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Boston Property Care

  • 08/23/2017

    Financial Tips for Boston's Newest Landlords



    There are a lot of folks becoming new landlords, both as first time investors and as a group we at BPC call "accidental landlords", or people who bought their home but are now moving and don't want to give up the option of returning in the future, thus renting it out in the short term. With real estate investment in Boston predicted to climb steadily, it’s a great time to begin generating income via homeownership and learning how to best do that.

    Spend Now to Save Later

    “Don't go cheap” on property upkeep, warns Al Norton, our rental manager with more than 10 years of experience. Yes, it may seem easier on your bank account to make your tenants do their own snow removal, but “if there's any sort of issue with someone getting hurt on snow/ice on your property, they're coming after your deep pockets, not the tenants”.

    As far as lawn care goes, how it looks impacts your bottom line in the short and long term way more than it does your tenants. Besides, taking care of all of that kind of thing can allow you to charge more in rent, as there are tenants out there willing to pay more for the convenience.

    Pay Attention to Your Insurance Policy

    A big thing that most landlords miss? For those who were living in the unit previously, you will need to reach out to your insurance company for a policy change. Since the property is no longer an owner occupied unit, your insurance provider needs to be updated of the change in case of liability. Not doing so can be disastrous: if landlords submit a claim for damage done by tenants, the insurance company may not cover it because they had the wrong kind of coverage.

    Reduce Stress with Property Management

    Some may think that being a landlord just means cashing checks every month. However, unlike stock market dividends or accruing bond interest, real estate investment is not a passive income stream. Landlords deal with property upkeep as well, which includes repairing appliances or fixing other issues as they arise.

    For many landlords, using a property management company is worth avoiding the hassle. While this service again costs money, it also means that the landlord is spared from everyday frustrations or emergencies. “The landlord isn't the one getting the call at 11:30pm on a Friday night about a clogged drain, or, worse, getting woken up a 3am because of burst pipes,” Norton says.

    Save Big with Real Estate Agents and Tax Breaks

    The best advice we can give is to use an agent. A licensed real estate professional will do the job for you, “the job” being all of the following:
    •          Marketing your property
    •          Showings for prospective tenants
    •          Collecting applications
    •          Completing financial and background checks to ensure the tenant is a good fit
    •          Writing the contracts and ensuring all other paperwork is completed
    •          Confirming that the process is done in accordance with the law

    In the current market of high demand and low inventory, using an agent’s services may not even cost anything. Even if you do end up paying them some part of the rental fee, that's a tax deductible expense: your house or condo is now a business, and therefore eligible for certain deductions.


    For more tips on real estate investing or long-distance landlording, we’re always available at info@bostonpropertycare.com.

  • 07/12/2017

    When to Ask Tenants to Renew a Lease




    One of my favorite rental urban myths – you know, the apartment leasing equivalent of being told that the student handbook has a rule that you can leave if your teacher is more than 10 minutes late – is that there is some sort of law about when landlords can ask their tenants if they are planning on renewing their lease; there is no such law on the books in Massachusetts, nor is the matter addressed in any of the Standard Fixed Term Leases I have seen (self-renewing and tenant-at-will leases are obviously different). So that leaves many landlords wondering, when should I find out if my tenants want to stay?


    My general advice is that a rental listing should come to market roughly 60 – 90 days before it is available to be occupied; even in a strong rental market like Greater Boston is experiencing now, where apartments can rent in days, or even hours, you want to give enough time for the unit to be properly marketed and shown. I’ve known some landlords to wait until less than 30 days before occupancy but the potential problem is that there usually aren’t that many people looking that close to their move-in dates, and the smaller the pool of potential tenants, the less able you are to maximize the full value of your condo/house.


    The best way to reach out to your tenants is with a letter, telling them that it’s that time of year again and that you’d like to know within two weeks if they plan on staying, with the understanding that if they aren’t staying, showings of the unit will begin right away. Most landlords will tell their tenants what the rent will be for a new lease in that same letter, although I’ve known a few who wait until people say they want to stay until they inform them of the new rent. When it comes to increases, I find it’s best to be honest with tenants and tell them that while their rent is going up $XX per month, the truth is if the apartment were going on the open market the rent would be going up $XXX; essentially let them know the discount you are giving them for being good tenants.


    Once you factor in the two weeks’ time you will give your tenants to make a decision and get back to you (and perhaps the extra few days to get them to respond), you want to get the whole process started no later than 90 days before you’d need a new tenant. And to answer your question before you ask, yes, there is such a thing as too early; no one other than undergraduate students are going to rent an apartment six months ahead of time, so putting it out there now for June 1 means it will likely end up sitting for a while, potentially letting your listing get stale and lost in the shuffle when the influx of property comes on weeks later.


    No matter when you decide to send your current tenants a renewal letter you should check in with your friendly neighborhood real estate company – like, say, the Coolidge Corner, Jamaica Plain or Newton Centre offices of Unlimited Sotheby’s International Realty, where there are well trained, full time rental agents waiting for you – to find out what’s going on in the market; maybe you’re way under the average price, maybe you should be thrilled with the rent you’re getting, but talking to a professional will give you peace of mind going forward. Boston Property Care can also take the hassle out of dealing with tenants for you. We are happy to reach out and coordinate renewals with your tenant or find you someone new!


    Al Norton
    Rental Manager, Boston Property Care

  • 06/05/2017

    Investing in Boston and What Drives the Appeal




    Home prices in Massachusetts continue to climb, especially as inventory continues to drop. The tight housing market that the Bay State is currently in will most likely continue to grow tighter, especially as Boston continues to attract an ever-growing number of families and professionals attracted to the Hub of the Universe. This attraction spells out an incredible real estate investment opportunity, but why does it exist in the first place? What’s the draw to invest in Boston instead of another capital city in the country?

    While Boston’s real estate market is only rivaled by San Francisco and New York City - which can be intimidating to would-be investors - there’s a wealth of potential even for those that don’t live in Massachusetts. Don’t let the high prices scare you away; the projected returns on Boston real estate are expected to grow even as global stock markets fluctuate.

    World reports, such as the Global Property Handbook, places Boston amongst the top 15 most desirable cities in the world.  Boston is a strong city for practicality, emotional appeal (encompassing areas like shopping and cultural richness) and finances (including ease of doing business and high property value). Boston comes third on a world scale for practical factors alone: strong education, air travel connectivity, environmental friendliness, and personal safety culminate our appeal. Boston beats out other US cities like Chicago, San Diego, and Houston in this assessment.

    Boston is consistently ranked one of the best cities to live in for all types of individuals: there’s something for every runner, scientist, student, and entrepreneur, just to name a few of the lifestyles drawn to Boston. Our school smarts are of particular interest. More than fifty higher education institutions in the greater Boston area make it a sought-after destination, making it a hub for college students and young professionals looking to rent in and around the city. 

    With the demand for housing continuing to skyrocket landlords and property owners have more advantages, such as more selectivity in choosing their unit’s tenants. The high demand for housing, coupled with the large number of renters and increasing rental prices, makes Boston real estate a wonderful, long-lasting investment choice for years to come.

  • 05/05/2017

    Start Investing Today With These Great Investment Deals


    Whether you're new to real estate investing or have years of experience, one of the first lessons you learn is that there's more to real estate investing than financing a home purchase. Is a new construction more attractive, or is a well-maintained older home better? Should your units be close to entertainment options, or would your tenants prefer somewhere more quiet? What neighborhoods offer the best balance between your personal preferences and projected cash flow? 

    Discovering the right investment opportunity for your needs requires preliminary research. To get started, here's some of the best deals on the market for investment properties from our partner at Unlimited Sotheby's International Realty.

    32 Mason Terrace - Brookline
    2 Units | Offered at $1,599,000


    A tree-top oasis, rarely available multi-family home located between Coolidge Corner and Washington Square. Unit 1 offers 4 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, a large open living room with dining area, family room, amazing southern views and sunlight and magnificent bow front windows. Most recent rent was $4,200/month. Unit 2 offers 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom plus a loft area and features cathedral ceilings, amazing views and currently $2,000/month (previous rent was $2,850) in rental income. Zoned SC7. Huge front deck and back patio area offer multiple options for outdoor comfort. Many options for food and shopping are close by in either direction. Located in the Driscoll school district. Convenient access to the T. Great value added opportunity.

    41 Cypress Street - Newton
    2 Units | Offered at $2,800,000

    Brand new renovation. Fully rented at $15,250/month. Ideally located in Newton Center, this extensively renovated house has two units, up and down, each has four-bedrooms, three and a half bath, a family room and a great new kitchen. It has over 5,234sf of living space on four levels. The main level, of each unit, boasts an open floor plan with living room, dining room, kitchen and a master suite. The lower/upper level offers three additional bedrooms, two-full bathrooms and a family room. Other highlights include woods floors throughout, bathrooms are tiled, new central heat and air conditioning, kitchen with granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances. One two car garage plus five outdoor spaces. The property is located close to all schools levels, (lower, middle and high school), train, shops and restaurants.


    16 Keefe Avenue - Newton
    2 Units | Offered at $2,499,000

    Brand new modern two-family in Historic Upper Falls. Sitting on approximately 8,250 square feet of land, containing 5263 square feet of living space these bright and spacious town-homes feel like single family houses. Each unit has a direct entry garage and private fenced in yard. Both homes have 9 -foot ceilings on the first and second floors and 4 bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms in each unit. The first floor offers a state of the art kitchens including Thermador appliances and contemporary cabinets. Modern fireplaces, open stairwells, and ceiling slopes that provide architectural interest throughout. Well-appointed master baths feature double vanities, glass tile, and spa-like showers with glass enclosures. The additional bedrooms share a family bath, near the laundry space. Each unit has a lower level with bedroom, bath, family room and large storage space. Keefe Avenue is one mile from the Elliot MBTA station, close to the railway trail, Newton Highlands Village and more.

    1 Unit | Offered at $759,000
    Luxury and modern living lifestyle at NorthPoint Park "Sierra+Tango Condominium”. Urban oasis, two-level, duplex townhome with exclusive patio and private entrance from NorthPoint Blvd. This immaculate condition 1 bed + den/office, 1.5 bath home comes with 1 deeded garage space. This unit is North facing, across from NorthPoint Park with great views from all rooms, large closet space, walk-in closet in master, washer/dryer in-unit, large floor to ceiling windows in both levels, and bamboo floor on the main level, plus carpet in bedroom and den/office. Monthly condo fee includes: water, hot water, heat/ac, on-site management M-F, 24hour concierge, guest parking, “Webpass by Google Fiber” internet available in complex 500 mbps for $60/month! Lechmere T Green line in front, easy access to the Galleria, shops, restaurants, Logan airport, all major highways and more.

    30 Edgewood Street - Roxbury
    3 Units | Offered at $825,000


    Rarely available three family home sitting on a beautiful double lot (7428 sq.ft.). The extra lot of land is 3712 sq.ft. It is nicely landscaped and features a large paved drive way and patio.This building is well maintained and clean with many updates. Including a new kitchen on third floor. All of the units are spacious with high ceilings. All have separate utilities. Apartments two and 3 have washer/dryer hookups in unit. Apartment one has a washer/dryer in the basement. Each unit has ample closet space and a very nice layout.

    34 Mount Everett Street - Boston
    1 Unit | Offered at $314,900


    This hidden gem has a very spacious floor plan. It is located in the Bowdoin North - Mount Bowdoin neighborhood. Walk Score of 84 out of 100, half a mile from the Fairmount Line and the Franklin Line at the Four Corners/Geneva stop. Nearby parks include Ceylon Park, Norton St. Park and King School Park. This wonderfully maintained home has newer cork flooring in the kitchen and Brazilian Mahogany laminate floors throughout the rest of the unit. There is a large bay window in the living room. There is also a wonderful private patio off the kitchen. Enjoy the renovated bathroom with separate shower and special tub. This home also has three generously sized bedrooms, a recently renovated kitchen, updated lighting and plenty of closet space. There is also a paved driveway with one deeded parking spot.

    Like something you see? Reach out to us today and we can connect you with the listing agent so you can see the property right away.
     
    Sick of managing properties yourself? Don't forget that Boston Property Care is a full-service property management company with more than 20 years of experience. Learn more about us at bostonpropertycare.com.

  • 04/17/2017

    Upgrading Your Appliances


     
    Upgrading appliances is an easy way to give a fresh new look to a kitchen, but it can certainly be rough on your bank account. To help that, here are some cost-effective alternatives and the types of places you can find some great deals.  


    Craislist.org
    Scour craigslist.org for local,deals. Discount stores advertise there, as well as people looking to,upgrade to something better in their own kitchens. This is especially,great for those of us with ancient appliances looking to upgrade to,nicer, all black appliances instead of stainless steel. Make sure to,take a look in the FREE section as well, you never know where a great,kitchen table, chairs, or more will pop up, so check back often! CLICK HERE
    Apps & Websites
    There are a number of phone/tablet apps and websites that specialize in swaps,and resales of home goods, often including appliances. Check local buy,and sell groups on Facebook, often times people move into a new home and,upgrade their appliances leaving perfectly good, usable appliances,behind for sale. Also check out apps such as OfferUp, LetGo or Gone for,easy mobile searches.
    Scratch and Dent. And SAVE!
    Visit your local appliance stores “Scratch & Dent Section”. A few,scratches and dents can knock a huge chunk out of that price tag! The,best part is a lot of the scratches and dents you find are in a place,where you won’t even see them, especially when you put the appliance,into place in your home. Even if the scratch or dent is visible, you,might be able to fix it for cheap. Home improvement stores sell,appliances markers in a variety of colors and they work similarly to a,paint pen from the craft store. Just sweep over the scratches with your,appliance pen, let dry and repeat until you can’t see the scratch anymore.

    For Sale
    Watch for sales and additional discounts at your preferred appliance,stores. Most appliance and large home improvement stores have sales for,each holiday and, often times, there are additional discounts in place,on top of the sale price. Keep an eye out for Energy Star and,manufacturer discounts when you are in the store. Appliances can be,deeply discounted just by spending the time to look at all your local,stores, what kind of discounts they consistently offer and learn if that,store price matches. Pricing matching plus discounts could save you,even more money!
    Store Cards + a Little Planning = Savings!
    Store cards often offer discounts on products over a certain amount.,Figure out where the best deal is going to be, save up all the money,needed for those items and open a store card. The interest rates are,often high on these cards but if you purchase your items at a discount,and immediately pay it off you can save that much more. Additional “sign,up bonuses” are also available. Be careful though, you are dealing with,your personal credit, these alternative need to be carefully planned,,but the savings are definitely worth it. Some places to start are Ikea, Jordan’s Furniture, and Home Depot!

    No Tax, No Brainer!
    Wait for a tax free weekend! Massachusetts typically has a sales tax,holiday every August, and for 2017 this is expected for August 12 to 13.,Taxes on the pricey items really just add to the pain of that final,bill. Shopping on that tax free weekend will add to those savings,instead!

  • 04/17/2017

    What Should You Do Before Tenants Move In?



    Living in a new environment, whether as a first time home owner, veteran property professional, or college student in a new dorm, can be stressful. When new tenants are about to move into your unit there’s a few tasks to complete beforehand: getting things organized, cleaning what the previous tenants left behind, and general household upkeep. 


    Ready to make your tenants feel welcome? We will take a look at some steps you can take to make your new house a home.



     












    Around the House
    1. Candle wax on your floor? Use a brown paper bag and an iron to clean up the mess. Place a paper towel or brown paper bag over the dry wax spill and press with an iron on low heat. The wax will stick to the paper and lift right off your floor!
    2. Wooden furniture legs scratched during the move? Take a raw walnut, rub it over the scratches and watch as they disappear. The natural oils in the walnuts help to seal the  scratches on your wooden furniture, making them look brand new.
    3. Polish chrome items with baby oil. Just a dab on a cotton cloth will make everything shine!
    4. Drains clogged? Mix equal parts baking soda and vinegar and
    pour down a clogged drain and cover it with a warm wet cloth. Let the mixture settle in the pipes for about 5 minutes, uncover and run steaming hot water through the pipes.
    5. Greasy dinner make a mess on your clothes or furniture? Toss a little cornmeal on top of the grease stain and let it absorb your mess for about 10-15 minutes. Dust or vacuum over the cornmeal and, viola! No more grease stains!
    6. Water stains ruining your furniture? Turn that hair dryer on high and aim at the stain. Watch as the water ring disappears! Once the ring is gone, dab a little olive oil over the surface to keep the wood moisturized. A hot iron over a towel will work wonders on those water stains as well.
     










     


    In the Kitchen
    1. Cleaning your food processor or grinder regularly can be a chore but it will keep residual flavors from mixing together and creating a not so tasty treat. For a quick fix, toss a piece of fresh white bread in and run your processor/grinder. This will lift any residual oils or smalls pieces of food out of the appliance.
    2. Hate the self-cleaning function on your oven and heavy duty chemical cleaners? By making  your own paste from baking soda and water you can clean your oven more naturally!
    How to: Mix baking soda and water to a paste consistency and coat the oven surfaces evenly (but don’t cover the heating elements!). Let this sit overnight to break down the grease and grime that has accumulated in your oven. The next day (preferably while wearing gloves) take a plastic spatula, scrape it all up and wipe down with a damp paper towel. Once your ‘new’ oven is clean and ready to go, cover the bottom with an oven liner available at most home goods stores.
    3. Do your coffee cups have dark tea and coffee stains? White dishes stained and you haven’t been able to remove them? Fill your sink with warm water, drop a few denture cleaning tablets in the water and let your dishes soak until the stains are gone! Rinse and repeat as needed to remove the stains completely! For ceramic and enamel items with stains and dark scratches, try Bar Keeper’s Friend. Bar keepers friend is a great cleaning agent that will make your dishes look brand new!
    4. Microwave oven have stains or a weird odor? Fill a bowl or mug with water and a teaspoon of vanilla extract and heat on high for 2-3 minutes. Leave the microwave door shut for an additional couple of minutes to allow the steam to penetrate caked on food. Wipe down the interior with a damp cloth to remove grime. Leave the door open for a few hours to dry and let additional odors escape

  • 03/16/2017

    Spring Cleaning

    Spring is right around the corner! A clean living space is one of the easiest ways to improve the look of a home, yet it’s one of the most dreaded tasks on anyone’s to-do list. After a New England winter, any of the following cleaning tips will help turn your unit into a bright, inviting space once again.

    Wipe down walls and ceilings

    This is a big one, especially for kitchens! Break out the degreaser and clean the walls near the stove and sink to remove excess grease build up. Ceilings looking a little dusty or housing cobwebs? Take your broom and give all your ceilings a good sweep.

    Clean the floors, especially carpets

    Snow shoes pick up some of the worst grime outside, which then makes its way into rugs and carpets. Now is the time to heavily vacuum and shampoo all your carpets and rugs. Some local stores, including The Home Depots in Somerville and Quincy, offer rentals for carpet shampooing. If you’d rather someone else do the cleaning entirely, there are a number of companies that will do this for you as well. Keep an eye out for seasonal, Groupon and LivingSocial deals in your area, as cleaning companies may offer a spring deal and knock down their normal prices.

    Don’t forget about your fabric furniture

    Fabric furniture can often be cleaned by the companies that do your carpets and rugs; it doesn’t hurt to ask if they have a special deal for both! If you’d prefer to do this yourself, take cushions outside and beat them with a broom handle to shake the accumulated dirt and dust loose from the fabric. If your vacuum has a hose attachment, run it all over the rest of your furniture and cushions – get rid of all that dirt and dust that’s been accumulating all winter long.

    Polish your hardware

    Door handles and hardware can look and feel scummy after changes in temperature, requiring a good polish. Remember that you may need a certain type of polish for particular materials; scour your local store to see what works best for the hardware in your unit. Varnish any tarnish to the cabinet hardware in the kitchen, bathrooms, and any built in’s you might have.  Door knobs and hinges can also use a good polishing now and again, along with a wax or polish to all wooden surfaces. Old English and Murphy Oil are great for wood surfaces that need a little love in the spring.


    Update your window treatments

    Window treatments looking a little neglected? Take them down and give them a good wash or take them to get dry-cleaned. Dusting does little to clean fabric window treatments, which require a bath once in a while to keep your home allergen free. Make sure to wipe down blinds and window sills while the treatments are removed, as dust easily collects inside the nooks and crannies.

    Winter decorations be gone
    Make sure to pack away all heavy curtains, rugs and throws so that they can be replaced with lighter ones. This is also a great time to donate items that are getting old and worn; you can even write them off as a charitable donation on your tax returns if you have yet to file. You can offload these pieces at places like the Habitat for Humanity ReStore and most
    Boston thrift shops

    Tax write-offs can also extend to items you’ve had in storage for years. Sort through items in the attic and basement to look for items to donate and to better organize with event, holiday, etc. Use concrete blocks to keep storage boxes off the ground. Place your washer and dryer on elevated pedestals to prevent electrical shock in preparation for any potential flooding.

    Tackle your outdoor area(s)

    Sweep up cobwebs and debris with a broom, and wash exterior walls with a solution of all-purpose cleaner and water using a sponge. Treat mildew spots with a solution of 1 part oxygen bleach to 3 parts water using a deck brush. Most materials - including aluminum, plastic, wood, and wicker - can handle a solution of mild dish washing liquid and water and a soft-bristle brush. Wash all outside covers, and check for damaged wires and connections on outside fixtures.

    A quick sweep in case of emergencies

    Lastly, make sure fire and CO2 alarms have fresh batteries and test them to make sure they are functioning as they should. It’s up to you to confirm that Massachusetts safety codes are being properly met on your property.

  • 03/08/2017

    Landlords, the Spring Rental Season is Coming! Are you ready?


    Match Day is coming! This means rentals will be in high demand as medical students from all over the U.S. will be making plans to move to Boston to complete their residencies.

    If you have an apartment on a June or July lease, now is the time to reach out to your existing tenants to confirm if they are staying for another year. After the Match Day rush comes the busiest rental day of the year, September 1st. It will be here before we know it, so begin to reach out to those tenants in June.

    If you will have availability, let the professional rental team at Unlimited Sotheby's International Realty help you find new, high quality tenants during the flurry of the Spring rental market. We’ve got over 75 years of combined experience, a new office in Newton Centre, and a proven marketing strategy to ensure top exposure for your properties.

    To learn more, email us at rentals@unlimitedsir.com, visit our website at unlimitedsir.com or stop by one of our three high-profile offices in Brookline, Jamaica Plain or Newton.

    Sick of managing properties yourself? Don't forget that Boston Property Care is a full-service property management company with more than 20 years of experience. Learn more about us at bostonpropertycare.com.

  • 03/01/2017

    DIY Guide to Spring Roof Maintenance


    With Spring just around the corner it's time to check your home for Winter damages. Harsh winter conditions can cause all sorts of roof issues once the snow and ice melt away. A roofing contractor can be hired for an inspection, but it is also something you can do yourself. Here’s a DIY guide to spring roof maintenance:

    1. Survey your shingles carefully

    This involves getting up on a ladder and actually scanning your shingles. You should look for shingles that are missing, peeling, or losing their grain. Sun exposure can cause asphalt shingles to become brittle and to crack. If you notice peeling, missing or grain-less shingles, replace or repair them.

    2. Clean moss and mold from your roof’s shingles

    If you notice moss or mold growing on or in between your shingles, remove it. Do not power wash moss or mold off of your shingles; power washing can remove the protective top layer from your shingles. Buy a roof moss remover solution and spray your roof with it, and then remove the moss with a long-handled broom.

    3. Tighten metal roof bolts
    If you have a metal roof, tighten the bolts of the metal roof in the spring. The cold may have caused them to contract, causing looser connections that need to be corrected. As a bonus, tightening bolts is great preparation for those upcoming summer and autumn storm seasons.

    4. Clean your gutters and downspouts
    Gutter cleaning is an annoying job, but you can definitely do it yourself. Get out your ladder and a garden trowel. Scoop all of the leaves and debris out of your gutter, and be sure to clean out the entrance and exit of the downspout. Secure your gutter if it is loose.

    5. Repair chimney and skylight flashing
    Flashing is the metal strips that seal the juncture between your chimney or skylight and your roof. Strong winds and snow can cause the flashing to come loose. Tack down the flashing in order to prevent leaks from summer and spring rain storms.

    6. Clean out soffit and fascia vents
    Small animals love to nest in soffit and fascia vents. Their warmth is an attractive option for cold animals during the winter months. Inspect and clean soffit and fascia vents to prevent unwanted pests from nesting there.

    7. Stay safe
    As with any DIY roof maintenance work, be mindful of safety. If your roof is in serious disrepair or is simply too high or steep for you to maintain yourself, call a professional roofer.



    Image Credit

  • 02/23/2017

    Six Boston Safety Codes to Keep Up-to-Date On


    Did you know that Massachusetts has the fourth oldest housing stock in the country? While our excess in historical buildings helps decide this figure, there’s more to it than meets the eye. Over seventy percent of Bay State homes were built before 1980. Much can change over the years, including the deterioration of a building due to age and damage.

    Safety codes have also changed significantly in that time frame; are you aware of the regulations that your units need to follow? Refresh your knowledge with six of the most serious safety codes below:

    1. Smoke detectors
    Smoke detectors are usually a de facto addition to all properties, but you may not know that you need at least one smoke detector for every 1,200 square feet of area. You’ll also need a smoke detector in every bedroom, just outside of each bedroom, and one for stairwells that lead to another occupied floor. Common areas – including basements, hallways, and every level of a staircase – need at least one as well.

    More information on smoke detector regulations

    2. Carbon monoxide detectors
    Residential units also need carbon monoxide detectors on each level of the dwelling, including finished basements and cellars. Further regulations apply if your unit has an indoor garage or “contains fossil fuel burning equipment”. Both carbon monoxide and smoke detectors must be tested regularly and placed within the minimum required locations.

    More information on carbon monoxide detector regulations

    3. Lead paint
    Despite its high toxicity, lead has been widely used in paint for its long-lasting durability. Because lead paint regulations weren’t put in place until the late 1970s, up to eighty percent of housing in Boston could contain lead. The Massachusetts Lead Law requires that all homes built before 1978 be de-leaded if a child under six years old lives there. The good news is that Massachusetts offers multiple financial programs to offset the cost of removing lead from your property, including tax credit for qualifying owners.

    More information on lead paint regulations

    4. Mold
    Mold is one of the top environmental hazards in residences, thriving in areas with poor ventilation or humidity problems. Anything from an accidental spill to a leak in plumbing, can bring mold into your building. Although there’s no laws in Massachusetts specifying a landlord’s mold responsibility, landlords can still be held accountable if tenants claim that a mold problem has been created or allowed to continue due to a landlord’s negligence. Mold is an indicator of water damage and faulty moisture control regardless, so it’s definitely worth it to take care of mold complaints right away.

    More information on mold prevention

    5. Maximum occupancy limit
    Boston housing officials are cracking down on residences that could be overcrowded, especially student apartments. Landlords may be on the hook to obtain a special license for a lodging house if found in violation. For an area with such a high concentration of college students, Greater Boston landlords that rent to this group must be careful that their properties are not overcrowded and do not have unsafe living conditions.

    More information on landlord and tenant laws

    6. Weather-related conditions
    Under Massachusetts law, landlords are responsible for keeping points of entry and exit – which include doorways and stairways – free from snow and ice. Although not explicitly stated, landlords should make sure that sidewalks and driveways are also snow and ice-free to avoid liability in the event of personal injury. We all know how easy it is to slip on ice in New England! Even if your tenant is legally responsible for shoveling their outdoor space, you can still be held responsible for slips and falls on snow and ice as the property owner. Make sure that all walkways are kept clear of obstructions to guarantee the safety of your renters and their visitors.

    More information on weather-related conditions

  • 02/07/2017

    Boston Rental Prices are Plateauing: What Changes May Lie Ahead


    Developers have been adding more and more inventory to the Boston rental market over the last couple of years, with even more units set to become available in the coming months. This influx of new properties has driven overall rental prices down in Boston for the first time in years. What does this mean for the average landlord – and what should you expect moving forward?

    Manage Your Properties Effectively

    The waves of volatility in any investment market are especially prevalent in real estate: unlike other types of investments, real estate is tangible and requires more management than a financial advisor can typically provide.  The best way to ride this particular wave is to maintain the positive relationship you have with your tenants. Understand your responsibilities and make sure your tenants know theirs. Show some appreciation to the great tenants you have. Keeping world-class tenants in your properties is the way to go in handling any insecurity in the real estate market.

    Realtor Fees

    The easiest, most stress-free way to find tenants is through listing your property with a real estate agent – they’re the ones that will take care of advertising your unit and vetting potential tenants, typically in exchange for one months’ rent as their commission. In Boston, where rent is one of the highest in the country, this fee normally falls on the tenants instead of the landlords. With more demand for housing than there is supply, it’s the ones that are looking for housing that shell out a bit extra. With a shift in the balance, however, the market itself could tip in someone else’s favor.

    “In a landlord's market, where there are more people looking than quality places, renters pay the fee; in a renter’s market, where there is an excess of inventory, landlords pay it,” says Al Norton, our rental manager here at Boston Property Care. With rents leveling out after years of growth, this could result in the landlord paying more for an agent’s help.

    This doesn’t mean that landlords will find themselves shelling out more, but instead means that they may split the costs of a agent with their tenants. Norton notes that “there are times when it’s split 50/50” between the landlord and tenant, which is again determined by the strength of the market. Sometimes landlords might consider paying realty fees as a way to stand out in a crowded market, and that may be smarter for them than dropping the rent. Landlords can write off the fee plus it keeps the base rent high for tenants who stay for multiple years.

    You Might Actually See Rent Increase

    News on Boston’s falling rent may be music to your ears… if you invested in the right neighborhood. Some of Boston’s most in-demand neighborhoods, such as Beacon Hill and Back Bay, actually saw a decrease in rent in 2016. The biggest gains were made by neighborhoods that are just outside the city center, including Mission Hill and Roxbury, which saw increases of up to 15%.
    Even if your neighborhood saw a decrease in rent prices, it’s not time to sell just yet. Boston’s rental prices have declined by six percent overall, but the city is still one of the most expensive places to live in the United States. The most expensive places may be levelling off with their farther counterparts, but real estate will retain some hefty value in the long run.

  • 01/23/2017

    What to Look For in your Property Management Company




    Boston rental prices are the third highest in the country, only beaten by San Francisco and New York City in the latest available survey. With Boston stepping into its own as a world-class city, property investments in and around the metro area are primed to secure positive returns now more than ever. To get the most advantage out of your investment, landlords look to property management companies to oversee the needs of properties and offer a work-life balance in the bargain. A reputable property management company takes the stress away from taking care of your rental by handling rent collection, maintenance calls, and communicating with your tenants. There’s superb value in teaming up with the right property manager for you with a professional relationship that could last for years.

    The demand for Boston property managers continues to rise, with more than half of Boston landlords using a property manager and another 26% searching for one. There is no one-size-fits-all property management company, and finding the one that best fits your needs is a task in and of itself. Below are some helpful tips for choosing a property management company for any landlord.

    First, find a company with expertise in your area – Boston housing must be prepared for Boston snowstorms, Nor’easters, and even hurricanes as a proud part of New England. Maintenance issues happen to even the most immaculate rental units, and the best property manager is one that deals with them immediately.

    Seasoned Boston property managers will also know what to do to minimize damage and ensure the safety of your tenants. They know the answers to all maintenance questions: who’s the best plumber to have on hand? What landscaping company should you use? What’s the best way to market your units in case of vacancies? No matter what life throws at your property, your PM must understand the steps to be taken to best protect your investment in the long run. 

    Next, search for a property manager that is both professional and transparent. Knowing how a property manager will take care of maintenance issues as they crop up will save you further time and money down the line. With a number of ways for such issues to get resolved, it’s important to understand the procedures your property manager will follow. Your agreement with your property manager should clearly define the expectations and responsibilities for the manager and the owner. It’s a red flag if a property management company is vague about their capabilities; make sure you understand the logistics that go into working with them.

    If you’re looking for a management company that’s right for you, Boston Property Care could be it! Boston Property Care is equipped to handle properties of all sizes and will watch over your investment so you don't have to. We provide full service building management for condominiums, apartments and rental units within Jamaica Plain, Boston, Brookline, Newton, Cambridge and surrounding Greater Boston communities. 

    Our goal is to give our owners and residents the ultimate property management experience by providing pleasant, professional, and honest service. We work hard to maintain our commitment, and strive to exceed expectations every step of the way.

    Interested? Contact us now or connect with us online.

  • 01/09/2017

    The Little Things: 10 Items That Make You a Good Landlord

     
    Whether you’re an accidental landlord or a seasoned pro, it’s always a step in the right direction to make a good impression with your tenants. What’s even better is how little it costs to ensure a great working relationship and return on investment for all parties. It’s the little things that go a long way in giving you happy tenants and a great reputation, for both new tenants and old ones.
     

    Do you have tenants moving in? Here are some of the most useful items to leave in your unit:
     

    1. Light bulbs – energy efficient light bulbs are surprisingly inexpensive at most hardware stores: some selections are available for less than two dollars. This low cost saves your tenants another trip down the road and one less item for them to worry about.
    2. Toilet paper – your new renters are knee-deep in hauling their possessions inside, unpacking boxes, organizing the space, and getting used to their new home… only to head into the bathroom and realize they haven’t brought along toilet paper. Save the day by leaving behind a roll or two so they won’t have to rush out on a stressful day.
    3. Ice cube trays – often overlooked until a hot summer day or an injury, ice cube trays are a great addition to their freezer that shows you took extra care in treating your tenant's right.
    4. Shower curtain – a shower curtain or liner not only gives the bathroom a finished look, but saves your tenants from wet floors and headaches as they settle in.
    5. Change of address booklets – your renters have lived somewhere else before moving to your unit, and they will need to let the post office know at some point that their mailing address has changed. Make sure they get it done sooner rather than later by providing a booklet per tenant upon their move-in.

    Are your tenants settled or have been renting for a while? Show your appreciation with some of the following ideas:

    1. Perks – great tenants are hard to find, especially long-term tenants. Offer them a nice perk for signing the lease with you for another year or for referring another great tenant to your company. Some examples could be a one time maid service, free carpet cleaning, free fan installation, or other great services that your renter will value.
    2. Cleaning supplies – messes happen in even the neatest of homes, and it’s great to have paper towels or all-purpose cleaner on hand for small accidents.
    3. Cookware – a quality pot, pan, or cutting board will last for ages and will be a steadfast help to tenants making dinner at home.
    4. Tool kit – a small or pocket tool kit is great to have on hand for fixing a loose door knob or unscrewing a tenant’s IKEA piece. It encourages your renters to take the initiative on small fixes and may even save you a phone call in the process!
    5. Holiday gift – nothing says “thank you” better than a gift during the holiday season. Anything from Walmart or Amazon gift cards to baked goods from your favorite bakery will leave your tenants overjoyed you thought of them.
    The icing on the cake? Any of these little things to give to your renters are also tax-deductible, leaving both your tenants and your wallet pleased with your foresight and thoughtful thinking.

  • 12/05/2016

    Snow Removal and Landscaping: What Landlords are Responsible For?



    Now that the holiday season is in full swing, it’s only a matter of time before Boston becomes a winter wonderland. Both tenants and landlords alike will contend with dropping temperatures, rising heating costs, and the frustrations of snow buildup and commute delays. When it comes to taking care of your rental units, make sure you understand what your responsibilities are in terms of landscaping and snow removal, as we move into the new year.

    Snow Removal


    Under Massachusetts law, landlords are responsible for keeping points of entry and exit – which include doorways and stairways – free from snow and ice. Although not explicitly stated, landlords should make sure that sidewalks and driveways are also snow- and ice-free to avoid liability in the event of personal injury. We all know how easy it is to slip on ice in New England!

    While some leases stipulate that tenants are responsible for snow removal, such a provision is only legal in very specific circumstances that may not apply to your property. Even if your tenant is legally responsible for shoveling their outdoor space, you can still be held responsible for slips and falls on snow and ice as the property owner. A 2010 Massachusetts court decision ruled that landlords must maintain a safe environment after a snowstorm. Make sure that all walkways are kept clear of obstructions to guarantee the safety of your renters and their visitors. 

     

    Landscaping


    A beautiful exterior can make you much more attractive to potential tenants and greatly increase the value of your property. With landscaping as one of the first impressions others have of your units, ensure that your lawn and shrubbery are taken care of in the colder months. The good news is that most lawns require little to no maintenance until spring begins. However, if there are trees or bushes it’s a good idea to clear them of any dead branches and other hazards that can cause trouble with strong winds or a snowstorm. 


    Other Outdoor Maintenance


    Clearing gutters, raking leaves, and further outdoor maintenance are often gray areas of responsibility if the lease does not specify who is in charge of what. Such property care in Boston can save you thousands in accrued value and escaping what pitfalls may come from clogged gutters and yard debris. As a landlord, you should at least take care of any repairs that are needed for the exterior. Your property management company will easily take care of additional upkeep; otherwise, talk with your tenants about the division of responsibilities.


    Heating


    For the months of shorter days and freezing conditions, heating is a must-have for tenants. Massachusetts laws about winter heating officially state that landlords must provide heat for residences from September 15th to June 15th each year. In general, homes must be heated to at least 64 degrees at night and 68 degrees during the day. See mass.govfor more information on heating for your units.


    Questions about your responsibilities as a landlord? Want to have someone else manage your landscaping care? Contact us at Boston Property Care for more information!

  • 11/21/2016

    Black Friday is the perfect time to upgrade your appliances and more!



    After the Thanksgiving leftovers are stowed away and the last family members leave for home, millions of Americans flock to stores nationwide for annual deals and Christmas gifts during Black Friday. Landlords can also get in on the action and find discounted appliances and home additions for their rental units. Here we’ve compiled some of the best deals being offered throughout the Boston area. Start strategizing and get your credit card ready!





















     




    Store
    : Sears
    Closest Location: 100 Cambridgeside Place, Cambridge
    Best Deal: 40% Off Kenmore Appliances
    From ovens and refrigerators to washers and dryers, Sears is offering great deals you don’t want to miss in furnishing your rental units. All Kenmore appliances – including refrigerators, washers, dryers and dishwashers – will be on sale and ready for the taking.




















    Store: Ace Hardware
    Closest Location: 22 Harvard Ave, Allston
    656 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain
    Deals: Craftsman 12-gal. Wet/Dry Vacuum $39.99 (orig. $89.99) and Craftsman 21-in. Single Stage Snow Thrower $379.99 (orig. $499.99)
    Ace Hardware is offering two deals especially appealing to Boston landlords. A Craftsman wet/dry vacuum is being sold for $50 off the original price; you can’t beat that when it comes to cleaning unit flooring. Additionally, for those winter days spent shoveling snow from sidewalks and front steps, the Craftsman Snow Thrower will be $120 off original price.
























    Store: Target
    Closest Location: 1341 Boylston Street, Boston
    Deals: Up to $100 off kitchen appliances
    If you’re targeting special Black Friday discounts (note the pun) Target should be on the list of stores you visit. The biggest deals are on kitchen appliances – where you can snag kitchenware for up to $100 off – but you can also get savings of 40% and more for furnishings like chairs and kitchen barstools.










    Store: Amazon
    Location: www.amazon.com
    Deals: Up to 60% off select home appliances and power tools
    Amazon’s Black Friday may be overwhelming with over 30,000 deals to take advantage of, but the deals are unbeatable with up to 60% off select home appliances and power tools. This includes premier screwdriver sets at 35% off or storage drawers for 45% off.
















    Store: Bed Bath & Beyond
    Closest Location: 401 Park Drive, Boston
    Deals: Dyson Ball Animal Upright Vacuum for $299.99 (orig. $499.99)
    Buying a Dyson Ball vacuum of this caliber will normally run you $500, but Bed Bath & Beyond is offering it for $200 off retail value. If that’s not enough, they will take an additional 20% off your receipt if you make it to their store before 12 PM. How’s that for super savings?























    Store: The Home Depot
    Closest Location: 5 Allstate Road, Boston
    Deals: Up to 40% off major appliances; Free delivery for appliances $396 or more
    With name brand refrigerators, ovens, microwaves and other major appliances available, The Home Depot is offering up to 40% off, leading to hundreds of dollars saved. If that isn’t enticing enough, stores are also offering free delivery of your purchases if you spend at least $396 in-store.























    Store: Best Buy
    Closest Location: 100 Cambridgeside Place, Cambridge
    Deals: Up to $400 off LED TVs
    Look no further than Best Buy’s Black Friday deals for all things tech-related. We’ve found the biggest deal in their LED TVs, which are up $400 off original prices. They are also offering 40% off dishwashers and other major appliances, with the potential of free installation if you buy brand-name dishwashers.























    Store: Pier 1 Imports
    Address: 1351 Beacon Street, Brookline
    Deals: 30% off furniture
    Pier 1 Imports will have hundreds of items on sale up to 30% off, including armchairs, side tables, and much more in-store. Looking for some holiday decorations? Pier 1 Imports has them in abundance for 20% off retail pricing.


    Deals and pictures via TheBlackFriday.com

  • 11/04/2016

    Accidental Landlords: Five Tips for Homeowners that End Up with Tenants


    Are you an accidental landlord?

    You may find yourself as one if you’re a homeowner who has moved away, but decided against selling your property in favor of the rental income you can collect from it. In fact, this may be preferable if your home has depreciated in value in the years since buying it or you’ve moved on to a more reasonably priced alternative. If you suddenly find yourself with a home to rent, here are some suggestions to guide you through your new duty as a landlord.

    1. Understand your Numbers

    Can you pay the mortgage if your unit is vacant for two months or more? Will you stay financially healthy if a tenant fails to pay their rent? These are questions you should address and prepare for in case your property doesn’t turn a profit for any amount of time. Additionally, as an accidental landlord you are also an accidental business owner who may have additional taxes to contend with (although there are also plenty of tax deductions available now that you’re in the real estate business). Taking the time to write out your anticipated revenue, expenses, and profits provides a guideline for the long-term health of your investment.

    2. Have Reserves for Maintenance Costs

    Houses are more complex than meets the eye: with the inner workings for light, temperature, water, and other comforts at work there is the possibility that something must undergo repairs or replacement. Plumbing, electrical, and grounds costs are all examples of unexpected, “hidden” expenses for new landlords. Ensure that there is a maintenance fund set aside to combat such costs so that your tenants will not have to live with a broken pipe, faucet, or fuse for longer than strictly necessary.

    3. Keep the Property Up to Code

    Buildings must comply with municipal building codes for the safety of its inhabitants. Be in violation of these codes and you can face multiple fines and orders to bring it back to code – often at a high price. By ensuring you keep your property up to the standards your area requires, you will have both a functioning home for tenants and a good relationship with them and your city or town. Unsure of what these codes may be? There are online resources to explain landlord’s rights, maintenance codes, and much more.

    4. Be Transparent with your Applicants and Tenants


    Good landlords need good tenants, and good tenants need good landlords. Screen potential tenants to determine whether you’d like them to live in your property. Don’t bring your emotions into the decision: accept only the best fit. Before your tenants move in, go through your expectations with them and ask for the same courtesy in communicating property maintenance issues.  

    5. Hire a Reliable Property Management Company

    With the amount of time and effort that maintaining a rental property requires, many turn to a property management company to take the burden off their shoulders. Property managers make the entire process much smoother and can handle anything that crops up, leaving you with peace of mind. Additionally, property managers will assist you with common headaches in taxes, filling vacancies, collecting rent and handling additional financial or legal concerns.

    Boston Property Care is equipped to handle properties of any size and will watch over your investment so you don't have to. We provide full service building management for condominiums, apartments and rental units within Jamaica Plain, Boston, Brookline, Newton, Cambridge and surrounding Greater Boston communities. We have a strong reputation and an in-depth knowledge of the local market, offering more than 20 years of property management and real estate experience. We can handle property showings, tenant screenings including background checks, landscaping, snow removal, emergency repairs and so much more so you don’t have to!

    Interested in speaking with a property manager? Contact us at 617-648-9804 or read our FAQ to learn more about our services.



  • 06/08/2016

    10 Questions Landlords Can't Ask

    BPC For RentDo you know what questions you can ask as a landlord?

    The rental market is tough these days, especially in big cities. You have to scan the classifieds, jump on opportunities, and be ready to say yes at a moment's notice. So the last thing you need is for some landlord to refuse you a lease because of questions he or she is actually not allowed to ask. Here are 10 of those questions. Getting asked any of them should give you pause.

    1. Where Were You Born?
    It may be an innocent enough question, especially if you have an accent and the landlord picks up on it. But it's actually against the Fair Housing Act to ask questions regarding someone's

    2. Have You Ever Been Arrested for Anything?
    If a landlord is asking this, they're probably trying to protect themselves from someone who could be trouble. But, landlords are simply not allowed to know about your arrest record. They are entitled to know if you were convicted of a crime, and that will come up on a standard background check.

    3. Are You Straight, Gay, or Bisexual?
    This has absolutely no place in the conversation, and cannot be asked by the landlord. It's a direct violation of the Fair Housing Act, and by doing so, the landlord could face severe penalties.
     
    4. Do You Have Any Disabilities?
    Many landlords may be genuinely looking out for you here. They may know that the wheelchair access to the building is very poor, or that it would be a tough building for a blind person to negotiate. Someone with a disability has the same rights to rent a home or apartment as an able-bodied person.

    5. Tell Me About Your Kids
    Another big no-no. Anything relating to kids, whether it's their ages, how many you have, where they go to school, or if you're planning to have any, it's all off limits. Once again, this is all down to the Fair Housing Act.

    6. So, Do You Go to Church Around Here?
    Once again, this may seem like an innocent enough question, but probing about your religion is a direct violation of the Fair Housing Act.

    7. Are You Married?
    You have to wonder why that would be any concern of the landlord. After all, married people do not necessarily make for better, or worse, tenants. Some married couples are model citizens, others fights constantly and may appear on an episode of Cops. But none of this is relevant anyway, because the landlord is not allowed to ask you anything about your marital status.

    8. Are You On Welfare?
    A landlord has every right to ask about income. After all, they need to know that you can pay the rent on time, without any trouble.The landlord cannot pry, and cannot deny anyone tenancy based on that information. If he or she does, it's cause for an investigation by the local authorities.

    9. How Old Are You?
    Seems like a standard question, right? And most rental applications have a "date of birth" section for you to fill in. But, asking about your age is another one of those protected pieces of information covered in the Fair Housing Act.

    10. What Race Are You?
    Similar to the nationality question, this is a huge violation of the Fair Housing Act. No questions about your race can be asked, and if it comes up, you can report the landlord for discrimination.


    Read the Full Article In-Depth at aol.com

  • 03/18/2016



    Today is Match Day. It’s the day when medical students across the country get matched with residency programs. In Greater Boston, this day also marks the unofficial start of the non-undergraduate rental market as students will be moving to the area and searching for places to live.

    Over the course of the next six or so weeks, the majority of June 1 and July 1 apartments will get listed and rented within very short periods of time – sometimes happening within a 24 hour period. If you or someone you know will be moving to Boston as a result of Match Day, here are a few tips to navigate the rental market.

    matchday2015_4Be prepared to make a decision and act quickly. In today’s competitive rental market, it’s not unusual for an apartment to rent within a couple of days of being listed. I usually tell people, “don’t rush into a decision but once you make it, rush to act on it.” The first place you see may very well not be around by the time you are done with seeing apartment number eight.


    Bring a copy of your offer letter. You’ll need to verify employment and income as a part of your rental application.

    Bring your checkbook and something to keep your jaw from dropping. The one month rental fee is being paid almost exclusively by renters now and many landlords are asking for first, last and security (a full month’s rent) upfront.

    matchday2015_3Have a co-signer lined up, even if it’s just in case. Landlords typically don’t want the yearly rent to be more than 30-35% of the yearly household income, and if it is, you will likely need a co-signer – even if you have good credit and references. Landlords are looking for assurance that the rent can be paid. And this leads into our final bullet…

    Don’t take the process too personally. It’s not about if you are nice and if you hold the door for people at Dunkin’ Donuts, it’s a business transaction and for landlords the application approval process is about mitigating risk. There are nice people who do and don’t pay bills every month. So, while a landlord wants the best of both worlds, it’s not a personal affront if they request a co-signer, need to verify your income, or have questions about your credit.

    There ARE good places out there and good agents just waiting to show them to you, so give one of our Unlimited Sotheby’s International Realty offices a call to get started on your search for a new Boston home!

    Al Norton, Rental Manager at Unlimited Sotheby's International Realty

    Al Norton can be reached at 617.669.3811 or rentals@unlimitedsir.com

    Image Credits: 1, 2, 3, 4

  • 01/14/2016

    SAVING WATER=SAVING MONEY

    SAVING WATER=SAVING MONEY

    The average family of four uses roughly 275 gallons of water per day indoors (Source--EPA). To understand how much this is, think of an oil heating tank. That is the amount being consumed every 24 hours.

    Toilets alone use up to 27% of this amount which is almost 75 gallons a day.

    Today's tip: Get better toilets.

    www.niagaraconservation.com
    They make toilets that can cut this amount in HALF. Imagine saving over 35 gallons a day. Take a look at your office water cooler jug and image seven of those a day. Now imagine these stretched out for a year--that's 2555 water jugs! Enough to build a raft that can float 11 Ford F150 pickup trucks.

  • 09/29/2015

    Demystifying Long-Distance Landlording


















    Long-distance landlording seems easy enough — in theory. The tenants mail you checks every month, and you can stop in and check on the property when you’re in the area. But the reality, of course, is far less rosy. Things go wrong. Tenants left unattended and unaccountable may be more likely to push the boundaries, paying rent late or causing damage to the unit. And when renters move out, you’ll be stuck with the process of advertising the property and trying to find another tenant from afar.

    Of course, this isn’t to say that long-distance landlording can’t be done — it most certainly can. You shouldn’t let these difficulties stop you from owning investment property in another area. But it’s important to take the right steps and set up your properties to run profitably without your physical presence.

    Whether you’re already an out-of-town landlord or you’re considering purchasing a rental in another town, here’s what you can do to make sure your investment is set to run efficiently and profitably in your absence.

    Find Local Assistance (Boston Property Care!)

    One of the best options for the long-distance landlord is to find a capable and responsible property manager — they will be your eyes and ears. A good property manager will be able to help with tenant sourcing and screening and should be able to vet prospective tenants more thoroughly than you could online or over the phone. Once a tenant has been found, the property manager will essentially serve as the go-between for tenant and landlord, act in the landlord’s place to collect rent, and perform inspections and maintenance. They will also be able to handle problems that arise, such as emergency repairs, lockouts, or issues concerning the lease. In short, they can save the landlord a tremendous amount of time and hassle.

    If you’re unsure about hiring a property manager and thinking about managing your properties yourself, it’s important to note that location and proximity to the rental are important. The closer you are to the property, the easier it is to stop in for inspections and minor repairs. Much of how you decide to operate depends on whether you wish to have a hands-on or hands-off approach to being a landlord and how much trust you wish to place in those who act on your behalf.

    Get a Schedule for Your Rental Property

    As a long-distance landlord, you’ll want to set up a schedule to keep everyone on the same page. Make sure you’ve planned out trips to the rental at least twice per year. It’s easy to lose track of time between visits, and penciling in dates can help you to plan and budget for travel expenses.

    Monthly
    On a monthly basis, make sure you’re on top of rent payments. Don’t fall into the trap of letting rent slide. It’s easy for a tenant, especially a long-distance one, to take advantage of your generosity and assume that because you let them pay late once, they can pay late again.
    This varies from building to building, of course, but some common monthly maintenance duties include replacing air conditioning filters and lawn maintenance and landscaping tasks.
    Make a note in your calendar to touch base with the tenant occasionally, every month or two, and be sure to schedule regular calls or e-mails just to see how things are going with the rental. Tenants are often reluctant to call the landlord out of the blue to notify them of small issues, so checking in is a good way to prevent minor problems from becoming worse.

    Seasonally
    Keep a running list of maintenance duties. Some long-distance landlords allow the tenants to perform basic maintenance such as mowing the lawn, and in return will deduct an agreed-upon amount from the tenant’s rent. However, other landlords find that having contractors come in for routine maintenance is the best option and keeps tenants from being tempted to find more work that “needs” to be done in order to obtain a credit on the rent. Regardless of whom you choose to perform maintenance, it’s important to have a schedule that will keep everyone accountable and ensure that nothing falls behind.

    A typical seasonal maintenance schedule will look something like this:

    Spring
    • perform walk-around inspection
    • inspect and service air-conditioning units
    • clear all gutters and drains
    • remove insulation from external pipes
    • touch up paint
    • inspect and repair the roof
    • assess tree growth and prune as needed
    Winter
    • drain external pipes and wrap with heat tape
    • turn off water supply to outside spigots
    • clear all gutters and drains
    • store all outdoor equipment for the winter
    • service the heating system
    • inspect the electrical system
    • remove snow and de-ice as needed
    Yearly
    Annually, or at the end of the rental period, be sure to review the terms and conditions of your leases and make sure there’s nothing that should be amended or added. Also, review the rent. Many landlords find that raising the rent even 1 to 3 percent each year helps to keep up with inflation and rising expenses such as taxes, insurance, repairs, and upgrades. Just make sure the increase and your method of notification are in compliance with the state laws where the property is located.

    What About When Things Go Wrong?

    Unfortunately, with rental properties, it’s not a matter of if things go wrong; it’s a matter of when! Have contingency plans for common scenarios such as boilers quitting in the middle of winter and tenants locking themselves out of the unit. This can save you a tremendous amount of time and trouble.

    Having a property manager will be invaluable during a crisis, as they will be onsite to deal with contractors and tenants, find the best person for the job, and make sure the work is completed to your standards.

    If you don’t have a property manager, you’ll want to know whom to call if there’s an emergency. If you’re a considerable distance from the property, it’s extremely helpful to have some contacts in the local area in case something goes wrong. If you don’t have friends and family nearby, take the time to connect with local real estate agents, inspectors, and contractors. In an emergency, you’ll want to have someone who can be at the rental within a relatively short time frame.

    Finally, if you are managing your properties on your own from out of town, make sure you are absolutely certain of the character of your tenants. Don’t rent to anyone who seems less than trustworthy. The wrong tenant can fall behind on the rent or cause a tremendous amount of destruction to the property. In extreme cases, you may even have to deal with an eviction long-distance, which, depending on how cooperative the tenants are, may involve traveling back and forth for court hearings. In the end, it’s just not worth taking a gamble.

    Managing property long-distance can be a challenge, but it’s definitely doable. The best approach is to analyze the way you prefer to operate and design your approach to long-distance property management to fit that model. For landlords who prefer to take a hands-on approach, this means making connections with local contractors and establishing maintenance and emergency plans. For others, finding a reputable property manager is the way to go. Just don’t let distance come between you and the perfect investment opportunity.

    Let us be your local source for all your property management needs so you don't have to worry from afar! Contact us today to get started.

    Source: Realtor Magazine Online

  • 08/06/2015

    Tax Free Weekend is Coming!


    On August 15th and 16th the 6.25% sales tax will be suspended, creating extraordinary deals for those big ticket items! This is a great time to consider purchasing home upgrades for your investment property such as appliances, stoves, dishwashers, refrigerators, and even hot water heaters.

    According to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, the tax-free weekend extends to all single, tangible items (including alcohol) priced less than $2,500. Massachusetts residents will save the 6.25% sales tax not only on Back-to-School supplies, but also on larger purchases like smartphones, electronics, laptops, TVs, appliances and furniture.

    There are a few things under $2,500 that are taxable though, including cars, boats, tobacco products, meals, utilities, and rentals (cars, clothes, movies, etc.).

    Tax-free weekend also applies to online shopping! You can get amazing deals and never leave the comfort of your couch. Fighting the crowds of people in stores is over. Keep an eye on places like Sears, Home Depot, Lowe's, Costco and more for exciting sales as the tax-free weekend approaches.

    Happy Shopping!

    PS Don't forget to see what Property Management Services we offer - Click HERE to find out.

  • 06/30/2015

    9 Ways to Make Your Small Space Look Bigger

    Moving into your first apartment? Or buying your first Boston condo? As a city dweller, here are some helpful tips to make your cozy space look bigger.
      http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-living-room-interior-design-image24141192http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-interior-modern-apartment-image24354603http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-amazing-modern-living-room-image11857429
    1. Space it out– A small space doesn’t mean you have to be cramped. Try angling your bed or float the sofa in the living room with a skinny console behind it. Breathing room around your furniture lends the appearance of more space.
    2. Use multifunctional pieces– Investing in furniture that serves many functions is a simple way to streamline a room. Try a vintage steamer trunk or an ottoman with built-in storage to tuck away blankets and books for a clean look.
    3. Use mirrors– Mirrors are the quickest way to make a room appear larger. While you may not want wall-to-wall, lean an oversized full-length one against a key wall or hang multiple ones salon style to create a statement wall
    4. Fold it up– Dining tables that are small or that have drop leaves, which allow it to become smaller when not in use are ideal for small areas, meaning you can make the most of your eating-slash-living area.
    5. Go monochromatic– Paint your walls, trim, and detailing in different shades of one color, such as white, off-white, and beige to expand a room. You can also try pairing gallery white walls with a very pale gray on trim and detailing for an open-air French-inspired room.
    6. Get perspective– Skip the dark-inducing drapes and leave your windows uncovered. This will trick your eyes into thinking that your pad’s got depth — and reveal the natural landscape outside. If your room requires some privacy, try gauzy sheer white drapes for an airy feel that will keep prying eyes out.
    7. Think big– It’s easy to assume that you should decorate a small space with small furniture, right? But one prominent furniture piece such as a statement armchair will keep the space uncluttered and open.
    8. Pop your ceilings– While bright white opens up a room (on walls), going for a dark ceiling creates depth while fun fixtures draw your eye upward, creating the illusion of height.
    9. Color code– Give your favorite items a little structure by arranging by color and height. This will turn a potential clutter disaster into a streamlined display with personality.
    Source: MSN Living

  • 03/31/2015

    10 Actions to Take Today if You’re Serious About Purchasing Your First Property


    By following the these 10 steps you can be on your way to purchasing your first home for investment and then let us take care of the rest!

    1) Gather all your financial information in one place.

    2) Examine your expenses.

    3) Decide where you want to buy.

    4) Check your credit score.

    5) Demonstrate a history of standard life payments

    6) Gather important legal and tax documents.

    7) Contact a local agent.

    8) Contact a local bank and get a pre-qualification letter.

    9) Set aside cash for your earnest money and down payment.

    10) Set up automatic alerts for MLS Properties in your area.


    These are the minimum steps required but our staff at Boston Property Care includes licensed agents that are willing to help you find the right property and manage it for you!

    Read in depth about each of these points at Bigger Pockets

  • 10/28/2014

    Reminder: Daylight Saving Time is November 2nd


  • 10/21/2014

    Cost Saving Tips for the Property Manager in Us All



    ‘A Penny Saved is Twopence Dear’ — Poor Richard’s Proverbs


    Generally interpreted as ‘A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned’, Benjamin Franklin’s wisdom is as true now as it was centuries ago.  Property owners are limited in their options for making more money.  One can only improve the property so much before there is a diminishing return and the market will dictate only so much rent.  Assuming one has done all they can on that front, what other options are there?

    Here are some facts on water consumption:
    • The average family of four can use up to 400 gallons of water…a day.
    • A bathroom faucet generally runs 2 gallons…per minute (GPM).
    • Shower heads generally run from a high of more than 4 GPM on older models to a low of 2.5 GPM for the new federally mandated heads.
    •  Low flow toilets (standard now since the 1990s) still use 1.6 Gallons per flush.
    • Top loading washers can use up to 54 Gallons…per load.

    Although the Commonwealth does allow for water metering to the tenant, the requirements to be able to do this may be expensive, time consuming, and not always possible.  In the vast majority of cases, it is the property owner that pays and the only motivation for a tenant to conserve is personal choice.

    The good news is that there are products on the market that can cut deeply into some of the above numbers and their cost is surprisingly reasonable.

    Here’s where to start:
    • Faucets are a good place to start.  This source makes up about 15% of our water consumption.  Most faucets are equipped with aerators.  This is the ‘thingy’ on the tip of the faucet that keeps water from coming out in one big stream.   The purpose is to prevent splashing and save water.  Swap out the aerator from the common 2.5 GPM to a 1 GPM or even 0.5 GPM version.  This is a savings of up to 80%.  The volume goes down, but the pressure remains the same for washing hands and rinsing toothbrushes.
    • Shower heads are another place to save money.  Showers make up close to one fifth of household water use.  Swapping out an older 4-5 GPM head for a 2.5 GPM is a savings of close to 50%, but going further and using a 1-1.5 GPM head will see a savings of close to 75%.  Remember, it’s the pressure, not the volume that really counts.
    • Toilets today are now generally 1.6 gallon flush models (older homes may still have the 3.5 gallon versions).  1.25, dual flush, and even some 1.0 models are now out.  There is one available using only 0.8 gallons per flush.  This is a 50% savings from the federal requirement.  Toilets make up over a quarter of household water consumption.
    • Washing Machines use over 21% of household water.  Front loading washers generally use 20-25 gallons per load which is close to a 50% savings over a traditional top load model.  Front loading washers are more expensive than top loaders which is a consideration to take into account.
    • Rain barrels are increasingly more common as a way to provide a water source for outdoor gardening.  One inch of rain on a roof surface of 1000sqft can harvest up to 600 gallons.  While it may not provide all the water needs for the outside, it is an effective, low cost way to make another dent into water usage.

    Bringing down water consumption saves money.  Using these applications can do that without relying on the tenant to change their habits and should not make a substantive difference in quality of life.  We at Boston Property Care have helped several of our clients make these changes on their properties without any complaint from tenants.

    Boston Property Care is dedicated to providing not only the best service to our clients but also committed in adding value as part of our mission.  We welcome you to find out how by contacting us.

    Contributed by:
    Thomas O’Connor, Property Manager, Boston Property Care

    Sources:

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