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Property Management

why hire a property manager

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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(844) 355-6389

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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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(844) 355-6389

Is it time to Hire a Chicago Property Management Company?

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

When is Property Management worth the Investment?

If you’re already a landlord managing your own rental property, you are probably already aware of the headaches that can be caused by property management. If you are an aspiring or soon-to-be landlord, be warned that property management can be an unpleasant experience at times.

While it is true that there are worst-case scenarios out there of tenants squatting, refusing to pay rent, destroying a property, sub-letting to strangers without owner approval etc., these are honestly rare and few and far between. That is not to say that this won’t happen to you or your property, but just that it is very statistically unlikely. The first way to improve your chances of preventing this type of behavior in a tenant is to have a great screening system in place. This is where a Property Management company can first come in useful. A professional Management company will have their screening process streamlined to be supportive of finding you the very best tenant in terms of income, credit score, landlord/employment references, and tenant history.

Inserting some distance between yourself and the tenant(s).

Property managers are built to tackle the dreary aspects of real estate leasing and administration. It’s basically like paying someone else to have your headaches. Among other things, property management firms have ready access to maintenance contractors, familiarity with local renters law, experience with the tenant application process, and financial reporting software. Additionally, property managers shield landlords from tenants, making it wonderfully easy to refuse a request for rent relief. The landlord simply says “no,” while the property manager is hired to be the bad guy.

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What do property manger’s do?

The services performed by a property manager typically include:

  • Managing the tenant application process with a thorough screening process
  • Holding security deposit funds in escrows and ensuring compliance with local law
  • Renewing, ending leases, re-renting vacant properties, managing evictions.
  • Collecting and accounting for rent, including the assessment of late fees
  • Addressing routine maintenance problems
  • Periodically inspecting the property, including at the termination of the tenancy
  • Cleaning and re-keying property at the conclusion of the lease
  • Financial Bookkeeping, Providing Tax Reporting Documents
  • Liaising with tenants over disputes and issues
  • Overseeing Property Renovations

How much is a property manager?

The cost of hiring a property manager is typically a percentage of the monthly rent, plus various fees for incidental services. There may also be a vacancy fee (in case the apartment is not generating any income), a lease renewal fee or even an initiation fee. Typically, the base fee ranges from 8% to 12% of the monthly revenue (the cost is tax deductible.) At Lofty however, we charge a flat rate fee dependent on the number of units in a building so that owners are not limited by their rental value.

Landlords who live in a different city or even country to the property they rent to tenants, travel regularly, own multiple properties, or simply lack free time are all ideal candidates for property management assistance. If you’re a landlord, and you’re considering hiring a property manager, be sure to find out the following information while doing your research, to find out if they are the company for you:

  • What makes you different from other management companies?
  • Who will be assigned to manage my property? (It’s nice to meet/speak to the person you’ll soon be spending considerable time with)
  • How responsive will you be? Can you be reached 24/7/365?
  • What is your proposed fee structure? What functions are included within the fee and what functions entail additional expense?
  • What types of relationships do you have with vendors? Do you have preferred contractors? If so, in what areas? Do you have any financial arrangement or understanding with any such contractors that is not disclosed to your clients?
  • What software tools do you use and are they user friendly?
  • Are you and your employees properly licensed under Illinois law?

At the end of the day, hiring a Property Management company is a personal/business decision that is intended to make life easier for the property owner. When problems outweigh the positives of owning property, or you want to proactively prevent this from happening, Property Management will be worth the investment. If you need help managing your property, there are plenty of high quality companies out there, like Lofty, to help you manage your investment to ensure you get the best returns out of it!

What to learn more about property management? Give us a shout and learn more.

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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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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.

When to Appeal Your Property Tax Assessment

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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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.

Chicago Property Manager

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.

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

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

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One Overlooked Issue for Chicago Home Workplaces

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

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

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

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

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

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Benefits & Drawbacks of Raising Rent

Buying Multi-Units Vs SFH as Investment Properties

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

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

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

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

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Single-Family Units- Merits of Investing

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

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

1. Ease of Selling Off

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

 2. Faster Appreciation of Property

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

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

3. Lesser Tenant Issues

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

4. Less Strenuous Maintenance

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

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Merits of Investing in a Multi-unit

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

1. Better Security with Covering Operation Costs

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

2. Regular Cash flow

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

3. Less Charges from Property Manager

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

4. Larger Pool of Tenants

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

Multi-unit Vs Single Family Home

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

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

Investment Risk

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

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

Expansion

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

Tenant Issues

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

Cash flow

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

Sale

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

Maintenance

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

Appreciation

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

The verdict: Single Family Home or Multi-unit?

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

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

In Conclusion

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

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Why Buying and Owning Rentals is Always a Good Investment

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

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

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

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

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

Buying Rentals: Need to Know

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

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

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

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What are the Advantages of Owning a Rental Property?

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

1. Diversification of Investment Portfolio

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

2. Getting Tax Write-offs

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

3. Steady Stream of Passive Income

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

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

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

4. The Chance to Sell at a Premium

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

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

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

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

5. Growing Your Equity

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

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

Conclusion

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

Ready to invest in rental property? Give us a shout to 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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Popular Interior Design Changes In Chicago Rentals

Popular Interior Design Changes In Chicago Rentals

By | Property Management, Property Managemnt, Real Estate Investment

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

Experts Are All Around You

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

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

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

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

Some Tips from Lofty

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

By | Property Management

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

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

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

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

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

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The Generation Gap of Home Ownership Will Even Out

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

Mortgage Rates and Rents Are On the Rise

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

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New Home Construction Will Focus More on Affordability

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

Demand for Housing Will Continue With Slow but Steady Growth

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

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Where Do We Go from Here?

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

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

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

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What is Considered Taxable When You Own Rental Properties

What is Considered Taxable When You Own Rental Properties?

By | Property Management

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

Deep clean

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

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

What is Considered Taxable When You Own Rental Properties

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Is Everything You Collect from Tenants Taxable?

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

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

What Expenses Can Be Deducted from Rental Income?

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

What If Your Property is Sometimes Owner-Occupied?

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

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

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

Need Help With Your Rental Properties?

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

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

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

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

By | Property Management

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

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

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

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

2) Clear Terms of When the Lease Starts and Ends

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

3) What Repairs the Landlord and Tenant are Responsible For

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

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4) Limits on Occupancy and Subletting Rules

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

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

5) Illegal Activity and Eviction Grounds

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

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

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Need Help Drafting Your Rental Agreements?

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

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

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

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

By | Property Management

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

First Things First: Document Everything and Contact Police

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

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

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

Gather Bids for Repairs

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

Use Security Deposit Money

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

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Seek Resolution in Court, If Necessary

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

How Can You Prevent This?

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

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Getting Help from a Property Management Company in Chicago

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

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

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

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

By | Property Management

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

How Section 8 Apartments Are Rented

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

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

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

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

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

Questions Owners Might Have About the Section 8 Program

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

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

Answers for Tenants Using HUD Vouchers

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

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Getting Started with Section 8 Renting

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

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

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

SCHEDULE A CHAT

or call

(844) 355-6389

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What You Should Know About Finding Mold in Chicago Investment Properties

By | Property Management

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of the health problems it can cause include:

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

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

Mold Prevention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Need More Advice?

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

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

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

SCHEDULE A CHAT

or call

(844) 355-6389

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5 Most Helpful Aspects of Using a Chicago Property Management Company

By | Property Management

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

5) Finding and Keeping Better Tenants  

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

 

4) Assistance With Maintenance

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

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

3) Increased Value of the Property

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

 

2) Less Stress and More Freedom for the Owner

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

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

1) Fewer Problems with Renters

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

Ready for Some Help With Your Investment Properties in Chicago?

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

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

What to Know About Allowing Pets in Your Chicago Rental Properties

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

By | Property Management

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

5) Make Sure Your Tenants Know Their Responsibilities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Offering Your Pet-Friendly Rentals in Chicago

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

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

 

How to Prepare Your Chicago Investment Properties for Renters in Spring

How to Prepare Your Chicago Investment Properties for Renters in Spring

By | Property Management, Real Estate Investment

#6. Easier and faster.

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

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

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

#5. Reduce user error

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

#4. Added value for tenants

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

#3. Convenient payment online

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

#2. Marketing through Social Media

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

#1. Property Protection

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

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

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

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

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

By | Property Management

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

What to Know About Appealing Your Property Tax

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

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

 

Who Do You Appeal To?

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

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

When to Appeal Your Property Tax Assessment

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

 

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

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

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

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

Getting Help with Appealing Your Property Tax Assessment

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

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

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

 

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

By | Property Management

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

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

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

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

Double Check on Accessibility Regulations

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

Maintaining the Lot’s Safety

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

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

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

 

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

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

Consider Guest Parking Options

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

Decide What to Do About Non-Operational Vehicles

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

 

Getting Help With Rental Property Parking in Chicago

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

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

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

 

Property Management Company Chicago

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

By | Property Management

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

Check Crime Stats Before Buying

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

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

Install Fixtures that Increase Safety and Security

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

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

 

Protect Yourself: Make Sure the Property is Well-Maintained

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

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

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

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

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

 

Getting Help from a Property Manager

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

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

 

 

Upgrades to Avoid Doing in Your Chicago Investment Property

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

By | Property Management

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

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

1) Painting Over Wallpaper

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

 

2) DIY Kitchen Renovations

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

3) Using an Overlay Coating to Fix Bad Concrete

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

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

 

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

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

5)  Replacing Interior Flooring On Your Own

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

 

Get Help From Your Chicago Property Management Company

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

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

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

 

Inexpensive Landscaping Tips to Get Your Rental Investment Property Spring-Ready

Inexpensive Landscaping Tips to Get Your Rental Investment Property Spring-Ready

By | Property Management

As an investment property owner, springtime can be a big money-making season as many leases turnover and you market your building to new prospective renters. While we all often think of the interior as the big sell—because it is—the exterior of your investment property is important, too. As a property management company in Chicago, Lofty is committed to giving the best advice to investors and landlords about how they can find the best tenants and make the most money on their properties, and finding the best ways to improve building interiors as well as exterior spaces is one of our specialties. Inexpensive landscape updates and maintenance tips that can increase the curb appeal of your property is something we’re very familiar with. In Chicago, people relish winter’s end and look forward to seeing green grass, blooming flowers, and lush shrubbery lining the streets. Here are some great ways you can increase the appeal of your properties without breaking the bank.

Clean Out Gutters, Wash Windows, and Power Wash the Exterior

Cleaning is the first step you can take toward making any space look better. First, clean out the gutters and remove built up leaves and other debris from the cold seasons.

Next, clean the windows—this can instantly give the facade a lift, making things look brighter and better in just minutes.

Finally, cleaning off the exterior of the building will make a huge improvement in the way the building looks. Renting a power washer is relatively inexpensive, and if you’ve got siding or sidewalks that look a bit worse for the wear, pressure washing is a quick job that can help remove built-up grime on the exteriors, which will make your property look sparkling new.

Aerate and Re-Seed the Lawns

The lawns (both front and backyards) should be tended to at the turn of the seasons, also. Aerate and re-seed them for optimal growth, and be sure to work with lawn maintenance companies or your Chicago property management company to set up a schedule to ensure they keep looking their best all year. This is especially important if you lay down any sod, as it will need regular maintenance to avoid withering away. Having a bright green lawn and a clean building exterior are a quick and easy project, and they make a huge impact toward how your property looks.

Clear Away Dead Plants

You don’t want your building to have dead, dried out old plants sitting out front. This is a another quick fix that helps project the concept that an attentive building owner is taking care of the place.

Clear away all of the plants that are dead from the winter, pluck the dead roots out of the planters if they’re not perennials (and possibly even if they are—creating a low maintenance landscaping plan that doesn’t require you to constantly replant might be a better option). Your property management company can give you a hand with this, too—maybe you live far away and don’t have the time to do it, or you simply have too many other projects on your plate at the moment. Whatever the case may be, your propert managers can take care of it, utilizing skilled landscapers that can transform even the deadest, most gnarled garden into a beautiful work of art.

Replace Grass with Mulch in Walkways

If you’re looking for a way to lower the amount of upkeep required at your properties, replacing plants and grass on walkways with mulch can be a good idea. You’ll need to first dig out the space for the pathway several inches. Then, install plastic edging as barriers so that the mulch stays within its intended space—leave the edging a half inch above the ground. Next, lay down three or four inches of crushed rock or stones, as this will encourage drainage when the mulch gets wet. Finally, lay down the mulch of your choosing, and to help compress it into place, spray it lightly with water and tamp it down. Voila—a mulch pathway that requires almost no maintenance like a grass one would.

Instead of Expensive Flowers and Trees, Plant Low-Maintenance Shrubs

While flowers look bright and lively, the hard truth is that they just die too quickly. In addition, they’re expensive to buy, plant, and maintain, and the end result is often starting over from scratch the following year. We know most people don’t have time for that. In a similar vein, planting trees may seem like a great idea, but trees are an expensive investment, particularly if you have several properties to upkeep. Additionally, there’s no guarantee that the trees will root and thrive where you plant them, and if they don’t, you’re back to square one. Instead of flowers or trees, we often suggest property owners in Chicago plant low-maintenance shrubbery outside their buildings. Not only does shrubbery look great, but it’s very low maintenance and is known to withstand a lot of harsh weather. Plants like arbor vitae are great for Chicago properties, and landscapers will have other great tips for which plants and shrubs will stand up to the unpredictable Midwest weather.

Need Help Getting Ready for Spring?

When you need help preparing your properties for the upcoming season, we can help. Here at Lofty, we strive to offer investment property owners the help and guidance they need to see the most return on their investments. You already know about what you need to do during wintertime at your property, but as far as springtime upkeep, we’re proud to be working with the best landscapers, gutter cleaners, and more, and we’ll take care of all the details so that you can get back to doing things you want to do. As a property management company in Chicago, our goal is to take the stress and busy-work off your plate from investment properties so that you can live the life you deserve. If you’re ready to learn more about how we can help you enjoy your investments more, call us today.

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

 

what does landlords insurance cover

Landlord Requirements for Emergencies and How Property Management Can Help

By | Property Management

Whether you’re a seasoned landlord or you’ve just recently gotten into the world of investment properties, emergencies at your rentals are always going to come as a hectic surprise. Whether it’s just a small kitchen fire or something much more serious, you can help ease the shock by being prepared—knowing who to call, what you’re responsible for, what your insurance will cover, and more. Having a good grasp on the ins and outs of how to manage and deal with an apartment or condo emergency in your Chicago rental units can save you a lot of time, money, and frustration.

“Who You Gonna Call?”

Unfortunately, the Ghostbusters won’t be able to help you when one of your tenants overflows the bathtub into the unit downstairs, a refrigerator stops working, or a fire breaks out at one of your properties. Instead, you’ll want to have a list at the ready of on-call emergency response companies who can help out at your Chicago rentals. From fire mitigation services to roofers, electricians to plumbers, build up a list of trusted vendors who can solve the problems that always seem to happen at the most inconvenient times. Work with your property management company to determine which companies will be the most beneficial for your properties.

 

What Are You Responsible For?

If the emergency happens as a direct result of ignored or neglected repairs, such as a leaking roof that eventually collapses or an electrical fire due to faulty wiring, you can find yourself liable for a lot of damages. You should stress to your tenants to carry renter’s insurance, though, because damages caused by emergencies are typically not covered by the landlord’s insurance policy.

That being said, there are some things that you may be held responsible for, regardless of the cause of emergency, in addition to preventative measures. In terms of fire prevention, you’re required to provide a rental that is up to fire code, including having working smoke alarms in each room. Beyond that, you are required to get the rental unit back in living order following a fire, but your insurance company will most likely not cover any of your tenant’s losses. For that reason, to avoid any uncomfortable surprises, you should encourage your tenants to have renter’s insurance.

Floods are a different ball game: the landlord will typically have to have a separate policy for flood insurance, and it will be up to the tenant to find out if their renter’s insurance policy covers flood damage—many do not.

Whether you choose to compensate your tenants for finding alternative housing in the event of an emergency is up to you—some landlords will give their tenants the amount of daily rent (total rent cost divided by 30, multiplied by how many days the tenant can’t stay at their apartment), while others will simply offer to cover the cost of a modest hotel/motel during the clean-up or repair time. If you’re stuck on what you think you should offer tenants, your property management company can help advise you based on previous situations they may have had experience with and what will be best for your tenant-landlord relationships.

 

What Does Your Insurance Cover?

You probably already know by now that homeowner’s insurance is different from landlord’s insurance. If you didn’t know that, well, it’s time to get your policies changed. Landlords are usually required to carry greater liability against property damage, and these policies will also cover you in the event that your property becomes uninhabitable. Landlord’s insurance will also cover you in the event of lost income due to an uninhabitable property, whereas homeowner’s insurance would not (however, it should be noted that you can only be compensated for lost income due to emergency, not vacancies).

How Can Property Managers Help With Emergencies?

Beyond helping you compile a list of companies to call in the event of an emergency, property management companies can also coordinate with you and your insurance company in the event of an emergency, work with your tenants to resolve any residual issues from emergencies, and manage the aftermath of emergency clean-up and repairs. Working with a reputable property management company will mean that a majority of the hassle surrounding something going wrong at one of your Chicago rentals will be taken off your hands.

Finding Reliable Help for Your Chicago Investment Properties

If you’re tired of spending all of your time focusing on your investment properties and not enjoying any of the benefits of owning it, it might be time to get help. Here at Lofty, we believe that owning investment properties shouldn’t be your full-time job, and in order to help you live the life you deserve, we manage all of the busy work related to maintaining your properties as well as managing your tenants’ expectations and needs. If you’re ready to start enjoying owning your properties more, contact us today.

 

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

 

 

what should you offer tenants in an emergency

Why You Need 24/7 Maintenance and Emergency Response for Chicago Rentals

By | Property Management

As a landlord or investment property owner, it can be easy to slip into the idea that your job is a relatively easy 9 to 5. Screening tenants, helping with move-ins, and answering the occasional phone call about a leaky faucet isn’t too stressful a situation to be in, and if that’s been your experience so far, count yourself as lucky. For many property owners and landlords, the job can get pretty hectic, almost to the point that it can feel like a second full-time job—not ideal in any sense. Owning investment properties can be very rewarding, but the reality is that sooner or later, a tenant is going to have a problem at an hour that you absolutely won’t want to work during—a roof collapsing and flooding a unit after a heavy rainstorm in the middle of the night or a broken heater on the coldest, snowiest Sunday of the season, for instance. If you don’t have maintenance contractors on deck who are available to work 24/7, you may find yourself in a sticky situation of having to call around until you find one—and that can be a lengthy, often fruitless endeavor that leaves both you frustrated and your tenant upset. Here’s how you can avoid that happening.

Call Chicago Maintenance Companies Ahead of Time

There’s nothing worse than having a problem on your hands and have no solutions or prospect for help on deck. That’s why, when you invest in a property, it can be beneficial to start reaching out to companies that offer the services you’ll eventually need—plumbers, HVAC specialists, general handyman-type services, etc. Establishing a relationship with these businesses and getting them on your roster early can ensure that when the time comes to deal with a problem, you’re prepared. If you’re worried about how to make sure that you’re choosing the best workers—companies who are available at a moment’s notice, who charge a fair price, and who do reliable work—working with property managers can be a great help. Often, property management companies will have a list of these companies that they’ve worked with who have proven themselves to be worth having around.

What Types of Emergencies Should You Plan For?

Emergencies are, by nature, unexpected events that require immediate attention, but there’s still a little bit of planning you can do to be prepared for certain things. Some of the most common emergencies that occur in rentals include break-ins, fires, broken heaters, wiring issues, and plumbing problems. While a break-in can’t really be remedied by calling a contractor to fix things after it happens (if only!), you can help prevent burglaries by installing deadbolts and window locks. Fires can be mitigated by ensuring that smoke detectors are working and fire extinguishers are accessible, while heating issues and plumbing problems will have to be dealt with, unfortunately, after they happen. With this knowledge at the ready, though, you can compile a list of helpful contractors who will be able to assist after an emergency occurs.

A starter list of who you should have on deck for maintenance and emergencies for your Chicago rentals should include:

  • Plumbers
  • HVAC specialists
  • Fire restoration specialists
  • Electricians
  • Window companies (in case of broken windows)
  • Locksmiths

What Can Go Wrong If You’re Unprepared?

If you don’t have contractors ready to help when something goes wrong at one of your properties, you can find yourself dealing with not only unhappy tenants, but problems that can become larger and larger as time goes by—for instance, a broken pipe overnight that can’t be tended to until morning can lead to damage to floors or walls, or even problems with surrounding units, such as if water seeps through floors and down through the ceiling of a unit below. Problems compounding is the last thing you’ll want to deal with, so it’s best to be prepared and ready to go in case of emergency.

What Should You Offer Tenants in the Event of an Emergency?

If one of your tenants has an emergency at their rental unit, you’ll want to find out if they have renters’ insurance, particularly if the emergency is related to a fire or flood (events that cause a lot of damage to their personal items). While you are usually not required to provide housing assistance if the emergency makes their place uninhabitable, you may want to check with local laws—if the emergency was caused by a repair that was neglected, you may be on the hook for covering costs for your tenant to either stay in a hotel or relocate entirely.

If the emergency is not affecting your tenant’s housing status, but is creating a significant inconvenience (such as an unheated apartment in the dead of winter), you may want to consider knocking off a sum of money from the following month’s rent. This isn’t totally necessary, but if the tenant had to find somewhere else to stay for a couple of days, the break on rent will be much appreciated (if not required by law).

Be sure to outline in the lease what you will and will not cover expenses for in the event of an emergency. It can be a good idea to encourage tenants to carry renter’s insurance so that if something does happen, they’re not stuck recouping expenses—which can then cause them to be late on rent.

Getting Help with Your Rental Properties in Chicago

Making sure that you and your tenants are both covered in the event of an emergency doesn’t have to take up all of your time. If you live far away from your investment properties or just want a way to make owning your rental units easier, working with a Chicago property management company can be a great help. Here at Lofty, we know that your time is valuable, and that’s why we do everything we can to take the busy work off of your to-do list so that you can live the life you deserve, including maintenance, emergency repairs, helping with tenant relationships, and more. If you’re ready to start enjoying owning your investment properties more, call us today to learn more about all we do.

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

 

Keeping Your Rental Property’s Drains in Great Shape: What to Do (and Not Do)

By | Property Management

 

It doesn’t matter if you own your house or rent an apartment—drain care is important. It’s not the most fun topic to talk about, but unless you want to deal with calling a plumber at the least opportune time (because, as we all know, nothing ever breaks when it’s convenient), it’s essential to make sure you’re doing everything you can to make sure your drains keep doing their job. As a property management company in Chicago, we have discovered quite a few pro-tricks when it comes to drain maintenance. Here are our top tips for keeping drains healthy no matter where you live.

How to Prevent Drain Clogs

You might not think that drain care and sports have much in common, but you’d be wrong. As the old sports saying goes, the same can be said for your drains: the best offense is a good defense. In other words, it’s easier to prevent drain issues from happening than it is to remedy them after there’s already a problem. Preventing drains from becoming clogged is relatively simple. Keep a drain protector or drain screen over your drains in the shower to prevent hair from going down the drain and collecting, and in your sinks, be sure not to pour down anything that could be considered damaging down them.

What Not to Pour Down Drains

Sometimes, people think that even without a garbage disposal, some products are fine to rinse down the drain. That’s unfortunately untrue, and if you continually rinse certain things down the drains in your home, it’s only a matter of time before you run into a problem. Sewer pipes can become clogged with grease and cause overflows and backups, which can be very expensive—not to mention a big hassle—to remedy. In the kitchen, make sure not to rinse these products down the drain, as they can cause grease clogs:

  • Cooking oils
  • Used frying oil
  • Shortening or lard
  • Dairy products
  • Sauces
  • Meat fats

 

Additional products that can cause big problems with drains include:

  • Motor oil
  • Coffee grounds
  • Eggshells
  • Stickers from produce
  • Paper towels
  • Cat litter

Overall, if you can put something in the garbage instead of rinsing it down the drain, do that—erring on the side of caution is never a bad thing when it comes to drain health.

How to Fix Slow Drains

Unfortunately, you may sometime have to deal with slow-draining sinks or showers. Before you call your landlord or a plumber, you can try some at-home remedies. The first one isn’t pretty, but it’s a lot cheaper and quicker than calling in a professional. You’ll need some tweezers and rubber gloves, and you’ll want to try and pull whatever is causing the slow drainage out—usually, it’s stray hairs and dust buildup with soap scum mixed in—like we said, it’s not a pretty job. If that’s not helping, you can try doing a natural “drain volcano,” which uses a chemical reaction to break up forming clogs. To do this, you first pour one cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by one cup of white vinegar (slowly—if you pour too quickly, you’ll just rinse the baking soda down the drain. Then, let the mixture of baking soda and vinegar sit and bubble for about five minutes, then rinse it all down with one gallon of boiling water. The boiling water helps flush out anything that might have been collecting in the drain. If this doesn’t work the first time, you can try it again.

It’s important to note that if you’ve already used a commercial drain cleaner, you shouldn’t use the vinegar-baking soda method, as commercial drain cleaners can contain certain chemicals that, when mixed with baking soda and vinegar, can create toxic fumes.

While we’re talking about it—should you even be using commercial drain cleaners?

The Case For (and Against) Commercial Drain Cleaners?

While many drain cleaners at the hardware store do in fact clean out your drains pretty well, there can be big downsides, and these downsides can cause major, major problems in your building. Especially if the building is older, using commercial drain cleaners can completely ruin your home’s pipes. That’s because the main ingredient in many commercial drain cleaners is hydrochloric acid, and when left sitting inside drains, it can eat away at not only the pipes, but other finishes in your bathroom and kitchen, such as enamel or metal sinks. Additionally, the fumes from these products can be irritating to toxic—they’re not something you and your family should be breathing in. Worst of all, they may not even work, despite being made of very harsh chemicals. Then, you’re stuck with damaged pipes, toxic fumes, and a drain that’s still clogged.

Instead, you can try a drain snake or a drain plunger first. If these don’t work, it’s time to move onto more intensive repair options.  

When It’s Time to Call Your Landlord or a Plumber

Plumbing in homes and apartments are like the roots of a tree. There’s one main line, and each room’s plumbing can be considered a “branch.” If, for example, your sink is slow to drain, but everything else is fine, it’s just the sink’s pipes that are clogged. However, if the sink is clogged, but nothing else will drain either, it’s likely a main line that’s clogged. In either instance, if you can’t solve the problem with a gentle drain cleaner (vinegar and baking soda) or some simple tools, it’s best to contact a professional plumber. They’ll be able to solve the problem quickly and safely, and you’ll be rid of the problem in no time.

If you’re a renter, you should call your landlord if there’s drain trouble plaguing you. You may be held liable if you cause any damage to the pipes with do-it-yourself methods, and keeping healthy plumbing systems is part of what a landlord’s requirements are.

 

Don’t Want to Deal With Plumbing Issues at Your Tenants’ Homes?

While ignoring your tenants’ requests about fixing plumbing problems is the easy option, it’s not exactly ethical or legal. If you own a lot of investment properties, or you live out of the city your properties are in, dealing with plumbing issues can wind up taking you a lot of time. If you’re tired of spending your time making phone calls to plumbing companies at all hours of the day, night, and weekend, and traveling to your properties to meet with plumbers and tenants, it might be time to look into getting some help from a property management company. They have the time, availability, and desire to take the small tasks off of your plate so that you can do more important things.

At Lofty, we believe that owning investment properties should be satisfying, not frustrating, and we’re committed to doing everything we can to ensure you get to live the life you deserve. To find out more about how we can help you with plumbing issues at your properties, contact us today.  

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

 

where to eat wheeling

Neighborhood Guide: Wheeling

By | home buying, Neighborhood Guides, Property Management

Welcome to the town of Wheeling!

FACTS

Wheeling was home to the video game company Jaleco USA and to the American branch of Taito Corporation.

Some notable residents include:

Actor (Bones) John Francis Daley; opera singer, Deborah Voigt; singer/songwriter and comedian, Haley Reinhart.

EATS

Bob Chinn’s Crab House
393 S. Milwaukee Avenue
A Wheeling institution since 1982. For over 30 years they have been serving some of the freshest seafood from locations around the globe like Alaska, Hawaii and New Zealand. While seafood is their specialty, Bob Chinn’s is also known for their wet-aged prime steaks that are comparable to some of the best steakhouses in the suburbs and Chicago.  

Saranello’s
601 N. Milwaukee Avenue
Inspired by Executive Chef, Mychael Bonner’s Italian travels, the menu features a broad selection of Italian fare, utilizing the freshest ingredients to create the fullest flavors! They bring homemade, hand-crafted pizzas and pastas, as well as prime steaks and fresh fish dishes to the table. Enjoy the casual atmosphere while dining in a rustic setting.

Superdawg
333 S. Milwaukee Avenue
What started out as a hot dog stand in 1948 has grown into the old-fashioned Chicago-style hot dog mainstay, and one of the few remaining places offering carhop service! There is also a diner-style inside seating area, for those that prefer not to eat in their car.

Joe’s Pizzeria
57 N. Wolf Road
Family-friendly parlor known for its signature thin-crust pies and other Italian specialties, since 1966.

Tortorice’s Pizza
217 W Dundee Rd
While technically in Buffalo Grove, don’t let the funny name fool you—the folks here take pizza seriously. One of a handful of family-owned locations throughout the Chicago area, Tortorice’s is truly a magnificent ode to pizza. Take your New York visitors here for the Chicago-style deep dish and watch them melt like buttah.

The Original Granny’s
831 W. Dundee Road
A warm, inviting, neighborhood gem serving hot and tasty breakfast items. Come hungry, leave happy!

Tuscany
550 S. Milwaukee Road
Neighborhood Italian venue featuring pasta dishes & wood-fired pizza in a bright space.

Chicago Bagel & Bialy II
260 S. Milwaukee Avenue
Longtime homemade bagel specialist with outdoor seating featuring breakfast, lunch & deli items.

Rammy’s Sub Contractors
834 Wheeling Road
With owner, Mike Hrametz’s background in construction and studies in food service, he came up with a concept that was like no other. The Rammy’s Sub Contractors brainchild is a unique, construction-themed shop that serves unbelievably great food.

DRINKS

PS Pub
771 W. Dundee Road
Their extensive beer list includes a large selection of imports and domestics, while boasting their craft beer selection. They offer 12 lines of craft beers that are constantly changing. Also on the drink menu are an eclectic selection of shots. Don’t see one you like? The bartenders are happy to make a drink according to your recipe. Also featured are video slots, open mic Wednesdays, karaoke Fridays and live bands on Saturday.

Old Munich Inn
582 N. Milwaukee Avenue
Authentic German dive bar serving cold beer and cocktails only. Occasionally a tray of lunch meat and bread gets passed around to help soak up the drinks being consumed.

Spears
723 N. Milwaukee Avenue
Bourbon and beer drinkers unite. Enjoy cocktails prepared by incredibly knowledgeable bartenders who know all about the process of making, mixing, and drinking your next high quality beverage. Spears has American roots where the best Bourbon, Burgers, and Beer meet and await to delight you!

The Ram Restaurant & Brewery
700 N. Milwaukee Avenue
Brewpub chain featuring rotating house beers & easy-going American grub in family-friendly environment.

Cooper’s Hawk
583 N. Milwaukee Avenue
Combines a working winery, a tasting room and an upscale casual restaurant serving New American fare paired with house-label wines in a contemporary setting.

PARKS AND INTERESTS

Community Recreation Center (CRC)
333 W. Dundee Road
The CRC is open to the public and houses most Wheeling Park District programs including preschool classes, camps, arts and crafts, sports, adult and youth classes, indoor walking/running track, Arctic Splash indoor pool, Fitness Center, and the Guest Service Desk.

Arctic Splash
333 W. Dundee Road
A family friendly indoor pool that features a zero-depth leisure pool, Petie the Polar Bear toddler slide, mini lazy river, four lane – 25 yard lap pool and interactive water structures.

Family Aquatic Center
327 W. Dundee Road
The place you want to be during the summer months! A family friendly seasonal outdoor pool featuring Tsunami Splash (a water playground with large tipping bucket), Lily Pad Lagoon (a splash pool with water basketball and monkey bar activity pad), Volcano Valley (tube and body slides), Paradise Falls (two drop slides), Willie the Whale Toddler Slide, Aloha Beach (zero- depth entry main pool), lap lanes, Kona Courts (sand volleyball), grassy tanning area, Willie’s Coconut Café, a picnic area, diving board and Keiki Island (sand-play area).

Heritage Park
222 S. Wolf Road
Covering 97 acres, Heritage Park is the largest park the Wheeling Park District maintains. Encompassing the CRC and the Aquatic Center, the park has five baseball/softball fields (one with lights), tennis courts, soccer fields, play equipment, and a running/walking/bike path. There are shelters, picnic tables, drinking fountains, and an ice skating rink set up during the winter months. The park can be accessed from Wolf Rd. or via the CRC.

Husky Park
1100 Lee Street
Various slides and climbing apparatus, as well as swings and individual play pieces, accommodate both two- to five-year-olds and five- to 12-year-olds.  The individual play areas are sheltered by sail-like shade structures. The soft safety surface is constructed in circular shapes with contrasting colors.  The old basketball court was removed and replaced with a larger, full-court. Bike racks, new trash/recycling receptacles, and landscaping were added.

Chamber Park
251 N. Wolf Road
This park consists of 13 acres and is home to the Chamber Church, Carriage House, and the Wheeling Historical Society Museum. The church is said to be the second oldest church in Wheeling and as recently as the 1970s held services on Sundays. The Carriage House was moved to the park in the 1980s and the Museum was moved from Milwaukee Road., where it served as the original Wheeling police station. In the 1970s, the park had an outdoor and “kiddie” pool, shuffleboard courts, a large fountain, and an ice skating rink. Today, Chamber Park boasts play equipment, picnic tables, a sheltered gazebo, a dedicated flower garden area, and basketball hoops for informal play. The park also hosts Santa and Mrs. Claus when they come to town every December for Lollipop Lane.

Chevy Chase Golf & Country Club
1000 N. Milwaukee Avenue
A championship, 18-hole golf course set amid rolling greens and grassy fairways proves a challenge to players of all skill levels. Play a peaceful round early on a weekday morning, compete in a fun-filled scramble, or join a league to make new friends.

To meet your needs, golf carts come with GPS and provide a full-service golf shop stocked with brand name clubs and apparel. Finish your game at our 19th  hole, the Gable Room Bar & Grill, for delicious food and cold drinks.

HIGH SCHOOLS

Wheeling High School
900 S. Elmhurst Road
This high school boasts a culturally diverse student body, and draws its strength from embracing the rich multicultural community of students and staff. Wheeling High School is a four-year, comprehensive, public high school that offers all students a 21st century focus in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). US News and World Report recently recognized Wheeling as one of the best high schools in the state of Illinois.

Buffalo Grove High School
1100 W. Dundee Road
Buffalo Grove High School is recognized as a Blue Ribbon High School by the U. S. Department of Education and was named one of the top high schools in the country by U.S. News and World Report and Newsweek magazines. In addition, Chicago magazine most recently named Buffalo Grove as one of the top 20 high schools in Cook County in the state of Illinois.

TRANSPORTATION

The Metra

The North Central Service line Wheeling stop is located at 400 Town Street. The northern most stop is Antioch and southernmost stop is at Union Station in Chicago.

Proximity to Downtown

Obviously there is a bit of fluctuation depending on where exactly you live within the city, but Wheeling is approximately 30 miles from Chicago’s Downtown Loop. Driving (without traffic) would yield about 40 minutes taking I-90 East. If traveling via the Metra, allow approximately 55 minutes.

Airport

Chicago Executive Airport, a busy general aviation airport, is located in Wheeling and Prospect Heights and jointly run by both villages. Formerly known as Palwaukee Municipal Airport, it is the third busiest airport in Illinois, after Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports.

Surrounding Areas

Buffalo Grove, Prospect Heights, Arlington Heights and Northbrook are your closest neighbors. These cities, while close in proximity, each offer unique vibes and help to make the Chicago suburbs a great place to live or visit!

what to do when your tenant stops paying

What to Do When a Tenant Stops Paying Rent or Wants to Break Their Lease

By | Property Management

As a landlord, you can do everything in your power to make a situation agreeable for a tenant, but the unfortunate reality is that sooner or later, you may find yourself facing a tenant who has stopped paying rent for some reason, or who is asking to get out of their lease early. Both of these situations are problematic for a variety of reasons, and the eviction process can be a nightmare for everyone involved, so it’s best to try and resolve problems if you can. If you can’t come to a compromise that works for everyone, though, you do have rights as the landlord. If you’re dealing with unpaid rent or an unhappy tenant who wants to leave before their lease is up, we’re here with some helpful advice.

What to Do When Your Tenant Stops Paying

It can be disheartening if, after all of your screening processes, you wind up with a tenant who stops turning in rent checks. Of course, a day or two late is understandable—we’re all human, after all—but when weeks or even months drag on with no payment coming your way, it’s time to take action.

Most tenants will be open to having a conversation about why they aren’t paying on time. Perhaps they were hit with an unexpected medical emergency and the accompanying bills, or they got into a car accident and have had to cover those expenses. Maybe they lost their job or are going through a divorce. There is usually a reason that people stop paying rent—most tenants aren’t simply neglecting their responsibilities and going out partying every night.

However, whatever the reason, the bottom line is that your bottom line is suffering. Have a sit down talk with your tenant and find out what’s really going on. Once you’ve heard their side of the story, you can make a decision about what to do.

 

Should You Evict or Negotiate?

Eviction processes can be complicated, expensive, and drawn out. If you haven’t been through the process before, you’ll want to be aware of what you’re getting into before you start down that road.

The Eviction Process in Chicago

If you decide to evict a tenant for non-payment, you must first notify them that you plan on starting the eviction process if they do not pay within a certain amount of days. If they don’t pay, you can then begin the eviction process. Eviction lawsuits must be filed in the same county that the property is located in. Once you do, the tenant will then receive a court summons and a court date. If they intend to fight the eviction, they will have to appear. If they appear in court, they’ll have to detail why they are fighting the eviction. There are a number of reasons that a tenant can fight their eviction, and if the case is over unpaid rent, they may choose to bring up issues of damage or lack of maintenance as a reason for the nonpayment—you will want to have any communications between the tenant and yourself on hand to prove that lack of maintenance is not the issue.

Due to the length of time that these proceedings can take—anywhere from five weeks to three months, assuming there are no delays—many landlords choose alternative methods for dealing with nonpayment. The most common alternative is negotiating with the tenant to figure out a smoother transition.

Common Negotiation Options  

Instead of evicting tenants, some landlords choose to work out a solution that involves paying the tenant to move out so that the apartment can be re-leased sooner. Often, the reason a tenant isn’t paying and won’t vacate is because they can’t afford movers. While it’s understandable to sympathize with this plight, the reality is you aren’t obligated to provide charity to non-paying tenants. If you’d prefer avoiding a court case and want the unit vacated, you can consider working out a deal to pay for the tenant’s moving fees so that they can leave sooner. This is sometimes the best case scenario—while you are paying a tenant to leave, a flat fee can work out to be less expensive than taking them to court and evicting them over months of unpaid rent.

You can also work out a payment plan if the tenant thinks they can get back on track relatively soon—whether you want to explore this option has to do with the reliability of the tenant and whether you can trust that they will actually catch up, and how they can prove to you that they can be trusted—documentation of a new job, for instance. This can be a risky choice, because if they turn out to be untrustworthy, you’re back at square one with unpaid rent and a tenant who needs to go.

Talk with your property management company about the best option for what to do when your tenant stops paying. They likely have a lot of experience dealing with all kinds of tenants, and will be able to offer you sound, realistic advice based on the specifics of your property and the current rental market.

 

What About a Tenant Who Wants to Break Their Lease?

Another issue that you may have to deal with as a landlord is a tenant who wants to leave before their lease is up. Breaking a lease is generally unadvisable for tenants, but from time to time, someone may have a legitimate reason that they need to leave: job relocation, family emergency, loss of income, etc. Other times, tenants simply want out of their responsibility– perhaps they want to move in with a significant other, or maybe they don’t like their roommates, but whatever the case may be, you need to find a way to deal with their dissatisfaction.

As a landlord, it’s in your best interest to try and come to a compromise on the tenant’s requests; resistance may lead to them stopping paying rent, and then you have to deal with that, in addition to an unhappy tenant.

If a tenant leaves, you are not allowed to simply do nothing, wait out their lease, then sue them for the months they weren’t there/were not paying. You are obligated by law to try and fill the vacancy in a timely manner. Even if you have a full plate of other responsibilities, you have to start showing the unit as soon as possible. You can charge costs of advertising the unit to the tenant breaking the lease, but thankfully, you aren’t required to list it at a below-market price just to fill the vacancy faster.

Whatever reason the tenant gives for wanting out of their lease, it is often easier to try and work with them to get the situation resolved sooner, rather than argue with them and force them to stay or sue them for unpaid rent.

If the tenant who wants to break the lease is not the only person on the lease, it should be reiterated to the remaining roommates that they are still responsible for the total amount of the rent payment. Recouping unpaid rent from a departed tenant will usually involve suing the tenant, and your leases should have a clause that informs roommates of the potential of having to cover the total cost of the rent in case someone leaves. The remaining tenants may not know that they will be held responsible if one person leaves, and that can cause a domino effect of more unpaid rent. In other words, it’s best to communicate with everyone what the terms of their lease are, even in the event of one person breaking the lease.  Try and get the departing tenant to find a sublet, but if they can’t, and you let them out of the lease, it’s up to you to fill the vacancy.

 

Don’t Get Overwhelmed

If all of this information makes you stressed out just reading it, that’s fair—dealing with unpaid rent, unhappy tenants, and broken leases can be nightmarish. Property management companies know that these issues pop up from time to time, and due to the volume of their businesses, have often dealt with these situations at least once or twice. They can help you track down tenants who aren’t paying on time (or at all), and they’ll be able to help you re-list vacant units, screen tenants, and take care of everything related to possible legal battles.

Here at Lofty, we want everyone who owns investment property to enjoy doing so, and we help facilitate that by managing every aspect of your property’s needs. We handle the difficult situations as well as the everyday minutiae of being a landlord, so that you can live the life you deserve.

Contact us anytime to learn more about how property management can make your life easier.

Speak with Lofty’s expert and managing broker Anthony Zammitt.

 

where and how to store security deposits

Everything You Need to Know About Security Deposits

By | Leasing, Property Management

You bought investment property, fixed it up to be market ready, posted an ad, screened tenants, and now you’re ready to sign a tenant to a lease. Congratulations! Now that you’ve got almost everything sorted out, it’s time to collect the security deposit from your prospective renter. If you haven’t gotten everything in line for your security deposits, though, it’s not too late. Not sure where to start? Follow this guide to learn everything you need to know about security deposits, from how much to charge to how to return them (or keep them) and everything in between.

How Much Should You Charge?

Unfurnished apartments in Chicago—as well as in most other cities and states—have a set limit for security deposits that cannot exceed the equivalent of two months’ rent (for furnished apartments, the limit is three times’ the monthly rent). For instance, if the rent is $1,500 per month, your security deposit cannot exceed $3,000; the payment due upon move-in would be the first month’s rent plus the security deposit. So, how much should you charge?

It’s advisable to charge around the equivalent to one month’s rent as the security deposit. This amount can cover a reasonable amount of damage should you need to do any repairs once the tenant moves out, and it can also discourage and weed out tenants who may be stretching their budget and savings to live in your property. One month’s rent is usually a manageable amount for most tenants, and it’s a very common amount for landlords to charge, so there won’t be any “sticker shock” with that rate. If you’re worried about turning some tenants off by charging a security deposit, you can consider charging a non-refundable fee instead. This is becoming more and more common, and it’s up to you to decide which is the best option for your properties.

When you receive a deposit from a tenant, be sure to issue a receipt including the date of payment, and keep a copy for your own records. When dealing with investment properties, the best thing you can do is keep detailed records and accurate books.

Where and How to Store Security Deposits

In most states, it’s required by law to keep your security deposits in separate bank accounts. Even if it’s not required by law where your properties are, it’s a good idea to keep deposits separate for a number of reasons:

  • They’re easier to keep track of when they’re not sharing an account with standard rent income.
  • It’s easier to manage interest earned; some states allow landlords to keep accrued interest on security deposits, while other states require anything earned plus the initial deposit back to the tenant at the end of the lease. In separate accounts, it’s far easier to track how much interest is earned on a deposit. Maintaining separate bank accounts for each property you own is advisable for optimal organization. You can have a master rental operations checking account, but security deposits for each property should be kept in separate, individual accounts (ideally also checking accounts, so that you can quickly pay them back or use them for repairs at the end of the lease).
  • It prevents accidentally spending the security deposit on maintenance or other expenses. If you do this and find yourself lacking the deposit at the end of the lease, this can be big trouble. That leads us to the next point–what you can use the deposit for.

What Can You Use the Security Deposit For?

Trick question! You can’t use the security deposit for any of your expenses, and it can only be used to cover the tenant’s last month of rent if you agree to those terms. Otherwise, it has to stay in its account, untouched, until the lease is up. Then, you can decide whether to give back the entire deposit, keep a portion of it for repairs, or keep the entire deposit (for major repairs, unpaid rent, etc.).

What to Do If You Sell the Property While Tenants’ Leases Are Still Active

There may come a time when you want to sell your property while existing leases are still in effect. In this event, you have two options: you can return the security deposit to the tenant at the time of sale, or you can transfer it to the new owner. You can’t keep the deposit (you’d think this would be common knowledge, but it’s always good to cover all the bases!). If, for whatever reason, an owner does walk off with the deposits when selling the property, the new owner cannot demand a second deposit from the tenants—the new owner will have to come up with that money on their own. But we don’t need to worry about that, do we? You know you can’t keep the deposit. Let’s move on!

The Lease Is Up: Now What?

When your tenant’s lease is up, there’s a set time frame you have to return the deposit. Since you kept the deposit in it’s own account (you kept the deposit in it’s own account, right?) returning it or keeping it is a pretty easy endeavor. If you’re returning the entire deposit (the tenant screening process worked!), you simply write your tenant a check for the whole amount (plus the interest, if applicable), along with a receipt, and you’re all done. This should be done within 14 to 60 days of the tenant’s moving out, but check your state’s laws on when security deposits need to be returned to be safe. Be sure to date the receipt—a simple mistake of omitting the date can cause a lot of problems, and can cost you money if a tenant later claims you didn’t pay their deposit back. Without a date on the receipt, you don’t have adequate proof of giving the deposit back, so we can’t stress it enough—you need to date the receipt.

If you’re keeping any of the deposit, it’s best to give your tenant an itemized list of charges as well as a receipt for the amount issued. You can’t keep any of the deposit to cover normal wear and tear, but you can keep part of the deposit for repairs or extensive cleaning.  

If you’re keeping the entire deposit, it’s beneficial to notify the tenant as such as well as provide them with an itemized list of expenses that were covered with the deposit. All of this paperwork should be dated, and it’s important to notify the tenant of this in a timely manner. Sometimes, tenants will try to fight your keeping of the deposit, and that’s where detailed documentation of the apartment’s condition upon move-in and move-out as well as any repairs or maintenance done will come in handy. You can fight the tenant for what’s rightly yours, and provided your reasons for keeping the deposit are reasonable, you’ll be ready to re-rent the apartment in no time.

 

You Don’t Have to Do Everything On Your Own

An important note about all of this is that when it comes to managing security deposits or any other part of the property ownership or landlord responsibilities, you don’t have to do everything by yourself. In fact, if you are doing everything yourself, it can be easy to miss certain details or get so bogged down by busywork that you aren’t able to do what you really want to be doing. You didn’t get involved with investment properties so that you could screen tenants and deal with writing up maintenance checklists after leases end—you got into investment property to, naturally, see a return on that investment.

Here at Lofty, we understand that your time is valuable, and we think you should be enjoying owning investment property, not spending all your time dealing with leases, security deposits, and other paperwork. We work hard to make sure our clients and landlords have an easy time with their investment properties, and we do so by taking care of every aspect of property management, from advertising your apartments in Chicago to screening tenants, scheduling maintenance and repairs, collecting rent and distributing security deposits, and so much more. With the help of a property management company, you can spend your time how you want to spend it—not doing work for your properties.

To learn more about how Lofty can help you start living the life you deserve, contact Lofty’s managing broker Anthony Zammitt to chat!

when to clean dryer vents

What You Need to Know About Duct & Dryer Vent Care in Your Properties

By | Property Management

When you own investment properties, making sure you schedule regular maintenance can save you a lot of hassle from having to do costly emergency repairs. If you’re a first time landlord or just want to know more about how to best maintain your properties’ ducts and dryer vents, this is the guide for you. Learning about what you can expect, how often maintenance is required, and how much you’ll be paying for duct and dryer vent services can ensure that your properties stay in tip top shape for the duration of your ownership.

What Kind of Maintenance is Required?

Dryer vents and ducts need to be kept clean in order to ensure that your properties are safe. Dryer vents can become clogged over time, and in order to prevent house fires, you’ll need to make sure they’re not blocked. Ducts should also be cleaned to improve the air quality in your properties. Dust, mold, and other contaminants can build up in ducts and may cause health problems for you or your tenants. As a landlord, you’re responsible for providing a safe and healthy environment for your tenants, and duct and dryer vent cleanings need to be a part of your maintenance checklist.

How Often Do You Have to Do It?

Dryer vents should be cleaned about once a year, though you can schedule regular checks for blockages every six months to be extra careful. As for duct cleanings, those can be done less frequently. Duct cleaning is suggested every three to five years, but that time frame may vary depending on what part of the country your property is in, how often the heating and cooling system is used, or if anyone living in the space has health problems related to air quality.

How can you tell when it’s time to schedule a cleaning? Contact your property management company and have them schedule duct cleaning services if any of these apply to your situation:

  • You suspect mold is in the ducts.
  • You can see visible puffs of dust leave the air vents when the system is turned on.
  • If there is/was a pest infestation in the property (such as before you took ownership).
  • Your air filters are heavily coated with dust when you replace them—this can be a sign you’re overdue for a cleaning.
  • You’ve done heavy renovations in a property. Drywall dust and other contaminants can build up in the ducts during construction, and prior to tenant move-in, the ducts should be cleaned.
  • There are a lot of pets in the building. Ducts will need more frequent cleaning if there is pet hair and dander in them.

 

How Much Will It Cost?

Cleaning your dryer vents generally runs from $60-$150, depending on who you work with. Duct cleanings can be more costly, depending on the size of the property and how much work needs to be done. In order to get the best deal, be sure that the company you choose for the service offers full service cleaning, which should include a full cleaning of the heating and cooling unit. Get written estimates by a few HVAC cleaning companies—reputable companies should provide a free inspection and estimate. Don’t fall for “all-inclusive” deals that are extremely low-cost, because they can be very cursory jobs that will just have you calling another company to do the work the first company missed. High quality duct and dryer vent cleaning can take a few hours and may involve sophisticated equipment—not just a half an hour with a Shop-Vac. If you’re not sure how to find the most reputable HVAC and duct cleaner in Chicago, your property management company can help. They should have a list of qualified, reliable contractors that you can trust.

What Happens If You Don’t Do It?

Dryer vent fires are a very real threat if you don’t do routine cleanings. According to the National Fire Protection Association, dryers were the cause of more than 15,500 home fires in 2010, so taking the chance simply isn’t worth it. Less serious issues can include longer dry cycles (which range from being merely inconvenient to downright problematic, if your tenants threaten to withhold rent until maintenance is performed), or a clogged vent system. If the vent system is clogged and not exhausting properly, it can wear out your appliances much faster due to the higher heat. Wait too long and you may need to completely replace the vent system, which can be a costly procedure—you’ll be wishing you had paid those smaller fees to clean the vents!

Neglecting duct cleaning can also lead to dust and other contaminants building up over time. Beyond improving the quality of the air in your properties, cleaning the ducts will help improve the efficiency of the building’s heating and cooling units. When it comes to winter property maintenance and ensuring your tenants stay safe and warm through the cold spells, duct cleaning can play a big part.

Want to know more about duct cleaning and dryer vent maintenance? At Lofty, we’re committed to helping landlords and property owners live the life they deserve to be living, and that includes helping you take care of building maintenance and repairs. Contact us anytime and let us take some of the responsibility off your hands, so that you can spend your time doing things you want to be doing.

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

how property management companies can help you

Landlord Responsibilities Between Tenant Occupancies in Chicago

By | Property Management

When you’re a landlord and have regular turnover in your units, the work that you need to get done between occupancies can start to feel like it’s taking up all of your time—partially because if you have enough properties, it actually is taking up all of your time. 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.

Don’t Expect Your Tenants to Leave the Place Move-In Ready

The first step with this process is to go into the situation with reasonable and realistic expectations. In other words, while in a perfect world all of your tenants would patch holes in walls, scrub the floors til they’re sparkling, 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.

 

What Needs to Be Done Between Tenant Occupancies?

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. 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.

Appearance, Security, and Safety of Chicago Rentals

Beyond aesthetic work like repainting, you need to make sure your new tenant is aware that they need to set up the utilities in their own name. This is usually outlined in tenant leases, but it can’t hurt to remind new occupants of that responsibility.

You’ll also need to rekey the locks for the apartment. 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.

You’ll want to do a walk through 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.

However, it’s best to do this walk through without the departing tenant there—their presence can not only put a lot of pressure on you to give them answers about their deposit on the spot, but they can also mask problems that won’t show up until a few days later, like stains that have been scrubbed from the carpet, only to reappear when the cleaner dries, or lingering pet odors.

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 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.

Once all of these tasks have been taken care of, it’s advisable to bring in a cleaning crew for a deep cleaning of the unit. A professional cleaning company will make the place move-in ready, something that your new tenants will appreciate.

As far as painting, unless the paint is peeling or overly damaged, you may not be required to paint. Many landlords allow their tenants to paint for them, provided they repaint it back to a neutral shade upon move-out. It’s up to you how you want to manage painting. Some landlords dislike the prospect and work involved in painting, and offer their tenants the option to choose paint and do it themselves, taking the cost out of their rent. How you deal with painting in apartments between tenants is mostly personal preference, though you should make sure there are no state laws requiring painting every certain amount of years.

 

Using Your Time Efficiently When Transitioning Tenants

All of these tasks may seem like they won’t take up too much time, but when you have multiple units across multiple buildings, with tenant leases ending at different times, the amount of time you spend preparing your properties for new tenants can really add up. You shouldn’t be spending all of your free time doing apartment upkeep and maintenance; getting involved with investment property was supposed to be beneficial to you, not take up all your time, after all.
You could hire out contractors to do the work for you, of course, but even that requires you to show up to the property to let cleaners, painters, and other maintenance workers in and return to the property when they’re finished to ensure the building is secured. Though it’s less time consuming than doing everything yourself, it’s still a lot of wasted time that you could be spending doing something more productive or enjoyable.

 

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 move-out and move-in procedures, as well as other aspects of being a landlord. They’ll be able to contract out the necessary work, meet workers at the property, ensure that the units are ready to go for the next tenant, and work with departing tenants to get everything squared away for you. You can literally hand off all of those pesky jobs to someone else and really reap the benefits of owning investment properties.

Here at Lofty, we believe that owning investment properties shouldn’t be a headache. We take care of everything our clients need, from screening tenants to doing the 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.

 

what you need to know about keeping deposits

Returning or Keeping a Security Deposit?

By | Property Management

Lofty Real Estate saves you money
If you’ve been a property owner or landlord in Chicago for any significant amount of time, you probably know all about security deposits: how to store them properly, when you need to give them back (if you plan on giving them back), what constitutes normal wear and tear and what constitutes damage that should be paid for with the security deposit, and how to deal with tenants who fight your decision to withhold the deposit.

But if you’re just dipping your toes into being a landlord or owning investment properties, learning about all of it can make your head swim. At Lofty, our goal is to make your job easier, and that means teaching you everything you need to know about returning (or not) the security deposits for your properties.

Returning It? Here’s How

Generally speaking, in Illinois, security deposits must be returned to the tenant within 30 to 45 days of the lease ending. Though some states require landlords to give tenants a move-in statement that details the condition of the property, Illinois is not one of them, so it’s in your best interest to keep accurate records of the condition your properties are in when tenants move in. That way, when they vacate the unit, you can cross-check against your old notes and see if there are repairs that need to be made.

If you’re returning the deposit, be sure to make receipts for both your own records and the tenant’s, so that the tenant can’t claim you never returned it. When you return the deposit, be sure to date the receipt—though it seems like a simple detail, leaving it out on accident can come back to haunt you. Without a date on receipt, you could find yourself paying out more in fees and court costs if tenants take you to court over deposit-related conflict. If it sounds confusing, don’t worry—it kind of is. If you’re taking matters into your own hands, security deposits can be a real headache. Working with a property management company can help take away some of the stress associated with security deposit issues.

What You Need to Know About Keeping Deposits

Returning a security deposit is easy. It’s when you decide to keep some or all of it that things can get really messy. Here’s what you should know about keeping deposits.

First Things First: What Constitutes “Normal Wear and Tear”?  

Security deposits are typically kept by landlords in Chicago (and elsewhere) to cover the cost of damages and repairs. A lot of times, this is fought by tenants who claim that the damage is consistent with “normal wear and tear” on the unit. Normal wear and tear is a real thing, but in order to know whether or not something falls under that category, it’s helpful to know what’s generally considered normal wear and tear in a rental unit.

    • Flooring: Carpet gets dirty and hardwood floors can get scratched, but if a tenant leaves behind pet stains or multiple cracked tiles, or floorboards that are excessively damaged, that’s not considered normal use.
    • Walls: This is a big issue between landlords and tenants—whether holes from nails used to hang artwork or other decorations are considered normal wear and tear. And the answer tends to differ from landlord to landlord. Use your best judgment here; splitting hairs over two or three nail holes might not be worth the potential hassle of a tenant trying to take you to court for the security deposit. Holes in the wall, however, are a completely different story and should be fixed with security deposit funds.
    • Pet Damage: Things like chewed-on cabinet doors, scratches on the walls, and stains are all out of the realm of normal wear and tear in a rental. In order to plan for problems like these, many landlords choose to charge non-refundable deposits or additional pet rent.
  • Overall Cleanliness: While you might want to reconsider charging a cleaning fee for unswept floors and some light tidying, if a tenant leaves behind the remnants of a last-minute party, food in the refrigerator, and general filth, it’s more than acceptable to charge for cleaning.

The Most Common Reasons Deposits Are Kept

There are a handful of reasons that a security deposit might be withheld. They include:

  • Early termination of the lease
  • Unpaid rent
  • Money owed to the landlord for utility bills
  • Cleaning fees for dirty or un-cleaned apartments
  • Damage to property (or furniture in furnished units)

 

What Do You Have to Provide to the Tenant if You’re Keeping the Deposit?

Laws vary from state to state regarding what you need to give your tenant if you are keeping any or all of their deposit, but generally, it’s good form to provide a list of services performed or things that needed fixing/replaced and the costs associated with them. This lets the tenant know that you actually used the money for what you said you did, and that you didn’t just charge $200 to dust the baseboards.

What to Do If a Tenant Contests Your Decision

If a tenant feels that you are wrongfully withholding any or all of their deposit, they may choose to file in small claims court or even hire a personal attorney to handle the case. However, you have rights—if you are justified in keeping the deposit, you can counter-sue the tenant to ensure you don’t end up underwater with fees and costs. Going to court can be a huge pain and can cost a lot of money for all parties, though, so if it’s a minor quabble—say, over a $50 invoice for cleaning, it may be best to try and settle with the tenant to avoid a costly court case.

Getting Help When You Need It

You got into investment property ownership to make money, not to make your full-time job dealing with tenant hassles. Here at Lofty, we want to help you with every aspect of being a landlord, from finding the best tenants to answering your security deposit questions and everything in between, so that you can save time and frustration and do things you actually want to do. Contact us anytime to learn how working with a property management company can help you start living the life you deserve to live.

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

how to move out tenants chicago

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

By | Property Management

When one lease ends and another begins, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. Security deposits need to be sorted and returned to departing tenants, the first month’s rent needs to be collected from new renters, and in between, maintenance may need to be done on the property. And 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 easy way to earn extra money, 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.

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 be very 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.

 

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. After all, you got into investment properties to make money, not to take on a second full-time job, right? 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—too high and people will balk, but too low, and some people may wonder what’s wrong with the place (are the walls so thin that they’ll be able to hear their neighbors debate about who should win The Bachelor, for instance?).

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.
Imagine not having to deal with any of the headache-inducing frustration that is the vacancy period. You’ll have so much more time on your hands—time you could use to, say, catch up on The Bachelor (or do anything else!). Working with a property manager means you won’t have treat owning investment property like a second full-time job.

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. It can feel like it’s never-ending, can’t it? 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.

 

where to rent chicago

Why Some Chicago Neighborhoods Are More Expensive to Buy and Rent In

By | Property Management

When you think about real estate in Chicago to rent or buy in, you’ve probably got a pretty good picture of what the more expensive neighborhoods look like: high-end boutiques, unique, trendy restaurants, and sharp looking homes, condos, and apartments. You’re not wrong—these highly sought after lifestyle amenities are what make some neighborhoods so hot. But when it comes to buying and renting, there are some other reasons why certain areas of Chicago cost what they do. Learning what tenants are looking for (hint: it’s not only stainless steel appliances and marble countertops) will help you make the best decisions about where to purchase investment property or rental units.

Neighborhood Growth

Over time, the vibe of different neighborhoods changes, causing fluctuation in things like how much homes are valued at. As a property owner or landlord, it’s natural to want to get the most return on your investment, so purchasing properties in up-and-coming neighborhoods is generally a great plan. An increase in the cost to rent or own in a neighborhood can often be attributed to the amount of—and the type of—development happening in an area. If more restaurants, newer apartment buildings or homes, and other interesting hotspots are being built up in a certain area, it’s safe to assume that those neighborhoods will soon cost more to live in, and in turn, will cost more to rent or own property in.

Location, Location, Location

Of course, where an apartment, condo, or home is located in Chicago will also dictate how much it will cost. Property owners and landlords know that the closer a home is to L stops, the more sought after it will be—Chicago is a city full of commuters young and old, and getting to school or work conveniently is a priority that a lot of renters and owners have when choosing where they live. For instance, though neighborhoods like Rogers Park have a lot to offer, they’re further away from the center of the city, and it can take longer to get places from there. The same can be said for most any neighborhood on the outskirts of the city—the longer it takes to get somewhere, the less popular the area is, generally speaking.

What’s Happening?

Aside from simple proximity to transportation, people will be looking for what they can do in their neighborhood without getting on a train or bus. In other words, what Chicago events take place? For example, in neighborhoods like Bucktown and Wicker Park, the Do Division and Wicker Park Fests are a popular fixture every summer, and for those who already live in the area, it’s a convenient way to spend a weekend. In River North, plenty of nightlife options are attractive to people who love checking out the latest bar, nightclub, or restaurant. When considering where to purchase investment property, property owners and landlords should consider what their potential future tenants will be looking for and make decisions accordingly. In order to get the best return on an investment, you’ll want to be able to offer your potential renters something they find value in.

How to Stay Ahead of the Curve

Naturally, purchasing property that is in a popular neighborhood will mean that you’ll likely have no trouble renting it. But as a landlord or property owner, it’s only natural to want to get a great deal on property as well as be able to make the most of your investment. Paying a high cost upfront can mean spending a lot of time trying to keep up with the competition—working very hard for marginal returns. Earning more on your investment means looking at up-and-coming neighborhoods that don’t yet have the numbers you’re looking for, but will very shortly.

Take a look at a neighborhood like Logan Square. A decade ago, tenants shied away due to lack of development. Five years ago, renting in Logan Square was a popular choice with younger, “artsy-type” tenants who were looking for a great deal after being priced out of Wicker Park. Now, it’s one of the hottest and fastest-growing areas in the city. Rents have gone up—the average price of a studio apartment is now between $800 and $900, with larger apartments costing more—a lot of new businesses are thriving, and the overall feel of the neighborhood is much more fun and exciting than it used to be. As a landlord or property owner, finding properties in neighborhoods that are growing but not yet fully built-up—such as Humboldt Park or Avondale—can mean a high return on your investment. In a similar vein, purchasing apartments, condos, and homes in popular Chicago neighborhoods like Hyde Park, Lakeview, and West Loop can mean you’ll always have people interested in your property.

Taking advantage of growing areas means keeping a close eye on where developers are heading and where tenants are moving from. This will give you a good idea of where to buy or rent next—property owners benefit a great deal from getting into a certain real estate market early. As an area heats up, you can adjust rent accordingly and watch your profit margin rise. You’ll also want to look at properties that are closer to the L stops and bus lines—as we previously mentioned, ease of getting around is a major reason people pick to live in one place over another. That means that cost of properties will be different even from block to block. Choosing location wisely can have a huge impact on your property’s success.

Start Taking Advantage of Opportunity

When you’re ready to start capitalizing on new rental properties or want to learn more about why some neighborhoods cost more to rent and own in than others, property management companies can offer a lot of insight. At Lofty, we’re ready to help you get the most out of your investment so that you can live the life you deserve. Contact us anytime to find out more about investment properties in Chicago and how you can make them work harder for you.

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

Neighborhood Guide – Wicker Park

By | Neighborhood Guides, Property Management

Welcome to the Wicker Park (sometimes referred to as the Wicker Park/Bucktown) Neighborhood!

Over the last decade, Wicker Park (and Bucktown), centered around the six-corner intersection of Milwaukee, North and Damen Avenues, has gradually transformed from a gritty-come-artsy neighborhood of galleries and dive bars to trendy, upscale living and entertainment. This is mainly due to an increase of homes being bought, renovated and built. However, all the flavor has not been bought out of the area as Wicker Park remains a vibrant hub of culture and commerce in Chicago, riddled with boutiques, restaurants, cocktail bars, concerts venues and condos.

FACTS

The Wicker Park Historic District is on the National Register of Historic Places listings in Chicago. Much of Wicker Park was also designated as a Chicago Landmark District.

2000’s quintessential John Cusak film, High Fidelity, was filmed here—Rob’s store was located at the corner of Milwaukee and Honore.

In 2001 a season of MTV’s The Real World, was filmed in Wicker Park in the loft building currently home to Cheetah Gym.

Milwaukee Avenue’s Costa Rica Restaurant, Irazu, has been featured on PBS television’s Check, Please!, Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (Guy Fieri sampled several dishes) and Food Network’s The Secret Life of Milkshakes. The burritos competed in ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight’s 2014 Burrito Bracket.

Some notable residents include:

WWE wrestlers, Colt Cabana and CM Punk; singer/songwriter, Liz Phair; former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist, James Iha; singer/guitarist for The Alkaline Trio, Matt Skiba.

EATS

Chicago is a food city! With too many great restaurants to include them all, consider this a quick start guide to your flavorful adventures… enjoy exploring your new neighborhood eateries!

Antique Taco
1360 N. Milwaukee Avenue
Owned and operated by a husband and wife team, indulge yourself in a seasonal menu of gourmet tacos & Mexican appetizers doled out in a shabby-chic, counter-serve space.

Big Star
1531 N. Damen Avenue
Probably one of the best outdoor patios in the city and their tacos speak for themselves. No matter what time of day, this place is jammed with people eating the Mexican street food and drinking. Heads up though, this popular spot is cash only.

Piece Brewery and Pizza
1927 W. North Avenue
This isn’t your typical pizza joint. The go-to specialties? A New Haven, CT style pizza smothered in red sauce, topped with garlic, extra parmesan, and olive oil with notably no mozzarella (though cheese is an option as well as other toppings) paired with award-winning, brewed-on-premise, small-batch beers. Fun Fact: Doug Sohn chose Piece to host his Hot Doug’s swan song–a fusion of encased meat and pizza, named the Atomic Bomb after the menu mainstay from his much-missed eatery.

Trencherman
2039 W. North Avenue
Formerly a Russian bath house, the space is now host to a Modern American menu influenced by Chicago’s rich neighborhood history, with a ridiculous Wednesday $10 burger and beer special!

Mindy’s Hot Chocolate
1747 N. Damen Avenue
Hip, family-friendly American eatery known for it’s seasonal menus, rich desserts and of course, hot chocolate.

The Bongo Room
1470 N. Milwaukee Avenue
The place to go for all your brunch desires. Features inventive pancakes and other updated American breakfast and lunch classics.

DRINKS

As previously stated, consider this a quick start guide to begin your exploration!

The Violet Hour
1520 N. Damen Avenue
This swanky cocktail lounge has a distinctly speakeasy vibe and the carefully constructed cocktails are excellent. You won’t find a sign on the door, and the decor is completely and unarguably gorgeous.

Emporium Arcade Bar
1366 N. Milwaukee Avenue
Bring out your inner child with 40+ 25¢ arcade games to provide the entertainment and 24 rotating craft beers and 50+ kinds of whiskey to provide the fuel!

Bangers & Lace
1670 W. Division Street
Named after sausage (“bangers”) and “Brussels lace,” i.e., beer foam on the edge of a glass (“lace”), this Division Ave upstart harnesses a stellar draft selection and knowledgeable staff that draw in a lively mix of beer aficionados and neighborhood clientele at all hours and seasons. They even offer two-ounce sample beers and a sweet patio space in the summer!

Estelle’s
2013 W. North Avenue
At this low-key sanctuary in the Milwaukee-North-Damen intersection, no one is trying to out-cool anyone—the uncool simply can’t hang and leave. Comfortably strike up a conversation with a new friend over a PBR ($2 on Tuesdays!) and some late-night bar food, served till 3am, after one of many shows at Subterranean, the venue next door.

PARKS AND INTERESTS

RSVP Gallery
1753 N Damen Avenue
Technically in Bucktown, RSVP is a design and fashion-minded shop selling high-end clothing, art and wares for those young of heart and thick of wallet. Heavy streetwear and fashion-blogger influence.

Mildblend Supply Co.
1342 N Milwaukee Avenue
With “a rustic and recycled interior,” MildBlend Supply Co. (formerly Untitled, a Chicago legend) carries high-end denim along with all type of trendy men’s and women’s casual and fine clothing, leather goods, shoes, bags, and grooming products. They are also pioneering supporters of the Made In USA movement.

Green Music Fest
Intersection of Damen, North and Milwaukee
This environmentally conscious Wicker Park street festival takes over Damen Ave, bringing green vendors, food and biodiesel- and bicycle-powered live music to the neighborhood for two nights each summer.

LVL3
1542 N. Milwaukee Avenue
SAIC graduate, Vincent Uribe opened this gallery in 2009, just after he finished his freshman year. Years later, he’s still runs this space and is presenting some the area’s most exciting group shows, gathering work from artists all over the country.

Wicker Park
1425 N. Damen Avenue
This four-acre recreation area may be small for a popular park, but when the weather is warm you will be able to find residents sitting by the fountain, playing basketball on the courts and kids playing on the swings. A field house in the middle of the park contains a gymnasium and meeting rooms, overlooking a lush public garden that is tended by members of the community.

Wicker Park Farmer’s Market
1425 N. Damen Avenue
Each Sunday, a small grouping of farmers, vendors and shoppers descend on Wicker Park for the neighborhood’s farmers’ market, which features fresh fruits and veggies, baked goods, meats, cheeses, and flowers. The market begins in May and ends in October.

The 606
also referred to as The Bloomingdale Trail – various access points along Bloomingdale Avenue
This old elevated train line has been given new life as a connective system of parks, access points, and multi-use exercise trail.

TRANSPORTATION

The L – Blue Line
Easy access to the CTA Blue Line services this area. Stations are located at Division, Damen and Western.

Bus
The following bus routes are also readily available:

North-South bus lines:

  • #9 Ashland Avenue
  • #50 Damen Avenue
  • #49 Western Avenue
  • #56 Milwaukee Avenue

East-West bus lines:

  • #70 Division Street
  • #72 North Avenue
  • #73 Armitage Avenue
  • #74 Fullerton Avenue

Proximity to Downtown
Obviously there is a bit of fluctuation depending on where exactly you live within the neighborhood, but Wicker Park is approximately 5 miles from Chicago’s Downtown Loop. Driving (without traffic) would yield about 13 minutes taking I-90 East. If traveling via the CTA, allow approximately 45 minutes.

Surrounding Areas
Bucktown, West Town and Ukranian Village are your closest neighbors. The awesome thing about the surrounding neighborhoods is that they offer up different atmospheres that are unique to them…and quite honestly, that’s what makes Chicago great.

 Get in touch with our experts to learn more about this wonderful neighborhood.

 

 

Security Deposits vs. Move-In Fees: Which Is Better for Your Property?

By | Property Management

In the increasingly competitive rental market in Chicago, it’s becoming more and more common for landlords to charge non-refundable move-in fees instead of the more traditional security deposit. There are a number of reasons for the shift to this policy, and in order to decide which is better for you and your properties, it’s important to learn more about why these fees are becoming a standard part of the rental agreement in Chicago.

Tenant Rights for Security Deposits

One of the biggest reasons landlords and property owners are choosing to charge non-refundable fees instead of security deposits is the risk potential that accompany even small, seemingly-insignificant mistakes. For example, if a landlord forgets to date the receipt for the security deposit, tenants are eligible for an immediate return of the deposit, as well as other damages, which can equal up to two times the initial security deposit amount, plus court costs and associated legal fees. With the risk of situations like these arising, it’s not surprising that the non-refundable move-in fee is getting more popular.

What’s more, there are very detailed regulations associated with how landlords have to manage, store, and pay interest on the collected security deposit. While security deposits can be helpful in eviction processes to cover a tenant’s unpaid rent, they may not always be the most ideal choice for your properties—even with helpful property managers taking care of your paperwork and books, the process of dealing with security deposits can sometimes be complicated. When it comes to streamlining the rental process, move-in fees can be a great way to save time and frustration, but it’s up to you to determine what’s right for your properties. If you’re stuck, a property management company can help reveal all the potential benefits and drawbacks of security deposits and fees, allowing you to make the most informed decision.

 

Benefits of Charging Non-Refundable Move-In Fees and Pet Rent in Chicago

For renters, move-in fees have obvious benefits—handing over the equivalent of one or more months of rent as a security deposit can be a tough financial hurdle, and move-in fees are traditionally much less expensive than security deposits—averaging around $200-400 for Chicago tenants.

The benefits of charging non-refundable fees don’t just apply to tenants, though. For landlords in Chicago, charging move-in and pet fees eliminates the need for separate, often-complicated accounts to hold deposits in, and it guarantees immediate income that can be used for property maintenance or other costs.

With non-refundable fees for move-ins, landlords have immediate access to funds that they can use for taking care of routine maintenance and other tasks that need to be done between leases—changing locks, updating directories, painting, small repairs, etc.

Non-refundable fees are easier to keep track of, as well, meaning less work overall for landlords—what’s not to like about that? By collecting fees instead of deposits, you’ll save the time that you would have spent working to ensure you’re meeting all the requirements for holding onto security deposits. As far as tenant rights and landlord responsibilities are concerned, move-in fees are becoming the clear winner for many property owners because they’re convenient, quick to collect, and easy to manage.

Pet Deposits and Pet Rent In Rental Agreements

In addition to choosing between move-in fees or security deposits, another important aspect of any rental agreement in Chicago is how the landlord will manage pet deposits or pet rent. There are a lot of benefits to allowing your tenants to keep pets in their homes, but it’s important to make sure you’re protected, too. Many property owners choose not to charge separate pet deposits and security deposits, and for good reason—if a tenant causes damage that is unrelated to the pet, landlords aren’t allowed to use their pet deposits to cover the damage. Pet deposits can only be used for pet-related damages and maintenance, so many landlords instead choose to simply charge an additional amount of pet rent per month.

By charging an additional amount for pet rent, landlords ensure they’ll have the necessary funding to take care of any pet damage, and they’ll also have guaranteed extra income every month, increasing the profitability of the property.

Your Best Option

Making the choice between charging fees or security deposits will depend on a number of factors—beyond the pros and cons of each option, it can ultimately depend on your personal preference as a landlord. Property management companies can offer valuable guidance for what the best course of action may be. Here at Lofty, we are excited to be of service any time you need help deciding whether to charge fees or deposits for your apartments and condos. Reach out today 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.

Fulton Market Real Estate Brokerage

Neighborhood Guide: West Loop Fulton Market

By | Neighborhood Guides, Property Management

Welcome to the West Loop Neighborhood!

With one of the most happening food scenes in Chicago due to some of the best restaurants and bars in the city, some might say the West Loop is the Best Loop. No doubt, it has become a very desirable and active area! Fulton Market and Randolph’s Restaurant Row are just a few of the main attractions in this popular neighborhood!

FACTS

The West Loop was once strictly industrial. The hip, industrial vibe is still alive today, with former manufacturing and warehousing buildings converted to loft condos, restaurants, nightclubs, event spaces, showrooms and art galleries.

Oprah Winfrey’s syndicated television show, Oprah, was previously produced in the West Loop at Harpo Studios.

Google recently reclaimed and remodeled the old Cold Storage building for their Chicago Headquarters. The southeast corner of the building is home to Cold Storage Oyster Bar and Swift & Sons Steakhouse.

EATS

Chicago is a food city! With too many great restaurants to include them all, consider this a quick start guide to your flavorful adventures… enjoy exploring your new neighborhood eateries!

Au Cheval
800 W. Randolph Street
Awarded the “Best Burger” title by Bon Appetit magazine in 2012, and has since ballooned with popularity. Au Cheval goes through about 400 hamburger patties each weekday and up to 500 a day on the weekend. Head to Au Cheval when it will serve you best: for a burger and a beer at the bar.

Publican Quality Meats
825 W. Fulton Market Street
Located in the neighborhood’s meat-packing area, this a butcher shop, a sandwich joint, a grocer and a bakery. Menu offerings include house-made charcuterie, artisanal cheeses, freshly baked breads, specialty coffee drinks and rustic soups and sandwiches. The little sister restaurant of The Publican, PQM acts as The Publican’s private dining room by night.

Little Goat
820 W. Randolph Street
Stephanie Izard’s bakery and diner serves up reimagined comfort food. As the sequel to her popular Girl & the Goat, the restaurant that put the West Loop on the map, Little Goat has redefined the small-plate trend and proved that winning Top Chef can actually translate into real world success!

Chicken & Farm Shop
113 N. Green Street
Located in Soho House, serving rotisserie-cooked, free-range birds sourced from Pine Manor Farm in Indiana—birds come whole, by the half or quarters. The chickens are continually roasting on a rotisserie behind the bar, so they come out hot and juicy in minutes. You will also be able to enjoy classic American sides and British dessert “puddings.” Craft cocktails, beer and wine offered in a stylish, industrial diner featuring exposed brick walls and big windows.

The Corned Beef Factory
1009 W. Lake Street
An offering of tender, slow-cooked meats awaits you at this cozy, spot located in what was once the front office of the 60+ year old Ex-Cel corned beef factory, an old-school meatpacking district staple that used to sell wholesale briskets out the back door. The meats are cured on site and boast exceptional flavor, and every sandwich comes with house made potato chips and a perfect pickle.

High Five Ramen
112 N. Green Street
Journey under Green Street Meats and feel the vibe of a gritty basement ramen shop in Tokyo. Spice is the name of the game in this hidden gem, but there are plenty of mild bowls to choose from as well. Slushy cocktails are a must at this hip, subterranean eatery.

DRINKS

As previously stated, consider this a quick start guide to begin your exploration!

The Beer Bistro
1060 W. Madison Street
A low-key, tavern with a neighborhood feel just steps from the high-profile establishments of Randolph Street, The Beer Bistro carries upwards of 100 beers. Enjoy one and strike up a conversation with your beer-geek bartender or another good-natured patron.

Fulton Market Kitchen
311 N. Sangamon Street
Part restaurant, part lounge and part art gallery. Grab a seat in this chic warehouse space on one of the couches or at the bar and check out the artwork that is created by local artists and a street art-inspired mural.

Haymarket Pub & Brewery
737 W. Randolph Street
A throwback brewpub that offers a rotating selection of housemade craft beers and pub fare, as well as occasional live music. Even with so many outstanding restaurants in close proximity, this is a great place to grab a drink and a bite.

RM Champagne Salon
116 N. Green Street
Enter this champagne bar through an unmarked alleyway, where glowing strings of lights lead to a cobblestone courtyard! RMCS serves American cuisine small plates in an elegant setting replete with marble fireplace and chandeliers.

City Winery
1200 W. Randolph Street
A veritable one-stop-shop, this unique, 30,000 square foot venue is not only Chicago’s premier  wine and fine dining experience with attached concert venue, but also offers food and wine classes, flexible event space and seem to be on a noble, artistic quest to find the perfect combo of drink, food and sound that will leave you breathless and satisfied.

PARKS AND INTERESTS

Randolph Street Market Festival
1340 W Washington Boulevard
Typically occurring on the last weekend of each month, RSMF boasts 100+ vendors selling goods from antiques, furniture, clothing. During the warmer weather months of May through September, the market features an outdoor spot, with more vintage shopping and a beer garden. Shop for vintage clothes and jewelry, enjoy a fancy food market and global goods or bring your own items for appraisal. Tickets are available at a discount online or can be purchased at the gate.

Mary Bartelme Park
115 S. Sangamon St
At 1.4 acres, this city park is very kid-friendly with swings, slides and a lot of other cool things on which to run around—this park also features pieces that allow for inventive, non-linear play without traditional play equipment! For the dog in your life, there is a sunken dog park which includes a continuously filling, oversized dog bowl, ramps, ledges, steps, and an artificial grass exercise area. You can also find a “viewing hill”, up to six feet high that provides an incredible view of the park with the Chicago Skyline as the backdrop.

Brooklyn Boulders
100 S. Morgan Street
An expansive rock climbing facility which offers classes for beginners to advanced climbers. The building is also home to an “Active Collaborative Workspace,” a co-working office in which you may participate in a little physical activity during the workday. Gee, wonder what that is…

Aspect Ratio
119 N. Peoria Street
The go-to place for video art. Here is the only commercial video art space in the city so be sure to check out the top film-focused exhibitions.

Union Park
1501 W. Randolph Street
From the 1920s through the 1950s, this park was well-known for cultural and social events. Many notable musicians performed there, including: Thomas A. Dorsey; trumpeter Sunny Cohn; and jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis. In the last 12 years, the park has been home to many music and art festivals, including the annual Pitchfork Music Festival, usually held in July, featuring artists from all different music genres including rock, metal, alternative, electronic, pop, hip hop, jazz and more!

TRANSPORTATION

The L

Easy access to the CTA Blue, Green and Pink Lines service this area. Stations are located at Clinton and UIC Halsted (Blue Line), Morgan and Clinton (Green and Pink Lines).

Bus

The #20 bus (Madison) services the West Loop.

Proximity to Downtown

Obviously there is a bit of fluctuation depending on where exactly you live within the neighborhood, but the West Loop is approximately 2.5 miles from Chicago’s Downtown Loop. Driving (without traffic) would yield about 10 minutes. If traveling via the CTA, allow approximately 15 minutes.

Surrounding Areas

Greektown, Fulton River District, West Town and Little Italy are your closest neighbors. The awesome thing about the surrounding neighborhoods is that they offer up different atmospheres that are unique to them—quite honestly, that’s what makes Chicago great.
Welcome home!

Thinking about purchasing or renting property in The West Loop? Get in touch with our experts to learn more about this wonderful neighborhood.

Real Estate Brokerage Rogers Park

Neighborhood Guide: Rogers Park

By | Neighborhood Guides, Property Management

Welcome to the Rogers Park Neighborhood!

Rogers Park has two main distinctions as a Chicago neighborhood: First, as the city’s northernmost neighborhood; second, it is considered one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Chicago in terms of population, culture, and even natural wonder.

Despite the seemingly far distance from Downtown, there is plenty of easy accessibility to all forms of public transportation. This means that the unique dining, arts, culture and entertainment found in Rogers Park are never far away. This dynamic neighborhood boasts bright, fresh murals and artwork in newly-updated ‘L’ stations along the Red and Purple lines.

Rogers Park wins the second distinction as people from all over the world call this neighborhood home. There is no dominant ethnicity in this neighborhood as residents speak nearly 40 different languages and have roots from over 80 countries. Howard and Clark Streets are known as the “Commercial District”, while the Glenwood Avenue Arts District and Jarvis Square are home to a pretty robust theater scene and music clubs, in addition to late-night dive bars, galleries, studios, and coffee shops.

Enjoy the sound of waves crashing! The lakefront is within ear shot, and nearly all the streets leading east end at public beaches and parks on Lake Michigan. Beautiful views at dawn give way to breezy afternoons along Lake Michigan. Cyclists may utilize the myriad bike lanes on winding side and main roads to maximize their new locale, and urban naturalists will find an entirely different set of florae and faunae than they are used to seeing in Chicago.

FACTS

The Rogers Park area was developed on what once was Native American trails, now known as Rogers Avenue and Ridge Boulevard. The Potawatomi tribe (among other regional tribes) would settle in Rogers Park seasonally. Indian Boundary Park, west of Rogers Park and Pottawattomie Park near Clark Street and Rogers Avenue, pay homage to these historical roots.

Rogers Park has a higher rate of residents with Master’s, Professional, and Doctorate degrees than the state average. In addition, the amount of residents that work for not-for-profit institutions and organizations is almost twice as high as the state average.

Some notable residents include:

Former First Lady, Betty Ford; actresses Tina Fey and Lara Flynn Boyle; Olympic speed skater, Shani Davis; NFL Hall of Famer, Fritz Pollard; U.S. House of Representatives, Jan Schakowsky; State Senator, Dan Kotowski.

EATS

Capt’n Nemo’s
7367 N. Clark Street
A Chicago landmark since 1971, serves up some of the “Best Soups, Best Chili and Biggest Best Subs and some of Chicago’s Best Italian Beef.”

Jamaica Jerk
1631 W. Howard Street
Is locally owned and operated by Chef Waite, who brings a culinary degree from the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago (CHIC) and an experienced expert with Jamaican cuisine. His menu will delights your taste buds with delicious Jamaican and Caribbean food in a fun, feel like you are on vacation, tropical atmosphere. This restaurant prides itself on made-from-scratch fare, with only top quality ingredients, including spices, vegetables, and fresh fruits.

Heartland Cafe
7000 N. Glenwood Avenue
Heartland Café opened it’s doors in 1976 with a vision to serve “good wholesome food for the mind and body”. This community favorite takes great care and effort in finding local, organic, sustainable, socially conscious ingredients whenever possible. It’s also a great place for a date.

La Cazuela
6922 N. Clark Street
This isn’t your typical mexican restaurant! La Cazuela offers delectable breakfast, vegetarian meal options, wraps, seafood, and Mexican cuisine. Every dish prepared at La Cazuela is made with fresh ingredients and cooked to perfection.

Act One Pub
1330 W. Morse Avenue
Best described as a combination of a neighborhood favorite and a destination dining experience. Features live entertainment and high quality American cuisine, so you can find all the comfort of a neighborhood pub coupled with the sophistication of a first class dining experience. There is a carefully crafted global wine and beer menu to represent the high standards you would expect in fine dining. Next door is Mayne Stage, which makes it the perfect spot to complete a special evening out on the town.

BopNGrill
6604 N. Sheridan Road
This quick-serve spot has been featured on the Food Network, in Timeout Chicago and the Redeye. It features street food with a international (mostly Korean) influences and bacon: kimchi fries; a Bavarian burger served on a pretzel with Dusseldorf mustard; Japanese chicken Katsu!

Taste of Peru
6545 N. Clark Street
Casual Peruvian BYOB eatery specializing in traditional cuisine (the owner is native to Peru) and lively native folk music.

Ethiopian Diamond II
7537 N. Clark Street
Friendly, casual restaurant and bar featuring Ethiopian stews and weekly live music.

DRINKS

Royal Coffee
6764 N. Sheridan Road
Pure Ethiopian Highland Coffee straight from the Ethiopian farm to your cup. The coffee comes from an elevation of 4,920 feet and it is grown in one of the richest coffee growing areas in Ethiopia. The beans are then sun dried by Ethiopian farmers and they are imported directly to the Royal Coffee Headquarters in Chicago. The boldness of “Royal Coffee” will keep you going through your day.

Red Line Tap
7006 N. Glenwood Avenue
Here there is a good chance you will often find yourself wrapped up in a conversation over a wide selection of domestic and imported beers, as well as classic draft offerings and cocktails.

PARKS AND INTERESTS *disclaimer – your new neighborhood has more to offer! Listed below is just a start…enjoy exploring!

Rogers Park/West Ridge Historical Society
1447 W. Morse Avenue
Established in 1975 by local residents who believed this Chicago neighborhood was a place too exciting not to celebrate, they find, collect, preserve and share the story of this diverse community. Today, the Society serves the community through its publications, architectural tours, and various educational and outreach efforts.

The Mile of Murals
Glenwood Avenue
An 10 year, ongoing, community-based public art initiative to paint a full mile of murals along the CTA Red Line track from Estes Avenue to Pratt Boulevard along the Glenwood Avenue train line. The project will result in 19 large-scale murals: ten block-long walls, seven viaduct walls, and two overpasses. New artists and themes are selected every year through a specific selection process determined by arts professionals and community leaders.

Emil Bach House
7415 N. Sheridan Road
The Bach House, designed for Emil Bach in 1915, is one of the last of Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs for a small urban house. The house is designed with its entrance almost hidden from Sheridan Road, to ensure privacy and reflects the importance of family life, according to Wright. This is Chicago’s only Wright residence open for vacation rentals and private events.

B1E Gallery and Sculpture Garden
6902 N. Glenwood Avenue
B1E is a well known art gallery in the Glenwood Avenue Arts District. Outside is a very vibrant “sculpture garden” you can view on Glenwood Avenue.

Greenleaf Art Center
1806 W. Greenleaf Avenue
Provides studio and exhibition space for 50+ local artists and is home to five business enterprises. The center is host to a variety of exhibitions, open studio events, art salons and creative workshops throughout the year.

Loyola Park and Beach
1230 W. Greenleaf Avenue
A large, expansive beach which offers plenty of open room and sights of the famous city skyline at a distance. Loyola Park sits on approximately 21.5 acres. The field house is equipped with two gymnasiums, a woodshop, a boxing center and clubrooms available to rent out. Outside, the park offers a senior baseball and a softball field, a two-hoop basketball court, sand volleyball courts, four tennis courts, a playground, and a 2/3-mile walking trail along the beautiful beach and Lake Michigan. Beach season begins the Friday before Memorial Weekend and goes through Labor Day.

TRANSPORTATION

The L
Easy access to the CTA Red Line services this area. Stations are located at Loyola, Morse, Jarvis and Howard.

Bus
Bus #22 (Clark) or #147 (Outer Drive Express) are also accessible for this neighborhood.

Proximity to Downtown
Obviously there is a bit of fluctuation depending on where exactly you live within the neighborhood, but Rogers Park is approximately 12 miles from Chicago’s Downtown Loop. Driving (without traffic) would yield about 25 minutes taking Lake Shore Drive. If traveling via the CTA, allow approximately 55 minutes.

Surrounding Areas
Edgewater, Andersonville, West Ridge and the city of Evanston are your closest neighbors. The awesome thing about the surrounding neighborhoods is that they offer up different atmospheres that are unique to them…and quite honestly, that’s what makes Chicago great.

 

 

 

Chicago Property Management

Staying Safe And Warm Over The Holidays

By | Property Management

Here at Lofty, we  want to see people be warm and safe over the holidays, perhaps curled up by the fireplace or sipping hot cocoa. It can be easy to get distracted with the all the holiday excitement going on, but there some things you pay attention to, in order to avoid an unfortunate incident over the holidays. For example, did you realize a best practice is to keep flammable material at least three feet away from any heat source (i.e. furnace, space heater, fireplace) and Christmas trees with lights? Did you know the curtains are commonly overlooked as flammable material?.Here are a few key tips to staying warm and safe over the holidays.

Doors and Windows

We have already gotten a taste of the Chicago cold and as Chicagoans, we know it is about to become really cold. Chicago winters can bring ice, snow, and below zero temperatures. The easiest way to keep the home insulated is by closing windows and doors, securely. You may want to consider putting plastic on the windows and making sure you have a draft guard on the door to keep warm air in and cold air out.

Furnace

Past winters have brought on extreme low temperatures. A reputable property management company will be able to assist with a checklist of “winter proofing” tasks for your home. The name of the game is minimizing emergencies during this frigid season. For example, conduct a furnace maintenance inspection to keep the furnace working properly. Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from the furnace, as well as, keep a “kid free zone” around the furnace avoid any unnecessary accidents. Also, test smoke alarms monthly to make sure they work. To see more tips, check out Lofty’s blog on Winterizing Your Home.

Space Heaters

Electric space heaters need to be plugged into a wall socket, not an extension cord. Most extension cords can’t handle the extra wattage a space heater needs, so take an extra precaution and check to make sure the space heater is properly rated and grounded.

Home is where the hearth is / The hearth / Fireplace safety tips

We have yet to meet someone who did not enjoy the warmth and coziness of a fire in the fireplace. The fireplace, to be working properly and safely, should be properly maintained. Read more fire safety tips.

Tips to warm your home and enjoy the holidays with a fire is:

  1. Have proper fireplace tools on hand, like a pick, brush and a shovel. The pick will help position the wood around the hearth while the brush and shovel will help make cleaning up the leftover ash quick. Do not have the tools on hand? It might be worth contacting your property management company (or landlord) to see if they can supply those and instructions on how to use.
  2. New, dry wood is the best food for the fire and will keep the warmth for a cozy evening at home.
  3. A fireplace screen will be helpful to keep the sparks in the fireplace and not on the carpet, rug, floor or a person.

A fireplace, under the proper supervision is a comfy, memory making staple during the holidays. Remember to never leave a fire burning unattended. A fire in the fireplace is not an intentional, constant, source of heat for the whole home (nor is an oven!), but rather something to look forward to on a cold day, after a long commute, or just an excuse to curl under a blanket with a cup of hot cocoa.

Vacations

For the snow bunnies who escape the Chicago cold for warmer weather, it is important to care for the home while away. Whether it is for a short weekend getaway or for the entire winter season. If your home or rental will be unoccupied for more than a day, it is recommended to turn your heat down…not off. An ideal temperature is 66 degrees, per the Chicago Building Ordinance. Low heat, or even heat that has been turned off, runs the risk of pipes freezing and bursting.  Another tip if planning on leaving is setting various lights on timers. This will give the illusion that your home is still occupied while you are away to discourage intruders.

Christmas Trees

If you choose to celebrate the holiday with a live tree, be sure it stays fresh and keep it watered. For if it dries out, it can become a fire hazard. Keep the trees away from hot lights and open flames. Artificial trees are a lot safer especially with modern LED lights that run cooler, but they sure do not give off that pine fresh scent!

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

 

 

property management glenview

Neighborhood Guide – The Glen

By | Neighborhood Guides, Property Management

Welcome to the The Glen!

Electric
ComEd
www.comed.com
(800) 334-7661

Gas 
Nicor
www.nicorgas.com
(888) 642-6748

Garbage/Recycling/Landscape Waste Service
Groot
www.groot.com
(800) 244-1977

Water and Sewer
Contact the Resolution Center at (847) 724-3112 to set up a water and/or sewer account and to ensure that a final water read has already been scheduled by the previous owner/renter.

Television and Cable
Comcast
www.comcast.com
(866) 594-1234

WOW
www.wowway.com
(866) 496-9669

ATT
www.att.com
(800) 222-0300

FACTS

In 1995, the Naval Air Station Glenview was closed as part of the Base Realignment and Closure military restructuring process. 1,121-acres was deeded back to Glenview by the U.S. Department of Defense.

EATS AND DRINKS

BRAVO! Cucina Italiana
2600 Navy Boulevard
Family friendly, upscale yet affordable dining featuring classic Italian food and inviting atmosphere with a Roman ruin decor.

The Curragh Irish Pub and Restaurant
1800 Tower Drive
A great experience for the entire family with authentic Irish fare, a wide selection of beer and wine, and even live entertainment. During the summer, enjoy the ample seating of the patio!

Eggsperience Pancakes & Cafe
2000 Tower Drive
Looking to brunch or even just grab some breakfast for lunch? Here, breakfast and lunch is served up daily.

Flight Wine Bar
1820 Tower Drive
Features an extensive wine list with over 35 wines by the glass options with origins from all over the world. The menu best described as American contemporary, handcrafted comfort food, that is locally sourced when possible and always raised, harvested or produced sustainably.

Jameson’s Original Charhouse
2601 Navy Boulevard
Best known for steaks, chicken and seafood, they also offers a wide variety of crisp salads and freshly made soups and sides. New creations are made daily using only the highest quality ingredients.

Mingle Juice Bar
1830 Tower Drive
Cleverly concocted juices, smoothies, acai bowls, seasonal ingredient soups, salads, and other delectable foods to delight your senses and fuel your day!

Ra Sushi
2601 Aviator Lane
A Japanese fusion restaurant known for its inventive sushi, cocktails & happy-hour deals at the bar.

Ted’s Montana Grill
1811 Tower Drive
Authentic, like you are living on the ranch, Craftsman-style food that specializes in bison.

Uno Mas Cocina & Tequila
1831 Tower Drive
Serves authentic Mexican food with a modern flair; boasting menu items that have a twist to what you would typically find in a Mexican restaurant.

Yard House
1880 Tower Drive
High-end sports-bar chain with a huge menu of American, made-from-scratch dishes. Also offer an extensive list of draft beers; over 100 ales, craft beers, IPA beers, lagers and imported beers on tap.

Your Pie Pizzeria
2085 Tower Drive
Feeling creative? You get to choose your dough, sauce, cheese and toppings at this pizzeria chain with gelato and microbrews, to truly make your perfect, satisfying meal.

PARKS

Park Center
2400 Chestnut Avenue
A multi-purpose community center, one of the largest in Illinois! The Park Center has an indoor pool (Splash Landings Indoor Aquatic Complex), Park Center Health & Fitness, Park Center Preschool, Glenview Senior Center, along with many programs including arts, dance, and adult and youth sports programs.

COMMUTE

Proximity to Downtown
Obviously there is a bit of fluctuation depending on where exactly you live within the neighborhood, but The Glen is approximately 23 miles from Chicago’s Downtown Loop. Driving (without traffic) would yield about 35 minutes taking I-94 East. If traveling via the Metra Rail, allow approximately 50 – 60 minutes.

 

Thinking about purchasing or renting property in The Glen? Get in touch with our experts to learn more about this wonderful neighborhood.

 

The Ultimate Guide To Listing At The Right Price

By | Property Management

Are you looking to lease your property and not sure what price to list? Here at Lofty, we’ve had the experience of listing hundreds of properties in the Chicagoland area. In this guide, we share exactly how to list your property like a professional.

Choosing a rental price for your home or condo can be a tricky task. You don’t want to set the price low and miss out, but you don’t want to ask too much. No one wants to be that house that has been listed for six months. Like a teenager without a date to the prom, this is something to be avoided at all costs. Staying realistic is the key, along with a little legwork and market research. As a landlord your goal is to minimize vacancy to boost profitability and reduce risks associated with an unoccupied place.

When tasked with setting an accurate rent price, your first instinct may be to charge as much as the market can bear. But there are some things to consider before choosing a rental price.

Know The Market

Market demand will dictate your rent price. To get the best idea of what the current market demand is in your area, assess value. A first simple step is to have a look at similar properties available for rent in your area to gauge what price they are listed for rent. From Craigslist to Zillow and even the classified section of your local newspaper—if you like to kick it old school—can be great starting points.

Determining Market Value

The best next step is to consult a real estate professional to secure a Comparative Market Analysis. A CMA will evaluate similar, recently rented units (called comparables or comps) that are near your property. These comps assist in establishing the current market value of your property. There are several factors to keep in mind when reviewing rented comps: price, market time, seasonality, location compared to your property, room sizes, amenities, and so on.

With these comps in mind, along with the active listings previously discussed, you are now prepared to analyze the data to achieve your list price. Get your analytical thinking hat on and strap in! Or leave it to the professionals at Lofty who offer you a free market analysis!

This process should be repeated each and every time you relist your property to account for any market shifts. Even the most experienced real estate professionals rely on an accurate CMA to determine the market price. For example, if there is a downturn in the economy the demand for rental properties may increase as people can no longer afford to buy their own homes and will choose to rent instead. A dip in the economy may also benefit landlords who own smaller properties and apartments as people look to downsize in order to save money. The general rule of thumb is that the greater the demand the higher the rent you can charge, and visa versa.

It also doesn’t hurt to be competitive. Offering a slightly lower price than the average comparable property in your area may win over a renter quicker.

Think Like A Tenant

Imagine your potential renters and how they are searching for their next home. If their max rent price is $1,800, they are likely to set $1,800 as their maximum search price. If you were to set your pricing at $1,850 or $1,900 with the willingness to negotiate less, you may be unintentionally missing out on potential renters.

Additionally, it may not add value to your listing to market your price ending in a $50 increment, like $1,850, since most search criteria increases in $100 increments. The $50 increment puts you in limbo with the inability to take advantage of viewers who are the next tier down. Take the plunge and lower another $50, it will pay off with a faster turnaround.

Rent Is Based On Desire

The desirability of your property will play a huge role in how much rent you can charge. If your property has very little amenities or upgrades or is in need of a lot of work, renters will not be willing to pay top dollar. The more attractive your property is, the more you will likely be able to charge. The following are some of the most sought-after features in Chicago, which should be taken into consideration:

  • Vista – What will your tenants see when they draw their curtains in the morning? A view of Lake Michigan or a park is more desirable than a view of a the exterior of the building next door.
  • Altitude – If your apartment is in a high-rise building, the higher levels are more desirable. Ground floor or garden apartments can be less desirable to some renters, due to security concerns and the possibility of flooding in heavy rains.
  • Area – Value increases with square footage. In most cases, the greater area your property has the more desirable it is. There is one caveat though: how well your space is used plays a major role.
  • Beds/Baths – Value increases in any market as bedrooms and bathrooms increase.
  • Storage – From closet space to a basement or storage locker to a garage, any and all extra space is a bonus and should increase desire.
  • Updates/Upgrades  – The more modern your property is, the better. Homes with modern, updated appliances are far more desirable than those with outdated features and finishes. Even ‘vintage’ can get old

The Right Price Is Attractive

If your property has been listed for a 2-3 weeks but you are not flooded with viewing requests, the price is likely a turn-off. Whether it is too high or too low, your audience will make assumptions. If a potential tenant thinks you are under-charging based on market demand, they may believe there is something wrong with the property.

You may find that using interest to find the “Goldilocks”, or perfect price point for your property is a solid tactic. Ideally, in the first couple of weeks that your property is new to the market you should receive 10-20 inquiries. And inquiries lead to showings!

Ideally, most landlords also want to make a profit. On average, a landlord pockets anywhere from zero to seven percent of the monthly rental income as profit. If the property is not benefiting you in some way, you might have set the rent too low, or worse, you might have over invested. Regardless of your goals, the right rent should, at the very minimum, cover all your expenses on the property. These include mortgage repayments (if you have one) as well as maintenance and repairs. If the value of your rental property does not meet or exceed this criteria, it may be time to consult an experienced, professional Leasing and/or Property Management service like Lofty to help get your investment back on the right track.

 

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

 

 

7 Security Tips for Property Owners

By | Property Management

Here at Lofty, we understand that life can sometimes be tough for a landlord or property manager. You have to deal with a lot of issues that many people simply do not want to deal with. However, promoting a safe and secure living environment in your buildings does not have to be complicated. Here are some basic safety and security measures you can take to improve the safety of the home, units or complex for your tenants.

#7. Secure Entry

Door locks can vary widely in number and type from building to building. It might depend on the preference of the landlord and tenant. It may be important to discuss this together to come to some sort of agreement. The locks can be old fashioned and this may make the tenant feel less safe. Modern locks make the home more current and sometimes safer.

Lost keys do not have to be a scary situation. Partnering with a local, trusted locksmith will prove to be invaluable. They can offer fast, reliable services based on the needs of your properties. In the event of specialized key systems, additional deposits and fees included upfront will ensure you are not financially liable in the event of an accident or negligence.

#6. Secure Units

Though it may seem like common knowledge, urge tenants to lock their doors at night and when they are not home. Even if the building seems safe, they still need to lock their doors if they want to prevent an unwanted intruder. Regardless of the time the tenant has spent in the property, a locked door is a safe door.

Some tenants may be moving in with valuable belongings. As such, they may only be interested in buildings with security systems monitored by an off-site service. If a tenant is already occupying your space, and expresses an interest in having a home security system installed, consider footing the bill for installation in all units, as this can be an investment that may make your vacant units more marketable in the future.

#5. Safe Passage

Did you know that there are sometimes financial benefits to making your multi-unit property safer? Consult with you insurance adjuster to discover all the ways you may save money on your policy. Consider installing locks on exterior gates or fences around the property. Additionally, exterior lighting, especially in secluded, dark areas, can be a huge safety plus for your tenants. Proximity or motion sensors and a timer will ensure these lights are not wasting energy while contributing to the overall safety and security at your property.

Let’s face it: this is Chicago and the weather is always going to cause a problem for someone, somewhere in the city. If it rains and tenants are coming home at night, you might want to have no slip strips to prevent falling. The exterior lights can help here, too. Even inside the building, it helps to secure the stairs. If it is carpeting make sure it is secured with tackless strip, just as a professional would install it. This may help prevent accidents for which you could be liable.

#4. Private Eyes

Installing security cameras is another option for safety and security. From large apartment buildings where people might not know who is in and out of their building, to multi-unit walkups occupied by familiar faces, a prominently displayed security camera can be an effective deterrent for criminal activity. While some states have a one party consent rule for recording, Chicago is in Illinois, a two party consent state. That means you must obtain written consent from your tenants, and keep a record of it, before installing the recording equipment. If a security camera system is not in the budget, a decoy camera (that looks real but does not actually record) can also be a deterrent—at a fraction of the cost and without requiring the consent of your tenants.

#3. Fire Prevention

Fire safety is not a thing to be taken lightly in your properties. Placing a fire extinguisher in a glass case in common areas or hallways can not only raise the property value and aesthetic appeal of your building, it also makes it safer. Additionally, consider fire extinguisher storage in individual units as well.

Providing basic fire safety tips for tenants can also go a long way. Check out our complete review of fire safety tips.

#2. Communicate Together

It is important to maintain the professional relationship between landlord and tenant but also remain friendly and light whenever possible. Consistent behavior like this can help foster a trusting relationship that does not cause stress. Sometimes people’s livelihood, families, or pets are concerned. Landlords should be respectful of their tenant’s wishes and tenants should respect their landlord’s boundaries.

#1. Special Care

If the tenant is elderly, has a health problem, or has a pet, they may need special accommodations. The landlord may need to check on them sometimes even if it’s a friendly email or phone call.

When you have successfully curated a safer and more secure environment, share your safety tips with your tenants. Just knowing you took the time to put together safety tips on their behalf could help them feel comforted and secure in their new space. Also provide a safety tip overview before new tenants move in, along with their welcome package.

Here at Lofty, it is our hope that these measures help make everyone feel comforted and secure in your properties. The home should be a comforting place, a place one comes to at the end of their day to feel safe and secure.

However, we know that property management is not for everyone. In fact, we embrace that fact and are eager to help take the headaches of owning a property off of your plate if you find it is not for you. Talk to us today and find out 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.

 

5 Organization and Planning Tips for Property Managers

By | Property Management

As a successful property manager, it is your job to wear multiple hats while juggling tasks to ensure that your tenants are paying rent, the properties are maintained and leasing runs smoothly, all in an organized, efficient manner. This entails presenting the required information to the property owner in a timely fashion and also meeting the needs of the building’s residents so they are kept happy. Without organization, you might quickly find yourself overwhelmed and find it difficult to do your job effectively.

Whether it’s fielding phone calls, answering emails, meeting with clients, billing tasks or any number of your other responsibilities, to find success as a property manager you must stay organized. Understandably, not everyone is naturally inclined to being organized. If you happen to be one of the many busy property managers struggling to stay on top of all your responsibilities, here are some key management tips that all property managers should be familiar with to help you get organized and on track for success.

#5. Hand It Off

There are only so many hours in the day and, as much as we all like to think we are superhuman, the more responsibility we take on, the more it becomes obvious that we can’t always handle everything. Sometimes, to make your work much more manageable and easy to organize, it can be helpful to delegate some of your workload to others—in some cases, even outsource it offsite. Outsourcing a task can be especially beneficial if you are delegating to someone who has specific skills to be better at efficiently completing the task. By doing so, you will free yourself up to be able to focus on your most important tasks at hand.

#4. Keep Them Smiling

Another key to being successful in this and any service-based industry is communication. Prompt, professional, and efficient responses to all inquiries, especially complaints, are important to building trust with a client. If you are overwhelmed and unorganized, timely communication can become a challenge. So what do you do if a property owner or tenant is unhappy with an aspect of their home, maintenance request responses, or anything else in regards to your management services? You can reduce potential negative feedback by planning ahead—determine how you will handle unhappy clients so next time you are contacted regarding a challenging situation that needs a property manager’s attention, you will be prepared to respond accordingly and rectify the situation in a timely manner. Failure to remedy client complaints in a satisfactory manner can result in damaging online reviews and negative brand recognition.

#3. Think Fast

Professional property management would be a piece of cake if everything always went exactly as planned. However, we all know there will be challenging situations—bumps in the road both big and small—that will come up. Education is the key to being prepared to handle these situations as they arise. For example, what happens if a property floods? What about the recovery process following a fire? These are circumstances where you need to act quickly and without hesitation.

If you are really serious about being organized, you may choose to create a detailed set of instructions for specific contingent events. Having a complete, detailed plan in place that can be referred to immediately in the event of an accident or crisis can be the difference between a quick, timely resolution and a stressful, disorganized situation. To create your contingency plans, document in detail the steps to be taken should a property experience a flood, fire and other potential situations. It will be best to distribute this document to all employees, and archived online where anyone can find it fast.

#2. Clear The Clutter

This industry is abundant with paperwork—it’s just the nature of the beast. Abundance of  hard-copy reports and unfiled stacks of papers around the office can easily confuse the otherwise efficient functioning of any property management company. Not only can clutter affect productivity, but it may lead to mistakes that result in frustrated, dissatisfied property owners and tenants.

It simply takes a little more work to keep things organized. Stay on top of paperwork as it comes in. Making designated time within your day devoted to filing and organization can go a long way. Property management software may be another solution, and can help reduce the need for extensive paperwork as it allows for documents to be submitted electronically! This way you will always be able to find what you need, when you need it, and you’ll have a clean workspace to help you stay focused and look presentable. This can go a long way if clients come to visit and especially if you plan to grow your business!

#1. Feedback Loop

Like we mentioned in #4 above, communication is king in the professional property management industry. One of the fastest ways to feel underwater is finding yourself playing phone tag or crawling out of what seems like endless threads of e-mails. So before you find yourself in this trap, save yourself time, any potential frustration and even a valuable client, with a communications protocol that is an agreed upon, mutually beneficial, method of communication that includes an acceptable turnaround time, that makes sense with both you and the property owner. Obviously, to function efficiently, you can’t always be available 24/7 to the owner, but keeping communications moving forward and smoothly will keep you as a trusted and organized property manager.

Real property management can be chaotic if the proper steps are not taken. As a property manager, a goal should be to minimize and manage any complications and chaos associated with running one or more residential properties. The most effective way to be successful at doing so, is by planning ahead and developing strong organizational skills. The tips provided above can help you become better organized and remain focused whatever the situation you may encounter, so you can be the best property manager in the most efficient and productive way possible.

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

 

 

Lawndale Anthony Zammitt

Neighborhood Guide – Lawndale

By | Neighborhood Guides, Property Management

Welcome to the Lawndale Neighborhood! Sometimes referred to as Douglas Park (because of the close proximity to this awesome park—more info further down), Lawndale is a bustling neighborhood featuring tons of interest, new and old!

Chicago’s West Side neighborhood of Lawndale is full of history. Once a hub for Eastern European immigrants, the area eventually became a center for the Civil Rights Movement when Martin Luther King Jr. lived there in 1966 while campaigning against housing discrimination. Today, the neighborhood is home to many terrific restaurants, one of the best breweries in the city and one of the city’s biggest music festivals, Riot Fest.

FACTS

When you take a drive, ride or walk around the area, you will probably notice quite a few Greystone style homes. That would be because Lawndale has the greatest concentration of greystones in the city. Greystones are a style of home most commonly found in Chicago. As the name suggests, the buildings are typically grey in color and were most often built with quarried Bedford Limestone from South Central Indiana.

The former Sears headquarters planted in this neighborhood starting in 1906. The administration tower of the former headquarters (925 S. Homan Avenue) was listed as a Chicago Landmark on September 4, 2002. It was also listed on the National Register of Historic Places and as a National Historic Landmark in 1978.

This area is home to Cinespace Studios (2621 W. 15th Place) which is where all of the shows set in Chicago go to film when city streets are not available.

Some notable residents include:

Martin Luther King Jr.; Dinah Washington, “Queen of the Blues”; the rapper, Twista; NBA players, Kevin Garnett, Isiah Thomas, and Mickey Johnson; as well as NFL players Darryl Stingly and Marques Sullivan.

EATS

Crazy Bird Chicken
1138 S. California Avenue
Owner, Larry Tucker (N.N. Smokehouse) opened this  tiny, mostly takeout spot that focuses on fried chicken and sides in 2014. His wife makes the pound cake herself and on Fridays and Saturdays, Tucker gets back to his barbecue roots and smokes rib tips in his small smoker.

Dave’s Red Hots
3422 W. Roosevelt Road
Been in business since 1938 and it looks like nothing has changed in decades, there are flyers tacked to the wall and yellowing menus. The must have menu item in this diamond in the rough are Vienna Beef links (they’ve been inducted into the Vienna Beef Hall of Fame) with their hand cut fries.

Green Tomato Cafe
3750 W. Ogden Avenue
This lively cafe is attached to the Lawndale Christian Health Center and is a welcoming spot with people gathering together and some on their own tapping away on laptops. The food is simple but satisfying and they even have a Saturday pancake breakfast. Just want coffee? A full espresso bar is available and uses beans from Bridgeport Coffee.

Lagunitas Brewing Company & Chicago TapRoom
1843 S. Washtenaw Avenue
This is the largest craft brewery in the city. Housed in a group of warehouses near Douglas Park, the facility has quickly become a popular destination for tourists and beer aficionados. A solid bar food menu is the perfect pair to your pint.

Las Quecas
2500 S. Christiana Avenue
A quesadillera that only serves quesadillas! Located in the back of the La Catedral Cafe & Restaurant, they are known for their thick, fresh, homemade tortillas, made right in front of you!

The Original Maxwell Street
601 S. Sacramento Boulevard
A walk-up window, located right at the corner of Sacramento and Harrison, serves basics like a hot dog and burger, but the Polish is what this place is known for.

PARKS

Douglas Park
1401 S. Sacramento Drive
Named after Illinois Senator, Stephen A. Douglas, who famously lost the 1860 presidential election to Abraham Lincoln, Douglas Park is an expansive 218 acre, historic regional park. Features that you can use include 2 gymnasiums, an auditorium, computer lab, fitness center, a kitchen, grand ballroom, and meeting rooms. Outdoors, the park offers tennis courts, a game day football stadium, outdoor pool, water spray features, basketball courts, an artificial turf soccer field, a pavilion, baseball fields, and a small golf putting range. In collaboration with the Chicago Bulls Basketball organization the children’s computer learning lab serves the children of the community. In partnership, with Ravinia, the park is host to a series of summer concerts, Riot Fest and the annual Junta Hispana festival in July.

Homan Square Park
3559 W. Arthington Street
The recreation, health, family and education center at Homan Square Park is a Lawndale staple. This park is home to an Olympic-size swimming pool, basketball courts and lots of green space.

Independence Square
Intersection of Douglas and Independence Boulevards
Once a center of the Lawndale community, this public fountain (which has been dry for decades) celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Dedicated in 1902, the statue on top of the fountain depicts patriotic children waving a flag and holding fireworks.

TRANSPORTATION

The L
Easy access to the CTA Pink Line which services this area. Stations are located at Kedzie and Cermak, Central Park, Pulaski, and Kostner.

Proximity to Downtown
Obviously there is a bit of fluctuation depending on where exactly you live within the neighborhood, but Lawndale is approximately 6 miles from Chicago’s Downtown Loop. Driving (without traffic) would take about 13 minutes eastbound on I-290. If traveling via the CTA, allow approximately 45 minutes.

Surrounding Areas
Little Village, Pilsen and the Illinois Medical District are your closest neighbors. The awesome thing about the surrounding neighborhoods is that they offer up different atmospheres that are unique to them…and quite honestly, that’s what makes Chicago great.

Thinking about purchasing or renting property in Lawndale? Get in touch with our experts to learn more about this wonderful neighborhood.

 

landlord tenant relationships

4 Tips on Successful Chicago Landlord Tenant Relationships

By | Property Management

One of the most important components to being a successful landlord is forming solid business relationships with your tenants. A solid landlord/tenant relationship consists of both sides respecting one another and appreciating what each of you is bringing to the partnership.

The key is following through on your end of the relationship: a landlord who shows they respect and care for the tenants by being accountable and responsive to maintenance requests; tenants who pay on-time and continuously work towards leaving the property better than they found it. It is important to avoid letting a sense of entitlement seep into the relationship on either side as it can cause offense and crumble this relationship.

Getting off on the right foot with your tenants early on will set the pace of the relationship for the life of the lease. There are several benefits to being more than a faceless person that collects rent payments. Check out the video below and the full blog here: How To Effectively Begin A Landlord Tenant Relationship

If all else fails, and you find yourself unhappy to manage your rentals, please consider a property management company like Lofty. Here at Lofty, we take pride in managing the relationships and challenges that come with maintaining profitable investment properties. We offer a variety of services that can help you maintain low vacancy, high value and maximize profits while minimizing your actual time investment. Please reach out for a free consultation today!

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

 

property management technology chicago

6 Ways Technology Is Changing Property Management

By | Property Management

In our ever-evolving industry, the property management clients’ needs come first and drive the focus of technological advancement. Round-the-clock accessibility that recent technology provides caters to the renters’ needs for convenience without sacrificing customer service. Technology within the residential property management industry helps to increase response time and efficient communication, providing a platform through which requests are answered promptly and essential management tasks are undertaken with little to no hassle.

#6. Easier and faster.

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

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

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

#5. Reduce user error

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

#4. Added value for tenants

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

#3. Convenient payment online

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

#2. Marketing through Social Media

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

#1. Property Protection

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

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

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

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

 

Property Maintenance Tips For The Chicago Winter

By | Property Management

Another Chicago winter has crept up on us! Luckily, fall is the best time to prepare your property for the winter with a bit of maintenance. Here at Lofty, we feel it is better to be proactive now than to have a possible emergency issue arise when winter really shows up to get it done. For your benefit, we took the liberty of putting together a list of pre-winter to-do’s that are widely considered to be standard home maintenance, but easily overlooked.

The Great Outdoors

Nothing battles the elements of winter more than the exterior of your property. Inspect for any leaks or cracks throughout spring, summer and fall. If identified, these should take precedent to repair because water can and will find a way into them before it freezes and expands, quite literally creating a bigger problem. Also, take a close look around the doors and windows to see if there is any torn weather stripping, loose caulk seals, or gaps where the doors and windows meet in the frame. Many times, a simple and cost-effective solution is applying a renewed bead of caulk around the seals. Of course, take care not to seal the opening that is supposed to be there. You may laugh now, but it is unfortunate and very frustrating when it happens. If you encounter an issue that seems to exceed your abilities, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional. With proper maintenance, your exterior will be able to withstand the elements and maximize energy efficiency through what will inevitably turn out to be another harsh, Chicago winter.

Get Your Mind Into The Gutter

Throughout the year, gutters collect all sorts of debris. In the fall, this really kicks into high gear as the trees first change from all types of green into beautiful, warm tones only shed their foliage and help create those spooky shadows just in time for a dark, cold Halloween night stroll. The drawback, besides scaring yourself into running in terror from nothing, is those falling leaves can really clog the gutters.

Clogs inhibit the effective job of these otherwise efficient drainage systems which can ultimately cause load bearing issues of accumulating snow, dangerous icicles and ice dams, and leaks when that ice finally finds a way inside. Before inclement winter weather settles in, it’s best to clear gutters and any other drainage systems of leaves, sticks and other debris from your property. It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it!

If you already have cleaning out the gutters on your to-do list, why not take a peek at the roof while you’re up there? Inspect for loose, damaged or missing shingles and replace them before the winter months arrive. A strong roof will help ensure your rental property can withstand the weight of what winter may bring.

Slip & Snowfall

Snow can be so romantic when imagined as tiny, beautiful intricacies, slowly falling from the fluffy clouds only to melt on the tip of your nose. In Chicago, we know that snow is nowhere near as innocent. Piles and piles of the stuff to move and move again, causing aches in muscles you didn’t realize you had, and making each trip outside an award-worthy act of bravery and valor. As such, it is important to have a sense of urgency about securing the details of snow removal for your property ahead of time.

Whether it will be you, the owner or landlord, your tenant, or a professional snow removal company, it is best not to leave this detail dangle until the first snowflakes fall. Chicago laws mandate all walkways be cleared of snow and ice, and a fine may await those who fail to comply. Here at Lofty, we understand the need for clear sidewalks and are happy to coordinate the snow removal for our property management clients who are interested in this seasonal service.

Fall Foliage Fun

Another fall maintenance task to consider for your rental property is to rake up leaves and other autumnal detritus before the first snow falls. Once the snow begins to melt, any leaves still on the ground begin to rot against grass and can leave dead patches come springtime. This can be unsightly and costly to repair. The fall maintenance of your landscaping can preserve your property’s curb appeal for spring, just in time for new prospective tenants—especially if a lease is soon to expire!


A quick trim of branches, shrubs and hedges can reduce breakage and damage under the weight of accumulating snow and ice. Shearing vegetation growth that comes in contact with  the exterior of your property or another structure (for example, a fence) can assist with prevention of damage from bitter wind storms. The work of trimming and pruning your property’s trees, bushes and hedges late in the fall can really take the edge off springtime maintenance and make things easier when spring arrives as your plants can begin regrowth with a fresh start.

Winter Warmer

What’s one thing every property owner wants to avoid during winter? Burst pipes which can cause all kinds of water damage. Fear not, there are measures to avoid this dreaded dilemma! By wrapping otherwise uninsulated water pipes with foam sleeves, the running water itself can act as an antifreeze agent. In the event your property will be vacant this winter, keep the thermostat set to a minimum of 55 degrees and keep your mind set at ease. As part of property management services, your property manager should be maintaining and properly monitoring temperatures in vacant units, as well as any residences containing a tenant that will be gone for an extended period of time.

While we’re at it, if your property has a sprinkler system, be sure to completely empty or drain them of any leftover water. Water left in the irrigation system will freeze and can lead to burst lines. Not a huge deal in the dead of winter but it can lead to an extremely strange and costly situation come springtime. You wouldn’t want to unintentionally turn your garden into a bog, would you?

The Heat Is On

This one is a biggie—a furnace is absolutely essential in Chicago! If you have a radiator, it can be bled to alleviate malfunction. However, by 2015 most properties have been retrofitted with gas forced air furnaces for heating in the winter. After months of going unused, a tune-up for your furnace may be a necessity. Here at Lofty, we offer thorough furnace tune-ups to all our property owners that include the following:

  • Clean and adjust burner assembly.
  • Clean ignition assembly.
  • Replace Thermocouple on Standing Pilot Furnaces.
  • Inspect heat exchanger or elements.
  • Monitor flue draft.
  • Test safety controls.
  • Clean and adjust blower components.
  • Lubricate all moving parts.

A broken or malfunctioning furnace can be quite unpleasant for you and your tenant, especially during the coldest months of the year. The best service people book-up quickly, and can result in very long wait times and be quite pricey for emergencies. worth the preventative maintenance tune-up for your rental property, your wallet and the warmth and happiness of your tenants!

As our Chicago summer is now only a memory and fall is quickly turning into winter, we are also counting down the days until spring. Our property managers at Lofty are well equipped to offer assistance and recommendations with your “winterizing” property maintenance. It’s kind of like we are all in this together. Proper property maintenance going into winter can help minimize any cold weather type issues and that’s something else to toast to come New Year’s Eve!

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

 

5 Reasons Photography Really Matters When Renting Your Property In Chicago

By | Property Management

Advertising your property to potential tenants is very similar to a job interview. You want your property to be displayed in an appealing manner that compels potential tenants to contact you for a viewing. Set your property up for success with a “fitted suit” and invest in great quality photography. You want your property to make a great first impression every time a potential tenant scrolls through the photo gallery. This is why photography really matters when renting your property. If your property photos are lacking in quality or number your property may be viewed as unappealing on the web.

Did you know that after specifics and price, photographs are the top three reasons that can make or break a potential tenant’s opinion of your place during their rental search? With that being said, strong photography can be the deciding factor in getting tenants from the web to the doorstep.

1. Curb Appeal

Most property managers and real estate agents are familiar with the terminology, “curb appeal”, but just in case, curb appeal by definition is the attractiveness a property exudes from a street view (curbside view, if you will). Well, you can create web curb appeal by having great shots of your property’s exterior displayed at the beginning of a photo gallery. After all this is the first impression a property has on potential tenants, who physically visit the property.

For single family homes make sure the law and hedges are well manicured for exterior photos. It is best to take exterior photos during a sunny day when there is great natural sunlight. However, if this is not a possibility, try having the photos taken at dusk with inside lights on. This will create a warm welcoming glow from the inside of the house.   

For apartments in large buildings an exterior photo might consist of an artful shot of the actual building itself showcasing the building’s address and main entrance. If it’s a high-rise with great amenities, such as a pool or track, those would also be excellent additional exterior shots, which could add to the property’s curb appeal.

2. The Inside Counts

Don’t skimp on interior photos! If you have a lovely picture of the exterior property, but lack an abundance of interior photos, an alarm goes off in the minds of your potential tenants. “Why aren’t they showing me the interior? Is something wrong with it?” Photographs shouldn’t evoke more questions but should instead provide answers to them. Basic questions like “What is this space like?” and “Can I see myself living there?” So don’t leave potential tenants hanging with questions or the likelihood of them calling for a viewing decreases.

To adequately answer potential tenants’ burning questions, create a virtual tour of the apartment through a photo gallery. Start with an exterior photo, then work your way into the property. Showcase the flow of the space by using photos taken from doorways into a room. Follow with photos from the opposite side towards the doorway to show off all your space has to offer! Giving potential tenants a 360 degree view from flattering angles can better demonstrate the layout of a space, and allows them to imagine living in your property.

3. Eye Candy

From image galleries that offer a virtual tour of your property to eye-catching advertisement photos, professional photographs of your property need to welcome potential tenants into a space. Professional photos offer a great backdrop to let potential tenants begin imagining all the future possibilities of living in a property’s space. Create a flow to your gallery, being sure to pick the best shots of your property. Not only can this give future renters a virtual tour, but also creates a story of which potential tenants would like to be a part. The key is in highlighting the best aspects of the property. For example: maybe there’s a wonderful built-in kitchen nook that gets exceptional sunlight during the afternoon… Renters will delight at the photo of this feature that you have displayed with pride!

4. Size Matters

Strong real estate photographs should demonstrate the dimensions of rooms in an ideal way. Unsure of how to optimize space? Begin by decluttering shelves, mantels, and other surface areas to create the ideal living condition and help visually open up the space. When surfaces are cluttered and packed with personal items, it can make the room feel crowded. Cluttered surfaces can also distract tenants from the actual space, as they are more focused on the things currently taking up the space.

Furniture and decor should also help emphasize the size and flow of the property. Tenants will enjoy visualizing themselves living in your property, so it may be necessary to remove or hide personal photographs before the photographs are taken as well as during viewings. This will allow potential tenants to focus more clearly on the space rather than the current occupants.

We have this piece of wisdom that we consider immensely important: make sure the toilet seat is down when the bathroom is photographed. While this has little to do with space, it has everything to do with creating an appealing image.

5. Time Saver

Photographs can work in your favor to separate potential tenants, who are actually interested in the property, from individuals who are not. This is why strong photography is so important to marketing your rental property. You want someone to be able to go through the image gallery and feel like they just walked through the home. Your property may be designed and built with care and taste, but if the photos are grainy with poor lighting and look like they were shot with a mobile device camera by an amateur in a hurry, you are certainly not doing it any service.

Get Professional Help

Truly, the way to good photos is by enlisting the help of a professional photographer. The images they make can help your property stand out for all the right reason on the web and marketing efforts for years to come. When you’re having trouble filling a vacancy, you can rest easy that your photos are not the issue. Eliminating one more variable in the equation will allow focus on accurately pricing the property.

Just like dressing to impress to land a great new job, great photos of a clean space work to create a great first impression to potential buyers. But maybe this just seems complicated or  sounds like too much to take on alone. Here at Lofty, we provide guidance and counsel to help better manage your investments. From high-quality photos and ads for your vacancy to first-class property and tenant management, Lofty can help to free up your time to live the life you deserve. Get in touch today to see how we can help your investment.

 

Whether you just need to find the right tenants for your investment property, or you want everything managed from top to bottom, we’re here to help.

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

 

Why Reserve Funds Are Important When Managing A Property

By | Property Management

It’s 2AM and you receive a panicked call from a tenant: it’s raining in their living room! Upon inspection of the leak, it appears a new roof is needed. How will you pay for the new roof as well as the interior water damage? How much should you have in reserve funds?

While emergency maintenance is every property manager’s worst nightmare, having an appropriate amount of reserve funds can help nightmares from becoming an unpleasant reality. No one wants to end up filing for bankruptcy because one property sat vacant for 3 months while another needed major repairs, draining reserve funds and digging a hole deep into debt. As you may imagine, crawling out from such a place can be very challenging. Inadequate reserve funds or a complete lack of them could quickly snowball into a financial crisis for property managers.

Fear not! We have some tips to help you determine the appropriate amount of funding for your property portfolio.

Reserve funds are necessary to handle anything and everything from routine maintenance and upkeep to emergency maintenance and unplanned vacancies. So how much reserve funding is the appropriate amount for you? Here are our pro tips, compiled by experts, to consider when determining how much to keep in your reserve property funds.

Quantitative Factor

The number of properties within your portfolio is important to consider when calculating the appropriate amount of funds to have in reserve. Each property should have its own reserve fund. This will insure each property has its own coverage for maintenance and unplanned vacancies. Since each property has different costs associated with it’s upkeep and expenses, having separate accounts will help keep each property’s reserve funds available to that specific property only. Having multiple accounts allows you to focus on each property’s small picture and how it fits into the bigger picture of your overall property investment.

If you have multiple properties operating out of one reserve fund it is easy to disproportionately attribute more or less reserve funds to each of your current properties. This could end up leaving you in a risky position, under the right circumstances. It is our advice to maintain appropriate reserve levels for each property. Working with one account per property allows you to maintain those levels individually, and makes things easier on you come tax season.

Maintaining a separate account for each property has other benefits too! Cash flow from your property portfolio is also an important aspect in regards to building reserve funds. It’s wise to have a portion of each incoming rental payment invested into that specific property’s reserve fund. This allows for continual replenishment of funds, which were used while also allowing for saving towards future maintenance projects.

Set standards for your tenant pool, then make sure you screen everyone to the same standard. Some of the worst tenants around come from a friend of a friend’s mother’s cousin. (What even is that?) Do not bend your requirements and screen everyone equally.

Age Factor

The age of the property is an important factor to take into account when determining reserve funds. Older properties are more likely to need repairs and possibly more upkeep. Meaning the older the property, the more reserve funds are needed to mitigate property risks. For example an older property may need to upgrade the plumbing or electrical as the originals were installed in 1922. However, this wouldn’t be a foreseeable issue in a newer property featuring plumbing that was installed in 2002.

Reserve funds come in handy on all types of repairs, from the predictable to the unpredictable. For example, let’s say your reserved funds are $5,000 and you’re planning on replacing some of the outdated plumbing in one of your properties. So, you’ve been using monthly cash inflows to build your reserve funds account to pay for these planned repairs. Your account now has $6,500 in it— now the surplus of $1,500 in reserved funds can be used for your plumbing repairs!

Conversely, if an emergency situation occurs then the $5,000 in reserved funds would be used. For example, a stove in one of your properties has stopped working and needs to be replaced. You pick-up a new stove for $500, which comes out of your reserved funds. This brings your reserved funds down to $4,500. You will now use your monthly cash inflows to build your reserved funds back to $5,000.

As a landlord you are open to liability all the time. Ensure that you have enough insurance to cover you in case anything goes wrong.

Operating Factor

Paying monthly operating expenses while properties are occupied isn’t a problem, as rental payments cover these expenses. However, what happens when a tenant moves out and the property sits vacant? How will you pay the mortgage, insurance, taxes and other fees? If you don’t have reserve funds or your funds are inadequate you will end up paying these expenses out of pocket, which could get expensive if the property sits vacant for months on end. These expenses can also be compounded if the vacant property ends up needing repairs.

This is yet another time when reserve funds are needed to protect your investment. While you are working to fill the property your reserve funds can be utilized to pay the monthly fees that would normally be covered through rental payments.

Growth Factor

If you’re thinking about expanding your property portfolio or just beginning one, but are in need of outside funding from either investors or a financial institution, many will have specific reserve fund standards you’ll need to meet before being approved. These investment reserve fund requirements allow investors to insure their return on investment, thus protecting them from a possible loss.

For example Quicken Loans requires six months of reserve funds. These funds must cover rental payments (including taxes, insurance, and other fees) as well as two months of reserves for every property already in your portfolio. It’s also important to remember when working with investors that many will require proof of seasoned accounts, meaning the money has remained in the account(s) for 60 days. This further safeguards their investment in your portfolio.

When expanding into new property investments remember reserve funds should not be used for investing in new properties. These are not funds to purchase more real estate. These funds are safeguarding each of your current real estate investments so be sure to only use reserve funds for those specific purposes (i.e. expenses due to vacancies, maintenance). It’s important to remember these funds are reserves for a reason, they are there for your property’s protection and are an investment in the longevity of your property and shouldn’t be used unless necessary or planned.

Do you already have all your reserved funds up to par and then some? Kudos to you! However, if you’re a little worried about your property’s ability to generate the necessary cash flow to maintain adequate reserves, give us a ring! We truly would love to hear from you because here at Lofty, we love to help. It is our goal to take the tedious tasks of management out of your hands and free your time to live the life you deserve while maximizing your investment. Get in touch today to learn more!

Whether you just need to find the right tenants for your investment property, or you want everything managed from top to bottom, live the life you deserve and let Lofty handle the rest.

 

 

8 Habits of Successful Real Estate Investors

By | Property Management

Whether you are a fledgling investor, looking to make your first deal or a seasoned investor, chances are you could use a few tips to make your investments a success. Many people view real estate investment as a quick and easy way to make money, when in fact it requires a lot of work and know-how. Here at Lofty, we know that knowledge is power so we have gathered a list of habits that successful real estate investors have in common.

1. They Treat Their Investment Like A Business

Real estate is an investment, and successful investors know this. Like any successful business, they have a business plan with set goals. Outlining what you want to accomplish through real estate will help guide you toward what you want. Putting in place both short-term and long-term goals will help you keep your eye on the prize when you experience a minor setback—and you will probably experience your fair share. However, this is all part of growing your successful business. In addition, do not forget to add new goals as you accomplish the ones you already have in place

2. They Are Realistic With Time Management

Real estate investment can be time consuming and successful investors are aware of this. It is not uncommon for a young investor to bite off more than they can chew by taking on too many properties quickly. As experience grows, so does the ability to handle a larger portfolio.

The learning process, property management, and other details related to running a business will all take more time than many realize. When you are first starting out, it is likely that you will still have your regular full-time job and running your real estate investment business will be done during your off time. You could quickly find yourself overwhelmed if you do not take things one step at a time and pace yourself.

(If you’re just getting started check out our Top Ten Property Management Tips For Landlords)

3. They Invest In Their Education

Successful real estate investors do their research. They are constantly staying up to date on the current market trends. Not only that, they also stay up on what is going on outside of real estate: How is the economy; What is the unemployment rate; How are the schools in the area; What is the crime rate? All of these things affect real estate value and ultimately rent prices and successful investors know this. Staying up to date on these things helps you be prepared and aware of potential problems or potential opportunities.

It is somewhat common to think that if you can, you should. However, if you are capable but unskilled, the time it takes to complete a task quickly compounds. Consider your options and compare against the value of your time. You may find that it is cheaper to hire someone skilled than to attempt to save money by doing it yourself.

4. They Are Niche Experts

There is a familiar saying: “Do what you know,” and successful real estate investors agree. Becoming an expert in a certain area of real estate allows you to develop expertise that is important to long-term success in real estate. A diversified portfolio is important in any type of investment, so once you become confident with your expertise in one niche, use the same approach to mastering another. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell states that it takes 10,000 hours to become a master in a specific area. Keeping this in mind can help if you find yourself becoming impatient.

5. They Seek Advice From More Experienced Investors

Books are helpful, but a large part of real estate investment is learned through experience. Successful real estate investors know the importance of building a network of other people involved in real estate. Adding a mentor who is more experienced to your network will give you someone to bounce ideas off of and seek advice from. Think of your business network as your own personal “think tank”; a community of like minds who all want to see each other succeed.

6. They Operate With High Ethical Standards

If you want to be successful in real estate, expect to be in it for the long haul. In order to last in this business, it is important to hold yourself to a high level of ethics and standards. There are times where it might be easier to misrepresent a property or take advantage of a situation, but in the end the truth always comes out. In this business, a good recommendation goes far, but a bad one goes even farther, and can be incredibly damaging to your reputation. Successful investors know that important ethical business practices are imperative to creating a successful and long-lasting business. 

7. They Know Relationships Are Key

A major component of investing in real estate is working with people. And not just renters! Anyone with whom you have a business relationship should be treated with respect, courtesy, and patience. Successful real estate investors are also successful customer service providers. It is important to listen and pay attention to detail. Should a problem arise, handle it courteously and as timely as possible. Happy renters and other individuals with whom you have business or professional dealings are the best promoters of your business. In the same respect, maintaining a positive relationship with vendors is just as important; professional and prompt communication will insure that they continue working with you and referring others to you as well.

8. They Know Where to Best Spend Their Time

In general, successful people know the limits of their expertise. So, it stands to reason that successful real estate investors will eventually reach that point. One of the first people whose advice you want to seek is that of a reputable accountant. It is important to find someone that has a demonstrated understanding of current tax laws who you can trust to handle your books. Doing this right away will keep your finances in order and save you money in the end. Successful investors also establish a professional relationship with a lawyer whose services are useful in drawing up contracts, leases, or eviction proceedings should the need ever arise.

Real estate investment is hard work and if done correctly in the end it can be quite lucrative. If you just read this list and thought to yourself, “Wow, I really want to invest, but I don’t think I have the time.” Or maybe you just are not sure where to begin. Here at Lofty we are here to help you every step of the way. Whether you are a newbie that wants to invest but does not know where to begin, or a veteran investor that wants to take a step back and let someone else take the reins, give us call and learn how we will leverage our expertise and experience to create a plan that is right for you.

 

Whether you just need to find the right tenants for your investment property, or you want everything managed from top to bottom, live the life you deserve and let Lofty handle the rest.

 

property management chicago

Top 5 Amenities Renters Are Looking For In Chicago

By | Property Management

You have a great property for rent in a prime location in Chicago, but you’re not the only one out there. What can you do to make your rental stand out from the others? Nowadays, it’s all about the amenities; those little extras that add more value to an apartment in the eyes of renters. Not only can this added value cause you to stand out more to potential tenants, but it can also mean increased rent and renter retention.

1. High-Speed Wireless Internet

Let’s face it: the internet has become a major part of life. It has become so important to daily American life that the most desired amenity feature among renters is high-speed wireless internet access. Most people have multiple devices, such as laptops, tablets, and gaming systems, that require simultaneous internet access. Renting an apartment that has high-speed wireless internet included is a huge bonus to most potential renters. It’s one less expense they have to worry about and gives them a sense of added value when considering your apartment.

2. Outdoor Space

We might be a little biased, but Chicago has the best summers. What better way to enjoy a beautiful summer day than to invite friends over to enjoy the day by grilling out on your balcony or patio. Outdoor space is a huge selling point to potential renters, so it’s important to evaluate your options. Maybe a patio or balcony is not a feasible option, consider a shared rooftop deck. A well-designed rooftop deck is just as attractive to many potential tenants as a private balcony or patio.

3. In-Unit Washer & Dryer

Nobody likes to go to the laundromat, so it is not surprising that one of the most desired amenities for renters is an in-unit washer and dryer. For many, the lack of an in-unit washer and dryer is a deal breaker. If your units do not currently have this amenity, it is definitely a good idea to consider. If in-unit washers and dryers are not something you are able to provide, an alternative option would be to provide a shared laundry space. Many potential renters do not mind taking their laundry down a couple of floors to the laundry room. This is still a better option than lugging it down the street to the laundromat.

4. Upgraded Kitchen

The heart of a home is the kitchen and one of the most desired amenities among renters is an upgraded kitchen. Potential renters are looking for things that will make life easier for them such as a dishwasher, garbage disposal, microwave, and a refrigerator with a water and ice dispenser. A great looking kitchen is important to potential renters as well. Style upgrades such as granite countertops and stainless steel appliances often top the list. It may not be possible for you to include everything but picking a few key items such as a dishwasher and, at the least, matching appliances can go a long way to securing your desired tenant with minimal market time.

5. Fitness Center

Healthy living and exercise can be very important to many people. Having an onsite fitness center is a very attractive amenity to many potential renters. This makes staying fit easier because potential renters don’t even have to leave their building, and it also saves them the trouble of having to pay extra for a gym membership somewhere. A fitness center does not need to be anything huge or elaborate. Most potential renters are happy with a bright airy room with a place for stretching, free weights, and high-quality equipment, such as a treadmill, elliptical, cycle, and a stepper. If a fitness center is not something you can provide, consider reaching out to a local gym to see if a partnership can be made.

As an investor, staying on top of trends and knowing which are the most beneficial to your potential renters is an important part to acquiring and managing property effectively. It can be stressful and time consuming trying to determine what is best for your next purchase or current property. Here at Lofty, it is part of our job to stay on top of the trends to know what renters are looking for in your neighborhood. We consider ourselves experts in knowing how to make your property stand out to potential renters.

Whether you just need to find the right tenants for your investment property, or you want everything managed from top to bottom, live the life you deserve and let Lofty handle the rest.

 

best contractors chicago

How to Choose The Best Contractor for Your Remodels, Repairs & Upgrades

By | Property Management

Many times it is easier to spot a bad contractor than it is to spot a good contractor. When choosing the right contractor we want to look at their reputation, work portfolio and how they communicate with us. The right contractor should be trustworthy, have a proven track record and treat us with respect.

Being Trustworthy is one of the most important traits when choosing a contractor since they will be working on your property and be in your home. So how can we make sure someone is trustworthy?

Reputation

Reputation speaks volumes! Ask friends, family and neighbors if they can recommend a good contractor.  Someone that does good work will come highly recommended. Check out online ratings as well. People love to talk about bad contractors which can easily help you narrow down your choices.   

Reputation really is everything when it comes to contractors. If they have a strong reputation it is likely hard earned and will speak volumes about them being credible and trustworthy.

Check examples of their work.

Occasionally you will run across a great contractor after seeing their work. Ever been to a friend’s condo and admired the new kitchen they put in? If a contractor has done a great job for a friend it’s likely they will do the same for you. Be sure to ask for their contact information at that time.

A solid contractor will have a portfolio with examples of their work that you can review. A reliable contractor will not mind showing you examples of their work.

Important Fact: Seeing examples of their work also helps you to decide if their style and yours can mesh well to accomplish your goals.

Communication

It is important that a contractor has the ability to communicate with you. Before you ever hire anyone be mindful of how long they take to call you back. Everyone gets busy so it is understandable when a contractor doesn’t call back the same day. However, you should expect a phone call within the next 24 hours. If they take longer than that to get back to you we recommend moving on and finding someone with a faster response time.

Important Fact: Even if a contractor gets back to you quickly, you also want to make sure that your questions are answered and that the contractor is patient with your questions.

Gut Instinct

Sometimes you meet a contractor and just something about them (you usually cannot put your finger on it) does not sit right with you.  No matter how great someone’s references are, or how impressive their work is, if you are not comfortable hiring them, don’t!  You do not HAVE TO hire anyone. It is your property and it is very important that you are comfortable with the person that you choose.

Nothing Beats Due Diligence

It is really up to you to do the research before you hire anyone.  You are letting this person onto your property and trusting them with costly home improvements. Make sure they can be trusted by checking references and before and after work. In addition, ask them to verify they have all the right business licenses and insurance in place.

Ask, check and then check some more.  Any contractor that is a good contractor will not mind answering your questions and providing you with proof of coverage. If they get annoyed with your diligence, run! You want a contractor that really appreciates having you as a client.

Final Tips on Choosing the Right Contractor

Once you have made the choice, be sure to get every detail in writing. Do not leave anything up to chance. A strong contract that outlines all the expectations and all the responsibilities of each party helps to keep everyone on the same page. Look to provide extensive and detailed explanations to ensure crystal-clear expectations.

One of the biggest mistakes property owners make is that they are hesitant to demand that everything be put in writing.  It can be hard to “speak up” when a contractor is promising something and say “hey, can you put that in writing in our contract”?  If it is not in writing then you cannot count on it. The right contractor will be more than willing to put all the job details in writing.

Lastly, do NOT pay for all the work up front. It is common for contractors to ask for a fee upfront to minimize their risk and cover job materials. If it is in the contract to pay a percentage up front that is fine. We do not recommend you pay more than 50% up front and do ot pay the remaining balance until you are 100% satisfied with the outcome. If you pay the full balance before the job is finished, you may have a challenging time getting them to finish the work.

You may already know and follow every one of these points. In that case, Lofty would like to congratulate you on your abilities to choose a great contractor! On the other hand, if you’re thinking to yourself, “wow, I would really like to take all of these steps,” but your life is already busy with plenty of other tasks and responsibilities, have no fear.

Here at Lofty, we love to help. We have a massive network of vetted vendors that will make sure you get the best product at the best price. Get in touch today to learn more!

 

Whether you just need to find the right tenants for your investment property, or you want everything managed from top to bottom, live the life you deserve and let Lofty handle the rest.

property management

Top 3 Reasons People Use Property Management Services

By | Property Management

The choice to have a property professionally managed provides release from the headaches of trying to juggle too many things at once. The fact is, a large majority of us are stressed because we just can’t seem to find enough time in the day.

Here at Lofty, many of our clients have reached out to us because they simply didn’t have enough time to enjoy life on their terms. Others found themselves making the same mistakes over and over based on the fact they had no one with expertise to guide them to the right way to think about the issues at hand. Others still found a combination of issues resulting in a less than desireable return on their investment—there are a lot of folks out there who are or are planning to use their investment property as a retirement solution. That is hard to do when it is losing money.

There are three main factors that provide the reasons why property owners make the switch to a professional property management service.

Factor One: Expertise

A lot of property owners not only lack the time but they also lack the knowledge of how to deal with tenants. This is the kind of knowledge that accompanies experience. Professional expertise quickly becomes invaluable, especially in the instance of a difficult tenant.  Difficult tenants can sap your time, energy and money. A professional property management company will run pre-screening process that takes multiple steps in seeking only the right tenants.

And what if a difficult tenant evades the pre-screen? The property management company handles them! If you’ve ever had a bad tenant you know how much strife they can cause. Save yourself the hassle and hire a property management company! Many property owners find that handing over day to day management duties to a professional with expertise is an overall smarter way to do business.

Factor Two: Time

More property owners have decided to sign with a property management company in order to free-up enough time to really enjoy their lives. This rings especially true for owners who live more than 30 minutes from their property. It can be extremely pressing on your time to have to swing by for any reason other than an actual fire. Tenant phone calls can easily cross into the stressful and time-consuming territory.

There are lots of areas that need focusing on to effectively manage a property. It can quickly turn into a full time job. If there is a repair that needs to be done you will have to hire a contractor and schedule the repair. If you own more than one property, it is a burden to create a network of trusted contractors and vendors for the various tasks on your list.

When the lease is up, you will have to find tenants to rent the space! This means: producing your own photography; writing and posting your listings on all the various websites out there; field phone calls and emails, then coordinating showing times in a way that doesn’t have you driving back and forth for each one; consistently vetting all applicants; drafting legal documents from the lease to the security deposit receipt; collect and manage funds; perform move-in and move-out walkthroughs that ensure fairness and accountability; provide all necessary disclosures… Wow!

Property owners choose to have their properties managed professionally because they understand that even the greatest juggler has a limit. They also understand that the most precious commodity in any person’s life is time.

Factor Three: Profit

A professional property management company is all business and, as we all know, business is about the bottom line. There is no emotional attachment to tenants and there is no emotional attachment to the property. A quality property management company will do what is in the best interest of both the Owner and Renters, while keeping the bottom line front of mind.

This means that a property management company will:

  • lead you to make informed decisions about what is best for the property; this essentially leads to an increase in overall profits.
  • attract qualified tenants and keep your property rented; this includes pre-screening to ensure you get a reliable tenant who pays on time.
  • help you manage your income and expenses so you increase revenue.

 

Reach Out And We Will Be There

If you own a property, we would love to hear your successes and horror stories. We would also love to have a conversation about how Lofty can help you get out from under your responsibilities and back out in the world, enjoying your life. Here at Lofty, we want to help you live the life you deserve!

 

Whether you just need to find the right tenants for your investment property, or you want everything managed from top to bottom, live the life you deserve and let Lofty handle the rest.

property management

Top 10 Property Management Tips for Chicago Landlords

By | Property Management

1. Only qualified tenants need apply!

Set standards for your tenant pool, then make sure you screen everyone to the same standard. Some of the worst tenants around come from a friend of a friend’s mother’s cousin. (What even is that?) Do not bend your requirements and screen everyone equally.

(Need tips on finding the right tenant? Follow our Ultimate Guide here)

2. Take a security deposit or admin fee!

It is fine (some might even say “kind”) to work out an agreement for someone to pay the security deposit or fee over the course of two or three payments. The most important point is to collect additional, upfront funds to mitigate risk should damages occur later on down the road.

3. Write it all down!

Objectively good, comprehensive lease agreements protect everyone. Even if the agreement is month to month, the lease is meant to protect both parties involved. It is the only smart way of doing business.

4. Provide a safe environment!

Make sure the building is secure. A good rule of thumb from a single family home to a multi-unit buildings is to provide secure locks, plenty of outside lighting and clear pathways throughout the common areas.

5. Get enough insurance coverage!

As a landlord you are open to liability all the time. Ensure that you have enough insurance to cover you in case anything goes wrong.

6. Know when to outsource repairs!

It is somewhat common to think that if you can, you should. However, if you are capable but unskilled, the time it takes to complete a task quickly compounds. Consider your options and compare against the value of your time. You may find that it is cheaper to hire someone skilled than to attempt to save money by doing it yourself.

7. Acknowledge all complaints with care!

If a tenant calls in with a complaint, it is your responsibility to let them know that you got the message. Make sure you let them know how you are going to handle the problem and keep them in the loop with the solution timetable.

(Checkout our blog about keeping renters happy.)

8. Disclose any issues to your tenants!

If there is mold in the building (or any other environmental hazard, for that matter) it is your responsibility to let your tenants know. Let them know what you are doing about it and put it in writing with proof of delivery. As a landlord you run the risk of being sued over environmental hazards if not properly disclosed.

9. Do not get emotionally involved with your tenants!

Make sure you establish a business relationship with your tenant from the beginning. Tenants tell all kinds of stories to get out of paying rent. There is a fine line that separates weakness from kindness. If the relationship is professional from the start your tenant will treat you in a professional manner, and appreciate your kindness all the more.

10. Maintain open communication!

Keep in touch with your tenants and give adequate notice when you need to get into the property. It is important to respect your tenant’s time, privacy, and the fact that they are paying you for the space.

Of course, you may already know and follow every one of these points. In that case, Lofty would like to congratulate you on your excellence in property management! On the other hand, if you’re thinking to yourself, “wow, I could really stand to improve,” but your life is already busy with plenty of other tasks and responsibilities, have no fear.

Here at Lofty, we love to help. It is our goal to take the tedious tasks of management out of your hands and free your time to live the life you want while maximizing your investment. Get in touch today to learn more!

How To Keep Renters Happy

By | Property Management

How to Keep Renters Happy

A happy, qualified tenant is the mark of a great landlord. A tenant who is happy and feels at home will stay longer, keeping you free from the marketing and leasing efforts associated with a vacancy. Tenant turnover requires considerably more work than renewing a lease, and a happy tenant who feels respected will take care of your property like it was their own. Follow these suggestions to keep your renters feeling happy and respected.

First Things First

Keep Lines OpenThe most important piece to a solid professional relationship is a lease with all necessary documentation, so everyone is on the same page when it comes to expectations. Take care to make sure that your lease spells out everything expected from both parties. It is also important to accurately record all transactions including financials, complaints, and maintenance. By keeping all the information above-board, when a question arises, you can easily pull down the information and share it.

In the same spirit of transparency and organization, contacting your tenants by email is always strongly suggested. However, it is also a nice gesture to follow up with a phone call or even call before you send a notice out to let them know to look for it. This simple act can keep renters happy because they feel that the relationship is just a bit personal, while keeping consistent with a level of professionalism they can trust.

The Happiness Principle

The first sign of an unhappy renter? They move. You lose your income and have to start the process again to find qualified tenants. So, it works to your advantage to keep your renters happy. Long term relationships with renters are always the best. It is easier to keep the renters you have happy than it is to risk losing them and start the entire process over again. A key tip to low vacancy rates and a strong real estate investment portfolio, is doing what you can to renew the lease with the tenants you have.

Remember when pagers became cell phones? Now think of check books as pagers, and electronic payment as cell phones. In fact, many people use their mobile phones to pay online nowadays! So, offering your tenants a way to pay rent online may be more appreciated than you expect.

Open Communication

One of the easiest ways to keep renters happy is through open communication, so an ability to talk with your tenants is very important. Listening to their concerns and responding accordingly makes them aware that you are paying attention and can go a long way in keeping everyone happy. This is also beneficial as it keeps you updated on any property issues.

Build Trust In The Relationship

Keep It ClassyThe effort to build a relationship based on trust largely lies in being available and responsive when they call or email, and being proactive with routine maintenance. If your property is a multi-unit building, routine maintenance may include cleaning common hallways once a quarter and replacing any burned-out light bulbs.

Respect Your Tenants

A key factor in any relationship is respect, and so it is true of a landlord/tenant relationship. Not only is it respectful but also required by law in some places that landlords and owners provide adequate notice when there is a need to enter the property. Asking what time works best for them goes a long way if you have flexibility on the appointment. If the goal is lease renewal, helping your tenants feel safe and comfortable in their home will support that end.

When you arrive on the property greet your tenants with a smile and friendly words. A sincere compliment on their decorating, upkeep, or even their new shoes can positively impact your relationship. To borrow a line from How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie, “be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.” Nuances can be everything to some people, so be aware of your communication and do your best to treat others the way you would like to be treated or better.

Repairs & Maintenance

All issues brought to your attention should receive an immediate acknowledgement and response that will determine your plan of action for your tenant. However, not every issue is an emergency that must be dealt with post-haste. For example a broken water pipe will count as an emergency but a loose fence plank may not require fixing right away. It can be helpful to keep your renter in the loop and let them know on which day the work will commence. If the work will be noisy or inconvenient for other tenants, provide them advanced notice prior to the work beginning.

There are some renters that may never say a word about damages. This will cause you problems down the road. Reward good tenants’ diligence with an acknowledgement and speedy repairs. You may even want to consider discussing response times with your renters when they sign the lease so they know what to expect. A reasonable time table of repairs can help to keep renters happy.

Can Fix AnythingMaybe this goes without saying, but reliable and professional tradespeople will be invaluable to you as a property owner. From handywork to down-and-dirty repairs and installations, having a solid list of contacts on hand is huge. In the event you are out of town, share the list with your tenants in case of emergency.

Forgiveness And Understanding

Everyone runs into issues once in a while, and a little leniency can go far in business relationships. You may feel fine allowing a tenant—who is usually on time with rent—to run a little late on paying the rent, provided they have given you some notice. Sometimes, this simple gesture of understanding can make a world of difference in how you are perceived by your tenant. Forgiveness, as they say, is divine.

While there are some renters that will not be happy no matter what you do, most people are reasonable and if you are making the right effort they will respond in a positive manner.

The Truth About Success

Success of landlords can be traced back to their positive expectation set with their new residents at the beginning and throughout tenancy. If you think and speak highly of your property, their new residence, and maintain it accordingly, your tenants will be encouraged to treat your property like their own home.

A high turnover rate can stress you, your property and your finances. Doing what you can to keep your tenants happy may not always be convenient, but making sure the right thing gets done when it needs to can pay off in the long run.

Maybe you have reached this point and think, “Hmm… Pass.” Here at Lofty, we are prepared to free up your time and boost your profits. As expert professionals in Property Management, you can trust Lofty to deliver top-notch, personalized service to you and your tenants. Lofty sets the industry standard in Real Estate Concierge services, and we are eager to manage your rental properties and your tenant relationships, leaving you to enjoy your free time.

 

Whether you just need to find the right tenants for your investment property, or you want everything managed from top to bottom, live the life you deserve and let Lofty handle the rest.

The Ultimate Guide To Listing At The Right Price

By | Property Management

The Ultimate Guide To Listing At The Right Price

Are you looking to lease your property and not sure what price to list? Here at Lofty, we’ve had the experience of listing hundreds of properties in the Chicagoland area. In this guide, we share exactly how to list your property like a professional.

what-a-viewChoosing a rental price for your home or condo can be a tricky task. You don’t want to set the price low and miss out, but you don’t want to ask too much. No one wants to be that house that has been listed for six months. Like a teenager without a date to the prom, this is something to be avoided at all costs. Staying realistic is the key, along with a little legwork and market research. As a landlord your goal is to minimize vacancy to boost profitability and reduce risks associated with an unoccupied place.

When tasked with setting an accurate rent price, your first instinct may be to charge as much as the market can bear. But there are some things to consider before choosing a rental price.

Know The Market

Market demand will dictate your rent price. To get the best idea of what the current market demand is in your area, assess value. A first simple step is to have a look at similar properties available for rent in your area to gauge what price they are listed for rent. From Craigslist to Zillow and even the classified section of your local newspaper—if you like to kick it old school—can be great starting points.

Determining Market Value

The best next step is to consult a real estate professional to secure a Comparative Market Analysis. A CMA will evaluate similar, recently rented units (called comparables or comps) that are near your property. These comps assist in establishing the current market value of your property. There are several factors to keep in mind when reviewing rented comps: price, market time, seasonality, location compared to your property, room sizes, amenities, and so on.

With these comps in mind, along with the active listings previously discussed, you are now prepared to analyze the data to achieve your list price. Get your analytical thinking hat on and strap in! Or leave it to the professionals at Lofty who offer you a free market analysis!

This process should be repeated each and every time you relist your property to account for any market shifts. Even the most experienced real estate professionals rely on an accurate CMA to determine the market price. For example, if there is a downturn in the economy the demand for rental properties may increase as people can no longer afford to buy their own homes and will choose to rent instead. A dip in the economy may also benefit landlords who own smaller properties and apartments as people look to downsize in order to save money. The general rule of thumb is that the greater the demand the higher the rent you can charge, and visa versa.

It also doesn’t hurt to be competitive. Offering a slightly lower price than the average comparable property in your area may win over a renter quicker.

Think Like A Tenant

Imagine your potential renters and how they are searching for their next home. If their max rent price is $1,800, they are likely to set $1,800 as their maximum search price. If you were to set your pricing at $1,850 or $1,900 with the willingness to negotiate less, you may be unintentionally missing out on potential renters.

Additionally, it may not add value to your listing to market your price ending in a $50 increment, like $1,850, since most search criteria increases in $100 increments. The $50 increment puts you in limbo with the inability to take advantage of viewers who are the next tier down. Take the plunge and lower another $50, it will pay off with a faster turnaround.

Rent Is Based On Desire

higher-standardsThe desirability of your property will play a huge role in how much rent you can charge. If your property has very little amenities or upgrades or is in need of a lot of work, renters will not be willing to pay top dollar. The more attractive your property is, the more you will likely be able to charge. The following are some of the most sought-after features in Chicago, which should be taken into consideration:

  • Vista – What will your tenants see when they draw their curtains in the morning? A view of Lake Michigan or a park is more desirable than a view of a the exterior of the building next door.
  • Altitude – If your apartment is in a high-rise building, the higher levels are more desirable. Ground floor or garden apartments can be less desirable to some renters, due to security concerns and the possibility of flooding in heavy rains.
  • Area – Value increases with square footage. In most cases, the greater area your property has the more desirable it is. There is one caveat though: how well your space is used plays a major role.
  • Beds/Baths – Value increases in any market as bedrooms and bathrooms increase.
  • Storage – From closet space to a basement or storage locker to a garage, any and all extra space is a bonus and should increase desire.
  • Updates/Upgrades  – The more modern your property is, the better. Homes with modern, updated appliances are far more desirable than those with outdated features and finishes. Even ‘vintage’ can get old.

Vintage is bad

The Right Price Is Attractive

If your property has been listed for a 2-3 weeks but you are not flooded with viewing requests, the price is likely a turn-off. Whether it is too high or too low, your audience will make assumptions. If a potential tenant thinks you are under-charging based on market demand, they may believe there is something wrong with the property.

You may find that using interest to find the “Goldilocks”, or perfect price point for your property is a solid tactic. Ideally, in the first couple of weeks that your property is new to the market you should receive 10-20 inquiries. And inquiries lead to showings!

Wrapping Up

Ideally, most landlords also want to make a profit. On average, a landlord pockets anywhere from zero to seven percent of the monthly rental income as profit. If the property is not benefiting you in some way, you might have set the rent too low, or worse, you might have over invested. Regardless of your goals, the right rent should, at the very minimum, cover all your expenses on the property. These include mortgage repayments (if you have one) as well as maintenance and repairs. If the value of your rental property does not meet or exceed this criteria, it may be time to consult an experienced, professional Leasing and/or Property Management service like Lofty to help get your investment back on the right track.

 

Looking for a real estate brokerage that can manage your investment property from top to bottom?

Contact Anthony Zammitt, managing broker of Lofty Real Estate.

 

How to Effectively Begin a Landlord Tenant Relationship

By | Property Management

tenant screening chicago
One of the most important components to being a successful landlord is forming solid business relationships with your tenants. A solid landlord/tenant relationship consists of both sides respecting one another and appreciating what each of you is bringing to the partnership.

The key is following through on your end of the relationship: a landlord who shows they respect and care for the tenants by being accountable and responsive to maintenance requests; tenants who pay on-time and continuously work towards leaving the property better than they found it. It is important to avoid letting a sense of entitlement seep into the relationship on either side as it can cause offense and crumble this relationship.

Check out our guide to finding the right tenant.

Getting off on the right foot with your tenants early on will set the pace of the relationship for the life of the lease. There are several benefits to being more than a faceless person that collects rent payments.

Fostering a relationship with your tenants is beneficial because:

  • Tenants that have good relationships with their landlords are more likely to take care of the property.
  • Trusting relationships are better for business.
  • Open communication can help you be proactive.
  • If they feel comfortable in your place, there is a higher likelihood they will renew their lease and reside in your property longer.

Keep things “business friendly” to avoid letting the relationship become too personal. Building a landlord tenant relationship that is built on mutual respect can benefit any landlord.

Renters that “like” their landlords because they have a good working relationship are far more likely to take care of the property. Tenants that feel uncomfortable or disconnected from their landlords are less likely to notify them of any issues. Having open communication with your tenants so they feel comfortable to call and tell you if there is an issue with your property can really pay off when it comes to minimizing damages. A strong relationship with your tenants also helps to ensure your rent is paid on time.

Set The Mood

A good business relationship works best when established from the beginning. You want to be friendly and approachable but always responsible and consistent. This is your business, and your tenants are essentially your customers. Even if your tenants are not particularly nice or professional towards you, it is recommended that you remain professional and respectful, treating them the way you would want to be treated if the situation were reversed.

As the landlord, you can set the tone of the relationship by always being courteous, regardless of how trying the situation may be. Keeping that professional attitude can help you get through the tough spots that you may experience with your tenants. As with anyone, it is easy to be positive, cheery and agreeable when things are going well. The mark of great landlords and property managers is how successfully they navigate through challenging situations.

Be Upfront

If there is a problem with the property, disclose it at the beginning. State it before the lease is signed and advise as to a solution. Only make promises on which you intend on following through. If there is a problem, do your best to rectify the issue in a timely fashion, and be transparent with the steps you will take to improve the situation. Err on the side of over communication versus under communicating.

Treat your expectations similarly; make it clear to your tenants what you expect from them while they live in your property. Clear expectations eliminates confusion and avoids mishaps. Depending on local city ordinances, owners may be explicitly required by law to maintain aspects of the properties.

For instance, in Chicago it is the responsibility of both the owners and the tenants to remove snow and ice on public areas, with fines awaiting offenders. Consult your local ordinance to ensure compliance.

Strong Listening Skills

Listen to what your tenants want or need from you and do your best to meet the expectations within reason. Good landlords seek to answer, “Yes!” to any reasonable request, and people respect someone that pays attention to them and tries to meet their needs. Renters also appreciate a landlord’s willingness to discuss the reason why the request cannot be met — honesty can go a long way.

Accurate Record-Keeping

Clear and accurate record-keeping protects a landlord/tenant relationship from “he said she said” arguments. A strong document trail protects both you and your tenants, from the lease to emails back and forth throughout the lease period. This will clearly display your professionalism and organization which ultimately increases trust.

Respect Privacy

It is not okay to just pop in on your tenants unless there is an emergency. Give adequate notice for every situation, especially repairs or maintenance. Work with tenants to ensure they are able to develop a workaround in the event a major utility like water or electricity must be interrupted.

For top-notch customer service, send emails in lieu of calls or text conversations or send emails to recap calls or text conversations. This allow for a paper trail, allowing you and your tenant to review as needed. In some cases, you are also affording them the convenience of choosing response time. Another smart move is to follow-up on all communications within 24 hours. Always remember: the E in email also stands for Evidence.

People Skills

It is important that you are authoritative but within limits; you also want to seem accommodating and willing to willing to compromise and work with your tenants. It will help to build a healthy, collaborative relationship. Most tenants will appreciate your efforts and respond in kind. Other tenants will be difficult to work with but this is your business and you do have to take the bad with the good and not let emotion ever become part of the equation.

While these steps seem simple enough to deploy, they are all vital steps in forming a strong, effective relationship that will benefit the success of your investment. Of course, you should be available and keep up your end of the deal. Do what you say you will do, when you say you will do it.

The key to effectively building a strong landlord/tenant relationship largely lies on your shoulders. Take this part of your responsibility seriously and you will be rewarded with loyal, longterm tenants that will maintain your property like it is their own. If you are enjoying