The TOP FIVE WAYS to increase your CREDIT SCORE over the next year: Instant Tenant

If you want to become a first-time home buyer one of the things that you will definitely need to establish is credit. If you don’t have a good credit rating or you haven’t had much time to build credit it may be wise to start renting a property from a reputable company like First Coast Rental Management in Jacksonville, Florida and work on building some of your credit up so that you can one day purchase a home. Here are some of the TOP FIVE WAYS that you can work at BUILDING UP YOUR CREDIT RATING to qualify for the best mortgage or home loan.

1.DISPUTE ANY ERRORS on your credit report: If there are any potential errors on your credit report you want to negotiate right away. A small error on a credit report could be all that’s holding your credit back and if you are able to negotiate with your credit card company they could potentially erase some of the debt that they want for collection which can increase your credit score.

2.GET A CREDIT CARD: If you have little to no credit then you need to have at least one credit card so that you can start building credit. Take a few months and use your credit card as you would a debit card paying off the expenses very quickly so that you don’t incur any interest. Be sure to get a credit card from one of the more reputable vendors or traditional credit card providers and most importantly, keep your balance under 30% of the available credit given at all times. This will make it seem like you know how to manage your money well.

3.RAISE YOUR CREDIT LIMIT: If you can increase your credit limit to a higher rate this means that you can not only build credit faster but also produce a greater credit rating. See if you can bump up your credit limit even just a little bit especially if you are regularly carrying a balance. Carrying a balance above 70% of your credit limit actually works at lowering your credit rating. Again, this is why it is best that you never charge more than 30% of your available credit.

4.DON’T CLOSE OFF CREDIT: By closing off credit cards your credit can drop considerably. One of the best things to do if you are planning on getting rid of a credit card is to use it to pay utility bill. This way the card stays active and building credit and you don’t have to experience any decreases.

5.ALWAYS PAY YOUR BILLS ON TIME: If you are planning on buying a house as a first-time home buyer always pay your bills on time. This means rent for properties managed, cable bills, phone bills and more. It doesn’t take long before your credit will start to nosedive with a few missed bills.

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Crucial First Impressions : Instant Landlord

Landlords seeking to rent properties should have them ready to rent when the prospective lessee walks in the door! It is critical that the property be in good shape when the FIRST meeting happens. If the property is in poor condition the first time an interested party views it, then they will leave believing that the property will be managed in the same neglectful way. There are several important factors to having a property ready to be viewed by potential renters. The overall idea is that it be ready to rent when they first set foot on the premises. Other considerations are
1. that the property be clean,
2.that it smell good,
3.that there be a nice lawn with new mulch,
4.and freshly steamed carpets.

Ready to Rent

Other things to consider:
The property must not have loose boards, unfinished drywall, disconnected piping, torn up carpet or unfinished floors, noticeable defects in the ceiling or walls, missing lightbulbs, scuffs on walls or any other such problems. The property must at least be in its finished state, ready to be furnished and moved into.

Cleanliness

The property must be very clean. Cleanliness is important to new renters, and a dirty apartment could easily drive away prospective profits. After all, an unrented property constantly consumes resources without a return. The inside of the house or apartment should be spotless. The walls should be free from marks or smudges, the space behind the stove scrubbed free of food waste, the ceiling should be clean, and there should be no cobwebs in the corners or roaches on the floor. In general, the house should be thoroughly cleaned in all respects before the renter arrives to see it. Just explaining to them that you’ll clean it later will leave a bad impression. The property should also smell good. It is not necessary that you spray a lot of air-freshener as that may even give the impression of masked odors. A simple fresh cleaning and $4 plug in works miracles! Just clean the property thoroughly, air it out, and the smell should be fine.

Freshly steamed carpets are also a must.

If the carpet is dingy, and full of stains, the overall feel of the apartment will be one of shoddiness and disrepair. Even if everything else is clean, a repulsive carpet will repel renters.

Lawns

The area outside the premises must also be well kept. The lawn of the property, if there is one, must be neat, clean, and free from garbage and other debris. It must be recently trimmed, and the lawn care must be professional looking. If the lawn is cut, but there are grass clippings all over the sidewalk, it will be an indication to the renter as to how you manage your property. The state of mulch is also important. If the property has old mulch, it can exude a run down feel. If you are going to have a mulched landscaped area, then refresh the mulch to keep it looking neat. This, along with the $4 plug in mentioned earlier, is a great wow factor for very little money.

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INSTANT LANDLORD: FINDING THE BEST TENANTS IN THE WORLD

IN THE BEGINNING

There was a time, not so long ago, that one could just stick a sign in the yard, a post in the church bulletin or a small ad in the classifieds when needing a new renter. But that is so not the case anymore. If anything, doing what was “norm” would hinder your progress for sure.  When was the last time that you picked up a paper? Much less to read the classified section? Then think–when was the last time you had enough “time” to drive around street after street, collecting numbers from signs, calling on them, leaving messages and being available if and when a phone call was returned? It actually seems crazy to fathom that this was the selection process just a decade ago.

POST, LINK, TWEET AND TALK

This is where you need to get a little tech savvy.  Advertise on at least a few free sites, like Craigslist.org and Lycos.com (but beware of the spam that you may receive when replying to email request and the scam attempts that inevitably ensue). You may consider paying for ads, too. And before you boo-hoo any sites that want to charge you to adveritse your rental, be sure to realize that you are not simply selling a used scarf or a used i-pad, rather you’re trying to find a high-quality tenant to live in your house!

Another suggestion would be to use your Facebook account and link with your friends and family. I’m not suggesting that you rent to friends and family (that ‘s a whole new blog post!), rather tell them about your rental, the price, location and availability date and ask if they can re-post on their Facebook under “Looking for a New Home to Rent?” You can even link a photo or two of the rental.  How genius is that? You’ll make money, but your friends and family will do all of the work for you!

If you’re a tweeter, then tweet about it. Get the word out in a variety of ways. Rent.com, Hot pads.com, Trulia, etc…are all online venues to get the word out…all having their own fees too. Thinking does not hurt either. If the average renter is around 22 to 35, then think…where will they be searching online to find the rental of their dreams? Then just follow the crumbs…

FOUND A TENANT, NOW WHAT?

Here comes the scary part. We all know ourselves and we are basically a group of trusting individuals. If someone tells you they will take care of your place as if it were their very own, you will probably believe them. Especially if they are well dressed and drove up in a newer car. But Landlord beware. “Caveat Emptor”  which means, Let the buyer beware. In this case, the landlord is considered the buyer because he/she is buying the information coming from the tenant. Think about it, you wouldn’t buy a car without collecting some Carfax information regarding it’s gas mileage and warranty,  so why not take some time to verify the information is correct coming from the lips of this prospective tenant. Do not let them rush you. Tell them to fill out your application. Take it with you-along with a copy of their drivers license and two recent pay-stubs-and possibly a cashiers check for the deposit (which you can refund or hand back if you don’t rent to them). Check out their rental references immediately,  see how they paid and for how long. Pay a service online to run the background and credit check needed. Then call the employer and verify their employment. If everything comes back alright, then you can probably proceed with a lease. If not, you are welcome to sit them down and ask questions as to certain blemishes on their reports. However, be aware that you do not want to violate any housing or discrimination laws. Tenants are savvy, and they know what to watch for. Tenants gain many rights as soon as they take possession of the property. Evictions are slow and costly; most can be avoided by doing the work before the lease gets signed.

USE A TENANT FINDER SERVICE

Best thing invented since sliced bread! At our company, http://www.ManageMyRental.net, we offer this service to every landlord that calls our office. For a 100% tenant placement fee (first month’s rent) we will come out to take interior and exterior photos of the property. We will load a nice 1 minute video of the property for our website to use in postings. We will aggressively advertise using over 20 paid search engines and rental sites. With each call, our agents will set an appointment and hand show the property to the prospect. Many times, they show 7 days a week as they make the times convenient tot he prospect.  Once a customer is interested in a property, the agent will immediately receive a binder (first month’s rent) and a deposit (made out to the homeowner) in the form of cashiers checks. He/she will then have the prospective tenant fill out our online application. A background and credit check will be run. A tenant and Employment verification will be done and copies of pay-stubs and drivers licenses will be collected. A lease will be created and all signatures (via an online document) will be received from the landlord and the tenant. Upon move in day, the agent will meet the tenant at the home, remove the lock-box and the yard signage, walk them through and give them a move in condition form-perfect to give the landlord 7 days after move in. We typically leave a little gift with our card thanking them for using our services as well. OUR LANDLORDS LOVE THIS SERVICE! And why would they not? We do all of the work, and they get to sit back and reap the monthly financial rewards.

Christina Starmer

INSTANT TENANT: SAFETY MATTERS

Moving into your very first apartment, condo, dorm or home? Be Safe, Not Sorry! Having medical insurance, vehicle insurance and housing insurance helps to safe guard us from problems that arise after they happen. But what happens to you after you’ve become a victim? There is no insurance that can turn the hands of time and make you feel safe again. The best thing to do-ALWAYS-is to simply be pro-active in the prevention strategies that can help save your life.

1. Always park your car in an area that is either well lit of in a high traffic area.
2. If you have to list your name in a community directory or on a mailbox, use only your first initial and last name. This is so that a stranger can’t pretend to know who you are.
3. Never enter an elevator if the current occupant makes you feel uncomfortable in any way.
4. Report any non functioning exterior lights or burned out light bulbs to management immediately.
5. Be sure to lock all of your windows when you leave your dwelling or when you simply go to bed. Unlocked windows and doors are the easiest way for a criminal to enter your dwelling.
6. Do not leave any items of value in your car-especially within visibility of others. Always have your windows up and your doors locked.
7. City of Jacksonville  Law Enforcement suggest that a porch light be on at all times throughout the night.
8. Be sure all shrubbery covering the front door or any windows be trimmed for clear visibility.
9. Get to know your neighbors. You don’t have to be best friends but knowing someone that you can trust to bring in mail that was left near your door is always a good thing.

10. As always, don’t leave your purse, backpack or personal items unattended. Thieves are always looking for that perfect moment to strike. They know that backpacks hold wallets, i-phones and laptops. They know that a person will turn to grab cereal on an isle while taking their hand off of their purse in the buggy. Remember, they do this for a living. It is their job to know.

Christina Starmer

INSTANT TENANT: TIPS THAT MAY JUST MAKE OR BREAK YOUR RENTAL

BEFORE YOU DECIDE, BE SURE TO VIEW THE RENTAL IN THE EVENING

A daytime viewing of the potential apartment or home will show off the natural light and landscaping, but what happens when the sun goes down?  By driving by or viewing the same rental in the evening, you can tell so much more.  For instance, once everyone returns from work, you will able to clearly see the availability of parking in the area. A good question to ask your prospective landlord is if there is any assigned parking and how many spaces are available per unit if it is a multi-residential property. With a majority of residents at home in the evening, you will also be able to see exactly who your neighbors will be. The demographics of your home may be just as important to you as the space layout or the square footage.

THE WALLS THAT BIND US

Walk through the unit when others are at home. This is a great idea, especially if the rental is downstairs. If you’re sensitive to noise, you may want to rent a place where you don’t hear the TV or from the next door or the footsteps from above. Historic buildings often do not have any insulation before the floor levels as it wasn’t a readily available item 70 years ago.  Some cement buildings often have open pipes painted with an open floor plan. It looks chic and contemporary, but you just may hear some of the water from the unit above. Lastly, not all builders are created equal. Some developers take the cheaper route and opt for lesser grade materials.  The last thing you want to do is pay good money, haul your stuff across town, unload it, decorate, sit on your couch to relax and then…oh no, you realize that you’ve made a huge mistake.

“KNOW” BEFORE YOU SAY YES

Another good idea is to call the local utility company and get the average utility cost for the prospective rental. You can request an average of the electric and an average of the water/sewer bill. If the previous tenant was a typical user of utilities then you can usually assume that your monthly cost will be about the same. This will help you budget your fixed costs. Some rentals will include the water/sewer in the cost of the monthly rental price (even better!) and some will separately bill the water/sewer. Be aware that some landlords will split the cost of the water/sewer each month and the charge may vary according to the actual bill received. The problem with this scenario occurs when there is an imbalance of consumption (i.e: 1 apt may have a couple living there while you are a single individual using less water but still paying for an equal portion).  Be sure to question this charge prior to signing the lease and get everything in writing.

What’s Bugging You?

Chapter 83.51 of the Florida Landlord Statutes states: (2)(a) “1. Unless an agreement is reached or modified in writing with a tenant for any part of this this chapter, a landlord must provide pest control or extermination services.”

Do not assume that the landlord is responsible for sugar ants, roaches or the like if and when a problem arises. Landlords often retain (but it is not mandatory) a quarterly exterior spray contract and a yearly termite inspection but the interior is almost always the responsibility of the tenant.   Of course, the implied expectation is that you should be given the rental in a bug free state. However, the reality is that tenants should always ask if the landlord provides pest control, or if it is the tenant’s responsibility. Dealing with pests is never specifically the landlord’s or the renter’s responsibility.  It’s all dependent on the property, the property owner and the tenant.  Since landlords are not required to handle the problem, it’s probably in a tenant’s best interest to work pest control into their lease on a regular basis. If you notice there is a problem right when you move in, a suggestion would be to bring it to the landlord’s (or management’s) attention right away. Many times, they may not even be aware.

CAN YOU HEAR ME?

Lastly, I can not stress enough, that you should check the cell service of your phone while viewing the potential rental. There just may be a weak signal in the apt or home that you are viewing or the materials that the building is made of may be too strong for any signal to break through.  Ever have that happen to you when you’re in a courthouse or school building? You may love the rental now, but come move in day, and you can not hear anyone on the receiver that calls you, you will quickly start to regret your decision.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Two other noteworthy nuggets would be to request a copy of the condo rules for review before signing a lease, and to see how long the morning commute to work will be. These two items sound pretty basic but if the commute to work takes an extra 30 minutes because of traffic and if the condo rules state that all cars, at all times, must be parked in the garage then you may wish to look at a few other options before choosing this rental.

Christina Starmer

INSTANT TENANT: WHAT YOU SHOULD EXPECT FROM YOUR LANDLORD

If you are a tenant, your landlord has certain obligations. The rules and procedures vary depending on the type of tenancy you have and the state that you live in, but certain basic rules are always the same.

BASIC MOVE IN PROCEDURES

After paying your deposit and first month’s rental payment due, you should be able to move in your rental on the contract start date. Other monies such as a pet fee, prepaid last month’s rent, pro-rated rent, prepaid utilities or anything else that was agreed upon..may be due at this time as well. You should be given one set of keys and the property should be clean of any garbage or debris. The exterior lawn should in good condition (at least in the manner in which the landlord expects you to keep it) and the interior of the home should be clean and move in ready.  Any work that you and the landlord discusses should have been completed upon move in day (unless there was a later completion date that had been agreed upon in advance).
All of your essential appliances such as your water heater, stove and refrigerator should be in good working condition.  The home should be safe and all electrical plugs should be covered.  You can check these out during your walk through with your landlord on move in day to make sure. It may be a good idea to flush the toilet and check the shower and faucets too. A good landlord or Property Manager will provide you with a basic “move-in” sheet that will allow you to write down imperfections based on your first week observations of the rental unit. This will ensure that you are not charged for these imperfections upon move out. A basic example would be “cracked drywall in the closet”.

NOT DISTURBING TENANTS

Landlords may need access to the accommodation to inspect it and do repairs but they must let you live in your home without unnecessary interference. The landlord should give proper notice and arrange a suitable time if they need to visit. The amount of notice they have to give you may be set out in your agreement. It is typically within a 24 hr period.  They should also provide you with a suitable explanation or reason for the visit.  You can ask your landlord to stop entering your home without your permission if he or she is doing so. It may be classified as harassment if they persist. Some occasions are considered emergency situations, and a landlord may not have time to call you before he or she enters. This would include busted water pipes, roof failure, fire, etc.. In these circumstances, it would be reasonable for a landlord to enter without notice.

So to recap: A landlord can enter at a reasonable time after providing a 24 hr notice for things such as “basic” a/c maintenance, changing of an a/c filter and a yearly inspection of the interior.  Yet, by no means should their entry be an ongoing nuisance.

They are typically allowed to enter with a notice posted for a  pre-showing of your apt to a prospective tenant. However the latter is typically only allowed until “after” a tenant has given his/her notice to vacate.

Ultimately, a great landlord is attentive to any repairs or questions that you may have but one that respects your privacy is the best!

WISE UP: GET TO KNOW THE LAW

Sometimes questions arise as to what the basic expectations should be of a Florida Landlord…or in other words: Which party is responsible for what.

Many of the these items should be well described in your lease so there is no confusion when something breaks and as to who is responsible for fixing it. However BASIC items can be found in Chapter 83, Part 11 of the Florida Statutes where procedures are outlined for both the landlord and tenant. This brief summary is not intended for the purpose of legal advise.  For additional information not addressed in the blog, consumers should always refer to Chapter 83, Part II of the Florida Statutes which can be found online.

Section 83.51(2)(a), F.S.
The landlord of a dwelling unit other than a single-family home or duplex (such as an apartment) shall, at all times of the tenancy, make reasonable provisions for extermination of rats, mice, ants and wood destroying organisms and bed bugs; locks and keys; clean and safe conditions of common areas; garbage removal and outside receptacles; and functioning facilities for heat during winter, running water and hot water.
This does not mean that the landlord is obligated to pay for utilities, water, fuel or garbage removal, although he/she may choose to do so.

MAY I MAKE A DEPOSIT PLEASE?

Please know where your money is going and how and when it should be returned to you if it were a deposit being held on a rental unit.  The landlord/management company is supposed to hold your deposit until you vacate and use it towards any damages. The rest should be returned to you. There may be provisions in your lease that allow a landlord to deduct a cleaning fee from your deposit once you leave. Be sure that you understand this before signing. Here are a few other “basic” points that may be of interest to you:

Section 83.49(a), F.S.
Upon vacating of the premises for termination of the lease:
If the landlord does not intend to impose a claim upon the security deposit, he/she must return your deposit within fifteen (15) days or,
Within thirty (30) days, he/she must give the tenant written notice of how much of the deposit will be kept and why. This must be done by certified mail, to the tenant’s last known mailing address.
If this notice is not sent as required within the thirty (30) day period, the landlord forfeits his/her right to impose a claim upon the deposit.

Christina Starmer

INSTANT LANDLORD: 3 WAYS TO INCREASE THE RENTAL VALUE OF YOUR PROPERTY

A FEW RENOVATIONS WILL GO A LONG WAY

The peak rental season is near and tenants like rental units that look updated. Many tenants have downsized in this economic climate but still have high standards of living.  By completing simple, low-cost renovations and minor improvements like painting the walls, updating a few light fixtures and replacing the faucets, the toilet and the electrical switch plates you can breathe new life into a dated rental unit and help attract and retain tenants, reducing your turnover costs.

IMPROVE YOUR PERSONAL SKILLS

Happy tenants are stable tenants. Like any customer-service based business, the better you are at providing great customer service, the more successful your business will be. Think of our tenants as your clients and you may start to see them in a different light. By responding quickly to maintenance requests, being courteous and presenting yourself in a professional manner (even when you get the dreaded 1 a.m. phone call) your tenants will respond by treating you with respect. Most importantly, respond to all maintenance requests quickly. If you take a day or two to respond, the tenant, will think they are being ignored. Take longer than a few days and you are bound to have a disgruntled tenant on your hand. People simply want to know that you care and that their concerns are being heard. They will be more likely to pay their rent on time, take care of their unit and stay put, all things that help to boost your bottom line.

KEEP UP WITH INFLATION

As easy as it sounds, many landlords do not take the time out to verify if they are receiving up to par rental rates. Many have not raised the rent for a few years because they are scared to lose their existing tenant.   If you aren’t bothering to increase your rent then you’re leaving money on the table as inflation of maintenance services, regular upkeep and overhead expenses eat away from your bottom line. You can simply check to see what the neighboring units are renting for or be sure that your Property Manager is doing a yearly analysis of rents when renewal time appears. While rent increases tend to be unpopular with tenants, most expect their property owners to charge current market value for their properties. Modest annual increases are more palatable to tenants than a large increase every other year.  And if you are maintaining the rental and responding to maintenance calls quickly, then higher rent can easily be justified with offering a high standard of living.

Christina Starmer