10 Documents You Need Before Applying For A Home Loan

If you want to ace the home loan process it pays to be prepared.

While some sources report that it has become easier to obtain a mortgage loan, it is still far from as easy as it was 10 years ago. With the current rush to secure loans before interest rates go higher, lenders get backed up quickly. That means processing times can take longer. This is on top of new TRID rules and the coming seasonal rush. In order to speed loan applications through the system and close on time, it’s smart to have your paperwork in order in advance. This is especially true for those purchasing properties who want their pre-approvals to stick.

So what documents will you need?

1. Bank Statements

Virtually all loan types you would apply for today, will require you to provide bank statements. This especially applies to the self-employed and those seeking alternative income documentation loans. Expect to provide at least two – if not three – months of bank statements for ALL accounts. Watch out for large deposits, non-sufficient funds charges, and loan payments, which you didn’t claim on your initial conversation with lenders. Note that any funds you’ll need to close will need to be in your account for at least 60 days (unless they are a gift). Expect additional statements to be required if you roll into a new month.

2. Identification

Your mortgage lender will want, and need, to verify your identity to comply with the law. You won’t be able to close your loan unless you have valid ID. That means a government issued photo ID and perhaps one with at least 6 months left on it. So if yours is coming close to its expiration date, consider renewing immediately.

3. W2s

If you are employed by someone else, expect to provide copies of your last two years’ W2s. If you receive 1099s instead; you’ll need to provide those and your tax returns.

4. Tax Returns

Tax returns can be one of the trickiest documents when it comes to mortgage underwriting. You’ll need at least your last two years’ tax returns. Make sure you have all pages, of all forms submitted, including any amended returns and originals. Transcripts of returns are not sufficient. This gets trickier around tax time. You won’t be expected to file tax returns early. However, if you do file returns during the process, you’ll have to document that you paid any outstanding taxes and where that money came from. Due to staff cut backs at the IRS, some of the copies can take 75 to 120 days or more to retrieve. Make sure you request and receive them well in advance of applying for a loan.

5. Court Documents

If you’ve filed for bankruptcy or have been through a divorce, expect to have to provide all copies of all pages of related documents. This can be a real pain if you’ve shredded them to put that part of your life long behind you. Don’t expect a request by mail to return all of the pages and documents you need. Play it safe and go to the county clerk of courts office where the documents were recorded and get everything before you apply for your loan.

6. LOEs

If you’ve got any credit bruises, gaps in employment, or are receiving any gift funds from family to cover your down payment or closing costs, you’ll be required to submit Letters Of Explanation. If you aren’t sure what to write, ask your loan officer for an example or for exactly what details need to be included.

7. Current Mortgage Statements

If you have mortgage loans on the home you are refinancing or other property, they will be requested to verify the debt, payment status, and loan details. If you are currently renting, then you’ll need to provide your landlord’s contact information and maybe proof of rental payments for the last 24 months. However, this last requirement seems to be fading with some lenders.

8. Purchase Contract

If you are buying a home, you aren’t going to get far without a signed purchase and sales agreement. Make sure to include copies of all pages and addendums.

9. Earnest Money Deposits

Any deposits made must be fully documented. That includes copies of checks, proof they cleared your account, and proof of receipt by the escrow holder.

10. Pay Stubs or P&Ls

Be ready to submit your most recent pay stubs covering the last month. If you are self-employed, you should be prepared to provide a YTD Profit and Loss statement.

Summary

Get these documents together early, save hard copies, copies in the cloud, and copies on backup drives.

Business Development: Why Every Good Investor Needs A Plan

If you are considering getting involved in real estate you need to have a plan. Your plan doesn’t need to be elaborate or even overly formal but you should have some sense of where you want your business to go.  Where most investors get in trouble is thinking they know the business simply by watching a few shows or reading as few books.  As they quickly discover the business has a way of taking them to places they would have never expected.  Without a solid business plan it is easy to bounce around from lead to lead without any real direction.  Prior to looking at your first property or researching your first deal you need to start with a plan.  Here are five aspects of writing a good business plan.

  • Know What You Are Getting Into. You should never start investing without some idea of what you are getting into. Without the aid of experience you should start your plan by doing your homework. Most investors in today’s market are infatuated with rehabs and quick flip deals. While these can certainly make sense in the right market they may not work for you and your goals. You don’t need to be an expert in every aspect of the business but you should have some idea of what you want to do and how you plan on doing it. There is a big difference in what is needed for a rehab as opposed to a buy and hold rental. When you do get involved in your first deal it shouldn’t catch you off guard. You will never know everything prior to getting started but you should always do as much research as needed to make you comfortable.
  • What, Why, When, Where. Your business plan should serve as a roadmap for where you want to go and how you plan on getting there. Start by accessing what kind of investing you want to pursue. Do you want to get in to the world of rehabbing or are you looking for long term rental properties? How you answer will partially determine which markets will be your focus. Some markets work better for rehabs while others make more sense for long term acquisitions. You also need to determine the timeframe for your first purchase. Are you looking to buy tomorrow if something presents itself or do you want to wait a few months? Under each answer you should play out the best and worst case scenarios. Most new investors think everything will fall in line just the way they plan. When they are presented with the slightest issue it throws everything off. The more you consider all of the negatives that can happen the better you are at dealing with them.
  • Time Commitment. One of the great aspects of real estate investing is that you can do it on your own terms. If you want to buy one property a year there is nothing keeping you from doing so. Part of your business plan should be recognizing how much time you can commit to the real estate business. There is a lot that goes into being part of a successful transaction. Even though there are websites and apps that make the process easier there are no shortcuts to success. You need to do your due diligence on every deal if you want to truly know what you are getting into. It is important to ask yourself how much time you have available during the work day to focus on real estate. This can be a challenge if you want to hang onto your full time employment. If finding time during the day is tricky you need to be able to work at nights or on weekends. There are ways to invest even with just a few hours a week but you need to map out exactly how you plan on doing it.
  • Strengths & Weaknesses. What parts of the business do you feel you have a pretty good grasp on right now? While you really never know until you get started often times you know which areas you are comfortable with and those you need to work on. You should play to your strengths and look for ways to compensate for your weaknesses. Whatever field you come from should be your focus. If you come from finance, real estate or the mortgage business you should be able to understand the numbers and jargon on a new deal. If you have a tech background you can use that strength to help generate leads and promote your business. Getting into any new business requires some self-assessment. As you write you plan you should take the time to consider your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Lead Generation. Regardless of your background the strength of your initial lead generation often determines the strength of your business. A major part of your business plan has to be how you plan on getting leads. Fortunately it is easier than ever to promote a business and reach people. The internet, particularly social media, make it easy to reach hundreds of people every day. However reaching people is not enough. You also need to think about how you will generate leads. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on lead generation but you should have some strategy in mind. Finding the right strategy will take some trial and error but you need to have a plan prior to getting started.

Your business plan can be as short as a paragraph or as long as you want. Having a plan of attack is the best way to approach a new endeavor.

4 Ways to Reduce Your Power Bill This Season

As the days get shorter and the weather gets steadily colder, homeowners across the country will see their power bills increase dramatically. Heating and lighting your real estate investment through the late fall and winter can cost you thousands if you’re reckless. So don’t be! Here are a few steps you can take to help keep your heating and power bills to a minimum:

  1. Pull the plug. Did you know that even when a device or appliance is turned off it’s still drawing power? Things like televisions, home theater equipment and stereos actually run in “standby” mode when you leave them plugged in, and they can draw as much energy as a 100-watt light bulb. If you remember to switch off your power strips or unplug the individual devices, you can easily save $10 a month on your electric bill.
  2. Put your computer to sleep. Much like car engines, a computer uses more energy during startup and shutdown than it does when it’s left to continuously run in a low-power state. Instead of shutting your computer down, try putting it into hibernation mode instead. You’ll save money on your power bill, and because you won’t have to boot up quite so often, you’ll save time too.
  3. Use small space heaters. Don’t crank up the thermostat every time your real estate investment gets a little chilly. Small, portable space heaters can warm a bedroom in minutes, and when used wisely they can save you hundreds a month on your heating bill. You can pick them up at any department store for less than $20 per unit.
  4. Upgrade your windows. Do you have double-paned argon-filled windows in your home? If you don’t, they’re definitely worth considering. Not only will they save you 9.8 tons of heat annually, they’ll also boost your property value significantly.

The weather might be extreme this season, but that doesn’t mean your power bill has to be. If you take the right steps to insulate your real estate investment and remember to unplug your appliances when they aren’t being used, you can keep your wallet stuffed and your property value high.

8 Steps To Get Your Property Rented

You never know when you may want, or need, to rent a property. There are many investors who got their start in the business by renting out their primary residence after the mortgage collapse.  There is also a large segment of investors who decide to rent after putting their rehab on the market.  A solid rental property can be a great addition to any portfolio.  That being said there is a lot that goes into it.  You can’t simply put a “for rent” sign on the lawn and wait for checks to roll in.  Like anything else in the real estate world there is a certain process that needs to be followed to ensure results.  Here are eight steps you need to take to get your property rented.

  • Research Local Rental Rules And Guidelines. The first step you should take if you are considering renting is to research the local rental rules and guidelines. There are often specific rules based on the town the property is located in. You don’t want to spend time and money in finding a tenant only to discover that your property is not eligible for rental. There are many quirky rental laws out there for student housing, zoning and the maximum number of tenants that may be allowed in the property. Before you get too far in the process you need to know what you can and cannot do.
  • Look At Market Rents. The rental market is very much contingent on local rental prices. The next step is to look at every rental property on the market within a five mile radius of your property. The closer the property is to yours the more reliable of a comparable it is. Look at important items such as size, room count, square footage, parking and other amenities. It is important to fight the urge in placing a higher rental value on your property based on some upgrades you made. Let the numbers guide you as to what kind of rent you can generate.
  • Understanding Expenses. There are a few hidden expenses that can quickly eat away at potential cash flow. All property owners are aware of the monthly principal, interest, tax and insurance payments. However there are many rental property expenses that can take you by surprise. Water bills, lawn maintenance, snow removal and sewer bills are just a few of them. You also need to figure out how you plan on managing the property. A good property manager will make your life easier but they will also take roughly 10% of the monthly rent received. It can be very disheartening finding out that your rental property is breaking even when you thought you were positive $300 a month. Avoid this mistake by understanding all rental property expenses.
  • Get The Word Out. After you run the numbers and make the commitment to rent you need to spread the word. Gone are the days when a classified ad in the newspaper was your best bet. Today there are many more rental listing sites than ever before. Between social media alone you can quickly reach hundreds of people. You can also utilize Craigslist, Trulia, Postlets and any other rental site you can find. Finding a good rental is often a numbers game. The more people that know about your property the better chance you can quickly find a tenant.
  • Schedule Showings. Just because a prospective renter is interested doesn’t mean they are going to take the property. With every showing you need to always showcase the property in the best possible light. Make sure the property is clean, odor free and ready to rent. You may have to show the property half a dozen times before you find a tenant that ready to act. This is all part of the process. Good tenants rarely just fall on your lap.
  • Tenant Screening. One of the most common mistakes that inexperienced landlords make is renting to the first person that shows interest. Your goal isn’t to find a tenant but find the right tenant. You need to spend some time screening each interested tenant. Give them an application, ask for a credit check and follow up with the references listed. Your tenant is going to live in your house for at least nine months. As easy as a good tenant is a bad one is a nightmare to deal with. Take your time and screen every interested applicant.
  • Lease Review. You can probably find a generic lease online in a matter of minutes. This may be easy and inexpensive but will it protect you if an unexpected issue comes up? You are better off spending some money having an attorney draft your lease. Once you are comfortable with your lease you can present it to your tenant. Sit down at the property and review any items of particular importance to you. If you are adamant about pets or smoking rules now is the time to make it clear.
  • Final Walkthrough. After you and your new tenant have signed the lease and collected the security deposit there is just one more step to go. You should meet your tenant at the property on move in day for the walkthrough. You should be ready to hand over the keys and provide specific information about the property. You should also document the condition with pictures or videos. Doing this now will make things easier for you when the lease is over.

Things will rarely go smoothly over the course of the lease. Take things as they come and be ready for anything.  Use these eight steps as a guide the next time you have a property you want to rent.

Getting Started In Commercial Real Estate

There is a normal progression most buy and hold investors take.  After getting started with a single family rental they move up to two, three and four unit properties.  Eventually they become more comfortable with the additional units and look to take on bigger projects.  The next step up from multiple units is commercial, apartment and mixed use properties.  While this may sound intimidating managing the additional units is not that big of an adjustment if you have experience.  With additional units comes additional responsibility but also increased income potential.  Some of the wealthiest people in the county have made their wealth through commercial real estate.  This certainly doesn’t happen overnight but the long term potential is there.  If you are interested in getting started in commercial real estate here are four basic items you need to be aware of.

  • Accept Differences. Taking on additional units is very much like running a busy family. With one child you think things are tough but you have time to figure things out. If you have a second child things get more spread out leaving you on constant patrol. If you are daring enough to have a third or fourth child you know that your time is limited but with experience you have a better sense of how to handle things. The same is the case if you have five or more children. The point is that anything new always seems difficult and daunting but you usually find a way to figure things out. The first step in commercial real estate is accepting that while the process is similar there are many distinct differences. Aside from the obvious difference in units there are many different formulas, calculations, expenses and jargon you need to be aware of. Soaking this all in may seem daunting but it gets easier the more you learn about it.
  • Market. Buying real estate on any level is largely about supply and demand. This is just as important if you are exploring commercial real estate. You need to know that the market can support the property. With a single family property your rental pool is much larger than with a commercial property. You need to entice business owners and tenants who find the market appealing enough to commit to the area for three to five years. This means you need to know everything about the market the property is located in. You should have an idea of any changes in local demographics and what new businesses have come and gone. You should look at local property sales and see if homeowners are buying in your area. Something as seemingly unconnected as the strength of the school system impacts homebuyer demand which can influence business sales. An individual commercial piece of land is only as good as the market it is located in. With any commercial sale market knowledge is critical.
  • Numbers. One of the reasons that investors stay away from commercial real estate is the increase in numbers. Figuring out cash flow on a single family property is fairly straightforward. When extra units get thrown in the mix the numbers are more difficult to calculate. In commercial real estate there are a handful of important formulas you should be aware of. Items like net operating income (NOI), cap rates and cash on cash return will give you a much better sense in the strength of a deal. These terms may sound foreign but in reality they are much more basic then they sound. In addition to formulas there are a greater number of expenses you need to know. The property taxes, insurance, management fee and utilities will all be increased based on the exact number of units. If underestimating one of these has an impact on a single family property it is even more magnified on a commercial piece. The best way to understand the numbers is to reach out to a local commercial real estate agent and ask for a template or a pro forma sheet for you to review.
  • Financing. Loan financing for a commercial property has some similarities to a traditional investment loan but also some stark differences. Unless your credit scores are strong (over 680) you will have a tough time getting the ball rolling. From there you also need significant down payment of anywhere between 25 & 30%. Debt to income ratio is important but the lender will also look at the cash flow of the property. There should be leases in place when you buy or strong cash flow potential. Almost all commercial property loan expenses are double or even triple that of a single family purchase and the process can take anywhere from 45 to 60 days. The number of commercial loan outlets is also reduced. Most local lenders only have a reduced number of commercial loan programs and products which can make approval difficult. There is a big difference in getting approved for a single family investment property and a multi-unit commercial building.

Prior to investing in a commercial property you should have an idea of your goals and how you plan on managing the building. Even the most seasoned investors need management help on a twenty unit apartment building.  There is nothing wrong with getting your commercial start on a five unit mixed use property and building from there.  Like anything else you do in real estate you should take your time and know exactly what you are getting into prior to getting too far.

How To Become A Rehabbing Expert With Little To No Experience in Calgary

Do you want to be a rehabber but don’t know how to operate an electric screwdriver? As crazy as it may sound you don’t need to be a handy person to be a rehabber. Sure, it is a help but far from a prerequisite in getting started. There are many rehabbers all over the country who got their start without knowing the first thing about home improvement. They gained their skills and experience from every project they were on until they knew enough to run a project on their own. Conversely, most handy people think they know the process well enough to dive right into the world of rehab. What they find is that it takes more than the handy person knowledge to be successful. Regardless if you can operate a SAWZALL or don’t know how to swing a hammer the rehab side of the business is open to everyone. Here are four things you need to do to be a successful rehabber without tool belt experience.

  • Know The Process. Instead of being an expert on the technical side of things you should start by knowing the process. You don’t need to know anything about home improvement to master the steps of a rehab. While every rehab has their own unique qualities there are similar several steps with every property. You should have an understanding on the big items to look for that are costly and difficult to deal with. Roofs, issues with the structure, windows and electrical items will have a much bigger impact than simple cosmetics. You don’t need to know how to remedy these problems but you should have an idea of the costs. One way to learn the costs is by simply walking around big box retail stores. This will give you some background on the cost of materials and with a few questions what they may be used for. Cost of labor you will learn the more job sites you are on and the more contractors and project managers you talk to. This knowledge will come in time but knowledge of the process is something you can learn before getting started.
  • Surround Yourself With A Strong Team. If you don’t know what you are doing on a rehab there is a real possibility you can and probably will lose money. Instead of waiting until you master every aspect of the process you can get started by surrounding yourself with a strong team. Start by finding the best contractor you can find. This may not be easy as many contractors only like to work with experienced investors. However, if you reach out to enough you will eventually find one that is a good fit for you and your experience. While you don’t want to blindly give your contractor the keys to a rehab project you should be willing to let them run things the way they see fit. You can certainly get different quotes but let your contractor run the project. In addition to your contractor you should also find a quality project manager, electrician, plumber, drywall expert and painter. Generally speaking, you should try to get at least three quotes on every aspect of the property. This is your rehab but you can make it easy on yourself by having the best possible team around you.
  • Consider A Partner. If the prospect of talking to people in the trades is difficult without knowing the jargon you can consider taking on a business partner. With a business partner you can handle the financial side of the transaction while your partner runs the rehab project. The upside is that you can feel comfortable knowing that your partner will not get run over by a contractor or handy person. The obvious downside is that you will not make as much on every deal as you expect. As you are just getting going this can be a great way to learn the business without the stress of trying to do everything on your own. You can hang around the property in your free time and see how things are done without everyone turning to you with questions or problems. Your partner will be the buffer and deal with any issues that pop up. A partner may limit your upside on every deal but it can be a great way to learn the ropes and break into the business.
  • Defer. In real estate it is always best to know what you don’t know. There are many investors who try to fake like they are an expert only to have it come back to haunt them. There is nothing wrong with saying that you don’t know a particular aspect of the business. With rehabbing if you don’t know what you are doing you will eventually get exposed. You are far better off deferring to the people around you as you develop your education. As we mentioned you should seek out a good team or a business partner until you are comfortable with the process. You will still reap the rewards of the deal, maybe not as much, but in the end it will be worth it for you. There is nothing wrong with deferring to the people around you for your first several rehabs.

Some of the best rehabbers got their start without knowing how to swing a hammer. It may be uncomfortable during your first few deals but eventually you will find your way.

How To Work With Motivated Sellers

With any motivated seller lead the first goal is to get the homeowner to agree to a meeting. The meeting should act as a mini presentation for what you can do and how you plan on doing it without being too over the top.  You never want to hide the fact that you are a real estate investor but there is a certain way of delivering your message.  Every meeting with a motivated seller should be viewed as an opportunity.  They are most likely going to work with someone and that person can be you if you put your best foot forward during your meeting.  Here are five tips to help improve every motivated seller meeting you have.

  • Consider Your Approach.  People like working with people they feel comfortable with. Before diving right into the numbers you should take some time and build a rapport. This starts from the minute you drive up to the property. Wearing a three piece suit may work for some meetings but not for homeowner meetings. You want to respect the process and wear something appropriate but nothing too over the top that creates a negative first impression. As you enter the house you should make small talk and not be afraid to ask about the neighborhood or something timely in pop culture. If you have a good sense of humor you should be willing to make a joke as long as it is in good taste. Usually self-deprecating humor works best. Prior to sitting down you should ask to walk around the property further making the homeowner feel as comfortable as possible with you. By the time you sit down the ice should be broken and there should be little or no uncomfortable feelings.
  • Ask Questions. Most of your heavy lifting is done with the initial conversation. When you get to the property the answers should simply confirm what you already know. As you walk the property you should ask questions to get a better sense of their motivation. Find out or reconfirm why they are selling and what prompted their situation. If they say there was a major life event don’t just glaze over this fact. Shift gears and ask what happened and offer any advice you can lend. You want to get your questions answered but you don’t want to sound like you are reading off a script. If the homeowner feels you are insensitive they will surely go find someone else to work with. You can always switch up the pattern you ask questions to find out the information you need. The template you use for sitting down with motivated sellers is just that-a template. You need to have the ability to change gears on the fly all the while still getting the information you need.
  • Listen To Answers. A common mistake that many investors make is rushing through the process without listening to the answers. In almost every circumstance the homeowner will tell you want they want, when they want it and whether or not they are really interested in selling. If you are too busy thinking about the next question you will miss out on some valuable information. Don’t be afraid to let the homeowner go with their answers. This is usually a very difficult time in their lives and they have probably been holding things in for some time. If they want to talk about the process and what led them to this point you should have a compassionate ear. You should also be ready to answer any questions they have. As unfortunate as it is homeowners need to be on alert for scammers. Don’t take it personally if they ask to verify you and your company.
  • Ask About Goals. It is not uncommon for a motivated seller to have unrealistic expectations for the process. They may have heard a story from a friend or family member about how things went for them and want the same on their transaction. Without knowing exactly what the homeowner wants it can be difficult moving forward. Everything starts with the sales price. If you are far apart on value your first goal is to get the seller to see your number. You can do this by calmly pointing out the flaws of the property without being too critical. You should also use comparable sales and current listings to support your argument. This information should be readily available at your meeting but you should only use if needed. Next you need to get an idea of their timeframe. If the seller doesn’t want to close for six months and you want to close in two you need to figure out how to bridge the gap. It is important that you understand the homeowner’s goals and explain what is realistic and what may be impossible to attain.
  • Lean But Don’t Push. You want to know where you stand immediately following the meeting. Depending on how close you are will determine your next course of action. On one hand you always want to push for an answer but on the other if you push too hard you may discourage the seller. The best way to do this is by asking for answers on a predetermined date but make that date far enough away so they have time to think things over.   Always remember what may be just a deal to you is much more important for the seller.

By definition motivated sellers are ready to take action. Use these tips to help convert more meetings into actual deals.

3 Ways to Increase Your Long-Term Property Value

When remodeling a house, you should always consider how your investments will affect your home’s property value. Every upgrade you give your house will increase its property value to a certain degree, but some projects will boost your sticker price more significantly (and permanently) than others. Here are three investments that are sure to add long-lasting value to your real estate investment:

  1. Lay some wood. Hardwood floors might not be as cheap as carpeting, but they’re an investment you’ll be glad you made. Not only are hardwood floors more appealing to buyers than carpeting, they’re more resilient and easier to maintain. A well made wood floor can even outlast your house itself and is sure to add thousands of dollars to your property value.
  2. Stir up a new kitchen. A kitchen is a home’s command center and remodeling the one in your real estate investment will increase your property value dramatically. You don’t need to go big on this project, since modestly upgraded kitchens recoup more of their value than lavishly decked out ones, but you should try to maximize your kitchen’s aesthetic appeal as much as your budget allows. Try installing stainless steel appliances, contemporary faucets and, if you have the space, an island.
  3. Open a door. Believe it or not, new entry doors are the best way to raise your property value for the price. Installing a $1,000 steel door to the outside will boost up your real estate investment’s sticker price by $1,500, so if you’re selling a home this season make sure to upgrade all of your exits.

The best investments to increase your long-term property value are the ones that last the longest themselves. Steel doors, wood floors and new countertops will last for lifetimes after they’re installed and that’s a major selling point for buyers. Pro tip: look for upgrades that come with warranties that can be transferred to the new owner.

4 Ways to Winterize Your Real Estate Investment

The weather outside may not be frightful yet, but it certainly will be soon. Smart real estate investors should take advantage of the mild temperatures to get their homes ready for the snow and ice. Here are four ways to make sure your real estate investment stays cozy and safe all winter long.

1)    Tune up your furnace. The last thing you want is for your home’s heating system to break down in the middle of the winter. Call in an HVAC specialist to inspect your furnace and ducts. Stock up on furnace filters, and remove anything around your heater that might catch fire after prolonged exposure to the ambient heat.

2)    Seal interior leaks. Blocking interior leaks is important if you want to keep your home well insulated this season. Try holding a lit candle near your windows, door frames and electrical outlets. If the flame flickers or the smoke moves in unexpected ways, you know you’ve got some caulking to do. Tacky rope also works well as a quick-fix alternative.

3)    Reverse your fan. If you’ve got a ceiling fan in your house, you can switch its direction in order to aid with heat distribution. Rather than pulling all the hot air upwards, the fan will force it downwards throughout the room. It’s a great way to reduce your heating bill, one that not enough homeowners know about.

4)    Clean your gutters. You’re running out of time to scrape that leafy gunk out of your gutters, so grab a pair of gloves and a ladder and get to work. Blockages in your drainage system are bad enough, but if that sludge freezes, it could warp or even break your gutters. Worse, ice dams can cause water to seep under the shingles and into the house. If your property is located in an area where ice has been a problem in recent years, gutter heaters may be a worthwhile investment.

If you haven’t taken these steps to prepare your real estate investment for winter, you should put them at the top of your list. This season won’t be kind to houses, especially empty ones, so it’s important for real estate investors to do everything they can to ensure that their properties stay warm and safe until the spring.

4 Tips To Help Self Manage Your Rental Property

At times managing a rental property can act as a full time job. Even if you have great tenants property issues always pop up from time to time. Most of these are minor in nature but nevertheless still needed to be treated with a sense of urgency.  How well you take care of these will often define your success with the property.

On certain properties there is not be enough cash flow to warrant hiring a property manager. In these situations you are forced to cover their responsibilities. Fortunately with the right attitude and the right team in place this can be easily achieved. Here are four tips to help self-manage your rental property.

  • Handyman On Speed Dial. Regardless of how handy you are it is essential that you have a handyman on speed dial. Anyone that has ever owned a rental property knows that little things pop up from time to time. Between clogged toilets and broken appliances alone you can expect to be at the house a few times a month. Instead of having to drop what you are doing, drive to the house to access the issue, find the parts and repair what’s broken you should have a reliable handy man that you can call. This will save you at least an average of a few hours a week and allow you to focus on other areas of your business. What you never want to do is pay to have work done twice. By using a reliable professional that can handle multiple tasks you can be assured that you are not just putting a band aid on the job but actually fixing it right.
  • 24 Hour Reply Rule. As the owner you should treat your tenants like you would treat a guest at a hotel. You should expect that there will be issues that come up from time to time and work to make them happy. While these issues may not seem like a big deal to you they are critical to your tenants. The house will run without a working washing machine or dishwasher but your tenants will be disappointed. As the owner/property manager you need to make a point to return all calls within 24 hours. The longer your tenants wait the more they begin to doubt you as an owner. Instead of calling you with a small problem they will hide it and let it turn into a bigger one. Instead of taking care of the property like their own they won’t be nearly as enthusiastic. This is especially the case if you have any interested in bringing your tenants back. They can find other properties where the landlords are more active and treat their tenants better. As soon as you get a call from your tenant you need to get on it as soon as possible.
  • Start New Tenant Search Early. One of the biggest mistakes that novice landlords make is not starting their tenant search early enough. A dedicated property manager would strive to have a new tenant lined up weeks before the current lease is over. With everything else going on in your business it can be easy to overlook this part of the process. If you don’t have new tenants coming in nothing else matters. You need to give yourself plenty of time to not only find your next tenant but find the right one. This should start as soon as 90 days until the end of your existing lease. There are more real estate websites than ever before not to mention the growth of social media. You should never have to scramble around a week or two before a vacancy. Give yourself plenty of time to find your next tenant.
  • Move In/Out Rules. If you are going to manage the property yourself you need to have clearly defined move in and out rules. A typical property manager would handle the lease review and final walk through. Without their aid this is one of the areas that can make or break a lease. You need to spend time going over the lease so there are no surprises. Discuss expectations, rules and guidelines. Go through the lease line by line asking if they have any questions or concerns. A few extra minutes before the lease starts will make your life much easier over the next nine months. You should also give yourself plenty of time discussing the end of the lease. Starting two months out you should discuss the end of lease procedure. Explain the condition the property needs to be in and which items need to be where. Make it clear how the walkthrough will occur and when security funds will be returned. The end of the current lease and start of a new one doesn’t have to be filled with stress and anxiety. The better communication you have up front the smoother the transition will be.

In a perfect world you could just hire a property manager and let them deal with the headaches. Not all rentals have this luxury. There are plenty of good landlords who self-manage their rentals.  The key is that they acknowledge that they are constantly on call.  Having this mindset allows them to deal with whatever comes their way.