necessary to get paid – including collecting rent payments on time. Professional property management helps by not only collecting rent payments, but also managing all other administrative efforts for a given property or set of properties. There’s a surprising amount of paperwork that goes on for each property, and keeping track of it all yourself can be time-consuming. You Don’t Want to Handle Maintenance For some property owners, maintenance might as well be a four-letter word. Owners don’t like to devote their time to handling important but mundane details like maintenance requests. When you hire property management, you can avoid the hassle and have someone handle the maintenance on your behalf. There are more reasons to hire property management. If you need help making your decision, contact gkhouses.com and learn how we can be of service.

Three Reasons to Hire Professional Property Management


Matthew Whitaker - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

If you are in real estate and own a portfolio of homes – or if you just have a single-family home that will be vacant at some point – what should you do with them? Should you attempt to rent them out and manage them yourself? Or should you turn to pros to do it for you? As providers of professional property management, we may be a bit biased. But the reason we are is simple: hiring property management just makes sense for many different reasons. Here are three reasons you should hire property management for you residential single-family property. You Need Help Marketing Your Property Having a property for rent doesn’t do much good if no one can find it. No one likes a vacancy. You can reduce the chances of your home staying empty by having professionals who know the market inside and out and can effectively market and advertise your property to your desired target audience. You Don’t Want to Deal with the Paperwork Everyone likes getting paid, but no one likes doing the paperwork necessary to get paid – including collecting rent payments on time. Professional property management helps by not only collecting rent payments, but also managing all other administrative efforts for a given property or set of properties. There’s a surprising amount of paperwork that goes on for each property, and keeping track of it all yourself can be time-consuming. You Don’t Want to Handle Maintenance For some property owners, maintenance might as well be a four-letter word. Owners don’t like to devote their time to handling important but mundane details like maintenance requests. When you hire property management, you can avoid the hassle and have someone handle the maintenance on your behalf. There are more reasons to hire property management. If you need help making your decision, contact gkhouses.com and learn how we can be of service.