Month: September 2014

It’s Fall – Are Your Properties Ready? | Property Management Blog

Matthew Whitaker - Friday, September 26, 2014

Fall is officially here. Summer has come and gone, and with the new season, we can expect cooler weather – and challenges for our home maintenance. Here are some steps you can take to get your properties ready for the cooler weather coming up soon. Make Sure Your Gutters Are Clear Gutters are important for a home’s well-being. They protect the walls and foundation from water damage, and need to be kept clean and free of debris. Well, if there’s one thing fall brings to a home, it’s debris. Falling leaves and sticks can quickly clog up a gutter system and make it so rain water can’t freely flow through. Make sure your gutters and downspouts are clear and keep checking them throughout the fall, especially as the leaves turn and begin to fall. Weatherproof Your Home’s Doors and Windows Fall is also a perfect time to attend to your doors and windows. With colder weather comes cold drafts that can wreak havoc with utility bills and can also make your tenants uncomfortable. The fall is a great time to seal any cracks and gaps around your home’s doors and windows with caulk and weather-stripping. Inspect Your Heating System The beginning of the fall is also a great time to inspect your home’s heating system. Have a professional check the furnace for defects or items that need repaired. We could have a colder-than-average winter this year, if forecasters are correct, so having a fully-functional heating system is imperative, especially in older homes. This is also a good time to inspect any gas heating elements in the home, particularly the kitchen. Inspect the Roof Finally, make sure you pay special attention to the roof this fall as you get ready for winter. Roof repairs can be tougher and more expensive during the winter than other seasons, so it’s best to be pre-emptive with your maintenance. Make sure the roofing system is intact and free of issues that may emerge, such as damaged or curled shingles, leaky vents, or damage from pests. For more info on making your home maintenance easier, check out how property management pros can help.

Examining the August Alabama Real Estate Report | Property Management

Matthew Whitaker - Friday, September 26, 2014

As property management pros, keeping an eye on the state’s real estate market – particularly its health in a few key indicators – is a part of our role in helping advise our owner clients on the market. The Alabama Center for Real Estate (ACRE) is a big help in this department, as they regularly supply the state with up-to-date real estate market information on a monthly basis. For August 2014, they released a report detailing several major trends in the market while summarizing the general health of the market as a whole. On whole, there were fewer home sales compared to a year ago, in August 2013. But, 68 percent of the state’s reporting associations reported favorable sales gains compared to last August. It’s just that a few districts are pulling down the state’s number. Depending on where you live, homes are being sold at a fairly standard pace, which is good for owners who may want to cash in on their investment. Speaking of cashing in, home prices continue to rise. The median selling price in the state for August 2014 stood at $141,901, which is 12.8 percent higher than it was a year ago. It’s also a 1.7 percent increase from last month. Two-thirds of the state’s associations reported increases in the median sales price. This is a major trend that has been moving forward for the past year to two years, and there are no signs that it will slow any time soon, as tight housing supply continues to provide upward pressure for prices. The state’s inventory-to-sales ratio is going up across the state, but for metro areas like Birmingham, there were just 7.2 months of supply – down from what we’ve been used to. That’s just outside a balanced market. We’ll see that number decrease as we approach equilibrium over the next six months. If you’re looking to potentially pick up another property as an investment, now may be the time. Home prices will probably rise each month for the rest of the year and heading into 2015. If you’re looking to sell, you can get more value each month if you wait, especially if supply decreases over the coming months. Contact us for more insight about the real estate market and how you can take advantage.

Making Home Maintenance Easier for Owners| Property Management Blog

Matthew Whitaker - Tuesday, September 16, 2014

One thing that property owners and investors usually hate to think about, but is a necessity anyways, is home maintenance. Home maintenance can be a chore, especially if you own multiple properties. There’s a lot of moving parts in a house that can go wrong without notice, causing tenants to pick up the phone and dial your number. Here is some advice on dealing with home maintenance and making it go a bit more smoothly. Check the Major Systems Often The property you own has several systems that work together to keep the home livable. These include: – HVAC – Electrical – Plumbing – Roofing Those are the big four. The first thing to know is how old each system is, and if any of the systems have parts that need to be replaced soon. This is especially crucial in older homes that may not have been renovated lately. Each of these systems can result in major dollars being spent if they break, so the best thing to do is to do preventative maintenance on them before they become a problem. Create a Master Inspection Checklist To make your job easier, it’s best to create a master inspection checklist – one that hits every room, every system, and every component to make sure it’s all working properly. We created a home inspection checklist for the interior of the home that you can use to catch the big and small stuff that can break and cause problems. Hire a Property Management Company Arguably, the best way to make home maintenance easier for investors and owners is to hire a property management company to do it for you. Gone are the nights where you have to field a call late at night and make arrangements right then to have a problem fixed – or even go over to the home and fix it yourself. By turning to a property management company, you can have trusted professionals check on your home and make any needed repairs around the clock, without you having to worry about it. Contact us for more information on stress-free home maintenance for your properties.

Tenant Eviction in Birmingham

Matthew Whitaker - Wednesday, September 10, 2014 Our topic today is tenant eviction, and our focus is specifically on evicting in Birmingham and Jefferson County, Alabama. Evicting a tenant is a process and before you read any further it’s important that you understand I’m not an attorney. I am a professional property manager who is well-versed in Alabama’s Landlord Tenant Law. The first step in your eviction process is to post a notice. There are two types of notices: one is for nonpayment of rent, which is why people usually evict. The other is for a material breach, which means there is some sort of lease violation such as the lawn not being cut as required. The notice you will serve for nonpayment of rent is a seven day notice. The notice you serve for material breaches is a 14 day notice. The notice will basically explain the problem and state that if the tenant doesn’t fix the issue, you are going to terminate the lease. The goal is for you to post the notice and then have your tenants fix the problem. That’s the best thing that can happen. If the rent is still not paid or the problem isn’t taken care of, you will need to file a lawsuit against your tenant in the Jefferson County courthouse. Keep in mind that this lawsuit can only be filed after the notice period has come to an end. You have the wait the seven or 14 days – you cannot file anything before that. Wait for a response from the tenant because once you file, the tenant will have an opportunity to respond to your lawsuit. If there is no response, the judge will award you with a summary judgment, which is a victory. If the tenant does respond, there is a good chance that you will have to go to court. Be prepared to handle the court process because you’ll need the appropriate paperwork, information on how much the tenants owe you and specifics about the lease violation. The more prepared you are for court, the better your chances for success. Hopefully, you will win your case. When you win, the tenants are required to leave. If they don’t leave, the sheriff is going to have to make them leave. These are the high points of an eviction process. There are details involved in each step that are very important to follow. We have seen cases get thrown out in court because the paperwork wasn’t filled out correctly or the process wasn’t followed. If you have any questions about evicting tenants, or you need help with the process, please contact us at GK Houses, and we’d be happy to give you more information.

How Location Impacts Your Rental Property | Property Management Blog

Matthew Whitaker - Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Earlier, we talked about four things that you need to watch for when you are buying a rental property in Birmingham. As property management pros, we’re used to advising clients on what makes for great buys, and what factors play a role in making these decisions. One of those factors was location. Here, we’ll dive a bit deeper into the role location plays in choosing a rental property to purchase, and why it’s important to consider. Location Is Everything In real estate, location is extremely important. We all know this, but sometimes we forget just how important location is. For starters, the right location impacts demand considerably. Let’s face it – some areas are just less desirable than other areas. A lot of people want to live in certain key areas in the Birmingham area, but there are other locations that have minimal demand because of where they are and the characteristics of the neighborhood. Location impacts demand, which affects how many prospective tenants will want to view your property. If you can’t get a certain number to even come see it, you’re in an uphill battle. Location Is Also About the Home Itself The main factor when considering location is the neighborhood, which involves various things like crime rates, proximity to transportation and work, nearby amenities, and the composition of the neighborhood. But location also involves the home itself. For example, a home may be located on a busy street, which can cut down on demand. A home could also be located at the end of a dead-end road, which impacts accessibility. Or, it could be located in or next to a commercial or industrial area, which can give some people pause when evaluating it. Putting It All Together Carefully evaluate your home’s location before you considerbuying a particular property. You need to know how prospective tenants view the area and where the home is actually situated. That way, you can make an informed decision about not only whether or not to buy, but also about how much you plan on charging. Rates are impacted by location, so it’s definitely something to consider. Contact us for more information on various neighborhoods and areas in Birmingham so you can make an informed choice.

How You Should Vet Your Tenants | Property Management Blog

Matthew Whitaker - Friday, September 5, 2014

In property management, there should be a good fit between a tenant and a landlord, to ensure that everything goes smoothly. After all, it’s a two-way street; the tenant needs a landlord that will provide maintenance, and a landlord needs a tenant that will take care of the home and pay their rent on time. Finding the right tenant means thoroughly vetting them before they sign a lease. It means going the extra mile to ensure that they’ll be a good fit for you – and that there aren’t any surprises along the way. Here’s how you – or your property management company – should vet your clients. Check the Credit Score A credit score can tell you a lot about a tenant. It mostly speaks to their ability to pay their financial obligations on time. This is especially true if they’ve been a tenant before. You can use a credit score to see if they can be trusted to pay their rent on a regular basis. Some landlords enforce a minimum credit score in order to lease. In this way, a credit score is a good minimum standard that prospective tenants have to meet in order to proceed. Conduct a Criminal Background Check Another step you’ll want to take is to conduct a criminal background check of your prospective tenant. You want to keep your properties free of people who bring unsavory elements to them. Examining a person’s background with a criminal background check is a good way to screen for these individuals. Talk to Previous Landlords Chances are, your prospective tenant has rented from someone else at one point or the other. At this point, it’s important to get references from their previous landlords. You can then talk to their previous landlords to see if they paid their rent on time, were responsible, and kept the home in good working order. A tenant that trashed their place, or lost their security deposit, or had a history of not paying on time will have left a bad impression, and a landlord can help you out by telling you what happened. There are other steps you can take to make sure you get the right tenant. For more information on these steps and the entire process we use as property management specialists – as well as three questions you should ask your property manager – contact us. We’ll be more than happy to help.

Look for Higher Rents Through 2014 and Into 2015 | Property Management Blog

Matthew Whitaker - Thursday, September 4, 2014

As property management pros, we keep a close eye on rental rates in the area, to give our clients a better idea of what the market is demanding for rents so they can adjust their rates accordingly and keep up. One major trend over the last seven years – ever since the housing market crash – has been rising rental rates. Rents have fallen at times, but overall, the trend has been up because buying a home became more difficult as a result of the crash. For that reason, more people began renting, and as a result, rental vacancy rates plummeted while rental rates across the country rose. We’ve seen that trend continue so far in 2014, and everything we’ve seen suggests that the trend will continue through the end of 2014 and well into 2015. First, a caveat. This isn’t to say that rents will rise dramatically. We believe rents will only increase moderately for most communities in the Birmingham metro area. But there are specific areas that will see a more significant increase, namely parts of Homewood, Vestavia, Mountain Brook and Crestline Park. We covered the specific zip codes in an earlier rental market forecast. As a whole, higher rents are being driven up by two factors: higher home prices – making it more expensive to purchase a home – and low inventory in key areas. That isn’t to say that inventory is low in every area. In fact, there are some areas in which inventory is quite high, which means tenants in those areas have the upper hand. If that applies to you, your properties need to be priced aggressively in order to attract the attention of the right tenants. But even if you have to lower your rates, there are two benefits: you’ll be more likely to land a tenant; and rates are increasing anyway, so you’ll still get more for your property. For more specific information on what rental rates are doing in the neighborhoods and zip codes your properties are in, contact us – we’ll be more than happy to give you insider info and help you price your properties accordingly.

4 Things to Watch Out For When Buying a Birmingham Rental Property (One Will Surprise You)

Matthew Whitaker - Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Today we are sharing 4 things that you want to watch out for when you’re choosing a rental property in Birmingham to buy as an investment. One of these things might surprise you. Location Always take location into consideration before you buy. Location influences demand and it directly affects the amount of your rental rates. Location can sometimes be a huge negative for your investment property, and there are a few white elephant issues to carefully avoid. For our purposes, white elephant issues include things like the house sitting too close to a busy street or being up high on a remote hill. Take note of your location. Age of Home Pay attention to the year the home was built. Birmingham was built in a few different waves. In the 1930s and the 1940s, the first wave of construction went up and those houses are constructed much differently than those that were built in the second wave, or the 1950s and 1960s. The homes that went up in the 1950s and 1960s are marked by modern amenities such as updated electrical and plumbing systems that homes built earlier simply do not have. Find out when your home was built because the amount you will spend on repairs and maintenance will be impacted by whether your home was built during the first wave, the second wave or the subsequent waves of construction. Age of Systems You need to know how old the home’s systems are. What we mean by that is the roof, the plumbing, the HVAC system and other big ticket items. If you don’t get them right on the front end, they are going to be very costly to fix or replace on the back end. Trees We promised you a surprise and here it is: trees. More money has been spent by investors on trees than on any other single item. Go up to the house and look at the number of trees that will need to be cut down. It’s an easy thing to forget about or ignore, but the trees are going to make a difference. There is no return for cutting down trees, but there is a huge expense. Find out how many trees you need to remove before you buy a property. If you have any questions about these four things, or you need more information about buying investment property in Birmingham, please contact us at GK Houses.