Monday, December 22, 2014

How Water Heater Efficiency Standards Are Changing in 2015

Now that we are in the thick of the cold seasons, our most prized household commodity is heat.

And it can be EXPENSIVE!

Whether increasing the room temperature of your units, hot water to bathe, or to wash dishes in the kitchen sink, heat is an essential asset for boston property managers.

When searching for boston area apartments for rent keep in mind that the state and federal government standards have been changing. The standards are expecting to save money for consumers and reduce our gas emissions.

Forecasting a 30-year period, consumers will save about $8.7 billion and carbon dioxide emissions will be cut by 154 million metric tons from the new standards.

What Are Efficiency Standards?

The efficiency standards were established by Congress after the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act of 1987 to regulate a minimum level of energy consumption for residential and commercial products.

Household Appliances Included:
  • Clothes Dryers
  • Clothes Washers
  • Direct Heating Equipment
  • Dishwashers
  • Furnaces
  • Microwave Ovens
  • Pool Heaters
  • Ranges and Ovens
  • Room Air Conditioners
  • Boilers
  • Refrigerators and Freezers
  • Incandescent Reflector Lamps
The efficiency standard levels are updated every five years by the U.S. DOE (Department of Energy), and the last date for the updated levels was in 2010.

The DOE allows three years of lead time for manufacturers of the aforementioned products to comply with the updated standards. We are now approaching the fifth year in the newest update, as of April 16, 2015.

Save Money From New Efficiency Standards on Water Heaters

There are two types of appliances that are used for water heating, which are typical storage/heater units and instantaneous water heaters. They account for an average of 20% of total energy consumption in U.S. households.

Other important percentages that pertain to energy consumption averages include the required energy factor (EF) which varies depending on the type of water heater, and rated storage volume.
  • 53% of households use natural gas water heaters
  • 38% use electricity
  • 4% use oil
The DOE's initiative is for gas-fired and electric storage water heaters with a volume greater than 55 gallons, placing new standards effectively, and requiring heat pumps for electric storage products.

Also, they are looking for condensing technology for gas storage products. Learn more about thermostats, radiators and surviving the winter.

The goal of the standard is that it will save a projected 2.6 quads of energy over 30 years or about enough energy to meet the total energy needs of about 13 million typical U.S. households for one year. Forecasting a 30-year period, consumers will save about $8.7 billion and carbon dioxide emissions will be cut by 154 million metric tons.

Final Thoughts on Hot Water Heater Efficiency Standards

Landlords and property managers need to be aware of these regulations in order to save some money per the initiatives on energy consumption of these household appliances within their owned units and properties at large.So what does this means for you regarding condo maintenance and heating repair fees? Do you think that you can create new practices along with your tenants to reduce energy consumption through the next 6 months and beyond? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Why You Should Consider Flood Insurance in Boston

Prepare Your Property For Flooding and Water Damage

The purpose of this article is to give ways for landlords and renters to prepare your property and personal valuables from detrimental flooding in Boston, MA.

Flooding is the most common and costly natural disaster in the United States. Flood insurance is a great investment for both property owners and renters to prevent significant financial loss. 
Your decision to take out a flood insurance policy will be based partly on two things: 
  1. Risk of flooding in your area
  2. Value of your possessions and/or property.  
As our sea levels continue to rise yearly, one thing that we cannot avoid discussing is the chance of floods and the cost of higher premiums over time as the demand for policies may increase.  
When choosing flood insurance it is important to assess risk, know the coverage limits of your flood insurance policy, and not to rely on the government to financially rescue you. 
*Understand that your insurance plan's increase of high premium rates will depend on your property value.

Risk Assessment For Flood Insurance

Homeowners are 26 times more likely to be affected by a flood than a home fire as calculated by the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of AmericaYou can also expect the risk of floods to continue to increase in Boston, MA with a 70% increase in heavy rainfall in the Northeast from 1958.

But only about 1 in 4 homes in high risk areas carry this kind of insurance.
Map of boston flooding
Courtesy of
Most homes in Boston, MA are inevitably under-insured due to being located in higher risk areas since we are near the coast line and are along the Charles River. The help of a Boston property management company can only do so much to preserve the welfare of your property. 

Steps to Prepare Property for Flooding in Boston

Most property owners would believe that they do not have enough valuable items to even take out a policy for rental property damage control. If that is your circumstance, you can do a things to help prevent permanent damage to your floors, windows, furniture, upholstery, and other items by doing the following:
  • Seal your windows with heat-shrink window films along the ground floor and basement. You can purchase this at any hardware or home improvement store
  • Apply more grout down in between your floor tiles to prevent them from erosion
  • Caulk your tub, counters, sinks, and glue any infrequently used lower cabinets shut 
  • Map the risk of your property's location by contacting the FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program called FIRMS or call 888-379-9531. 

Knowledge of Limits to Flood & Renter Insurance Policy Coverage

Please note that flood insurance covers damage resulting from rising water from outside the house. 

But it doesn't cover: 
  • Leaky bathtub 
  • Broken pipes
  • Sewer back-ups
Tenants should consider renter's insurance since they have valuables that need to be covered inside of their humble abode. Renter's insurance will help protect property not included in flood insurance.

It is important to have effective communication methods for renter's and property owners to ensure everyone is on the same page in the course of a natural disaster. 

Get Flood Insurance - Dont Rely On The Government

Sue Nestor of the IIAB states that "one-third of claims we see come from people who live outside flood zones.This means that even though may not live near a body of water, you still cannot elude the risk of flooding. 

Why Flood Insurance & Renter's Insurance for your Property in Boston?

The selling points for insurance products and services to new customers is chance, future value, and financial security with a value proposition of education on what is covered in the policy. Keep in mind that finished basements including carpeting, wallpaper or personal belongings are not insured by the government, nor are they insured with an excess flood insurance policy.

Knowing the ins-and-outs of your insurance plans will help gauge what you should place up high, what needs extra caulk and how much extra work should be done to insure flooding stays out of your home in Boston, MA.

Monday, November 3, 2014

How To Communicate Effectively With Your Tenants

This article is to help landlords and property managers build a great reputation amongst their tenants leading higher retention for rental units and protection in case of tenant disputes.

A profitable business requires traffic with a loyal customer base, and an open door policy to run effectively with feedback from customers. Effective communication with tenants will help build a better reputation for your company by resolving issues faster.

The cost structure is centered around collecting monthly rental payments from tenants. Quick attendance to the tenant's needs ensures they maintain happy, paying rent, and keeping bad press off the internet by communicating upfront with the Boston property management companyIf tenants know you are open to resolving issues they will come to you first. 

Good communication with tenants is the oil to keep the business's motor running and is integral for maintaining a strong return on property investment.

Communication Methods That Drive Quality Living For Your Tenants

All tenants will feel like they have some say in matters and don't want to feel at the mercy of their landlord. Having poor communication will lead to issues with property management team when something goes wrong. The combination of timing and messaging are the keys to making sure that the tenants have been given enough notice to react to the landlord or property management. Attempt to avoid any "surprises".

Expected scenarios and the best ways to communicate in each situation:
  • Share Expectations From Day 1- When tenants move into the building, you have to set the precedent for how, what, and why the common shared living expectations are. Give the new tenants a Boston move-in guide so they know what to expect from their landlords and their neighbor(s) in the building or house. With shared expectations, tenants will be forewarned not to have late night parties, smoking in the house, the rules on pets in the units, no mischief night, etc.
  • Telephone Calls Only During The Daytime If Necessary- People within your property may have various communication styles. Tenants do not always always have time to call you back and vice versa. But try not to call them at night after 8pm if you can. Most people are ending their work day around that time, and the last person they want to have to deal with is their landlord. If necessary, call when it's an absolute emergency (i.e. a fire, water or gas leak) that requires their immediate attention or input. Email is often always better for both parties.
  • Post Notification Letters To Tenants- Put everything in writing, because if it's not written, then it's not documented. Write up and send out letters to tenants that each party can keep the documents for their personal records. Tenants have protection laws in their favor versus landlords, so it's good to have a paper trail to protect yourself in court if you ever are in a dispute with them. Examples of documents include eviction letters to a tenant, property management crew doing work on the premises, or responding to a complaint from a neighbor about your tenant. If you physically mail these letters, make sure they are certified letters to make them officially professional and not personal.
    Collecting tenant feedback and data on Twitter
  • Social Media- You need to receive as much feedback about your building to keep it up to the satisfaction of the tenants. Using social media channels is like a customer service survey, a great way to collect data to learn how to socially market your properties for new tenants, and to get your reputation improved by making you and your property management team accessible and tangible to the tenants. Tweeting pictures of the property, creating a YouTube channel for how-to videos for repairs they can do themselves in their units, or having a Facebook "like" page to post contests and pertinent information to tenants are great ways to use this channel of communication. 
  • Texting To Tenants - People have become more accustomed to seeing more messages from countless different media channels throughout their daily routines. They tend to tune out certain message more than others. But when it comes to messages regarding their living situation, they are more likely to react quicker to what is sent to them. When it comes to SMS mass texting to your tenants, make sure that you have their approval first because not everyone is comfortable with disclosing their personal cell phone number to others. 
Tenant to landlord: "I never got a damage bill from you!"
  • Keep Calm At All Times- Running a business like owning a property has its stressful moments. But understand that the customers are the tenants. Communicating with tenants in a confrontational manner is never going to improve the landlord's reputation. The best way to sound in communication with tenants is to address them as "sir" or "ma'am" to make them feel welcome at all times during their tenancy.
  • Emailing To Tenants- It is important to cover your tracks that you have used all forms of communication to contact your tenants. Email is the most official way to keep track of conversations and notices, but remember that tone is often difficult to convey, so be polite and NEVER USE ALL CAPS. Emailing them in a blind-copy, or "BCC" message with a subject that briefly speaks to the matter you are emailing them about skirts the excuse that they did not get their texts. 

Final Thoughts

Like a main road during rush hour-commuting time of the day, communication with tenants is a two-way street that requires a facilitator like a traffic signal or law enforcement official to regulate the oncoming traffic. In these terms, the vehicles on the road driving the communication lines of business are the tenants in your property. The traffic signal is the technology that needs to run at all times of the day and night in order to ensure fluidity of the direction the tenants,

The same can be said community building and regulating your property with great communication to tenants for resolving issues.

Share some of your best examples of proper communication that has helped you gain positive feedback from tenants.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Rental Property Damage Control Tips for Owners in Boston, MA

This article explains a list of tips and examples for property owners and landlords to properly deal with occurrences of damage to the property while avoiding sticky legal situations.

Solutions to Property Damage from Tenants

Owning a property includes a large financial risk and whether investing in a house, apartment or condo it is best to maintain clear expectations upfront about damage.

Obviously a tenant will be screened prior to moving in, but accidents will happen and preventive measures are not always available.

This article will help you handle these situations properly to minimize further risk or additional costs to repair the damage.

Tending to Tenant's Damage Inquiries in Boston

Negligence can be somewhat of a grey area for many who are learning those laws and rights of each party for the first time. According to the Massachusetts Attorney General's Guide To Landlord/Tenant Rights, the tenant is responsible for any damage beyond normal wear and tear, and that includes any damage from guests of the tenant.

A tenant is solely at fault, or negligent, if they are not diligent in preserving the apartment as it was from the date they had moved in, and could lead to some withholding of funds from the tenant's security deposit upon their move-out at the end of their lease agreement, based on the amount of the damage costs.

Examples of what would go beyond the terms of normal wear and tear:
  • Strongly-opened slammed door against the wall (similar to intro picture)
  • Smoking of any kind that causes yellowing of the walls or burn marks on the countertops
  • Strong, stale odors in the unit after a tenant moves out that weren't there prior
  • Spills that cause extensive stains to a carpeted floor
  • A broken window or other unexpected damage
  • A grease fire in the kitchen

Landlord Responsibilities To The Tenant In The Rental Unit

According to the Massachusetts Sanitary Code, a landlord has to make sure that the rental unit is ample enough for a tenant to live a habitable environment before the tenant's scheduled move-in date and throughout the duration of oral or written lease agreement.

This includes:
  • Ice and snow removal from the property grounds
  • Radiators & Heating maintenance
  • Pest control and patching holes from pest burrowing through the wall's basin next to the floor
  • Anything that falls into the home inspection realm (i.e. lead paint or asbestos in the building or within the rental unit)

Examples of Lease Agreement Expectations

    Safety on the Ground Level of the Property

    As written in our article, preparing a Boston property for the winter weather, there will be instances in which snow, ice, or even debris (like a fallen tree, pieces of an exploded tire, or roadkill if you live next to a main road) will come up on the property grounds.

    It is your duty as the landlord or property manager to have these things all cleared out, making it safe and habitable on the property grounds outside as well as the inside.

    Plumbing Problems

    Just like a relationship with your tenants, dealing with the rental unit or building's plumbing and water can be a work in progress. By law and theory, landlords must repair the pipes and plumbing in a rental unit and maintain them in good condition due to the lease requiring it and the "implied warranty of habitability."

    Plumbing Issues a Landlord Must Tend to When Notified:
    • Leaks - Whether it is coming from the ceiling, hot water heater in the basement, or a sink faucet that may cause a flood. The only thing that a landlord or property owners may not have to send out a service crew for right away is a recurring drip sound that keeps you up all night. 
    • Mildew - This bacterial substance on the walls is more than just dark, ugly spots where moisture is absorbed into the walls. It is hazardous, and can lead to fines from The Department of Home Inspection.
    • Lack of hot water from local construction sites -  In these cases, you must be notified by the city's Public Utilities with a written letter a few weeks in advance telling you the date of when your hot water will be temporarily shut off. This is out of the landlord's control, but bath accordingly to the time frame in those scheduled dates as the landlord should offer alternatives for their affected tenants. 

    Legal Cases for Landlords Dealing with Tenant Damage

    Diligence is a two-way street for damage control by both the landlord and tenant to prevent damage from happening.

    Some situations are beyond the tenant and landlord's control to be deemed liable for damages like the following:
    • Burglary in the building or rental unit
    • Pests burrowing in the wall
    • Termites depleting the strength of a wooden structure
    • Natural disasters like an earthquake breaking windows, or a hurricane that causes a flood if the tenant's unit is on the ground floor of the building

    Massachusetts Renters Law - Who Should Throw the Book?

    Most disputes between the landlord versus the tenants come from disagreement about the tenant's security deposit during the move-out process at the end of the lease. Or evictions can obviously cause a major rift between the landlord and their tenant.

    So who the judge should throw the book if a landlord versus renters dispute ends up being settled in a small claims court

    The Massachusetts law says that a landlord can exercise their rights on the tenant's damage to the unit or property, and to keep you and your tenants on good terms here are some suggestions
    • For the screening process of a tenant upon a rental application, make sure that you not only check the tenant's credit but also their rental history and research via other landlord references.
    • In cases such as evictions due to lack of monthly rent payments, the tenants may be in retaliation mode to spite the situation. The security deposits can be used to account for what the tenant owes the landlord in past-due rental fees. 
    • If there is a damage bill in the apartment worthy of the landlord either keeping the security deposit, or cutting into the original amount to account for the damage costs to the property if it is lesser than the entire amount of the security deposit. 
    • Document everything officially on paper regarding the damage (record it on video too), give them a copy of the damage bill, and the payment so that the tenant knows what the cost is. This is so you and your tenant have a mutual understanding of the situation
    • Cut your losses by offering the tenants cash to move out. By Massachusetts law, you must give a tenant 2 months notice they you will not be renewing their lease. If they are behind in their rent, or have had multiple occurrences destroying your property, than offer the tenant walking papers if there is still some time before the end of your lease.

    Final Thoughts on Boston Property Owners vs. Tenant Rights

    Have you had to deal with tenants that make life miserable or harder for you as a landlord or Boston Property Management Company? What are your experiences in handling tenant damage? Tell us your thoughts and other suggested solutions if you can beyond what we have listed.

    Monday, September 22, 2014

    Boston Property Managers Guide for Winter Preparation and Safety Tips

    Safety Tips to Protect Your Tenants and Avoid Injury from Snow and Ice During The Winter Weather in Boston, MA

    This guide will prepare a property owner and their building in Boston for harsh winter weather. Ensure tenant safety by taking the right steps to prepare your property for winter and avoid costly lawsuits due to negligence. 

    The warm weather months in Boston are coming to an end and reality should suggest we are nigh on winter's arrival. This article will cover 3 tips for snow removal in the exterior of your building.

    There are new rulings that property owners can be held liable in Boston for any snow-related accidents whether the snow was caused naturally or unnaturally.

    Read our other article for tips and information to service your radiator as a Boston Property Manager.

    As you prepare, start thinking about icicles, shoveling snow banks and the expectation of your tenants being inside their Boston rented homes more out of necessity to stay away from cold weather outside.

    Sure, we still have the fall season that will have a few warm fronts move into forecast sporadically, but the quick removal of an unexpected ice dam will be crucial to a property owner's maintenance during the winter months.

    3 Snow Removal Tips as a Property Manager in Boston

    1. Hire A Reliable Snow Removal Service

    • These service crews can be expensive to employ, yet prove invaluable during expected winter storms and random snow days that make it a hard commute. Make sure the contract states they will work as long as it takes to clear the snow from your property grounds and stairs. Keep in mind, snow removal services generally do not shovel out tenant's parking spaces.
    • Use ice melt on your steps after snow storms.You don't want to have any liabilities like a slippery stair case on your hands.
    • If it's not in your tenant's lease to shovel the snow, then any occurrence of them slipping and falling anywhere on the premises from black ice or snow could send you into an expensive lawsuit if a tenant gets injured.

    2. Shovel The Snow With Your Tenants to Save Money

    This tenant clearly needs a helping hand for digging out their car.
    • If you live within the state where you own the property, then you likely will have your lease set up that you are responsible as the landlord for snow removal. 
    • Invest in snow and ice removal equipment like snow plows, shovels, salt or sand to make sidewalks walkable. Also, use an ice melt solution to remove dangerous black ice in your driveways.
    • Invest in shovels and hand each of your tenants one. If you have a limited supply of shovels, keep your tenants informed by sending them a mass email to notify them here the shovels are located in your building. 
    • They can help too because the snow removal service is only responsible for the snow on your property being cleared during their scheduled time. If snow continues past that time, then your tenants can take matters into their own hands to dig out their cars and front steps.
    • When they see that you have done your due diligence to ensure their safety on the exterior of your property, the do-it-yourself approach will help you build better relationships with your tenants aside from collecting their rent payments. 
    • This could save you cash on removal services doing all the work around the clock. A strong community is built off mutual trust and familiarity among residents.

    3. Always Remove Icicles From the Exterior of the Building

    Prevent injury on your property from icicles
    • Living in New England winters means that dangers not only lay below your feet, but more so frightening as they can come from above your head. It gets that frigid outside that your tenants can see deadly spikes from ice dams just waiting to drop once the sporadic warm fronts during the winter melts them. The most notable warm fronts usually comes just a few weeks into January mid-March near the start of Spring.
    • Also, be aware that icicles stuck to the building and high winds can cause a fire. Freezing temperatures can make it easier for a fire to rip through neighboring buildings or units within your property lines, making it harder for those blazes to be stopped by the fire department as the harsh winds can spread the fire from building to building, and unit to unit. 

    Final Thoughts?

    Winter is the the harshest time of year to be outside, but committed property owners can make it easier for tenants to live comfortably knowing they will have snow removal in the morning.

    If you've had similar scenarios as a property manager in Boston and things to look after for the winter, please let us know to add to our snow removal tips for property managers in Boston.

    Wednesday, August 27, 2014

    September 1st Move-In: Guide For Your Sanity and Tenant's Safety

    Tips for landlords and property managers to have a safe and smooth move marathon while avoiding common mishaps for tenants and HOA members.

    It's almost September 1st and this means the time has come for many to pack up and move on to their new homes.  From our past experiences as landlords and property managers, we've combined a list of helpful tips for move-in day.

    Tenants have hopefully avoided rental scams that we detailed in our article how to spot rental scams on the internet. If you're like us, you've probably accumulated a lot of things, and will be leaving your former residence with even more boxes than you came in with.  Start organizing your belongings and your moving day game plan in advance!

    Possible Issues for Moving Day in Boston and Other Large Cities

    Whether you are the landlord, property manager, a new tenant, or an existing tenant, your sanity and safety can be difficult to maintain - especially if you're living in a Boston condo management property or other large city with a high-turnover period at the start of September. 

    If you are implementing official Rules and Regulations for moving, consider the unfamiliarity new residents will have with building facilities and policies.  Addressing them in advance may mitigate the stress and chaos of the day.

    Nightmare examples of a chaotic move-in without rules and regulations!
    • Belongings and valuables (or even your rented truck) being stolen while unsupervised. 
    • Tenants getting stuck in the elevator while moving their heavy furniture. 
    • Parking tickets and tow trucks removing double-parked vehicles. 
    • Former tenants who left a mess - or have left themselves past their lease expiration.

    Communication between the landlord or property manager with tenants is a great opportunity to build an open relationship for a successful tenancy. 

    As a landlord, HOA board member, or property manager, you may run into these issues:
    • Improper or overwhelming disposal of furniture, trash, personal belongings, etc. 
    • Issuance of fines from the City as a result of excess garbage or noise complaints.
    • BED BUGS – this is the number one time of year for infestations.
    • Unwanted persons entering your building while doors are not closed or secured. 
    • Tenants moving at all hours of the day. 
    • Damage to walls and doors that are unprotected or propped open.
    • Elevator wall and mechanism damage.
    • Hostility or confrontations between residents. 

    What to Communicate to Tenants Before Move-In Day

    To maintain order amongst the influx of heavy foot traffic, it is imperative to prepare by giving all of your staff and residents (current and incoming) information well before August 31st.  Think: "Happy Fourth!  Here are our moving rules."
    • Communicate process and procedures in writing.
    • Clearly state times and areas for staging and moving trucks. 
    • Provide Move-In/Out Checklists to all of your tenants.
    • Give information packets with Resident Handbooks and Renters Insurance brochures to your incoming tenants. 

    Tips to Beat the Rush

    The basic laws of supply and demand are tested over the Labor Day week.  If you wait until the last minute to find an available mover or janitorial company, you will end up finding yourself out of luck. 
    • Suggest tenants reserve their moving trucks well before 9/1.
    • Offer early move-in options when possible.
    • Make sure dumpsters are empty.
    • Book extra janitorial staffers to address trash overflow.
    • Book early to lock in at lower rates before demand increases.
    You will get fined for leaving trash in the street, and let's not even remind ourselves of the potential pest issues that could follow.  In the following weeks, it's hard for waste management companies to remove the debris and bulky items that are mixed and heaping over the top of a dumpster; some companies will refuse removal if they can't access the receptacle. Prepare early and expect the worst.

    Safety & Regulations Move-In Checklist

    To ensure the well-being of all parties involved during move-in, review your preparation memorandums for all residents and property management staff.

    This should include information on:
    • Responsibility for tenants, guests, and contractors
    • Handbook/rules and regulation reminders 
    • Requests for copies of leases and/or apartment condition statements
    • Mailbox tag and intercom instruction
    • Trash/recycling reminders 
    • Elevator reminders 
    • Your contact info

    How to Handle High Turn-Over Locations

    For high-turnover locations, post a specialized memo that is specific to the actual rules & regulations of that location. Remember, communication is key to maintain order on move-in day.
    • Assign a monitor to the highest turnover locations, for example; a superintendent, maintenance tech, trustee, or occasionally a police officer. 
    • Use signs to direct residents to which elevator or door they should use for moving. 
    • All preferred access points for moves must be clearly marked. 
    • Include signage for areas where tenants can not move through, for example the lobby or main entrance.

    Elevator and Door Safety on Move-In Day

    In many old brownstones, tenants are often surprised to find that the elevators are shut down on move-in day. The small passenger elevators cannot withstand the weight and frequency, and in order to avoid repairs due to improper overuse, landlords will often shut them down – even to top floor residents.

    For elevators that are in use, repeatedly holding the door open or sticking your arm out to stop the closure is obviously dangerous to your body, but can easily throw the elevator out of alignment and break it. Trust us, the last thing you want is to get stuck in an elevator full of your belongings with a group of sweaty moving personnel.

    Additional building safety tips include:
    • Distribute moving rules and regulations to all residents and off site property owners or landlords.  Don't forget to include a clear fine schedule for rule infractions. 
    • Adequately display notices posted around common areas and slide notices under doors. 
    • Makes sure tenants do not block egresses during moving times.  
    • Keep fire hydrants accessible at all times. 
    • Propped doors require a security monitor to prevent unwanted guests or intruders. 
    • Install or check that security systems/cameras are functional. 

    Help Wanted: Clean up, Movers, & Extra Hired Help

    The tenants can't do it all themselves, and that's okay. The convenience for additional help provided to the tenants moving in will help bring relief and start the tenant/manager relationship off right.

    Tips on hiring extra help and cleaning up after move-in:
    • Trash/janitorial contractors should sweep the properties repeatedly that weekend, in addition to their normal contractual obligations. 
    • Depending on the amount of units you have turning over, you may want to rent an additional rack truck for trash removal of your own. 
    • Hired movers are the responsibility of the tenants/owners, but you should consider requesting proof of the moving company's insurance policies. Make sure the certificate names the property additionally insured.  Some condominium buildings will actually require properly insured movers to facilitate a tenant's transition. 
    • Incur the expense of hiring dedicated staff and do it early.  Hiring the same staff every year is ideal so they are familiar with the building and policies.

    Final Thoughts on Move-In Day

    Preparation is key for ensuring a successful move in for all parties. Investing in a clean up crew, in-house movers, and security will keep the process clean as well as moving smoothly. Did we forget a key tip for landlords and property managers to add to their checklist or guidelines for high turnover days like Sept. 1?

    Tell us your thoughts or share your checklists!

    Friday, August 8, 2014

    How To Spot Rental Scams on the Internet

    This article will help you find scams in rental property and apartment searches on the internet with sites like craigslist, roomster, as well as the credit checks, application process, and countless emails with landlords.

    How to Decide if it is a Legitimate or Shady Landlord During Your Apartment Search

    As we approach the end of Summer 2014, that means one thing for many: starting anew by picking up all our belongings and moving to a new apartment, house, or condo. The transition of moving in itself can be quite tiring, but the process of searching for a new place can be just as exhausting.

    Renters cite frustrations via online outlets like Craigslist, Roomster,, as well as going through the application process, credit checks, et cetera.

    In the mind of a renter, the following criteria usually comes into question:
    • What is the neighborhood like?
    • Is the rental rate per month affordable?
    • Is there a lease or is the living space rented on a month-to-month basis?
    • If there are multiple living spaces in the apartment, what are the other roommates like personality-wise?
    • What is the landlord/owner like in terms of personality and efficiency?
    • Does the landlord use a property management company to promptly handle tenant inquiries?
    • Is he/she reliable for future incidents within the living space that require their care? (i.e. running out of hot water, broken thermostat central air/heat during the warm/cold months)
    During the search for a new living space, one must be aware of the scams where people pose as landlords looking to swindle would-be security deposit money from the potential renter. 

    Keep reading to learn how to discern what makes a listing and landlord legitimate versus what makes them a scammer, and how to protect yourself. These online thieves prey on renters who look to fulfill this criteria for their new living situation.

    A Listing Too Good To Be True? False!

    We can't say "friend-or-foe" in theses types of cases because landlords are not there to be friends. Rather, these scenarios we can classify as “spend-or-faux” in making the right decision to invest on your next move without succumbing to shady scammer that poses as a landlord.

    These are examples of scenarios in which you have likely come across a rental scam in your new home search online:

    • E-mail Scamming While On A "Mission"
    • Communication with an E.T. (Elusive Thief) & Your Inability to Phone Home (owner)
    • Stealing Personal Information Through an Application
    • A Fake Owner Showing A Home That is Not Theirs

    Listing offers a great low price, for too many unimaginably nice amenities 

    This is a case in which a renter can be duped by a scammer by being drawn in by the price of an apartment that has a workout facility, "superb" property management, brand new hardwood floors, a kids play area and other top-of-the-line amenities for a low monthly rate? It seems tempting, but you have to consider that in today's real estate market, what landlord or property manager would be so nice enough to charge their tenants with so many expensive items for a low monthly rate? That literally just does not add up.

    E-mail Scamming While On A "Mission" 

    So you found an ideal living space on a apartment search website that seems really afforable for your monthly budget, and has great amenities in an ideal location. Also, the home's supposed "owner" emails you with a long-winded message with details about the apartment being vacant due to reasons that make it seem either plausible or absolutely unconscionable based on the writing.

    The lie could be about a real estate agent looking to broker the apartment to potential tenants for the landlord, giving you a ridiculously long questionnaire to fill out that is a makeshift application, and telling you that keys to the vacant home they are willing to send to your permanent homes address only after you send the deposit for the new apartment.

    Communication with an E.T. (Elusive Thief) & Your Inability to Phone Home (owner)

    Shady people thrive in hiding, but you know how they say that things in the dark will eventually come to light? If you have contact information from the owner on an apartment search listing site such as Craigslist, but you only have the multi-letter email as contact information with either no name and nor phone number of the owner listed. The email address is neither within the response email to continue the negotiation process or set up for a showing time. Many of times without being seen, they will text you without the willingness to call you direct nor see you in person for the showing.

    Stealing Personal Information Through an Application 

    If you see a questionnaire in an email response to you asking for your personal information (i.e. credit card information to debit a security deposit amount, social security number, then don't waste your time and money disclosing your identity and bank information

    A Fake Owner Showing A Home That is Not Theirs 

    Many faux-landlords understand that nobody wants to rent a site unseen. So they take advantage of a foreclosed house and somehow steal keys from homeowners or the property managers to copy in order to open the home's entrances and show you the place.

    How To Protect Yourself From Scammers When Searching for an Apartment or Rental Property 

    • Do your research on the local area and you will see how comparable the prices should be to discern what makes a legitimate listing from a real estate agent, landlord, or property manager.
    • Only exchange information with the person showing the apartment after you agree to stay in it, and have had a conversation with a neighbor in the building. As they ask for references upon your application for the home, identify the landlord's or agent's name online, or check into the HOA or the agency they are a part of.
    • Ask the neighbors of the home you are looking at about the landlord's reputation. Also, you can refer to the local county property records office for verification.
    • The worst question is the one that you don't ask. Make sure you are as inquisitive as possible when assessing if this investment in a new rental home is right for you.
    • Meet at a rental office if in the apartment complex.
    • Make sure that the home for rent is not in foreclosure.
    • Contact the FTC, to file a complaint for any suspicious behavior.

      Final Thoughts on Rental Property or Apartment Scams

      Do not give out contact information to a land lord or property management company unless you are sure it is a legitimate listing. Contact a reliable property management in the Greater Boston area for real property listings so you can avoid the negative experiences of internet searches through cragislist and other online rental property listing sites.

      Have you experienced these types of scams? How did it make you feel when you came across these scams in your apartment search? Please talk about your good or bar rental property search experiences in the comments below. Thanks for reading and good luck in your apartment search!

      Thursday, July 24, 2014

      Thinking Small: Can Boston's Micro-Apartments Work For Young Adults?

      "Micro"- Managing The Housing Demand Of The 20-34 Year-Old Demographic

      It's the summertime, which means that the city has been void of late night college parties from raucous undergrad newbies since graduations in May.  But the 20-to-34 year-old youth demographic still prevails in Boston proper, making up one-third of the city's population; the highest proportion of young adults for any major US city. 

      Boston area real estate remains high in price; unaffected by the loss of graduation and move-outs as many college students have returned to their permanent residences out of town. Currently, there is a reported shortage of 25,000 affordable apartment units, and developers scrambling to meet demand. 

      Less Is More (Than What You Bargained) For The City's Youth

      Boston's current condo craze has left many young renters in the financial dust while they encounter a lack of affordable housing.  The micro-apartment was part of the Onein3 initiative implemented by the Menino adminstration in 2004 to provide resources that cater to the city's young population, including housing, professional development, financial health, entrepreneurship, and civic engagement.  A micro-apartment unit is approximately 250 to 500 square feet in size, with a minimalistic design equipped with the bare essentials to live.  Also, to attract young professionals toward the city, the initiative mandated that these micro-apartments be within one mile of public transportation.

      So why should the mayor's office cater to young professionals?
      • They comprise almost half of Boston's workforce at 48%
      • 60% of them rent their homes
      • Only 20% own their homes
      • Most are single, and 82% have never married
      • They add one billion dollars to the City Gross Product
      • Their expenditures support 22,241 additional jobs to the city's economy
      • 60% of them were born outside of Massachusetts
      • 58% of these young adults either bike, walk, or take MBTA public transportation to work

      I'm (Not) So Fancy: Trial Sizing Up Price for Millenials and Gen-Y Renters In Other U.S. Cities

      Boston's economy relies on this segment of its population, and surely needs to have affordable housing for them to remain here.  This is a microcosm (excuse the pun) of the development trend across the US.  Developers are betting big on the lack of sufficient housing for recent college graduates and young upstart professionals.  Here is a list of cities that have tapped into the market of the 80 million Millenials and Generation Y-ers between the ages of 18 to 34 in the US:

      • Cleveland 
      • New York 
      • Providence 
      • Washington D.C.
      • Seattle
      But we need to breakdown the numbers:

      • In Cleveland's University Circle District, a 300-square foot micro-apartment has a monthly rate of $600 per month.  Sure, $600 may seem reasonable until you consider the square footage you are(n't) getting.  
      • These micro-units aren't exempt from location-based cost of living hikes - compare Cleveland's $600 to the price of a micro-apartment complex like Factory 63 in Fort Point, where the price range for a 337-square foot apartment is $1200 per month, and a 597-square foot apartment is $2450 per month.

      These trendy apartments are going up in Cambridge, Fort Point near the "Innovative District", Charlestown, and the South End where young techies can live, work, play, live small, and think big.  Looks like developers are betting on tenants buying into a trend of living by necessity rather than luxury, and focusing on the inexpensive monthly cost rather than square footage. But it may be hard to maintain focus on just square footage when you are a renter paying a rate that is relatively high per the cost of living just enough to say you are living in the city.

      Big Bucks for Small Spaces?

      Do you believe that these micro-apartments can build small and sell high?  Or will developers find themselves with a micro-demand as small as the apartments they are renting? Will this eliminate the need for property management for these small-sized apartment units? Tell us your thoughts.

      Wednesday, May 28, 2014

      The Mobile Office: How "City Hall To Go" Will Help Boston This Summer

      High Complaints and Low Morale For Greater Boston Residents

      Citizens of the Greater Boston area have a strong solidarity - about their complaints living here in the Hub.  Just a few of our top morale adversaries:

      • Unpredictable bad weather 
      • Lack of a late night MBTA services
      • Trigger-happy parking meter maids 
      • Plights at the Registry of Motor Vehicles with unexpected trips to City Hall
      • Late buses and slow trains
      • Continual spikes in toll and T fares 
      • The honking, ohh the honking

      The odds certainly seem stacked against anyone trying to navigate through the center of the City.  (Never mind the increasingly standard MBTA crashes due to driver sneezing.)  At least we have our professional sports teams who have championed our faithful City over the past twelve years and piqued our morale, right?  But even in an athletic dynasty we need a Bostonian chip on our shoulder, and City Hall is making some serious efforts to help Boston area dwellers lighten up in Spring 2014. 

      Mayor Marty Walsh shakes hands with a Boston resident while in the City Hall To Go truck

      Public Access: How "City Hall To Go" Positively Rolls Local Municipalities in a New Direction for Boston  

      Last winter, there were a series of spin-doctoring ideas from the mayor's and governor's office, including a green-lit project to launch the MBTA late night service for all trains and main bus routes on Friday and Saturday nights.  Most visibly, the City Hall To Go truck is mobilizing services to those who live outside of the downtown area.  During the pilot program for the truck last December, Menino stated to the Boston Globe: "City Hall To Go builds on our mission to shake up the status quo in municipal services and offer a new way for Boston residents to get information and engage with the city on a whole host of services we offer."  Menino's offering of this new benefit was one of his last stands, and has helped his incumbent Marty Walsh ride in on a white horse (or rather in a red and blue truck) earlier this January.  The truck is modeled after the popular food service and ice cream trucks that have recently taken over the Hub.

      The nation's pioneer municipal mobile truck services include:
      • Handling parking ticket payments and disputes 
      • Ordering meter cards
      • Requests for birth, death, and marriage certificates 
      • Voter registration 
      • Registration for residential parking permits and dog licenses
      • Paying property and excise taxes 
      Program organizer Katharine Lusk from former mayor Thomas Menino's office stated: "It's another way of connecting with the community."  The truck follows a schedule travelling Allston, Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Brighton, Charlestown, Chinatown, Dorchester, East Boston, Fenway, Hyde Park, Roxbury, South End, and South Boston anywhere between the hours of 9:00am and 7:30pm.  You can even follow the truck on Twitter for a direct connection with City Hall To Go. 

      Mitigating the inconvenience of traveling downtown to City Hall during the work week, especially now that the Government Center T-stop is currently shut down until 2016, gives great relief to city commuters relying on the less than reliable public transit.  Hey, at least you don't have to use up a vacation day.  

      Final Thoughts

      The City Hall To Go truck adds to the growing new sense of city living: The current surge in condo development and sales across the Greater Boston area have been helping turn around the longtime stagnation of the local commercial and residential real estate markets. Boston tourists and residents can now share bicycles, stay out late (something the City's businesses have been pleased about too), and have coffee with the Mayor in the morning. The mobilization of municipalities in this truck could help add to the community's "Boston Strong" recovery sentiment from the bombings at the Boston Marathon in April 2013, as well as the Back Bay fire that took the lives of two firefighters this past March.

      The truck also makes a great impact on residents who may not be Internet-savvy, have limited fluency in English, or may be clueless about going through the process to handle such issues that require a trip to City Hall.  So, what will we complain of next?

      Do you think the City Hall To Go truck will be successful, or will have a short-term life rolling around town?

      Friday, May 2, 2014

      Living For The City: The 2014 Boston Condo Craze

      The Boston real estate market is like seeing two-way traffic on a hill, with condo sales driving up and home sales precipitously going southbound.  The purpose of this article is to detail whether 2014 will have the condo bubble will burst, or will it only continue to float and rise for developers and condo owners. Home sales in the real estate market continue to lag in the Hub. With the rise of commercial real estate in the Seaport area, now being marketed as the Innovative District, developers and residents alike are looking to buy in.  But this is not an indicator of the demand for wanting to live in the city. 

      This End Up, or Down?

      Boston will always be one of the top apartment markets in the US. We can cite The Hub's unmatched college student population, the continuous influx of transient young professionals moving in and out of the city, and city dwellers who cannot afford to buy expensively priced homes within and outside the city limits. As prices continue to rise in the local real estate markets, first-time home-buyers are inevitably being bottlenecked into the condo market that developers are now attempting to make affordable to them.

      Plus, as reviewed in our March 2014 PPS article discussing the quality of a condo versus home lifestyle, there are many conveniences offered to residents of condos that are not afforded to those who live in apartments or single family homes.

      Moving into the Lap of Luxury 
      Graph courtesy of

      We have not yet even accounted for the booming luxury apartment market that is complimenting the local commercial real estate market, or the wealthy home-buyers who are willing to pay for living in prime locations like the Seaport. Veteran Boston architect Merrill Diamond of Diamond Sinacori LLC wrote on his company's website in 2011 predicting: "Yes, there will be a glut of apartments in Boston." 

      Turns out, he was right, but his forecast was referring to condominium apartments; not rental apartments. He also mentioned "I never thought there would be enough wealthy people to fill up all these apartments on the waterfront." Diamond mentioned that 2014 would be the "tipping point" in which developers are going to switch their long-term hold strategies to condos from apartments. This is to bolster their short-term profits from the resurgence of condo demand, being that consumers now realize they can own a condo with the same price that they could be paying to rent an apartment in BostonAccording to this Standard & Poors graph,  Boston condo prices have rivaled and outsold those in New York City since the mid-1990s, and continue to rise into this current decade.

      Three hot spots for development are the South End, South Boston, and Charlestown, where prices continue to spike. In a recent article in the Boston Herald titled Boston Needs Condos In A Hurry construction has begun for two luxurious high-end condos in Fan Pier at 22 Liberty Drive, which will hold 118 condos, and 450 condos that will be in the Millennium Tower downtown to be completed in 2016. And it surely won't stop there. The former armory on  Bunker Hill Street in Charlestown is being converted, St. Augustine's Church in South Boston will have 29 new condos developed, Meridian Street in East Boston is slated to have 66 new condos, and even Parcel U next to the Forest Hills MBTA station on Hyde Park Avenue was recently approved to have a $14-million project for 50-60 market-rate townhouses. There are too many developments to list here, and local real estate agencies may find themselves with a surplus of listings as a result. 

      Final Thoughts

      We might ask ourselves "how long will this strategy work?" It is easier said than done for developers to meet middle class home-buyers halfway in covering their cost of the investment while lowering their price point per-square feet, as it is for these same home-buyers to step up outside their means with cash offerings that could be hard to follow up on with financing. If more development takes place, there will eventually be a "tipping point" for demand amongst those who can and cannot afford to buy a condo. 

      Will developers and condo building owners find their backs against the wall and resort to sub-prime credit holders in earnest to fill these spaces as they continue to buy  and convert abandoned buildings (i.e. old schools, jails, office buildings)? Or will this continue to be a success for developers in their business initiatives? Tell us your thoughts...

      Wednesday, April 2, 2014

      Reflection on the Back Bay Fire Tragedy with an Important Message from the PPS Front Office

      You Just Never Know: Fire Safety & Insurance Coverage to Top Your Checklist

      Sometimes in our daily routines, we may lack deductive reasoning for possible causes of destruction in our homes. Or It could be natural disaster, totally out of our control from the start of the demolition. The Back Bay area of Boston received just that on Wednesday,  March 26th, with an inferno that blazed its path from the basement through the apex of the brownstone at 298 Beacon Street.

      We previously reviewed “what-if” scenarios in our previous article Need For Fire Safety listed on the Premier Property Solutions blog, and where to start for fire prevention awareness. The causes for the fire in the Back Bay are still being investigated by authorities, but the what-if’s that became into a reality in this case also stem from that day's high winds  and the burnt building without a sprinkler system. According to the Boston Globe report, the attorney for the executor of the estate that owns the building stated the building was in good repair. But apparently, the building was old in its age and type that it did not require to have a sprinkler system installed.

      When it comes to fires, always make sure you are covered and know the terms of your  insurance policy for your property if you are a tenant or owner of the building.  If you survive the ordeal, it is a privilege to be able to see your belongings again after a fire occurs. Please refer to our article Condo Insurance Explained

      Premier Property Solutions Fire Prevention Message Alert

      Make sure to review the Boston Fire Department's fire prevention safety guide, and the Premier Property Solutions Home Safety Checklist. Here is a message from the Premier Property Solutions front office management in light of the recent tragedy:

      Dear Residents,

      The fire that occurred at 298 Beacon Street which resulted in the loss of life for two firefighters is a tragic reminder of the importance of fire safety and fire prevention.

      Fire prevention is a serious matter that affects all of us. There are time-tested ways to prevent and survive a fire; sometimes planning ahead is your best defense.

      Premier Property Solutions urges you to review the attached Fire Prevention Handout and Home Safety Checklist with your family or roommates.
      • Boston Fire Department Safety Information here
      • Premier Property Solutions Home Safety Checklist here
      • Change the batteries in your smoke and CO detectors twice a year.
      • Never take a building alarm for granted - always assume there is a real fire and exit immediately.
      • In the event of a life threatening emergency Call 9-1-1 first, then management.
      • For additional information please contact your local Fire Department.
      If you are interested in learning more, please contact your building manager to discuss available fire prevention resources. Premier Property Solutions contracts with numerous fire code engineers and life safety professionals throughout the Greater Boston Area.

      Thank you for allowing Premier Property Solutions to continue to serve your community.

      Laura M. Cardoos

      Vice President | Premier Property Solutions, LLC

      Premier Property Solutions Online Resources

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      Thursday, March 13, 2014

      Quality of Condo vs House Lifestyles: You Get What You (Must) Pay For

      This is a brief analysis of why tenants who demand repairs on their condo while withholding payments is a terrible idea not only for the maintenance of their condo unit, but also their relationship with their condo association. Surely, it is a pain to have to wait on someone else to do the work for you in your condo as opposed to a house, where the punctuality of the repairs is determined solely by the homeowner.

      Withholding payments from condo fees from your HOA charged while waiting and complaining is just as ineffective to withholding payments for state taxes that fix potholes in the roads that you commute on daily.

      The repercussions of payment refusal can land you with hefty fines for delinquent dues. In casino gaming terms, if tenants of the condo association are going to gamble in this way, just remember that the house, or HOA, always wins.

      A Condo Tenant's Main Problem: Maintenance

      For many homebuyers, the determining factor for their investment is the lifestyle choice. In the process of deciding your permanent residence to build home equity and a revocable trust, people may want to have a concierge and parking lot with security with a revocable trust that protects them in their investment. But as you know from our previous blog on condo costs involved in moving into a condo, make sure that you do your research because it may be more expensive for you than expected for things such as unexpected "special assessment" fees due to upgrades to the condo building.

      Repairs in your home are a nuisance every time they change the way you live. The question is how long can the nuisance last? The owners of houses can pay on their own time when they want it upgraded. Condo owners are willing to pay for the convenience and risk in relying on property management  companies to handle the maintenance problems  in their home that require hard labor and hours that you find hard to spare to fix them yourself.

      Most condo associations cover the maintenance of the common spaces, as well as the landscaping, trash, and snow removal. One of the main risks of the living in a condominium is reliance on property management company. They can schedule repairs, and can delay scheduled repairs as well. And you can't do anything about it, right? The frustrations may even make you want to withhold the condominium tax fees that you incur on from the homeowner association.

      Courting Tenants

      There is a lot of upkeep and time required that goes into living in a single-family home. But consider the fact that there is much more time required beyond one single condo unit owner's repairs needs. Living in a condo building among many neighbors above and below your respective place on a daily basis means there is a lot to account for time-wise for the property management company to tend to your maintenance. Refusing to pay affect other condo owners living, which could lead to costs on the HOA, which can land you a visit in court due to a lawsuit from the HOA. Withholding fees can also risk foreclosure on your home, even without protection from a revocable trust that you may have set up for your home.

      So what is the best way to protect yourself in this situation? Make sure that you meeting the property managers to get on their good side. Also, check to see if the condo that you are buying does not have any outstanding liens or foreclosures in the building. If the rate is 15% of the units in a foreclosure status then that would be a bad place to place your bet or long-term investment. Lastly, it always helps to understand the HOA's by-laws or CC&Rs (covenants, conditions, and restrictions). You should hire a lawyer, or you can refer to another previous blog post of ours about condo insurance explained or how your condo is insured and policies of the HOA.

      Final Thoughts

      So how good has your property management company been to you? Have they made you want to refuse payments at any point? Or how well do you know your HOA by-laws and policies for refusing payments and monthly charge terms? Tell us your thoughts and we can give you some great input.

      You can refer to the following links for reference of the statistics from this post