What are your rental property’s best features?

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve owned rental properties in Houston TX, or the surrounding area, you’re going to one day face the prospect of your rentals competing with other rentals in the area that may have better features and or amenities. The key to success when this happens is for you to highlight your rental properties best features by doing the following.

Photograph the right features
The first step in highlighting your property’s most sellable features is to share photos of the right features—a.k.a. the features your potential tenants will care most about. These features can be both design-focused and functional; a mix of the two may appeal to the widest audience. Focus on features like crown molding, new appliances, large outdoor or patio space, and newly renovated areas of the home.

To make sure tenants see the property from every angle, put the images into a collage: “This allows somebody glancing through listings to see interior and exterior shots all at once. Because our homes are so beautifully staged, the split photos get a lot of attention and sets it apart from every other listing,” says Paul Moore, of Smith Mountain Homes.

You can also add multiple images to Facebook Carousel ads or Instagram’s new multi-photo upload feature to create a well-rounded view of the property.

Do virtual home tours
What better way to highlight your property than with a virtual tour? You can do this by taking a phone video and uploading to YouTube, or take live video with your Facebook or Instagram business page. Either way, this is also a great opportunity to engage with potential renters, so while giving the tour, ask questions. You might say:

“We just finished this bathroom, and added the brand new clawfoot tub. Do you like that vintage style? Tell me in the comments!”

“Tenants love using the back yard for grilling and hanging out with friends—the grill over there comes with the property. How often would you use this area?”

If creating all videos on a social platform, be sure to download them and upload to your YouTube channel. You can begin creating different sections for each rental property, so anyone interested in your listings can get walking tours whenever they want.

Share high-quality images

Photographing the right features is important, and the next step is taking high-quality photos. Luckily, you don’t need an expensive camera or photography experience to do that. The new iPhone 7, for example, has made it even easier for you to get expert-quality photos all on your own, thanks to its new dual lens camera, which features a wide angle and telephoto lens, according to iPhone 7 Rumors Confirmed.

Other new phones like the HTC M8 also have this feature, making it possible for you to take photos with depth of field. This is a feature traditionally found only in expensive SLR and DSLR cameras, providing you with a great opportunity for you to get high-quality photos without spending a lot.

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For affordable and professional property management contact Vestpro Residential Services today by calling us at (832) 971-1841, connect with us online, or find us on Facebook.

Common Questions Asked By New Tenants

Are you just getting started with owning rental properties? If so, you’re not alone. Many people have purchased their first investment properties in the last year only to find out that there are common questions that every tenant asks when they express an interest in renting a new property that’s why in this article we’ve compiled a list of common questions asked by new tenants.

1. How much are rent and deposits, and how do I pay rent?

Prospects occasionally see outdated listings with old price points. Make sure you know current amounts for rent and deposits when you engage with prospects. You must also keep a standardized policy for the way your property handles those who bring in expired pricing offers. For compliance purposes, stick to this policy for all prospects.

It’s also important to clarify how tenants can pay rent. An online rent payment system is of tremendous value to tenants, as it allows them to pay by credit card, electronic check, ACH and more at no cost to your company. Offering a range of payment options helps to reduce late rent payments.

If you charge a non-refundable deposit (assuming it’s legal in your state), make it clear in the lease. Though the tenant is responsible for reading the lease thoroughly, consider emphasizing this fact before they sign.

You should also anticipate encountering prospects who will try to bargain or haggle. They might hope for a slightly discounted rent – say $100 per month – after hearing the average utility costs. Rather than getting caught off guard, consider beforehand if you’re willing to drop rent on the unit. Think of other contingencies as well, such as accepting a somewhat lower rent if they’ll sign a longer lease, which leads to…

2. Will you accept a shorter lease, or can we pay less if we’ll sign a longer lease than you’re asking for?

Property managers commonly want a minimum of a one-year lease, but what happens when a four-month vacancy has a prospect inquiring about a six-month lease? Decide the terms you will accept in advance and keep them consistent. Ideally, your community should develop a specific policy and hold to it. You should also have some idea as to whether you’ll drop the rent if the prospect signs a lease longer than your minimum requirement or, alternatively, guarantee the rate will not rise.

3. Do you allow pets? How about exotic pets?

You likely have a firm policy, as well as related deposits and pet rents, concerning dogs and cats. However, people keep everything from lizards to ferrets to sugar gliders (yes that is the name of a real animal). Develop a consistent and comprehensive approach to exotic pets for prospective tenants who ask about them. Keep in mind that while some can damage properties, others are fairly innocuous and unlikely to leave any lasting record of their stay. If you do allow cats, dogs or other animals you feel might compromise the property, clearly spell out the consequences of any damage (from charges to eviction notices) in the lease.

4. What’s your tenant screening process?

Some people will seek more information regarding your screening process. If you use tenant screening, you can familiarize yourself with the criteria and databases the company uses.

People familiar with credit checks may also ask if your community performs a hard or soft inquiry given that hard inquiries have an impact on credit scores.

To avoid Fair Housing problems, always clarify that you use an objective screening system based purely on numbers. Never make decisions based on race, religion or other controversial factors. Working with a screening service that uses objective methods will also help ensure compliance.

Get Property Management Here

Save the time, money and hassle of managing rental properties yourself, contact Vestpro Residential today by calling us at (832) 971-1841, connect with us online, or find us on Facebook.

Tenant Screening – Changes You Need To Know

There’s no doubt that tenant screening can be one of the most complicated aspects of owning rental properties because you have to follow the requirements of the Fair Housing Act and not offend anyone. 

In 2017 tenant screening has gotten a little more complicated for owners thanks to recent policy updates from the Department of Housing And Urban Development.

HUD rolled out a 10-page policy update last year advising all landlords and property managers that using criminal history for the purpose of tenant screening may actually be discriminatory. HUD notes that nearly one-third of the U.S. population (or 100 million U.S. adults) have a criminal record of some sort, and the misuse of background checks during the tenant screening process can hinder their ability to find safe, secure, and affordable housing—a key aspect of rehabilitation. Sometimes, even those who have been arrested but not convicted have difficulty securing housing based upon their prior arrest.

Black and Latino Americans are disproportionately affected, the memo notes, as they are incarcerated at rates disproportionate to their share of the general population. Black and Latino individuals comprise an estimated 58% of the U.S. prison population, despite accounting for only 25% of the total U.S. population.

Consequently, the memo states:

Criminal records-based barriers to housing are likely to have a disproportionate impact on minority home seekers. While having a criminal record is not a protected characteristic under the Fair Housing Act, criminal history-based restrictions on housing opportunities violate the Act if, without justification, their burden falls more often on renters or other housing market participants of one race or national origin over another (i.e., discriminatory effects liability). Additionally, intentional discrimination in violation of the Act occurs if a housing provider treats individuals with comparable criminal history differently because of their race, national origin, or other protected characteristic (i.e., disparate treatment liability).

This does not mean that criminal history cannot be considered at all during the tenant screening process. Instead, HUD is basically telling landlords and property managers:

You cannot institute a blanket ban on all applicants with a criminal history.

You cannot reject a tenant based upon an arrest that did not result in conviction.

You must treat comparable criminal histories similarly without consideration of race, national origin, or other protected classes.

Because Black and Latino Americans are incarcerated at higher rates than their peers, any blanket policy for tenant screening that bans applicants with a criminal history would inadvertently discriminate against minorities. HUD cites a Supreme Court decision in reminding us that simply being arrested often has little probative value in showing that someone has actually engaged in misconduct—which is why arrests without convictions should not be used as the basis for denying a tenant.

Convictions are treated differently. Landlords and property managers may reject an applicant whose background check reveals that he/she has been convicted of a crime. There’s one big caveat: The landlord or property manager must show that excluding a person with a conviction achieves a “substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory purpose.” To put it simply, you have to distinguish between criminal activity that creates a demonstrable risk to resident safety and/or property, and criminal conduct that does not.

Given the new HUD guidelines, landlords and property managers should consider the following questions when reviewing a person’s criminal history:

Was the applicant convicted of a crime, or were they just arrested?

What was the severity of the crime?

How long ago was the crime committed?

Has the person reoffended since their original conviction?

Was it a drug-related crime? (HUD allows a blanket ban on those who have been convicted of illegal drug manufacturing or distribution.)

New Guidelines for Tenant Screening

HUD’s new policy memo has the downside of making the tenant screening process more complicated than it already is. It muddies the waters in terms of how landlords and property managers evaluate criminal history, as there is no guidance on which crimes should generally considered acceptable and which are not. Landlords and property managers are asked to use their discretion, with the memo acknowledging the need to look at circumstances on a case-by-case basis.

Here are a few tips to help you to comply with the new guidelines:

Screen tenants based on their financial and other qualifications first. Only conduct a background check if a person appears to be otherwise qualified. This will protect you from denying a tenant based upon another qualification, and having the tenant argue that they were denied based upon their criminal background.

If a background check reveals a criminal history, evaluate the nature of the crime (see questions above). If you plan to deny a person based upon this information, put a note in your internal file explaining why you felt a denial was appropriate (e.g. how this protects you, other tenants, and the property). Sign and date the note. This will protect you if the applicant ever alleges discrimination.

Review all existing rental policies and applicant screening procedures. Some landlords or companies may be facing a complete overhaul given the new HUD guidelines. Be sure that all members of your team clearly understand the new policies so they can be implemented uniformly by all.

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For affordable and professional property management contact Vestpro Residential today by calling us at (832) 971-1841 or click here to connect with us online.

 

 

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HUD Anti-Discrimination Laws You Didn’t Know You Were Breaking

In 2015, the enforcement division of the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced 10 separate charges against landlords and property managers for various types of discrimination.

No ethical landlord wants to commit unlawful discrimination. But some honest employees or landlords run into trouble accidentally, despite the best of intentions, by making a mistake during the screening process, asking an innocent but misguided question or making an ill-considered remark that can form the basis of a discrimination complaint.

Let’s look at some of the mistakes made by landlords and property managers that led to discrimination charges.

Asking About Mental Health, Medical Status or Diagnoses

In one Minnesota case, a woman diagnosed with bipolar disorder attempted to rent a house with her partner. Shortly before move-in, the landlord’s agent became aware of the applicant’s history of mental health issues, and called the prospective tenant asking if there were any “issues” she wanted to disclose before moving in. The tenant disclosed her diagnosis of bipolar disorder. The agent asked for more information, but the renter told her it was “none of her business.” Subsequently, the landlord refused to rent the dwelling.

HUD Prosecutors deemed the mere inquiry into the mental health diagnosis to be a violation of 42 U.S.C. Section 361(g)(2)(A), and assessed a $16,000 civil penalty against the landlord, in addition to damages.

Discriminatory Advertising Language

In a Philadelphia case, HUD officials were alerted to a Craigslist rental advertisement containing these words: “Not good for young children.” HUD officials investigated and applied to rent the dwelling. Two HUD test coordinators called the lister, one claiming to have a 2-year old daughter, and the other posing as a single man.

The lister told the female caller that the dwelling was directly above a construction business with a lot of heavy truck traffic. The dwelling would be fine for adults, the lister explained, but dangerous to young children. The lister also told the male investigator that he wanted to rent to adults with no children because of the traffic.

HUD officials deemed the actions of the landlord’s representative to constitute illegal discrimination based on familial status. The advertisement was illegal under 42 U.S.C. Section 3604(c) and 24 C.F.R. Sections 100.75(a) and (c)1.

HUD Department officials asked courts to penalize the landlord for each violation, on top of compensatory damages.

Discrimination Based on Limited English Language Skills

An Asian-American man applied to rent a townhome in Champlin, Minn., together with his mother, who was from Thailand. They planned to reside on the property with two children. The property manager took their information and a credit background check. He also collected an application fee of $40 for each of the two adult applicants.

The son’s credit score came back at 725, and his mother’s was 761. Their income qualified the family to rent the apartment. But the manager sent the son an email stating that their rental application was declined. The reason: Both adults would have to sign the lease contract, but the mother had limited English skills. “As I’m told, legal precedent indicates the contract must be translated to her native language,” the manager wrote. “If not, she could easily break the lease.”

The manager also claimed that a certified translation would be required, costing about $500.

The son informed the manager that he had submitted an inquiry to the Department of Housing and Urban Development based on the manager’s statements about his mother’s English language skills.

HUD’s lawyers determined that denying a lease because of limited English skills, as well as the act of requiring a $500 translation fee, amounted to illegal discrimination under 42 U.S.C. Section 3604(a). The Department of Housing and Urban Development is pursuing the property manager for full compensatory damages, as well as a civil penalty of $16,000 per violation.

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For affordable and professional property management contact us today by calling (832) 971-1841 or click here to connect with us through our website.

Are You Planning On Selling Your Houston Rental Before The End Of The Year?

Over the last five years many homeowners in Houston Texas have decided to rent their homes out rather than selling them, but times have changed, and now that home values have increased, homeowners who were previously underwater with their mortgages have equity again and may be planning on selling their Houston Rental Properties. 

Thanks to the IRS tax code we know that you can temporarily rent your primary residence without losing the all-important exclusion of capital gain but, this is also based on set five-year time limit.

About The Capital Gains Exclusion

During a 5 year period of time, you must have done the following:

  • Owned your home for 2 years.
  • Lived in your home, as your primary residence for two years.
  • Ownership must have been continuous during this period of time.

To successfully take advantage of the capital gains deduction your home must be ready for sale and should be priced correctly, sold then closed within a period of six months.

Although most homeowners want all capital gains to qualify for the exclusion, the reality is that some of the gains might not qualify if depreciation has occurred during the period of time that the home was rented, but the good news is that depreciation is recaptured at a tax rate of 25%.

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Timing Is Important

As with anything in life, timing is important, especially if your home is valued at $200,000 or more because it’s possible that you could have a tax liability up to $30,000 so like most people you will want to do everything possible to minimize or eliminate as many taxes as possible.

To learn more about taking advantage of the capital gains exclusion contact you tax professional today or to start the process of selling your Houston Rental before the end of the year click here.

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For professional property management for your Houston Texas Rental Property contact Vestpro Residential Services today by calling us at (832) 971-1841 or click here to connect with us online.

What To Know When Searching For Houston Texas Property Management Companies

Are you searching for Houston Texas Property Management Companies online? If so, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s what you should know when searching for a property management company.

Choose An Experienced Property Manager

Although most Houston Texas Property Management Companies claim that they are experienced when it comes to customer service, tenant retention, rent collection, maintenance and all of the day-to-day responsibilities that come with property management, you should take the time to review a company online to verify their experience.

You can do this online by searching the Better Business Bureau’s website or on social media websites like Facebook and Google my Business.

About Houston Texas Property Management Companies

Once you find a property management company that you’re interested in working with you should verify that they have actually have a team that specializes in maintenance, book keeping, and customer service because hiring a team will give you confidence that all aspects of your rental properties are professionally managed by a caring team of professionals instead of just one person.

Confirm That Your Tenants Can Pay Their Rent Online

Last of all, but most important, before continuing your search for Houston Texas Property Management Companies you should also confirm that the property management company offers their tenants the ability to pay rent online because, most renters are accustomed to paying their bills online and this will also make it easier for you to get paid as well.

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For affordable Houston Texas Property Management contact Vestpro Residential Services today by calling us at (832) 498-0016 or connect with us online.

Is It Time For You To Consider Houston Property Management?

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There’s no denying that now is a great time to invest in local real estate thanks to great prices and low mortgage interest rates but as you grow your portfolio or rental properties you will also face more responsibility if you are managing those properties yourself and this is why you should consider Houston Property Management.

If you’ve been debating hiring a Houston Property Manager here’s how we can save you the time, money and hassle of managing rental properties yourself.

On Time Rent Collection

When you hire a Houston Property Manager you can rely on them for collecting your rent on time every month and either depositing the rent into your bank account or mailing you a check each month.

A property manager will also eliminate all rent collection delays and or excuses that traditionally come with rent collection for some owners plus insure that your rent is collected professionally each month without you having to go through the hassle of rent collection yourself. 

Professional Property Management

Your rental property will be professionally managed by a qualified property manager including all of the additional time consuming aspects of property management like maintenance requests and other service related issues.

Excellent Customer Service

Sometimes having an actual human being to call your tenants back matters most in the world of property management and when you hire a professional Houston Property Manager you can have confidence that all of your tenants will be responded to in a timely manner when they call or email the property manager.

Excellent Backup For You

Another benefit of hiring an experienced Houston Property Manager is that you can depend on them to be on top of any issues related to your property so that regardless if you live in Portland or are out of state your home or multi-family rental property will be professionally managed by caring professionals.

More Time to Grow Your Portfolio

Last of all, but most important, when you hire a professional Houston Property Manager you will have more time to focus on growing your portfolio of rental properties and focus on the next rental that you want to purchase for your portfolio.

Get Houston Property Management 

To learn more about our Houston Property Management Services contact Vestpro Residential Services today by calling us at (832) 498-0016 or click here to connect with us online.

 

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What Is A Surety Bond? Should You Consider This Alternative To Security Deposits?

 

By Vestpro Residential Services

As a landlord one of the most common problems that you may face is the possibility of renting to someone who may have great references, a full-time job and seem like an awesome person but, they don’t have the money you require for a deposit.

Although you may have had to walk away from potential renters like this in the past who didn’t have the money that you required for deposit, there is a solution to this problem in the form of a surety bond.

What Are Surety Bonds?

Surety bonds are the least understood alternative to the deposit, but it’s also one of the most viable, because, a surety bond is actually a contractual promise to you that if your tenant fails to comply with the terms of your lease the bond company will be ready to compensate you up to the limits of the surety bond.

How Do Surety Bonds Work?

If you’re familiar with how the justice system works at all, when somebody gets arrested their bail can sometimes be set at anywhere from $1000 or more and, the person who is detained only has to put up about $100 or higher depending on the bail amount and if they are able to make bail at all.

The only catch with bail is that if the formerly detained person decides to skip town, or skip the hearing, they will have forfeited the bond and the bail company now has the legal right to go after them.

A surety bond functions exactly the same way. The tenant who is unable to pay the deposit but decides to go with the surety bond will be responsible for paying a deposit to the bond company of up to 20% of the total sum of the deposit.

Let’s say that a tenant decides to break or violate some terms of their lease, the landlord has the legal right to file a claim against the tenant which the bond company will be responsible for paying for, and as with the example of somebody skipping bail, if the former tenant decides to skip town and not pay the percentage of the surety bond then the bond company will go after them as well.

Get Professional Property Management Here

For professional property management for your rental property contact Vestpro Residential Services today by clicking here to connect with us online or calling (832) 498-0016.

Should You Rent Your Houston Rental Property to a College Student?

Houston Rental Property

By Vestpro Residential Services

As you move forward with the process of buying another Houston Texas Rental Property you will eventually have to ask yourself the question if you should rent your property to a college student or not.

Although some landlords may tell you that it’s not a good idea to rent to a college student the truth is that you can establish a consistent and profitable income stream when you choose to open your Houston Rental up to college students and not just traditional renters.

In this post we will share with you some of the benefits of renting to college students and what else you should know when you start renting to this segment of the rental market.

Benefits of Renting To College Students

Some of the benefits that come from renting to college students include:

Year-Round Occupancy – Since most college students go to school for 4 years they will also will many times want to stay in the same rental property during the time that they are going to college and this means year-round occupancy for the landlord and less turnover.

You Can Charge Premium Rent – Another great benefit of renting to college students is that you can charge premium rent especially the closer your Houston Texas Rental Property is to the university or college, and most tenants won’t have a problem paying premium rent especially if they live with roommates.

Getting Started With Renting To College Students

Before placing an ad online to rent to college students you should do the following:

  1. Create an airtight lease that protects your best interests.
  2. Create strict rules for your property including no fireworks, weapons or drugs in the house and no charcoal grills outside the house.
  3. Always do a complete background check before approving a new college student to rent from you including viewing their credit report because this will only protect your best interests.
  4. Require college students under the age of 21 to have co-signer on their lease just to make sure you will continue to get paid each month even if they don’t pay their rent.

Learn More

To learn more about renting your Houston Texas Rental Property to college students contact Vestpro Residential Services, LLC today by calling us at (832) 498-0016 or click here to connect with us online.