Getting Back to Work Safely

As many states move to reopen businesses affected during COVID-19, it’s essential that building owners, managers and tenants follow safety guidelines to keep employees and…

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How is Working from Home Affecting the Office Sector

The office sector is experiencing unprecedented challenges due to COVID-19. As shelter-in-place orders rolled out earlier this year and companies allowed their employees to work…

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5 Things to Look for in a Rental Listing

Whether you’re looking for an apartment, single-family house or townhome – and whether you’re in a city, the suburbs or a small town – be prepared to spend a lot of time online and even more time driving around to tour the most promising places in person.

If you want to save time and avoid headaches, make sure that every rental listing you consider has all the information you need. High-quality listings help you weed out the places that don’t fit your criteria (wait, Fido’s not welcome?), but they also indicate an organized, communicative and professional landlord – something every renter wants.

As you begin your search, consider these five important things every good rental listing should contain:

1. Detailed details

Front and center should be the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, storage space and a floor plan to help you visualize the layout.

Avoid listings with vague terms like “junior one bedroom” or “open one bedroom.” According to Zillow research, 65 percent of renters require their preferred number of bedrooms. Landlords know this, so they get creative with descriptions to attract more tenants.

Another need-to-know detail is how safe the property is. Zillow research reports that 75 percent of renters said that a safe neighborhood is a must-have. Most landlords will say that the neighborhood is safe, so do your own research, especially if you’re new to the area.

Speaking of being new – if you’re moving to a new part of town or an entirely new city, look for listings with important facts about the neighborhood, including proximity to transit or major freeways, convenient shopping centers, and nearby recreation and entertainment options.

2. Amenities – all of them

Beyond basics like heating and kitchen appliances, every renter has different amenities that they consider must-haves.

The most popular amenities renters look for include air conditioning, in-unit laundry, ample storage and private outdoor space. Watch for other nice-to-have in-unit amenities, like recent renovations, hardwood floors, plenty of windows and upgraded kitchens.

Shared amenities should be included in the listing too – things like parking, rooftop decks, fitness areas, outdoor space, swimming pools and bike storage.

3. Major (and potentially problematic) policies

The listing should disclose any policies that could be a deal breaker for you. Examples include rules around pets (including specific breeds), the maximum number of people who can live in the unit, smoking, parking, noise and – most importantly – lease terms and length.

Additionally, see if you can tell if the landlord lives on-site or if a local property management company manages things. If the landlord is nearby, they’ll likely handle repair requests quickly, along with general building upkeep and maintenance.

4. Clearly described costs

Make sure the landlord is exceptionally clear about the dollars and cents:

  • What is the monthly rent?
  • How much of a deposit is required, and is any of it refundable?
  • Are there any one-time fees?
  • Is there a pet fee or monthly charge?
  • Does parking cost extra?
  • Who pays for utilities?

These additional charges can quickly move a listing from feasible to fruitless, so make sure you have all the info you need to do the math ahead of time.

5. High-quality photos

Focus on listings that have not only good photos but also recent photos – and lots of them.

Look for listings that include both interior and exterior shots, plus photos of all shared amenities. But renter beware: If the landlord says the photos are of a similar unit – not the one that’s actually for rent – you may find yourself in a bait-and-switch situation.

Once you find a few listings that include these details, you’re off to a great start. You can more easily compare properties side by side, identify deal breakers and find areas where a landlord might be open to compromising.

Related:

Originally published June 2018. Statistics updated January 2019.

Source: zillow.com

New Report Reveals Massive Shifts in Tenant

A recent study by Zumper, an online rental marketplace, reveals massive shifts in renter behavior and historic market changes for renting in 2020. The company’s…

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5 Tips for First-Time Commercial Real Estate Investors

Are you thinking about taking the plunge and investing in your first commercial real-estate deal? Even if you’re a veteran investor in residential properties –…

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Attention to Every Detail

If you ask Relentless Agent Award Winner, Laura Ennis of CENTURY 21 AllPoints Realty in Enfield, CT, what makes her stand out from the crowd, she’ll tell you

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What You Need to Know About the Fair Housing Act

If you’ve searched for a new place to live recently, you’ve likely seen the Equal Housing Opportunity logo (an equal sign inside a house) on a landlord’s, real estate agent’s or lender’s paperwork.

But the Fair Housing Act is more than just a logo. It’s a federal law designed to protect renters and buyers from discrimination.

Here are some key points to know about the Fair Housing Act when you’re searching for a place to live.

What is the Fair Housing Act?

Also known as the Civil Rights Act of 1968, the Fair Housing Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson just days after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., who had championed the cause for many years.

The act prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status (sex was added in 1974, and disability and familial status were added in 1988).

At the time the act was signed, overt housing discrimination was a huge problem throughout the country, including the attempted segregation of whole neighborhoods and the outright rejection of qualified renters based on race and other factors.

Today, much of the discrimination in the housing market is less obvious, but it’s still an unfortunate reality.

According to the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), over 25,000 housing discrimination complaints were filed with the federal government and local and national fair housing agencies in 2017. Over half of the complaints were based on disability, followed by race at 20 percent.

But these numbers reflect only reported incidents. The NFHA estimates that over 4 million instances of housing discrimination occur annually, but many people don’t realize they’ve been discriminated against – or know what steps to take when it happens.

What does housing discrimination look like?

Most of the people you encounter in your home search, including real estate agents, sellers, landlords, property management companies and lenders, are bound to Fair Housing Act regulations and additional state and local laws, based on where you live or are looking to live.

Fair Housing Act violations can occur in all phases of buying and renting, including in advertising, while you search, throughout the application process, in financing or credit checks, and during eviction proceedings.

Here are a few examples of discrimination people in protected classes have encountered:

  • A real estate agent tries to “steer” a buyer away from a certain neighborhood
  • A landlord tries to avoid renting to someone by saying the unit advertised has been rented when it hasn’t
  • A property management company refuses to rent to a family with children or requires a higher deposit
  • A landlord evicts a person of color for a reason they wouldn’t evict a white tenant for
  • A mortgage broker asks questions or requests excessive documentation from an immigrant couple that they wouldn’t request from another buyer
  • A lender charges a single woman a higher interest rate than what her credit score should dictate
  • A landlord refuses to make reasonable accommodations for a tenant who is disabled

What do I do if I’ve been discriminated against?

If you’ve been discriminated against in any of the ways above, or if you suspect that other actions taken by a property manager, landlord, real estate agent, broker or lender may be discriminatory, there are many resources at your disposal.

  1. File a report: File a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) at HUD.gov. You can also file a complaint with local housing resources found through the NFHA.
  2. Get more info from local housing agencies: You can find a list of local housing counselors at HUD.gov. Besides answering questions about discrimination claims, these agencies provide home buyer education workshops, pre-purchase counseling and rental housing assistance.
  3. Talk to an attorney: Like any other legal issue, when pursuing a complaint under the Fair Housing Act, it’s smart to consult a lawyer.
  4. Find people you can trust: If you experienced housing discrimination from your real estate agent, mortgage broker or lender, it’s time to find a new professional to help you in your home search. Ask friends, family members and colleagues for referrals they know, like and trust. Remember – these real estate professionals are working for you, so their only concern should be finding you the home that’s right for you.

Related:

Source: zillow.com

3 Tips for Doing Your Due Diligence Right

If you’ve purchased commercial real estate, then you understand the importance of due diligence, a critical stage in the acquisition process. Due diligence is a…

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How to Perform a Landlord Background Check

You’ve found the perfect new apartment or rental house. You love the neighborhood. Your application has been approved. You’re ready to sign on the dotted line, right?

Not so fast. How much do you know about your soon-to-be landlord, property manager or property management company?

There are lots of reasons why you should take the time to ask yourself, “Who is my landlord?” before you commit. Your rent payment is likely one of your biggest monthly expenses, and if you’re signing a lengthy lease, you should find out as much as you can about the person who owns and operates the place you’ll call home.

Check out these five easy ways to check your landlord’s reputation before signing your lease.

1. Google them

The internet has a way of quickly uncovering all kinds of misdeeds, so start with a simple Google search of your landlord’s name or property management company, as well as the property address.

Hell hath no fury like a renter scorned, so you’ll also want to peruse some of the many apartment and landlord review sites online that let tenants anonymously review their apartment complex, landlord or property management company.

2. Search public records

There’s a wealth of information about properties and landlords available via your local government agencies, and you’re usually able to check your landlord for free. Consider it your landlord background check!

Your county courthouse should have ownership records searchable by address, so you can find the legal name of the person or company that owns the property – it may not be your landlord directly.

You can also search for code violations, foreclosure proceedings, evictions and small claims court settlements, all of which should be red flags for renters.

3. Get to know your (future) neighbors

If you’re moving into an apartment complex with multiple units, take a few minutes to walk around the grounds out of earshot of the landlord.

If you see any tenants out and about, strike up a conversation about what it’s like to live there. Ask how long they’ve lived there – renewed leases are a good sign of a positive landlord-tenant relationship. Get a few pros and cons, ask how complaints are handled, and find out if they have any gripes about management.

If you’re moving into a single-family home, ask the landlord if they’d mind you having a conversation with the current tenants.

If you don’t have access to any other tenants, find a neighborhood-specific blog or Facebook group to join. Tell people you’re thinking of moving into the area, and ask if they know anything about the property manager.

4. Be the interviewer

Landlords ask you questions when you apply to live in their property, so why shouldn’t you ask them questions too?

Ask them how they handle repair requests. Find out if the landlord lives on-site, nearby or in a different state. Ask how the move-in and move-out process goes. Learn more about their process for requesting entry to your unit.

They should be able to easily answer your questions and address all of your concerns.

5. Go with your gut

When in doubt, trust your instincts. If you experience any of the following:

  • The price seems too low for the apartment size, amenities or neighborhood
  • The lease terms are unclear
  • The landlord is hesitant to answer your questions
  • The landlord tries to rush you through the rental process

Think twice – and keep looking.

Related:

Source: zillow.com