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How to Save on Maintenance Costs by Spending!

We know it may seem counter intuitive, but here are some secrets on how to save on maintenance costs – by spending!

We understand the bottom line – as investors you’re concerned about CASH FLOW! To be a savvy investor consider putting aside up to 10% of rent – annually – to reinvest in your rental. We know that you want to spend as little as possible on repairs, however the wise investor knows that spending a little on preventive maintenance could save thousands in the long run!

Here is a small list of IMPORTANT (and cheap) ways to save in the long run – specifically for exterior maintenance issues…

Preventive exterior maintenance musts:

  1. Routine pressure washing. Pressure washing the exterior paint extends the life of the paint. Mildew growth left unchecked will lead to needing a full paint job in the future. Pressure Washing of sidewalks and driveways is also a must. If your tenants or their guest slip and fall, it could be disastrous. This both avoids potential problem areas with tenants and also keeps up standards enforced by HOA’s. Being proactive here eliminates the threat of potential fines and fees later on.
  2. Routine roof cleaning. Roof cleaning can extend the life of the roof up to 5 years here in Florida. By using a low pressure mildew resistant cleaner, you can help stave off some of the effects of our harsh environment.
  3. Tree Trimming. To ensure branches do not touch the roof or house, tree trimming is a must. Tree limbs laying on the roof damage shingles and limbs brushing up against the house damage the paint.
  4. Clean out debris. Leaving excess build up in the gutters can lead to roof damage and interior water damage. Additionally clean away dead plants from the house. Florida’s weather is brutal and plants need to be cleaned out of those beds regularly to prevent insect infestation.
  5. Annual pre-summer air conditioning inspection. Remember that brutal Florida weather? It is a nightmare when a tenant’s AC goes out in 90+ degree heat! A preventive check on the system really helps to address problems in advance, while providing you with important information on future costs. This helps you plan ahead for a larger expense in the future. Be prepared to replace those units a minimum of every 12-15 years.

These up front smaller costs really do reduce the burden of larger surprise expenses in the future. Additionally I find that tenants appreciate these small items being done. It makes them feel taken care of. I always say a happy tenant has a better chance of paying their rent on time! These preventive maintenance items are sure to make both your tenant happy and your wallet!

Until next time!

Denise Helbig, Broker, LCAM, CMCA, President
Westcoast Management and Realty, Inc.

Ten Great Benefits of HOAs

It’s a smart investment to protect the value of your home. You reap the benefits of having many advocates who safeguard your interests. Your association functions with the help of active volunteers and a top-notch management company. Here are ten good reasons to live in an HOA.

1. HOAs preserve the nature of the community and protect property values by delivering services that provide a safe, well-maintained living environment.

2. HOA regulations are another layer of protection against neighborhood degradation. Regulations are an effective means to maintain community standards while protecting property values.

3. HOAs lessen the need for local government oversight of housing conditions. Most municipalities are not equipped, i.e. do not have the manpower – to monitor housing.

4. Homeowners in HOAs have a vested interest in reporting and correcting problems; which could be anything from architectural and building code violations, to illegal parking and landscaping issues.

5. HOA leaders live in the neighborhood and better understand the needs of the community; from the delivery of core services, such as waste collection, to the decisions affecting the future of the community.

6. In terms of voting, meeting attendance, and volunteerism, HOAs promote a higher level of civic involvement than municipalities.

7. By definition, planned communities offer a more efficient use of land to address the growing issue of urban sprawl associated with unplanned development.

8. Land-use efficiencies can make homes more affordable. This is a benefit for first-time home buyers, retirees, and low to moderate-income families.

9. Many HOAs maintain swimming pools, tennis courts, playgrounds, and other amenities that most families cannot afford on their own.

10. Associations offer a sense of community, an important contribution in an increasingly transient society.

Thank you for allowing us to serve your community!

Why Hire a Property Manager for your Rentals?

One of the biggest decisions you’ll face as a landlord is whether you should hire a property management company.  In spite of the cost, there are some compelling reasons for using a management company. Along with the standard “you will save yourself time and money by using a professional,” consider the following reasons to use a management company.

Reasons to use a management company:

Property Management companies know advertising! Not only do we know advertising, but also we have access to the best places for marketing your specific property!  A rental property WILL rent faster with a property management company than an individual owner.

The prescreening process is the key! We have background checking procedures and programs in place in order to secure a qualified tenant. By using a property management company, you ensure nothing gets missed.

We deal directly with the tenants – so you don’t have to!  Here is an insider tip – tenants are less likely to pay rent late with a management company versus an owner.  When owners deal directly with tenants, there is always more “wiggle” room and tenants know it!  A management company is paid to look out for the best interests of the owner!

Finding qualified vendors for maintenance tasks is a chore! We use licensed and insured vendors who have been properly vetted.  This is extremely important!

Being on-call all the time is tiring! Unless you are using your rentals as a main source of income, being on call 24-hours a day is a daunting task for any one individual. We are here to lift that burden off of you!

The cliché is true – working with a professional DOES save you time and money. We alleviate the stress of marketing your vacancies, collecting rent, handling maintenance/repairs, tackling HOA issues, as well as resolving tenant complaints and much more!

Our job is to give you peace of mind knowing that your valuable investment is in good hands!

Why Is Your Property Still Vacant?

A long-term vacancy can quickly turn a real estate dream house into a nightmare. Along with investors having a cash flow problem, there is a very real security risk to long-term vacancies.  Break-ins, Craigslist scams and trespassing are all security issues for a vacant house.  In this STRONG rental market, why would any property stay vacant for an extended length of time?

  1. The property is listed too high. Instead of pricing your rental with a high profit margin, let the market dictate the rental amount. This seems like a no-brainer but many owners refuse to negotiate on the monthly rental rate, even in the face of local data. Take into account that a property vacant for one month can defeat the annual additional cash flow from a monthly rate listed to high. Your rental should never be the most expensive rental in the area – even if it’s the nicest!
  2. The local market is saturated with other rental properties. Even though the rental market is strong, if one community has multiple available vacancies the market sags in that area.  Prospective renters may wonder what is wrong with the area if there are too many properties for rent at one time.
  3. The property lacks curb appeal – outside and inside. Curb appeal doesn’t just apply to properties listed for sale, but also applies to properties for rent. Most prospective tenants will drive by your rentals to check out the listing before scheduling a showing of the interior. If they don’t get that warm fuzzy feeling from the outside of the property, chances are they won’t even walk through the front door.  Once they walk through the doors, the inside of the property should be clean and ready to rent or the chance to capture the tenant’s eye is lost.
  4. The property was listed as PRE-lease too early! Each property has about 30 days to be the “HOT” property.  If the property is listed too early because it was occupied or wasn’t ready to rent, many potential tenants won’t take notice. Prospective tenants wonder why they keep seeing the same property month after month.
  5. The property doesn’t allow pets. Many owners want to understandably protect their investment by not allowing pets.  This policy will limit the tenant pool.  Perhaps instead of not allowing any pets, consider allowing pets with a limited weight size.
  6. The property isn’t being advertised enough or correctly. The best way to find a tenant is all about on-the-web advertising.  Most prospective tenants want to view the property online with pictures, videos, and additional information.  Advertising on multiple websites is a must!
  7. Your property management company needs to step up their game! Your property management company should be warm and welcoming. They should be able to respond to rental calls quickly, pre-screen tenants with professionalism, and hold effective Open Houses.

Our staff is knowledge and friendly.  We can help you rent your property quickly and effectively.  We would love the chance to earn your business.

Westcoast Management and Realty, Inc.

Tenant Troubling Shoot Guide – Save THOUSANDS in Unnecessary Rental Repairs

Every owner needs to know how to save THOUSANDS of dollars in repairs!

Over the years, I have developed a Tenant Troubleshooting Guide.  When a tenant requests a work order, they are instructed to consult our Troubleshooting Guide.  When they email or  call us with a work order request, my staff is trained speak with the tenants to seek out the RIGHT information.  In order to properly process a work order and possibly save our owners money, we try to glean as much information from the tenant as possible.  We try to found out:

  • If the work order is the responsibility of the owner, HOA or tenant
  • If the work order is a VALID and that every avenue has been exhausted prior to submitting the work order to a vendor
  • If the tenant is aware that if the work order is NOT a valid request (for example the reset button just needed to be pressed on the garbage disposal) that the tenant will be responsible for the cost of the work order.
  • If the work order is due to tenant damage or neglect, the tenant understands that they will be responsible for the cost of the work order.

We are VERY transparent with the tenants,  our vendors have been properly vetted prior to using them and our tenants understand that the vendor will get to the truth of the matter!   In this way, there are no surprises when the plumber calls and says that a toy was flushed down the toilet and caused the back-up.  Although the tenant is obviously hoping that we don’t find out, when we are told that a repair is the responsibility of the tenant then it becomes our responsibility to follow through with the owner, tenant and vendor to get restitution for the owner.  Our tenants (generally) understand that when we walk through the process of the Trouble Shooting Guide with them, we are doing our best to make sure that they aren’t charged for a work order unnecessarily.   We do take a proactive approach to work order processing for our owners – the tenants also reap the benefits as well.

Here is the link for my Troubleshooting Guide   Check it out!   It is given to every tenant at move-in and given again at renewal and given again if they say they cannot find they copy.  It is the first line of defense in keeping those vendor costs down for my owners!

Denise Helbig, President, Westcoast Management and Realty, Inc.

Landlords – How do I get my Tenants to pay on time?

Being in the Property Management Industry for over 20 years (YIKES!  How could it be that long?) I have learned one SUPER important thing about tenants.

HAPPY TENANTS have a much better chance of paying their rent on time!  So how do we inspire happiness in tenants without giving into every single request?

1.  Treat their work order requests as quickly as possible with request and courtesy.

2.  Offer and incentive to renew or pay on time.  One month I had a drawing where I gave away multiple gift cards and a Flat Screen TV.  All tenants who paid on time were entered into the drawing which we held live on Facebook.  It was SOOOOO fun!

3.  Report their timely payments to the Credit Bureau to help them build their Good Credit.

4.  Have a 24 hour emergency line to answer those after hours calls.  Although we remind them that it is a “fire and flood” line, expect that there will also be the “I can’t log into my tenant portal” call at 11:30pm as well because they want to make a payment before midnight to avoid those pesky late fees.

5.  Sometimes be reasonable and give tenants a break on late fees.  I honestly use this approach sparingly and with caution.  Sometimes you can turn that tenant that is on the cusp of being shaky right back around.

I try to instill in my managers and staff that Tenants are important and everyone needs a place to live!

Denise Helbig, President Westcoast Management and Realty, Inc.

How to Inspire HAPPY Tenants – Top Ten Tips!

Happy tenants typically pay their rent and pay it on time and are more likely to renew their lease.  How do you inspire happiness in your tenants?  Here are my Top Ten Tips.

Denise Helbig, President of Westcoast Management and Realty, Inc.

  1. The rental unit should be clean and ready to rent before tenants take possession.
  2. Be prompt in answering their service requests.
  3. Offer a 24-hour emergency line to report after-hours service issues.
  4.  Use reputable vendors who do quality work.  Tenants become frustrated when a vendor needs to make multiple visits for the same issue.
  5. Follow up with your tenant to ensure the service repair request was completed to their satisfaction.
  6. When you make a mistake, own it!  If the tenant received an erroneous late notice or the service request wasn’t handled as quickly as it could have been firstly apologize! Then do everything you can to make it right!
  7.  Make it easy for your tenants to pay rent on time by using an online tenant portal system.
  8.  Give your tenants an occasional courtesy call just to check in.
  9. Offer a renewal bonus for tenants that renew their leases early.
  10. Give your tenants a welcome basket full of cleaning supplies, water bottles, candy, paper towels, local coupons upon move-in.  Our new tenants love it!


Tenants – Welcome to your new home!


Downtown St. Pete Office open 45 days and counting….

We have been SUPER blessed and have opened up a new office in fun-filled Downtown St. Petersburg.   As we continue to grow our market in all of Pinellas County, we needed a division of Tampa and St. Pete.  How very fortunate that we stumbled upon a beautiful office over-looking the bay!   We will be doing a grand opening soon.  Stay tuned for details!

Gone WEST Coastal!

How to screen a tenant

Securing a stable tenant is THE most important part of owning an investment property.  Keep in mind the following:

1.  Automatic denial with any previous evictions.  Once a tenant has gone through the eviction process, it becomes increasingly less important for them to pay their rent on time.  Pulling a nationwide eviction search is a must!
2.  Foreclosure is not necessarily an automatic denial.  Evictions are not the same as foreclosures.  Generally speaking, most people do not want to lose the house they own – their American Dream.  With the market collapse in the past several years, we will look at the extenuating circumstances and how the prospective tenant is trying to rebuild their credit before making a final decision.
3.  Verifying Rental History is important.  We use every avenue to check their verification of tenancy including checking on public records and on the web to verify current owner information of the property they are renting.   We want to make sure we are speaking with the owner/manager and not a family member!
4.  Calculate debt to credit ratio.  We use a 30% debt to credit ratio – meaning the proposed rent is no higher than 30% of their total income. 
5.  Verify employment.  We ask for paycheck stubs and verify length of employment.
6.  Perform a Nationwide Criminal background check.  You will pay a small premium for the nationwide service – worth every penny.
7.  Pull a Credit Report.  Credit score used to be THE most important aspect of our background.  Now it is still a VERY important part but not always the only deciding factor.  Although we look for tenants with 700+ credit scores, sometimes we will take tenants with slightly lower scores given extenuating circumstance.  And we will report their good rental history with us to the credit bureau to help them raise their scores over the term of their tenancy.
8.  Google your prospective tenant!  Easy and free.  The wealth of information on individuals on the internet is astounding!

All of these steps are the foundation for selection a GREAT TENANT!  Skip one or more of these steps, and it could potentially cost an investors thousands in loss of rent, eviction costs and damages to the property.

Denise Helbig, Owner
West Coast Management and Realty, Inc.

Qualities of a Great Property Management Company

I have been in the Property Management Business for over 20 years, and newsflash – my company is still not perfect yet!  But I have learned by my mistakes and continue to grow within the industry.  In those 20 years, I have seen the good (learned a lot from them) the bad (learned from them too) and the ugly (I usually end up taking over these properties!) 

There are some common characteristics to the “good”.  A GREAT manager:

 1.  Knows that a happy tenant is WAY more like to pay rent on time.
 2.  Funds owner payments quickly with documentation and provides accurate accounting and statements to their owners
 3.  Remains current with the latest technology to allow online payments and work order requests.
 4.  Uses qualified and licensed/insured vendors who guarantee their work.
 5.  Ask for owner approval on repairs and then gets those repairs done quickly because a happy tenant is more likely to pay rent (yes, it bears repeating!)
 6.  Encourages owners to do preventive maintenance on their properties when needed.
 7.  Drives by the property regularly and gives reports to the owner.
 8.  Rents the property quickly (and knows how to make that happen!)
 9.  Has VERY low eviction rate.
10. Is passionate about their business and is continuing to grow!

Tenant Screening Process is probably THE most important step in securing a great tenant.  Please see my post Screening a Tenant for more information. 
NEXT WEEK – Qualities of a Great Landlord!

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