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Holiday Rental Risk Management Tips

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Renting your holiday home can be a minefield of mixed emotions. On the one hand you have the opportunity to make money by letting your holiday home whilst it is not in use.  On the other hand, you’re allowing virtual strangers to stay in your home. A recent spate of holiday home burglaries is a timely reminder to always ensure bookings are legitimate and that you are taking all practical steps to prevent loss to your home.

With this in mind, Initio have complied some tips to keep you and your holiday home safe.

1. Screen Guests

  • Check their online reviews via the listing website such as Airbnb or Bookabach.
  • Ask for the names and ages of all guests.
  • Don’t be afraid to do some cyber stalking – visit Facebook and LinkedIn to checkout their profiles and friends.
  • Ask for photo identification.
  • If you have a bad vibe, give them a call or ask for references.
  • If you’re still not comfortable be prepared to decline the booking.

2. Don’t go off platform

  • If the property is listed online don’t accept a guest’s request to go offline.
  • Be wary of guests only wanting to pay in cash, or who pay with prezzy cards.

3. Question Intentions

  • Be cautious of guests wanting to stay for extended periods at short notice. Especially during the off season and if your home is in a remote location.
  • If guests cancel a booking only days after making payment, and requests the refund to another account, you should be very suspicious. To avoid assisting money launderers and credit card thieves, only provide a refund to the credit card used to make the payment.

4. Protect your stuff

  • Don’t leave your valuable (sentimental or otherwise) personal effects in the property.
  • Have a lockable cupboard or room to store items you don’t want to share with guests.

5. Key safety

  • Don’t always leave the key in the same place.
  • If using a hidden lock box, remember to change the code frequently.
  • Or better yet, meet your guests onsite to handover the keys.

6. Neighbourhood Watch

  • Talk to you neighbours and let them know that you are renting your home to guests.
  • Ask your neighbours to contact you if they have any problems with the guests or observe any suspicious behaviour.

7. Chemical Alarms

  • Installing (and advertising its installation) a chemical alarm such as Meth Minder or P Alert could be enough of a deterrent to prevent would be cooks from renting your home.

8. Holiday Rental Insurance

  • Make sure that your insurance policy includes cover for lost rental income following a claim, contamination caused by the manufacture of methamphetamine, theft and deliberate damage by guests.
  • If your current policy does not provide this cover as standard, then check out www.initio.co.nz
  • Initio provides specialist insurance cover for holiday homes that are rented out and is recommended by Bookabach.

Most of your guests will be lovely people who are grateful to you for allowing them to relax in your home. Unfortunately, a few bad apples can spoil the fun for everyone.  Provided you are conscious of the risks and take the appropriate steps to minimise them, everyone can enjoy the holiday (and the view).

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Your Ultimate End of Lease Apartment Cleaning Checklist

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When you have reached the end of your lease, or you have decided to move out of a rental apartment, there are a few things that you need to take care of before you can close that door behind you. Cleaning up is one of them, if not the most important thing on that list.

Cleaning the apartment is one of the things you need to do to make sure that you get your full rental deposit back. This is not just your average spring cleaning. The place needs to be spotless as if no one ever lived there. If the real estate agent or owner of the apartment has to get someone in to do it, they will deduct it from your rental deposit and nobody wants that.

Check out this checklist designed to help you avoid that sort of a situation.

1. Bedrooms and living rooms

The most obvious thing would be to take care of dust and dirt. Dust is something that can be easily overlooked, but it’s something that will definitely be checked for upon final inspection. The best way to tackle this is to wipe rooms from top to bottom.

Things like light fittings and lampshades might be a little difficult but try to clean them thoroughly. Wipe accumulated dust and dirt from the top of doors, picture frames and skirting boards.

Remove cobwebs from ceilings and corners, and dust surfaces within your reach. Don’t forget about wardrobes, shelving and cupboards. Properly vacuum and dust both sides of curtains and blinds. Mirrors, pictures and other wall hangings will need to be wiped and/or polished. Get a ladder or step stool for places you can’t reach.

2. Carpets and upholstery

Regular dirt, dust and hair build up in carpets. Deep cleaning the carpet will restore its texture and colour. Furniture upholstery absorbs dirt and body oils, so a nice deep clean will restore their colour and vibrancy as well. Remember to test out the product you’re using in a small spot where it won’t be noticeable to make sure that it doesn’t spoil the carpet in any way before continuing with the whole thing.

This part can be done with a high-performance vacuum. Using a steam vacuum cleaner will mean that you can use it on a variety of things aside from just the carpets and upholstery. If you don’t already have one, this guide to buying a steam vacuum will take a lot of the guesswork out of it. Remember that you will also be able to use it for mattresses, curtains and rugs too.

Once you have given your carpts and upholstery the cleaning they need, leave the doors and windows open to allow air to move through to speed up the drying process.

3. Bathrooms

Dirt and mildew are most visible and unsightly in bathrooms. Toilets, showers, tiles and baths require a good cleaning. Make sure to clean basins, taps and fittings and remove hard water stains and limescale. Soap dispensers require a good scrub and rinse as well. Try to get the bathroom as sparkling as new as possible.

4. Kitchens

Kitchens are probably the most used room in the home, and that is why it is so much effort to clean it properly. Grease build up can range from mild to severe depending on how frequently the kitchen is used. Cupboard doors will require a wipe down.

Make sure that shelves are clear from dust and grease build up, including the door handles. The sink and faucets must be shiny as well, and any food stains have to be removed from appliances.

The hardest kitchen task has to be cleaning the oven. Ovens and microwaves tend to build up lots of dirt and grime.  Clean your oven by adding bicarbonate of soda to the water in a spray bottle. Spray the solution on the inside of your oven. Wipe the oven clean after leaving it overnight.

There are many smaller tasks that you’ll also have to remember to do in order to get your full deposit back. For example, empty the bins and do not leave any rubbish inside.

Keep this list on hand so that you don’t miss anything. Remember to check the rental agreement and see what exactly is expected of you upon vacating the premises in order to receive the full rental deposit back.

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Marketing Tips for New Landlords

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Acquiring a rental property and getting through the legalities is only the start of becoming a landlord.

If you’re going to turn a profit on your investment property one of the next, most tedious tasks of all are finding the right tenants to occupy the unit.

Sure, there are thousands of renters in the area looking for the perfect place to call home, but getting them interested in your place goes beyond putting a for sale sign in the window.

If you’re going to attract reputable, long-term tenants who will treat your property with respect, pay rent in a timely fashion, and make the property investment experience as smooth as possible, you’re going to need to draw them in. Here’s how:

Get Your Property in Check

Tenants are looking for a place to reside that will create the most convenient for them.

Though they’re not legally responsible for the maintenance and repairs that homeowners are required to cover, they don’t want to move into a location where there are a lot of issues.

Before you can attract tenants to your rental property, you need to make sure it is in check. This not only means making sure that it passes city inspection standards and is up to code but making changes such as those listed below to appeal to your target renters:

Appliance maintenance

If the appliances on the premises are still in pretty good condition, make sure that they are serviced.

Have the vents cleaned and filters changed on the HVAC system, clean and change filters on the refrigerator, clean and maintain the oven and stove, and have the hot water heater serviced.

Clean the property

No one wants to move into a unit that they have to do a deep clean on before they can unpack and get comfortable. So, have the premises cleaned thoroughly from the inside out.

Clean carpets, wash walls, declutter cabinets, mop, vacuum, and whatever else needs to be done to make sure the rental property is move-in ready.

Exterior maintenance

The outside of the house matters just as much as the inside. A property that looks unkempt from the outside won’t interest the quality tenants. Tend to exterior maintenance regularly to avoid the small jobs becoming full replacement at a much greater cost.  Keep the roof maintained, gutters cleaned, and regularly check the cladding.

Depending on who your ideal tenant is, consider landscaping, but first check sites that offer tips like Nature’s Seed blog. Adding the right amount of low maintenance greenery, and maybe a deck and some outdoor lighting can entice the tenant you want in your property.

Price it Just Right

The rental market is very competitive as more individuals move away from homeownership for the convenience of renting.

That being said, your rental rates need to be attractive to prospective tenants while also being lucrative for you.

Here are some factors to consider when pricing your rental unit:

Consider what needs to be covered

There are a few things you’ll want the tenant rent to cover to prevent your asset from becoming a liability. This includes the mortgage (if necessary), maintenance, repairs, and small profit.

Comparables

To price your rental unit, first take a look at other properties in the area that are the same structure as your own. Pricing just below theirs gives you an advantage.

Conveniences

Are there conveniences a tenant might get with renting from you as opposed to another property? Did you upgrade the kitchen? Do they get a better view? Are they closer to public transportation or tourist attractions?

Finding the Right Platform

Now that your property is up to par (both structurally and aesthetically) and you’ve decided on an attractive price, the next step to marketing your rental property is finding the right platforms to reach your ideal tenants.

Draft a detailed property description along with key benefits and tons of pictures then decide where you’ll post.

Here are a few suggestions:

Free classified sites such as Craigslist

Rental sites like Trulia, Zillow, or Apartments.com

Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram

If you’re going to find the perfect long-term tenants for your new rental property you’ll have to work hard. In order to draw in reputable renters, you must have a property that is intact, aesthetically appealing, convenient, and priced efficiently.

Once you have that, it’s all about finding the right platforms to reach your audience. Hopefully, these tips will put you just a bit closer to finding a resident that will treat your property with care for years to come.

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How Much Profit Should You Make on Rental Property?

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Do you own a rental property? How then do you increase your income and profit? Is it by increasing the value of your property? Or, is it by raising the rent? What about cash flow? Have you ever thought of ways to make money from your property, besides rent?

And where do your tenants enter the picture? As you probably know, long-term tenants increase occupancy, lower turnover, and increase profits. So, how do you keep them from leaving while attracting new ones like them quickly? In short, how do you earn a profit and gain money on rental properties?

Let’s see these 5 tips:

1. Reduce Tenant Turnover

Losing long-term tenants is acceptable if they move after buying homes or finding jobs in other cities. What’s not acceptable, however, is losing them to another landlord. Remember, every lost tenant leaves behind a repair bill. Walls must be painted and floorboards or tiles replaced. And then there’s the cost of advertising and that of lost revenue.

What does this mean for your bottom line? Simply this: With a high turnover rate, you incur this cost repeatedly and, more importantly, unnecessarily. To avoid it, give tenants a reason to stay. Upgrade kitchens and bathrooms or enlarge rooms. Next, improve customer service. Be courteous and professional, address any problems promptly, and ask for feedback. Or, have your property manager do likewise.

2. Increase Occupancy

A vacant property costs you money. But do you know how much? Here’s the surprising answer. Every month of vacancy lowers your annual revenue by as much as 8 percent. Obviously, keeping occupancy close to or at 100 percent is the key to profitability. But how do you do this in the face of stiff competition?

You act the moment a tenant leaves. Post ads about the vacancy, and if the property is in a prime location, tenants will start lining up for it. If they don’t, offer them an incentive. Lower the first month’s rent by about 5-8 percent. This way you break even. After all, this discounted rate approximates the 8 percent annual loss we’ve just seen.

3. Collect Late-Payment Fees

No landlord loves the inevitable task of rent collection, which is partly why most leave their properties to property managers. But let’s assume you don’t, that you manage your property yourself. Regarding rent collection, what difficulties do you face? More often than not, it’s late payments.

Appealing to your kind side, tenants pay later and later each month, all the while giving excuses. And when they finally hand over the rent, they leave out the fees associated with late payments. What should you do?

Be firm, yet professional. When a tenant pays late, explain that you consider the rent fully paid only if it includes all the fees. Then, politely decline the money until they comply. This way, they respect and abide by your boundaries.

4. Raise Rent

After upgrading a property, you can safely increase the rent without turning away tenants. In fact, you do just the opposite. New tenants want the property because nothing else matches it in the neighborhood. Existing tenants, on the other hand, hang on to it for the same reason. Also, moving comes with extra costs they may not be prepared to incur.

However, exercise caution while you’re at it. Research the rents in your area first to know how much to rent to increase. Otherwise, you stop being competitive. As a general rule, aim for an increase of not more than 3 percent, which adds to your revenue without adversely affecting your competitiveness. And if possible, schedule the increase to coincide with lease renewals. This gives tenants the chance to opt either in or out.

5. Increase Income Streams

How much profit should you make on a rental property? As much you can is the best answer. So, look beyond rent and property appreciation. Also, focus on cash flow. Let’s assume you own a multi-family apartment, for instance. Have you ever thought of installing vending machines in them? How about coin-operated laundry equipment? Both increase not only your income but also the value of your property.

And don’t stop there. In one-family residences, clean houses and landscape yards for your tenants, but for a fee. As they already hire out these dull tasks to others, convince them to hire you instead. And after negotiating a price with them, collect the fee. Then, approach cleaning and landscaping companies and negotiate a lower rate. By keeping the difference, you make an extra few hundred dollars per single-family home per year.

Increasing rental income isn’t that difficult if you keep tenants and attract new ones quickly. And besides, increasing rent and income streams, also improve on how you collect rent. But above all, treat tenants with dignity and respect, but be firm, especially on rent collection.

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Top Tips for Increasing Security (and Thereby Rents) at Your Rental Properties

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When you buy property as an investment and rent it out to tenants, you want to ensure that each year you get the maximum yield possible, and that good, reliable renters stay living there for a long time. While there are numerous ways you can attract top tenants, such as choosing properties in a popular area, keeping the home maintained and up to date, allowing people to have pets on the premises, and so on, something that’s well worth thinking about more is security.

In this day and age many tenants are worried about their own personal safety, and that of their family and pets, as well as their belongings. As such, you can make your property more desirable by ensuring it’s secure. Read on for some ways to go about doing this in 2019, and enjoy increased rents in turn.

Let There Be Light

One key thing to do is install outdoor lighting on your property. This helps to prevent crime because robbers and other people whose intentions aren’t honorable usually don’t try anything if the area they’re looking at is illuminated. It’s obviously not a guarantee of safety, but it certainly increases security and works as a deterrent.

If you own a house (condo units and townhouses should already have outdoor lighting installed), make sure you install lights at both the front door and back door of the property and potentially further out into yards or along pathways. It is a good idea to make these motion-activated and solar-powered.

Make Doors and Windows Secure

Another one of the most important security steps is to make your property’s doors and windows secure. For example, when it comes to the doors used at entry and exit points, these need to be of a good quality and solidly made from heavy-duty materials such as steel and wood. Steer clear of hollow doors, as these are easier for burglars and other people to break; instead opt for solid doors.

Something else to be mindful of is having front or back doors made from glass or including glass panels, especially if these panels are located close to the locking mechanism on the door. Glass can be broken by those with ill intentions, so they aren’t the best option. In addition, install doors with peepholes built into them, so tenants can look outside and see who is at their door without actually opening up.

To increase security, place proper locks on all exit and entry-based doors and windows in the house. Deadbolt locks are a good addition, especially double-cylinder ones, as these are much harder for criminals to break into. Specifically, double-cylinder deadbolts are recommended for doors located near windows since they stop people from reaching through such openings to get to doors. Chain locks and security screens are another element you might want to install.

With property windows, keep in mind that even those you feel would be too small for anyone to access aren’t necessarily going to keep thieves out. Plus, people can also enter windows on higher floors than you would expect by using fire escapes or finding other types of access points. As such, all window should have locks on them.

If you own a house or have a unit that’s on or near the ground floor, it’s wise to add security bars or screens to the windows. These deterrents really give criminals something to think about. An alternative option, if you don’t like the look of bars or screens, is window sensors. These work by sounding an alarm if the locking mechanisms are tampered with at all.

Install Security Alarms and/or Cameras

Another addition to your property that can make tenants feel safer is that of security alarms and/or cameras. While these are usually installed in multi-family homes or expensive properties with high rents to justify the costs of the feature, they can be added anywhere you think the need is warranted.

Contact specialists in these products, such as any of these Balt home security services, to install cameras or alarm systems for you. Cameras usually get put in at front and back entrances of houses or outside of apartment doors in unit buildings. They can also be placed in garages, to monitor the parking space or garage of the flat in question.

Alarm systems have to be wired in, and may be paid for by the landlord, but are often charged to tenants as an additional fee if they want access to the monitoring option.

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Smart Ways to Handle Renting out Your Property for the First Time

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When you become a landlord for the first time, whether because you have bought an investment property or because you have to rent out your personal home for some reason, the whole process can be rather daunting.

There are lots of stories, after all, of tenants from hell, damaged properties and lost money that can make being a landlord seem a very hard job. Plus, when you take a look online at the number of properties to rent, whether checking out Omaha apartments, Texas houses or L.A. studios, you’ll see that there is always plenty of competition for your property.

However, as long as you’re proactive and follow some key tips on being smart in the way you handle renting out your property, you will give yourself the best possible chance of success in finding the right tenant and reducing the risks of damage or non-payment significantly. Read on for some ways you can move forward effectively today.

Think Like a Business Person

One of the most important steps is to think like a business person in your investment property transactions. That is, rather than handling things emotionally or being laissez-faire, you want to be objective and look for ways to cover yourself and your interests, while earning as much income as possible.

For example, be wary of renting out your property to people you already know, such as family members, friends or colleagues. If you do lease the property to a contact, it can be hard to be strict with them if they end up being late with their payments or cause damage to the property.

To maximize your income, expect on-time payments and chase up late ones rather than letting them just slide. Protect yourself by taking necessary measures to get properly compensated or to evict tenants if they continually get behind or just don’t pay.

It’s wise, too, to create a separate bank account for all your investment property transactions. This way, any money coming in or going out related to the home will be separate from your personal finances. This makes tax time and other financial steps simpler and easier. Also, keep receipts for all costs associated with your property, so you can claim them on taxes. Think in a business-like way by considering insurance and the safety and upkeep of the property, too.

Seek Advice From Professionals

To be smart when it comes to renting out your property, seek advice from professionals such as accountants and lawyers. Accountants, for instance, can help you by recommending the best way to structure the ownership of your property. Then, they can advise you on what you can and can’t claim on tax and other income and expense-based matters.

Lawyers should be consulted too, as they can protect your interests in numerous ways. For example, they can look over the contract for the property when you buy it and that of any mortgage associated with it, and they will peruse a real estate management contract if you decide to hire a property manager. Lawyers are also good to have on hand to keep you up to date on your rights and responsibilities as a landlord.

Find the Right Property Manager

While some property owners decide to look after the renting and management of their home themselves, particularly if they live close by the property, most people end up hiring a manager from a real estate firm to handle things on their behalf.

This is usually wise because the job takes up a lot of time throughout the year (if it’s done correctly), and people who specialize in it are more aware of the right way to go about the various rental elements, such as advertising vacancies, finding tenants, creating leases, conducting inspections, getting repairs and maintenance sorted and so on.

If you want to take some of the stress off yourself and free up time, make sure you find the right property manager for your needs. Research the various options in your property’s city carefully, and check reviews and testimonials about the agency or specific agent to be sure they have a good reputation and won’t be likely to drop the ball.

Ask lots of questions of those you have on your shortlist – about their experience, communication style and, in particular, fees. Try to find out any potential extra charges you could be hit with. Always get everything you agree upon in writing in a signed contract, so you’re covered if things go pear-shaped.

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5 Essential Tips for Finding a Great Lodger

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Taking in a lodger can be a great way to get more income from your property and put an empty room to good use. In the best case scenario, you’ll find a reliable and responsible lodger with whom you’ll hit it off from the start, and in other cases, you might find yourself left with an unrecognisable room and thousands in damages to deal with, not to mention the possibility of lodgers skipping on their rent.

However, when done properly, taking in a lodger should go smoothly without any complications. Here are a few simple tips to ensure that you get the most out of the whole experience.

Calculate the Rent

Knowing how much you’ll charge for rent may seem straightforward at first, but there are a few things you’ll have to consider before you set your price. You have to consider things like where in the country or the city you’re located, the general condition of the home, and the amenities offered.

You should calculate whether the cost for things like electricity, council tax, water and gas charges will be included in the rent or not. You should also be aware that taking in a lodger will make you ineligible for single occupancy tax breaks, so you should account for this as well.

Understand Rent-a-Room Benefits

However, while you won’t have access to single occupancy tax breaks, you’ll still be able to earn up to £7,500 completely tax free per year thanks to the government’s rent-a-room scheme. However, you have to make sure that the room is fully furnished and note that there are no expenses that can be offset against the tax. If you earn £7,500 or less, it’ll automatically get deducted, but for anything more, you’ll have to complete a tax form.

How to Find a Great Lodger

This is where things get tricky. However, thanks to the internet, finding a great lodger is easier than ever. There are tons of services that allow landlords to advertise their rooms and find suitable lodgers. Services like Monday to Friday allow landlords to find lodgers specifically for Monday to Friday arrangements. These are often professionals living in the country looking for a place in or near the city to stay during the work week. The above-mentioned service will also facilitate the screening process allowing you to reduce risks.

You could also decide to go for a more traditional approach and advertise through print for instance, though it won’t be as safe and efficient as using a site made specifically for this purpose. You could place postcards in nearby shops or even pay for an ad in your local newspaper. Colleges and universities are also great places to post your listing if you’re ready to do the footwork.

Work on an Application Form

An application form will help you get more information on the lodger and make sure that they’re suitable and trustworthy. But you don’t necessarily have to go into full detail about their life; all you’ll need is their current and previous address as well as information on their current employer at the very least. You should also make sure that you get some identity documents too, such as a driver’s licence and/or passport. And don’t forget to ask for references as well. You should get at least two references from either previous employers or landlords.

Another important detail that you should add is a signed permission to check on the applicant’s credit history. Credit history will often give you a much clearer picture on a prospective lodger then any type of reference. Many websites will allow you to perform a credit check in exchange for a small fee. This will give you the added peace of mind that the tenant you’re letting in is in good standing with their creditors, and lowers the risk that they’ll default on their payment.

Lodger Agreement

It’s also essential that you have a clear contract laying out the conditions of the agreement if you want to avoid chances for conflict and misunderstandings in the future. This will include things like whether pets are allowed or not in the property and whether they’re allowed guests, and how often if so. You should also draw up a cleaning rota and work out more delicate issues like food sharing for instance. Another thing you’ll have to draw out is how much access the lodger will have to other parts of the property if you want to protect your privacy and personal space.

Finding a great lodger is possible if you do your homework and go through the proper channels. Always make sure that you follow the few simple tips in this article if you don’t want to end up with a lodger from hell on your hands.

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