Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Fall Maintenance for Your Rentals

Fall is upon us, and with it comes changing leaves, a new school year for the kids and the first chilly temperatures of the season. For property managers, fall means a last chance to get caught up on maintenance while the weather is still nice. It is the perfect time to tackle projects that have sat on the back burner all summer. 

Routine maintenance on your rental properties can ensure protection from snow, wind and ice as the cooler months approach. Don't be put off by the initial shock of how much it seems like you need to do - most autumnal maintenance can be done affordably and quickly. Anyway, routine maintenance each season can save you money and time in long run!

Cal Bay Property Management's Scott Safadi recommends checking into exterior maintenance needs first. Prioritizing caulking, roof inspections and the cleaning of gutters will ensure your property is ready for whatever blows your way. Be sure to animal proof your rentals, too. When the temperatures turn cold, critters are likely to seek shelter in any corner they can. Discourage nesting by performing an exterior inspection and looking for any openings an animal might crawl through. Caulk small holes and install steel mesh over large holes. 

Indoors, inspect windows and doors for air leaks. Drafty homes can be a drain on the heating system, so apply weather stripping or caulk where needed. Check the attic for similar air leaks. Animals that may have entered the crawl space can destroy insulation.

If you have a fireplace installed in a rental, have a chimney sweep remove debris that may have built up over the warmer months. Clogged chimneys increase the risk of chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Fall is also a great time to double check the carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. Put in fresh batteries and make sure they are in good working order. 

Don't forget to walk the property to make a list of any lawn or tree maintenance needs. Any branches or vegetation that makes contact with a home or apartment can cause potential damage. Arrange for seasonal trimmings to best protect your investment.

However you decide to maintain your property this fall, do so before the weather turns cold. You save yourself time and energy (and in some cases, money) by being proactive!

- Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Easy Projects to Boost Curb Appeal

It's not easy being a property manager. With tenants to keep happy, prospective residents to attract and near constant maintenance projects to attend to, there's not much free time to sit back and reflect on what could be better about the property. That's why so many apartment communities lack character or distinction: the landlord or property manager is often so overworked, just keeping the lights on is enough.

For crowded markets, though, just keeping the lights on is never good enough. To edge out competition, Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management recommends offering amenities or prices better than your neighbors. If you're lacking in funds to renovate or add in a new jacuzzi to attract tenants, you may feel frustrated at your lack of options. Easy projects to boost curb appeal can be done in a weekend, though, so roll up your sleeves and tackle one of these!

Mowing and Trimming and Planting, Oh My!

The easiest curb appeal project is maintaining the lawn and flowerbeds you already have. Too often, these spots are overlooked by busy employees. They offer a chance for you to beautify your apartment community and show tenants you put in the time and effort to care for the place. Break out the weed trimmer and take care of your edges every now and then and keep your grass mowed at a regular pace. Invest in mulch for flower beds and around trees, and plant seasonal flowers that will add a splash of color.

Illuminate Your Property

Just because the sun goes down doesn't mean you have to stop showing off your community. Adding low-voltage landscape lighting to your pathways can brighten up the place. It can also add an increased sense of security to your apartment homes. If wiring lights sounds like too much trouble, consider investing in solar lights instead!

Add Holiday Flair

Whether you're celebrating the seasonal changes or a specific holiday, adding light decor to your property can really warm a community up. Brightly colored flags and fun lawn ornaments can give your apartment homes a lived in feel that adds authenticity.

However you decide to spice up your outdoor spaces, doing so can add value to your property and make it more inviting to new tenants.

- Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Easy Amenities to Attract New Tenants

When is the last time your community was updated? Even if your units got completely renovated within the last five years, chances are good that they're beginning to show some wear and tear. But not every apartment can be brand new, at least not all the time. So what do you have to appeal to tenants who have plenty of other options in the area? And what if those options are newer and more exciting?

Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management recommends small, easy additions to your community that will offer a lot of bang for your buck. Consider adding:

Package Lockers
People are ordering clothes, shoes, food -- virtually everything you can think of -- online more than ever before. Your office staff can probably attest to this! Chances are good, they sign for packages for your tenants all day. Tenants will likely appreciate this secure way of handling deliveries, but when they can't pick up their packages (after the office has closed for the day, for instance), the service is less convenient than they might have initially expected. Make everyone's lives a little easier by installing package lockers. Deliveries can be made directly to the lockers and tenants can pick up their packages virtually any time that's convenient for them.

Bike Racks
If you're looking for something lower tech, bike racks might be a good option to consider. People are looking for greener ways to commute and for ways to stay in shape -- cycling kills two birds with one stone! Unfortunately, though, apartment dwellers are often frustrated by their lack of bike storage options, especially if they don't live on the first floor. Installing a simple bike rack is an easy solution to the conundrum. We recommend installing it out of the elements in a covered spot. That way, bikes won't fade in the sun nor rust in the rain.

Outdoor Washing Stations
For folks with garages and driveways, washing your car -- or your beloved pooch -- is a no brainer: you simply head out to the front of your home and hook up your hose. For apartment dwellers, it's not as simple. That's why we recommend adding an outdoor washing station or two to your community. A water hookup and a trashcan are incredibly simple to add to an unused corner of your parking lot, but adds tremendous value for your tenants.

- Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

London Apartment Fire Highlights Risks

Last month, a deadly fire raged for three days in an apartment building in London. The Grenfell Tower fire resulted in dozens of fatalities and outrage across the United Kingdom about the lack of fire safety mechanisms in place in the building. Stateside, property managers are giving their own smoke detectors, sprinklers and emergency plans a hard look.

The Grenfell Tower fire broke out in the middle of the night, with emergency crews arriving on site around 1:00 in the morning. By then, the fire had already raged to uncontrollable levels. Debris falling from the tower forced emergency personnel to relocate to a safer spot, with fears that the tower might collapse at any moment. 

When the fire was finally extinguished three days later, more than 80 people had died. Tragically, residents had raised concerns about the building's safety long before the fire ever broke out. Power surges had caused electronics in the building to explode for years, and without multiple evacuation routes, residents feared for the worst. No sprinkler system existed in the building and fire extinguishers hadn't been inspected in years.

It's not clear what consequences the managers and owners of the tower will face in the aftermath of the fire, but we can only hope more will be done to prevent future accidents like this one.

So what can property managers take away from this horrific incident? At the very least, says Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management, landlords should take extra precaution to inspect the community's emergency procedures. Reviewing steps to take in a fire or weather emergency is also a good move. Remind occupants that closing doors on fires is a good first step in combating a blaze. Most walls and doors in 2017 are fire-rated and will contain flames to that room.

That doesn't mean a person should remain in their residence if a fire breaks out, though. Remind tenants to have their own personal emergency plan of action should a kitchen accident go up in flames. Keeping a fire extinguisher nearby can also be a real life saver, but just knowing where the nearest one is located is often enough.

However you decide to prep your community for the worst case scenario, it's important that property managers do their due diligence. If an incident does occur, you'll be glad you invested your time in properly preparing for an emergency. Consider hosting a community event with pizza to review safety procedures with residents. A low-key review can truly save lives!

- Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Non-renewals: What's Driving Your Tenants Away?

As property managers, we spend a lot of time enforcing the rules. We hunt down late rent payments, ensure tenants keep their noise level to a minimum and that they're parking in their assigned spot. When tenants do their fair share to contribute to a clean, safe and pleasant community, we're appreciative. But what are property managers doing to live up to their end of the bargain? Could your actions -- or lack thereof -- be driving good tenants away?

Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management says yes. In competitive markets, renters are always looking to trade up to the newest, next best property. Here's a few ways property managers ruin their chances at renewing leases:

Maintenance Issues

Leaky sinks, clogged toilets and broken air conditioning units are the bane of renters' existence. Having to hunt down a property manager or landlord every few weeks to nag them about something new that has broken is exhausting. If you're having maintenance issues with a unit over an extended period of time, make the struggles a little more bearable by offering a discount in rent. Better yet, fix problems as soon as they crop up.

Rent Increases

While rent increases are necessary to keep up with the cost of living, annual hikes to the rent get old fast. If you've got tenants renewing their lease for a second or third year, cut them some slack and go easy on the rent increases. If you don't, they'll be shopping around for new apartments sooner than you can say the word lease.

Excessive Noise

A man's home is his kingdom, and even when he's renting, he expects a peaceful place to call home. Bear that in mind as you oversee your apartment community. Barking dogs, screaming children and thumping music can annoy even the most patient of tenants. Address noise violations promptly, before you lose a quiet tenant!

Illegal Entry

There's nothing more unsettling than finding out that someone has been in your space without your permission. Too often, apartment community employees enter units without giving warning beforehand. Even if they're present on official business, like fixing a leaky sink, the surprise visit can take most tenants aback. If your tenants don't feel respected, they'll start apartment hunting soon. Remind employees to always give notice before entering a residence.

- Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Best Open House Ever: The Tips You Need to Attract New Tenants

When you've got open units in your community, it's time to rely on an old real estate standby: the open house. A perennial favorite for a reason, the open house is the best way to put your cards on the table and invite the general public to check you out. Not only do open houses attract passersby who might not normally bother stopping in, they can create a sense of urgency among those viewing your available rentals.

So how do you throw the best open house ever? Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management recommends sweetening the deal for folks who might want to stop in but are feeling hesitant. Cookies and punch are nice, but gift cards are the real motivator. Investing in $5 Starbucks gift cards to hand out to visitors can be a great incentive that doesn't break the bank.

Another way to create a sense of urgency? Give your open house a clear start and end time. Rather than a general time (Saturday afternoon, for example), list precise time periods (Saturday between 2 and 4 PM). Folks will be more likely to show, and feel more inclined to arrive at the beginning of the event.

Marketing your event is critical. While full color flyers and advertisements in local newspapers might be costly, they pay off in a big way. If you're on a budget, consider investing in event-specific Facebook advertisements instead. However you choose to promote the open house, make sure you've got great photos to entice the curious folks wavering on attending.

Once you've got a crowd at your open house, make sure to have everyone sign in with their names, phone numbers and email addresses. Building up your email list is a smart way to keep your community at the front of people's minds.

Have applications to hand out and plenty of pens ready for people eager to apply. Be sure you discuss what documentation is required for a complete application, and offer easy options for sending over paperwork. Anything you can do to make the lives of your potential new tenants easier, be sure to offer!

Whether you've struggled to fill vacancies for a week or several months, an open house is a fantastic way to attract new applicants. Simply getting on the radar of people in the neighborhood can lead to referrals, applications and, with any luck, a few new tenants!

- Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

3 Things You Should Be Doing to Maintain Vacant Units

In a perfect world, you'd never have a vacant unit. In a perfect world, your quality tenants would never want to leave your community. In a perfect world, vacancies are filled before the previous tenant even has the chance to move out.

Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world. The reality is that at one point or another, all property managers will be forced to contend with a vacant unit. Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management recommends these three tips to keep your vacant units up to snuff:

1. Keep it secure. Kids loving nothing more than exploring, and if your unit's door is unlocked or a window is cracked open, you could find yourself with a mess on your hands. Worse yet is the chance that something more sinister could occur in the unit left unsecured. Do your best to keep the unit locked up tight!

2. Inspect regularly. If a pipe bursts in an occupied unit, you'll know within hours of the accident. If a pipe bursts in a vacant unit, though, it could be days or even weeks before anyone notices something has gone awry. That's why it pays to inspect the unit with regularity. Even if you can't stop in every week, alert neighbors to the fact that the unit is vacant. They can help be your eyes and ears when you're not around!

3. Avoid "for rent" signs. For landlords eager to fill a vacancy, this tip might seem counterintuitive. But the reality is that most renters will be looking at real estate online these days. For rent signs are just promoting that the unit may indeed be vacant — and that could be a big security risk.

- Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management


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