Technology is changing the way we advertise properties for rent.
When Steve and I took back the management of our properties two months ago, we had seven empty units. Five of them have been rented to tenants who meet our criteria without even having to take out a newspaper ad. We use Craig’s List and the Facebook group Luzerne County Homes and Apartments as well as our own social media pages at a cost of zero.
We did pay for another service – www.registersigns.com – which takes the old school “For Rent” sign on your property into the 21st Century. On the sign is a number prospective tenants can text for more information. When they do, they get back a full description of the property - the monthly rent, how many bedrooms, bathrooms, what’s included for utilities, if pets are allowed, etc. There’s also a link to a website for pictures. You can buy the signs at Lowes pre-printed with the text number.
You can take it a step further and pay for an online service that will book your showings – www.simplybooked.me. It’s the same kind of service that books my salon appointments online. We tried it and decided it wasn’t worth the price. All of our prospective tenants ended up contacting us rather than booking on the site.
Technology is changing the way tenants pay us.
My husband bought a Square credit card reader so we could accept credit cards. We noticed a lot of the vendors we use like our pest exterminator accept payments this way. It’s a small device that hooks up to your smartphone via the headphone jack. We’ve only used it three or four times and it’s already paid for itself. The reader is actually free at www.squareup.com – they make their money by taking a percentage of the transaction, which you can simply pass on to the payee if you want. The money, minus Square’s fee, is direct-deposited into your business bank account. We’ve had a few deposit to hold payments and at least one rent payment come to us this way.
Technology is changing the way we communicate with tenants.
My husband showed a unit to a Spanish-speaking IT professional who communicated through a universal translator app on his smartphone! His English was so heavily accented he could not be understood, so he spoke Spanish and the app translated it to English. Steve spoke English and the app translated it to Spanish. Here was a tenant with a good job, good income and clean background we might not have been able to rent to because of a language barrier!
I am writing this blog post from a hotel room in Baltimore’s inner harbor. Our “rental office” got a call from a current tenant while we were standing around the jellyfish exhibit at National Aquarium with our 6-year-old. Our “rental office” phone number is actually a Google Voice number that connects to my cell phone. All calls to the rental office (and our maintenance hotline, which is a different Google Voice number) go to voice mail. The caller leaves a message, and a transcript of that voice message is sent to both of us via text and e-mail. We now have a record of all calls! Google Voice is free – you just have to sign up for their gmail to access it.
The tenant had forgotten her front door code to get into the building. I texted it to her from the Google Voice app on my smartphone. Had the tenant been locked out “old school” while we were away in Baltimore, we would have had to call one of our maintenance contractors to let her in. And he might have been somewhere with his family on the weekend – our tenant may have been stuck outside for hours!
Technology is changing the way we screen prospective tenants.
It’s a lot harder to hide a checkered past now that everything is online. Pennsylvania has a judicial portal (https://ujsportal.pacourts.us/) and I can look up anybody’s court records, criminal and civil. The website is clunky and not real user friendly, but it is free of charge.
There are services a landlord can pay for that will check national databases for records in other states – we’ve used eRenter.com in the past. Now we use the service offered by Mr. Landlord, the Philadelphia-based self-management guru with a fantastic website mrlandlord.com. His is a paid membership service, but well worth the cost! Ginger Snapped recommends!
Technology is changing the way we connect with other landlords – and there is safety in numbers!
Mr. Landlord is a great example of that – he’s created an online community where other landlords can share information with one another. Many sites like that exist on the internet. Biggerpockets.com is a great way for investors to connect – or even would-be investors who just want to get to know what real estate investing is all about. We found the backer of our latest flip on BiggerPockets.
You can also find local meetings of real estate investors and landlords on MeetUp.com – that’s where we announce our meetings for Investors Network NEPA. That’s the group my husband put together with some other local investors. It meets the second Wednesday of the month. The next meeting will be Wednesday, August 10th at the new location – Perkins restaurant on Rt 315 in Pittston. Our website is InvestorsNetworkNEPA.com and we’re also on Facebook.
Landlords, we must join forces! Tenants are way ahead of us on that game. In the 1970s tenants’ organizations sprang up all over the country, and that’s why tenants have so many rights today. I’m not trying to perpetuate the “Them V.S. Us” mentality. There are bad landlords out there – that’s the reason tenants had to get organized in the 1970s and fight back. The truth is most landlords are hard working people, small business owners, who are doing the best we can. Most tenants are good, hard working people who meet their financial obligations and treat the property with respect. It’s the few bad apples that really spoil the bunch. Like I wrote in by last blog post – I have 26 tenants, and the one bad tenant I have can make me forget all about the 25 good ones!
I advocate getting out there and joining a local real estate investors association. A great one for landlords where we live is the Wyoming Valley Real Estate Investors Association. Here’s a link to their Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WVREIA/photos
You can find info on them and other groups in Pennsylvania through this link: http://www.landlordsresourcedirectory.com/Pennsylvania.htm
I would really like to see some advocating for Landlords’ Rights. I would like to see some laws changed to make it easier to recoup damages to our property from a destructive tenant. Recently the law in Pennsylvania did change and now landlords can garnish wages just like other creditors. That’s a step in the right direction, but we need more.
There is a tenant in one of my units now who is gaming the system. I won’t comment too much about it now, due to pending litigation, but this will be the subject of future blogs once it’s all over.
My mission: to help create a blueprint for landlords to recoup their losses from such a tenant. A legal roadmap a landlord can follow, step by step, to get back some or all of what is owed to them by these deadbeats. Something that will be strong enough to act as a deterrent so a bad tenant will think twice before “gaming the system” again. Because their going to have to pay for it later, big time. That is my goal, and I find when I set my sites on a goal I usually achieve it.
Then we can get back to focusing on the needs of the 25 good tenants instead of the one tenant from Hell. That, after all, is a much more worthwhile use of life energy.