7 Things to Know About Being a Landlord

Becoming a landlord can be a great way to earn an income and build wealth over time, especially if you’ve chosen the right properties and filled them with the right tenants.

But it’s not just a set-it-and-forget-it type of business endeavor. There’s quite a bit of a commitment to make, so it’s important that you understand all the ins and outs of being a landlord before you jump in with both feet.

Here are some important things any real investor should know before becoming a landlord. 

1. It’s a Big Commitment

Both in time and finances, being a landlord requires a big commitment on your part. You likely will be spending money well past the finalization of the purchase of the property. And you’ll certainly need to make yourself available to deal with ongoing maintenance and issues that might come up along the way.

Being a landlord is a business endeavor, not a pastime that you take up like knitting or coin collecting. It’s a serious endeavor that needs to take priority in order for it to work. And that requires both time and money.

If you don’t think you’ll have the time to commit to being on site to make repairs, handle regular maintenance, and even collect rent checks, you could consider hiring a property manager to take much of this work off your plate.

Just keep in mind that although this will definitely free up a lot of your time dedicated to the property, it will cost you additional funds. Generally speaking, you can expect to pay approximately 10% of the monthly rent you charge.

2. The Property Needs to Be Ready For Renting

If the property you’re purchasing is resale, make sure that all necessary repairs have been made before your first tenant moves in. Get the place ready for your first tenant so that the odds of getting phone calls regarding issues with the property are minimized.

Do yourself a favor and put together a network of professionals who you may likely need to call at some point along the way, including plumbers, contractors, carpenters, roofers, electricians, and others who may come in handy. That way you’ll have a reliable expert ready on standby in case you encounter an issue along the way, which you likely will.

3. You’ll Need a Financial Cushion to Cover Unforeseen Expenses

One of the biggest things that you need to prepare for is big expenses that may come as the property ages. While there are repairs and maintenance to have to pay for, more significant issues can creep up once in a while that can really put a dent in your wallet. Large repairs such as new appliances, a new roof, or even a new HVAC system cost a pretty penny.

These types of repairs can happen any time, so it’s important to have the funds readily available in the case such repairs or new installations are required sooner rather than later. Before investing in a rental property, make sure you’ve got the financial means to cover these issues when they arise.

4. You Need to Follow Landlord Regulations in Your Jurisdiction

As a landlord, there are rules that you will need to follow. It’s important that you find out what these are, as your failure to follow them could land you in legal hot water.

For example, how you screen for tenants, draft up leases, charge and collect rent checks, and visit the property must be done according to the regulations in your area. The type of housing you provide must also meet certain codes in order to be considered habitable.

To make sure you know all the rules and follow them, get in touch with your local landlord-tenant board or meet with a lawyer who specializes in these areas.

5. The Right Property Matters

It’s crucial to carefully consider the type of property you purchase with the intention of renting out. Ideally, you want to buy a property that is attractive to renters and will allow you to charge enough rent to adequately cover all of your expenses, and then some.

When it comes to real estate, location is among the more important factors to consider. Tenants are more willing to paying bigger dollars for a property in a more desirable location. Just make sure the numbers add up in terms of purchase price versus what you’ll be able to collect in rent, as super-high prices could leave you barely breaking even in cash flow.

6. Screening Potential Tenants is Crucial

As important as your property choice is, so is your selection of tenants. The right tenant can make renting real estate a breeze, but a bad tenant can turn it into an absolute nightmare.

There are always stories about landlords dealing with horrible tenants. Whether they destroy the property, are a nuisance to neighbors, or don’t pay on time, bad tenants can turn a money-making rental opportunity into a disastrous money pit. That’s why it’s so important to thoroughly screen all rental applicants before bringing one on board.

While you certainly have to follow the rules in your jurisdiction about how to screen for tenants in order to avoid being guilty of some form of discrimination, you definitely have the right to ask a number of questions and even conduct background checks in order to make sure you’re choosing the best tenant.

To protect yourself, be sure to conduct a credit check and ask for references from previous landlords and employers.

7. You Need the Right Insurance Policy

Every piece of real estate needs some form of property insurance in case the unthinkable happens. And when it comes to rental properties, insurance policies are an absolute must. If you’re renting out a unit that you don’t live in, you will need additional insurance aside from whatever you have with your own primary residence. Speak with an insurance advisor to help you get the appropriate type of protection required.

It’s also important that your tenants understand that your insurance policy doesn’t cover their belongings. Should anything happen to the property and subsequently their personal possessions, your insurance policy won’t cover them. Although it’s not legally required for tenants to have insurance, they should know that your policy won’t offer them coverage. As such, it’s a good idea for them to get their own insurance policy.

The Bottom Line

If you want to set yourself up for success as a landlord, going in it well prepared and fully educated is crucial. Make the effort to get familiar with your time and financial obligations, the laws in your area regarding landlord-tenant relationships, and work with a real estate agent who can help you find the right property to rent out.

JUST LISTED IN PITTSBURG: 1023 Mepham Dr

$485,000 | 3 Beds | 2 Baths | 1,608 SqFt

Move-In Ready Home in Pittsburg! Located in The Gated River Run Community, This Home Boasts, 3 Bedrooms, 2.5 Baths, 2 Car Garage, Close To Commute Access, Bart, Shops and Schools! Newer Flooring, Fresh Interior Paint, Closet Organizers, Updated Baths and Kitchen….This Is A Must See!

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THE HOME

GATED COMMUNITY, CLOSE TO BART, MOVE IN READY!

FULL LISTING

JUST SOLD IN DUBLIN: 4688 Central Pkwy

$775,000 | 3 Beds | 2.5 Baths | 1,401 SqFt

What a great opportunity for easy living and convenience! This unit is walking distance or a short drive to shopping, dining, Emerald Glen Park, Dougherty Elementary and so much more! Ideal location for commute access as well. This home features a living room, open kitchen and family room with a wood burning fireplace, a spacious master suite and an attached 2 car garage. Be sure to see this soon, it won’t last long and you will not be disappointed!

FULL LISTING

JUST SOLD IN SAN RAMON: 12953 Hawkins Dr

$999,000 | 4 Beds | 3 Baths | 2,260 SqFt

Welcome to west side San Ramon! This 4 bedroom, 3 bath home has approx. 2,260 square feet and is situated on a 9,600 square foot lot (approx.). Full bed and bath on the main level. So many recent updates to list…fresh exterior and interior paint, new carpeting, new stainless steel appliances, new sod and updated sprinkler system. Located close to all levels of highly rated San Ramon schools, restaurants, shops and commute access. Great side yard access from both sides, inviting pool with spa and home backs to open space! Come see for yourself…this one won’t last long!

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THE HOME

Located on the west side of San Ramon, close to schools, shops, restaurants and commute access. Really love that this home backs to open space! Open floor plan with lots of room!

FULL LISTING

Fixed-Rate Vs. Adjustable-Rate Mortgages: Which One is Best?

There are so many decisions to be made when buying a home, and the type of mortgage to take out is one of the more important ones. With all the different mortgage products and variations out there, it can be daunting to choose a specific type of mortgage that will help you finance a home purchase while making it easy for you to comfortably make your mortgage payments every month.

Among all the different factors associated with mortgages that borrowers must decide on is fixed rates versus adjustable rates. While one stays the same through the mortgage term, the other fluctuates. One might sound better than the other at face value, but depending on the market and your current financial situation, one might end up being more convenient and even more affordable for you.

So, which one is better: fixed-rate or adjustable-rate mortgages?

What is a Fixed-Rate Mortgage?

A fixed-rate mortgage comes with an interest rate that remains steady throughout the life of the mortgage. During this time period, it never changes, and as such, the mortgage payment never changes, either.

The only things about the mortgage payment that will change from one month to the next are the portions allocated to the principal and the interest. With each payment made, a little bit of the principal is paid down, which reduces the overall loan amount and therefore the amount of interest charged. However, the total payment stays the same.

Many borrowers like the idea of having steady payments, making them more predictable and easier to budget for. Fixed-rate loans are also ideal when interest rates are expected in increase in the near future. In this case, locking in at today’s interest rate with a fixed-rate mortgage protects the borrower from being vulnerable to higher rates should they increase throughout the life of the loan.

While the interest rate may be fixed, the total interest amount that the borrower pays will depend on the length of the mortgage term.

What is an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage?

Whereas fixed-rate mortgages come with interest rates that do not change over the life of the loan, adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) interest rates do fluctuate from time to time.

These types of mortgages attract borrowers because their advertised rates are usually lower than those of fixed-rate mortgages. These lower rates are usually offered during an initial introductory period, after which the rate often increases.

When the initial introductory period expires, the rate adjusts at a frequency that has been pre-determined. This fixed-rate period can vary from anywhere between a month to as long as 10 years.

That said, shorter adjustment periods typically come with lower interest rates at the onset. Once this initial term is over, the mortgage resets. At this point, a new interest rate is put in place that’s based on current market conditions. Until the rate is reset again, the interest rate on the mortgage will remain the same.

ARMs are written as ratios that dictate how long the interest rate will remain fixed and how frequently after that the rate will change. For instance, a “5/1” ARM is quite popular, which basically means the interest rate will stay fixed for five years and will be adjusted – along with your payments – every year going forward.

It’s certainly possible for the rate to increase at some point throughout the life of the loan, and even surpass the rates associated with fixed-rate mortgages. Adjustable-rate mortgages are better suited in an environment where the rates are expected to decrease in the near future, helping borrowers save money over the long run.

Which is Better: Fixed-Rate or Adjustable-Rate Mortgages?

The answer to this question depends on the current market and your particular situation and comfort zone. Generally speaking, a fixed-rate mortgage might be better suited for borrowers who like the idea of having predictable payments that will not change over the life of the loan.

They make budgeting much easier, especially when there isn’t a lot of wiggle room with finances. Anyone with a low tolerance for risk might appreciate the predictability of fixed-rate mortgages.

Further, fixed-rate mortgages might make more sense if the rates are expected to increase in the near future. In this case, locking in a today’s rate can protect against any increase in rates that are anticipated. This can help save borrowers tens of thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.

Adjustable-rate mortgages, on the other hand, might be better suited in a market where rates are expected to decrease in the near future or remain steady. In this case, borrowers can take advantage of the lower introductory rate compared to fixed-rate mortgages.

Even if rates might increase in the future, adjustable-rate mortgages might still be a great option for those who don’t plan on staying in their home for very long. A buyer who plans to sell their home before the introductory period expires could be saving quite a bit of money, even if rates rise after that introductory period is over.

The Bottom Line

Both fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages can offer borrowers specific advantages. Depending on factors such as the temperature of the market, a borrower’s tolerance for risk, and a borrower’s plans for selling in the near future, the decision could go either way. Speak with a seasoned mortgage broker to help you determine loan product is better suited for you.

What Standards Does a Property Have to Meet in Order to Secure an FHA Loan?

FHA loans are attractive mortgage options for borrowers who may find it challenging to get approved for a conventional mortgage. The criteria required to secure an FHA loan is usually less stringent than that of a conventional loan, including minimum down payment requirements and credit scores.

But not only does the borrower have to qualify for an FHA loan, so does the property itself. Before lenders agree to extend a home loan to mortgage applicants, the property in question that is being purchased must be eligible for this type of government-backed loan.

Why Do Properties Have to Meet Specific Standards For FHA Loans?

Lenders who issue mortgages have the benefit of being able to repossess the home in case the borrower ever defaults on mortgage payments. That’s because the property itself collateralizes the loan. As such, lenders want to make sure that the home meets certain standards in order to allow them to recoup as much as they possibly can in the event of mortgage default.

Both lenders and buyers are protected as a result of specific standards that homes have to meet in order for an FHA loan to be issued.

In terms of lender protection, the home should be worth what it’s being bought for according to the current market and should be able to be sold within a reasonable amount of time in the event of repossession. In terms of the buyer, the standards that homes have to meet in order to qualify for an FHA loan protect the buyer by ensuring that the property is habitable.

In order to be eligible for an FHA loan, the subject property must be:

  • Safe – There should be no health or safety issues with the home.
  • Secure – The property should offer a minimum amount of security for all occupants.
  • Sound – Ther property should be structurally sound without any major issues that could render it inhabitable.

The lender issuing the FHA loan will send out an appraiser to the home to make sure it meets the criteria needed for loan approval. Any issues with the home will be noted appropriately.

So, what specific standards does a home have to meet in order for the buyer to qualify for an FHA home loan?

Minimum Property Standards For FHA Loans

The following are some of the criteria that properties must meet in order for an FHA loan application to be approved:

Crawl space – The crawl space must be properly vented and void of debris, rodents, insects, and moisture issues. It should also provide enough space for adequate plumbing, ductwork, and electrical work if required. 

Foundation – There must be no signs of water damage or oversized cracks. Further, the foundation must be able to withstand normal weight loads.

Attic – The attic of the home should be well-ventilated. Further, no signs of water damage, fire damage, faulty wiring, or rodent infestation can be present in this space.

Roof – The roof material and structure should be able to keep water out of the home and should be expected to have a lifespan of at least two more years. Further, the roof must not have more than three layers, or else a new roof will be required.

Water supply – There must be a public water supply or well connection to the home that provides safe drinking water. If the water does not meet water quality standards, there must be a water purification system servicing the property.

Sewage system – There must be a public, community, or off-site sewer system connection to the home.

HVAC system – The home must be adequately heated and/or cooled by a functional HVAC system.

Electricals – There must be power to all living units within the property. All wiring should be adequately installed and all electrical switches and outlets should be operational.

Plumbing – There should be a functional plumbing system that provides reasonable water pressure, hot water, functioning toilets, sinks, and showers.

Property access – There must be proper and safe access to the property from the street, which also allows for emergency vehicle access in all weather conditions.

Encroachment – There cannot be any intrusion of the subject property onto another property, and vice versa.

Built-in appliances – These must be fully operational.

Termites – There must not be any termite infestation.

Power lines – Any overhead electric lines cannot be extended directly atop the home or any water feature in the premises, such as a pool.

Flood zone – If the home is located in a designated flood zone, adequate insurance must be readily available. 

Pools – Any swimming pools adhere to local regulations.

Hazards – No hazards should be present in the home, including:

  • Lead-based paint
  • Mold
  • Asbestos
  • Contaminated soil
  • Close proximity to a hazardous waste site
  • Oil and gas wells
  • High-pressure petroleum line
  • Close proximity to high-voltage power lines

Noise pollution – Whether from airplanes crossing above, heavy traffic nearby, or any other source, there must not be excessive noise present.

Does Your Home Qualify?

If the subject property meets the minimum standards in terms of safety, soundness, and security, it should qualify for an FHA loan. If not, the issues in question may be able to be rectified before the loan closes. Speak with your real estate agent and let them know that you plan to apply for an FHA loan, and they’ll help to narrow down properties that will be more likely to qualify.

What Happens to Your Deposit if a Condo Developer Goes Bankrupt?

Lots of buyers consider purchasing pre-construction condos for a variety of reasons, but perhaps the biggest one is to lock in at the current price per square foot before prices start to rise. By the time the development is complete, buyers will have the exact condo they want designed to their tastes, all while taking advantage of a better price should the market trend upward.

But as advantageous as buying pre-construction condos might be, it also comes with some disadvantages, and perhaps the biggest risk is the potential for the condo developer to bail out of the development.

It can happen, and has happened in the past, which leaves buyers with no condo, no interest-growing opportunities for the deposit put down with the developer, and right back at square one looking for a new place to call home. Only this time, the price per square foot will likely be higher than when they originally purchased.

It’s an unfortunate situation, but thankfully it’s quite a rare occurrence. That said, it’s important that you be aware of potential risks associated with condo developers backing out before the development even gets off the ground.

More specifically, you’ll want to know that your deposit is still safe even if the condo developer backs out on the development.

What Happens to Your Deposit?

When a developer goes bankrupt while tens of thousands of dollars in deposit money is tied up, one of the first questions that buyers may have is, “What happens to my deposit?”

This is a valid concerned, considering the fact that builder deposits are usually for quite a large chunk of change. The answer, however, will differ depending on who’s holding the deposit money.

Ideally, the money should be heald with an escrow company or title company, in which case the funds are being protected and should be paid back to each buyer affected. In this case, buyers would have to get in touch with the escrow or title company in order to have the funds released.

Any real estate agreements between buyers and builders should contain a clause that outlines what will happen to the deposit money should the developer fold. That’s why it’s so important to have representation from a real estate agent when entering these agreements, as they will know to look for such clauses and ensure that they are included and enforced.

If, however, the deposit money was paid directly to the builder, this could be a major issue and would require legal action filed against the builder in order to have the deposit money refunded. In this case, a real estate lawyer would be required.

It’s never advised to leave a deposit directly with a builder, much like it’s not recommended to pay a seller the deposit in a traditional real estate deal. In case either one of them goes bankrupt, you could be left high and dry.

What About Interest on the Deposit Money?

From the time that the deposit is made to the time that a developer bails on a development, any interest that could have been made on  that deposit money is basically lost.

Even if the money just sat in a bank account, it would still collect interest. But when a builder files for bankruptcy, buyers are simply at a loss when it comes to any interest that could have been collected while the funds were in the developer’s hands.

Suing the Developer

It’s not uncommon for there to be a class action lawsuit against the offending developer set by angry buyers who are left in the dust. The purpose of these lawsuits is typically to sue the developer for the lost appreciation from the time that they bought the units to when the deposits were returned.

Buyers should be aware that the result of a class action lawsuit could take years to achieve.

What Can Buyers Do to Protect Themselves?

If you’re considering buying a pre-construction condo unit from a developer, there are some things you can and should do to protect yourself from headaches and disappointment.

For starters, thoroughly review the contract and be on the lookout for any clauses that indicate that buyers will be forced to buy the unit even if the entire complex’s construction completion is delayed. Also, as already mentioned, be sure that a clause is inserted that dictates that the deposit will be repaid in full in case the developer is unable to complete the complex.

Do your homework on the builder’s track record and look for any history of bankruptcies or failed developments in the past.

The Bottom Line

It can be incredibly disheartening to find out that the condo you invested in and looked forward to moving into when construction is complete falls through. While this is not a very common occurrence, it can and does happen. When it does, buyers are left wondering what will happen to the deposit money they’ve tied up in such developments.

The silver lining is that if buyers are represented by a seasoned real estate agent who knows what a sound contract looks like, their deposits will be protected, though any opportunity to collect interest on these funds is likely lost.

7 Must-Do’s When House Hunting

House hunting is an exciting time. When you’re finally ready to buy a home, the next logical step would be to scope out different homes on the market in order to find the one that you fall in love with and meets all your needs. But as fun as it can be to hop from one home to another, it’s also a task that you need to make the most of.

When visiting homes on the market, be sure to keep the following in mind.

1. Get Pre-Approved For a Mortgage

How do you know how much you can afford to pay for a home? Are you planning to just arbitrarily visit homes regardless of their price? Not only is this a waste of time it can also set you up for disappointment.

But you can make the most of your time house-hunting by getting pre-approved for a mortgage. While this is not a guarantee that you will definitely get approved, it is a foot in the door.

Your mortgage broker will assess your current finances on a surface level and will pre-approve you for a certain loan amount. From there, you’ll have a better idea of what price range you should focus on when searching for a new home.

2. Hire a Seasoned Real Estate Professional

Once you’ve made a visit to your mortgage broker, the next professional that obviously needs to be recruited is a real estate agent. Hiring a professional with experience in the neighborhoods you’re interested in will give you a leg up in the process.

They’ll make sure you spend your time wisely searching for homes that match your criteria and will help you make sense of potentially complex real estate contracts. Your agent will be sure to include the right contingencies to protect you and will negotiate on your behalf to help get you the best price possible.

3. Don’t Let Minor Repairs Scare You

Most buyers prefer to buy a home that’s in move-in condition, with nothing to do except move their belongings in. But it’s not uncommon for resale homes to have minor little issues here and there that might need some attention.

Don’t let these little issues deter you from potentially landing a great home at a great price. Try to look past things that can be easily rectified, especially if you love the home and the neighborhood it’s in, and the price fits within your budget. Unless you build the home yourself from scratch and it’s brand new, it’s likely that there may be things that might need some tweaking to make the home perfect.

4. Keep a Look-Out For Signs of Major Problems

While little issues might not be such a big deal, more serious problems could cost you a lot more than you’d care to spend. During your showing appointment, be sure to pay attention to any red flags that could be signs of much bigger issues that you may have to deal with, including the following:

  • Musty smells, which could be a sign of water infestation and even mold;
  • Stains on ceilings, floors, and walls, which could also point to water problems;
  • Uneven floors, ‘sticky’ doors and windows, and large cracks in the foundation wall, which could be signs of a faulty foundation;
  • Gnaw marks on trim and other wooden components, which could be a sign of a termite infestation.

Your home inspector will be able to uncover any issues you may not have noticed during your viewings, so be sure to include a home inspection contingency in your real estate agreement.

5. Make a List of Must-Haves

Who wouldn’t love a huge lot, a gorgeous view, 10′ ceilings, granite counters, multiple walk-in closets, and Sub Zero kitchen appliances? While you just might be able to get all of these things, it’s important to be realistic about what your budget can get you. Although there may certainly be things you’d love to have, be sure to differentiate between your “needs” versus your “wants.”

Before you visit your first home, go in armed with a list of absolute must-haves in order for the home to suit your lifestyle. While you may be open to compensating certain traits, others might be ones that you won’t be so open about sacrificing.

6. Scope Out Different Neighborhoods

You might have a good idea of exactly where you’d like to live, but keep an open mind about other communities that you might not have thought about. Your real estate agent may have some neighborhoods in mind for you to check out that they think might be places that would suit your tastes and lifestyle.

The location of the home you buy is even more important than the actual house. The structure itself can be changed, but there’s nothing you can do about the location. Think about important things such as the types of schools in the area, proximity to your place of work, noise pollution, future developments, and businesses in the area before settling on a specific neighborhood and lot.

7. Book Second Showings on Homes That Make the Short List

Don’t put in an offer after only visiting a home once. Even if you believe you’ve found “the one,” it’s still important to check the place out one more time before signing off on an offer. There may be things that you might not have noticed the first time around, and viewing the home a second time around will give you another opportunity to see the place in a different light.

When you do book a second showing, consider going at a different time of day than the first time around. The way a neighborhood seems during the day might be totally different than how the area is at night. Things such as traffic and how neighbors behave could differ at various times of the day.

The Bottom Line

Buying a house is a huge deal and a major expense. The last thing you want is to suffer from the dreaded “buyer’s remorse.” But you don’t have to. With careful planning, sound house-hunting tactics, and a seasoned real estate agent by your side, you can make the most of your house-hunting trips and buy the home of your dreams.