Month: July 2014

How to Choose a Property Management Company in Birmingham


Matthew Whitaker - Thursday, July 31, 2014

Today we are talking about what you should be looking for when you are choosing a property manager in Birmingham, Alabama.

There are three specific criteria that I would suggest that you look for. Those are competency, integrity and communication. Let’s take each one of those individually.

Competency You want to know whether the property manager is running a property management business or simply doing property management as a side job. How do you know the answer to that? Ask them questions like, “What are your vacancy rates?”; “What are your collection percentages?”; and “How many houses do you manage?”. If a property manager can’t answer some of these simple questions about their portfolio, he or she is probably not a very good manager.

Integrity Find out if the property manager you are considering works with a reputable company. You can check places like the Better Business Bureau (BBB), the Birmingham Bar Association, the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM) and even Yelp.com. There are areas of designation that property managers get, and these organizations can help you understand how qualified and reputable they are. Your property manager’s image becomes a reflection of your home. One thing I always do is to take a look at the company’s website and marketing materials. If they can’t do a great job selling themselves to you, how can they sell your house to a potential tenant?

Communication Communication is vitally important to the relationship you have with your property manager and to ensuring that your investment remains profitable. Ask them about their systems and processes. Find out about the feasibility of their communication with you, the owner, as well as their vendors. Ask how they handle work orders and how they explain things to tenants. There should be simple systems and procedures in place that they can easily demonstrate, so you know how they will handle certain issues. Don’t be afraid to ask to see these systems!

Remember that talk is cheap and that you want execution. Here’s an example of a system that we have at gkhouses.com. We have an owner-only phone extension. When an owner calls that number, they will be directed to the operations department. We know when a call comes from that extension that we need to answer it right away. This allows us to communicate quickly and effectively with our property owners.

If you have any questions about this, or you’d like more information on what to ask a potential property manager, please contact us at gkhouses.com, and we’d be happy to help you.

A Home Inspection Guide for Property Owners: The Interior | Property Management Blog


Matthew Whitaker - Friday, July 25, 2014

Earlier, we covered what you should look for when inspecting your home’s exterior. Keeping a home up to par is important in property management. After all, a well-maintained home makes for happy tenants, which ultimately makes for satisfied landlords. We’ve seen it all when it comes to the home’s exterior, and also the home’s interior. Here is a list of common areas to check when it comes to inspecting the interior of a home and keeping it in tip-top shape. Checking the Home’s Interior Doors and Windows Leaky doors and windows can cost money. Check for missing or broken seals, cracks, gaps, and drafts. Ceilings The big thing to look for when it comes to your ceilings is the tell-tale sign of water damage. If you spot any discoloration on your ceiling, there’s a good chance that water has leaked inside the home. Most water damage is yellow or brown. Plumbing There are two problems to look for when checking your plumbing: rust and leaks. A leaky pipe can cost hundreds of dollars a year. A rusted pipe can potentially cost more if it breaks. Check any exposed pipes throughout the home for signs of water leakage or rust. This is especially true for older homes that may have galvanized steel pipes. Electrical Check the circuit panel and any exposed wiring for defects. Make sure all lights work. Also check to make sure outlets have been grounded. Appliances Make sure all appliances are in good working condition. You should consider changing older appliances, or replacing them with Energy Star-rated appliances. HVAC Test the heating and cooling capabilities of the HVAC system. Inspect the air filters to make sure they’re fresh and working. Check exposed duct work, too. Look for peeling duct tape, loose fittings, dents, and torn sections. Also check the registers to ensure that they’re free of obstructions that can impede airflow. Floors The main problem that can impact your floors is water intrusion. Look for black spots near the baseboards. Check for damp carpet, or wood that has buckled or warped. Avoid expensive home repairs with regular maintenance and inspections. Contact us to learn how professional property management services can take care of your properties and keep them in great shape for you and your tenants.

Why Hire a Local Property Manager in Birmingham


Matthew Whitaker - Wednesday, July 23, 2014

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sk-EefOrCY4&list=UUOzC6CO2EmFS5VgzAKE76JA We commonly receive the question of, “Why should I hire a professional property manager to handle my residential rental property?” With today’s blog, we would like to answer this question. I want to start with a story that I think will illustrate my first point. This is a story about a conversation between two tenants that took place in the front lobby at gkhuoses.com. One tenant was significantly behind in rent. When the second tenant heard this, her advice was, “You’re going to have to go rent from a private individual because any professional landlord is going to call gkhouses and will find out you are behind in rent.” That illustrates our first point perfectly: Private individuals are less experienced and less likely to screen tenants thoroughly than professional property managers. A professional manager will know what to look for. We know what type of tenant you don’t want and we know what type of tenant you do want. For instance, it takes about 13 showings to get one approved applicant. That’s a lot of showings! Another reason to hire a professional property manager is: Most property management companies have a 24/7, 365 days per week maintenance line. What happens during Christmas or Thanksgiving if things go wrong at your rental property? You don’t want to get that phone call in the middle of the night. Property managers have systems in place to handle those calls. One of the best reasons to use a property manager is: Using a property management company creates separation between you and the tenant. You make better decisions when you are removed from the tenant. A good property manager will provide a buffer to help you make high-quality, high-return decisions about your rental property and your investment. This is very important. Finally, a property manager should: Provide you with professional advice and help with dynamic situations. Property managers know everything from how to set the right market rental rates; to what’s included in Alabama Landlord and Tenant laws; to what has to happen when a tenant falls behind in rent payments. You are going to need professional advice from a trusted advisor when you make decisions about your rental property. You want that advice to come from an expert in the field that is not emotionally tied to the decision. If you have any questions about why it makes sense to hire a local property manager, or you’d like more information about property management services in general, please contact us at gkhouses.com, and we would be happy to talk to you.

gkhouses.com’s Matthew Whitaker Named to ACRE Leadership Council


Matthew Whitaker - Saturday, July 19, 2014

We’re proud to announce that our very own Matthew Whitaker was named to the Leadership Council of the Alabama Center for Real Estate (ACRE). ACRE, located at the University of Alabama, collects, maintains, and analyzes the state’s real estate statistics and provides leadership, research, and forecasting for the state’s real estate professionals. As a part of the ACRE Leadership Council, Matthew will help focus on long-term growth and development of the Center, provide insight and counsel on current market trends, and enhance the sustainability of ACRE through vision, resourcefulness, and creativity. Matthew has over a decade of experience in the single-family real estate business and will be a great asset to ACRE as it continues its mission to advance real estate in the state of Alabama. We’re excited by his inclusion to ACRE’s Leadership Council and are confident that he’ll serve that organization as well as he has served our clients and tenants over the years.

Three Tips for a Better Renting Experience


Matthew Whitaker - Tuesday, July 15, 2014

As professional Alabama rental managers, we work with clients and tenants to create the best renting experiences possible. After all, a productive relationship between a landlord and a tenant works for everyone. You can help make your stay in your rental home a great one with these three pieces of advice. Communicate Early and Often Communication is at the heart of any strong relationship, especially when it comes to rental homes. As a tenant, you should communicate early and often with your landlord – or their property manager – when it comes to issues and concerns you may have. Maintenance is a prime example. Let your landlord know when key systems within your home are acting up. A timely notification can save a minor repair from turning into a major one – which is a major inconvenience. Check Your Lease Thoroughly Always know what you sign before you sign anything. A lease is no exception. Familiarize yourself with the terms and conditions in your lease before you sign. If you and your landlord or property manager have any verbal agreements, make sure they’re codified in the lease. Know what you are allowed to do and aren’t allowed to do – this will keep you from violating the lease and promote harmony between yourself and your landlord. Treat Your Home Like You Own It Would you treat your home any differently if you owned it rather than rented it? Hopefully not. Your home is your home, and should be treated well no matter if you are renting or if you’re the owner. Work with your landlord to keep your home well-maintained and looking sharp. This includes keeping a home looking like new, especially if pets are involved. Great tenants deserve great landlords, and vice-versa. Follow these three tips to uphold your end of the bargain and be a model tenant that any landlord would love to have.

Dealing With Rental Property Challenges | Property Management


Matthew Whitaker - Friday, July 11, 2014

If you own a home that you’d like to turn into a rental property, sooner or later you’ll run into challenges and obstacles. These challenges vary, but they will emerge – and how you deal with them makes the difference between a successful investment and something that could be better. As property management specialists, we help our owner clients deal with challenges on a daily basis. Over decades of combined experience, we’ve seen it all and helped clients deal with it all. Here are a few typical challenges that you might run into with your rental property that can make or break a home’s success on the market. Dealing with Bad Lighting How your potential tenants see your property goes a long way in determining if they’ll rent from you – or someone else. One common component of a home’s appeal is lighting. And to be honest, some homes have horrible lighting. Either there are trees blocking natural light from entering windows, homes that face to the north, rooms with only one (bad) light fixture, or not enough windows (or windows that aren’t large enough). Something has to give. You can remedy this by:

Landscaping to remove shrubs and trees that block too much light

Replacing single light fixtures with recessed lighting throughout the room

Opening up dark rooms by enlarging windows or replacing solid doors with glass-paneled ones

Handling Small Rooms We can’t often control the dimensions of the homes we own, but this does come into play – especially when tenants are looking for particular dimensions and need ample space. In a home with small room sizes, that can be detrimental. Sometimes, what you have to do is undergo targeted renovations. For example, if you have three bedrooms that are quite small, consider knocking out a wall between two of them to make a master bedroom with a guest room. That layout is often more appealing because then you can target people who are looking for 2/X homes, instead of 3/X homes and are expecting larger rooms. One modern trend is to also have a conglomerated dining and living area, instead of a separate dining room. You can make this happen by knocking out a wall that helps to define the dining room, and incorporate it into the living area or the kitchen. Finally, if there is a lack of storage in the home, consider built-in storage or putting a shed in the backyard.

Home Prices Continue to Rise for Birmingham Real Estate | Professional Alabama Property Managers


Matthew Whitaker - Thursday, July 10, 2014

As professional Alabama property managers, we like to keep dibs on local real estate. So, it was with interest that we read a report from Realtor.com detailing how housing prices have risen throughout the country. Scanning the list reveals that Birmingham is number 69 on the list. The median listing for the area right now stands at $177,950, which is an increase of 2.9 percent from April 2014 to May and 4.7 percent from May 2013, one year ago. The reason behind the rise? Besides the general trend of rising home prices throughout the nation as a result of an improving economy, lagging inventory seems to be the prime culprit. There just aren’t as many homes up for sale as there were years ago, when a glut of homes precipitated a strong buyers’ market. Case in point: In May, there were 7,908 homes for sale in active inventory in the area, which was 11 percent lower than May 2013’s level, and 0.5 percent lower than April 2014. The median time homes in Birmingham spend on the market is 82 days, which is down by nearly 11 percent from a year ago. Fewer homes on the market means lower supply, which ultimately drives up prices. And as we discussed previously, lagging inventory and higher prices have a noticeable correlation with rental rates and vacancy rates. This is good news for our property owners, who appreciate lower vacancy rates and the ability to find tenants who have been priced out of buying homes – or think buying has become too expensive to bother with. We’ll continue to keep an eye on Birmingham real estate. But we anticipate that a strong summer season will only serve to send prices higher. Down the road, perhaps we’ll see more homes enter the market as more homeowners will see the promise of getting more for their homes, but for now, low inventory is the norm.

How a Property Management Company Saves Landlords Time


Matthew Whitaker - Friday, July 4, 2014

If you’re a landlord, you probably have your hands full with your properties. Taking care of rental properties and tenants is often a full-time job, even if you only have one home in your portfolio. There’s just so much that goes into the job – a million details, processes, and situations that have to be handled carefully and correctly. All of this adds up to a lot of time spent in property management. Fortunately for landlords, property management companies help landlords save a tremendous amount of time with their portfolios. Here’s how. Property Management Companies Take Care of Your Tenants For most of the landlords we’ve spoken with, interacting with tenants is the number one most time-consuming aspect of the job, hands down. Tenants have needs that have to be met, complaints that should be handled, and requests that need answers. Having a professional property manager saves you the time of interacting with tenants by addressing their concerns and needs in a direct, prompt, and efficient manner. Instead of having to man your cellphone at all hours of the day and night, you can let a property management specialist take care of it for you. That alone saves countless hours of your time. Property Management Companies Handle Every Process There are a lot of processes that go into successfully managing a property. The laundry list of tasks and processes includes (but certainly is not limited to):

Collecting rent from your tenants

Qualifying (and screening) new tenants

Maintaining the appearance and condition of the property

Preparing and executing leases

Handling documents related to leases and tenants

Showing the home to potential tenants

Marketing and advertising for your property

Handling tenant turnover

Dealing with evictions, if necessary

Instead of taking time out of your busy schedule to handle all of these tasks (some of which may be unsavory tasks you didn’t want to handle anyway), you can have a professional property management company do it for you. Hiring property managers is a sure-fire way to slash hours out of your weekly schedule and free up valuable time to spend elsewhere. Contact us to learn more.

Latest Real Estate Stats Show Improvement in Birmingham Market


Matthew Whitaker - Thursday, July 3, 2014

As professional property managers, we like to keep track of the local real estate market. Why? Our owner clients are heavily invested in Birmingham-area real estate, and as owners have a vested interest in monitoring trends and conditions. One major trend as of late has been a gradual shift from a buyers’ market to one in balance. The metro area has been in a buyers’ market for some time, ever since the recession hit. We evaluate this based on total months of supply, or, how long it would take for the market to run out of available homes if sales continue at today’s rate, without any additional new listings. A six-month supply indicates a balanced market, favoring neither buyer nor seller, and that is exactly where Birmingham is, according to stats provided by the Alabama Center for Real Estate (ACRE). ACRE also indicated in its report for the month of May that sales increased by nine percent from April, roughly in line with the monthly increase from April to May that we usually see. This suggests strong demand in the area for homes. As demand has increased, so have home prices. The area’s median sales price stood at $173,700 in May, up 0.5 percent from May 2013 and 8.6 percent from April 2014. Of course, this doesn’t mean that every neighborhood has seen a price increase, even in the long run, but most have. Finally, there were 1,236 residential sales in May, which fell by 1.5 percent from last May. Staying above the 1,000-home mark, though, is good for the market’s health as a whole. What does all of this mean for property management and the rental market? Falling supply – as indicated by the total months of supply – indicates that we’re on the way to not having enough homes for those who want to buy them. In absence of adequate supply, rental vacancies should go down. As prices continue to increase, we’ll also see more downward pressure on rental vacancies, as more people will see renting as the less-expensive option. Contact us for more information on the Birmingham market and how you can take advantage of it.