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Questions To Ask When Hiring A Property Manager

System - Monday, March 6, 2017
Property Management Blog

 

Questions To Ask When Hiring A Property Manager

Being a successful property manager requires both skill and experience but also the offering of tools to help you market your property to rent quickly and be maintained professionally to protect your investment and generate the desired income. Here are 5 questions you should always ask when interviewing or hiring a company or agent to manage your rental property.

 

  1. How many rental properties do you manage?

 

Knowing the volume of a management company’s inventory can be a telltale sign of the sheer amount of experience a company has had with managing property. At Sundance we currently manage over 1,700 properties spanning 3 counties along the Emerald Coast and our agents collectively hold over 50 years of property management experience.


  1. What steps do you take to market rental properties?

 

Knowing a company’s marketing avenues and strategies is essential to ensuring your rental property will reach it’s target market, rent for top dollar, and rent quickly! Sundance advertises on 30+ websites and our website is the first to come up when you search ‘property management company on the emerald coast’ which means our website will be among the first that prospective tenants will visit when searching for a rental home. We also take great lengths to direct prospective owners and tenants to our website through many social media platforms.


  1. How do you ensure qualified tenants are placed into the properties you manage?

 

Vetting a prospective tenant is one of the most important steps in the process of managing rental properties. This step ensures that a qualified tenant is being placed into your property that will be most likely to pay rent as agreed and take care of the property. Our application process includes verifying the rental history, criminal history, credit history and income of every prospective tenant.


  1. Do you handle or facilitate maintenance of rental properties?

 

It is important to know, especially if you are not local to your rental property, how maintenance issues will be handled. We have a knowledgeable and dedicated maintenance department that handles each and every maintenance call from all tenants. They gather information about the issue, solicit estimates from our licensed and insured vendors, and oversee repairs. Our maintenance professionals handle every aspect of maintenance issues from the initial call from the tenant to report and issue to the invoice being paid to the vendor all while keeping you, the owner, informed every step of the way.


  1. How often will my home be inspected?

 

It is imperative to preserving the condition of your property that your property manager have regular inspection procedures in place. For every property that Sundance handles full management of a property manager will drive by monthly to do an exterior check or assessment of the property. During monthly assessments of the exterior your property manager will note the condition of the exterior of the home, condition of the yard/landscaping, and note if any card that are not authorized are being kept at the property. In addition to monthly exterior assessments we conduct annual full property inspections inside and out of every property we manage, usually at the time of a lease renewal or final inspection.


 Your rental property is a very important investment and nothing is more important to us than protecting and preserving that investment to the best of our ability. Through our experience, technology avenues, marketing procedures, tenant screening process and attention to your home we strive to provide nothing short of excellent services to all owners and tenants.



Amber Scheel
Sundance Rental Management | Marketing Director

Spring Exterior Property Maintenance

System - Thursday, March 2, 2017
Property Management Blog

Now that the cold weather is hopefully behind us it is time to pay a a little attention to the exterior of your property and your yard.  

This is a great time to give your yard a fresh mowing and get on a somewhat regular schedule as the grass begins to steadily grow for the remainder of the warm months, this includes edging and clearing away fall/winter debris such as leaves and sticks. You should also trim and prune any small trees and bushes to ensure they can continue to grow without interfering with the structure of your home. If you rent a property where large tree limbs are coming in contact with the home that could cause roof or structural damage you should notify your property management company promptly and provide them with photos (if possible). Cleaning debris out of gutters will also ensure that they can function and drain properly to avoid damage. 

Additionally, this is the perfect time of year to prime your lawn pump and ensure that all components of your sprinkler system are functioning properly; negligence can lead to costly lawn repairs. Click HERE to be directed to our website DIY maintenance page if you would like to view an instructional video on how to prime your lawn pump.

Whether you own or rent your home and decide to hire a company to take care of the items above always be sure they are licensed and insured.


With just a little bit of care you can ensure that the exterior property will remain presentable and free of damage from lack of maintenance

Blake Costabile 

Sundance Rental Management| Business Operations Director & Broker

To Sell or Rent Your Property

System - Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Property Management Blog

With the local rental market in a strong upswing and many homes still upside down on their mortgage, many home owners are turning to renting rather than selling.  Unemployment numbers on the Emerald Coast are some of the lowest in the State.   A strong tourist market and Military presence has attracted new business and investors to the greater Fort Walton Beach area.  As the population grows, the demand for rentals increases proportionally.

Many of our local military choose to hold on to their homes when they are reassigned.  Some plan to retire here or plan to sell at a later date when the property values have increased to offset the mortgage.  By renting their homes while away, they can maintain a permanent address and have a place to move back to when they return.

Owners of rental property enjoy many tax advantages.  Some of the deductions include interest on the mortgage, insurance, property taxes and management fees.  Money spent on repairs or improvements while the home is rented are usually a valid tax deduction.  This allows an owner to improve or upgrade the property and take the deductions off of their tax return.  Investment property can also be depreciated, allowing for a further tax deduction.  The income from the rental, for tax purposes, is added to personal income on the tax return, but the allowable deductions will usually offset the income gain.

 With interest rates at near 4%, it is possible to cover a mortgage with rent.  A tenant will help pay down the mortgage as the value of the property goes up.  Tenants will often want to buy the property they are renting.  They can apply their deposits toward closing costs and save on moving expenses.  Nothing says owners have to sell to tenants, but they can be a good prospect when deciding to sell.  If there is a negative cash flow between the rent and house payment, the difference is usually covered by the allowable deductions of the interest, insurance, taxes, etc.

What about the fear of tenants damaging your rental property?  Damages and wear can negate the appreciation on a rental, however, with proper tenant screening and professional management, the rental experience can be rewarding.  A professional property manager uses their experience and skill to protect an owner’s investment.  Property management fees paid to a professional property management company are also valid tax deductions.  By law, however, a property manager must have a valid Florida Real Estate License to manage rental property for a fee.

If you need to sell at this time, sell.  The sales market has also picked up this year. As long as the property is priced reasonably and will appraise for asking price, it should be sellable.  If you are looking for an alternative, talk to a professional property manager and your accountant to see if renting might be a better option.  Everyone has a different financial situation and an accountant can determine if renting your home or investing in other rental property is beneficial to you and can discuss the various tax advantages of rental property ownership. 


J. Matthew Scheel
Owner | Broker
Sundance Rental Management, Inc.

Property Lines and Fences

System - Thursday, February 2, 2017
Property Management Blog

Property Lines and Fences

If you are a property owner or tenant, issues concerning property line infractions or fences are common place and can cause problems between neighbors.  There are many rules and statutes that can be applied to adjoining property disputes and I will be talking only in general terms.  Legal questions or liability concerns should be directed to an attorney.

As property managers, we are frequently involved in issues concerning a fence that needs repair or replacement.  It can involve a pet or child that is no longer restrained by a broken fence.  The issue can be to determine who owns the fence and is it their responsibility to make the repair?  Often, owners don’t know who owns the fence or when it was installed.  Fences are usually installed on the property line between properties and might have been put in by the builder or the cost split by neighbors.  The assumption that the fence belongs to the property owner that has the fence facing out or on the outside of the fence posts is not always the case.  The bottom line is usually who is willing to replace or repair the fence and if there is liability involved such as a dangerous dog or swimming pool.

Common sense should be applied to property line disputes however when there is a cost factor thrown in, that often goes out the window.  A fence on the property line is usually beneficial to both sides and it would make sense to split the cost of replacement or repair.   When one owner refuses to contribute and there are no liability issues, several solutions are available.  Make the repair yourself on your side of the fence.  Replace damaged fence boards, install inexpensive chicken wire by stapling it to the existing fence or if there are rotten fence posts a treated 2”x4” can be driven down next to a rotted post to make temporary repairs.  If the fence needs replacement, you might consider installing the new fence inside the property line by 6 to 12 inches which will leave a void between the neighbor’s old fence and your new one.             

Another issue that often arises between neighbors involves trees or bushes that have grown over the line or are rotten and need removal.  Generally it is legal and the responsibility of the property owner to trim or cut trees or bushes that are encroaching on their property up to the property line.   If there is a dead tree or branch on the property next door that is a danger to your property written notice should be given to your neighbor explaining your concern and it then becomes a liability to them.  One misconception is when a healthy tree on your neighbor’s property is brought down by a storm and falls on your home or causes damage to your property they should pay for the damage.  This damage is covered by the insurance of the damaged property owner and not usually the responsibility of the neighbor with the tree.

Property lines are normally platted and recorded in the county public records.  When a property is surveyed there are pins (steel rods) driven into the ground to mark the corners of the lot.  If the exact location of a property line needs to be located and these pins are not found it might save a costly mistake to hire a surveyor before installing a fence or building on you property.

J. Matthew Scheel | Broker-Owner | Sundance Rental Management, Inc.

How To Avoid Being Victim of A Housing Scam

System - Sunday, January 29, 2017
Property Management Blog

How To Avoid Being Victim Of A Housing Scam

The unthinkable can happen when you go online to search for homes for rent. You find a desirable property at a great price and you contact the person advertising the home sending them your personal information and maybe even a deposit or advance rent money. Then you find out the house isn't actually for rent or that the person you are dealing with is not the owner or owner’s agent and they are not authorized to advertise or rent the property. It’s a housing scam and it is happening more and more frequently each day.

These scam artists pose as the owner or owner’s agent. They take real estate listings of homes from legitimate websites and use them to place ads on Craigslist and other similar buy-sell-trade websites. They often lure prospective renters in by offering the home for rent far below market value making the advertisement seem like a great deal. When a prospective tenant contacts the person advertising the property to inquire or secure the property for themselves, the scammer will email a renters' application to full out. The application often requests personal information such as social security number, date of birth, bank account information, etc. In many cases the person conducting the scam will request a deposit or advance rent be sent to them in the form of certified funds such as cashier’s check or money order making the money untraceable and unrecoverable.

You should never give your personal information or money to anyone prior to viewing the property AND speaking with the owner or owner’s agent directly. Here at Sundance Rental Management we do not require any personal or financial information for the application process until after a prospective renter has personally viewed the property. 

This illegal act of housing scams victimizes home owners or owner’s agents as well. The owner or property management company are often unaware that the home is being advertised on unauthorized websites until the individual being scammed contacts them requesting access to the property.

Tenants can protect themselves from being a victim of housing scams by keeping the following items in mind as red flags when you are searching for a rental property:

  • Requests for money to be sent (especially by cashier’s check, money order, or other forms of certified funds that can be untraceable).
  • Requests for personal and/or financial information.
  • Typos, grammatical errors and improper wording or context during discussion.

Owners can protect themselves from being a victim of housing scams by hiring a property management company that is committed to combating these types of scams and can properly handle and eradicate the situation, should it arise. 

Amber Scheel | Marketing Director

2016 Rental Review

System - Tuesday, January 3, 2017
Property Management Blog

2016 proved to be a very busy year for the rental business. The local sales market also saw growth as both new home and existing home sales increased over the previous year. Home values continued to increase due to the demand and low inventories. Rents were on the upswing for the same reasons and the outlook for 2017 should be more of the same for the Emerald Coast. The trend for young people entering the work force to rent rather than buy will continue for the next several years.

Our local economy is so closely linked to the strong Military influence and the resurgence of the tourist industry which continue to bring new business and families to our beautiful area. The top rated school system, great law enforcement and wonderful weather all contribute to families desire to settle here.  The white sand beaches, emerald water and green golf courses don’t hurt to attract settlers and visitors alike.

The transition to a new President should benefit our area over the next several years if the new administration is able to rebuild the Military. The talk of controlling government spending and waste will only contribute to greater and more efficient Armed Forces. We have been fortunate to have low unemployment locally  however, as more jobs are created nationally our overall economy will prosper everywhere. 

I have been writing this monthly column about property management and rentals for almost 15 years now and hope you won’t mind me reflecting back over 2016 on a slightly more personal basis. After almost 40 years as professional Property Managers, my wife Pam and I are slowing down and letting our children take Sundance Rental Management, Inc. into the future. We will always be an active part of the business as advisors and directors, but the operations and management is in their capable hands. Our daughter Susan, and her husband, Blake along with our son Rick have worked with us for the past 10 years and Rick’s wife Amber came on board last year. Blake is a Broker and they all are licensed Real Estate Professionals. Rick and Amber are currently studying for their Broker Licenses. 

The Influence of young minds has kept our business up-to-date with new trends and technology and has contributed greatly to our growth over the past several years. We have grown from Pam working as the property manager in her father Fred C. Cooke’s real estate office to now over 25 employees. Our inventory grew by 250 new properties in 2016 and we are in the process of building new offices next door to our current location on Beal Parkway which will more than double our existing office space.

It is such a blessing to have a family and employees that love what they do. We appreciate our owners, tenants and vendors and all those who are a part of our business that have contributed to our success over the years. We understand that Sundance Rental Management, Inc. is a service company and will always strive to provide our best.

I am confident that 2017 will be a great year for all those involved in the management and leasing of rental property in our wonderful community. We wish everyone health, happiness and prosperity in the new year and God’s Blessings on all of you.

J. Matthew Scheel

Broker/Owner - Sundance Rental Management

Preparing for Cold Weather

System - Thursday, December 1, 2016
Property Management Blog

As cooler weather approaches, it is time to take the necessary precautions to prevent problems caused by freezing temperatures.  Whether you are the owner of a rental property or a tenant, there are many items around a house that need extra attention when the weather turns cold.  Many leases make the tenant responsible for the winterization of lawn pumps, pipes and pools.  Failure to take the necessary steps to protect these items can result in expensive repairs or replacement costs for the tenant and owner.

Lawn pumps for sprinkler systems that are above ground, and not jet pumps, need to have the water drained out of the cast iron housing before freezing temperatures arrive to prevent water from freezing and cracking the housing.  If the pump has an automatic timer, it should be turned off.  A plug or butterfly valve is located at the bottom front of the pump housing and needs to be removed or opened to drain the water from the housing.  The faucet on the top of the pump should also be opened to allow air into the pump for complete water drainage.

If the temperature is going to dip below freezing overnight, it is a good idea to keep the pool pump running.  The water circulating through the pump and pipes will keep them from freezing.  Freeze warning devices can be installed on pool pumps to turn them on automatically to prevent freezing.  If your pool pump is on a timer you can set the timer to come on during the cold night hours.  An outdoor Jacuzzi can also freeze when the temperature falls below 32.  If it is not protected from the cold it should be left on at night.

If your home has an off-grade foundation or if there is exposed plumbing to outside temperatures, precautions should be taken to prevent the pipes from freezing and causing expensive repairs.  The best permanent freeze protection for pipes is to wrap them with insulation.  Outside faucets can be covered with an inexpensive foam insulation cap available at any hardware store.  If you are unable to insulate your plumbing before cold weather arrives leave a faucet running slowly to keep water flowing to prevent the pipes from icing up.

Delicate plants and shrubs around the exterior of a home should be covered with sheets or plastic to prevent frost or freeze damage.  Don’t forget your animals.  Outdoor pets can freeze when the mercury dips below freezing.  Allow you pets to sleep in the garage or place a light bulb in the dog house to provide extra warmth.

There are a few things you can do to keep your home warmer in the winter.  Have the heater checked for efficiency and safety.  Change or clean the filter on your central heating system to allow better air flow.  Seal doors and windows with insulation strips and cover leaky old casement or jalousie windows by taping plastic over them.  If you have ceiling fans that reverse, turn them on low and reverse the rotation to bring the warm air at the ceiling down into the room.  Turning the thermostat down a few degrees and wearing warmer clothing will help reduce your utility bills.

Taking a minute now to make the necessary precautions for freezing temperatures will save money and aggravation when the thermometer dips below 32 degrees.

J. Matthew Scheel Broker/Owner Sundance Rental Management, Inc.

 

No Substitute for Experience

System - Thursday, December 1, 2016

My wife and I have been in the property management business for almost 40 years.  Throughout our careers we have heard and seen almost everything a tenant could throw at you.  Some of the tenants tricks can be costly or cause problems if not caught in time, so I thought I would share some of my experience in catching these issues.

Tenants looking for rentals that have qualifying issues, will usually try to talk directly to owners of rental property rather than go through a rental management company.  They look for owners advertising their own properties because they know owners will not be as thorough with the screening process as a professional manager.  Credit checks, eviction records, and criminal checks are not as available to individual owners as they are to professional management companies.  Beware of pushy applicants wanting to pay cash and move in immediately before there is time to check references or credit.

The application process is another area too be cautious.  Of course it is easy for a tenant to falsify information, so the application must have a statement that voids the lease if the information given is later found to be false.  Ask for 5 years of previous rental history and look for voids or inaccurate and unavailable references.  Applicants will leave unqualified roommates, pets or family members off of the application with the intent of moving them in after the lease is signed. Of course this is a violation of the lease, however, when checking references make sure to ask about pets and who lived with the applicant in the previous rental.

During the tenants occupancy damages caused by the tenant are often hidden.  Periodic inspections of the property are necessary and should be done discretely.  Tenants have rights of possession when leasing and it is unlawful under normal conditions for an owner to visit the property without the tenant’s permission.  When you call and let the tenant know that you are coming to check on the rental, they can temporarily remove an unauthorized pet or roommate, conceal certain damages, and clean up before your arrival.  Driving by from time to time and having maintenance technicians inspect for you when performing repairs can often catch a tenant off guard too reveal damages or pets.  When driving past your rental, look for extra vehicles, broken blinds and the condition of the lawn.  Unauthorized cars can mean extra people living in the unit.  Broken blinds are often caused by pets and if a tenant is not taking care of the outside they most likely aren’t maintaining the inside.

When a tenant moves at the end of the lease make sure the power and water are left on until the final inspection has been completed.  Tenants will turn off the utilities to hide damages.  Make sure too test disposals, dishwashers, plumbing and sprinkler systems.  Dark rooms can make it hard to see damaged walls and flooring.  If there has been a pet, it is a good idea to hold the distribution of the deposit for at least 10 days to allow time for hatching fleas and disguised odors to show up.

An experienced property manager will qualify a prospective applicant and prevent dishonest tenants from taking possession of your rental.  Their experience with maintenance, Landlord/Tenant Statues and financial issues are also valuable to the protection of your rental investment. 


J. Matthew Scheel
Broker/Owner
Sundance Rental Management, Inc.

Property Management Technology

System - Sunday, October 2, 2016
Property Management Blog

Our company is a member of the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM).  As members, our company and managers are able to keep current with industry technology and new management products by attending conventions, educational seminars, and the NARPM monthly magazine “Residential Resource”.  After almost forty years in this business, it’s not always easy to teach old dogs new tricks, but we are always amazed at the advances in new technology and software available to Professional Property Managers.

Web based software has allowed our owners and property managers to access information on their properties through cell phones, iPads and home PCs.  The latest maintenance software provides documented maintenance, inspections, and repairs with pictures and invoices for the life of a rental.  This information is instantly retrievable by date, address or name.  Phone apps let property managers answer their personal cell phone using the office number.  They can stay in contact with the office through instant messaging and retrieve and send information pertaining to a rental property without having to sit at a desk in the office.  Security and tracking apps make it much safer for agents in the field showing property.   Electronic banking has revolutionized the collection of rent and the distribution of owner’s proceeds.  Tenants can pay rent on line with direct deposit or even use a credit card and owners rent proceeds are sent electronically straight to their bank account.  Owners are able to access statements, invoices and tax information using their own personal portal.  This gives them real time data on their rental property and a constant connection to their property management company.

The use of web based software also allows for unlimited data storage and backup in other locations throughout the country.  This makes keeping large photo files and data no longer a space issue.  Going paperless was always a fear, but as I become accustomed to it, change is great.  Applications, leases and management agreements are completed online through email and “Docusign”.  All this creates a legal document that can be retrieved at a moment’s notice and signatures can be collected at any location with a computer.

My Wife and I are fortunate to have our children and their spouses and many millenniums working for us.  They understand the day to day changes in the internet technology and keep our Business current.  As Licensed Real Estate Professionals, we are required to take continuous education courses to keep our licenses active.  But as Professional Residential Property Managers, it is great to have an organization such as NARPM to help us keep up to date with the industry and provide the tools to be the best at what we do.

Keeping up with new trends and information pertaining to rental property is important to Professional Property Managers to help them better manage their inventories and serve the owners that employ them.  Contact your local REALTOR or Professional Management Company to help you with your rental investment and keep you up to date.

J. Matthew Scheel - Broker/Owner

 

Tenant Mistakes

System - Sunday, October 2, 2016
Property Management Blog

Assuming is the most common mistake tenants will make when renting.  Making sure that everything pertaining to the rental experience is in writing will remove the guess work.

Tenants not being honest when filling out their rental application by falsifying information will jeopardize the lease and subject themselves to eviction.  Not including all those who will be living with them or not disclosing pets will almost always result in an eviction if it is later discovered by the landlord.   Not disclosing criminal convictions or falsifying employment and rental history can be reasons for an application to be rejected when screened by landlords.  Always be upfront and honest when completing the rental application.  There is usually a fee required with the application and it will not be returned if false information is given.

Read the lease and be aware of special clauses or restrictive covenants for the property you are planning to rent.  If it is a no smoking unit assuming you can smoke on the porch can cause problems.  If you have an RV or boat that you assume can be parked in the driveway or on the grass, think again and read the covenants of the neighborhood you are moving into.  Finding out after the move can cause problems and extra expense if you have to rent additional storage space.

Always document the conditions and damages of a rental property at the time of move in.  A huge mistake is assuming the landlord knows about repairs and issues with your leased unit.  Not taking pictures and documenting in writing conditions at move in will result in deposit disputes when you move out.  Always notify your landlord of needed repairs.  Using E-mail will establish a documented trail of communication.  Any damages caused by the tenant, not initially documented, will be the responsibility of the tenant.

Sometimes tenants think because a rent due date falls on a weekend or a holiday that the rent can be paid late.  Rents are due as stated in the lease and late fees are enforceable leading to eviction if not paid.  Many tenants hear stories of the eviction process taking months.  The truth is, if done properly, only 20 days before a sheriff will show up with the landlord and physically move the tenant out.

As a tenant with a legal lease, you have legal possession of the property subject to the rules and conditions of the lease.  The Florida Statutes protect your rights as a tenant and restrict certain actions of the landlord.  Questions regarding these statues can be found on the internet or by consulting an attorney.    Tenants often question an owner’s right to enter their home resulting in conflict.  The law, with the exception of an emergency, requires the landlord to notify the tenant prior to coming to the property.  A tenant is obligated to give a landlord reasonable access, however, reasonable is not interpreted as being a pest.

Don’t assume, be honest, keep communications open between tenant and landlord, document and read your lease to ensure a pleasurable rental experience.


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Sundance Rental Management, Inc.
650 N Beal Parkway
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32547

Tel: (850) 863-3292

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