Property Management Blog

Super Quick Jeff Co 2018 Review

Blackwell Property Management - Friday, January 11, 2019

Jeff Co showed a 3% real estate market increase for 2018. But I'm calling 2018 a bit of a stutter for real estate in Jeff Co. Why?

Charles Town, Shepherdstown, Harpers Ferry and Kearneysville all reported declines of an average of 6% in their markets. How could there be an increase then?

Ranson had a 70% (yes 7-0) increase in dollar volume sold and 52% increase in the numbers of houses sold. Enough of an increase to sway the numbers to the positive side by a few points.

Ranson decided to act like an affordable little superhero for 2018!

Let's see what happens in 2019.

6 Pointers to Help Make You a Good Tenant

Blackwell Property Management - Wednesday, January 9, 2019

1. Read Your Lease. That’s right. Read it. Don’t skim it. Don’t presume you have the general understanding of it. Read it. It is a binding legal contract. It definitely is not up there with The Shawshank Redemption I grant you. But that was only a short story, so the few pages of the legalese in the lease will feel like it took you about the same length of time to read it. And it will prevent you from feeling like you are reading Misery later! Seriously though, the lease creates a binding relationship between you and your landlord. What did you agree to? If you don’t understand, ask questions before you sign it.

2. Pay Your Rent on Time. Many tenants believe they have a “grace” period. In fact most leases will not apply a late fee until after the 5th of the month. Some of the leases might make it the 3rd. However, if you read the lease, it does say without exception that rent is due on the 1st. So if you train yourself to have it paid on the 1st you will never run the risk of any glitches in rent arriving after the fees get applied. Also, depending on the landlord, if they are asked by your next landlord if you have paid rent on time, and you have always paid on the 5th, it will be at their discretion to state whether you were late every month on rent.

3. If You Do Not Know if it is Allowed, Get Permission. You moved in to your new house and decide that a room could do with a new exciting color of paint. Or “I’d love a new puppy”. How about “Let’s replace the light fixtures in the dining room”. They may seem like tasteful upgrades and that is of course true. That also makes them improvements to the home however. Which means you want to get the landlord’s written permission first. If the lease specifically says “DON’T” you must get any exception you might have agreed in writing (not just verbal) to make it a DO. Save the correspondence and keep it in a file with your lease. You may well need it later when you move out and your landlord has forgotten all about that conversation.

4. Put it in Writing. If you have a non-emergency request such as a leaky faucet, submit the request in writing (online counts). You can follow up with a phone call if you like. Getting it in writing means it is documented for both yourself and the landlord. While landlords appreciate being informed of maintenance related items right away please keep in mind there are some small issues that fall on you, the tenant, to remedy. For example, light bulbs, you’ll need a step stool and you will need to replace them yourself. Same goes for smoke detector batteries and air filters just to name a few. No need to bother the landlord.

5. Treat Others How You Expect to be Treated. Landlords do not like mediating arguments between tenants. Nearly all tenant issues can and should be resolved without the landlord. If there are problems with a neighbor, don’t be passive aggressive. Address the problem directly with the offending neighbor. The goal isn’t to try and argue or to prove a point, but to create an environment where both parties can live peacefully. Be a respectful and courteous neighbor and tenant.

6. Respect Your Home. You would think that this goes without saying. But keep your house in clean and sanitary condition. Live in it with pride. If you have pets, pick up after them inside and outside.

5 Tips to Make You a Better Landlord/Property Manager

Blackwell Property Management - Tuesday, January 8, 2019

1. Your Property Should Run Like a Business. Landlords often do a terrible job at running their business. For many it is a side gig, or a hobby more than a business and it definitely shows. Give it the respect it deserves. Apply some simple systems and organization to it. These are things you would do with any other business venture. So why not your property? Do you have contingencies in place so maintenance issues can be resolved without your direct involvement? What about if you are out of town, what happens then? If you shift your view as a landlord to that of a business owner you will find far greater success.

2. Treat Your Tenants With Respect. You aren’t guaranteed to like your tenants. In fact, you aren’t even required to like your tenants. However, do not allow personal feelings to get in the way of business at any level. Tenants want to be seen and treated as equal. Mainly because they are. So don’t forget it. Owning a rental property does not make you a better person than a tenant. Try leave those notions behind when dealing with your tenants. Treat each tenant with dignity and respect.

3. Stop Short of Being Too Nice. Following on from Number 2 a little. If a tenant sees you as being too nice that is a trait they will exploit over and over again. The result usually ends up with you having lost massive amounts of money. If your lease says rent is due on the first, expect your tenants to oblige. Allowing them to break the rules once opens the door for potentially years of struggle where you never regain control and are constantly in a one-sided state of compromise with them. There is a difference between being fair and being too nice.

4. Never Discriminate but Always Screen. The biggest error a landlord can make is letting in the wrong person. Late rents, evictions, damages and trashed homes. You wouldn’t walk in to a car dealer and get a zero percent car loan if they knew you didn’t have any income and a deathly low credit score. So why would you rent to someone in the same boat? At the very least, check their credit, but preferably take the extra steps to ensure they are not felons, have no recent evictions and are gainfully employed. Always remember the protected classes while you do all of this. You’re a landlord, you don’t see things like color or background or religious beliefs etc.

5. Never be Afraid to Ask Questions and Get Help. I have been in property management for 16 years now and I still feel like I learn something new every day. I’ve learned to stop being surprised when the crazy happens because there is always a crazier around the corner. Get opinions. Ask Questions. It could be a number for a service vendor, help with an eviction issue, or just general advice about what to do next in a situation, reach out to other landlords for help. I personally love to talk to other property managers about this stuff. I know most others feel the same. Both parties to the conversation always walk away smarter than they were before we started it too.

2018 - Not a drought in sight!

Blackwell Property Management - Thursday, January 3, 2019

2018 was an interesting and challenging year to be a property manager in our region. We really had to be ready for anything (mainly water)!

During just one storm in Spring last year we had nearly 50 of the houses we manage impacted by severe hail damage. Siding was destroyed and needed to be replaced. Roofing was destroyed and needed to be replaced. There was more damage than we knew what to do with. Insurance companies became weeks behind in getting out to inspect the damage. We saw an influx of storm chasing contracting companies pop up and begin to work remedying the issues. It took most of last year to get caught up from the impact of this storm.

Before many of the repairs even had a chance to get started from that storm, we were hit with the beginning of the rains that have now become the wettest year on record. If there is one thing that will eventually highlight the weaknesses in a house over time - It is water. Unfortunately, 2018 gave us enough of it, consistently enough that the flaws were most certainly found.

It worsened the grief for many of the owners who already had the sucker punch of dealing with the damage from the hail storm. Owners that thought they’d gotten by realized they may not have gotten lucky after all. Roofs leaked and basements flooded. Sump pumps failed. On just one day, with one of the heaviest rains, we had 20 houses with sump pump failure alone!

For some it was almost too much to bare. For us, we were inundated with maintenance responses and upset tenants and worried owners. We just did our job. We kept responding to each new tenant call the same way we had done the last. We coordinated between our property owners and the insurance company whenever required and eventually, we got through all of the repairs. There is no denying however, that it was a very memorable, stressful year for many rental home owners and property managers alike.