Month: May 2014

Home Prices Rise Again in Birmingham | Professional Alabama Rental Managers Blog


Matthew Whitaker - Saturday, May 31, 2014

The latest stats are in, and according to reports, home prices have risen yet again in Birmingham. According to the Alabama Center for Real Estate (ACRE), median home values rose in March by 8.89 percent from March 2013, from $149,000 a year ago to $162,250. Homes across the spectrum are worth more, since the average home price also rose by 7.61 percent. It now stands at $193,452. There were fewer homes listed in March than in March 2013, by five percent; that, coupled with the rising number of total sales, suggests that supply is continuing to become constrained in the area, which is providing upward pressure on home prices. We’re now at seven months of supply, just 1.5 months above equilibrium, which means we’re headed toward a sellers’ market before too long. Implications for the Rental Market As professional Alabama rental managers, we always like to translate movements and trends into implications for the area’s rental market. The trend of tighter supply and rising prices, coupled with increasing mortgage rates, means that the rental market will continue to stay strong. More people can buy homes today, but there simply aren’t enough homes in certain segments to go around. That, coupled with the fact that homes are becoming more expensive to purchase with each passing month, suggests that demand for rental homes will continue to remain at high levels throughout 2014. Rental property owners should work to tap into what should be more potential renters in the Birmingham area, and could consider expanding their holdings to take advantage. For more information on the area’s rental market, including latest trends with property management, contact the professionals at gkhouses.com and learn more today.

Best Investment Neighborhoods in Birmingham


Matthew Whitaker - Thursday, May 29, 2014

In this video I want to tell you about one of my favorite places to invest in Birmingham.

It’s the area that includes Center Point, Roebuck and Huffman. Let me give you four reasons why I love this area and why it’s a great place to buy a rental home.

This area is marked by hardworking, blue collar individuals. This is middle-America and these people love to work, go to school, come home and pay their bills. I love that about this area. This lifestyle makes the Center Point, Roebuck and Huffman area a great place to invest.

I think this area is the place to get one of the highest returns for the lowest possible investment. This area has a low volatility because of its blue collar nature. It has great rents relative to what you can buy houses for.

You have the potential for a lifetime tenant. On average, the people living in this area very rarely buy a house. They are always going to be renters. This means that you have a pool of tenants living in these neighborhoods who will stay for four, eight or even 10 years or more.

The repair and maintenance numbers on these homes cannot be beat. These houses were typically built in the 1950’s and the 1960’s. That means that these houses have many modern amenities that good renters are looking for. You can expect upgraded electrical and plumbing systems. This cuts down on the amount of money you will spend making repairs and performing maintenance. Repair and maintenance numbers will be lower in this area as compared to other areas such as East Lake or West End. These other areas were built much earlier, mostly in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

I think you will agree that this area is an ideal place to buy an investment property. If you want more information about investing in Birmingham, or you have any questions about how to find just the right property in the right location, please contact us at gkhouses.com.

3 Questions You Should Always Ask Tenants | Professional Alabama Rental Managers Blog


Matthew Whitaker - Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Do you own rental properties? If so, you know, first-hand, the challenge of finding qualified tenants whom you can trust to live in your properties. As professional Alabama rental managers, we help our owner clients find the right tenants and screen all potential tenants before placing them in a rental home. Doing this over years has given us knowledge of the best questions to ask – and why to ask them. Here’s a guide to what should be in your initial qualification interview. Why Are You Moving? This seems like a simple question, but the answers can be illuminating. You don’t want tenants who have a history of being evicted, or tenants who didn’t get along well with their neighbors or landlords. These are red flags that can be costly down the road, so you want to ensure the person has good, understandable reasons for moving. Have You Ever Been Evicted? Evictions happen, and while it’s generally not a good sign, sometimes there are mitigating circumstances. You’ll never know unless you ask, so it is good to get that question answered up front. The person may not be truthful, but either way, you can get a good glimpse into the nature of the potential tenant and see if he or she would be a good fit from how they answer this question. Do You Have the First Month’s Rent Plus Security Deposit Available? Finally, this question helps speak to the finances of the potential tenant, something that could impact their ability to be a responsible, consistent tenant. It is a good policy to never allow a tenant to stay in a property unless they can pay the first month’s rent plus a security deposit. There shouldn’t be any exceptions. A security deposit is there to protect your property in the event of damage or some other situation. You don’t want a potential tenant to owe money before they really move in. Inquire as to their financial status before agreeing to rent the property to them. One way you can avoid all of these questions is to have professional Alabama rental managers handle the entire process for you. Contact us to learn more about how you can take advantage of our professional services today.

Where to Buy Investment Property in Birmingham


Matthew Whitaker - Friday, May 23, 2014

In this short video, I want to handle a question that I am asked by almost everyone who gets involved in the real estate investing business, “Where do I need to buy investment property in Birmingham, Alabama?”

At gkhouses.com, we think it is important to divide investment property in Birmingham into three different groups, and you will need to choose a group that reflects your particular investment goals.

Low to Moderate Income Investing The first group is low-to-moderate income investing. In Birmingham, that means buying in places like Center Point, Roebuck, Huffman, West End, Ensley and East Lake. These areas are marked by a lot of volatility, which means there is a potential to make great rental returns. However, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you also have a great potential to lose a lot of money. I’ve seen it happen both ways with investors who are investing in low-to-moderate income rental property.

Moderate to High Income Investing When we talk about a moderate-to-high income investing plan, we are talking about buying in areas such as Vestavia Hills, Hoover, Alabaster and Homewood. These areas have much less. This means that there is less of a chance that you’ll accomplish a high return, but there is also less of a chance of getting a really low return. People who are conservative investors usually buy in these areas.

Fix and Flip Investing Finally, there is the fix-and-flip type of investment. This is designed for you to go to pick an area that you feel comfortable in and buy a house. Once you own that home, you’ll fix it and sell it. The best advice I can give you, if you want to invest in this type of property, is to find a place where you feel the most comfortable and have the most knowledge. Fix-and-flip is about having an in-depth understanding of a neighborhood or even a street within that neighborhood. You need to know more about it than anyone else. This generally means that the best place to buy a fix and flip property depends on your own history and knowledge. Once you find the right deal in the right place, jump on it quickly. This is the best way to approach buying an investment property.

Before you decide where you want to buy, you have to decide what your real estate goals are. If you have any questions about real estate investing, please contact us at gkhouses.com.

Also, if you’d like to learn more about all aspects of rental property, visit our Resources Page where we have more videos, ebooks and ‘how to’ resources for you.

Homebuilder Survey Suggests New Trends for Rental Homes


Matthew Whitaker - Friday, May 23, 2014

As professional Alabama rental managers, we like to keep ahead of the latest trends in real estate and home construction. Homebuilding in particular is telling because trends in new single-family homes invariably impact renting, because those homes can wind up as single-family rentals. Thus, knowing what is popular in one area can affect the other. The National Association of Home Builders recently released the results of a survey conducted of American home builders and shared its insight about what trends are hot in single-family home construction today. One major trend: homes are getting bigger. The average home size grew from 2,362 square feet to 2,679 square feet over the past four years. Home builders are also building homes with more bedrooms. Almost half – 48 percent – of all new homes built in 2013 had at least four bedrooms. The same trend applies to bathrooms and garages. The three-car garage is quickly becoming a hot commodity in the market. Since many buyers are still looking to rent versus buy, you can expect a greater interest in larger, more spacious single-family homes with more bedrooms and larger garages. Also, according to the survey, walk-in closets are a desired feature, along with varied features such as granite countertops, double-sinks, central islands, porches, and exterior lighting. Another big trend in rental homes is energy efficiency. More homes will be built with energy efficient ENERGYSTAR-rated window, appliances, and programmable thermostats. This has been a developing trend for years now and will continue to play a role. And technology, especially remote-access, automated technology, will continue to be a trend in new home construction that will spill over into rental homes. Look to renters who have more money to spend on rent and expect more amenities and larger spaces in their rental homes.

Why People Are Renting Versus Buying Today


Matthew Whitaker - Thursday, May 22, 2014

As professional Alabama rental managers, we are in the business of managing rental properties and helping place tenants. Over the past few years, we’ve definitely noticed a rise in the number of people who are seeking rental properties in the Birmingham area, and like others, have wondered why that is. There is a multitude of reasons why people are renting today more than ever. A lot has to do with the housing crisis we recently went through. From 2007 to roughly 2011-2012, buying a home was very difficult and out of reach for millions of families. Thanks to lending fiasco after fiasco, getting approved for a mortgage was incredibly difficult for much of the population thanks to tighter lending guidelines. Because of this, people have lingering fears of getting into the mortgage game. A recent survey of consumers explored why people aren’t buying homes like they used to and found something a bit surprising: 46 percent of those surveyed – almost half – said they didn’t pursue buying a home because they were afraid they’d be turned down by the lender. And 56 percent who do not currently own a home said fears of not qualifying have kept them from applying for a loan. Thus, they continue to rent, even though almost a third of people surveyed would like to buy a home within the next two years. Most people who want to buy a home would need financing of some sort to purchase the property, so it’s notable that many haven’t begun the process. What does this mean for rentals? Without a doubt, the home rental market will continue to be strong, not just in Birmingham but elsewhere. People simply can’t or won’t take out mortgages, for a variety of reasons, and will continue to rent because they believe it is easier or safer (or both). And while people in Alabama are more confident in real estate in general, they are staying on the sidelines for now. If you own rental properties, you will more than likely enjoy the benefits of a strong rental market for the foreseeable future.

Why Choose GKHouses.com?


Matthew Whitaker - Friday, May 16, 2014

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4Y3zN1aepw Today, I am going to tell you why you should use GKHouses.com to manage your single family house. First of all, gkhouses.com is the largest manager of single family homes in the Birmingham area. We manage houses from $500 per month to over $2,600 per month. What does that do for you? It gives us a broad view of the market. We know what’s going on in the Birmingham residential rental market at all times and at all levels. Another benefit to being bigger is that we are able to rent houses faster and to higher-quality tenants. How do we do that? We get over 1,000 unique visitors and over 1,000 phone calls each week for our available rental properties. All of that exposure means more leads, which equals more property viewings. More viewings drives more applications, and when you get more applications, you have a better chance of picking the right high-quality tenant. Next, you may be wondering what makes a good tenant. A good tenant is someone who pays the rent and stays in the home for a long time. That is simply what our portfolio is made of. We collected 98.2 percent of our rent last year, and maintained a 94 percent occupancy rate across the gkhouses.com portfolio. What do those numbers mean for you? It means we have fewer evictions and more money in the door for our property owners. Another good reason to work with us is our commitment to transparency and communication. Those things are important to owners, and we cover them in three ways: 1. We have an owners’ portal that you can log in to your own account at any time and know exactly what’s going on with your rental home(s). 2. We disperse rent payments monthly through ACH. Most owners like this because they hate cashing checks every month. 3. We send out a monthly owner’s statement that accounts for every dime we spend on your property. Lastly, we have you covered if things don’t go right, such as an eviction. In this unlikely event, you will need a professional manager to walk you through the process. We have extensive experience with the Uniform Alabama Residential Landlord/Tenant Law and we can help you make the tough decisions that are sometimes required when you own rental property. If you have any questions about property management and why you should choose us, please contact us at gkhouses.com.

Alabama Real Estate Confidence Index Increases in March


Matthew Whitaker - Friday, May 16, 2014

In some respects, real estate is all about confidence. Sellers have to have confidence that their home will sell, and for something close to their asking price. Buyers have to have confidence that the home they are buying is really the home. Investors have to have confidence that the market will support their venture. Nothing in real estate happens without confidence of some sort. That’s why metrics like the Alabama Real Estate Confidence Index are so important; they give us an idea of what the overall confidence level is in the market. According to the most recent report from the Alabama Center for Real Estate (ACRE), the index rose in March, suggesting more confidence overall from industry professionals. The index is rated on a scale of 0 to 100, with 50 suggesting that there is no overall change in the index. The higher the number, the better. In March, the index stood at 58, which is in the positive territory that suggests future growth and expansion. The area with the highest score was the southern region, at 61. For the Birmingham – Tuscaloosa – Anniston area, the score stood at 57, which improved by two points from the second quarter of 2013. Most experts in the area expect prices to continue to improve, as well as sales and overall inventory. We discussed previously statistics from the latest ACRE report on the city’s market and discovered that prices are continuing to rise throughout the area. Homeowners and professionals alike are confident that housing prices are continuing to rise and will do so in the foreseeable future. Inventory will likely remain somewhat tight in some market segments.

Property Management Advice: Incorporating Technology into Your Rental Home


Matthew Whitaker - Thursday, May 15, 2014

If you own rental homes in Alabama, you want to make them as attractive and appealing as you can to your potential tenants, especially for higher-end homes. Tenants for these types of homes expect the finer things, after all, especially in a competitive market. One way to get ahead of the curve is to incorporate technology into your rental home. Technology is no longer for expensive luxury mansions. It has become far more affordable and accessible and can be incorporated into a wide variety of rental properties. One example of accessible technology is climate control. Climate control gives tenants the ability to adjust their home’s comfort level on the go, at the touch of a button, either through a specialized control or a smartphone. The homes that automate themselves are even better, such as drawing the shades during a hot day or opening them during a cold morning. Another piece of technology that can actually help protect your home’s value is automated messaging for appliances. If something breaks – say, the air conditioner goes out – your property management pros need to know about it as soon as possible. You can now have the appliance send an email to your property management staff alerting them of the malfunction. Other valuable components include entertainment systems that can be controlled remotely from anywhere in the home. A truly integrated entertainment system is a powerful selling point, one that will definitely set your home apart from the rest. Even something as low-key as automated lighting can be a big boost to a home’s appeal. Think about adding technology to your home if you are considering adding value to a home to increase its appeal. Tenants love technology and love convenience, and solving both needs means you have a better chance of attracting valuable tenants to your properties. Contact us for more information about attracting the right types of tenants to your rental homes.

Own a Rental? Two Ways Professional Property Managers Can Help


Matthew Whitaker - Thursday, May 8, 2014

Owning a rental unit is one of the best ways to capitalize on the real estate recovery. Home prices are still well below their pre-recession peak, and homeownership is still a down-the-road option for many, which is why rental occupancy rates are so high. Owning a rental home can provide you with a steady stream of income. However, there are benefits to getting professional help instead of going through the process alone. Here are two ways property managers can help you with your rental unit. Property Managers Are a Buffer You may sincerely like your tenants, but even if you do, you do not want to have to deal with them on a regular basis whenever something comes up. There are simply too many things in the day for a busy investor to do to worry about handling multiple tenants all over a city or region. A property manager provides a welcome buffer between tenants and landlords. This buffer isn’t just for the day-to-day maintenance requests and other stuff that comes up; it also comes in handy whenever there are issues, such as late rent, that need to be resolved. Property Managers Take Care of Units Property managers are also key in taking care of units. Making sure a home is livable, up to code, and looking great is almost a full-time job, and something few landlords have the time to do. A property manager, with a professional maintenance staff, knows your units inside and out. They can respond promptly if a tenant raises a concern about a needed repair, which can save you money in the long run as small repairs don’t grow into big ones. Plus, the intimate knowledge comes in handy if and when you decide to sell the home. For more reasons why professional property managers are vital, contact the pros at gkhouses.com.

Taking a Look at Birmingham Real Estate Statistics – March 2014


Matthew Whitaker - Tuesday, May 6, 2014

As we move into the thick of spring, it’s time to take a look at the monthly real estate statistics for the Birmingham area market, courtesy of the Alabama Center for Real Estate (ACRE). According to the latest report, homes in Birmingham are worth more than they were a year ago. The median price for a typical home in the Birmingham area cost $162,250, up 8.89 percent from $149,000. The average sales price also increased by 7.61 percent, up to $193,452 from $179,776. As prices have increased, listings and inventory have decreased. There were 7,125 units listed in the area, down from 7,506 listed a year ago. That puts us currently at seven months of supply, down from eight months of supply from March 2013. That is closer to an equilibrium, but still has us in a buyers’ market. There were more sales this year than last year, though; the number of total sales went up by 9.43 percent from March of last year to March 2014. And, homes are taking less time to sell. The days on market figure now stands at 95, which is down 4.04 percent from 99 days on market from last year. Real estate continues to improve. Birmingham area real estate is not as strong as it was before the recession, but then again, few markets are. Rather, the progress we’ve seen so far this year is promising. Home prices should continue to rise, and gradually inventory will decrease to the point where we should enter a sellers’ market before too long, at current rates. If you have any questions about Birmingham real estate, including how to obtain professional property management, contact the professional Alabama property managers from gkhouses.com today.