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September 2020

4 Key Home Maintenance Tips Every Homeowner Should Know

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Homeownership is one of life’s great milestones, but it also comes with a lot of responsibilities that many people overlook. Poor home maintenance can cost you a lot of money. Proper maintenance and inspections can help you prevent a disaster and protect your investment.

Roofing and Gutters

It is a sensible idea to inspect your roof once or twice a year, before and after fall and winter. If you have missing roof tiles or shingles, these could cause massive damage to your home in a short amount of time. Missing shingles equal leaks in your roof.  Pay close attention to areas like chimneys and skylights, as these are the areas most prone to damage. 

When inspecting the Roof

Look for damaged roofing and nails popped up or tar that has separated or torn loose. When you can see nails uncovered in the shingles this is a sign that sealants are failing. A simple fix is to recoat visible nails with roofing tar.

bird's eye view of assorted-color roof tiles

Look for damaged or cracked roof vents. This is a common problem with plastic roof vents. Cracked roof vents can turn into a source of water penetration. A temporary fix would be to caulk the cracks until you could get them replaced. If replacing I would only recommend going with a metal roof vent. 

Drainage from the roof is important, and blocked gutters can cause water damage to your home’s sidings or brickwork. Leaves from the fall and even children’s toys like rubber balls and frisbees can block guttering and cause water to overflow and cause costly damage.

Plumbing and Toilets

Water damage can be incredibly expensive to repair, so every homeowner should be proactive and take steps to check for leaks in their home as well as preventative steps to protect their plumbing system.

grayscale photography of metal pipes

Clear your sinks and drains of cooking fat and hair using appropriate chemicals, and check pipes for signs of leakage such as rust or limescale build-up and damp patches. Leaking toilets can cost a lot of money in utility bills. Check if your toilet is leaking internally by adding some food coloring to the tank. Leave it for an hour or so, without flushing, and check the toilet bowl for signs of the food coloring. If there is some coloring in the bowl, then you have a small leak that could be costing you money.

Be sure to check valves and hoses. Burst water hoses cause millions of dollars in damage to homes every year. Valves and hoses should be assessed for damage and wear or simply replaced due to age.

Toilets Failure

Over time some of the components on your toilet will fail, this includes, wax ring, handle, assembly, and base seal.

“One of the most common plumbing calls we get are from people with running toilets. Often either the flapper has worn out or the toilet assembly needs to be completely replaced,” explains Stuart McHenry who is the Co-founder of Office Gator a phone service for plumbers.

Over time wax rings fail. Look for signs of leakage all around the toilet. The floor may be raised from absorption of the leak. Make sure that the silicone seal has a gap near the back and does not completely seal. Plumbers due this to give a leak a place to go. If you do a full silicone seal around the base of the toilet a leak has not where to go but down. In addition it will most likely cause flooring damage before you notice it. 

Air Conditioning and Air Filters

Your home heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system will require some regular maintenance too.

white and gray box fan

Poor maintenance of your HVAC can prevent it from working effectively, cost you extra money in running costs, and also be a hazard to your health. Air filters should be replaced regularly, so look for replacements for your system. HEPA filters help remove particles in the air that can aggravate asthma and other breathing conditions and have been shown to be effective against bacteria and viruses including COVID-19.

Some air filters can be used for long periods of time, up to 6-12 months, depending on your system. Most use a standard size filter and are required to be changed anywhere from 30-90 days depending on the area you live in. In my dusty area we have to change our air filters every two months or the air filter will become overloaded and block the air flow. 

Home Appliance Maintenance

Washing machines require plumbing to work, and poorly installed or maintained water hoses can cause small leaks that grow quickly, and damage your home. Make annual checks to your washing machine to make sure it is connected properly and that the supply hose is in good working order. When it comes to washing machine hoses I only used braided stainless steel. In addition, I replace them every 10 years no matter what. This is a great example of how $30 in maintenance can save you thousands in damage.

Some refrigerators also have a water supply for making ice or supplying chilled water, so you should check their water supply hose regularly too. Also, check the seals around the chilled and frozen sections of your refrigerator to ensure they are in good condition and form a complete seal between the doors and the body of the appliance. Poor sealing is incredibly energy inefficient and will cost you money. Fridges also have a section of water line that needs to be checked and replaced just like a washing machine hose.

Maintaining a home can prevent major expensive failures. This doesn’t mean you won’t have to eventually replace items, it’s still a good idea to set money aside for when a major improvement does need to be done such as heating system replacement or re-roofing your house. 

With these tips, you should be able to protect your home and prevent damage that can cost thousands to repair, as well as being disruptive to you and your family’s daily life.

Curb Appeal Upgrades for 2020 Sellers

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Are you looking at selling your home? Or are you simply wanting to do renovations? Whatever the case, we all like to have an attractive curb appeal. Everybody likes to have a nice front yard. Having an attractive curb appeal and a nice front yard are what will help homeowners to attract potential buyers. It will also help real estate agents to sell your home for you.

white and black house near to pond

Improving the curb appeal of your home is not as hard as you might think. In this article, we will have a look at how to Improve the Curb Appeal of Your Home, whether you are selling your home in New York or in Canadian regions like luxury North Vancouver homes. We hope these ideas will inspire you to give them a go.

Give The Front Porch a Fresh Coat of Paint

Giving the front porch a fresh coat of paint will hide any noticeable wear and tare that may be lurking on your house. It will also make it look as though you care about the appearance of your house rather than let it age and look run down. Why not get creative with whatever design you decide to use. You could even get adventurous with the color of paint that you select as well. If you are not sure on what paint color to use, you can call in a professional to help you with this. Don’t be afraid to get second opinions before going ahead with painting.

Front Yard

The front yard is one of the first things that people see when they drive or walk past our homes. It can leave a good impression or it can leave a bad impression of your home and property. Giving your front yard a makeover is well worth the effort. From plants, to landscape lighting, to perfect symmetry, these can all drastically improve your front yard.

Planting Bed, Plants, Potted Plants and Flowers

Consider planting a variety of plants, potted plants, flowers and perhaps even a planting bed in your front yard. There are so many options that you can choose from so why not get creative in this. Again, don’t be afraid to get a second opinion from someone professional if you don’t know much about gardening. Whether you have a small yard or a large yard, you can be sure that there will be something suitable to plant in them. You never know, you may soon fall in love with your new gardens and find yourself out in them every day.

Bird Feeders

Bird feeders make for fantastic decorations. From small bird feeders to large bird feeders, you can place them anywhere in any yard. If you have a love for birds and they do not come to your home, then this could be one way to attract them. Bird feeders can also come with water fountains that can be filled with water. The rain can also fill these feeders up. This will allow the birds to come and drink from your bird feeder and enjoy the yard that you have created.

Front Porch and Front Door

The front porch and front door are just as important as the front yard. This is the first place that people step on to before coming into your home. If you want to attract people in to your home, then the front porch should be designed to be attractive. It should also be kept neat, clean and tidy. Choose an attractive paint color and design for the front porch and front door. They should blend in well with each other. The door itself can also have its own special and unique design.

Install Window Boxes

If suitable, window boxes can also be installed on to the front porch of your home. These will allow you to have even more room for plants, flowers or herbs in them giving you more space to bring nature into you front porch. It is not as hard as you might think to install window boxes on to the front porch of your home.

Outdoor Lighting

We all need to see where we are going if outside after dark. Outdoor lighting also needs to be considered. Not only for the front yard also for the backyard. The lighting could simply be under your porches, or it could also be included in other areas of the yard. From large lights, to small lights, to lanterns and fairy lights. There is a wide range of outdoor lighting that you can choose from to help make your yards and porches attractive. As Garage is important too, you can also buy Garage doors online to enhance the beauty of the backyard.

Home Buyers

If you are going to be selling your home, you want to be sure to attract home buyers. You will not attract home buyers if you do not make the necessary home improvements to your home. You can be sure that real estate agents will know what they are looking for if you want them to sell your home for you. They will also be able to tell you what you need to do to make your home look appealing. The home’s curb appeal really has to be attractive enough for potential buyers.

Preparing your home for sale, requires time and effort. Don’t be afraid to start as early as possible. Do as much research as you can for design ideas. Don’t be afraid to go to professionals for help. They will be able to give you the best advice possible as to how you can Improve the Curb Appeal of Your Home.

You can be sure that by doing all of the above will help you to boost your home’s curb appeal. You might even find yourself pleasantly surprised as to just how quickly you will be able to sell your home by making the necessary home improvements. Preparing your home in this way will be well worth the time and effort that you put into it.

pipes and plumbing

Should A Landlord Take Care Of Pipes And Plumbing?

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Say you’ve invested in real estate and rented out your property to a tenant and one day you get a message that there are a broken pipe and plumbing issues in your renter’s home. If you’re new to being a landlord, you might be wondering to yourself if that responsibility falls under you, or if your tenant has to maintain upkeep.

white and red wooden house miniature on brown table

Being a landlord is no easy feat as there are a plethora of property management responsibilities that fall on your shoulders. To help, this guide will provide you with some insight into what you should do if a situation like the above were to occur. That way, you’d be more prepared to handle various circumstances and avoid unnecessary issues with your tenants. 

What does the law say?  

While this can vary in different countries and states, it’s generally dictated that it’s the landlord’s responsibility to repair both the pipes and the plumbing in a rental unit, while providing proper maintenance to ensure that they’re in tip-top shape. This obligation falls under two theories of the lease requiring it, and something is known as the “implied warranty of habitability.” 

selective focus photography of three books beside opened notebook

What happens if it has been violated?  

With a lease, it’s usually either a written or verbal agreement where the renter agrees to pay a stipulated amount of money for the rent to obtain the premise in a habitable condition. In the UK this is referred to as a tenancy agreement. In the US, many call it a lease agreement. 

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If the home that they’re renting is not maintained in the condition which is agreed upon – such as clogged waste disposal or improper plumbing, then this is considered a violation of the lease. With that, the occupant can choose to enforce it against you, as they’re not getting what they paid for. 

As for the second theory, it essentially refers to the rental unit needing to be safely habitable. This includes not having mold in the home to having working plumbing. For this particular theory, however, you don’t have to fix anything minor such as a drip. However, if there are larger plumbing issues that are affecting both the habitability and health of the occupant, then it must be addressed immediately. 

If not, the individual renting the unit can choose to pay rent into escrow until repairs have been completed. This not only pertains to plumbing, but also other issues like spaces within the property – such as the kitchen and bathroom not being properly maintained. In this instance, you should help in remodeling the space and convert it into something that’s aesthetically-pleasing and most importantly, safe. 

What if something serious happens? 

While one can hope it never happens, sometimes a massive leak can occur – resulting in the damage of belongings. In such a scenario, you would have violated a duty in maintenance which can be considered as legally negligent. When this occurs, you would need to pay for any losses which could encapsulate property damage, and any additional costs and expenses incurred. 

water coming out from gray pipe

It doesn’t just all fall on you though, the tenant also has to act responsibly and notify you early to alleviate the condition. If the water leak or plumbing issue occurred even with proper maintenance, or the occupant did something to cause the problem, then you’d be able to avoid responsibility altogether.  

Summing up

The best thing to do is to avoid such a situation from happening at all. While accidents do happen sometimes, it’s your obligation as a landlord to minimize such incidents. Before renting out your property, check that there are no maintenance issues and that all repairs have been made. After the property has been rented out, the tenant should also be made aware that if anything urgent were to happen such as a burst pipe or electrical problems, the occupant needs to alert you immediately.  

It’s a two-way relationship between you and whoever you’re renting to. Just as you’re making an effort to provide them with a comfortable living space, they should also help with maintaining the premise and common areas. With proper communication and both parties doing their part, it can reduce confusion and prevent any misunderstandings down the line.

What To Consider When You Are Undertaking A Home Renovation 

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If you have decided to renovate your home, but your head is spinning what you need to do to get everything underway, the key is planning. By creating a plan for your renovation you can ensure the process is as smooth and easy as possible, without the unexpected issues that often pop up when you least expect it. 

brown wooden stairs

Whether you are planning to do some of the renovations yourself or you are calling in the experts, be sure to sit down and map out a plan so you have a stage by stage outline of what you can expect to pay and how long the process will take. 

Steps for your home renovation 

Here are some basic steps to consider when undertaking a renovation, the key to a great renovation is planning and preparation – that way you have the peace of mind that your project will run smoothly and there won’t be huge surprises. 

gray concrete walls with broken floor

Plan and design the renovation

This is important as you will need a draftsman to plan your design or at least have a rough idea of what you will be updating or renovating. Whether it is a small project or a large one, you will need to check with your local council what is allowed and what projects require a DA. 

person writing bucket list on book

Research builders and trades

Now is a good time to ask for recommendations for trades and builders that can help carry out the work. Word of mouth recommendations are always best, however, a quick online search can also find some great options. 

black and white box on brown wooden table

Order your materials, fixtures, and fittings

You will need to plan ahead and order in any materials, appliances, or specific items required for the build. A builder or your trades will be able to help source these items and can help with this stage.

turned-on pendant lamps

Don’t leave it too late, otherwise, you might wind up blowing out the timing of the project waiting for materials to arrive. 

Create a plan for the renovation

man climbing on ladder inside room

Now you should work out who is doing what and what days, there will be a range of stages including demolition, framing, walls, and ceilings, installing appliances and cabinetry, adding in flooring, lighting, and painting, and each process should be done in a specific order. You can’t paint the house, for example, until everything has been installed otherwise you will wind up needing to do this again. 

Once you have completed your renovation you might need your local council to do an inspection and sign off the work, so be sure to keep them up to date if you have deadlines for the project, so they are aware of each stage of completion. 

No matter the size of the renovation project, it is always important to have a plan in place and work closely with your trades to ensure the work is carried out on time and one budget. Whether you are spending a few thousand or a hundred thousand, work to a plan and you will wind up having a smoother renovation with fewer hassles guaranteed.

real estate investing

6 Encouraging Reasons to Invest in Real Estate During COVID-19

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While many people think that the stock market has been the only investment game in town during COVID-19, savvy investors are looking for real estate opportunities. While the current set of economic conditions is certainly unique, there are six great reasons to invest in real estate during the pandemic.

red and white UNKs restaurant

Interest Rates

Mortgage interest rates are at record lows, and buyers with good credit can get a rate below three percent. Rates of six percent or more were not unheard of before the Great Recession that began in 2008, and the difference between a $250,000 loan at six percent and one at three percent is a healthy $400 monthly.

person using MacBook pro

While it’s true that rates for investors may be a bit higher than those for would-be homeowners, the purchase of a duplex is a great way to capitalize on these low rates since a duplex would be owner-occupied and therefore more easily qualify for better loan terms.

The Rental Market is Stable

Top apartment rental site ABODO reported in September, “Last month we said, until there is a therapeutic treatment or a proven COVID-19 vaccine, we’re predicting a stable rental market at best, and that is what we saw in September. There are some hopeful signs that the pandemic is easing in some parts of the country, and the much-anticipated vaccine seems to be moving to fruition. That said, even if the virus disappeared tomorrow, we still see a stable apartment rental market because we just do not foresee things returning to normal for a while.”

red and blue love neon light signage

A stable market means that investors can get the rents they need to cash flow their units. And if you’re prudent and careful as you screen tenants, you can help avoid the perils of the eviction process.

There Are Good Deals Out There

If you live in Austin, TX where Tesla just announced that it is building a new plant, you can forget about finding bargains. We found the following in a recent Boston Globe article, however, and this is beginning to ring true in some areas.

“As sales slump, home prices will fall later this year and early next in the ‘low single digits’’ nationwide, according to Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. The declines may be more pronounced in West Coast markets, which were already overvalued relative to incomes, he said.”

Buyers need to be patient, but anyone that is selling their home during the pandemic probably has to sell it, so discounted properties can be found.

Values are Values – No Matter What

An investor who wants to cash flow $400 per month on a four-family and is able to find the property that makes that happen should pull the trigger regardless of the state of the housing market. If a low-interest rate can be locked in, and if property tax rates look stable, there’s no reason to wait.

The Worst May Be Over

At this writing, it doesn’t look like there will be mass lockdowns again in the U.S. The idea behind the first wave of lockdowns was to flatten the virus’ curve thereby not overwhelming the hospitals. While the site of refrigerated trucks commandeered to hold dead bodies was chilling both literally and figuratively, the health care system has been able to back off from that Armageddon-like scenario, and hospitals seem to be handling their COVID-19 patient load. Even if the pandemic trudges along, the economy may have seen its lows and things may just stay stagnant until a vaccine, therapeutic treatment and/or true herd immunity crowds out the pathogen.

Real Estate is Adapting

Some industries like restaurants, bars and caterers have been severely injured by the pandemic. In fact, the bedrock of many catering operations–the buffet–has been altered, transformed and may no longer be viable as a method to serve food.

The real estate industry, however, has stepped up to their own plate with an array of technological innovations like virtual tours. Landlords, for example, can rent apartments without having to physically show them, and that adds a sense of security to prospective tenants. The real estate industry has found a way to thrive even during this crippling pandemic.

Investing in real estate shouldn’t only be reserved for good times. And as shown above, there are many solid reasons to become a real estate investor even during COVID-19.

managing rental properties

How the Right Tools are Saving Landlords Thousands Each Year

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Running a rental is like running any other business.

It requires attention to detail, careful accounting, and lean business practices. Having the right tools can mean the difference between profit and loss. There are numerous expenses that landlords need to keep track of, for example, in order to make the most of their deductions in their tax return. 

white and black amazon gift card

In this article, we explore how you can employ tools across the management of your real estate portfolio to save both time and money. 

Reduce Unnecessary Overheads

The first step that any financial advisor, any wealth-building blog or book will tell you is to cut your expenses, spend less so that you have more to invest. When thinking about improving the profitability of a rental portfolio this comes down to carefully scrutinizing your expenses and determining methods for reducing overheads.

If you cover utilities, for example, you might look for a new energy provider. One key expense for landlords is property managers. Often they take upwards of 10% of the monthly revenue plus expenses and additional costs for things like finding tenants. For some, the time they save is worth the price, however, if you are looking to cut overheads there are numerous tools on the market designed to allow landlords to self-manage, cutting their monthly management costs by a factor of ten or more.

Automate Tasks

Time is money, as they say. As your portfolio grows it will begin to consume more and more of your time. Whether it’s responding to requests from tenants, chasing up late rent payments, or managing your books, it can quickly add stress and take you away from those tasks which will actually help you build wealth.

The right tools will allow you to automate or simplify time-consuming tasks while simultaneously ensuring you maintain high professional standards across your rental portfolio management even as you’re reducing time and overall management costs.

Track Expenses as they Happen

Another reason to take a more hands-on approach when managing your portfolio is the additional tax benefits. Landlords can deduct up to $25,000 worth of expenses against their income each year. To take full advantage of the tax benefits, whether it’s mileage, tools and maintenance expenses, or depreciation, you need to ensure that you carefully and accurately track every deductible expense.  

When you use a property management app, you can quickly update your accounts on the go, digitize and store receipts in the app, organize emails to your tenants, set reminders so you never forget important appointments, and more.

Ultimately, what this means is you avoid the massive accounting tasks at the end of the month (or year) and you ensure you never miss a deductible expense.

Reduce Legal Fees

There are legal implications that come with owning and renting out a property. The most obvious example is of course evictions. They are an unfortunate reality for landlords. Even the best tenants, if hit by hard times may not be able to pay their rent. In this scenario, if you don’t have all the proper legal documentation you could be in for an expensive legal battle.

white and black knit cap

Your lease agreement, for example, needs to clearly stipulate everything from rent amount and due date to your policies on smoking and pets, and clearly outline your policies around subletting. Beyond that, there are inspection forms, notices, eviction forms, rent increase forms, transfer of title documents. 

Everything you do as a landlord should be done in compliance with the law – ignorance is no excuse. The right tools and services will inform and educate while offering cost-effective solutions to creating or obtaining legal documentation. That in the long run could save you thousands in fees.

Refinancing Options

Refinancing your properties at the right time can be a great way to save money or find additional funds for further growth. For example, mortgage rates hit record lows in falling below 3% in 2020 and many landlords leapt at the opportunity to secure better interest rates.

person holding paper near pen and calculator

When it comes to refinancing you need to make sure you have all the data and documentation ready to prove the rental income is dependable – to essentially prove that you are a good investment for the bank. Documents you need will include an up to date profit and loss statement. This is where an effective income and expense tracker comes in.

Final Words

A landlord’s profits can be tenuous.

Taxes, fees, maintenance costs, vacancies, and missed rent payments can all see those profits disappear as though into thin air. Managing these expenses and staying on top of them using an effective property management software like Landlord Studio and taking relevant precautions will help you mitigate risks and ensure profitability.

Additionally, it is absolutely essential for a landlord to understand and take full advantage of the tax advantages which come with being a landlord. 

Steps for Protecting Your Home from a Termite Infestation 

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Many homeowners often wonder how they can prevent termites from destroying their homes. There are two primary methods for preventing termite damage to your home. Those methods include preventing termites from gaining access to your home and treating termites if they do gain access. Hiring an expert termite control company can help with both of those goals.

brown leaves

One of the best ways to prevent termite access to your home is to schedule regular termite inspections. A qualified expert should perform these inspections on an annual basis. During these inspections, your pest control expert can address any conditions in and around your home that might lead to termite access. Such everyday situations include contact between wood and the ground as well as the presence of excessive moisture.

An expert termite control company can also provide recommendations regarding preventative termite treatments. These treatments may include bait and monitoring systems or even direct wood treatment. By working with a pest control professional, you can determine which treatment is most useful for your home’s situation.

Removal of access is another crucial step in preventing termites from gaining access to your home. Homeowners can accomplish this by sealing any gaps around gas and water lines that might provide entry to the house. Pest control experts also recommend reducing wood-to-ground contact when possible. Depending on your situation, your pest control expert may recommend treating wood in your home with termiticide.

brown wooden surface

By working with an experienced pest control company, you will also learn how to reduce food sources that might make your home more attractive to termites. It would help if you disposed of any cellulose materials that might be present in your home, particularly in crawl spaces. Additionally, it would be best if you relocated landscaping mulch, so it is a minimum of six inches away from your home’s foundation.

It is also essential to reduce as much excess moisture as possible. Homeowners should ensure there is no opportunity for water to accumulate around their home’s foundation. It would be best if you also took care of faulty gutters, leaky plumbing, or any moisture problems that might be present in crawl spaces or the basement of your home. The same approach applies to air conditioner condensation lines.

grey and brown house

Homeowners may also find it beneficial to seal all the crevices and cracks in their homes to prevent termites from gaining access to their homes. An easy way to accomplish this is by giving your home a fresh coat of paint. The installation of foundation vents and bug screens over windows is also vital for keeping termites out of your home.

Your pest management professional can also provide recommendations regarding prevention techniques. A monitoring station can give warning of termite activity in your home. The earlier you are notified of the presence of termites in your home, the more opportunity you will have to address the situation early on. Homeowners should keep in mind that monitoring stations do not provide termite infestation protection. It is still important to discuss proactive treatment with your termite control company.