Professional Management

What Can A Professional Property Manager Do For You?

Historically, renting your home has been considered a relatively simple and low risk undertaking.  However, in recent years, this apparently simple task has become progressively more complex and the risks associated with becoming a landlord far greater.  While managing your rental is certainly within the abilities of most property owners, the time and effort involved in management may be greater than the cost of hiring a professional property manager.

The professional property manager is conversant with the applicable statutes and regulations relevant to the management of rental property.  In addition, the manager will typically perform the following tasks as part of the management service:

  • Advertisement of the rental property
  • Screening of potential residents
  • Preparation and execution of rental agreements
  • Disbursal of funds to the property owner
  • Collection of rents
  • Monthly and year-end accounting
  • Coordination of maintenance and repair work
  • Periodic property inspections
  • Disbursal of deposits in accordance with state law
  • Eviction of residents for breach of the rental agreement

Advertisement of the Rental Property

Until recent years, advertisement of an available rental meant placing a “For Rent” sign in the front yard and possibly placing an ad in the local newspaper.  Times have changed.  Today, while the old stand-bys are still used, effective advertising also includes extensive use of the internet, making availability of the property known to real estate professionals, and targeted advertising to large employers.

Screening Potential Residents

Once an application for rental is received, it must be determined if the applicant is qualified to rent the property.  Has the applicant been evicted from a prior rental?  Does the applicant earn sufficient income to pay the rent?  These questions, as well as others should be answered prior to approving the applicant.

A professional property manager will typically check four areas when screening an applicant.  These are the applicant’s credit report, income, employment, and rental history.  It has become almost universal that the applicant’s credit report be checked for late pays, judgments, liens, or bankruptcies.  The applicant’s employer is typically contacted to verify income, and the applicant’s prior landlord is contacted to verify rental history.  While there are few perfect applicants, the information gleaned through the application review process can greatly reduce the likelihood of renting to an unqualified resident.

Preparation and Execution of Rental Documents

After the applicant is qualified, the necessary rental documents must be prepared and executed.  Gone are the days of going to the local stationery store and buying a preprinted, two-page rental agreement.  Today, rental agreements are custom drafted to reflect specific state statutes, and sometimes, applicable local ordinances.  In addition to the rental agreement, any required addendums are prepared and may include an addendum relating to pets, a no smoking addendum, an addendum relating to pool use, and if the property was built prior to 1978, a lead paint addendum.  Further, a move-in inspection is completed and documented for review by the resident at execution of the rental agreement.  Ancillary forms relating to transfer of utilities and trash pick-up may also be needed depending on the location of the rental property.

Collection of Rent

Every property owner would agree that timely payment of rent is critical.  If the applicant was properly screened prior to acceptance, most poor rental risks will be eliminated.  However, circumstance beyond the possibility of screening can adversely affect the resident’s ability to timely pay rent.  These circumstances include loss of employment, injury, illness, and changes in marital status.  When the resident is unable or unwilling to pay rent, the property manager has the ability to effective move forward with the collection process, or if that fails, terminate the rental agreement and locate a new resident in the minimum amount of time.

Disbursal of Rent to the Property Owner

Typically, the property manager will receive rent on the first day of the month, with disbursal of funds to the property owner between the fifteenth and twenty-fifth of the month.  Because the property manager is required to hold all funds in trust, funds must be held until checks clear, which may take as many as ten working days.  In addition, time is required for the accounting and statement preparation process.

Monthly and Year-End Accounting

The property manager will provide you with a monthly statement showing all income and expenses associated with your rental property.  In addition, you will receive a year-end statement showing all income, and expenses broken out by category.

Coordination of Maintenance and Repairs

If you have ever had a resident at your rental property call you at 2:00 a.m. to tell you that the water heater is leaking and your rental is three inches deep in water, you will appreciate having a professional property manager.  Most property managers maintain a twenty-four hour system for receiving emergency repair calls and relationships with a variety of skilled tradesmen capable of handling any emergency.  For non-emergency repairs or preventive maintenance, you are contacted in advance to discuss the work and its potential cost to your.

Periodic Property Inspections

Does the resident have an unauthorized pet?  How about six roommates not listed on the rental agreement? These, and other similar problems, can only be found through a physical inspection of the property.  Typically, your property manager should have a representative inspect the property one to two times during the term of the rental agreement. Inspections may be conducted either as a scheduled appointment with the resident, or while repairs or scheduled maintenance is performed.

Disbursal of Security Deposits

After the resident moves out of the property, the condition of the property must be assessed and any damages charged to the resident’s security deposit.  However, the property owner is not permitted to charge for “normal wear and tear.” What can be charged for that red wine stain on the white carpet?  How much for the numerous nail holes in the living room wall?  These, and similar questions are addressed by the professional property manager every day.

Further, did you know that if the resident is not provided an itemized statement of deductions from the deposit within thirty days of termination of the rental agreement, the property owner is precluded from making any deduction for damage to the property?

Eviction For Breach of the Rental Agreement

Probably the most difficult part of owning rental property is evicting the resident who has failed to meet their obligations as stated in the rental agreement.  Typically, this means that the resident has failed to timely pay rent.  The professional property manager can handle the eviction process efficiently, while making the process far less difficult for the property owner.


The professional property manager provides a cost-effective service in the rental and management of investment property.  While the above discusses the functions performed by the property manager, it should also be noted that efficiently and competently performing these functions minimizes potential risk to the property owner and in the long term, maximizes returns from the investment property.

Finding a Rental Home

Tips for Finding a Rental Home

  1. Eat all the chocolate you want!  The stress of house hunting causes extreme calorie leakage.
  2. Be sure to obtain a current map of the local area.  Having a map will save you time and gas from getting lost.
  3. If you have a pet, bring references for your pet.  Examples are as follows.  Letters recommending the pet from former landlords and/or realtors whom have seen the home where the pet resided.  List of obedience classes attended by the pet.  Phone numbers of former pet sitters or veterinarian.
  4. Some school district boundaries change yearly.  Be sure to check a school boundary with the local school district.  You may also want to look into the available selection of private and religious schools.
  5. The utility company may provide a 12-month cost history for an address.
  6. Ask who provides water, sewer and trash pick-up.
  7. Save a lot of time by driving past a home before making an appointment to see the home.  Many homes can quickly be eliminated.
  8. The Sunday paper is the best place to begin looking for a home.  The classified ads also contain ads for rental web sites and property management companies.
  9. Ask about move-in specials.  Some owners will give incentives for a mid-month move in or longer leases.

Rent vs Buy

Rent vs Buy

Buying a home is a rewarding experience.  You derive a great deal of personal satisfaction from owning a home.  Homeownership allows you to build up your personal net worth over time and there are significant tax advantages to owning your own home.  Moreover, continued increases in housing prices nationwide make homeownership a relatively attractive investment.

Yet, renting also has some advantages.  In some cases, renting may be a more attractive option.  For example, if you plan to move in a year or two, you are unlikely to recover the closing costs you pay when you buy a home.  You may also need to rent if you are in uncertain financial circumstances.  In addition, finding a home to buy generally takes more time than looking for an apartment to rent.  Renting doesn’t require you to make a down payment or pay for maintenance and repairs.

Tax Advantages to Home Ownership.  In addition to building up equity over time, owning a home offers significant tax breaks.  The interest expense that you pay on up to $1 million in home mortgage debt ($500,000 if you are married and filing a separate return) is tax-deductible.

Your tax savings from the mortgage interest tax deduction are greatest in the early years of a mortgage loan.  For example, on a 7%, 30-year fixed rate mortgage loan of $100,000, you pay $6,968 in interest the first year of the loan.  If you are in the 27% income tax bracket, your tax savings are $1,881.  In Year 16 of the loan, you pay $5,090 in interest, which saves you $1,374 in taxes.  In Year 24 of the loan, you pay $2,926 in interest, which saves you $790 in taxes.

When you sell your home, you can exclude up to $500,000 in capital gains if you are married and filing a joint return.  (The exclusion limit is $250,000 for other tax filers.)  You will need to pass the IRS’s ownership and use tests to show that the home has been your primary residence for at least two of the past five years.  In addition to mortgage interest, you can also deduct your local property taxes on your income tax return.

As a homeowner, you can tap the equity in your home in the future with a home equity loan or line of credit.  The Interest expense that you pay on up to $100,000 in home equity debt is tax-deductible ($50,000 if you are married and filing a separate return).

Reasons to Rent.  Renting doesn’t require you to make a down payment, which can easily reach $25,000 or $50,000.  A total monthly payment for rent is generally cheaper, too, when you include all the other costs of owing a home.  In addition to paying off a loan with interest, homeowners routinely pay homeowner’s insurance and property taxes.  They may also be required to buy private mortgage insurance (PMI).  Finally, homeowners face maintenance and home-improvement costs that renters avoid.

In general, renting has a lower financial burden, requiring smaller monthly outlays.  With the extra cash that you save each month, you may be able to invest and earn a rate of return that compensates for missed opportunities of homeownership.

Renting may be a wiser course of action if you plan to relocate to another city soon or are in uncertain financial circumstances.  For persons fresh out of school or newly divorced, renting may be the only realistic option.

The above information is an opinion only and should not be interpreted as financial advice.  For advice that is specific to your circumstances, you should consult a mortgage lender or financial adviser.

Your Credit Score

Your Credit Score

It is important to know your credit status when considering the purchase of a house.  Most lenders use a credit score called “FICO”to determine your eligibility for a loan and the interest rate you should be charged.  FICO stands for Fair Isaac & Company, and credit scores are reported by each of the three major credit bureaus:  TRW (Experian), Equifax, and Trans-Union.  The score is computed differently by each bureau since they place a slightly different emphasis on component items.  Scores range from 365 to 840.

Lenders started to take a closer look at FICO scores in the early 1990s and this is what they found out.  The chart below shows the likelihood of a ninety-day delinquency for a specific FICO score.

Odds of a
595 2.25 to 1
600 4.5 to 1
615 9 to 1
630 18 to 1
645 36 to 1
660 72 to 1
680 144 to 1
700 288 to 1
780 576 to 1

What affects FICO scores? — How do lenders look at them? — Some of the things that affect your FICO scores are:

  • Delinquencies
  • Too many accounts opened within the last twelve months
  • Short credit history
  • Balances on revolving credit are near the maximum limits
  • Public records, such as tax liens, judgments, or bankruptcies
  • No recent credit card balances
  • Too many recent credit inquiries
  • Too few revolving accounts
  • Too many revolving accounts

The credit score is actually calculated using a “scorecard” where you receive points for certain things.  Creditors and lenders who view your credit report do not get to see the scorecard, so they do not know exactly how your score was calculated.  They just see the final scores.

Basic guidelines on how to view the FICO scores vary a little from lender to lender.  Usually, a score above 680 will require a very basic review of the entire loan package.  Scores between 640 and 680 require more thorough underwriting.  Once a score gets below 640, an underwriter will look at a loan application with a more cautious approach.  Many lenders will not even consider a loan with a FICO score below 600, some as high as 620.

FICO scores and interest rates

Credit scores can affect more than whether your loan gets approved or not.  They can also affect how much you pay for your loan, too.  Some lenders establish a “base price” and will reduce the points on a loan if the credit score is above a certain level.  For example, one major national lender reduces the cost of a loan by a quarter point if the FICO score is greater than 725.  If it is between 700 and 724, they will reduce the cost by one-eighth of a point.  A point is equal to one percent of the loan amount.  There are other lenders who do it in reverse.  They establish their base price, but instead of reducing the cost for good FICO scores, they “add on” costs for lower FICO scores.  The results from either method would work out to be approximately the same interest rate.  It is just that the second way “looks” better when you are quoting interest rates on a rate sheet or in an advertisement.

Factors other than FICO scores affect underwriting decisions.  Some examples of compensating factors that will make an underwriter more lenient toward lower FICO scores can be a larger down payment, low debt-to-income ratios, an excellent history of saving money, and others.  There also may be a reasonable explanation for items on the credit history that negatively impact your credit score.

They don’t always make sense.  Even so, sometimes credit scores do not seem to make any sense at all. One borrower with a completely flawless credit history had a FICO score below 600.  One borrower with a foreclosure on her credit report had a FICO above 780.

Portfolio & sub-prime lenders

Finally, there are a few “portfolio” lenders who do not even look at credit scoring, at least on their portfolio loans.  A portfolio lender is usually a savings and loan institution who originates some adjustable rate mortgages that they intend to keep in their own portfolio instead of selling them in the secondary mortgage market.  They may look at home loans differently.  Some concentrate on the value of the home.  Some may concentrate more on the savings history of the borrower.  There are also “sub-prime” lenders, or “B & C paper” lenders, who will provide a home loan, but at a higher interest rate and cost.

Numerous credit reports can effect your FICO score.  Wait until you have a reasonable expectation that you will use a lender before you let them run your credit report.  Not only will you have to explain any credit inquiries in the last ninety days, but also numerous inquiries will lower your FICO score by a small amount.  This may not matter if your FICO is 780, but it would matter to you if it is 642.  Don’t buy a car just before looking for a home!

When people begin to think about the possibility of buying a home, they often think about buying other big-ticket items, such as cars.  Quite often when someone asks a lender to pre-qualify them for a home loan there is a brand new car payment on the credit report.  Often, they would have qualified in their anticipated price range except that the new car payment has raised their debt-to-income ratio, lowering their maximum purchase price.

In conclusion

Your credit history is important and credit scores are important if you want to get the best interest rate available.  Protect your FICO score.

  • Do not open new revolving accounts needlessly.
  • Do not fill out credit applications needlessly.
  • Do not keep your credit cards nearly maxed out.
  • Make sure you do use your credit occasionally.
  • Always make sure every creditor has their payment in their office no later than 29 days past due.
  • Never, ever be more than thirty days late on your mortgage–ever.