Rental search in a tight market

rental
Finding a rental (infographic from appfolio.com)

Some housing experts are excited about the recent one-half of one percent uptick in the homeownership rate, saying it’s at a three year high. But the Census’ most recent release of the Quarterly Residential Vacancies (Fourth Quarter 2017) and Homeownership described the move as “not statistically different” from the previous quarter or year (census.gov). Essentially, the homeownership rate remains historically low. This dovetails with the Census’ most recent renter moving data indicating that the percentage of renters who moved in 2017 was the lowest since 1988. So, it should not be a surprise that rents are on the rise, and it’s becoming even more difficult to find a rental.

How can you find a rental in a tight market?

Before you go off and sign a lease, you should create your own “rental guide.” First, make a housing budget of how much you can afford for rent and utilities. Then make a list of “must haves” for your new home. Think about the size, location, local amenities, commuter routes and public transportation, and anything else you deem important. This guide will help you stay focused on your needs, and help you decide on a rental that makes sense.

home ownershipOnce you begin looking for a rental, you may realize that finding a rental that “checks all the boxes” may be difficult. You may find that rent per square foot varies depending on the neighborhood, age of the building, and the amenities. This may force you to prioritize your needs. For example, you may find that a small condo near a metro station is the same rent as a three-bedroom single family home that has a longer commute. Or there may be a new apartment available with luxury amenities with a higher rent than the older apartment building with sparse amenities.

The internet is the medium of choice these days to look for a rental. There are numerous websites using state of the art applications to advertise rental listings. They also include vast amounts of information on each listing to help your search. There are a number of specialty sites focusing on niche rentals (such as apartments, luxury, etc.) that tout their exclusive listings. However, there are sites that are more comprehensive that include a mix MLS and private listings. And let’s forget there are online classifieds too.

Many renters search for their new home without an agent, and that’s ok. But consider that an experienced licensed real estate agent can help negotiate your lease, possibly getting better terms. While most agents will work rentals and sales, there are real estate agencies that specialize in rentals. Consider contacting legitimate property managers or rental management companies and ask about their upcoming rental listings.

If a rental listing sounds too good to be true, then be suspicious of a scam. To protect yourself from scammers, it can be helpful to understand how they operate. The Federal Trade Commission (ftc.gov) offers insight on how rental scams work, and how to report scams.  Scams are typically from hijacked ads or phantom rentals.  The FBI (fbi.gov) and USA.gov also offer tips on protecting yourself from rental scams.

Some basic cautions from the FBI:

-Only deal with landlords or renters who are local;
-Be suspicious if you’re asked to only use a wire transfer service;
-Beware of e-mail correspondence from the “landlord” that’s written in poor or broken English;
-Research the average rental rates in that area and be suspicious if the rate is significantly lower;
-Don’t give out personal information, like social security, bank account, or credit card numbers.

Regardless whether you go it alone or with a real estate agent, practice due diligence. Real estate scams have been part of the rental scene for decades. Scams have become more prevalent with the increased reliance on the internet for home searches. And in a tight housing market, it’s no coincidence that real estate scams are on the rise.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/02/03/rental-search/

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

The shared economy under pressure – localities put the squeeze on Airbnb

real estateAre you interested in cashing in on the “Airbnb” trend? Make sure you are in compliance with local zoning code and other legal requirements.

What started out as a web platform in 2008 to help people advertise their short term rentals during tough economic times, has become what seems to be a glamorous business. Besides becoming a phenomenon of the shared economy, Airbnb has also become vernacular – where the use of “Airbnb” refers to anyone offering a short term rental.

Rooted in the sharing of underutilized resources, the shared economy has become big business. People are creating incomes from sharing their homes, sharing their cars, and even sharing talents and skills one project at a time.

It may have been subtle in its growth, but the shared economy has become substantial. And considering that wage growth has been a letdown since the great recession, and the labor force participation rate is the lowest it has been since 1977 (bls.gov); it’s no accident that the popularity of Airbnb and other components of the shared economy (also known as “peer to peer” economy and is often mentioned in combination with “gig economy” or “online economy”) have become part of our daily lives. As the economy struggled the sharing economy grew; and entrepreneurs have grasped at the opportunity to create the likes of Uber, Fiverr, and Airbnb that established specific internet platforms that bring consumers and sellers together.

And as some blame the shared economy for taking away from traditional businesses, the Airbnb phenomenon has been criticized for adding drag to a struggling housing market (consider that the fourth quarter 2014 home ownership rate is the lowest since 1995) by keeping would be home owners renting. But the reality is that the shared economy has always existed; and expands during times of economic uncertainty (you can look at the growth of boarding homes in the 1930’s during the Great Depression). The growth of shared housing is not necessarily the choice that most would consider a preferred lifestyle, as much as it is a personal response to current economic conditions and opportunities.

And while the popularity of temporary shared housing has become a glamorous trend for some, many are trying to cash in. In addition to renting out empty rooms in their homes, some are even buying homes to be used as short term housing. Today’s boarding home is an alternate option for business-persons and tourists visiting cities where hotel rooms are expensive or in short supply.

Although operating an Airbnb would not necessarily attract protest the likes that Uber has seen, it does have the attention of local governments. Although San Francisco and New York were the first to regulate Airbnb’s, Santa Monica CA has recently implemented some of the toughest regulations on short term rentals. Andrew Bender reported (New Regulations To Wipe Out 80% Of Airbnb Rentals In California’s Santa Monica; forbes.com; June 15, 2015) that the new regulations could wipe out 80% of Santa Monica’s operating Airbnb’s by requiring the owner to: stay in property with renter; obtain a business license; and collect an occupancy tax.

Locally, Montgomery County is also trying to grasp the idea of the Airbnb. Changes to the zoning laws earlier this year prohibit such activity in a home, and yet recently enacted legislation regarding room rental and transient tax provides for taxation of short term rentals in homes.

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Maryland Lead Program rental property registration

housing marketBeginning January 1st, if you own a rental property located in Maryland that was built before 1978, you must register with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). The new law extends the existing registration requirement for homes used as rental units built before 1950. The registration fee is $30 per unit, and must be renewed annually prior to December 31st.

Since the registration of rental properties built before 1978 began July 1st, many landlords and property managers have been planning to be in compliance by the New Year. However, many home owners, whose selling strategy includes a simultaneous rental listing, may not be aware of the new law; which could not only affect a potential lease, but may also incur potential penalties and/or liability for non-compliance. The coinciding listing strategy is an artifact from the market following the housing downturn; when many listed homes that did not sell were extemporaneously rented as a means to ride out the market, with the intention to sell at a later time when prices increased. For many home sellers today, a simultaneous rental listing is part of a selling strategy as a means to allow them to move (either by selling the home or by renting it to a tenant).

It is not uncommon that some of these sale/rental home listings are vacant. If you find yourself in this category, consider that you’re required to have the property registered with the MDE and lead inspected by an MDE accredited inspector before your tenant moves in. If the inspection requires any remediation to meet Program requirements, all work must be performed by a MDE accredited contractor.

If you’ve never registered with MDE Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, you need to contact the Rental Registry Division (410-537-4199) to be assigned a “tracking number.” A list of accredited inspectors and accredited contractors can be found on the “Lead Poisoning Prevention Program” website (www.mde.state.md.us/lead). Registration likely began early so as not to create bottlenecks and delays; however, if there is a chance your home could become a rental sometime during the New Year, you might consider not waiting until the last minute.

A July 1st MDE press release (news.maryland.gov/mde) emphasized that, “Exposure to lead is the most significant and widespread environmental hazard for children in Maryland. Children are at the greatest risk from birth to age 6, while their neurological systems are developing. Exposure to lead can cause long-term neurological damage that may be associated with learning and behavioral problems and with decreased intelligence.” And although lead poisoning cases decreased about 98% since the enactment of Maryland’s 1994 Lead Risk Reduction in Housing Act, a significant number of new lead poisoning cases were linked to homes built before 1978. The MDE cited a 2011 study, which found an 80% “likelihood” of lead paint in properties built between 1950 and 1960. The MDE also cited data analysis that almost half of the confirmed cases of initial lead poisoning reports from the last two years in Maryland counties outside of Baltimore City, “involved children living in post-1949 rental housing.” The MDE states, “Failure to register, certify or follow approved lead-safe work practices may subject property owners to thousands of dollars in fines and potential lawsuits.”

Details about the lead registration requirements and further information about the MDE Lead Poisoning Prevention Program can be obtained from the website (https://mde.maryland.gov/programs/LAND/LeadPoisoningPrevention/Pages/LeadRegistration.aspx).

Original at https://dankrell.com/blog/2014/12/26/maryland-lead-program-rental-property-registration/

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

When landlord-tenant relations go wrong

HousingAlthough renting your basement out may seem like a great way to generate extra income to help pay the bills, it can also become a point of conflict that could spiral out of control if not handled correctly. The recent report of the arrest of local landlord highlights the issues of being a landlord, as well as being a tenant.

The arrest seems to be the outcome of events that climaxed when the landlord allegedly forced the tenants out of the apartment earlier this month because the tenants were allegedly late paying their rent. According to an August 21st Montgomery County Police press release (mymcpnews.com), the police responded to calls of woman screaming for help and banging on a neighbor’s window. The woman reported to police that five individuals were in an interior room and prevented her from closing her bedroom door. The woman and her son were allegedly grabbed and were told that the “landlord said they had to, ‘go and pack their stuff.’” It was reported that the individuals yelled at the woman to take her belongings and get out of the apartment; and the suspects “pushed” the woman and her son out of the home.

Another tenant, who spoke to investigating officers, stated that the landlord allegedly told them that they should stay in their room because he was going to pay people to force the tenants out. Another tenant stated that the landlord told them to not come out of their residence because there would be people “yelling and screaming.”

One of the five suspects who was subsequently arrested, was allegedly paid $1,000 to “scare and force” the tenants out of the apartment. The landlord reportedly turned himself in to police and was “charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree burglary, conspiracy to commit robbery, and conspiracy to commit second-degree assault.”

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Another outcome of this incident is that the property was condemned by the Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA) and all occupants were ordered to vacate the property. An investigation of the home by the 4th District Community Service Officer and DHCA Housing Code Enforcement Inspectors determined that the landlord was “running a rooming/boarding home”; which “included four, illegal accessory apartments and five separate kitchens” and was “occupied by 15 people at the time of the incident.”

The unfortunate actions, events, and outcome of this incident are atypical. However, the plight of the landlord and tenant highlights the frustrations that can occur on both sides of the rental relationship, and may serve as a reminder to consult with an attorney before taking matters into your own hands.

Before you decide to become a landlord, consider familiarizing yourself with federal, state and local laws, rules and ordinances governing landlord-tenant affairs; as well as making sure your rental(s) conforms to licensing and zoning laws. Locally, the Montgomery County Office of Landlord – Tenant Affairs (housed within the Department of Housing and Community Affairs) is a resource for landlords and tenants on licensing, security deposits, evictions, leases, and rent increases. Besides publishing a Landlord – Tenant Handbook (a guide on informing of general rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants), it also offers a free and quick avenue for tenants to seek amicable dispute resolution.

(dankrell.com)
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Post crisis real estate investing

by Dan Krell ©2012
DanKrell.com

horseWatching an interview of Chef Bobby Flay this week, talk about the possibly of buying a horse at the Fasig Tipton Yearling Auction in Saratoga Springs, NY, I heard him say, “I’m actually looking at this like buying a building, literally…it’s like buying a really expensive piece of real estate…”

Well, why not buy that expensive piece of real estate? Some experts are still saying that real estate is still one of the core investment assets. For example: Brad Case, of the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts®, in his June 2011 article in Financial Planning (“School is in”; 41, 3), discussed the importance of real estate as an investment class. Case stated that, real estate is a “basic” investment class. He continued by quoting some of the most influential financial experts on real estate investing: “…Burton Malkiel, the Princeton professor and former member of the Council of Economic Advisors who wrote the famous investing manual, A Random Walk Down Wall Street, said, ‘There are only four types of investment categories that you need to consider: cash, bonds, common stocks and real estate.’ Mark Anson, who led the largest pension funds in both the U.S. (CalPERS) and the U.K. (British Telecom), completely agreed: ‘Equity, fixed income, cash and real estate are the basic asset classes that must be held within a diversified portfolio’…”

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Ann Marsh, in her may 2012 article “Real estate’s rehabilitation” (Financial Planning, 42, 56), also agreed. She stated that not only are financial planners urging their clients to buy into real estate investment trusts (REITs), some planners are urging the “outright” purchase of individual buildings.

Of course, when thinking of real estate investing, most people think about residential real estate – in particular flipping homes or owning rental properties. Investors looking for rental properties tend to look at long term value (appreciation) as well as having a positive cash flow; while home flippers are interested in renovating a home and selling for a quick profit.

commercial real estateResidential real estate is not the only opportunity for investors. Some real estate investors look for deals in commercial buildings; the market downturn has added to the possibilities too. Investors in commercial properties tend to look for development opportunities as well as long term retention.

Another way to invest in real estate is through a real estate investment trust (REIT). The REIT investment structure has been around for many years, and may provide the real estate investor access to investments they might not otherwise purchase on their own. There are many types of REITS, some invest broadly in many types of real estate; while some are focused on specific types of properties (e.g., shopping centers, storage centers, apartments, etc).

Clearly, there are many risks involved in real estate investing. Of course there are financial risks, but there also a time investment required. Additionally: cash flow can become an issue when tenants stop paying rent, or unexpected maintenance issues need attention; rehab or development costs can skyrocket when unexpected obstacles are encountered; and when selling, you may not realize the sale price you initially estimated due to market fluctuations, bad appraisals, etc.

Although some real estate investors are successful; many real estate investors lose money. Before you decide to invest in real estate, you should consult investment, financial, real estate, and other professionals to assist you with the research and due diligence.

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This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of August 6 , 2012. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2012 Dan Krell.