Chicago Real Estate is on Uniquely Solid Ground

By | Agents, brokers, Property Management, real estate

Chicago Real Estate Boom: Simply Unlike the Last One

Last week, the Wall Street Journal addressed a topic that’s been on the back burner for some time: the likelihood (or not) that the steady rise in housing prices might be a precursor of a future bust like the one that racked this century’s first decade. Real estate reporter Nicole Friedman’s piece presented a persuasive case for differentiating the two sets of circumstances—a welcome backdrop for this season’s home sellers and buyers (and for Chicago real estate in general).

“It’s Different from the Last One” was the top-line verdict regarding what the Journal called “the current housing boom”—a characterization based on the nation’s home sales, which “are hitting peaks last seen in 2006.” Some of the statistically verified reasons:

  • Mortgage-lending standards are stricter.
  • Down payments are higher.
  • Tight inventories are nearly certain to continue to support prices.
  • Economists say there are more barriers to entry—making buyers less prone to default.
  • Demographics indicate a number of long-term trends “that will keep the housing market hot,” enabling even debt-ridden homeowners to sell at a profit rather than slide into foreclosure.
  • New buyers are being attracted by historically low-interest rates rather than easy access to credit.

With new-home construction continuing to lag demand—and as millennials age into their prime homebuying years—the demographic picture is substantially different from that which preceded the 2007 collapse. If this is anything like a bubble, it’s more like a cast-iron one!

With winter behind us, the Chicago real estate market is entering its busy spring season—one that you might want to join. No matter if you are looking to buy, sell, or looking for a property manager, give us a shout.  We will be standing by to help you explore the possibilities!

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Chicago Real Estate and Five Major Trends for 2021

By | Agents, brokers, home buying, Property Management, real estate, Real Estate Investment

Finance Guru’s Five Real Estate Trends for 2021

Dave Ramsey is a standout among media finance coaches. It’s hard to disagree with his brand of commonsensical counsel that eschews shortcuts and paths to riches that depend on newly concocted strategies. Chicago real estate investors, potential homeowners, devoted readers and listeners who rely on his consistently risk-averse advice learn to avoid high-interest debt while building a solid financial base—a footing typically anchored by the equity most real estate investors and homeowners build through their greatest investment, their home.

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As the old year came to a close, Ramsey’s website laid down five trends that are likely to emerge in the coming year. Chicago homeowners and investors who have been tracking the national real estate crosscurrents would not have been surprised by any of the five—but would likely be reassured by the continuity they exhibit:

  1. In the coming year, inventories of homes for sale will continue to be thin. As a result, buyers may need to be more flexible than usual in the features and locations they can insist upon—while sellers may find themselves increasingly in the driver’s seat.
  2. Prices should continue to rise, which would make the conservative ‘Ramsey Rule’ (house payments should not exceed 25% of take-home pay) difficult to follow, were it not for—
  3. The continuation of ‘nice and low’ mortgage interest rates, which markedly moderates the effect of the first two trends.
  4. Online and virtual services will continue to expand what you can accomplish via mouse-clicks rather than actual, in-person activity. Ramsey does have a warning for sellers about the advisability of resorting to cut-rate virtual services: “Your home is your biggest asset, and you get what you pay for!”
  5. Likewise, increasingly popular “Risky Buying Options” (like down payment loans or overly expensive rent-to-own offers) rate his one-word review: “beware.”

The Ramsey vision for 2021 is also in line with a projection voiced by government-sponsored Freddie Mac—continuing price rises make a real estate market crash unlikely. Both foresee that sellers in previously less-popular neighborhoods can expect an uptick in buyer interest.

When future trends are continuations of those already in evidence, it’s not particularly earthshaking. More beneficial is the final Ramsey note on how to take control of the trends: “Partner with a top-notch professional real estate agent.

We couldn’t agree more!      

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Looking Back: How did 2020 Fare for Real Estate?

By | Agents, brokers, home buying, Property Management, real estate, Real Estate Investment

New Year’s Retrospective Cheers Chicago Real Estate Watchers

Gather ‘round, people: it’s The Year in Review time again—the week when columnists and TV talking heads line up to chatter and lament over the year’s record-shattering advances and failures. From Washington to Hollywood, Wall Street to Silicon Valley, 2020 provided as rich a trove of talking points as any year in memory.

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Closer to home, for Chicago homeowners and investors, the year in real estate was no exception. When news of COVID-19 first broke, it looked as if the pandemic’s spread might claim Chicago real estate as an early casualty. Yet, despite the persistence of distressing developments in a host of other areas, local real estate watchers watched a much different picture being painted across the nation.

Here’s a selection of a half dozen highlights from The Year that Was in U.S. real estate:

  • The complete numbers aren’t in yet, but as of October, existing-home sales grew by a “spectacular 26.6% compared with last year” (according to reuters.com).
  • 2020 ends the year on track to register 102 straight months of year-over-year median home price increases.
  • For house flippers, the median gross profit per flip increased to its highest in two decades—$73,766—according to ATTOM Data Solutions.
  • The year ends with pending home sales up 20%, buyer traffic up 32%, and mortgage applications up 27% over 2019—signals that, according to NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, “…this winter may be the best ever for the housing market.”
  • By October, median existing-home prices had risen 15.5% compared with a year ago.
  • In a reversal of past age groups’ preferences, 55% of millennials (they outnumber all other generations) are not only stock market skeptics but “are now interested in investing in real estate,” according to realwealthnetwork.com.

For Chicago real estate watchers, those are results that justify putting a bottle of the bubbly in the fridge to chill for seeing in the New Year. And for all our Chicago neighbors, here’s hoping 2021 can hold a candle to this year, real estate-wise—and that it’s a whole lot better where everything else is concerned!

Looking to invest, purchase, sell, or need a property manager? Give us a shout to learn what the Lofty team can do for you.

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Motley Fool Recommends a “Drawback” for Chicago Investors

By | Agents, brokers, Property Management, real estate, Real Estate Investment

Investors Benefit from this “Drawback”

Ever since its founding nearly 30 years ago, investors have been entertained and educated by The Motley Fool—the financial and investing advice company known for its good-humored “foolish take” on stock market matters. The firm started out by publishing a run-of-the-mill newsletter but burst into national prominence through a series of creative April Fool’s messages hyping a fictitious sewage-disposal company’s stock. The series mercilessly mocked penny stock promotions.

Through the years, the company’s output has garnered both champions and detractors. Nevertheless, through thick and thin, the Fool has retained its light-hearted tone.

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Real estate investing has long been one of its central topics, even generating a specialized sub-brand called millionacres. Chicago investors who have checked in from time to time on this site have read answers to topics like “Is Real Estate a Good Investment?” (“The short answer is ‘yes’”) and “How to Invest in Real Estate” (there are “dozens of paths”).

Their research can yield solid nuggets that Chicago investors find valuable—like a Federal Reserve paper that shows real estate has historically generated rates of return comparable to stocks and equities but with much lower volatility.

In the same discussion promoting real estate as a “core pillar” of any investment portfolio is a typically “foolish” (and startling) idea—that real estate investments have a hidden benefit: illiquidity!  Normally, the lack of liquidity—that is, that it takes time and effort to turn Chicago real estate investments into cash—is listed as a major drawback. Whereas a Wall Street stock investment can be easily sold at a moment’s notice, the opposite is true for real estate. But the Fools take the opposite point of view—and they have a good point. The financial barriers that are built into real estate investments practically force a long-term perspective. They prevent decisions made in haste, based on fear or greed—thus keeping panicky investors from becoming their own worst enemy. The upshot is to instill real estate investments with “the most powerful wealth-building tool ever imagined: compounded annual returns.”

Chicago real estate offers strategic wealth-building possibilities for end-of-year investors. Call us for more on the current opportunities!

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Chicago Rental Properties are Dual-Track Investments

By | Agents, brokers, Property Managemnt, Real Estate Investment

Chicago Rental Properties Have Multiple Growth Opportunities

Chicago rental properties can bring their owners substantial investment income at the same time they are quietly building equity. It sounds clever—and it is clever, as many legendary titans of industry have pointed out.

Nineteenth-century millionaire-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie’s “Ninety percent of all millionaires become so through owning real estate” is typical.

More recently is this quote from wealth-creation expert Robert Kyosaki, author of the mega-bestseller, Rich Dad, Poor Dad:

If you don’t like real estate, all you have to do is make hamburgers, build a business around that hamburger, and franchise it.”

Kyosaki’s sly observation lets us draw our own conclusions about the relative likelihood of becoming a one-in-a-billion entrepreneurial superstar like McDonald’s Ray Kroc…versus choosing a canny real estate investment!

That’s not to say that the road to riches is a simple one-step process—especially when the chosen strategy includes actively managing a rental property.  For Chicago rentals properties to maximize cash flow in addition to their underlying equity growth, the original purchase needs to be made in a market-wise manner—then followed with managerial skill.

Lofty Real Estate property managers and brokers are here to help clients identify and acquire the Chicago property that fits their investment objectives—and right now, Chicago has a number you will probably find worth investigating.

Despite the latest pandemic-related precautionary measures, it’s still possible to explore the current offerings while maintaining maximum safety.

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How Seasonal Shopping Events Support Chicago Homeowners

By | Agents, brokers, home buyer, Neighborhood Guides, real estate, Real Estate Investment

With Thanksgiving Day gatherings behind us, this year’s Chicago holiday shopping action re-focused on the Black Friday sales phenomenon. Early reports were encouraging—but confirmed what Chicago businesspeople expected: a substantial tilt to home-based shopping.

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CNBC’s initial late-night observation was that bargain hunters were ringing up record online sales. This was a result that had been foreseen by retailers, who had prepared for the reluctance consumers might show to in-person shopping.

Even so, the National Retail Federation had projected that this year’s holiday sales would grow by somewhere between 3.6%-5.2%. If that proves accurate, sales will exceed averages reached during the previous five holiday seasons—a shot of good economic news for this seesawing (some would say, ‘whipsawing’) year.

At least as significant for Chicago businesses was Black Friday’s weekend successor—Small Business Saturday—which USA Today called “crucial” for myriads of local U.S. establishments. Many local Chicago businesspeople would probably agree, having spent most of 2020 battling spikes in COVID-19 and the strictures aimed at curbing its spread. For the many Chicago small businesses who succeeded in improving their online sales functionality, this week’s Cyber Monday looked to possibly match the national projections, which were widely expected to set sales records of their own.

Much of the media’s coverage urging patronage of local businesses emphasized the altruistic nature of “shopping local”—but from a local homeowner’s perspective, doing so is equally self-serving. Real estate’s “location, location, location” exhortation includes the attractiveness of the community—which is instantly recognizable by visitors in the energy and vitality on display through its local commercial outlets. That activity attracts further investment—or not. And the whole package winds up being reflected in property values—not just in its commercial sector, but in the residential community surrounding it. Area homeowners who make a point of patronizing our own Chicago merchants don’t just keep their neighbors and neighborhoods humming—they assure that local properties will see their values continue to advance in the years ahead.

For all your own Chicago real estate dealings, do give Lofty a call!

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3 Things Investors Must Analyze When Buying A Rental Property

By | Agents, brokers, Property Management, real estate, Real Estate Investment

Thinking about investing in residential real estate? Maybe you already own a few residential properties and you are looking to expand? You may or may not already know, there is a lot to consider when determining what kind of property will make an ideal candidate as a rental property. It is important to analyze every property you are considering as an investment; not doing so can be a costly mistake. To help you make the best investment, we have broken down what makes a great rental property.

  1. Crunch the Numbers

When you are digesting all the factors of a property to determine whether it would be a good rental, it does not stop at just the math. But an investment can start or not start depending on the math, so be sure to break everything down and analyze all the numbers as you work towards your decision.

Rent-to-Value Ratio

First and foremost, what is the rent-to-value ratio ratio of the property? Rent-to-value is one year of rent divided by the price of the property gives you the gross rent yield. There is not a hard and fast rule for where the gross rent yield should be, but typically they fall between 3 and 8 percent, depending on the location of the property. Usually the better investment is the property that has the higher rent yield. It is not an absolute law of an investment’s success, but knowing a property’s rent-to-value ratio will help determine which properties may be better suited as rental properties over others.

Cash Flow

Another factor to think about when considering the viability of a property as a rental is its cash flow. This is the monthly rent minus all expenses associated with the property; including mortgage, taxes, insurance, HOA dues, maintenance, vacancies, etc. Once everything is calculated, are you happy with the number you have? If it is much lower than you would like, maybe you should consider a different property.

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  1. Location, Location, Location

Real estate professionals love to say that, but it is true! Location is huge factor when it comes to investing in real estate. Several factors in regards to the property’s location will determine whether your investment is fruitful, so it is crucial to consider all of them and to do your research.

Already Popular Or Still Rising

What is the neighborhood like? Is it well-established, up-and-coming, something else entirely? Established neighborhoods are a great place invest; property values are usually stable so it is less risky of an investment. However, that can also make it more difficult to make money. If the initial cost of the property is higher, there is less room for profit.

On the other hand, though it is more risky, investing in an up-and-coming neighborhood may give you more room for profit. You may be able to get a property at a lower cost, and though initially profits may be lower, as the neighborhood becomes more established, property values and rent prices tend to increase. The payoff can be high, but there is also more risk involved.

Some neighborhoods can take years to become more established and some others never take off as expected. If possible, find out if any building permits were issued nearby? Are there any new businesses moving in or future developments planned? This will help give you an idea of the speed of growth in the neighborhood. To ensure that you make the best investment for you, be diligent in your research and consider talking your plans over with an expert who is well-versed in neighborhood growth and real estate trends.

Education Is So Important

The neighborhood schools may not be important to every potential tenant, but for the ones who find it important, it can be a major importance. The quality of the schools in the area are often a top factor when they choose where to live. Check out the quality of not only the public schools in the area of the property you are considering but also any nearby private schools.

Neighborhood Watch

Nobody wants to live in an area that is a hotbed for criminal activity. The crime rate will play a major role in not only the value of the property you are considering but also the ease in which you will find tenants. You should be able to acquire updated crime statistics for the area you are considering. Pay close attention to violent crimes, vandalism, and theft, and look for any signs of increase or slowdown in criminal activity.

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  1. The Property

Now that you have considered the location and the dollars and sense of the investment, let us now think about the physical property. It is not as cut-and-dry as just choosing a property that looks nice and is in your prices range; there are several factors to consider.

What Type of Property is It?

There are many different types of residential properties available so one of the first things you need to decide is what type of property are you looking for. A single-family home or a condominium is great for any investor, but if you are a first time or beginning investor they are the ideal property.

Single-family homes are nice because they tend to attract long-term tenants such as young families or couples looking to start a family, so you will not have to worry as much about vacancy. Condominiums are nice for a beginner because they tend to be low maintenance. Owners are responsible for interior repairs; this leaves any exterior repairs as the responsibility of the Home Owners Association.

However, that can bring about another issue. HOA fees can be high so it is important to consider those into your figures when determining the potential value of the investment. Also, make sure you look into the financial health of the HOA because you do not want to end up footing the bills for a struggling HOA.

If you are a more experienced investor, you may be thinking about a multi-unit investment. This type of property has multiple tenants in one building and can range from a duplex to an apartment building and anything in between. With this type of property, tenants could solely occupy the units or you could live in one unit with tenants occupying the remaining units. Living in one of the unit could be a beneficial way for you to save money personally and possibly save money on fees involved in financing a multi-unit property.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced investor, meeting with a real estate professional to discuss what type of property is ideal for your individual situation will help you make the best possible investment.

Skip the Fixer Upper

Many people like to purchase property that needs moderate to major amounts of work, thinking that they can make a lot of money. Properties that require a lot of work can be bought at significantly lower price, but they are best avoided by those new to investing in real estate. Unfortunately, many people end up spending more money than they planned and do not make the kind of money they expected. Do not get us wrong here, there are people that do this and are very successful at it. We have found that, in the beginning, it is better to leave the fixer uppers to those that already do it well.

There is a lot to consider when purchasing a residential property as an investment and it can require a certain amount of legwork to determine what is best for you. Consulting an expert in the field will help take some of the work out of your hands. Here at Lofty, we do just that—we have the experience and the knowledge at our fingertips to help relieve you of the extra work and help you make the right real estate investment choices. Talk to us and see how we can help you live the life you deserve.

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What Does An Amazing Property Management Company Do?

By | Agents, brokers, Property Management, real estate, Real Estate Investment

Imagine a world where you never have to worry about finding the right tenants, collecting rent, and getting a plumbing call in the middle of the night on one or many of your investment properties. Well, it is possible with the right property management company. Here are a few things an amazing property management company can do for you...

Market Value

Property managers start by evaluating your property. After performing a detailed inspection of the interior and exterior of your property, which includes taking photos and/or videos of the property, a great property manager can make suggestions for repairs both cosmetic and necessary—repairs that can increase the value of your property and make it more appealing to prospective tenants.

Next, a property manager will seek to determine the fair market rate for rentals. They conduct a comprehensive comparison study of the rentals in your area, to discover the amount of rent that is considered “fair market value” in your area, for your property type and features.

When it is time to search for a new tenant, they will handle the heavy lifting of the leasing process. Whether they show the property individually, list it on the MLS with a lockbox, or some combination of both, a great property manager will market your listing in unique ways to find your ideal renters out of many potential renters.

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Creative Marketing

Carrying a great deal of experience when it comes to marketing, a great property management company can easily design effective ads that will really get perspective tenants attention. Utilizing professional photography and graphic design, a great property manager can prepare print ads, digital ads and network your property with other realtors.

As the calls from prospective tenants start rolling in, they can provide additional information about the property, with a keen sense of how to answer questions you may have had difficulty with on your own. When it is time to show the property to prospective tenants, a great property manager will handle it without hesitation—even during “off” hours like regular business operating times when you may be occupied with other responsibilities.

Tenant Selection

A great property management company is likely already outfitted to present your prospective tenants with application materials that are in line with federal and local housing laws. This means that leasing is sound, safe and secure with a great property manager.

Tenants expect to be required to clear certain verifications in order to be truly eligible to rent from you. Professional property managers know this and are well-prepared to run the necessary background checks to ensure that your prospective tenants are qualified. They will meet with the prospective renters on your behalf and collect the necessary background information to run the verifications.

Leasing

Even if you already have a lease to use, a great property manager is sure to have a lease ready-to-go that is at least as secure and safe as yours, and can set up the lease agreement within all the specific local, state and federal guidelines. They will go over the lease agreement with the tenants to ensure that the terms are well understood—especially addressing the lease due date payment and any fees associated with late payments. Property managers also can ensure that all the instruments have been executed correctly and all signatures are received. When the lease is in place, the property manager will work with your new tenant to secure a move-in date.

Moving In

Great property managers will always seek to perform a comprehensive move-in walkthrough of your property with your new tenants. This is an outstanding way to manage expectations and establish accountability. By making careful notes, a great property manager will learn and share with both parties the condition of the property at the time of move-in. The walkthrough provides an arena for your new tenant to voice concerns and request maintenance on items you may have overlooked or forgotten, while you are well-informed of the condition of your property at the time of the move-in. This can be invaluable in the event of difficulty down the line.

Lease Payment Collection

You can count on your property manager to collect the rent, address late payments and collect late fees on your behalf. In the event things take a turn for the worse, they will even send out demand letters, quit and eviction notices.

Provide Legal Support

Expert property managers are equipped to supply and manage all necessary legal forms and documents for eviction proceedings. They can act as the owner’s representative in court, or work with law enforcement when necessary to remove tenants that are unlawfully occupying property.

In the event of a legal action, your property management company can provide advice or qualified attorney referrals. Great property managers can help the landlord to stay in compliance with all legally binding and necessary activities to include proper documentation.

Financial Service Support

In addition to keeping track of you tenant’s rent collection and security deposit, your property management company can provide accounting services, make payments on your behalf and maintain detailed documentation and expense records. Your monthly income and expense reports will be delivered in the form of performance reports.

Count on your property manager to keep historical financial records for easy access when needed. When it comes to contractors, your property manager will provide tax documents like 1099 forms and other records to ensure ease of tax preparation. You may also find your property manager can give you reliable tax advice about which deductions can be taken.

Work Orders

When it is time for maintenance or a service request, your excellent property manager has a crew of fully-vetted contractors ready to work. They will work with your budgets and take responsibility for the project management just as an expert general contractor would. No rehab or remodeling project is too large or small for an expert property management firm.

As the seasons change in Chicago, the need will arise for landscaping in the spring and summer months, as well as leaf and snow removal in fall and winter, respectively. You can count on your expert property management company to cover you so your tenant stays happy and safe. A 24 hour maintenance phone number provided to your tenant will also work to foster trust and peace of mind.

Moving Out

As with the move-in walkthrough, your property manager will perform a detailed move-out walkthrough inspection of your tenant’s unit, noting damages and necessary repairs. Count on your expert property manager to ensure that your tenant’s security deposit is returned or rightfully applied toward necessary repairs. They will also make sure the keys are returned or the locks changed, and that the unit is deep-cleaned and ready for a new tenant. Marketing begins immediately after an availability date is established.

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These are just some of the services that a property management company can provide. If you need or want additional services, contact your property management company to see what they have to say.

Here at Lofty, we are excited about all the ways we can be of service. Talk to us today and see how we can help you live the life you deserve.

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One Overlooked Issue for Chicago Home Workplaces

By | Agents, brokers, home buyer, home buying, Property Management, Property Managemnt, real estate, Real Estate Investment

For those who might be dubious about flexjobs.com’s contention that 75% of employees “are less distracted at home,” a survey from Atlassian, a developer of team productivity software, offers some common-sense confirmation: “Seventy-six percent prefer to avoid the office when they need to concentrate on an important task.”

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Naturally, the rising tide of Chicago home workers creates a corresponding surge in the need for Chicago home workplaces—areas fully or partially given over to business activity. We have already seen an increase in the interest that prospective buyers are expressing (and Realtor® Magazine predicts that home offices “will become a hot amenity for the long term”).

All this points to at least one wrinkle that hasn’t as yet been given much attention: workplace safety. The requirement for things like smoke detectors, adequate lighting and ventilation, and unobstructed walkways are second nature to human resource professionals—but few Chicago home workers have probably given them much thought. The immediate need for a strong Wi-Fi connection and comfortable seating are more likely to have drawn their attention. Yet, according to the government’s telework.gov website, ensuring workplace safety is the remote worker’s responsibility. Given the number of hours now being spent in Chicago home offices, that is worth treating seriously.

At Lofty Real Estate, it is our job to track the latest ins and outs of the everchanging Chicago home marketplace—and to share them with our clients that are buying, selling, and/or looking for property management for their real estate investment.

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When to List: Controversy in This One-Off Year

When to List: Controversy in This One-Off Year

By | Agents, brokers, home buyer, home buying, real estate

Sometimes, the timing for when to list your Chicago home is pretty much dictated by circumstances. Whether they be personal or professional changes that call for a move, when to list is (as politicians say) "baked in." When to list can't be rescheduled.

When that isn’t the case—when the timing is solely up to you—there are two ways to look at the decision. One of them is controversial.

Controversial: timing by season. Although many commentators do seem to come down on the side of listing for real estate’s busy season, there are reasonable arguments that counter it. Statistics do prove that the majority of transactions are initiated during good weather. During the spring and summer months, when the sun shines the longest, buyers tend to have more optimism (and possibly energy, although that’s debatable). There are definitely more prospective buyers during the peak real estate season—and they’re out in the neighborhoods house-hunting.

Yet from the seller’s point of view, it’s also true that there is more competition from other Chicago homes for sale. The peak season nay-sayers can also argue that prospective buyers who do their house-hunting in poor weather are demonstrably highly motivated—making for fewer looky-loos and more committed prospects.

Non-Controversial: listing when you’re ready. If 2020 has demonstrated anything, it is how ignoring the traditional real estate calendar can sometimes work out nicely. This year, the “peak” for national home sales has taken its sweet time getting here. It has been on its own schedule—one that nobody could have predicted a year ago. What hasn’t been debatable is what knowledgeable financial commentators have long recommended: when your house no longer fits your lifestyle and/or your financial circumstances indicate that a move will be advantageous—that’s the calendar you should pay attention to.

After the sale is completed, in retrospect, the right time to list your home will have been when your ultimate buyer was looking for a house like yours. That might be more likely when more shoppers are active—yet the persistent fact that many sales seem to be finalized toward the end of the year argues otherwise. The truth is, when you are ready to move on, emotionally, and financially, it’s always the right time to list your Chicago home. It’s also the right time to give one of Lofty’s real estate agent a call!

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Benefits & Drawbacks of Raising Rent

Buying Multi-Units Vs SFH as Investment Properties

By | Agents, home buying, Property Management, real estate, Real Estate Investment

Real estate in Chicago is a pro’s game. The dilemma of making a decision to buy a multi-unit or a single-family home is not strange to most property investors. Placing the merits and demerits side by side, and considering what works best for you and your investment goals is key to making the right decision.

Investing in Chicago real estate requires a solid discernment of the real estate scene. It’s easy to stare at a few numbers and just decide that single-family homes are better than multi-units and vice versa.

To completely figure out what represents a better real estate investment decision, let’s look at the two types of properties. Then we’ll do a compare and contrast and let you be the judge.

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Single-Family Units- Merits of Investing

A single-family home (SFH) is a property with only one family (unit). It’s a multi-unit when there is more than one family or tenants living in different units of the building.

There are many benefits of investing in Chicago real estate. and even more when you go with a single-family unit. Let’s look at these for size.

1. Ease of Selling Off

It’s easier to sell off a single-family home. This, in fact, means that you can quickly make a profit on the sale of a SFH than when your property is multi-units. There is also less stress in finding interested buyers when you’re trying to sell a single home.

 2. Faster Appreciation of Property

Single-family units appreciate quite faster than multi-units. Although the difference is often not so large, it’s not negligible either. The appreciation value is a reason you might want to consider when buying a single home because you’re likely to sell (if you decide to sell it) for a considerably higher price than you purchased it.

This also depends of course, on the duration between when you purchased and when you decide to sell it off.

3. Lesser Tenant Issues

With a single-family home, you’ll get fewer phone calls about maintenance and issues going on at the house. You may also not bother employing the services of a Chicago property manager. Since you have only one family on your property, you can self-manage on your own. Collecting rent monthly will also be easier.

4. Less Strenuous Maintenance

There is usually less wear and tear in single-family house units, (well, except the tenants are out to destroy you). In a single-family home, it’s easier to track damages and ensure the house in great condition.

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Merits of Investing in a Multi-unit

Multi-units are also profitable, with some advantages over single-units. Let’s see the merits here.

1. Better Security with Covering Operation Costs

With a multi-unit, you have better chances of having all the fees covered by your tenants. The rent from multiple tenants will cover operational costs. With more people, and a better security management system in place, you are less likely to have theft or crime issues.

2. Regular Cash flow

With more than one tenant paying rent and bills every month, you have a regular cash flow. With excellent maintenance and tenant welfare, you stand a chance of never having a unit in your house empty for any long period of time.

3. Less Charges from Property Manager

Chicago property managers give discounts on every unit in a multi-unit property. At the end of the day, you’ll pay less fees to your property manager per unit than you would in a SFH (single family housing unit). That’s because the discounts you enjoy on multi-units are not extended to SFH.

4. Larger Pool of Tenants

When it’s time to put a new tenant in one of your units, Chicago brokerage companies can help you do a good and swift job of filling up your multi-unit. It’s easier for them to handle than SFH because more people are interested in renting a unit in a building rather than a single-family house.

Multi-unit Vs Single Family Home

To make an intelligent decision free of sentiments, let’s compare them under the following headings, using cold hard facts:

  • Investment risk
  • Expansion
  • Tenant Issues
  • Cash flow
  • Sale
  • Maintenance
  • Appreciation
  • Renters pool and Brokerage

Investment Risk

Single-family units are sometimes highly risky as a tenant can vacate any time. If this happens and you can’t find someone to replace them immediately, you’re going to bear all the costs of mortgage, taxes, and maintenance all by yourself.

There’s a certain comfort in knowing that with a multi-unit, you’ll always have someone living on your property and the rent will cover the costs of the mortgage, maintenance, utility, and so on.

Expansion

Expanding a single-family unit is easier. With a multi-unit, you’re more or less stuck with the original architecture forever. Except, of course, you’re ready to bear the cost of nearly tearing the building down and starting again.

Tenant Issues

Issues with tenants are more frequent in a multi-unit. Because there are more people living there, there’s a greater possibility of clashes and the need for conflict resolution.

Cash flow

Cash flow in multi-units is more frequent and dependable. If your property is well managed, you’ll hardly find yourself bearing the costs of maintenance by yourself. In single units, you may not have that level of security. It’s only one tenant paying and that’s it.

Sale

It’s easier to get a large pool of buyers for single-family homes than for multi-units. This means you can find more reasonable Chicago brokerage fees with SFH. Multi-units may not attract 100% brokerage since there’s more work in finding your buyers and keeping up with payment of rent.

Maintenance

For SFH, it’s usually higher. As for Multi-unit properties, due to the fact that more people live in your multi-unit property, maintenance costs may also rise. In fact, you’d have to employ the services of a Chicago property management company to help you keep up with this. A good choice would be Lofty property management company.

Appreciation

Appreciation rates in Chicago real estate have been different over the years. Of course, SFH appreciates slightly faster. But in any case, if your multi-unit is well maintained, it can appreciate just as well. Note however that if your SFH’s location is bad, you may run into serious debt.

The verdict: Single Family Home or Multi-unit?

This is not a clear-cut choice. In a busy location, you may want to trust multi-units more. There’s every chance that the units will always be occupied at every point in time.

Before buying a SFH, consider if you will be able to foot the bills of taxes, electricity, mortgage, and the rest in case there’s ever a long duration between when a tenant leaves and when another comes.

In Conclusion

There is no clear-cut winner. Depending on the location of the property, SFH may be a better option. The merits of multi-units are obvious as well, but if tenant issues and maintenance costs are not for you, you may just be better off with SFH. Either ways, there’s always one that’s more suitable in a particular situation.

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Why Buying and Owning Rentals is Always a Good Investment

By | Agents, home buying, Property Management, real estate, Real Estate Investment

Owning a rental is always good; you get paid for being the landlord. It's a really profitable slice of the Chicago real estate investment market. This is mainly because of two things; the first being the steady stream of passive income it provides, and the second being the opportunity to get tax write-offs.

Of course, owning a real estate rental in Chicago is not an easy feat. The rewards are potentially huge only if you have a keen eye for details, proper preparation, and a sound Chicago property management company in charge of your property.

Managing rentals on the Chicago real estate scene can be done all by yourself, but like most people you may get overwhelmed over time. At this point, you can use the services of a Chicago property manager, such Lofty Real Estate Chicago.

Investing in rental properties is always a good idea, once you know the things you need to know, which we will be discussing.

Buying Rentals: Need to Know

Of course, when buying rentals in Chicago, you can either do it yourself or you can use a Chicago brokerage company. Asides from this, it is usually a sound policy to calculate your expected cash flow on the rental property before you purchase it. Think of it as a business; no one goes into a business to make a loss.

For you as a rental owner, the cash flow your property generates is your profit, so to say. Because of this, your cash flow should be at least at break-even point, when you factor in your expenses on the property.

Buying a property with an expected cash flow level that is below the amount you’d spend on expenses such as monthly mortgage payments, depreciation, etc, is not a good idea, and  we do not advise it.

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What are the Advantages of Owning a Rental Property?

There are a lot of advantages of buying and owning a rental property over other forms of investment (we won’t compare, don’t worry), and they are;

1. Diversification of Investment Portfolio

Investment, no matter the amount of probable gains, always involves a risk. Because of the inherent risk in the world of Investment, it is unwise to put all your money into one investment portfolio, especially stocks.  An unforeseen switch in the market dynamics and all your money might be gone with the wind. Owning a rental real estate property helps you mitigate greatly against the inherent risk involved with the investment. Once you have done your due diligence, your rental property will always be a source of income for you – one you can rely on to a very great degree.

2. Getting Tax Write-offs

The tax system favors owning rental properties a lot, and that’s another perk of buying and owning a rental property.  Owning a rental property means you don’t get to pay tax on your rental income. Owning a rental property means there will be depreciation and other property related expenses.  It is a usual practice to deduct the depreciation and other expenses from the federal income tax, and so this leaves the rental income completely free of any deductions.

3. Steady Stream of Passive Income

Owning a rental property is one of the safest ways to earn a steady stream of passive income every month. It’s your job (or your property management’s job) to ensure you keep renters who pay their rent promptly.

The “steady” in the income hinges on a lot of factors including doing a background check for prospective renters, so you can easily weed out those with a history of causing trouble for their landlords.

The best part is that you do not have to get involved in the background checks exercise or even get involved in the day to day running of the property before you get your passive income. You can simply leave your property to a Chicago property management company and focus on other areas of your life, whilst they manage the property and ensure your passive income keeps rolling in.

4. The Chance to Sell at a Premium

The usual industry practice is that you should try to hold your rental property for at least 10 years, but that rule doesn’t always work for every situation.

Owning a rental property in an area that increases the value of your property means you can sell off the property and make a gain on it at any time.

Even if the market dynamics change and the prices of property plummet, you can still rent out your property and make a rental income that will cover the costs of owning the property. You can do this till you’re ready to sell, and you would not lose any money.

Also, real estate market values generally appreciate over time, and the real estate market is usually one of the first to bounce back in case of a recession. So, the chances of losing money on your rental property investment over time are very low.

5. Growing Your Equity

Growing your equity is a goal for everyone, and owning a rental is a good way to do this. It is always good practice to purchase a rental property with a mortgage. Once this is done, you’ll have to start paying up on the mortgage payments, and you can use the rental income to pay for your mortgage.

This would be especially easy if you’ve accurately calculated the amount of cash flow to expect from owning the property. It would basically be as though your tenants are paying your mortgage for you, and over time, your debt will shrink and disappear, and your equity will start to rise steadily.

Conclusion

Buying and owning a rental property is one of the best ways to not just earn stable, passive income, but to also grow equity. By understanding and calculating just how much you can expect with regards to cash flow from the property, you can forecast how long it will take you to pay off your mortgage and start growing your equity.

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Leveraging Property to Buy Property: A Full Guide

By | Agents, brokers, home buying, Property Management, Property Managemnt, real estate, Real Estate Investment

Is Leveraging a Good Idea?

The unofficial cardinal rule of investing in real estate is that you invest, or buy real estate with someone else’s money, not yours. This is the basis of leverage in the Chicago real estate investment market; by using someone else’s money to invest in real estate, you are making gains from your lender’s money.

Leverage is a well-known strategy in the Chicago real estate market, and it is the most widely used way to acquire real estate. There is a drawback though; when real estate values rise, it is to your advantage. But when they fall, you are at a disadvantage. This is why it is crucial to do your due diligence about a property when you want to use leverage to acquire it.

Leveraging Your Way to the Second Mortgage

Simply put, a second mortgage is a mortgage taken out when you still have a mortgage in effect on your first property. Doing this is only possible if you have enough equity on your first mortgaged property since a second mortgage is a riskier endeavor than the first.

The usual practice is that your first property is used as collateral for the second mortgage, and most lenders will only agree to a deal if you have enough equity on your first property. This is the big risk with leveraging property to buy the property.

The second mortgage can be used for anything, including using them to service personal expenses.

Types of Second Mortgages

There are basically two types of second mortgages available for use in the Chicago real estate market. They are;

  1. Home Equity Loans
  2. Home Equity Line of Credit (also called HELOC)

1. Home Equity Loans

Home equity loans are a type of second mortgage in which you can borrow a certain amount of money in a lump sum, payable over a period not exceeding 15 years at a fixed rate of interest.

Basically, you are using the amount of your home you own (i.e. the amount of mortgage you’ve already paid back on your home) to back up your credit. If you fail to pay, your house is liable to be foreclosed by the lender.

Home equity loans are best for investors looking to leverage their property to buy a rental property, as rental properties usually require a significant amount of down payment.

2. Home Equity Line of Credit

Popularly called HELOC, this type of second mortgage is different from regular home equity loans in that they are payable with adjustable rates.

HELOCs are the credit cards of second mortgages, and they work in a similar manner; there is a credit pool you can repeatedly draw from, it has a set limit and some lenders even give you an actual credit card. HELOCs have draw periods in which you can draw from the credit pool as you need the money, without having to pay back. This draw period is between 5 to 10 years.

HELOCs also have repayment periods, wherein you pay back all the money you have borrowed at adjustable rates, as mentioned earlier.

Investment Real Estate Deductions You’re Eligible

How Do You Leverage One Property to Buy Another?

There are two ways to do this, put simply. They are;

1. Leverage Rental Property to Buy Another

A rental property is a good investment if bought properly. Managing it yourself might not be easy, which is why we advise that you use a Chicago Property Manager, or a Chicago property management company, such as Lofty Real Estate.

Using your rental property as leverage to get another property is the easier of the two ways of leveraging property to buy another property. This is because the rental income paid by tenants can be used to pay up the mortgage on the rental property and gain some equity.

Using a rental property as leverage for buying another property would involve using the rental property as collateral, as mentioned earlier. A second mortgage would also involve higher interest loans than the first, so you have to be absolutely sure your primary property has enough equity to cover the expenses associated with taking a second mortgage.

2. Leverage Your Primary Residence to Buy Another

Another way of leveraging property to buy property can be this scenario; using the equity on your primary residence to get another mortgage. It can be another house or even a rental property. Doing this will mean your primary residence will be at the mercy of the lender if you default on the second mortgage payments.

Requirements for Leveraging Property to Buy Property

Building up a good level of home equity and a great credit score are central to the success of your chances when taking out a second mortgage.

How to Get A Second Mortgage

1. Know How Much Equity You Have

Knowing how much equity you have will help you make a quick decision on whether or not to go for a second mortgage and leverage your property to buy property. The more equity you have, the more your chances of success when it comes to your application for a second mortgage.

2. Check Your Credit Score

This is also another key part of the process. An excellent credit score will also improve your chances of being approved. If you’re interested in leveraging your primary property to buy another property, then you have to possess a credit score to match.

3. Pick out Your Preferred Second Mortgage Option

There are two options for you here, either you go for a HELOC or a home equity loan. Each option has its own peculiarities and benefits, so be sure to pick one that suits you. If you’re leveraging property to buy another house, going for a HELOC might be best. On the other hand, if you’re leveraging property to buy a rental property, then going for a home equity loan where you’ll get a lump sum might prove to be the better option.

4. Look Around

Once you’ve carried out these three steps, then it’s time for you to find out the options you have with regard to lenders and their rates. Check out the terms of each second mortgage very well, and ensure you don’t sign until you’re convinced it’s the best deal for you.

In Conclusion

Leveraging property to buy property is a smart way of acquiring more property, especially if you have the required equity.  With our guide, you have all you need to know about leveraging property to buy property.

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Popular Interior Design Changes In Chicago Rentals

Popular Interior Design Changes In Chicago Rentals

By | Property Management, Property Managemnt, Real Estate Investment

All owners of rental property share the same main goals: keep vacancy to a minimum while maintaining or increasing property value. Besides a clean space and working appliances, there are several more factors that contribute to an ideal situation for owners and renters alike. Interior design can be a big help and won’t cost too much with a little preparation. Though trends come and go, it is important to be aware of what is popular when designing your property for rental.

Experts Are All Around You

With sites like Pinterest and Houzz, there is no shortage of “expert” advice and influence to be found on the internet. Maybe you have a Facebook friend that has their finger on the pulse of the trends and can help you make some informed decisions. There is a balance between making some popular interior design adjustments to enhance your condo/apartment’s aesthetics and spending countless dollars on a full makeover. Knowing your market can really help to find that balance. With the right touches you can easily enhance your condo and make it much more marketable.

When it comes to upgrading rental property, Owners can also learn a lot by looking at other listings in the area. Making yourself aware of the finishes that renters in your market are looking for will set you up to make the right decisions on your own investment.

Even with the advice of the “experts” on the web, sometimes time just isn’t as plentiful as one may need it to be. Savvy owners turn to Lofty, one of the top property management companies in Chicago. Lofty has apartment management in Chicago down to a science.

Want to increase profits and cut down on your time spent managing your properties? Contact us and we’ll show you how to do just that. We provide free market analysis, consultations and professional photography for all our new clients. We will ensure you never have to worry about renting out your condo again.

Some Tips from Lofty

Through their experience leasing condos in Chicago, the Lofty professionals have refined their list of what does and does not work in rental property design elements.

Here are a few tips you can use as a sort of guide or checklist when you are ready to make some changes for the better:

  • Hire a professional service to clean the apartment really well so you can expect to have your unit returned to you in the same pristine condition it was given.
  • A good place to invest a bit of money is in matching, stainless steel, energy efficient appliances. Otherwise, make sure whatever is there is cleaned like new and operating without issue.
  • Choose interior design materials that are timeless. Hardwoods, natural stone, and stainless steel are all good options.
  • When painting or decorating with wallcovering, opt for neutral colors. A neutral color palette will please the majority of potential applicants.
  • Avoid costly, over-the-top customization as adding too many details may limit the appeal or price you out of the market.
  • Built-in storage and shelving can be a big hit. Bookshelves in a flat wall can add some extra space; closet or cabinet organizers in bathrooms and bedrooms will help maximize storage.
  • Simple bathroom updates like a new mirror, faucet, towel rods and light fixtures make a big difference.
  • Depending on marketplace expectations, blinds—especially wooden blinds— are a great investment as they offer more control and class than a pull-down shade. Remember to instruct tenants on proper operation.

 

Here at Lofty, we provide free market analysis and consultations. We would be happy to come out and take a look at your space to help you determine what interior design touches can help you get more income out of your rental. The right interior design elements will get your property rented for top dollar and keep it rented. We want your time spent where it should be, enjoying life.

 

Speak with one of our experts to find out how we can supercharge your investment.

 

 

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Chicago’s Real Estate Market in 2020

By | Agents, brokers, home buyer, home buying, real estate, Uncategorized

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If you’re planning to sell a home in the area, you might need to pack your patience. Recent data shows that Chicago is one of the “slowest” housing markets among the major metros when based on median “days on market.”

Despite losing residents at a high rate, Chicago is still America’s third largest city and the economic driver of the Midwest. Although there is not a negative impact of buying a house in 2019 versus 2020, it is strongly advised by experts to purchase a house next year. In 2020, the largest group of Millennials will turn 30, which will be good news for an industry that may need it.

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The National Association of Realtors’ annual home-buyer profile has recorded an average home-buying age of 30 that has stood for decades.

While young people have flocked Downtown, bringing with them corporations seeking skilled workers, Millennials will likely turn back to the suburbs when it comes time to buy. But because so many jobs have moved from the suburbs to Downtown, Millennials will likely look for housing in inner-collar suburbs that have urban amenities like public transportation and walkability.

 

The year 2020: where inflation and financing qualification could hurt prospective buyers. According to Zillow, rising mortgage rates are encouraging homeowners to stay put and discouraging would-be buyers.

Higher interest rates should eventually slow the intense pace of home value appreciation that we have seen over the past few years, a welcome relief for hopeful buyers. Overall, home prices aren’t expected to grow much, and market crashes are highly unlikely. That should make it a safer purchase for buyers and more difficult for sellers to get the best price possible.

 

 

 

 

How to prepare for the next 2yrs in Real Estate

By | Agents, brokers

As 2019 revs up, we are entering into a new phase of real estate. It’s important for real estate brokers, property owners and investors to know where the market is headed in the coming years. Companies are now beginning to leverage new technologies like virtual reality and machine learning to work smarter and sell like never before. To prepare, we’ve outlined our predictions on the upcoming trends and changes that will forever change the future of the real estate industry.

Technology

The real estate industry has gone years without major disruption by technology. Established systems and processes have remained consistent and even outdated. Recently,  $2.7 billion was invested in real estate technology a month by month increase of 132%. This investment in technology has the ability to alter the landscape on how agents are selling and how buyers are searching and buying their ideal homes. Technology will help you reach thousands of more customers while also giving you tools to show homes like never before.

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The buyer

The real estate buyer is now more informed than ever. Buyers now search online to get better insight into the types of properties they’re interested in as well as the neighborhoods. They can also see a home’s estimated value and use tools that tell them if it’s a good investment or not. The buyer will become more independent of the agent which will result in a different sales process all together. Buyers will even be able to get more information about their agent from online rating platforms which will force agents to build a positive online presence if they want new business from online search.

Virtual Reality

The latest trend of VR will soon hit the real estate market.  Buyers will begin to use VR technology to “view” homes without ever having to step foot inside one. This will change the process of open houses. Sellers can even stage their homes using VR. This will help them cut the cost of staging while begin able to show the potential of a home using updated decor. As an agent, it’s important to familiarize yourself with VR to stay ahead of the trend and ultimately save yourself valuable time and money.

Millennials

According to Danielle Hale, the chief economist at Realtor.com, “Millennials will continue to make up the largest segment of buyers in 2019, accounting for 45% of mortgages, compared to 17% of Boomers, and 37% of Gen Xers.” There will be a surge in millennial demand which will change the market to adjust to the needs of millennials. As an agent, it’s important to start researching not only how millennials will buy, but what they are looking for in their first home. Get to know the future buyers and how they navigate buying a home. We’ve compiled a list of tips on our predictions for how millenials will bring their preferences to the market.

  • Online. For millennials, all searches start online. As an agent, you’ll need to create a powerful online presence for yourself and for your listings. Make the extra effort to invest in good photos and a well designed website.
  • Quality over size. Millennials have shown that they are more concerned about the quality of properties over the size. They prefer open spaces with lots of usable space.
  • Location. Make sure to highlight the location of your properties. Even if you think a home isn’t in the most desirable location, get creative and list some notable local spots close by.
  • Low-maintenance. We live in a day where Amazon Prime, Grubhub and Uber make life easier while saving millennials their valuable time. Homes with energy efficient and smart appliances are more appealing.

At Lofty, we pride ourselves on keeping our agents ahead of the curve through constant proactive research and learning. 2019 offers lots of potential for agents who prepare for the industry changes and use them to their advantage.

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Top 8 Ways to Make a Great First Impression

By | Agents, brokers, first impression, real estate

You've probably heard time and time again the importance of first impressions in career development. In real estate, first impressions are so vital that they can make or break your career and reputation. The customer experience you provide is the one thing in this industry that you have complete control over. Technology will never compare to the human interaction and the value you can bring to the home buying/selling experience.

Prepare

If you have the opportunity to have a call before meeting a client, ask a few quick questions that can give you insights into who they are and what they are looking for. Their answers will help you better prepare for the first in-person meeting. Before your first meeting with potential clients, conduct some brief research on the person you’ll be meeting. With LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram you can determine their career and personal interests with a few clicks. Also, it’s not uncommon, that you will find mutual friends which are great for a conversation starter. If they’ve already reached out to you with some information, make sure that you go back and re-read so that you’re prepared and not asking questions that they’ve already given you the answers to. If you’ve had a previous phone call with them, refer to your notes and show that you are an active listener. Try to prepare at least three talking points that you think are important to your client. Top real estate agents never come to meetings empty-handed. Print out ideas, suggestions, information about sites and pricing. This shows you are the expert in the industry and are taking the lead. Without preparation, you can come off as unorganized and unprofessional.

Appearance is also extremely important for first impressions. Dress professional, clean, and polished. Don’t overdo your look with flashy jewelry or accessories that can be distracting. Avoid the fancy attire, and stay true to you. It’s also important to dress for the market. Don’t wear a black suit and tie or a gown to show a beach house.

If clients are coming to your office, create a clean and organized environment that also has character. Local artwork is a great way to get away from the sterile office stigma.

The in-person meeting

It’s game time! You’ve done your prep work and you’re now ready to meet with your client for the first time! Be positive, confident and remember that you are the expert. Always arrive at the location early, because showing up late is a great way to ruin any first impression. Introduce yourself and thank them for taking the time out of their day to meet with you.

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Body language

Some may argue that body language can have more power than words. Try to walk with your chest high and practice sitting up straight without crossing your arms. Be completely open towards them and refrain from closing yourself off.

Build rapport/common ground

Finding common ground is a great way to start off on a positive note. Common ground is something that you both can relate to and can connect on. It could be anything from sports teams, to attending the same college, to kids. This is where your social media research will come in handy! The more information you have on someone, the easier it is to make that initial connection.

Ask the right questions 

By now, you should already know what questions you want to ask your client to ensure that you walk away from the consultation with all the information you need to immediately get started helping them and so that they feel as if you’ve proactively done your part to help them.

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Active listening

If you’re asking the right questions that don’t always end with a yes or no answer, you should be getting your clients to speak with depth on what they need/want. The power of active listening has a positive impact on people. Really listening to what they’re saying and engaging lets them know that you understand them and want to know more. People love talking about themselves and your thought-provoking questions will help you find out more about them on a deeper, mutually beneficial level. Try not to look at your phone or computer unless you are showing them something.

Show how you stand out from the rest

Now that you’ve built rapport and connected with your clients, it’s time to show them your abilities as an agent and the unique experience you bring to the table. Introduce why you’re passionate about real estate and share your background. Highlight your credentials and go into some detail on the markets you’re familiar with and the technology you use to make the buying/selling process easier for them. Clients will pay more for an agent that offers an experience that makes their life easier.

Follow Up 

You should follow up with them almost immediately with a thank you note and outline of next steps. If possible, put in any extra work you can to show that you go above and beyond for your clients. For example, stop by the neighborhood they’re interested in, take pictures and send to them. Anything you can do that shows how you take customer service to the next level is always appreciated.

Great first impressions are a sure way to win more clients and keep them happy. Don’t forget that over 60% of business each year comes from the people you know, past clients, and referrals. One great first impression can lead to countless future clients.

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What To Expect Throughout The Buying Process

By | Agents, closing on a home, home buyer, home buying

Whether it’s your client’s first home, or they’ve been through this process before, every experience is different. However, top real estate agents know the core elements of what to expect during a buying process.

Determine housing needs

In order to deliver the best service to your clients and make the home buying process as enjoyable as possible, it’s important that you get to know them very well. Ask the right questions to find out their motives for buying, what they’re looking for, and what they truly need to be happy in their new home. This will not only help you find them homes to show, but it will also help you tailor your efforts to their needs and wants and create a trusting relationship.

Set a clear budget

It’s important for your clients to know their numbers. As an agent, you never want to put your client in a position of buying a home that they can’t afford and vice versa. You want to be able to show them all the options for homes that they can afford. Show them how to determine the cost of homes they can look at by accessing their financial situation and taking into consideration their current debt and bills etc. If they haven’t already, make sure they are pre-approved for a mortgage.

Begin the home search

Once all the prep work is done and you have a clear understanding of your client’s needs and expectations, let the home search begin! While seeing homes, take note of what they love and what they hate. This will help you narrow down the homes you show in hopes of finding the right home, faster.  Top real estate agents say that their client will know within the first 30 seconds of entering a property if they’re interested or not. Pay attention to your clients during those critical moments. If clients are interested in a certain property, make the extra effort to do repeat tours at different times of the day so they know what the neighborhood is like at night, and they can see the lighting at peak daytime. For pre-construction homes, check the floor plans and get to know the reputation of the developer.

buying a home in Chicago

The offer

Use your expertise as a real estate agent to guide your clients in negotiating a fair offer that they’re happy with and is comparable to homes in the same neighborhood.

Escrow

The hardest parts are over! The offer was accepted and your clients are ready to start getting excited. The home is now in escrow, the period of time it takes to complete all remaining steps in the home buying process.

Home inspection

It’s common for offers to be contingent on a home inspection of the property to ensure there are no signs of structural damage or to take note of things that may need fixing. As a real estate agent, you should have developed trusted contacts who you can refer to your clients to conduct the home inspection. Work with them to schedule the inspection within a few days of the offer being accepted by the seller. Keep them well informed during this process and review the inspection in person with them if possible. Explain to them the power behind the contingency and how it protects them by giving them a chance to renegotiate or withdraw their offer without penalty if the inspection finds any substantial damage. Also, review with them if there’s anything that they want to ask the seller to fix before closing. Once everything is agreed upon, you will do a walk-through with your clients as one last chance to confirm any repairs that were requested. Make sure the seller / previous owner has vacated. If you or your client does find an issue, you’ll need to bring it up to the sellers as soon as possible.

Closing

To avoid any delays, it’s extremely important to properly prepare your clients on what to bring and what to expect during closing. Remind your clients that they must bring proof of homeowners insurance, a copy of the contract, home inspection reports, government-issued photo ID

and the down payment. Make sure that you explain that a personal check will not work and it has to be a wire transfer or a cashier’s check. It’s also common for most lenders to require a title search of public property records to make sure there aren’t issues with transferring the property to your client’s name. There will be lots going on that day and lots of signatures. Set the correct expectations for your client, but also let them know that it’s not uncommon for things to go wrong like a missing document or a misspelled name. As a real estate agent, take all precautionary measures to make sure everyone is prepared and the day goes by as painless as possible.

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How To Write A Killer Property Description

By | Agents, how to, Photography, property descriptions

If you’re in the real estate industry, you’ve probably already experienced the power behind compelling content. Professional photos receive more clicks and great property descriptions can help sell a home faster. Writing a killer property description is also a great way to get creative and have fun with your listings while also creating clear communication that sets the proper expectations for all potential buyers.

Stand out

Many real estate agents think that they need to begin writing their property listings like everyone else. Trying to fit in is one of the worst things you can do when marketing your listing. Making your property sound average and repetitive is an easy way to be forgotten by your reader. Try to think outside of the box and think about your potential buyer. Who are they and what would best resonate with them?

Structure and Plan

To make sure that your listings include all the necessary information and call-to-action without rambling, make sure to structure and plan your listing before you begin to write. Ask any journalist about the hardest, yet most vital part of writing and they’ll tell you it’s creating the headline. It’s the one chance you have to grab the reader’s attention, set the expectation, and compel them to learn more. This first impression has to be short, yet engaging enough to attract the attention of the already distracted reader.  Once readers click on your headline you then present them with an opening statement. This can be a sentence or two and should inform readers on what they are about to see and set expectations. The opening sentence gives readers a reason to keep reading and entices them to learn more. For example, “Come see this charming ranch complete with panoramic views of mountains and only steps from a quaint downtown.” Now onto the property features. This is your chance to get creative and really highlight this home through words. Most property ads are written like “New paint, backyard pool, 1 large master bedroom, new garage door.” To stand out and make it interesting for your reader, you’ll want to tell a story. “You’ll love this 4 bedroom walk-up, perfectly placed in Chicago’s hottest neighborhood. Enjoy the stunning views of State Street while still having the option to escape to the backyard oasis complete with greenery and privacy.” This paints a better picture for the reader and becomes a more attractive way of listing out the house features. Don’t forget to include all the property upgrades. Top real estate agents will tell you that buyers love when homes have recent upgrades. It also makes potential buyers feel like the previous homeowner really took care in keeping the home up to date. While it’s important to paint a picture, try not to get too specific. However, there is a fine line between telling a story, and over exaggerating features to the point where it sounds like you’re lying. If readers detect anything deceptive, you could lose their attention forever.

Promotion

Another great way to step up a property description is to add a promotion (if you can.) Having a promotion can be as simple as stating “For a limited time, offering a small discount from the listing price.” This will be a statement that influences your call-to-action, which should follow next. Call-to-action statements are a way to summarize your listing and tell your readers what to do next. If possible, include a sense of urgency to show that this property could go quickly if they don’t act fast.

As you write more property descriptions, keep in mind of best practices but also take note of what works best for you and your clientele. Recently, Zillow conducted a study and found that around 250 words is the sweet spot for listing descriptions. Strategically use those 250 words to tell the story of your listing and the neighborhood. Be sure to spell check, grammar check, and don’t overuse trendy lingo! It’s important to make sure you appeal to all ages and demographics.

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Mortgage Interest On The Rise, Why You Should Buy Now

By | Agents

For years, interest rates have been at historic lows since 2008. By now, you’ve probably heard from either the media or a real estate agent on how the Fed is raising interest rates. For example, the average rate of a 30-year fixed rate mortgage is around 4.40%, which is the highest rate since April 2014. This upward pressure comes at a time we’re all familiar with, home buying season, which typically lasts spring through early fall. If you ask any real estate agent or market expert, they will all agree on telling you that now is the time to buy. Not only will the higher rates get in potential home buyers way, but also the limited housing supply could allow matters to get worse for those who wait to buy.

The Federal Funds Rate

The Federal Reserve controls the Federal Funds rate which is the interest rate in which banks lend to each other.  According to Financial Samurai, “If a bank has a surplus over their minimum reserve requirement ratio, they can lend money at the effective Federal Funds rate to other banks with a deficit and vice versa. You can see how an effective Fed Funds rate of only 0.15% would induce a lot more interbank borrowing in order to re-lend to consumers and businesses and keep the economy liquid. This is exactly what the Federal Reserve hoped for once they started lowering interest rates in September 2007 as home prices began to collapse.”

The Impact

Although you may not understand how the growing interest rates could directly affect you, they do have potential to impact you in a meaningful way. Mortgage rates are generally known to move in the direction that the Fed Funds rates move. Aside from rising mortgage rates, housing prices are also on the rise. Home prices nationwide are up 48% since 2011, according to the National Association of Realtors. The prices for single-family homes hit record highs in 114 of 177 major metropolitan areas that were tracked. Throughout this time, incomes have only risen 15%.  Real estate agents also advise taking advantage of the low rates by locking in an interest rate now with a 15-30 year fixed rate mortgage if you plan to stay in the home for a long time.

This year’s spring homebuying season has been off to a relatively slow start. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey,  mortgage applications have dropped 3.3 percent week over week. Many believe that this is a result of the growing lack of affordable housing.

Nationally, the collective data shows that interest rates and home prices will continue to trend up. However, you do have time to get your finances in order if you feel like you’re not truly prepared to buy. However, to take advantage of the optimum benefits, it’s best to buy sooner than later.

While there are positives and negatives to the rising and falling interest rates, the bottom line depends on what your financial goals are. For those who’ve been thinking of buying a home, it’s best to stop putting it off and take action to buy now before rates get too high.  Many experts say that if people begin to take advantage of the current lower rates, buying homes can lead to more home building, construction, and decor sales and even boost our economy in a unique way.

Next Steps

If you haven’t started already, immediately begin doing your research on homes and neighborhoods where you’re interested in moving.  Look for housing trends in certain areas and take note of the average home listing prices.

The top real estate agents and industry experts recommend that people look for homes that cost around 3 – 5 times their annual household income while planning to make a downpayment of 20% of the home price.

When you think you’re ready to start looking for a home, it’s best to get pre-qualified for a home so you know exactly how much you’re able to spend. Once you provide financial information to your mortgage banker, you can review the price range of homes that you should be looking for. As always, we’re available to support you and answer your questions whenever you may need us.

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Real Estate Agent Tax Tips: What You Should Know

By | Agents

Real estate agents know that this career often requires investing much of your own time and personal finances before seeing the fruits of your labor. Tax season can be rough, but if you stay on top of your finances, document all important deductions, and understand your true profit by year end, you’ll appreciate the savings. It’s extremely important to set up a basic filing system to organize all paper receipts, income documents, checks and credit card statements for all transactions that relate to the business you conduct. It’s also important to keep receipts for property that depreciates for as long as you own them. Documenting all of your eligible tax deductions has the potential to help you save thousands of dollars.

Usually, real estate agents receive a 1099 tax form and receive compensation as an independent contractor, meaning that most agents are considered self-employed. Therefore, a schedule C (profit or loss from business) must be filed. Agents can write off deductions directly from income but may be subject to Self-Employment Tax on profits.

real estate agent tax deductions

Learn about The PATH ACT

The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act provides real estate agents and brokers relief when it comes to business-related purchases by changing the IRS Section 179 deduction. The PATH Act was established in 2015 and allows you to deduct all or a greater portion of your business related purchases which translates into bigger savings on taxes. For example, since agents use their cars for showings, you can write off up to $25,000 for the price of a new car the year you purchased it.

Important tax deductions to remember

Aside from large purchases, there are minor costs that add up over the year that can also be deducted. Some may not even be apart of your every day business, but are still allowed. Make sure that you are only deducting things that you pay for personally and not your brokerage.

Take advantage of these common real estate agent and broker deductions:

-Marketing and sales assets. Open house signs, flyers, cards, mailers etc. You can also deduct marketing expenses like website development and maintenance and even the money that you paid to have the assets designed.

-Marketing and advertising spend. This includes all money you put towards digital advertising.

-Internet and phone. Any bill that you pay for and are not reimbursed can be written off.

-Real estate training. Coaching, and education costs including books bought for personal use.

-Real estate licensing. Any renewal fees, licensing fees, association dues, and MLS dues.

-Desk fees.

-Transportation. Automobile maintenance repairs, gas, mileage, auto insurance, parking and new car purchase or lease costs. Tolls, ravel airfare, lodging, meals during real estate education or conducting business with clients. Taxi and uber fare when seeing clients is also included.

-Home office costs.

– Gifts ($25 deduction limit)  & entertainment. Entertaining and client thank you’s can be a large expense of any successful real estate agent. However, be careful here, as you may have a hard time explaining a $2,000 dinner at the Ritz. In most cases, you are able to write off half.

-Cold callers. Sales assistants and virtual assistants also qualify for this deduction. If their earnings come out of your pocket, you can deduct them.

-Prospecting lists. This is often overlooked by agents, but can be deducted if you purchase them using your own money and not by the brokerage or firm.

-Commissions paid.  Absolutely do not forget to list all of the commissions you pay to other agents or brokers. Top real estate agents say that commissions paid on split listings or other arrangements can add up to by the biggest tax deduction.

-Retirement plan contribution. If you haven’t already began this process, you should!

-Insurance. General business insurance and E&O Insurance is deductible. You must have your own policy and cannot be covered by your brokerage, unless it’s covered by desk fees, then it’s deductible.

-Legal services. This includes all lawyer fees that you’ve accumulated from your business over the year.

-Franchise fees.

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Keep in mind that to qualify as deductible, real estate business expenses must be: ordinary and necessary, directly related to your business and a reasonable amount. IRS Publications 463 and 535 can help you determine whether a specific expense is tax deductible (SOURCE: TURBOTAX.COM). 

Be smart about how you claim your deductions and make sure you have the correct documentation to back them. Use your calendar to remind yourself to file receipts or use an app to take a picture of everything and digitally organize it. While there are many ways to cut corners in the tax system, the potential harm outweighs the benefit and may ruin your career.  Stay organized throughout the entire year so that when April rolls around, your prepared to receive the best outcome for you and your business.

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How to Maximize Your Realtor Network

By | Agents

Every real estate training class, article, webinar, or book will introduce to you the power of effective networking in real estate. Having an expansive list of leads and potential clients puts you ahead of the game and gives you the upper hand on where to look for your next deal. Many agents turn to family, friends, and local events to look for clients to add to their pipeline and begin marketing to. However, many agents have not successfully leveraged their own network of realtors that they’ve met or worked with over the years. Your industry peers are equally as important to leverage as potential clients.

Learn From Each Other

The real estate industry is continuously evolving with new ways of marketing, new laws, and changing best practices. Take the time and make an effort to connect with realtors who you admire and look up to. Offer to take them out to lunch or coffee and pick their brain on industry best practices or helpful tools and systems they’ve learned over the years. Top real estate agents share that at one time in their career, they’ve asked someone to mentor to them. By connecting the new with the experienced, both parties end up reaping the rewards. When established properly,  agents can learn news skills under the direction and advice of a seasoned expert and vice versa, the seasoned expert can learn new skills and tools from the person they are mentoring.

Beyond business objectives, it’s important to leverage your network for social well-being purposes. Taking the time to get together and talk for reasons that aren’t related to strictly business is a great way to decompress while strengthening your peer relationships. Sometimes the feeling of competition can put a strain on relationships with your local realtors.

top realtors in Chicago

Collaborate on Marketing

Digital marketing has now become the #1 way real estate agents receive and manage inbound leads. With the power of social media advertising, realtors can target potential buyers and effectively walk them through the funnel. An important aspect in marketing, is marketing yourself! Pair up with other agents who you admire and take a cross marketing approach. You can each leverage each other’s online network to double your exposure. Create a plan on how together, you can establish yourselves as thought leaders in the industry and both add content that is engaging and beneficial for the viewer. Or if one of you is having a hard time getting traction on a property, having other realtors share with their network is a great way to get new exposure. Top real estate agents have also began to group together to create successful podcasts on industry news.

best real estate training

Refer Leads to Each Other

Referring leads and clients to other realtors can sometimes be a tough line to cross and make many realtors stay away from the thought altogether. Other realtors find it valuable in helping them leverage their network and strengthen both their peer and client relations. In real estate, there are times when you have done your best with a client, but have been unable to help them any further. Although, it may hurt to give them up, it’s important to place them in good hands  and even help out your industry peers. They may do the same for you one day. However, it is extremely important to asses the situation and only make the referral if you think the client and realtor are a good fit. If things go South between them, you don’t want any responsibility or damage to your reputation. Really be sure to have complete clarity on what the client wants and give detailed notes to the new realtor to best prepare them for the relationship.

Industry Events

Networking within your industry means more than meeting with other agents. Industry networking events are a great way to meet vendors, developers, and designers, who are all important to engage with to diversify your experience and knowledge. Top real estate agents say that building a solid list of vendors is great for client relationships. You can offer solutions instead of sending them to look online, and of course it helps establish trust and commitment with clients which leads to great referrals. Pro tip: A great home inspector is a powerful tool to help you limit your liability and build trust with your network.

Many realtors let the fear of competition get in the way of leveraging their most powerful network; their peer realtors. These fellow industry professionals provide valuable insight and opportunities on new market information and innovations that you may be unaware of.  Working together can also help with your digital content strategy and broaden your online reach. If you’ve been slacking on building your realtor network, use LinkedIn to connect with new peers, join online groups, and learn about local real estate events.

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What is a 100% Commission Real Estate Brokerage?

By | Agents

You’ve completed all necessary certifications and you’ve passed the test. You are officially a real estate agent. You’re hungry, passionate, and ready to dive into your career with full force. Your next step in becoming a licensed real estate agent is selecting a broker to sponsor you. Even though, it may feel as if you work for yourself, you by law need to work on behalf of a broker. This decision can affect the direction of your career, determine your growth rate, and ultimately; your paycheck.

Most brokerages are consistently hiring agents to fill their desks. However, there are important differences among companies in structure, operations, and ethic. Make sure to take the time to find the brokerage that is the best fit for you and will ultimately be the right place for your growing business.

The Traditional Model

In traditional real estate business transactions, a seller would contract to have their property listed for an agreed upon percentage of the selling price. The listing brokerage lists the property in the MLS and shares that commission with any MLS broker member that brings a buyer that completes the purchase. That is considered split #1. Each of the brokers would then split their portion of the commission with the agents involved as split #2.

Until now, the typical real estate brokerage would pay their agents a percentage of the total commissions.  In many cases, a majority of that commission ( sometimes even up to 50%) would go the brokerage in exchange for allowing that agent to work under the brokerage license. The traditional brokerage would provide the agent with some training, leads, and access to MLS information.

This traditional brokerage model may no longer make sense. With the booming digital age, agents have direct access to all data, communication, and contracts; and can support themselves and their clients without much help from the brokerage.

The 100% Commission Model

The traditional model has all changed with the introduction of the 100% commission real estate brokerage. This new concept allows real estate agents the ability to keep full commission value without any splitting.  This makes it even more convenient for agents to manage all transaction documents and truly be in charge of their own finances. Not only do you keep your full commission, allowing you to quickly ramp up your career, but also 100% brokerages have no sales quotas to follow and actually support you in however they can to help you build your book and close faster and more effectively.  This allows agents to set their own base and determine their own personal goals that are best for them and their career.

100% commission model brokerages are also offering marketing programs that can generate leads at a lower cost than if the agent was to do it alone. Instead of letting sales quotas cause unnecessary competition between real estate agents, they help foster relationships between agents that will benefit both of their careers.  

Making Your Choice

When making a decision to choose a 100% commission brokerage in Chicago, compare what services come with what fees. Some brokerages offer digital tools necessary for agents to be competitive in their market. Even if you are keeping 100% of  your commission, you need the tools, support and training to help you sell. The 100% model will continue to evolve in favor of the agent since there is no doubt a paradigm shift occurring.

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How To Add The Most Value To A Listing For The Least Cost

By | Agents

While the real estate market has had its changes over the years, there is one thing that most agents can agree on: it takes effort, skill, and strategy to sell a home. Taking advantage of easy home renovations could add value to your home and increase ROI. Not all sellers may be willing to spend the time and money for renovations, so it’s also important to come with a plan to support your claim. The recommendations below come from top realtors in Chicago and have been proven to add the most value to a home, without an intimidating budget.

top kitchen remodels to sell home in Chicago

Budget-Friendly Kitchen Remodeling.

The best real estate training and top agents will remind you that kitchens and bathrooms are key factors on how fast a home will sell. There’s an old saying that everyone always congregates in the kitchen, so naturally people want an impressive one. An old kitchen can be negative to buyers, yet there are many ways to refresh and redo a kitchen to wow potential buyers. Replace black and white appliances with stainless steel and switch out old laminate countertops for granite. (Chose colors that appeal to all home buyers) There are plenty of affordable options for granite and you can find discounted appliances at outlets. Another key feature to any kitchen is the sink.  Upgrading an old sink can really grab the focus of a buyer.

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Refine Your Flooring.

Similar to paint, flooring can also change the look and feel of a home. Top realtor have confirmed that hardwood is always the most appealing to buyers. If you do happen to have hardwood floors in a home, make sure to refinish them if they’re beginning to look dull. A refinish can turn old floors new again and brighten up any room. If the home does not have hardwood floors, there are many high quality laminate options that work beautifully and are affordable. Carpeting may be acceptable in bedrooms if it’s good quality. However, many buyers are beginning to turn away from carpeting altogether. If your sellers are thinking about replacing the carpeting altogether, you may want to opt for hardwood, or basic snap-to hardwood instead.

Add value to your house with the least cost from Lofty Real Estate

Upgrade Fixtures.

Upgrading a home’s fixtures is an easy way to create a modern look at a low price. From lighting fixtures to new hardware, you can chose which fixtures you think have the most impact and go from there. Be sure to make sure that fixtures match to avoid a randomized style look.

Curb Appeal.

The exterior of a home is the first impression on potential buyers. Manicuring the front yard with flowers, new mulch, and a fresh coat of paint on shutters is a great way to enhance your curb appeal on a budget. Make sure the porch is clean and organized and, if it’s a selling point, add lighting to draw more attention to it. If the siding on your home looks dirty or old, take time to power wash and refresh the exterior.

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Top 4 Ways To Tap Your Network For Business

By | Agents

The first thing that any sales or business class teaches is that building authentic relationships is important in any and all business. In real estate, agents are helping their clients with life decisions that may not only impact them financially, but personally and mentally as well. Some clients may be starting a new chapter in their life, while others may be going through enormous life changes. You may be interacting with your clients at their most vulnerable state in life, which forms a connection, unlike many other industries. The relationships that you build with all clients, family, and friends will have an effect on your business. Leveraging your personal and professional network to help build your business is one skill that top realtors live by. The best real estate training will teach you how to use these networks to expand your client base. However, activating your network is not something that can happen overnight, but a process that can take months and even years.

top realtors

Value All Your Relationships

When thinking about your relationships, top realtors recommend immediately starting to add value with every person you interact with.  Examples:

  • Helping co-workers and other agents with resources that you think they’d find helpful
  • Taking friends or family members out to coffee or lunch for the simple sake of “catching up”
  • Sending Christmas cards to past clients and thank you notes to everyone who has greatly helped you this year
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Provide Your Network With The Right Information.

We all have those family and friends who ask what you do every time they see you. Sometimes showing your network what you do can leave a better impression. Always be sure to share your branded web page and social media profiles with your network. Take the time to digitally connect with everyone you know personally and professionally. When creating your content, make sure that it is appealing to a general audience so that more people engage and potentially share your information with their networks. Brand yourself professionally, yet keep the same character and personality that your network knows and loves. Be sure to regularly update your profiles to reflect your recent real estate work and progress so those you may not see often are still updated on your recent business. Avoid posting too much yet post enough to show reminders that you’re ready and willing to help your network buy or sell. Another way to engage them beyond social media is to add them to a once a month email list. Use that email to showcase some fun statistics, gorgeous homes, or honorable achievements on your part. Email newsletters are a great way to get content to your network that they can then forward on.

Successful real estate agents have recommended giving your close family and friends business cards for them to hand out to potential clients. Those who work in industries where they are in contact with many people a day (Uber drivers, hair stylists, bartenders etc.)  are more likely to have personal conversations with people who could be potential clients. If they do happen to produce a referral turned client, make sure to thank them in a meaningful way and timely manner.

networking in real estate

Know When To Leverage Your Network.

Timing is everything. There may never be a perfect moment to ask for leads, referrals, or favors from your network, but knowing these tips may help you choose the best moment for you. There are 3 questions you can ask yourself to help you decide:

  1. Is there an authentic amount of trust built within the relationship?
  2. Are you able to clearly communicate the message in a way that is respectful yet simple?
  3. Is the timing right on their end or do they seem stressed/overwhelmed and preoccupied?

Keep up with your network’s milestones and accomplishments. Social media is a great way to keep tabs on people who you may not talk to every day. For example, use LinkedIn to monitor when people get new jobs. You can strike up a conversation by congratulating them on the transition while seeking out more details on their life. Or use Facebook to monitor life events that may soon follow with a home purchase. Engagements, weddings, babies, and graduation are all great opportunities to follow up with people to learn more.

Ask.

The average person moves every 7-10 years. It’s almost a guarantee that everyone in your network knows someone who is in the process of trying to buy or sell their home. The only thing between you and these potential clients is the ask. After building trust, and deciding on the right time, be confident and ask the simple question. If you don’t ask, the answer is already no. Be clear and specific about what you want. Asking “Know anyone wanting to buy or sell their home?” will receive a completely different answer than “Can you please give me the contact information for anyone you know in the Chicago area who is serious about buying or selling a home?”. Being direct with detail can help avoid confusing follow up conversations or having to ask your contact twice.  Make sure to also be intentional with your requests. Instead of asking 60 people for referrals at once, ask 6 people who you think can provide you with the quality leads you are looking for.

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Creative Ways To Market Your Hard-To-Sell Listing

By | Agents

As a real estate agent, you already know the importance of being creative in marketing your listings. In an industry where much of real estate training teaches you the same marketing tactics as other agents, it’s necessary to always stay educated on new marketing tools to help you differentiate yourself and more importantly; sell your homes faster.

When it comes to that “hard sell”, we know the struggle of watching the days go by with no inquiries or showings. Or maybe you’re having showings, but no offers. Sometimes you’ve exhausted all your resources and marketing tools, and you just need something new to stand out or get the ball rolling. Below, we’ve outlined some creative ways to market that “hard-to-sell” listing that you’ve been worried about for weeks.

top realtors

Show Off The Neighborhood.

In many cases, the neighborhood itself is enough to sell a home. Capitalizing on areas that offer great amenities and/or local flavor is a great selling tactic used by top real estate agents. Potential buyers may not be familiar with the neighborhood and may have a difficult time picturing their life there. Go out of your way to plan a night out at a local favorite. Pick a street that is lively, but safe, and a restaurant that you know will delight. You can use Opentable to make a reservation and even schedule an Uber to pick them up and drop them off. This takes out the frustration of parking or driving in an area that is unknown to them. As passengers, it also allows them to see the neighborhood. The marketing angle here is to create an experience that not only allows them to explore the neighborhood, but it also shows the buyers that you care about more than just selling your listing.

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Look For Investors.

Leverage the internet to find people who may want to buy your property as an investment. With Google, you can find a list of all the properties in your area that sold for cash in the past 1-2 years. Use the list to create an email campaign on Mailchimp and let these people know that you have some properties they may be interested in.

You can also google “We Buy Homes” and the city you’re located in to find property buyers in your area. Similarly, using social media, you can search “Real Estate Investor” on Facebook, LinkedIn, and twitter to search people who have listed that as their job title.

how to market your hard to sell listing in Chicago

Create An Awesome Video.

87% of online marketers now use video to convert their audiences into paying customers. Videos on social media generate 12oo% more shares than text and images together! You can create a video tour with your narration allowing you to touch on all the value points of the house while adding your personal touch to incite emotional reaction within the viewer. If a professional videographer is not in your budget, there are plenty of real estate video apps that will allow you to create a customized video with professional quality features. Get creative and try to tell a story that people want to watch.

Hold An Open House Party.

These days it may take a little more than fresh baked cookies and flowers to win an open house. If your property has great entertaining space and your sellers are onboard, throw a party!  You can include catered food, live music, prizes, and alcohol to lure in local buyers and real estate agents in your area. Any instagram picture opportunities are a great way to get people to post about the property or you! Creating just enough buzz around the party could bring in the right people, or at least get you the exposure that a normal open house couldn’t.

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Pros & Cons of Using Professional Photos

By | Agents

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We’ve all seen it before. Real estate home photos that are so small and pixelated that you have to put your nose to the screen to make out exactly what room is shown. If you look at any website that sells a product, you’ll notice the professional product photos. Making your product appeal to an audience is every advertiser’s primary concern. And when it comes to real estate, there is no doubt that photos are a crucial part of the selling process. When prospects see your listing, you want them to follow through and contact you for a showing. However, you always want to provide them with realistic expectations to avoid wasting either parties’ time as well.  We’ve gathered feedback from the top real estate agents and looked at real estate training courses on the pros and cons of professional, high-quality photos for your listings.
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Pros.

The way consumers shop has changed significantly over the recent years. 96% of Americans now shop online.  This means over 88% of potential buyers go online for their property purchase. The first impression you will have on potential buyers is through the photos in your listing. Creating a compelling, yet accurate portrayal of the property is the first step of the selling process. Online marketers know that product photos draw in the customer and are the first thing a customer will see before reading any text. That’s why huge online retailers will spend the time and money to produce excellent product photos of items as small as a $5 fork. Without the visual appeal, the sell is more difficult.

Professional photos can draw more attention to your online listings and even bring more clicks from potential buyers. Since people who use professional photography end up having more photos, that also brings up your click rate. More clicks equals more lead conversions.
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Only 35% of real estate agents use professional photography in their listing, meaning that you’ll be at an advantage if you do decide to utilize this resource.

Listings with professional photographs sell 32% faster, spending only 89 days on the market, compared to 123 days for home without professional photographs. (PR Newswire)

Professional photographers can capture what agents can’t. Experienced real estate photographers are skilled in shooting home interiors in a way that is attractive and professional. They have the knowledge and talent to effectively capture the home’s most notable features. Many may even make staging suggestions that help market the home altogether. They also come prepared with equipment and lighting to capture photos that would otherwise be impossible. Small spaces and basements that lack natural light may have a lot to offer, but without the correct lighting and angle, the spaces can come off as unappealing and push a potential buyer away.
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Cons.

False expectations. While some real estate photography can help show the true character and essence of a home, some photography can produce unrealistic expectations. Photographers may use wide lens cameras that make a room look 10x bigger than it actually is. While it is important to give rooms a great sense of space, unrealistic expectations can lead to showings that actually frustrate potential buyers.

Not worth the price.  Although, some top real estate agents may argue that professional photos will help you boost the sell price of the home, homes listed for $300,000 and under may not be worth the investment of professional photography.  A session can cost upwards of $300, not to mention the editing and time that goes into setting everything up.
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Time. Hiring a photographer and scheduling a shoot with editing and photo transfer can take time. If you’re in a hurry to get a home on the market, you may not be willing to wait 1-3 weeks for professional photos.

In the end, the decision must be made by the agent.  Real estate training and networking can allow you to ask other agents their experiences with hiring a professional photographer. It may be helpful to list out pros and cons for each listing to decide whether photography would benefit the sale. When executed correctly, professional photography can be a powerful tool to advertise a home’s finest assets. Experienced professionals can make an ordinary home look extraordinary while maintaining the home’s integrity. Make sure to read reviews on photographers and take a deep dive into their work to confirm that they convey the look you’re going for, or the look and feel that you think would help your property sell best.
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We’ve all seen it before. Real estate home photos that are so small and pixelated that you have to put your nose to the screen to make out exactly what room is shown. If you look at any website that sells a product, you’ll notice the professional product photos. Making your product appeal to an audience is every advertiser’s primary concern. And when it comes to real estate, there is no doubt that photos are a crucial part of the selling process. When prospects see your listing, you want them to follow through and contact you for a showing. However, you always want to provide them with realistic expectations to avoid wasting either parties’ time as well. We’ve gathered feedback from the top real estate agents and looked at real estate training courses on the pros and cons of professional, high-quality photos for your listings.

top realtors

Pros.

The way consumers shop has changed significantly over the recent years. 96% of Americans now shop online.  This means over 88% of potential buyers go online for their property purchase. The first impression you will have on potential buyers is through the photos in your listing. Creating a compelling, yet accurate portrayal of the property is the first step of the selling process. Online marketers know that product photos draw in the customer and are the first thing a customer will see before reading any text. That’s why huge online retailers will spend the time and money to produce excellent product photos of items as small as a $5 fork. Without the visual appeal, the sell is more difficult.

Professional photos can draw more attention to your online listings and even bring more clicks from potential buyers. Since people who use professional photography end up having more photos, that also brings up your click rate. More clicks equals more lead conversions.

networking in real estate

Only 35% of real estate agents use professional photography in their listing, meaning that you’ll be at an advantage if you do decide to utilize this resource.

Listings with professional photographs sell 32% faster, spending only 89 days on the market, compared to 123 days for home without professional photographs. (PR Newswire)

Professional photographers can capture what agents can’t. Experienced real estate photographers are skilled in shooting home interiors in a way that is attractive and professional. They have the knowledge and talent to effectively capture the home’s most notable features. Many may even make staging suggestions that help market the home altogether. They also come prepared with equipment and lighting to capture photos that would otherwise be impossible. Small spaces and basements that lack natural light may have a lot to offer, but without the correct lighting and angle, the spaces can come off as unappealing and push a potential buyer away.

Cons.

False expectations. While some real estate photography can help show the true character and essence of a home, some photography can produce unrealistic expectations. Photographers may use wide lens cameras that make a room look 10x bigger than it actually is. While it is important to give rooms a great sense of space, unrealistic expectations can lead to showings that actually frustrate potential buyers.

Not worth the price.  Although, some top real estate agents may argue that professional photos will help you boost the sell price of the home, homes listed for $300,000 and under may not be worth the investment of professional photography.  A session can cost upwards of $300, not to mention the editing and time that goes into setting everything up.

Time. Hiring a photographer and scheduling a shoot with editing and photo transfer can take time. If you’re in a hurry to get a home on the market, you may not be willing to wait 1-3 weeks for professional photos.

In the end, the decision must be made by the agent.  Real estate training and networking can allow you to ask other agents their experiences with hiring a professional photographer. It may be helpful to list out pros and cons for each listing to decide whether photography would benefit the sale. When executed correctly, professional photography can be a powerful tool to advertise a home’s finest assets. Experienced professionals can make an ordinary home look extraordinary while maintaining the home’s integrity. Make sure to read reviews on photographers and take a deep dive into their work to confirm that they convey the look you’re going for, or the look and feel that you think would help your property sell best.

Wondering if a switch might be right for you? Give us a shout and learn more.

SCHEDULE A CHAT

or call

(844) 355-6389

how to be a better real estate agent

How To Use Your Open House To Grow Your Business

By | Agents

Real estate agents have begun to debate on the idea of holding an open house. Many agents have abandoned the idea altogether to focus more on digital marketing efforts. Others argue that open houses bring up privacy and security concerns for sellers, while others believe the time and effort is simply not worth it. However, top realtors will attest to the advantage of an open house as an opportunity to showcase and stage the home in the best possible light. Whereas with traditional showings, it can be hard to control since buyers can come by at all times. For some, the more important benefit is the opportunity to interact directly with prospective clients. Even if the home doesn’t sell on the day of the open house, there are key opportunities for agents to grow their pipeline and potentially gain new clients.

top realtors

Prepare.

Conducting open houses can require a lot of effort and attention. Try to avoid having open houses just because the seller demands one.  According to top realtors, open houses that bring in the most traffic are newer listings that are reasonably priced and have easy access from main streets. Use your expertise to assess the situation and lay out all the pros and cons.  If you decide to conduct an open house, set some realistic expectations for prospecting clients. Decide how many guests you would like to attend and how many contacts you’d like to add to your lead list. Creating goals will motivate you to use the open house to its maximum potential. To set realistic goals, you can use the attendance results from other open houses in comparable markets or the local area. Once you are ready to begin marketing the open house:

  • Send invitations to the neighborhood and any community leaders or groups
  • Arrive early on open house day to ensure the house is ready
  • Display signs that highlight special features

Equally as important, make sure the house is in showing shape. Let your sellers know all the hard work you will be putting into marketing the open house to bring potential buyers and that they need to hold up their end of the deal by making sure the house looks its best inside and out. You can forward them these tips on how to stage their listing.

Listen To Feedback.

Open houses are a great way to gain feedback on the property about the price, condition, etc. Ask attendees for the feedback directly, or provide surveys. This information can help you take action with the seller to improve the home and sell more quickly. It’s also a great way to gain perspective of potential buyers. For example, if a family comes by who is looking to buy, but would prefer a home without a basement, you can record these notes to help you sell another home to them that fits their wants. Top realtors make sure to capture the following information from as many guests as possible.

  • How interested (if at all) are they in the property?
  • What kind of homes or properties could potentially be of interest to them? Is there something specific they are looking for?
  • Are they willing to set up an appointment with you? Are they interested in viewing additional homes?
sell real estate

Market Yourself.

Even though there may be others involved in planning the event, take full responsibility. Having your seller present may bring up unwanted emotions that could cause prospects to lose interest. By being at the center of the open house, you are in charge of meeting, talking, and answering all prospects which in turn, will foster relationships and create an open-discussion environment that will benefit both parties. Make an effort to talk to each guest privately and connect with them by asking them questions to gauge how motivated they are to buy or sell. Provide them with something to take away that not only markets the home, but you! Whether it be a flyer or a folder of information, it should promote you and highlight your successes and expertise in the industry. Always include a call to action for them to follow up with you when they are ready to buy or sell a home.

Collect Information

The best real estate training will tell you that follow up can easily make or break a sale. A timely follow up shows prospects that you are proactive, motivated, and eager to help them. A great way to collect contact information is to promise additional information on anything the prospect shows interest in learning more about. Or, place a guest book near the front door and ask each visitor to sign in. In best real estate practices, you will schedule meetings with about 25 percent of prospects who provide you with contact information.
Throughout the beginning of your career, top real estate agents recommend that you hold an open house at least once a week to grow your contact list and build name recognition in the community. When you take the time and energy to plan, organize, and execute a successful open house, you’ll be able to create a dependable flow of leads for current and future listings.

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how to be a better real estate agent

How To Stage Your Listing Like a Pro

By | Agents

Staging has become a strategic marketing process that top real estate agents have taken on in an effort to show their property in its best light possible. Successful staging results in buyers visualizing all the opportunities and inspirations the property offers and sellers closing in faster. Staging also allows you to create trends and designs that buyers may be looking for at an affordable price. The process has gained so much popularity that it has become a profession of its own.

Deep clean

Starting with the outside, remember the importance of curb appeal when your house goes on the market. It’s the first impression your potential buyers will have and the last thing they will see as they leave. Replace worn out welcome mats and sweep debris from the porch and driveway, when possible. Minimal landscaping with bushes and flowers can add a colorful fresh touch to any front yard. Think of your yard as a free advertising platform. Create a landscape that can bring positive attention and lure prospects inside.

A deep cleaning of the inside is also necessary in order to show off the best features of the interior and make prospects feel comfortable.

Kitchens and bathrooms

Kitchens and bathrooms can often make or break the sale of a home. For example, buyers are willing to pay 41% more for stainless steel appliances. Conduct some research on your target buyer and look for design inspiration on websites where they shop. Buyers in their 20s or 30s tend to shop at Restoration Hardware and West Elm, so staging your property with those designs in mind can help connect the home with their vision. For bathrooms, top realtors always recommend to stage them like a spa. White towels, bathmats, shower curtains and waffle weave robes set the mood for relaxation and give off a spa vibe.

Repair and Replace

If cleaning appliances and hardware doesn’t make it look new, then it may be time to replace. Replacing outdated fixtures is an easy way to modernize your home design without having to spend too much. Broken home items can lead potential buyers to take caution and can actually hurt your sell time.

De-personalize

The best real estate training will teach you that the key to closing a deal is by inspiring buyers to envision the home as their own. Keep personal items to a minimum or remove them altogether. If you’re worried about holes or spots on the wall where family pictures once hung, head to any craft store to buy inexpensive decor that is modern and genderless. Aside from personal items and pictures, remove all religious or political decor that could offend potential buyers or clash with a clean modern design.

Light

Dark spaces give off the feeling of negative connotations and cold space when it comes to homes. During open houses, walkthroughs, and pictures, keep the curtains pulled back, shades rolled up and allow as much natural light to shine through as possible. Heavy curtains should be replaced with lightweight neutral ones. You’ll also want to enhance dim spaces and corners of the home using lamps. A thought-out lighting strategy allows buyers to see everything they need while making rooms look larger and more inviting. Mirrors can also help reflect lighting and enhance small rooms to appear larger while creating a noticeable ambiance.

Purpose

Top real estate agents believe that rooms should clearly portray their functions. Whether it’s an office for an entrepreneur, or a formal dining room, think of an easy way to differentiate each space.  Many homes tend to have rooms that are used as storage space. Unfortunately, these do not captivate buyers and can often throw off their vision. Outline a clear purpose for each room before you begin the staging process. There are many ways to convey a purpose without spending too much money. You can turn a window nook into a reading spot with a small table and lamp. You can add pillows and curtains to a dark basement to create a private meditation escape. Giving purpose to all your rooms gives the sense of a larger home with more functionable spaces. Remember to not make them too personable but to instead inspire imagination within your buyer.

Staging can give any home life by showcasing its best assets to impress buyers and sell quickly for the highest price. Since not all real estate agents stage their homes, you’ll be at an advantage if you do so. Prospects are looking for more than a structure to live in. They’re looking to create future memories, improve their lifestyle, and build their life.

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100 commission real estate chicago

The Winter Real Estate Market: 4 Ways To Use It To Your Advantage

By | Agents

Winter is coming! A phrase that means so much more to real estate agents than to Game of Thrones fanatics. It’s November 2nd in Chicago and every Chicagoan has begun to prepare themselves for what will be an action-packed, yet bitter cold, holiday season. People become so wrapped up in the everyday madness that communication goes unanswered and business can sometimes go radio silent. Many agents use these next 3 months as down-time and travel. Some even become disengaged with the lack of movement in their pipeline. But top real estate agents use this time to strategize, analyze, and make the moves that will set them up to have a successful and busy start in the new year.

Events/Life changes

The holiday season is known to host more events and parties than any other time of year. Take advantage of this and utilize those networking skills and proven strategies at your holiday office party (link to networking blog). Look for local charitable events to get involved in. Keeping yourself busy with meeting new people will allow you to focus and grow your database of contacts. The holiday season is also known for it’s abundance of “life changes”. Proposals, babies, divorces, retirements, marriage, and promotions. Keep a record and timeline of your network’s life changes and follow up where you see fit. Helping people through these milestones leaves a lasting impact and generates positive referrals.

best real estate brokerage to work for

New brokerages

Take the time to reflect on your career and the progress you’ve made along the way. Are you happy with your bottom line? Do you have the team you deserve to support you through your monthly highs and lows? Are you in an environment of consistent learning?  Look into other brokerage models that may better serve your journey. The Chicago real estate brokerage market is diverse. 100% commission brokerages have been growing in popularity and disrupting the industry by placing the agent in the center. Set up calls and meetings with your top 5 brokerages and feel them out to see if there is potential opportunities. Even if you choose to stay where you’re at,  learning more about the changing brokerage model can only benefit your future decisions. Stay informed.

Marketing / Branding

The holiday season brings more people online than any other time of year. Why? There is a variety of reasons as to why the consumer is spending an average of 2 hours every day online during the holiday. Most stats point to holiday shopping and falling victim to the ever-rotating propaganda of the “Holiday Sale”.  Take advantage of the thriving commerce and plan to post relevant content regularly to get in front of potential future clients. Even if your content is not real estate-oriented, it’s important to connect with your audience in one way or another.

Companies spend months working on their holiday campaigns that will advertise during this season and attempt to attract the active consumer. Take note! These campaigns are filled with proven strategy and mass amounts of money. Analyzing brands’ selling strategy can give you new ideas and insight into how you can plan your own.

We know the average consumer is exposed to around 5-10 thousand advertisements daily. To stand out, branding has become an important component to attracting the buyer. Take the time to reevaluate your branding and if necessary, re-brand yourself to stand out and win your audience in the new year. Pay attention to trends and what kind of ideas and concepts have been attracting your target clients.

Education

Every successful real estate agent has taken the initiative to continue their education in one regard. You don’t have to physically register for classes to continue your education. Online classes and webinars serve as great platforms to expand your knowledge on any given real estate topic. You can also take your learnings to create white papers that will live on your website and serve as an information source to your clients.  For example, if you are selling homes in a city known for its colonial style, it may be beneficial for you to take a colonial design course to learn more about the meaning behind the structures and designs.

With these initiatives, you may find that your “slow season” is in fact not slow at all. Being proactive during the holidays will empower you to set yourself up and hit the ground running in the new year. In a time where others take off, use these tips to motivate you to reflect on your business and expand your strategy.  Use this season to your advantage and enjoy all the cheer it brings.

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How to be a better real estate agent

Top 5 Tools Every Broker Needs

By | Agents

A new year means it’s time to identify new tools and technology that could benefit your business in 2018 and beyond. Top realtors will tell you the importance of tools that save time. Time is money in the real estate industry. Tools to help agents become more efficient are becoming easier to use and access every day. Having a stack of effective marketing tools will help you generate more leads and showcase your personal brand in front of potential prospects. Also, staying organized will allow you to stay on top of all your conversations and communications to properly walk prospects through a customer acquisition journey.

Google Alerts

Google Alerts is a content change detection and notification service, offered by Google. Any time that new content is created, or existing content is updated on your chosen topics, you will receive an email notification with a link to access the article, journal, blog etc. Use these alerts to stay on top of industry content that relates to you. For example, you can choose Chicago neighborhoods that you want to learn more about or want to monitor any and all information published about them.  Or on the contrary, you can use google to monitor any mentions of you, your business, or brokerage. This is a great way to find good reviews on yourself that you may not have known about.

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Mailchimp

Aside from the platform being very user friendly, it’s free! Mailchimp is a great marketing platform that lets you automate email campaigns to segmented groups of clients and prospects. You can create a signup form that lives on your website and promotes interested prospects to sign up with contact information to be contacted by you. You can also target prospects by buying interest and send campaigns and information that is valuable to them. For example, if you create an email list of prospects who are looking to move to Lincoln Park, you can send content on new listings or information on how the neighborhood is improving. After placing a client into a home, stay in touch and ask for referrals by occasionally sending them useful content and maintaining an open relationship.

DocuSign

A major component of every real estate training program is how to stay organized with contracts and appropriate documentation. DocuSign is an online service that provides a  fast and secure way to sign, send and store documents in a cloud. All of your contracts, proposals, and projects can be easily accessible and you can monitor when they are opened, viewed, and signed by clients. You can easily share your documents with anyone involved in the sales process and they are able to access them from any mobile or computer device allowing you get documents to clients, anywhere at anytime.

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Accompany (for Gmail)

With the various ways of communication these days, learning to be a better real estate agent means learning to organize and stay on top of your conversations.  Successful real estate agents know that email is a critical part of doing business. Majority of conversation and documents are communicated via email. Accompany for Gmail pulls information from all over the web to give you a detailed profile on every contact in your inbox. Everything you need to know about the sender will pop up right next to their message. You can hover over anyone’s name to learn more about them and help you write better, more personalized emails without having to google and seek out information. Accompany provides info on:

-Bios and links to their social media.

-Where they work, what they do and a brief history of their career

-Their company overview

-Recent news and press coverage on them and their organization

-Shared connections

-Links to email history and meetings you have with them

-Notepad for important facts or details you may want to record about them

Canva

Canva has long dominated the DIY design space.  The web based site offers hundreds of modern design templates for social media, presentations, online ads, flyers and just about any other marketing material you can think of or need. They also give you graphics and fonts to design your own from scratch. Whether you need content for Instagram or a long-form asset, like an ebook or guide, Canva can help your brand design remain consistent, yet unique without paying for a designer.

Learning to become a better real estate agent means finding what works for you and creating your own best practices. These tools have been recommended from top realtors, but ultimately it comes down to you incorporating them into your business to become more effective and close more deals. Identifying your goals and business objectives can help you best pick the tools that may be most useful for you.

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5 Tips to Crush Your Next Networking Event

By | Agents

You will quickly learn from top realtors, that networking is an integral part of driving your business. Although to most, events filled with strangers chattering over free cocktails can seem daunting and even a tad overwhelming, being more strategic about these events can lead to effective career development networking.

There is more to networking than just showing up to an event with some business cards to have a drink.  When you prepare for your networking events with intent and drive with action, networking becomes a powerful way to learn and understand this business better, and also a doorway to new opportunities. Pursuing new education and learning opportunities is a part of any growing career, however with real estate, learning alone will not necessarily create opportunities. Tapping into a network of investors, agents, potential clients, and community leaders will be extremely beneficial to the growth and development of your career. These 5 tips can help you maximize your next networking event.

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Have a plan.

Before you embark into any networking event, you should always have a gameplan. Even if it’s a quick brainstorm on how to maximize your time or a mental note on the list of people you want to meet and transform into customers, mentors, and referral sources. Many events have groups where you can see attendees and speakers. Be sure to do your research and take note of any notable people you want to connect with. When thinking about your potential conversations, rather than trying to impress or overshadow people, focus on your area of expertise and provide insight on what you know best.

Build rapport.

Top real estate leaders follow the principle of elicitation. Elicitation is the act of gathering intelligence and detail by getting people to talk and more importantly; learning to listen. Being able to capture details and open them into greater context will help you form a relationship with the potential client and also help you refine your selling strategy to target their interests and needs. The more that you know about them, the better you can help them. It will also help you build rapport. Successful real estate agents define rapport as a prerequisite for closing deals. Rapport defines as “a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well”. A real estate client can not be defined by any single type of personality. Which is why in the real estate industry, building rapport is vidal in helping you learn how to communicate with every personality type and walk of life.

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Don’t ignore other industry professionals.

Successful agents not only build a pipeline of clients, but also a strong network of peer agents that they can learn from and work with. Engaging with other real estate professionals at networking events can open up opportunities to learn about new marketing information and innovations or tools your industry peers are using to find success. Make it a point to follow your new connections online presence to analyze their strategies and learn from them. Making a point to meet up for coffee or drinks is also a proactive way to stay connected and strengthen your relationships with the people in your industry.

Make a point to locally give back or get involved.

Being an active participant in your community has benefited the career growth of top realtors. Community involvement can expand your pipeline and grow your knowledge of neighborhoods and the type people who live in them. While networking, seek out community leaders that may be part of or run local organizations and charities.
Ideas on how to get involved:

  • Volunteer: Spending time with local groups and organizations is a great way to give back while meeting leaders of the community. You can even keep it within the industry and seek out a local chapter of Habitat for Humanity. People appreciate positive community work and it also serves as great content to share your initiative on your website or social media.
  • Education: Whether partnering with schools for career days or attending local colleges to speak at real estate classes, engaging with students who are interested in learning about real estate is a powerful way to become a thought leader in your space and community. Even hosting online tutorials and live Q and A is a great way to engage potential clients.

Follow Up.

After the handshakes, well drinks, and weather talk you’re left with a stack of business cards. When you accept someone’s card try to write down an important connection on the back for follow up.  After the event, turn your networking efforts and notes into an accessible database of valuable contacts. Timing is everything. The longer you leave your new contacts unattended, the harder it will be to stay top of mind with them.

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Rise of The 100% Brokerage: Is It For You?

By | Agents

Whether you’ve just passed your real estate test or you’ve been working in the industry for years, choosing the right brokerage is a decision that will require you to determine how you envision your career unfolding and what resources you want and need to help get you there.

The new generation of 100% commission brokerages have made their presence known in the industry and are beginning to attract top tier talent with their favorable model, a model that has put the traditional brokerage into question and has begun to define the future of the industry and its agents. Before, real estate agents were joining brokerages to rely on their powerful marketing tactics to bring in leads. Now, the shift to social media and online marketing has given new power to the agent to create their own successful sales.

Traditionally, real estate agents and brokerages agree to a percentage split of the gross commission earned. The split is dependent on variables that reflect the services the broker or agent provides. It’s not uncommon that real estate agents give up to 60% of their commission to their associated brokerage. With the 100% commission model, the agent receives their entire commission earned. The agent then is only responsible to pay a monthly set fee that is agreed upon with the brokerage. This model has not only allowed agents to keep the majority of their commission, but these 100% commission brokerages are concurrently providing their agents with the training, resources, and networking they need to close more deals, meet more people, and become more effective in doing so.

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For the agent looking for their first brokerage:

Until now, it has been common knowledge that agents usually do not stay with their first brokerage for very long.  Reasons vary from low commission agreements to lack of support. Many agents do not fully understand brokerage expectations and regulations before signing on and end up spending more time trying to fit into their mold rather than growing their sales pipeline. 100% commission brokerages have been taking the steps to develop the best real estate training programs that can guide new agents to success. After all, the model is most successful when the agent is consistently closing deals, growing their commissions, expanding their networks and referring new brokers into the model with them.

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For the experienced agent thinking about making the switch:

When deciding on making the switch to a 100% brokerage there are many factors to take into consideration. By now, you’ve built your client base up to where referrals are an important part of your business. With the 100% brokerage model, your full commission will go in your pocket, allowing you to benefit most off of your growing deals. You are able to run business with your client as you see fit without having to stress about the percentage your brokerage will be claiming.  As a seasoned professional, you understand your business best. With 100% brokerages, you are your own boss and are in control of making the decisions that affect you without policies and procedures to hold you back. For example, many traditional brokerages claim to take a percent of their earned commission to use towards advertising and lead generation. However, with social media and online marketing platforms, agents are able to generate their own, highly targeted leads at a fraction of the price. Take the creative control and brand yourself instead of trying to fit within a brokerage’s brand guidelines and rules.

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Independence

Whether you are new to the industry or a tenured professional, independence is key to an agent’s success. Many traditional brokerages mandate weekly sales meeting and office hours that create a standardized work environment for agents. This can impede the agent’s independence and ability to build their pipeline. With the 100% brokerage, agents are given the tools they need to continually learn and grow, and the freedom and independence to build the workday that works best for them. The training provided is not a one size fits all, yet a real estate training that will teach you how to market yourself, fill your pipeline and maximize your close.

Today’s real estate consumer expects to be treated like an individual. Traditional brokerages have systemized processes and procedures that create a worn out, outdated experience for the client. As an agent, your role is more important in creating personalized service for your clients. 100% brokerages allow you to do this without obliging you to follow predated guidelines.

Choosing the right brokerage is important because it will not only have an effect on your bottom line, but your career and your future within the industry. Finding the best real estate brokerage to work for means looking for a hybrid of modern real estate training that not only gives you the education and best practices, but teaches you to leverage your network through technology and smart networking.

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Real Estate in 2007 vs. 2016: What to Expect Now and In the Future

By | Property Management

In 2007 and 2008, the so-called real estate bubble burst, leading to a housing recession, millions of homeowners being underwater on their mortgages (they owed more than their houses were worth), and a spike in foreclosures.

Nearly a decade later, what’s changed? Sub-prime loans are no longer given nearly as freely, and there’s been a rise in FHA loans that allow home buyers to put down a smaller down payment, which some may suggest will lead to the same problems as before–people purchasing homes they can’t quite afford, and missing payments soon after signing the papers.

What can we expect, as property managers and landlords, to come of the real estate market in the next few years? Well, that depends on who you ask, really. Let’s take a look at some of the trends in the housing and rental markets.

New Construction and Home Prices Will Go Back to “Normal Rates”

For several years, growth of home sales and new buildings have been slow, but when you think about it, that’s a good thing. For nearly a decade, the trends in the housing and real estate markets have been scattered at best, and now, things will be leveling out. Home prices are expected to return to more “normal rates” that are consistent with a balanced market. After the devastating effects of the housing bust of a decade ago, it’ll be interesting to see how the more “normal” approach will pan out.

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The Generation Gap of Home Ownership Will Even Out

It’s no secret that right now, Millennials aren’t the majority group buying up a lot of property on the market. However, they do represent a good chunk of home buyers, and that’s expected to keep rising. In 2015, young adults represented about one third of home buyers with two million sales. This upward trend is will likely continue, with adults between the ages of 25 and 24 becoming first time home buyers next year. Additionally, other generations will contribute more to the housing market as well, with GenXers and older baby boomers who are entering retirement—two groups of people where many of them are already homeowners—may enter the selling AND buying markets. GenXers will be most likely looking to upgrade, while baby boomers might be looking to downsize and lower their cost of living.

Mortgage Rates and Rents Are On the Rise

Just because home buying is expected to continue to grow, though, it will come with a price. Mortgage rates will likely rise more in the next year than they have in the past several years. These higher rates will drive monthly payments up, and debt-to-income ratios are expected to rise as well. In the same vein, rents will also go up. According to Realtor Mag, more than 85 percent of the nation’s markets have rents that exceed 30 percent of the income of renters. In other words, renting is expensive, and it’s only going to get worse. For many people, it’s more affordable and logical to buy a home than it is to continue renting. Unfortunately, many would-be buyers won’t qualify due to low credit scores, limited savings, and a lack of stable income. The old catch-22, as it were.

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New Home Construction Will Focus More on Affordability

Builders know that they have to appeal to people who are ready to buy, and with the rise of younger buyers shopping for a home, one key factor that builders are keeping in mind now is affordability. To cater to first-time buyers, builders are focusing on building more affordable (read: smaller, fewer luxury finishes) new homes, so that buyers can make payments.

Demand for Housing Will Continue With Slow but Steady Growth

Housing activity at the end of 2015 made it the best year for sales of single family homes since 2007—an impressive feat.  Roughly 501,000 homes were sold last year, up `14.5 percent from 2014, and the numbers are expected to keep rising. Monthly gains were strongest in the midest (up 31.6 percent from November to December 2015), but the average gain is more in line with the number of homes that were sold in the South and West — a lower number than the Midwest. Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist at Trulia, said in an email to U.S. News that the grows reflects “a slow but steady increase in demand from homebuyers as well as increasing confidence of home builders.”
That is, it’s safe to expect that more homes will be bought, and more homes will be built.

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Where Do We Go from Here?

With real estate sales expected to rise, and rental prices expected to soar, what’s the best option for investment property owners here? If you’re already involved in owning investment properties, you may want to reassess what you are pricing your units at, and if you’re considering getting into the industry, it might be wise to check with neighborhood advisors in the areas you’re looking to buy in to see if the investment will provide good returns.

Not sure where to turn? Contact Lofty anytime. We’re a property management company in Chicago, helping our clients with every aspect of the process of getting into investment property ownership so that they can live the life they deserve. Call us today to learn more about all we can do for you.

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What is Considered Taxable When You Own Rental Properties

What is Considered Taxable When You Own Rental Properties?

By | Property Management

If you’re considering getting into investing in rental property, one thing to consider—beyond all of the additional responsibilities you’ll take on by doing so—is how owning investment property in Chicago will affect your taxes. When you rent out apartments, condos, or houses, your taxes can become complicated. Repairs and upgrades may or may not be deductible, and any money you make on rent will need to be claimed on your taxes. Beyond that, what should you know about how owning investment properties affects your taxes? As a property management company in Chicago, we at Lofty do our best to help our clients succeed with their investments, and part of that means making sure they understand how investing in property will alter the way they do their taxes. This guide will help you prepare yourself for what’s to come when you start working with property investments.

Deep clean

Starting with the outside, remember the importance of curb appeal when your house goes on the market. It’s the first impression your potential buyers will have and the last thing they will see as they leave. Replace worn out welcome mats and sweep debris from the porch and driveway, when possible. Minimal landscaping with bushes and flowers can add a colorful fresh touch to any front yard. Think of your yard as a free advertising platform. Create a landscape that can bring positive attention and lure prospects inside.

A deep cleaning of the inside is also necessary in order to show off the best features of the interior and make prospects feel comfortable.

What is Considered Taxable When You Own Rental Properties

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Is Everything You Collect from Tenants Taxable?

Not quite. Yes, rental income is taxable, but you’re allowed to reduce your rental income reporting by subtracting expenses that you incur from preparing your property for rental, as well as maintaining it. You’ll report the income as you would any other income—for instance, any rent you collect during 2016 would be claimed on your 2016 taxes. Even if you receive a check for January 2017 in December 2016, you would still claim it for 2016 earnings. If you receive a deposit for first and last month’s rent, it’ll be taxed in the same year, not as separate income in different years.

Security deposits, however, are not included in your taxable income, since you’ll be (theoretically) returning them to your tenants at the end of their lease. If the deposit is merely “last month’s rent,” it’s taxable since it’s just advance rent, but security deposits that are returned aren’t considered taxable income. If, at the end of a tenant’s lease, you keep (any or all of) their security deposit, you will then have to count it as taxable income.

What Expenses Can Be Deducted from Rental Income?

Luckily for investment property owners in Chicago, there are a number of deductible expenses that can save you money when it comes time to pay the tax man. Expenses such as advertising the unit, cleaning and maintenance, homeowner association dues/condo fees, insurance premiums, local property taxes, pest control, trash removal fees, repairs, utilities, and more are all counted as deductible expenses on investment properties. To learn more about all of the eligible deductions, it can be helpful to work with a professional CPA.

What If Your Property is Sometimes Owner-Occupied?

If you own a vacation home that you rent out for part of the year, you should be aware that, in order to deduct losses on the property, you can’t use the property for more than 14 days or 10 percent of the days the unit is rented during the year, whichever is greater. This also applies to a piece of property, say, a house, that you bought and lived in for a few years before renting out—if you still plan on occupying it for part of the year, you’ll need to work with your account to figure out exactly how your taxes will be calculated.

How Do I Report Rental Income and Activity on My Tax Return?

As an individual, you’ll have to report the rental income as, well, rental income. However, you don’t have to do it on your personal taxes. Most landlords establish LLCs, or limited liability companies, for their rental properties. LLCs offer liability protection so that you can keep your personal and business assets separated.  This way, only that bank account, or that LLC, is liable for debts associated with the property. This is beneficial because then, your personal finances won’t be affected by problems with your rentals. LLCs also offer tax benefits, by allowing you to pass tax consequences of your rental properties on to your personal taxes—in other words, you won’t have to deal with corporate ownership taxation. Your personal finances will be safe, and you won’t be double-taxed on your properties.

Need Help With Your Rental Properties?

Getting help with the transition into investment property ownership is something a lot of people seek out, and for good reason. Going it alone can be stressful and frustrating, and it can be beneficial to have someone on your side to explain the various processes of investing in property. At Lofty, we understand the intricacies and difficulties that new landlords face when they get started with rental properties. Our goal is to make your life easier—to help you sort through all of the responsibilities so that you can live the life you deserve, rather than spending countless hours on paperwork, apartment maintenance, and other busy work. If you need help with getting started on owning Chicago investment property, or you have questions about how getting started with investing will change your taxes, feel free to contact us anytime—we’re here to help!

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5 Key Things to Add to a Lease that Many New Landlords Forget

5 Key Things to Add to a Lease that Many New Landlords Forget

By | Property Management

If you’re new to the investment property game in Chicago, you’ve potentially created your apartment leases based on a few different ones you saw online or signed yourself when you were a tenant. Times change, though, and it’s important to craft lease agreements that are tailored specifically to your units as well as the most common issues that arise in the city you own investment property in. A lot of new landlords tend not to customize their leases, which can lead to problems. As a property management company in Chicago, we at Lofty understand what loopholes and gaps in lease agreements can hurt landlords and property owners, and we work to ensure that our clients are protected. When you write up your leases for your tenants, be sure to include these five key points to make sure everything is covered.

1) Who’s Responsible for Rent in Multiple-Tenant Units

If you rent units that are multiple bedrooms, be sure to put clauses in the lease that dictate that even if one person moves out, the total amount of rent will still be due. One common mistake that new landlords make is forgetting to add these clauses. This can cause problems and arguments with confused tenants, who were under the impression that if one person moves out, the remaining tenants will only be responsible for their portion. Of course, this leaves the landlord in a jam and can cause a loss of profit, so it’s essential to put a stipulation detailing how if someone moves out, the remaining tenants will still be required to cover the rest.

5 Key Things to Add to a Lease that Many New Landlords Forget

2) Clear Terms of When the Lease Starts and Ends

Some landlords forget that when they write out a lease, they will need to write in exactly when it starts and exactly when it ends. Without specific dates, a tenant may try to argue that their lease started later and therefore will end later—this can cause a landlord to run into problems stemming from showing the apartment and signing a new tenant to lease it, only to learn that the current tenant has no intention of leaving. If this happens, the landlord may be at the mercy of common law, which, at least in Chicago, tends to favor tenants. Be sure to include the specific start and end dates of your leases so that tenants don’t try to overstay their welcome or dodge rent increases.

3) What Repairs the Landlord and Tenant are Responsible For

Some tenants think that their landlords are responsible for every little repair, down to replacing burned out lightbulbs. If you want to avoid fielding phone calls about things like that, make sure that you dictate what you are responsible for and what your tenant is responsible for. Some landlords will put in a stipulation of a dollar amount—for instance, the landlord is responsible for any repairs that cost more than $25—while others simply suggest calling the property manager to discuss any maintenance issues. Whatever your preference is, make sure that your lease tells your tenants exactly how to manage any problems they have with the property.

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4) Limits on Occupancy and Subletting Rules

In the current age of short-term rental sites offering housing for vacationers in popular cities, the convenience for travelers can turn out to be a nightmare for landlords. Because these short term renters from sites like Airbnb are not background checked, it can open your tenants and your property up to vulnerabilities and damage. Be sure to write into your lease whether you will allow situations like this to happen, and if not, be sure to outline what will happen with tenants who violate the terms.

Be sure to outline who is allowed to stay in the unit, as well. Some problems arise when a tenant has someone come live with them off-lease, and then the new unauthorized “tenant” causes trouble or damages the apartment. Without regulations about who is allowed in your rental properties, the cost for solving these problems can come back to you. When you outline who can live on the premises, however, the tenant is then responsible for any issues their guests cause.

5) Illegal Activity and Eviction Grounds

Finally, many new landlords forget to put in their lease what will happen in the event of a tenant being found to be participating in illegal activity. Some tenants think that because it’s “their” space, it doesn’t matter what they do, so long as they do so indoors. However, this is not the case. If you find yourself needing to deal with a tenant who is breaking the law by, say, doing drugs in their apartment, it is much easier to do so by presenting evidence that they’re not just breaking the law, but that they’re breaking the terms of their lease and as such are voiding the validity of their rental contract.

Include outlines of what will cause tenants to be evicted, as well. This can help prevent any surprises to tenants and can help minimize conflict.

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Need Help Drafting Your Rental Agreements?

If you’re struggling with your investment properties and need help putting together a complete rental agreement that covers all of your bases, working with a property management company in Chicago can be extremely beneficial. At Lofty, we’re dedicated to working with all of our clients so that they don’t have a schedule full of busy work. We want people to enjoy owning investment properties–as such, we take care of everything from leases to maintenance to move-ins/move-outs, and everything in between, so that you can live the life you deserve. Find out more about what we do to make Chicago investment property owners’ lives easier—call us today.

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What to Do When a Tenant Leaves Your Property Severely Damaged or Destroyed

What to Do When a Tenant Leaves Your Property Severely Damaged or Destroyed

By | Property Management

It’s the part about owning investment properties and being a landlord that people dread the most—walking into a unit that someone just vacated to find it in complete and utter disrepair. Whether you were dealing with evicting a tenant or were simply renting to someone who had no regard for property that didn’t belong to them, you’ve got a mess on your hands. More irritating than that, you know that the security deposit—if there was one—isn’t going to cover everything. When a tenant smashes windows, punches holes into walls, rips up carpet, burns or stains wood floors, cracks tiles, etc., the cost to fix everything can add up unbelievably quickly. Being on the hook for the expenses isn’t fair, but if a tenant didn’t care about trashing the place, they’re probably not going to willingly offer up the cash to fix it. So what do you do?

First Things First: Document Everything and Contact Police

Take pictures and video of everything that’s been damaged. Make sure you’ve got everything—for safe measures, it can be a good idea to simply photograph the entire unit. Make sure that the photos you take are timestamped with the day and time. This can help you if you need to go to court over the damages. File a police report about the damages. This gets the paper trail started, and may even make things easier, if you can use police help to find out where the tenant’s new address is for legal proceedings.

You’ll also want to contact your insurance company and your property management company, if you have one. Like contacting the police, this starts the process of getting things started so that you can be reimbursed one way or another. Your property manager can, at the very least, take note of who the tenant is that did this, so that if you’re ever called upon for a reference, you know what to do.

What to Do When a Tenant Leaves Your Property Severely Damaged or Destroyed

Gather Bids for Repairs

Once you’ve determined all that needs to be taken care of, start contacting contractors to help you put the pieces back together. Keep copies of the bids, and proceed quickly so that you don’t lose money from having your unit vacant and unrented.  Your property management company can provide you with a list of reputable contractors. You can work on seeking restitution later on—right now, the most important thing to do is get your Chicago investment property back to its original condition. The sooner you can do this, the sooner you can start renting your properties out and earning money. Shelling out cash to fix damage someone else caused is not anyone’s idea of fun, but in the grand scheme of owning investment properties, moving past your frustration is the fastest way to get back to turning a profit. Once your properties are back in working order, then you can worry about getting reimbursed for them one way or another.

Use Security Deposit Money

Use the security deposit money to cover the repairs. Of course, if your tenant left the place destroyed, it’s likely going to cost more than their security deposit can cover. Even though your expenses will outweigh the amount of money in the deposit, you’re still required to keep a detailed list of repairs with the costs deducted so that you can show the tenant why they aren’t getting back their security deposit.

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Seek Resolution in Court, If Necessary

If there was enough damage done to the apartment, it may warrant a criminal case to be opened. Charges including criminal mischief and property damage can be filed, and the tenant who caused the damage can be punished for it. However, if the police department refuses to make an arrest, you can still follow up in civil court. You’ll have to file a lawsuit seeking compensation for the cost of the repairs for the damage. Find a good attorney for this part, as they can be the difference between you seeing the repair money or not. If the former tenants were having trouble paying rent prior to the damage, however, you may not recover much. Your outcome will depend a lot on certain case specifics.

How Can You Prevent This?

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that landlords can do to safeguard themselves. One way that some property owners help incentivize tenants leaving the premises without damaging it after an eviction or after a lease expires is to offer cash back for turning in the keys. This can encourage tenants struggling financially to duck out without causing damage, while getting a little bit of money to float themselves. It might not be the most ideal situation, but it can be beneficial in the long run if it prevents you from having to deal with expensive repairs and renovations.

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Getting Help from a Property Management Company in Chicago

If you’re having trouble with tenants or managing your properties, it can be very helpful to work with a property management company. At Lofty, we’re dedicated to helping investment property owners in Chicago take care of everything at their properties, from finding tenants to scheduling maintenance to, when necessary, dealing with damage and tenants who destroyed property. We make things easier for you so that you can live the life you deserve, rather than spending all of your time on paperwork and phone calls. To find out about how we can take some of the work off of your plate, contact us anytime.

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All About Section 8: A Guide for Owners and Renters in Chicago

All About Section 8: A Guide for Owners and Renters in Chicago

By | Property Management

Whether you’re a property owner in Chicago or someone looking for an apartment, chances are you’ve heard of Section 8, also known as Housing Choice Vouchers or HCV. The program exists to allow low-income families find quality housing within Chicago’s private market, using federal funds provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Through the program, the Chicago Housing Authority pays a portion of eligible families’ rent directly to the landlord. There is a waiting list to receive these vouchers, and names are selected from the waiting list randomly using a lottery service.

How Section 8 Apartments Are Rented

In Chicago, Section 8 tenants apply to apartments the same way any other tenant would—through the landlord’s standard application process. If they are approved by the landlord, a CHA representative will inspect the property to ensure that the unit meets basic housing quality standards.

Then, the tenant will sign the landlord’s lease and pay a predetermined portion of the rent, which is typically at least 30 percent of the family’s adjusted income. To cover the rest of the rent, the landlord enters a separate agreement with the CHA, in which the CHA agrees to pay for the balance of the rent, directly to the landlord.

In Cook County (so, in all of Chicago), landlords may not refuse to accept Section 8 tenants, as “Source of Income” is included in the Illinois Fair Housing Law’s protected classes. This resolution took effect in 2013 and was meant to encourage economically disadvantaged citizens to move toward the suburbs and decrease high concentrations of poverty-stricken areas within the city.

Landlords, can, however, reject applicants based on factors not related to their Section 8 status. For instance, if background checks or bill payment history are not up to snuff, or previous landlords cite problems with the tenant including property damage or problems with other tenants, or breaking lease terms, these can all be factors that contribute to a landlord rejection a Section 8 applicant.

All About Section 8: A Guide for Owners and Renters in Chicago

Questions Owners Might Have About the Section 8 Program

As an investment property owner in Chicago, you might have some questions about how the Section 8 housing program affects your properties:

  • How can I list my units for Section 8 renters?  Start by contacting the housing authority. They will have to approve both you as a landlord and your properties, and your units will need to be inspected. After that, you’ll be able to list your properties for those who need to rent affordable housing.
  • How much rent can I charge? You can set the rental price to be whatever you want, but it must be reasonably priced compared to your other units. If the rent is too high, you may be required to lower it to meet the needs of lower-income renters.
  • What if I have problems with my tenant? Dealing with problem tenants who are Section 8 renters will be the same as dealing with any other tenant. Unpaid rent, excessive damage, or other issues will have to follow city regulations up to and including eviction.
How Section 8 Apartments Are Rented

Answers for Tenants Using HUD Vouchers

If you’re a renter in Chicago wondering about how to qualify for and rent a Section 8 apartment, you’ll have to apply at your local housing agency. The amount you pay for rent will depend on your income and family size. Unfortunately, the waiting list for receiving Section 8 assistance may prevent you from being chosen for eligible housing immediately. However, once you are accepted, you will be able to rent in any area that has Section 8 apartments available.

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Getting Started with Section 8 Renting

If you want to start offering your properties as Section 8 units, your property management company can help. At Lofty, our goal is helping landlords achieve the best returns on their investment property, and we’ll help you work toward your goals, no matter what they are. As a property management company in Chicago, we have experience making sure that landlords are prepared for whatever might come their way, and we’ll help you get your apartments set up to pass inspection for Section 8 rentals, should you so desire.

We believe that investment property owners shouldn’t have to spend all of their time working on their properties, and we do everything we can to make sure that you live the life you deserve while being a landlord in Chicago. To learn more about all we can do for you, contact us anytime.

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Why to Consider Offering Long-Term Leases in Chicago

By | Leasing

If you own rental properties in a big city like Chicago, you know that sometimes, you’ll work with tenants who are looking to stay put for a few years, and in an effort to reduce some stress on themselves will request a longer-term lease than is standard. Instead of leasing for one year, these tenants may request to sign two, three, or even five-year leases to avoid having to move. While the initial idea may not sound so great to you—how will you earn money on the changing rental market if you’re locked into a certain rental rate for a few years—it can be very beneficial to offer extended leases to tenants. As a property management company in Chicago, we at Lofty understand the hesitance of some owners and landlords to committing to longer leases than one year. It’s important to first have your renters sign a one-year lease, and after they have established that they’re trustworthy tenants, you can consider a longer lease. We want to make sure our clients get the most out of their investments, and for that reason, we’re sharing some reasons you should consider offering long-term leases to reliable renters.

1) Guaranteed Income

Perhaps the biggest benefit of offering longer term leases to tenants is the guarantee that you’ll have rented units with guaranteed cash flow for the duration of those leases. Instead of having to worry about finding a new tenant after one year, you can relax a bit and enjoy the steady influx of profits instead of worrying about creating new listing ads, screening new tenants, preparing the rentals for new tenants, and everything else related to tenants moving in and out every year. Decreasing the amount of time you have to spend on all of that not only saves you that time (obviously), but it has the added benefit of ensuring that you won’t have to deal with any vacancies during that time. If you’re worried about signing a tenant onto a rental rate that may have you earning less profit in their second or third lease year, just imagine what the cost is of having an empty unit for a month or longer every time a tenant moves out. Letting tenants sign two year leases is the perfect happy medium—they get two years of calm comfort, knowing they’re locked into a rental rate and won’t have to move, and you get two years of steady income without the worry that the market will change so much that you’ll be losing money on their rental rate.

2) Less Heavy Maintenance Related to Turnover

Another benefit of offering longer term leases is that it can reduce the amount of moving-related maintenance that you have to do. For instance, if you are required by law to repaint every time a tenant moves out, and you have tenants moving out every single year, you’re spending a lot of money on paint (and painters, if you’re not doing the job yourself). Now add on all of the other maintenance and cleaning that you have to do when tenants leave—imagine doing all of that work less frequently. Even if you’re working with a property management company that takes care of all the work that needs to be done, simply not having to do so is still the easier and more convenient choice. When tenants stay in your properties longer, you get the benefit of needing to do less work on your buildings.

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3) You Can Focus On Other Investments

When you’ve freed up the time that you would spend writing new listing ads, showing the units, and screening tenants, you can use that time to work on other investments.

With the steady cash flow from long-term leases and the time to look at other properties, you may find your investment property portfolio growing much faster than you thought it would. This can lead to even more profits and opportunity to invest in other Chicago properties. Growing your own business is a huge benefit of offering long term leases. The two may not sound like they are related on the surface, but it tends to have a domino effect.

4) Better Tenants Who Are More Trustworthy

Finally, offering long term leases tends to attract trustworthy tenants. People who are more destructive or disrespectful to rental properties typically look for shorter term leases so that at the end of their time, they can cut and run without any adverse effects. If you’ve got a prospective tenant asking to sign a contract for multiple years, however, they’re indicating that they’ve got a reason to want to stick around for a while. Whether it’s a locked-in rate or even just a great location for them, people who rent for a long time tend to view the property as something they should treat well. In general, tenants who stay in one place for many years may be more trustworthy and cause less damage than those who are looking for shorter term leases.

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How to Know What’s Right for Your Properties

If you’re not sure if offering long term leases is right for you, working with a property management company in Chicago can help. At Lofty, our goal is to make sure that our clients are getting the most return on their investments so that they can live the life they deserve, and we can help you figure out the best ways to market, rent, and maintain your Chicago rentals. To learn more about all we can do for you, contact us anytime. 

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Things to Include in Your Chicago Rental Ads

5 Things to Include in Your Chicago Rental Ads to Edge Out Competition

By | Leasing

When you own investment properties in Chicago and are on the hunt for the best tenants to rent to, it’s important to post great ads to entice potential renters. Standing out against your competitors’ ads is easier than you might think—-it comes down to including five things that show to tenants that you’re the one they should be renting from and not anyone else. As a property management company in Chicago, we at Lofty know that some ads will be more successful than others, and we strive to help our clients draw in the best renters possible. Follow these tips to edge out your competition and find the best people to rent to.

5) A Headline that Avoids All Cliches

When you scan through rental listings, you likely see the same headlines over and over, with emphasis placed on the same key phrases—”Great location,” “Going fast,” “Recently rehabbed,” etc. While these help renters distinguish run of the mill places, they’re a bit empty and can be a lot stronger to catch someone’s eye. Instead of simply noting where the rental is and that it might be in a popular neighborhood, point out things that are great about the property itself. Features like hardwood floors, in-unit laundry, or a dishwasher are all points to note about properties that can draw in interested renters. That’s because not all of the rentals in Chicago have these features, and for many tenants, higher end amenities are on their “must have” lists. Include these phrases in your listings and you may find that you get more phone calls about seeing the place.

Things to Include in Your Chicago Rental Ads

4) Staging

Too often, rental listings include photos of rental properties that are clearly still being lived in. While that’s okay, if absolutely necessary, it’s much more appealing to a renter to see what the apartment looks like at its best. If you’re really trying to get your properties rented quickly and to great tenants, one way to entice them is to consider staging the units so that the photos you use in listings look fantastic. Staging may involve purchasing temporary furniture that you can keep in storage (or use for staging other properties), but it makes the apartment look like something aspirational, rather than showing off some other tenant’s old couch and cluttered bedroom. Making your property look extremely well maintained is a great way to get people interested—especially when you think about all of the other properties being listed with dim photos that look like they were taken on a last-minute basis.

3) Outdoor Photos

Another tipping point for renters is being able to envision what their new neighborhoods will look like. Will they live on a tree-lined side street or a bustling intersection? Of course, not every tenant will want one or the other, so posting photos of what the outside of the property looks like as well as its immediate surrounding area can help people decide whether it’s what they are looking for. Many investment property owners think it’s enough to just post photos of their properties’ interiors, but this can cause you to waste a lot of time showing units in busy neighborhoods to tenants who ultimately want peace and quiet, or showing units on a quiet street filled with families and children to people who want to be closest to the latest nightlife openings.

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2) Selling Points

Thinking back to the headline, if you include features of your properties that other property owners in Chicago aren’t offering, you may find that more and more people are interested in renting from you. For example, utilities being included in the rent is something that people will jump at the chance to have, as it cuts down the amount of bills they have to organize every month.

Permit parking or a covered lot are also great selling points, particularly in Chicago where parking is often at a premium. Include the features that tipped you to purchase the building in the first place, as those same features will appeal to renters.

1) A Call to Action

Finally—and this seems almost too simple to include as a tip—it’s important to include a call for your potential renters to get in touch with you. Too many rental ads simply list the facts: cross streets, price, and a bullet list of amenities. If you’re trying to get a property rented fast, make it easier for your potential tenants. Include a call to action at the end of your listing such as when to call, who to ask for, or when showings will take place. Phrases like “Stop by Thursday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. to see this unbeatable apartment,” or “Ask for Tony when you call to schedule your showing” can help tenants feel like if they don’t do so, they may miss out on your rentals.

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Getting Help With Your Listings

As an investment property owner, you’ve probably got a to-do list a mile long. At Lofty, we understand that things get pushed off all the time, and when you’re on a time crunch it’s easy to cut corners. As a property management company in Chicago, we want to help you. We’ll help you write the most effective ads possible for your listings, and we’ll also help you screen tenants. After your new renters move in, we can take care of maintenance requests, tracking down rent, and so much more. At Lofty, we strive to get rid of your busy work so that you can live the life you deserve. To learn more about all we can do for you, contact us anytime.

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how to prevent mold in my chicago apartment

What You Should Know About Finding Mold in Chicago Investment Properties

By | Property Management

As an investment property owner in Chicago, you’ve likely come across a deal at least once in your career that sounded great at first, only to turn into a mess after you found out about electrical problems, a shaky, non-level foundation, or mold within the property. Whether you saw the sale through or walked away, chances are you learned some lessons about damage levels or other issues in properties that make your investment worth it, as well as when you should throw in the towel.

When it comes to mold in properties, it can be an insidious problem, and one that is difficult to “diagnose” and solve, but in the long run, making sure your property is mold-free can save you a lot of trouble. As a property management company in Chicago, we at Lofty understand that mold can be a frustrating issue to deal with in investment properties, whether you’re negotiating a sale or you’ve already purchased a building. For that reason, we’ve compiled a list of aspects to consider when purchasing a property that has any mold–what you need to know, what’s fixable and how to go about doing so, and when you should walk away from a sale.

What Is Household Mold, How Does it Grow in Chicago Investment Properties, and How Can You Prevent It?

Before you get worked up and nervous, it’s important for us to point out that while no one wants to hear that their property has mold in it, it’s not the end of the line for your building. In other words, finding mold doesn’t mean you’ll have to level the building and start from scratch to truly get rid of it.

Mold, if you don’t already know, is a simple microscopic organism that exists everywhere— they’re required for the breakdown of organic matter, and they help recycle nutrients back into the environment. Great when it’s outdoors (except for those of you lucky ones with seasonal allergies!), but not great at all when it’s indoors.

Molds reproduce extremely quickly, which is why managing and getting rid of it can be a difficult job. The spores are miniscule, and unfortunately, can grow on just about any surface, which makes homes and interiors the perfect spot for them—they can grow on wood, paper, carpet, dust, insulation, fabrics, and near windows, just to name a few spots.

Mold doesn’t mean you’ve got a dirty building, though—many spores are invisible to the naked eye, and you’d never notice if your tenants or any pets are tracking them in from outside. However, they can grow and take hold of a building before you know it.

Some of the health problems it can cause include:

  • Allergy-like symptoms, such as sneezing, a runny nose, itchy and red eyes, and skin rashes.
  • Asthma attacks
  • Throat and lung irritation

Being exposed to mold most often causes a reaction that’s similar to the feeling of being sick with a cold, so it’s important to make sure you do everything you can to prevent it spreading.

Mold Prevention

The best thing you can do prevent mold within your properties is to make sure that moisture is controlled. Respond to any requests of water damage or broken windows promptly, as well as any basement leaking or other issues that could cause mold growth, like a leaking roof. Make sure your buildings are well-ventilated as well, so that moisture that does accumulate can evaporate.

What to Do If You Find Mold in a Chicago Investment Property

What to Do If You Find Mold in a Chicago Investment Property

If you or a tenant finds mold on the premises of one of your buildings, you’ll need to work with mold remediation companies, and even possibly the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to determine the best course of action. Discuss with your property management company when to bring in mold cleanup contractors, as they’re likely already working with reputable businesses in your area.

As a landlord, you’re required to ensure that your rentals are habitable, which means that unless the cause of the mold is tenant behavior, you’ll be responsible for getting rid of it at your own cost.

To find out whether there is mold in an apartment building or other investment property you are considering, inspectors can conduct an assessment, and there are also do-it-yourself mold testing kits available. Depending on the severity of the mold’s takeover, repairs can be done at an affordable rate. However, if you’ve yet to purchase the property, how can you know if it’s worth spending the money to repair mold issues, or if you should just abandon the sale?

Should You Walk Away from Purchasing Investment Property in Chicago that has Mold?

One way you can safeguard yourself when negotiating a deal on a property that’s been found to have mold is to ask for contingencies to be added to your written offer. These contingencies allow you to walk away from the sale if major problems are found—or, alternatively. Purchase at a reduced price or require the seller to cover the repairs.

If you find visible mold, more extensive testing should be done to find the moisture source, seeking out where the problem truly lies. While mold can be fixed, the root of the issue can be an indication that much more expensive repairs will be necessary. For instance, poor drainage, roof or foundation problems, faulty plumbing, and flooding damage can all be very expensive to mediate and repair.

Inspectors will be able to determine the extent of any mold damage, as well as what kind of mold is within the property. From there, you can work with your property management company to determine what the relative cost would be to repair the associated issues.

Whether you stay the course or walk away will come down to your own preferences as well as whether you see value in a property even with required maintenance costs added to the buying price. Your Chicago property management company will be able to offer some insight as well, based on previous experience with repairs related to mold problems.

If you do decide to walk away from a specific property, worry not—your property managers will be able to steer you toward a comparable, or perhaps even better, property investment opportunity.

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Need More Advice?

Whether you’re dealing with mold issues in a property you already own, or you’re considering purchasing investment property and you just learned that there are mold issues to be dealt with, a property management company will be able to lend a hand. At Lofty, our goal is to help property investors make the best decisions for their business, as well as take care of the issues that are pressing with potential or current investments. Maybe you don’t have the time to schedule all of the maintenance associated with mold remediation, or perhaps you don’t live in the area and can’t be on site when contractors are there. Whatever the case may be, we’ll take care of everything so that you can do other important work and live the life you deserve.

For more information about how Lofty can help you with your Chicago investment properties and beyond, contact us today.

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How to Spot Up-and-Coming Chicago Neighborhoods to Purchase Investment Properties In

How to Spot Up-and-Coming Chicago Neighborhoods to Purchase Investment Properties In

By | Real Estate Investment

The trick to turning the biggest profits on investment properties is, like many other investments, buy low and sell high. In other words, find apartment buildings and other properties in neighborhoods that are currently attracting tenants enough to make the investment worthwhile, but perhaps isn’t SO popular yet that the property is too costly. Spotting these up-and-coming neighborhoods can feel a bit like a gamble, but when you know what to look for in neighborhoods that have great properties but not a lot of draw, it’s easier to get a feel for what’s to come. As a property management company in Chicago, we at Lofty are dedicated to helping property investors find the best investments. Here’s our guide for helping you determine which neighborhoods show promise.

Check Out What Businesses Are Moving In

If empty storefronts have plagued an area, but more and more businesses are beginning to sign leases there, it can be a sign of what’s to come. A rapid increase of restaurants or brewpubs, coffee shops, bars, boutiques, and more can be an indication that a neighborhood is on the rise. Likewise, if more chain offerings move in—think places like Starbucks or Target—that can also bring more people to an area. People enjoy living close to a variety of businesses, and the busier a neighborhood gets, the more popular it becomes.

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Take a Look at the Transportation Offerings

If a train station or multiple public transportation stops are nearby a lot of buildings, it can be beneficial to look at those buildings as potential investments.

Many city dwellers rely on public transportation and will seek out housing that is nearest their most-used train or bus lines. If the neighborhood has a lot of public transit options and a lot of new businesses are moving in, this can be a sign that it’s time to buy.

Find Out if Any Large Companies Are Setting Up Camp There

Another thing that can bring a lot of people to an area of the city is when a big company, like Google, for instance, announced they’ll be opening an office there. Employees look for nearby housing, and that’s where your investment properties will come in handy for them. Take a look at news about businesses moving in, and maybe you’ll find some invaluable information.

Research the Average “DOM” or Days on Market Rate for Properties

In tough neighborhoods, when properties sell, they may sit on the market for several months. As those neighborhoods heat up, however, those properties sell faster and faster. This is a huge indication of how an area is doing. Check with real estate agents and your property management company in Chicago to learn about the trends in various neighborhoods in the city. Look for declining DOM rates—the faster properties are selling, the easier of a time you’ll have renting these properties out (and the higher demand means you’ll be able to price your rentals higher, as well).

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Look at the Neighborhood’s Demographics

Up-and-coming neighborhoods in many cities, but especially Chicago, are known for having a high concentration of “creative-type” residents. Because that line of work isn’t known for its fat paychecks (usually), people who rely on art, music, and similar livelihoods tend to find neighborhoods with relatively low rent. However, because these groups of people tend to have a following of people who want to be where the “cool” things are, those areas tend to increase in popularity, leading to increases in rent. Then, the whole cycle starts over. For instance, think of Wicker Park in Chicago about 15 years ago, or Logan Square five years ago. Both neighborhoods were the cheap, hip places to live, and nowadays, Wicker Park is home to booming businesses and hundreds of families, while Logan Square is currently seeing rent hikes and new restaurant openings on a near-weekly basis. Where will the next hot spot be?

Investigate City Improvement Plans

Look to city plans to see where people might gravitate to in a year or two. Are new parks being constructed? Schools? Trails? Amenities that people enjoy being near will cause an increase in popularity in an area, so try and check to see if the city has anything planned in the neighborhoods you’re looking to buy in. For instance, the creation of the 606 elevated trail is leading to an increase in growth on the blocks directly surrounding it.

Proximity to Other Popular Areas

Finally, look at what’s popular now, then look at the areas surrounding it. Where Wicker Park was popular, now it’s neighbors to the west (Bucktown and Logan Square) are heating up. Logan Square is pricing some residents out, who are now flocking to places like Humboldt Park, Avondale, and Hermosa. Take

Need Help With Your Investments?

As a property management company in Chicago, we at Lofty are dedicated to helping people make the best investments. That means providing sound advice on where to buy and what’s heating up, as well as helping you get the best returns on your investment properties in Chicago. We’re a full service property management company, and we’re ready to help you take care of all the minutiae related to owning investment properties, so that you can live the life you deserve rather than working constantly. To learn more about any of our services, contact us anytime!

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5 Most Helpful Aspects of Using a Chicago Property Management Company

By | Property Management

Owning investment property in Chicago is an exciting and busy adventure—sometimes too busy. From making sure your units aren’t vacant for too long between tenants to finding great tenants to occupy them, scheduling regular maintenance, collecting rent checks, performing upgrades and everything else, it’s easy to let owning rental properties become your full time job. The problem is, you likely didn’t get into investment properties so that you could work more. You probably got into it to earn some extra money in an interesting and lucrative way. Thankfully, you’re not stuck working overtime every week—many investment property owners utilize help from Chicago property management companies to avoid getting too tied up in work. Property managers can take a lot of the work off of your plate, of course, but as far as what they’re best at, we’ve put together a list of the five most helpful aspects of using a property management company in Chicago.

5) Finding and Keeping Better Tenants  

From shaping your ads to attract the right kind of renters, to interviewing applicants, running background checks, and collecting security deposits and rents, just the process of getting someone into your rentals can be a lot of pressure. Once they’re in there, there’s the work done to keep them happy and renewing their leases. Finding great tenants can be a hectic and chaotic process, but when you’re working with a Chicago property management company, they can take care of everything. Think about all of the time you spend fielding calls and emails from interested potential renters—just that on its own is a big job. Now, imagine not having to deal with any of that. Property management companies help investors find (and keep) the best tenants. Once people rent out your properties, your property managers will be able to track down rent to ensure you keep getting paid, and they can also mitigate issues with late or unpaid rent. Some property owners say that everything tenant- and rent- related, on its own, can be the reason to get a property manager.

 

4) Assistance With Maintenance

The next area that property management companies in Chicago excel in is maintenance and help with everything associated with the upkeep of your properties. Right now, if a tenant calls you in the middle of the night with an apartment emergency, you have to get out of bed and start making phone calls, trying to find a contractor who can help with that emergency at that hour. What’s worse, you may not even be able to find the solution at that hour. With a property manager, when an emergency arises, they’re ready to go. Property managers have a list of vetted, insured contractors like plumbers and HVAC specialists who can be on the job at the drop of a hat—and you won’t need to be there to let the maintenance worker in!

Imagine not having to worry about what you’d do if a tenant called you about a shattered front window or if tenant’s basement flooded during a springtime storm—because your property manager would already have it covered. That weight off your shoulders can be a lifesaver.

3) Increased Value of the Property

In a similar vein, when property managers have a hands-on approach to the way your property is maintained, they’ll be able to notice problems that you may not see until much later—when it will be costly to repair or upgrade. By noticing these upgrades before they’re absolutely necessary, you’ll be able to work gradually to improve your investment property, growing and increasing its earning potential year after year. Property management companies in Chicago have one common goal: to help their property owners succeed. When they’re working with your properties, they’ll be doing everything they can to help you see a better return on your investment.

 

2) Less Stress and More Freedom for the Owner

Property management companies do more than just take care of problems, though. Because they’re taking a lot of busy work off of owners’ plates, those owners then have a lot more freedom to do other things, like spend time with their families, put in work at their day jobs, or even seek out additional properties to invest in.

When you have more freedom to do what you want throughout the day because you’re not stuck at a desk making phone calls about late rent checks and leaky faucets, you’ll be amazed and what you can get done!

1) Fewer Problems with Renters

You already know that when you work with a property management company in Chicago, you’ll reap the benefits of them finding great tenants to rent your units. However, that’s not the only way that property managers help you with tenants. When there’s an issue with a tenant, such as unpaid rent over a couple months, you may find the process of fines and evictions to be unbelievably tedious and overwhelming, not to mention stressful for everyone involved. When you work with a property manager, though, your tenants know that they’re dealing with a business, not just one person anymore—they may be less likely to try and manipulate your emotions (who hasn’t heard a sob story about being able to pay rent “next week”?), and they may understand that they’ll get away with less when they’re dealing with a company. That’s not to say that you aren’t an authoritative owner, of course, just that it can be easier to resolve issues when it’s not just you fighting them. Additionally, if there are any complaints or problems from tenants, you won’t have to spend all of your time sorting through them—that’s part of how a property management company helps! They can step in and mediate the problem, so that you can get back to doing more important things.

Ready for Some Help With Your Investment Properties in Chicago?

If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed by the work associated with your rental properties, you’re not alone. Whether you’re new to the business or a seasoned vet, it’s not uncommon to need a helping hand with your investments. As a property management company in Chicago, we at Lofty strive to help all of our owners succeed, so that they can live the life they deserve. If you’ve been considering hiring a property management company for your rental units in Chicago, contact us anytime for more information about how we can make your job easier.

Speak with one of our experts to find out how we can supercharge your investment.

What to Know About Allowing Pets in Your Chicago Rental Properties

5 Most Important Things To Know About Allowing Pets in Your Chicago Rental Properties

By | Property Management

Owning investment properties in Chicago is, no doubt, a lucrative business. There’s never a shortage of tenants, neighborhoods shift in popularity ensuring there’s always somewhere that’s booming, and there are plenty of ways to attract more tenants if you do somehow find you’re in a slump. One way that many Chicago rental property owners boost interest in their units is by allowing their tenants to have pets. Cats and dogs are the most common pets for renters to have, but some have birds or small pets like ferrets and hamsters. While allowing your tenants to bring their furry (or feathered) companions into your property can help you find better and more reliable tenants, there are some precautions you may want to consider. As a Chicago property management company, our goal at Lofty is to make sure all of our property owners are well-prepared so that they can have the best experience being real estate investors. To us, that means providing them with the information they need to be the most profitable and secure within the business. Here are our most important tips about allowing pets in rental properties.

5) Make Sure Your Tenants Know Their Responsibilities

When you allow your tenants to bring Fluffy or Spot into your rentals, you’re opening a line of mutual trust—they trust that you’re going to be a good landlord, and in exchange, you’re trusting that their pets won’t wreck the place or become a nuisance. Be sure that your tenants are aware of their responsibilities. For instance, make sure they know their pets should be up to date on vaccinations and registered with the city (if applicable), and be sure to outline upkeep of common areas on the property (for example, let them know that not cleaning up after their dog outside may result in fines, or that their pets may not roam hallways unattended).  Outlining tenants’ responsibilities before a pet even enters the building is the best way to ensure that everyone stays happy. No surprises is a good thing!

4) Plan Ahead for Damage to the Units, Just in Case

Of course, even though every pet owner claims their pet won’t cause any damage at all, as a property owner, you know that’s rarely the case. Pets may have accidents, or their claws may grow out a bit too long at some point leading to scratched floors, or maybe, after 5 years of perfect behavior, a tenant’s dog gets bored and chews on your building’s cabinets.

Whatever the case may be, it’s important for you to plan ahead for this type of damage. There are a few ways to do this. First, many owners choose to charge a pet deposit. These can either be refundable or not, and help cover the cost of any damage that may be caused during your tenant’s stay. Another option is charging additional pet rent each month. This will generally work out to be roughly the same amount of money that you would charge for the pet deposit, but since it’s spread out over the course of the lease, it can be an easier cost for the tenant to shoulder. If you’re unsure of what to do to prepare for pet damage in your pet-friendly Chicago rentals, consult with your property management company—they’ll have plenty of experience and advice!  

3) Look Into Different Pet-Ownership Clauses on Your Insurance

When typical homeowners have pets, they may need to add insurance for their pets onto their policy to cover issues like dog bites. As a property owner, you’ll want to consult with your insurance company and your property managers to find out what you’ll need to do to make sure that you’re covered in the event that something happens on your property. Dog bite insurance claims are more common than you may think, so it’s essential to make sure that you’re prepared for problems (while being hopeful that those problems don’t arise, of course).

2) Have Your Leases Outline What Will Happen In the Event of a Problem or Emergency

While tenants who have pets tend to be more responsible and reliable, you’ll want to outline consequences if there are problems with their pets. For instance, if one of your tenants has an overly aggressive dogs that becomes a menace to other tenants, or gets in fights in the yard, you may not want to continue the rental relationship. It should be outlined in your lease agreements what will happen if there is a continual problem with a tenant and their pets. Ask your Chicago property management company how to properly phrase these concepts in your lease so that you can foster an amicable and agreeable lease agreement with your tenants. For example, outline a system of warnings.

1) Know What You’ll Do if Someone’s Pet Injures Someone

Your property managers will be able to better explain what you’ll need to plan out, but you will want to make sure you have a plan in case a tenant’s pet injures you or someone else on the property. Your insurance should cover any issues, however in the meantime, you’ll want to have a mediation plan set up just in case a problem ever occurs. Whether a dog bites someone through the fence or a cat scratches another tenant and that tenant ends up in the doctor’s office, you’ll want to have things covered.

 

Offering Your Pet-Friendly Rentals in Chicago

As a property investor in Chicago, you’ve likely heard all of the benefits of allowing your properties to be pet-friendly. If you’re interested in learning more about transitioning to allowing pet-friendly units, talk with a Chicago property manager today. At Lofty, our goal is making sure you succeed so that you can live the life you deserve—we’ll help you set up everything you need to ensure your properties and tenants are ready for man’s best friend. Contact us anytime to learn more about how we can help you achieve your property investing goals.

Speak with one of our experts to find out how we can supercharge your investment.

 

How to Prepare Your Chicago Investment Properties for Renters in Spring

How to Prepare Your Chicago Investment Properties for Renters in Spring

By | Property Management, Real Estate Investment

#6. Easier and faster.

Management software has become an efficient way for property managers and property owners to access powerful tools for effectively managing the rental properties for which they are responsible. Technological developments like property management software make detailed tenant and property information accessible virtually anywhere.

A modern property management company has tons of useful software products available to make managing property more efficient. With being a society always on the go, advanced property management companies, like Lofty are embracing the use of technology for their owner and tenant clients alike. Useful, web-based applications can manage everything from contact forms to live chats, listed available properties, tenant screening and applications… Lease and other agreements can even be signed online—this is helpful if you have to move out of the country for work over a weekend, and need help managing your property. In fact, there are ways to “link” these individual components together to build systems that generate feedback and manage the entire property manager workflow in harmony! Do you have goosebumps!?

Because everything can be linked through the internet, property managers can receive alerts at the same rate of transmission as a text message. Mobile connectivity ensures that clients don’t have to wait long for a response. Faster response time mean reduced friction when something unexpected happens, and allows property managers to handle situations as they happen.

#5. Reduce user error

The right property management system provides effective accounting functions and reports that will replace any double-entry errors, and the old fashioned pen and paper. By automating property management tasks, important information is archived through the redundancy of computer processes. Also, utilizing live error-checking features ensures less mistakes are made, and there will be more time to focus on other projects. Come tax season, accountants love those who can effectively take advantage of quality accounting software.

#4. Added value for tenants

Whether it is a request for maintenance work when the washing machine breaks down, a rent payment is due or to simply review their lease, property management software offers online portals as a means of communication between the tenants and the property management company. This communication hub is accessible anywhere, 24/7, and can give owners a place to get a high-level overview of their property status at any given time. By using the property management software’s online tenant portals correctly, the situation can benefit managers, owners and tenants alike by leveling the playing field and allowing each party the advantage of clear communication.

#3. Convenient payment online

With online rent payment solutions software, property management companies, property managers and property owners no longer have to wait for rent checks to get delivered through time-expensive methods like mail, courier, or delivery services, let alone the frequently awkward and inconvenient hand-delivery! Paying online is easier for both tenants and managers when secure ACH or credit/debit card online rent payments are used. Secure online payment gives tenants the opportunity to easily make their rent payment from work, home or anywhere they have an internet connection. By making payment as convenient as possible for all parties, and as secure as an in-person meeting with a teller, quality, modern property management software solutions allow the excuses to just melt away.

#2. Marketing through Social Media

Social media has become more than just a platform for friends and family to keep in touch about life events. It creates a platform for businesses to maintain constant contact with any subsegment of the planet’s population, maximizing virtual awareness and the target audience’s ability to stay proactive. Social media management software allows a residential property management company to market to multiple engagements using campaigns that deploy in multiple social channels at once. With the ability to announce, promote, engage and share your company’s skills as well as your residential inventory to attract new potential tenants all at once, there are endless opportunities to grow brand awareness and create new business!

#1. Property Protection

Using property management software makes background tenant reports instantaneous for property managers, owners and leasing agents. Instant access to tenant screening reports allows managers and property owners review applicant backgrounds including criminal, credit, and eviction history in order for the property owner to make an educated decision about the potential financial responsibility and behavior of the person or people that seek to reside in said owner’s property. By making applicant screening accessible, property management software allows property managers and owners to select the most qualified tenant who will maintain the rental property, much like their own home, respect the agreed upon lease terms and pay their rent on time.

Developments in technology have paved the way for property managers and property owners who are seeking more efficient processes to streamline their business and boost profits. By incorporating the latest property management software applications into their daily operations, property management companies can evolve to become more efficient and effective, industry-wide. Not only have affordable property management systems been developed to make managing rental properties online easier, but today’s renters are seeking and appreciate the convenience of online services provided by their property management company or landlord.  Technology within this industry has changed and evolved to be convenient, cost-effective, and efficient for property owners and/or property managers to provide extra services to their tenants, organize their data and improve their business processes.

Here at Lofty, we pride ourselves on existing on the leading edge of property management software technology, and we use it daily to enhance our client’s experiences. The purpose of technology is to make tasks easier to perform, and there have been many advances in property management systems to the benefit of the client. By automating a lot of the tasks that can bog down personnel, Lofty is able to pay more attention to our clients’ needs and create a customer service experience unsurpassed in property management! Talk to us today, and see how we can help you live the life you deserve.

Speak with Anthony Zammitt, Lofty’s managing broker to find out how we can supercharge your investment.

how to appeal my chicago property taxes

Should You Appeal Property Tax Assessments on Your Chicago Investment Property?

By | Property Management

Owning investment property in Chicago can be a lucrative and successful business for a lot of landlords, but one common issue here that many investors dread is property tax assessments and tax hikes. In Chicago, tax hikes are can be compared to whether it will still snow in April every year—it’s going to happen, the question is how much?
One thing you probably know is that appealing those assessments is possible, and many people choose to do so to save themselves money every year. After all, your property taxes are determined by the city’s tax rate and the appraised value of your property. In tougher market years, that appraised value might not be all that accurate, which can lead to discrepancies and unfair property tax assessments. Appealing the property tax bills you get can be done, but it’s important to know when to do so and how to do it. As a Chicago property management company, we’re more than familiar with the intricacies of appealing property tax assessments, and if you need help, we’re more than prepared to lend a hand.

What to Know About Appealing Your Property Tax

First and foremost, it should be pointed out that you won’t actually be appealing the tax rate. Rather, you’ll be appealing what the city has decided is the value of your property. Many homeowners and investors have found that when the value of their property is given, it’s not accurate in accordance with the current market, and therefore should be appealed.

These problems arise because the valuations of properties are only taken every three years in Chicago. That can lead to great discrepancies between the reported value and the actual value, particularly in years where the economy and the housing market are in a slump. Your home may be reported as being worth a lot, but, for instance, during the housing crisis several years ago, many homeowners found they owed more on their mortgages than their homes were worth. For this reason, it’s important to keep up to date on what your home or Chicago investment property is worth so that when you do receive the assessments, you’ll be able to tell if it’s accurate and reasonable or not.

 

Who Do You Appeal To?

Depending on how determined you are to adjust your property tax bill, there are five different levels you can take your issue to.

First, you can bring the issue to the Cook County Assessor’s office. If they don’t allow an appeal, you can ask for a re-review (your second chance). The third option is to file an appeal with the Cook County Board of Review, and fourth is to the Cook County Circuit Court. Finally, if the issue still hasn’t been settled, you can appeal to the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board. Some landlords suspect that the first step or two may result in a “no” answer for the appeal simply to discourage those who are less tenacious in their fight.

When to Appeal Your Property Tax Assessment

Since Chicago is known for its complicated processes with all things administrative (let’s not talk about the city sticker process, okay?), it stands to reason that the property tax appeals process is a bit complicated. Each year, there are different windows for “townships” to appeal their taxes. Townships refers to parts of the city, and you find out which township you’re in by looking at your property tax bill. Your township name may not be the same name as the area your property is in—like we said, Chicago can be confusing.
Generally speaking, you have about a one-month window from the time you receive your assessment to the time you can file the initial appea. About a month after that is the final deadline for requesting a re-review. However, these time frames can vary depending on when you initially submitted your appeal.

 

How to Know Whether You Should Appeal for Your Chicago Investment Properties

When you appeal, the county will be looking for a valid argument about why your property taxes should be adjusted. These arguments include, but are not limited to:

  • A discrepancy between the suggested value of your property versus the suggested value of the other properties in the area. In other words, if your property is valued much higher than the similar surrounding properties, your tax bill may be unnecessarily higher than it should be. These discrepancies are one of the most common reasons people appeal their taxes.
  • Overvaluation: this means that your argument is that whatever the assessed value of your property, it’s not in line with the current market value. This is a tougher argument to prove than others, but many people still fight this way.
  • Incorrect information leading to improper tax valuation. For example, the county is incorrect in what they’ve assessed your property to be, such as the property being listed as larger than it is, damage that affects value being unlisted from the property’s records, etc.

One tough reason people appeal to is the condition of the home. If your Chicago investment property needs a lot of work done to it, yet is being valued at the same price that a similar-sized property in much better condition, you may have a hard time appealing, simply due to the county’s lack of concern about these factors—don’t you wish we had a better reason for this other than “they don’t really care?” Us too.

Getting Help with Appealing Your Property Tax Assessment

Appealing your property tax assessment can offer benefits such as no longer needing to raise your tenants’ rent as much as you thought you would, as well as simply saving yourself the money. If you’re interested in learning more about the appeals process, Lofty can help. We’re a property management company in Chicago, and our number one goal is to make owning investment properties in Chicago easier and more enjoyable. Let us give you a hand with the tedious work surrounding tax appeals (as well as any other tasks you may need help with), so that you can get back to living the life you deserve.

Find out more about all of our property managements services in Chicago today—contact us anytime.  

Speak with one of our experts to find out how we can supercharge your investment.

 

property managers in chicago

Managing Parking at Your New Chicago Investment Property and How Property Managers Can Help

By | Property Management

Purchasing rental investment properties in Chicago with parking isn’t as rare as you might think, particularly in busier neighborhoods downtown and where street parking is hard to find.

In those instances, paid parking spaces or rented spaces in a lot are common, and when you’re the landlord at the property, they mean more responsibilities you’ll have to tend to.

Offering parking at your properties can give you the opportunity to earn more income—many landlords in large cities like Chicago won’t automatically include parking in the rental rate, since so many people live car-free, and instead will charge a flat rate every month on top of rent for the space. It’s beneficial to both sides when done this way—if a tenant doesn’t want the space meant for them, they won’t have to pay the additional fee, and because parking is so scarce in the city, you’ll likely be able to find someone else who would like to rent the space, even if they’re not a tenant at your property.

Beyond collecting rent for the spaces, though, you’ll have a few other responsibilities with regards to parking, and as a property management company in Chicago, we at Lofty have some advice that can make landlording a bit more convenient for you. Here are our top tips about managing the parking at your Chicago investment property.

Double Check on Accessibility Regulations

If you’re purchasing a building that doesn’t have any handicapped-accessible parking spaces, you’ll want to check with local ordinances as well as with your Chicago property management company about whether you will need to rectify that situation immediately or if you can deal with it when it becomes an issue (i.e. when a tenant needs the space to be accessible). Some cities require 2 percent of parking lots at residential locations to be handicapped-accessible, which is why it’s important to check your building’s code requirements. Asking your property managers about this issue can be a quick fix—they’ll know local ordinances surrounding disabled parking requirements and can get the issue cleared up fast.

Maintaining the Lot’s Safety

When it comes to maintaining safety at your property, terms of your leases will determine who is responsible for shoveling walkways, but typically, the onus for ensuring parking lot safety falls on the landlord. Of course, this can be meted out to your property management company to take care of—that’s just one of many things that property management companies in Chicago will help out with at your properties. Tasks like regular shoveling and de-icing, repairing pot holes and cracks, and repainting space lines and other markings can all be handled by your property management company, so that you can spend your time doing work that is more important and pressing.

Know that Parking Issues at Your Chicago Investment Property Will Arise, Sooner or Later

Despite all your best efforts, at some point, you’ll likely have to deal with some form of parking issues at your building. Whether it’s the driveway being blocked or unauthorized vehicles taking up renters’ spots, you’ll have to rectify the situations quickly to keep everyone happy. In these sorts of instances, having a local property management company in Chicago to help you can be a lifesaver, especially if you don’t live nearby. They’ll be able to solve any problems at your rental property quickly and easily. They’ll have access to security teams as well as towing companies to help resolve any problems, so you can rest easy knowing that your tenants and building are safe.

 

How to Help Prevent Non-Renters from Parking In Your Spaces

Preventing non-renters from parking in your lot or spaces can be tricky, but often, all that it takes can be a few signs, placed in highly visible areas, warning that any unauthorized vehicles will be towed at the vehicle owner’s expense. In cities like Chicago, where a car getting towed can be an incredibly inconvenient ordeal requiring a long drive to the impound lot and a few hundred dollars in fines, these signs can be unbelievably effective—just make sure you follow through with them, since people realizing there is no risk of towing can lead them to keep breaking the rules.  

Consider Guest Parking Options

To that end, it can be beneficial to set aside a few spaces for guest parking, and giving tenants a placard to give to guests to indicate that the visiting car is allowed to park there. This not only cuts down on abuse of the shared spaces, but makes it easier for your tenants to have visitors over—creating happier tenants overall.  

Decide What to Do About Non-Operational Vehicles

To ensure that your parking spaces/lot are housing working vehicles and not just providing storage space for a car that doesn’t run, be sure to let tenants know that only operating vehicles are allowed to park in the shared lot or assigned spaces. This helps ensure that the lot is occupied by people who need parking for the cars they use, rather than taken up by people who simply want a cheap place to leave a vehicle (this is particularly true if a parking space is included in your rental rates).

 

Getting Help With Rental Property Parking in Chicago

When it comes to owning investment properties in Chicago and managing the different aspects of them, parking shouldn’t be something that causes you a lot of stress. If you want help with your parking setup at a property, working with a Chicago property management company can be a great asset. At Lofty, we strive to take the busy work off our investors’ plates so that they have time to do the other, often more important work they need to get done, and that includes everything related to managing the parking systems at your properties. We’ll manage finding tenants, parking area upkeep, fee collection, towing partnerships, and more, so that you can get back to living the life you deserve—after all, owning investment properties wasn’t supposed to be your full time job!

To learn more about how we help real estate investors’ manage every part of their properties, contact us today.  

Speak with one of our experts to find out how we can supercharge your investment.

 

Property Management Company Chicago

Way to Add Additional Security to Keep Your Tenants and Property Safe

By | Property Management

Whether you’re new to owning investment rental properties in Chicago, or you’ve been involved with it for many years, one issue that keeps evolving is the topic of security—how to keep both your tenants and the property itself safe. That can mean keeping it safe from intruders as well as protecting yourself from liability from tenants, and when you’re a landlord or property owner, it’s important to maintain secure buildings. Not only does it make your life easier, but it can save you money over time, particularly if you don’t have to replace or repair things that are damaged, stolen, or broken. As a property management company in Chicago, we at Lofty see the different ways that landlords and investors protect their properties, and we’re happy to pass the most helpful tips we’ve seen on to you.

Check Crime Stats Before Buying

Perhaps the biggest and easiest bit of advice to give is that before you commit to purchasing a property, check out the crime stats around it. What you do with the information will be up to you, but knowing what’s common around the area will inform you on how to protect tenants from potential problems. For instance, a slightly higher crime rate may be encouragement to set up security cameras/alarms, motion-sensor lights, or other security-increasing products.

Don’t be scared off by any crime appearing on a crime report though—the fact is that crime is unfortunately everywhere, but knowing about it will allow you to ensure your tenants and property is better protected.

Install Fixtures that Increase Safety and Security

Along that line, the biggest way to increase safety and security at your buildings is by installing various security measures:

  • Call boxes at the front door to allow guests to be buzzed in, rather than unlocked main doors that lead to locked apartment doors—this weakness in security is one too big to overlook, so if you’re not interested in a call box, at least make sure that the main entryway door is locked at all times.
  • Security cameras should be installed near entryways, bike racks, fire escapes (especially if they go all the way to the ground level and are easily accessed), and parking lots. These areas should be well lit, as well.
  • Motion sensing lights can be installed around entrances and other points on the property that need additional security, as well as parts of the bulding’s interior that aren’t frequented as often, like basement laundry rooms or storage areas.
  • Window bars can be installed on ground level windows for additional security. These can be decorative, as well—no need to worry about unsightly additions to your property.
  • Intercom systems can help prevent people who are strangers from being let in by well-meaning neighbors. This way, visitors can contact the party they’re visiting and gain access, but people with nefarious motives won’t be able to gain access—be sure to stress to tenants not to allow entry to unexpected visitors or strangers.
  • Alarm systems that will go off in the event of unauthorized entry, as well as visible signage detailing these systems’ presence can help prevent criminal activity.

 

Protect Yourself: Make Sure the Property is Well-Maintained

Beyond installing things that keep tenants safe, a way that you can ensure you are protected is by making sure that the property is well maintained and safe to patronize.

Check on things like whether doors and windows lock properly, whether staircases are safe, and whether common areas are secure—making sure of these things can help prevent you from being liable for issues like injuries, break-ins, or theft. If your investment property in Chicago is well-protected from crime and other safety issues, you’re set. Talking to your property management company can shed some light on the various ways you can increase security to protect both your tenants and yourself.

Use a Property Management Company in Chicago to Help Protect Your Building

One more way you can protect your property is by working with a Chicago property management company. Beyond simply advising you on ways to make your buildings more secure, they can dispatch any necessary contractors or response teams if a problem ever does arise.

Property managers will be able to offer their own tips for safety and security based on where your building is located, as well—different parts of the city may require different security measures. For instance, if you’re used to dealing with securing outdoor parking lots, but purchase a building in a part of the city that offers underground or covered parking, there may be steps to take that you might not think of. Property management companies have experience dealing with a wide range of property types, and will be able to offer you advice based on the specific property you have bought.

 

Getting Help from a Property Manager

Whether you’re gearing up to buy a new investment property, you just did, or you have a list of buildings you want some assistance with, a Chicago property management company can be a great help. At Lofty, our goal is to ensure that our investors and clients live the lives they deserve, and that means taking care of the everyday aspects of property ownership as well as bigger tasks like updating security at newly-acquired properties. From helping you find great tenants to contracting out installation of security systems and beyond, we’re dedicated to making sure you enjoy owning investment properties.
Contact us today to learn more about the ways we help investors in Chicago.

Speak with one of our experts to find out how we can supercharge your investment.

 

 

Upgrades to Avoid Doing in Your Chicago Investment Property

5 “Cheat” Upgrades to Avoid Doing in Your Chicago Investment Property

By | Property Management

Owning investment properties in Chicago is a great business to be in. Demand for rentals is high, and the inclination to do repairs and implement upgrades on your properties is understandably strong. Marketing the best property on the block takes work, and for some landlords, that has meant doing what some might call “cheat” upgrades. Cheat upgrades can simply be defined as work that seems like it will save time or money at the outset. However, these projects end up costing more and taking much more time to fix than they would have taken to do the job the “right” way the first time around.

With that in mind, we at Lofty want to help make sure our investors don’t make these mistakes! After all, it’s our goal to make your life easier, not more complicated. When it comes to upgrades and new finishings in your Chicago investment properties, here are five big ones you’ll want to avoid cutting corners on. Save yourself time, money, and frustration and get the job done properly the first go around—you’ll be glad you did.

1) Painting Over Wallpaper

DIY painting jobs are a great way to save money on updating properties, but one way you can cause more work for yourself is by painting over wallpaper. While some sites around the internet suggest there’s nothing wrong with this method, the truth is that sooner or later, that wallpaper is going to start peeling, and in addition to the seams of the wallpaper showing through the paint, you’ll then have to worry about what to do with the peeling paper. This can lead to a project that involves not only having to take down the wallpaper (usually with special tools to protect the underlying drywall), but having to sand the walls and repaint.
It’s best, if you don’t like the wallpaper in a property, to get rid of it before ever picking up a paint roller.

 

2) DIY Kitchen Renovations

Plenty of property owners attempt do-it-yourself kitchen upgrades with great success, but oftentimes, that can be attributed to luck. Attempting to hang cabinets on your own or purchasing pre-made sets of kitchen fixtures from big-box or hardware stores can save you some money, but if you wind up with a sloped or un-level cabinet or counter, or worse—a set of cabinets that don’t quite fit or work well with the space you have, and you have to start all over. Unless you’ve got considerable experience renovating kitchens, this is an upgrade that should be left to the pros.

3) Using an Overlay Coating to Fix Bad Concrete

Concrete floors and walkways can be a stylish option in modern buildings, especially ones with open-concept or loft-like styling. Whether they’re outdoors or indoors, concrete bases must be in great condition in order to benefit from decorative overlays. If the concrete at your building has any damage–cracks, chips, dings, or other problems, it can be tempting to simply install a concrete overlay system to cover up the problems, but you’ll quickly learn that that’s all it will be doing—covering up, not fixing, the problems.

Overlays are only as good as the base they go over. They are not meant to fix concrete that is in bad shape, and if you pour an overlay onto cracked or damaged concrete, you’ll merely end up with a cracked and damaged-looking overlay that you’ll then need to fix even further. That project will be much more labor intensive than it would be had the concrete been fixed before pouring an overlay.

 

4) Installing In-Unit Laundry Machines Without Proper Plumbing Help

A value-adding upgrade for rental investment properties in Chicago and many other cities is adding laundry machines to each unit. In-unit laundry is an amenity that can net you a significant amount more rent, especially if you’re renting to young families with kids—renters that need to do a lot of laundry. However, unless you’ve got plumbing expertise, this can be a job that can cause more damage that is expensive to repair. For instance, washing machines can leak to lower floors, and ventilation can be lacking, which can lead to mold growth on walls, in ceilings, and elsewhere. Mold can be an expensive problem to fix, and since it’s very preventable, it’s to your benefit to hire professionals to help install laundry machines.

5)  Replacing Interior Flooring On Your Own

Whether you’re installing tiling, vinyl flooring, hardwood floors, or laminate, you should enlist the help of a professional to do this job. Doing it yourself can seem like a great way to get the job done faster and more cheaply, but measuring mishaps, technique slips, and more missteps can lead to ruined materials, wasted time, and a huge headache. Plus, if these problems arise, you’ll end up hiring a professional to backtrack and finish the job. Instead of risking damage to costly materials and wasting a lot of effort, it’s best to consult with professional flooring contractors.

 

Get Help From Your Chicago Property Management Company

DIY projects can be cost-effective if you’re a property owner, but for some jobs, it’s best to leave things up to the professionals rather than try to cheat the system and get things done quicker and more inexpensively. As a dedicated Chicago property management company, we at Lofty work to ensure that property investors get the most ROI on their rentals in Chicago. Part of that means we’ve got a network of reliable contractors and home improvement specialists who will work on your building upgrades in an efficient way, making sure that the outcome is exactly what you and your properties need to earn great returns. Our goal is to take the busy work off your plate—sourcing contractors, scheduling projects, overseeing the progress, and everything in between—so that you can live the life you deserve and work on projects that are more pressing and important to you.

To find out more about all we can do to help you manage your Chicago investment properties, contact Lofty today.  

Speak with one of our experts to find out how we can supercharge your investment.

 

Neighborhood Guide: University Village

By | Neighborhood Guides

Say hello to University Village!

Facts

Sometimes referred to as Little Italy, this Chicago neighborhood is rich with charm, fun, and much more. Located on the Near West Side of Chicago, its boundaries are Ashland Ave. on the west, Interstate 90/94 on the east, the Eisenhower Expressway on the north, and 18th St. on the south.

It is home to the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Jane Addams’ Hull House was founded in University Village in 1889.

 

Food

There’s no shortage of great eats in this neighborhood. From brunch staples to great burgers to upscale Italian, you’ll find just what you want, no matter what you have a hankering for. Check out these hot spots as a perfect introduction to what people love most about this area.

1) Davanti Enoteca

1359 W Taylor St

This wine bar focuses on traditional Italian eats and small plates inspired by the chefs’ travels to the country. You won’t want to miss their specialties and crowd favorites, including the Truffle Egg Toast, anything utilizing ricotta, and the Riccio di Mare e Granchio, a linguini dish with sea urchin and crab.

2) Sweet Maple Cafe

1339 W Taylor St

This intensely popular brunch joint is a local favorite. It opened in 1999 and has been churning out standard but delicious breakfast, brunch, and lunch fare ever since, serving a diverse clientele. Family recipes and unique specialties make up this menu’s offerings, including popular items such as cheddar grits and corned beef hash. Pull up a chair!

3) Mario’s Italian Lemonade

1068 W Taylor St

A summertime staple, Mario’s Italian Lemonade offers shaved ice to happy customers day in and day out. Get it while it’s hot, though—literally; Mario’s is only open during the warm months.

4) Three Aces

1321 W Taylor St

Food and drink specials abound at this neighborhood hot spot. Featuring great burgers, a diverse beer selection, and craft cocktails, it’s a casual hangout that you’ll love stopping for. Fan faves include bolognese fries, the Ace Burger with aged cheddar, bacon jam, and all the trimmings, and duck fat chips.

5) Stax Cafe

1401 W Taylor St

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