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8 Things to Think About Before You Become a Landlord

Being a landlord comes with great responsibility. Make no mistake of that. It might seem like an easy way to make a little extra income, but there’s a good bit more to renting out your home than just collecting a rent check each month. Being a landlord requires time, money, and the ability to deal with tenants fairly and with a level head. Here are eight things you should think about or research before you make the final decision to become a landlord.

Location of the Property

We all know that “location, location, location” is the one of the most important things in real estate. Finding a great deal on a fixer-upper is always nice, but if it’s not in a location where people tend to rent, you might be hard pressed to find a tenant. Look for properties near universities, hospitals, desirable neighborhoods, public transportation, corporate campuses, and even some military bases. These are areas that attract a large number of renters, so finding someone to rent your place should be a little easier.

Landlord-Tenant Law

It’s a smart idea to study federal, state, and local laws and regulations before you decide whether or not to become a landlord. Pay careful attention to things like zoning ordinances and homeowners or condo associations. Some properties might be located in areas that don’t allow rentals. Look for any special fees or taxes you may have to pay as well. Other laws regulate things like tenants’ and landlords’ rights and responsibilities. They may also spell out what items are required to be covered in the rental agreement.

Professional Advice

Even if you’ve read all the books and websites and gotten all the necessary forms in order, it’s a good idea to consult a real estate attorney or your trusted Realtor® for a little advice. They can provide feedback and suggest any changes or additions to the rental agreement that might further protect you or your tenant further on down the road.

How to Enforce Rent

Say you have a tenant who’s regularly late with the rent. Or maybe you have one who always pays on time but suddenly loses their job; they promise to pay all the back-rent once they find a new one if you just cut them a break for a month or two. Do you have a plan for any of these situations? How will you enforce rent and guarantee that you don’t lose money on tenants that don’t or can’t pay on time? You should also have a plan for collecting rent. With so many online options these days, this is more convenient than ever, so there’s no excuse for tenants to be late with rent.

Screening Potential Tenants

How will you screen potential tenants to make sure they’re who they say they are? You’ll need to run background and credit checks on all prospective tenants, as well as contacting their previous landlords for references. Will you pay for background checks each time? Will you hire a property manager to take care of keeping the property rented? Either way, it’s incredibly important to know who you’re renting to and whether or not they can actually afford the rent they’re agreeing to pay.

Maintenance Plans and Emergency Funds

It’s inevitable—something in your rental property is eventually going to break. The key to keeping tenants happy is having a maintenance and repair plan in place before something needs repairing. If you’re happy to be the handyman for your own property, go for it, but realize that it could mean a lot of side work and back-and-forth depending on how many rental properties you own. If you’re not so great with that sort of thing, look for a few trusty repair companies to keep on speed dial. As far as routine maintenance like yard work, decide whether you’d like tenants to keep up with it, do it yourself, or hire a lawn care company. You’ll also need to make sure you have enough money set aside in an emergency fund to cover any major repairs quickly, keeping your tenants happy and safe.

Lease Customization

A standard, printed-from-the-internet lease will never be completely perfect for any landlord and tenant relationship. There are lots of details to think about. For example, will you allow pets? What kinds? Will there be a pet fee or deposit? Will you allow the tenant to have overnight guests for more than a couple of nights without charging a fee? What about parking spaces? Usage of pool and other recreation areas? Is there an extra fee for that too?

Property Inspections

Don’t forget you’ll need to inspect the property periodically. Stipulate in the lease how often you will inspect the property. The tenant has the right to quiet enjoyment, which means that the landlord cannot just pop in anytime they feel like it unless there’s good cause. A landlord must notify the tenant in advance. When the tenants move in, do a walkthrough with them to establish a baseline and document any previously known issues. Then when you do your regularly scheduled inspection, you’ll have a benchmark to work from.

As you can see, there’s quite a bit more to being a landlord than turning over the key and cashing rent checks. Being a good landlord takes commitment, planning, patience, and organization.

Friday Five // February 8th, 2019

TGIF! It’s time for another brand new edition of the Friday Five, our weekly roundup of five fun events happening throughout the Charleston area this weekend. Sample beer, wine, and chocolate, stroll through romantic gardens with that special someone, take the family dog out for some pampering, and more. Whatever you choose to do, the staff and agents at Johnson & Wilson Real Estate Company wish you a safe and happy weekend!

Magnolia Plantation & Gardens invites you and that special person in your life to a Valentine Chocolate Walk through America’s oldest romantic-style garden. Your passport will guide you through country-themed stations throughout the gardens, where you will enjoy live music and sample sweets from around the world. String musicians will serenade couples as they stroll along and take in all the gardens and the Chocolate Walk have to offer. This event takes place on both Saturday and Sunday from 11am until 3pm and is free with paid garden admission ($20/adult, $10/age 6-12, 5 and under free).

Show the family dog some love at his/her very own event this Saturday at Magnolia Park and Community Garden in West Ashley. Valen-Dog’s Day is the perfect opportunity to show your favorite furbabies that they hold a special place in your heart. Pamper them with a grooming salon, pet portraits, and more. Local food trucks Platia and Holy City Waffles will serve up delicious snacks while McKenna Andrews provides some live music. Beer and wine will be available for purchase (cash only) from MIX Bartending. Other features include a canine agility course and a Bark Boutique area. Eunoia Rescue and Bullies 2 the Rescue will be on hand as well. Admission is free for people and pups, but please register in advance so activities can be planned accordingly.

Wine lovers (and beer lovers too!) should check out the Charleston Winter Wine Fest this Saturday from 1pm until 5pm at Memminger Auditorium. This event features over 50 wines to be enjoyed, a selection of beer, and a DJ spinning tunes. Your $50 ticket includes entry into the event, entertainment, a souvenir acrylic wine glass, and all the wine and beer samples. Food will also be available for purchase. Please note that this event is for adults ages 21 and up only. No children, babies, or pets allowed. No outside food or beverages are allowed, but bottled water will be provided for free.

Grab your gal pals and head to Kaminsky’s on Sunday from 11am until 2pm for a Galentine’s Day Brunch. New Friends in Charleston in hosting this event at one of the sweetest places in Charleston. Stop in for some quiche, a mimosa, a specialty coffee, and some sweet treats, and mingle with some great ladies in the Charleston area. Bring your friends along or make some new ones!

“Once upon a time, three visitors came to Charleston and invited you to the most magical event, Enchanting Princess Storytime!” This Sunday afternoon, Curiouser Entertainment and 34 West Theater Company present Valentine’s Day-themed, interactive stories told by Rapunzel, The Magical Nanny, and a surprise guest. Children will receive one-on-one time with each character for a meet and greet, and a professional photographer will be on hand to capture each special moment. Popcorn, snacks, and beverages will be available for purchase. Tickets include entry into the event, a goodie bag for each child to take home, and downloadable photos taken at the event. Get your tickets for $15 online or $20 at the door. Children 12 months and younger do not require a ticket.

6 Things Your Homeowners Insurance Probably Doesn’t Cover

It’s easy to feel a little more at ease about protecting your home when you know you’re covered in the event of fire, theft, and other damage. But have you checked into your homeowners insurance policy lately? Do you know what’s covered and what’s not? You might think you’re safe if your home floods, but that might not be true. Make an appointment with your insurance agent to see if you’re covered for any of the following issues that aren’t typically covered by basic homeowners insurance.

Flooding

Your standard insurance policy will not cover damage suffered by your home in the event of a flood. If you live in an area that floods easily, you probably already have additional flood insurance. If you’re not required to carry it, you might want to look into it just in case.

Earthquakes, Landslides, and Sinkholes

Earth movement—whether it’s caused by natural disaster or human interference—isn’t usually covered by a standard policy either. If you live in an area prone to one or more of these threats, it’s a good idea to look into getting a separate policy for them.

Sewer Backups

There are a few different reasons your sewer might back up, including but not limited to growing tree roots, outdated sewer systems, sanitary main blockages, etc. The bad news is that damage caused by a sewer backup isn’t typically covered. The good news is if you’re concerned about it, you can purchase coverage in a separate policy or an endorsement to your homeowners policy.

Negligence

Your policy likely doesn’t cover issues caused by neglecting to properly care for and maintain your home and its systems. Pest infestation and mold growth not caused by a covered peril are two things that probably won’t be taken care of by your insurance. To keep these issues from arising, the Insurance Information Institute recommends cleaning bathrooms with mold killers like bleach; maintaining your roof; avoiding installing carpet in damp areas like basements and bathrooms; cleaning your gutters regularly; and installing dehumidifiers.

Attacks By Certain Dog Breeds

Certain possibly aggressive dog breeds like German shepherds, Rottweilers, and Chows, among others, aren’t covered by some insurance providers. While your “aggressive” breed might actually be the sweetest pup in the world, it’s the insurance company’s job to weigh the risks in general. If your dog’s breed is covered and bites someone on your property, your policy would cover a claim up to the limits of your liability coverage.

Expensive Jewelry, Art, and Heirlooms

Your policy probably covers personal items like jewelry, but chances are it doesn’t cover any pieces that are considered especially valuable. Jewelry has a high risk of being stolen, so insurance companies often limit coverage per claim to about $1,500. To protect your pricey jewelry or heirlooms, have them appraised and then purchase a rider to cover them.

There could be several gaps in your coverage that you’re not aware of. There are more that we haven’t mentioned here, including cash, collections, and some electronics. If you’re concerned about a lack of coverage in any of these areas, talk to your insurance agent soon. They’ll be able to tell you exactly what’s covered and the coverage limits.

How-To Tuesday: Make the Right First Impression with Buyers

First impressions matter. We’re taught never to judge a book by its cover, but we’re only human. The truth is most of us have made up our minds about people, places, and objects within mere seconds of seeing them. Of course there’s always much more to the story than what’s on the surface, but to get people to see what’s on the inside, you need to get them interested by making a good first impression. This couldn’t be truer in the real estate business. Buyers make snap judgments based on curb appeal and the condition of the exterior of a home before they even exit their cars. You don’t want them to turn around and leave before they have a chance to see everything your home has to offer. So before you put your home on the market, first cut your emotional ties; step outside and try to look at the house through unbiased eyes; and then follow these tips to make the right first impression with prospective buyers.

Ramp Up the Curb Appeal

Start with the exterior of your house. Give it a fresh coat of paint if needed, or just touch up the trim work and paint the front door. Wash your windows, even if you don’t think they really need it. Chances are it’s been awhile since they had a bath. Clean out the gutters, remove leaves and limbs from the roof and lawn, and freshen up the shrubs and flowerbeds. Put away anything personal, like lawn ornaments, outdoor toys, and lawn maintenance tools. Pressure wash the driveway, sidewalks, and front porch or stoop. You’d be surprised at the big difference this little detail can make! Plant some colorful seasonal flowers and put out a neutral yet welcome doormat. If your mailbox is rusty or loose, repair or replace it.

Fix What’s Broken

Take a trip around the house, inside and out, and make a list of all the little repairs you’ve been meaning to do but just haven’t gotten around to. Check for leaks throughout the house. Tighten door handles and hinges that have come loose. Replace old caulking around sinks, tubs, and windows. Replace any light bulbs that have burned out—it keeps buyers from wondering whether the light doesn’t work due to electrical problems or just a burned-out bulb.

Declutter and Depersonalize

The less “stuff” there is in the house, the less distracted the buyer will be. When a house has too many personal items—photos, collectibles, clothes, and toys, for example—it’s harder for the buyer to picture themselves living there. It’s harder for them to really get a feel for the house when someone else’s furniture and other belongings are everywhere they look. Don’t completely empty out the place, though. You don’t want it to be a sterile environment. Empty rooms can actually look smaller than those with a few key pieces arranged with good flow in mind. And those rooms with highly personalized paint colors? We highly recommend repainting them with more neutral shades.

Give the House a Little Facelift

There’s usually no need to do a major renovation before you sell unless something’s in really bad shape. But a little facelift and refreshment can be a great selling point. Focus on areas that buyers pay the most attention to: bathrooms, kitchens, and flooring. If anything is particularly worn out, think about replacing or revamping it. For example, a new coat of paint for kitchen cabinets makes for a nice little makeover that looks more expensive than it is. Little things like replacing faucets, cabinet handles, drawer pulls, and light fixtures are also small upgrades that make a big difference visually. Give flooring a boost by having rugs and carpets professionally cleaned, or if you have hardwoods that have seen better days, think about re-staining them.

Appeal to the Senses

Home buyers don’t just shop with their eyes. Together with your Realtor, come up with a strategy that appeals to all the senses. During showings, you might want to play soft music, brew coffee or bake cookies, light a candle or diffuse essentials that aren’t too overpowering, and decorate with fluffy, furry throw blankets and pillows.

Keep Things Ship Shape

You might have to endure weeks to months of showings and open houses before your home goes off the market. During that time, there will be lots of people in and out for showings, and if you’re still living in the house while it’s on the market, signs of day to day living will eventually make themselves known. Just make a concentrated effort to keep everything tidy and inviting for prospective buyers.

What You Should Know Before You Flip Your First House

Thanks to the magic of television, flipping houses might seem like a quick and easy way to make a lot of money. But just like anything else in life, if you want to do it right and make a profit, there’s a lot to learn about flipping houses before you actually start. Here are just a few of the key things to think long and hard about before you decide to flip your first house.

You need startup capital.

Of course the very first thing you need in order to buy a flip house is capital. Getting a loan for an investment home isn’t quite as simple as getting a home loan for a primary residence, and there’s definitely no 100% financing available for this type of investment. It’s usually a good idea to use cash to buy a house you’re going to turn around and sell soon. Even if you do decide that a home loan is the way to go, you’re going to need to come up with the cash for a down payment in additional to whatever cash you’ll need for renovation. And don’t forget that your flip might sit on the market for a while after it’s finished. During that time, you’ll need to have cash available to pay the mortgage, taxes, utilities, etc.

Finding the perfect house isn’t as easy as it looks on tv.

Television shows like Fixer Upper, Flip or Flop, and even House Hunters make finding the perfect fixer way easier than it really is. In actuality, finding a house to flip takes a lot of time, research, and trips back to square one if your offer doesn’t get accepted. There’s so much more to be taken into consideration than whether or not you think the house will make a good project. You have to think about the area it’s in and the type of buyer it attracts (single professionals, small families, etc.); the cost of renovation versus the actual post-renovation value; whether you’re over-improving for the area and won’t get back the money you spent, and much, much more. Make sure you’re working with a trusted, seasoned real estate agent to help you flesh out all these details.

You have to schedule things out to a tee.

TV shows also make it look like things simply fall into place as needed, but there’s a ridiculous amount of planning and scheduling that goes on behind the scenes. Once you find a house and actually buy it, you’ll need to get quotes and bids for various jobs, apply for permits, shop around for materials, and on and on. If you don’t have a super organized schedule, the odds are high that you’ll face a few challenges along the way. After all, you don’t want the drywall contractor and flooring installer to show up ready to work at the same time.

You won’t be able to do it all yourself.

Even the best contractors specialize in certain areas. For instance, someone who can build almost anything from scratch might not do sheetrocking, and they might hate painting. Good contractors know their specialty inside and out, and they know what they’re not good at, or what they simply prefer not to do. Just like a good contractor, you should be aware that you won’t be able to do every little job in your flip house on your own. This is especially important when it comes to specialties like electricity and plumbing. If you want to make a good name for yourself in the flipping business, you need to ensure a quality job each and every time.

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