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Guide to Preparing a Chicago Rental Property for a New Tenant

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

What should be done to a Chicago Property prior to New Tenant Move Ins.

Tenant turnover procedures and responsibilities can take up a lot of time, but another reason you may feel like you’re running around all over the place can be chalked up to doing tasks that are unnecessary. In order to ensure you’re making the most of your time, you need to be aware of what’s truly required of you as a landlord or property owner when one tenant moves out. Finding out what your responsibilities are between tenant occupancies can not only save you a lot of time, but it can save you some money, too.

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Set Realistic Expectations

While in a perfect world all of your tenants would patch holes in walls, scrub the floors until they sparkle, and do everything else necessary to bring the apartment back to life, that will almost never be the case. Tenants can generally be expected to clean the apartment before they move out, but they’ll be busy focusing on getting their moving plans and their new apartment in order, not making sure that their old place is in perfect condition and prepped for new tenants. Keep in mind that the responsibility for making the apartment ready for your next tenant will largely fall on you and your property management company. A professional deep cleaning is highly recommended for all newly vacated apartments after any necessary repairs and cosmetic touch ups/upgrades are completed.

 

Transfer Utility Accounts

Ensure all applicable utility accounts for the property in question are switched to the new tenants for the date of move-in to avoid paying for their bills. Unless stated in the lease agreement that certain or all bills are included in rent, it is advised to ask for evidence of account numbers set up in the incoming tenants names for the address of the property. Utilities such as gas, electricity, and water are the most common bills to be aware of, as utilities can often be forgotten about amongst the bigger

Repairs, Renovations and Replacements

Think about what you would expect an apartment to look like when you moved into it for the first time—that can be a starting guideline to knowing what you need to do for your tenants. For instance, if the paint and walls are dirty, scuffed, or scratched, you need to repaint them so that the apartment looks its best. Carpets may need to be replaced, broken appliances/features will need repairing, and non-working items will need replacing. Your new tenants are paying to live in a comfortable, habitable space, so it’s up to you to make sure their new home is livable and inviting. This upkeep will also help to attract high quality and happy tenants who will be more likely to look after the property and pay a higher rental rate.

Security and Safety

Beyond aesthetic work like repainting, your new tenant should be made aware of their responsibilities for maintaining their own safety and that of the property. For example, reporting any maintenance issues in a timely manner is imperative to addressing issues in a timely manner.

 

You’ll also need to rekey the locks for the apartment if previous sets of keys are not returned. This is a security measure that will prevent former tenants from having access to the unit, and thus, it keeps your new tenants optimally safe. Be sure to get the keys back from the old tenant, as well. Even with rekeying individual units, many buildings have master keys for the main entryway doors that may not be rekeyed every time someone moves. If a tenant doesn’t return keys, you may want to charge a fee to cover costs (and, when this is noted in the lease, it can incentivize them to return the keys!). If the tenant still doesn’t return keys, you’ll have to rekey everything their set had access to and take the costs from their security deposit.

 

A walk through inspection before you schedule any maintenance, so that you can make note of any repairs or other damages you’ll need to take out of the departing tenant’s security deposit (if there is one). Take photos of the unit and any damages and write down detailed descriptions of what was left for you to take care of. Having a detailed list of what you’ll be retaining a portion of the deposit for can help you down the road, particularly if the tenant fights you on the withholding of any or all of the deposit.

Make sure that everything is still in proper working order before a new tenant comes in. Check that the shower, toilet, and sink in the bathroom all function as they should, that the refrigerator and freezer are still working, and that electrical appliances, smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, security alarms, and lights in the unit are still safe—there should not be any loose wires or broken bulbs when a new tenant moves in. You may not be required by law to provide new tenants with working light bulbs, but that small cost can be a good start to the tenant-landlord relationship, and should be considered. Filters should also be replaced or at least checked at the end of every tenancy.

How Property Management Companies Can Help You

If you’ve never worked with a property management company for your properties, you may be surprised at how much they can help with tenancy turnovers, as well as other aspects of being a landlord. They’ll be able to contract out the necessary work, market the property for new tenants, oversee and manage any work occurring at the property, and communicate with departing tenants to get everything squared away for you. You can hand off all of those pesky jobs to someone else and really reap the benefits of owning investment properties through true passive income.

Here at Lofty, we believe that owning investment properties shouldn’t be a headache. We take care of everything our owners need, from screening tenants to doing the physical work between occupancies. Stop wasting time checking whether lights are working and sweeping baseboards and start enjoying being a landlord and property owner!

For more information about how we can help you live the life you deserve, contact us today. Speak with one of our experts to find out how we can supercharge your investment.

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Month to Month Leases vs Annual/Long-Term Leases in Chicago Real Estate

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

Tenant’s Lease Lengths to consider in Chicago Property Management for Maximum Return on Investment!

In the state of Illinois, and the City of Chicago, when a written lease for a specified term expires, the default rule is that the tenant is required to move out and may be evicted as a holdover tenant if he or she fails to do so.

If the tenant continues to pay rent to the landlord and the landlord continues to accept it, the terms of the written lease remain in effect until the tenant moves out.  However, the lease does not automatically renew for the same duration as the original lease without the landlord and tenant executing a document in writing agreeing to this.  Instead, the lease becomes a month to month lease, regardless of what the original term of the lease was.

We have previously detailed how tenant retention is the ideal scenario for Chicago property owners as this reduces/prevents vacancies and rent-less months. For this and other reasons, Lofty recommends only offering tenants annual, or 12+ monthly leases instead of month-to-month leases.

Cons of Month-to-Month Leases

With every pro comes a con, and month-to-month tenancy leases are no different. Although there are many benefits of offering month-to-month leases to your tenants, there are risks as well, including:

Lack of Stability

Although landlords may appreciate a month-to-month lease’s flexibility in some scenarios, it can also be a negative. Quality, long-term tenants often pay rent on time, take care of the rental, and pose less of a flight risk, whereas month-to-month leases can end at any time and therefore lack stability. This lack of certainty can make it hard to plan ahead to prevent future vacancies, which can be costly and time-consuming. It creates short-notice to accommodate maintenance or upgrades during a turnover, not to mention for marketing purposes.

Short notice for move outs

If you rent on a month-to-month basis, all your tenant is legally required to do to terminate this lease is provide you with proper notice. The length of their notice is typically 30 days if a tenant has resided at the property for less than 2 years, but check your state/local tenancy laws to confirm this. However, that doesn’t mean that the tenancy ends exactly 30 calendar days from the date the notice is delivered. Instead, it ends on the last day of the month, as long as it’s at least 30 days away. For example, if a landlord gives notice on August 1st, then the tenancy would be up August 31st. For example, if a landlord delivered notice on August 15th, the tenancy wouldn’t be up until September 30th. This is a strict requirement as Illinois courts have found that 29 days’ notice isn’t sufficient.

Short notice to find new tenants

Once you receive notice, you may find yourself scrambling to look for another tenant to prevent a vacancy. If you rush the process without proper tenant screening, your new tenant may not be the best fit for you and your property, and what’s worse than a vacancy is an eviction.

Risk of unexpected vacancy

Vacancies are the number one way landlords lose money, so if you can’t find a new tenant after your current one has moved out, remember that there are risks to leaving your rental vacant, on top of losing rental income.

It is highly recommended to consult a professional and experienced Real Estate Attorney if pursuing an eviction, or looking for legal advice on a specific situation due to continuously evolving Tenancy laws in Illinois, Chicago, and on a federal level.

At Lofty, we do not endorse nor encourage month-to-month leases due to the large array of problems they can create, in fact we actively discourage owners and tenants alike from pursuing them. If you are interested in month-to-month leases, we strongly advise you to do your research. If you would like help in transferring current tenants from month-to-month to annual leases, we have extensive experience and success in doing this!

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

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Creating an LLC vs buying Property in Chicago as an individual.

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

Forming an LLC to purchase Chicago Property or investing as an individual.

In real-estate investing, it is common practice for owners to create a Limited Liability Company (LLC) and buy property under this LLC company. This is because many owners prefer to purchase real estate—or transfer the title(s) of real estate from an individual to the LLC—so that the LLC becomes the legal owner of record and not the individual. You can create an LLC by yourself, with a partner, or with a group. If you own an LLC, you are a “member” of the LLC. LLC entities are regulated on a state level, so the process of creating an LLC will differ by state.

There are several advantages of creating an LLC and purchasing real-estate through such a business entity.

1.    Professional Privacy

As a business owner, you might find the privacy of the LLC structure appealing when you buy a home with an LLC. Buying a house under an LLC ensures that the LLC’s name, not the owners’ names, appears on public documents and disclosures. In other words, LLCs allow you to replace your name with a corporate name, thereby concealing your identity and other information under the professional liaison of a company.

2.    Limited Liability

Limited liability means that you, as the owner, will not become personally liable for the company’s debts or liabilities. Therefore, if you have a fear of lawsuits as a business owner or real estate investor, the LLC structure may look very appealing to you. However, limitations exist within the limited liability structure.

For example, living in a home owned by an LLC can “pierce the corporate veil.” This legal term means that the owners, shareholders, or members of a corporation or LLC can become personally liable for corporate damages, as if the LLC structure never existed.

3.    Tax Benefits

The LLC structure can offer significant tax benefits, particularly because it eliminates double taxation. Double taxation refers to profits taxed at the business level first and then a second time at the personal level. Instead, LLCs enjoy a pass-through tax structure, which means that the LLC pays taxes on profits, but the owner of the LLC does not. However, LLC owners must pay taxes on their allocated share of profits.

4.    Easier To Invest With Partners

The LLC structure makes it easier to invest with partners – even other investors who don’t know the LLC’s principal owner. Two people can launch an LLC as partners, a second member can simply join a single-member LLC and create a multiple-member LLC. Members can also sell LLC shares by having an existing member sell their shares to a new member. Members must distribute 100% of the shares of an LLC.

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Keep in mind however that every silver living has a cloud, and there are some disadvantages to creating an LLC for investment purposes.

While LLCs are a great way to hold real estate, they unfortunately also have costs that go along with them. There is an associated cost to set up the LLC, and a responsibility to pay an annual fee of up to $500 to the state in which the LLC is organized. You may also have to file a separate tax return for the LLC. But the biggest issue you might have with an LLC is that lenders will consider your real estate ownership as an investment property. Once you fall into the investment-property bucket, the lending rules change and get more expensive.

With an LLC, the financial lender will send you to the commercial lending side of the bank. Generally, the interest rates and costs to finance your purchase are lower on the residential side than on the commercial side. Additionally, you may be able to borrow more against the property on the residential side than on the commercial side of a lender, where the down-payment requirement could be 35 percent or more.

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Despite the additional work and costs, the protection LLCs provide is often worth it for landlords. If you are interested in having our team guide you through this process, reach out to us today!

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How to leverage your Chicago property to expand your Real Estate Portfolio

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

Buying more Chicago Property using existing owned Chicago Property

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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 management company, such as Lofty Real Estate.

Firstly, let’s explain what Leverage in Real Estate is. Leverage in real estate simply means how much money you borrow to finance an investment property compared to the property’s worth. The higher your leverage, the higher your potential ROI. Leveraged real estate investing works best when rents and property values are rising.

As rents and the value of the real estate investment increase, their monthly mortgage for rental property remains constant, creating larger and larger profits. Today’s rents and property values are appreciating at an extraordinary rate to say the least – the ideal environment for real estate investors who know how to leverage real estate investments with borrowed money.

1. Leverage Existing Property to Buy More

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

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 by using the equity on a primary residence to get another mortgage. It can be another house or even a rental property. This route will mean that your primary residence will be collateral to the lender if you default on the second mortgage payments.

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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. Have a Good Credit Score

This may seem obvious, but it is also another key part of the process. An excellent credit score will also drastically improve your chances of being approved. If you’re interested in leveraging your primary Chicago 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 risks and benefits, so be sure to pick one that suits you. If you’re leveraging Chicago property to buy another property, going for a HELOC might be best. On the other hand, if you’re leveraging property to buy a Chicago rental property, then going for a home equity loan where you’ll get a lump sum might prove to be the better option.

4. Shop Around

Once you’ve carried out these three steps, then it’s time for you to explore the options you have with lenders and their rates. Research the terms of each second mortgage with due diligence. Many financial lenders provide free quotes online or by phone after you’ve provided a few details, such as your credit score range, loan amount, term and the type of mortgage you’re interested in. Comparison websites may also offer insights to institutions that are not as well known to the general public. To get a solid rate offer you must get preapproved for a mortgage with each lender. When you apply for a mortgage, a lender verifies your income, finances, employment and credit to determine how much you can borrow and what interest rate you qualify for.

With home prices continuing to rise, it’s better to minimize your costs when possible on the borrowing side — and shopping around for a mortgage is the best way to do that!

Tax Benefits

When you leverage your real estate investment purchase, you get to depreciate the total cost of the property, not just the cash you put into it! This means you receive a significant tax deduction each year which can be a big incentive for a lot of prospective investors. You can write off any interest paid on the loan, which during the first several years is the majority of your loan payment. This provides another substantial tax deduction each year.

Real estate has some great tax benefits, and leverage allows you to take advantage of the interest deduction and depreciation on an amount much greater than what you’ve invested.

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. Reach out to a member of our team to discuss your options or to learn more about leveraging existing property to expand your investment portfolio!

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

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Why Is Resident Rental Retention so Important in Chicago Real Estate?

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

Keeping Tenants is the Ideal Chicago Property Management option to maximise rental income.

Turnovers mean vacancies, during which you’re not bringing in rents, yet still paying the mortgage. You might need to repaint, replace carpets, and professionally clean the unit thoroughly. There’s the marketing—advertising the vacant unit, showing it, holding open houses, collecting and processing rental applications, running tenant screening reports on all applicants, plus calling employers and prior landlords.

If you hire the help of a leasing agent or property manager, they will charge you a month’s rent/rental commission for their work too. The bottom line is that turnovers will devastate your Return on Investment (ROI). So how can you minimize your turnovers and keep your properties occupied at (nearly) all times?

The key is to retain your good renters for the long term. You want them so comfortable in your property that the idea of moving is a headache they would only consider under the most dire circumstances. The key to this starts from the beginning of their tenancy, by creating a great relationship with them. This can be created either through a great professional management company or individual landlords. Responsiveness, trust, and a nicely maintained property are the not-so-secret ingredients to this.

Finding great tenants is the first step; and our previous blog post outlines the best screening processes for this. Bad tenants can end up needing to be evicted in the worst case scenario, or at the very least, non-renewed. In other words, signing a lease with bad tenants is just setting yourself up for quick, expensive turnover. Also, try to keep out renters who move frequently from one home to the next. If you want to minimize turnovers, lease to renters who are stable and have a history of living in one home for more than 1 year, and avoid month-to-month leases.

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Communication is the next most important factor in maintaining tenants’ happiness and comfort in your property. By responding to maintenance requests, general questions, and complaints in a timely, friendly and professional manner you will create a positive relationship with your tenants that is essential to building a sense of trust, security and loyalty on both sides. If you have particularly quiet tenants who tend to not submit these queries, then try proactively reaching out to inquire if everything is going well and if there is anything they need to improve their quality of life in the property.

Small gestures such as birthday wishes, expressing thanks for good tenancy, and happy holiday sentiments can make a lot of difference when it comes around to discussing re-signing.

As Chicago emerges from the global pandemic, financial concerns are on everybody’s minds after the past year’s uncertainty. The tip that is especially relevant at this time, is to not increase the rental price where possible, or even to reduce rent slightly to encourage current Chicago tenants to re-sign for another year.

No matter how well you’ve done with any of the above tips, good renters won’t stick around if their neighbors are loud, criminally active, or are just plain rude. This is especially important for Chicago owners of multi-unit buildings, or multiple rental properties in Chicago.

Every month, look at which renters’ leases are coming up for renewal soon. If you have to ask yourself whether tenants are worth keeping, you already have your answer: non-renew them and get better renters. Multiple late rental payments, complaints from neighbors, excessively requesting maintenance requests due to negligence are all some signs that you should find better tenants. Landlords can constantly look for excuses and justifications to keep bad renters in an effort to avoid turnovers. Do yourself a favor and do not retain bad tenants! Great tenants who will live in your property long term are the best investment you will ever make.

Pondering hiring a property manager? Give us a shout and learn more.

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How Property Management Can Make Move-In and Move-Out Easier for You

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

The Perks of Property Management for tenant changeovers

When one lease ends and another begins, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done that can lead to a very busy and stressful time. Security deposits need to be sorted and returned to departing tenants, the first month’s rent needs to be collected from new renters, credit and background checks need to be confirmed, and in between, maintenance may need to be done on the property. Additionally, if you’ve got one tenant moving out without having one lined up to move in, that’s even more work—creating an ad and marketing the property, booking showings, and screening tenants. Altogether, it’s a lot of time that you could be using to do virtually anything else. Owning and managing investment properties shouldn’t be a mess of paperwork and endless busywork. If you’re tired of spending all of your time on what you thought would be a relatively passive way to earn extra income, you’ll be relieved to know that you’re not stuck—learn more about how property managers can make the move-in and move-out processes easier for Chicago landlords and property owners.

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What to Do When Tenants Move Out

When tenants’ leases end and they move out, there are a few things that property owners or landlords have to do, including:

These three tasks alone can be quite time consuming—finding vendors and contractors to take care of repairs, maintenance, and any updates you want to make can feel like you’re on a wild goose chase. Once you find contractors, you’ll have to fit them in your schedule during a time when you can be at the property. To say that it’s inconvenient is an understatement. Getting keys back from the tenant can also prove frustrating. If you’re working with a property manager, though, they can take the time to track down the tenant, so that you don’t have to deal with calling over and over again, getting their voicemail every time. Likewise, the best property management companies in Chicago will have a list of trusted, vetted vendors and contractors that they can schedule for any property maintenance you need, and you won’t have to be there for any of it if you don’t want to.

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Managing Vacancy Periods in Chicago Rentals

After one tenant moves out, one of two things will happen: there will be a vacancy period, or the next tenant will move right in. For now, let’s focus on the former.

If your property is vacant, you need to place ads, market the property, field phone calls from interested renters, schedule bookings, and show your property. If you’re trying to do this on your own, you can end up spending almost all of your extra time dealing with the property—which can feel like more work than it’s worth. Property management companies in Chicago have written hundreds of apartment, condo, and home ads, and in addition to knowing the best places to market your property, they can often work out better deals with publications than individual landlords or property owners can, simply due to the higher volume of ads they place.

You want your vacancy period to be as short as possible so that you aren’t losing money, and property managers will be able to set your rental price according to current trends and market demands. You won’t have to worry if you’re charging too much or not enough for your rental, and people will be more interested in the property when it’s priced well.

 

Once the property managers have shown your property and have some potential tenants lined up, they’ll be able to screen them, too. You won’t have to deal with background checks or conducting interviews. Property management companies have tried-and-true methods for ensuring they’re getting reliable tenants into properties, too, so you won’t have to worry about whether the tenants are the type of people who pay rent late every month or host loud, late-night parties in their studio apartments every weekend.

Working with a property manager means you won’t have to treat owning investment property like a second full-time job.

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Helping Tenants and Landlords with the Move-In Process

Now that you’ve got a tenant who is ready to move into your property (whether or not you had a vacancy period), you’ll have to do even more work. Some property owners and landlords like to be onsite when new tenants move in, for helping with anything that might come up, and if you own a lot of properties, that can mean busy days for you every time a new lease starts. You’ll also need to make sure that the new tenant has paid their first month of rent, which can, like getting the keys back at the end of a lease, sometimes be a frustrating process. New tenants may not know where to send rent at first, too, which can lead to a late payment or two. You shouldn’t have to worry about tracking down your payments, and when you work with a property management company in Chicago, you won’t have to. Property managers take care of everything related to the tenant move-in process. They can be onsite during the move, they can track down your rent checks, and if anything happens during the move-in process, they can quickly schedule maintenance or repairs. It’s a level of convenience that’ll have you wondering why you didn’t start up with a property management company sooner.

Enjoy Your Time and Your Property

Here at Lofty, we understand that your time is your most valuable commodity, and we work hard to ensure you won’t have to waste it doing busy work for your rentals. We can take care of everything during the move-in and move-out processes for your properties, and we can also manage vacancies so that you can earn more money. To start living the life you deserve to live, give us a call anytime—we’d love to work with you and help make your life easier.

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

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How to find the perfect tenants while Leasing in Chicago

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

The best screening process for Chicago tenants & how to avoid bad rental tenants.

At Lofty, we have experienced our fair share of “bad” tenants taken on from other Property Management companies or individual landlords. Unfortunately, there will always be fraudsters, scammers, and dishonest people attempting to get good housing by lying about their financial situation, tenancy history, credit score, or employment status etc. To avoid having to then pursue a costly and time-consuming eviction process of these bad tenants, the first step is to have a good and basically fool-proof screening system in place.

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Every Chicago landlord should know that every successful Chicago apartment tenancy begins with a proper tenant screening and a tenant credit check.  Due to recent changes in Cook County law, landlords and Property Managers have been revisiting their tenant screening procedures in 2020, when a new Cook County anti-discrimination law called the Just Housing Ordinance went into effect. That, on top of concerns in getting stuck with a tenant that then can’t be evicted due to Governor Pritzker’s continued eviction moratorium, has made property owners and managers extra cautious of being vigilant in their screening process.

Some basics to know before we dive into having the best screening process for Chicago Tenants.

  • If you are interested in Property Management services, the company you choose should handle all tenant screenings through a concise and streamlined process that they have perfected through experience so you don’t have to.
  • Tenant Applicants pay for the cost of screening and background checks. There is no cost to the landlord/owner as this is part of the application process.
  • Be warned, that while some applicants may look perfect on paper, this can indicate that it may be too good to be true. Use your good judgement, the advice of real estate professionals, and further research if in doubt. Remember, references are there to be contacted!
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Why Where You Advertise Your Application Matters:

There is no doubt that there are positives to every platform of advertising, and this post is not meant to discredit any of them. However, to find stellar tenants there are platforms that are less likely to receive positive results than others. The likes of Craigslist and Facebook marketplace, while not bad by any means, will undoubtedly receive drastically different results than the likes of via a professional real estate company’s website, word-of-mouth recommendations from trusted people, and those represented by an agent. This is because of the varying target audience and varying degrees of perceived professionalism. Someone applying for a rental via Craigslist may not feel the need to have a 650+ credit score, whereas other platforms will make this a requirement to even apply, nevermind to be considered.

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Do you Need to Know any Chicago/IL/National Tenant Screening Laws?

All landlords should be familiar with applicable tenancy laws. In April of 2019, the Cook County Board of Commissioners voted to pass the Just Housing Ordinance (JHO), with the ordinance scheduled to take effect on December 31, 2019. This requires all landlords in Cook County to assess a potential tenant’s qualifications before looking at his/her criminal history. It prohibits landlords from denying housing on the basis of arrests, juvenile records, sealed and expunged records. If a criminal background check shows that an applicant has a criminal conviction, the landlord must disclose the source of the information to the applicant so that he/she can dispute its accuracy. Landlords must also perform an individualized assessment of the tenant’s criminal history before denying housing.

In addition to concerns about criminal history, most landlords review a tenant’s credit history. Federal law mandates that all three major credit bureaus—TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax—require landlords to undergo a rigorous on-site inspection by a licensed third party inspector before receiving an applicant’s full credit check report. Inspectors check to make sure that reports are stored in a locked file cabinet, that there is a shredder onsite, and that the landlord’s home office is separate from the living area. Inspections can take several days to schedule and incur an additional cost to the landlord. Additionally, many part-time landlords may not pass such an inspection. However, if the applicant initiates the tenant screening process, an on-site inspection is not required, which is ideal for smaller landlords who screen tenants only a few times each year.

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What Questions Should You Ask?

Landlords should ask for contact information of at least 2 previous landlords (not roommates, friends, or significant others) in the tenant’s rental application form, follow up with, and verify them as such. Aside from the obvious questions about eviction and damages in the tenant’s history, landlords should also inquire about complaints from neighbors, cleanliness of the apartment and any other potential red flags in their apartment rental history.

All Chicago apartment landlords should not accept any rental application, irrespective of the results of a credit report, until they’ve examined a bona fide form of photo identification clearly tying the prospective tenant to the name on the report. Careful landlords should check the birthdate on a credit report to the birthdate on a driver’s license to ensure that children who bear the same name as their parents do not attempt to finagle their way into a lease by substituting their parents’ pristine credit for their own. That has been known to happen from time to time, so landlords should themselves a favor when they’re being vigilant in their own “pre-screening” process. For landlords who do not have the time for these steps, it is strongly advised to not cut corners and to be aware that Property Managers are often hired for this exact purpose.

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What Information will a Tenant Credit Check provide you with?

Valuable information such as, does the applicant have outstanding debt, past bankruptcy filings, or other financial obligations? Do they have large balances on credit cards? Do they have any liens taken out against them or their property? These answers could have major implications to a tenant’s ability to pay the rent in full and on time and are included in a full credit report.

Landlords should determine an acceptable range of credit to move forward with a tenant’s application. A healthy credit score should be consistent, similar in range from the three credit bureaus, and ideally are not thin files (less than five sources of credit). Landlords should apply the same credit history requirements to all tenants — remember that in Chicago and Cook County, landlords cannot discriminate based on a tenant’s source of income. Landlords should be familiar with fair housing laws and can read more about how they work here.

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What are the main problems of tenant screening services?

Many tenant screening services conducted by third-parties are beneficial for a number of reasons, namely that they’re efficient. Landlords looking for this may appreciate a quick, cost-effective screening process, however there are some drawbacks associated with this convenience. Namely, the reliability of the aggregated data. These third-party companies are pulling data from a number of public databases, and with a common surname there is an increased likelihood that landlords will see results for a completely different person in their tenant screening report. This is not the norm, but unfortunately it can be quite common.

Another problem with tenant screening reports comes in the form of customer service. Tenant screenings are generally viewed as speedy and quick transactions that follow the typical script of 1) landlord provides email address to screening company, 2) applicant receives email from the company and pays the screening fee, 3) credit report comes back to the landlord, and then the ball is in the landlord’s court. The decision to move forward with an applicant is squarely on them and they (hopefully) hold enough information to make an informed, unbiased decision. If the decision is to not move forward with a tenant’s application because of something on the credit report, then the landlord must inform the tenant that the credit check was the issue. The Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act requires landlords to provide an adverse action letter to tenants to inform them that something in the credit report was concerning and the name and contact information for that credit agency, too, so that the tenant can request a copy.

What Does My Ideal Tenant Look Like?

If you feel uncomfortable accepting credit scores lower than, for example 650, but you want to offer the option of a cosigner, then the same due diligence is required for checking the co-signer’s credit, employment history, criminal history etc. At Lofty, we take the approach that a good rent to income ratio is 30% or higher, a credit score of 650+, and continuous employment of 3 months or longer. Specific landlord requirements can deviate from this, and while tenant applicants do not need a 800+ credit score and earn x6 times the rental cost to be good tenants – if something seems suspicious about an applicant’s details don’t be afraid to ask for further information. Remember that there will be other applicants, and you should never accept just any application for fear of not finding more!

If you are interested in learning how hiring Lofty as your Property Management company can eliminate the stress from the tenant screening process, reach out to a member of our team today!

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Chicago Renting Trends Post-Covid

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

After-effects of the Pandemic on Chicago’s Rental Real Estate Industry

It should be a surprise to nobody that this pandemic has caused a ginormous shift in almost every industry known to the modern business world. While the world stood still early last year, many industries took a detrimental hit financially. Real estate was not spared, and now, as things slowly but surely begin to gleam a light of hope to the return of normalcy, rental trends are once again pointing upwards.

As more and more people get the vaccine and leave remote working behind, the return to the office is beginning to reinvigorate big cities like Chicago. Bars, restaurants, beauty salons and gyms are all open, albeit with mask-mandates, capacity limitations and increased cleaning processes. Commercial space that has laid vacant for months is starting to become occupied once again.

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Leases are being snapped up quickly as downtown apartment units are once again becoming more expensive to rent thanks to the ending of a stretch during the pandemic when tenants enjoyed flat or falling rental prices and widespread landlord concessions such as first month free, no move-in fees or included utilities.

Higher rents could contribute to an anticipated rise in inflation, accrued by multiple federal stimulus checks, low borrowing interest rates and pent-up demand after months when the pandemic damped consumer spending. Rent typically accounts for about one-third of the consumer-price index, which economists expect to increase in the months ahead. Renters can therefore expect to see a noticeable rise in their outcome, and are being encouraged to plan accordingly.

Looking for a Property Management Team that can help navigate you through post-Covid? Give us a shout and learn more.

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Chicago Affordable Housing 101: Tenants & Landlords

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

A basic guide to Chicago Affordable Housing Options for both renters and owners

The Chicago Housing Authority is the third largest public housing agency in the nation. CHA serves more than 20,000 low-income households, by providing safe, decent and affordable housing in healthy, vibrant communities. Public housing provides homes for families, the elderly and those with disabilities from scattered single family houses to apartments for elderly families.

There has long been a stigma against those on the Affordable Housing scheme. Now, with a significant portion of Chicago’s population still financially reeling from the pandemic, the market for affordable housing has increased dramatically in the past year.

For tenants seeking information on how to apply for this affordable housing, they are advised that CHA’s Housing Choice Voucher Program (previously called Section 8) allows low-income families to rent quality housing in the private market via federal funds.

Through this Program, CHA pays a portion of eligible families’ rent each month directly to the property owner. Families can use their vouchers to rent a house or apartment in the private market throughout the city of Chicago.  Because there are more families who need rental assistance than there are funds available, CHA uses a waiting list to administer the program to eligible families. Names are selected for the waiting list randomly using a lottery process. Participants in the HCV program pay approximately 30% of their income for rent and utilities. Applicants are advised to check the eligibility requirements to qualify for the HCV Program before applying.

For landlords interested in having their private property being leased to Affordable Housing applicants, the following steps summarize the process to become an HCV property owner:

  1. Attend Owner Briefing (Recommended)
  2. Market your property
  3. Complete and submit a Request for Tenancy Approval (RTA)
  4. Pass Housing Quality Standards CHA owner eligibility screening (HQS) Inspection
  5. Accept CHA rent offer
  6. Execute lease and Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) contract
  7. Comply with HUD and CHA’s rules and regulations

Every Regional provides a resource center that includes a wide range of information, internet access, property listings.  Each resource center is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. No appointment is necessary.

For more information see the Property Owner Guidebook.

While this route is not for every landlord/property owner, it may be an option for some who have never thought to consider it before. As with non-HCVP tenants, there are pros and cons to this decision that may not be for everyone. This is simply an informative guide meant to explore the many options available to Chicago property owners.

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Some advantages/incentives include:

In order to provide an incentive for property owners to rent units to CHA voucher holders in “Mobility Areas,” the Chicago Housing Authority is implementing a program that provides new HCV property owners an additional lump sum payment equal to the monthly contract rent if they lease a unit to a voucher holder in these designated areas. Effective March 1, 2018, a Mobility Area is defined as a Chicago community area with 20% or fewer of its families with income below the poverty level and a below median reported violent crime count (normalized by the community area’s total population). Some community areas with improving poverty and violent crime rates along with significant job clusters are also designated as Mobility Areas.

Under state law, Illinois property owners who rent to participants in the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program may receive property tax abatement (“tax savings”) in an amount up to 19% of a property’s Equalized Assessed Value (EAV). The actual amount will depend upon tax rates, the state equalizer, EAV and the number of qualified units rented to HCV Program participants. This however, is dependent on meeting certain criteria.

CHA portion of rent is guaranteed on-time income so long as inspections are passed and the property is kept in good condition for the tenant(s).

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Some consequences/disadvantages include:

The CHA requires regular inspections of the property to maintain its habitable condition for the tenants. This involves planning, paperwork and if an inspection fails, owners will not receive rental income until the failing items have been corrected.

As this program is for low-income residents, there may be maintenance issues that a financially independent tenant would deal with but a HCVP tenant can not afford. Some of those items are the ones that often crop up in the county inspections.  Others are lease obligations a HCVP tenant can’t cover

Learn More About Chicago Affordable Housing. Give us a shout today.

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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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When to Appeal Your Property Tax Assessment

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!      

Ready to learn how Lofty Real Estate can help you with your investment properties?  Let’s Chat!

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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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Buying Chicago Investment Properties

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.

Want to learn more about investing in Chicago rental properties? Let’s Chat!

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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 Chicago 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.

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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.

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

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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.

how property managers can help

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!

Thinking of listing your home? Give us a shout and learn more.

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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.

Looking to purchase investment property? Give us a shout and let’s learn how we can reach your goals.

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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.
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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.

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

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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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