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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!

Should You Lease a Home with an Option to Buy?

You want to realize the American Dream and buy a home BUT want to buy now because:

  • Bad Credit
  • No Down payment saved
  • Scared of making a mistake! 

So you start thinking that a LEASE OPTION is the way to go!  Although some lease options may work generally speaking they benefit the SELLER not the BUYER!  Why should a buyer be SUPER cautious before entering into a Lease Option?

  • Buyers/Lessees typically put down a substantial NON-refundable deposit.  If you buy the house great; the sellers get their home sold.  If you don’t buy the house, great; the seller’s get to keep your money!  The seller is happy either way!
  • You still may not be able to get a mortgage at the end of your lease option.  Whatever reason kept you from qualifying in the first place may continue to haunt you!
  • You still may not have saved money for a down payment. 
  • You will take over the home and the REPAIRS!  Most Lease Options require the buyer/lessee to take the property “As Is” which means you will be investing in a home that isn’t and may never be owned by you!
  • Many times the seller will tell you that part of your rent can also go toward your down payment.  BE CAUTIOUS because unless you are paying ABOVE market value in rent, you may not be able to put that extra money toward your down payment!
  • You stand to lose ALL of your money, not to mention, time and energy on a not-so-sure thing! 

A much wiser approach for a potential purchaser is to straight rent until you can buy.  Save money, get your credit repaired, meet with a mortgage broker and do your homework first!!  Because, YES!! You should buy a home when you can and as soon as you can!!

How to place a tenant quickly!

If you want to rent your investment property quickly:

1.  Curb appeal!!  Make sure the front of your home is in sparkling clean shape by pressuring the washing front of home, drives and walks.
2.  Add some color to the front of your home by either painting your front door or adding some flowering plants by your front door.
3.  Get rid of the clutter!!  If you are still living at your home, place items you don’t use regularly in the garage in boxes.  Leaving boxes in your living room or kitchen makes the space look smaller.
4.  Do the repair work BEFORE you advertise.  Prospective tenants are turned off by a broken door and a promise to have it repaired.
5. CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN and CLEAN!  Even better, hire a professional service to clean your home.
6.  Paint the walls a NEUTRAL color!!  Although you may love that bright red wall or the aquamarine textured look, you will lose most of your prospective tenants!!  And be prepared to paint for each tenant!!

If you want a high quality tenant, then give them a clean, painted home. Period.  I find that upon move-out, most tenants bring up the problems from the move-in.  For example: The tenant might say “well the paint wasn’t new when I moved in” but did that then give her children the authority to write all over the walls!!

Mostly importantly, make your rental unit look and feel like a place YOU would want to live!

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