Home Warranty for Rental Property? Save Your Money…

Wondering if you should purchase a home warranty for rental property? We say save your money… In our years working in property management, this question “should I purchase a home warranty for my rental property” continues to be a highly queried question. We first began writing on this topic about five years ago. I will tell you, as an owner of multiple rental properties, I used to think having a home warranty for rental property was a great idea. Managing over 400 properties for Northern Virginia landlords, though, has taught me a different lesson. Keep that cash in your pocket–here’s why that “good idea” is a waste of time and money. (And potentially even bad for your home.)

I had a rental property warranty on each of the 14 rental units I owned–and I even had one on my personal residence. You pay a reasonable annual fee and a nominal deductible for each repair, and the warranty company pays for everything else!
Who wouldn’t find such an arrangement attractive? It seemed a matter of sheer common sense.

Yes, I thought this was a great idea – until things began breaking. Then, the red flags started waving like mad. And the frustrations, difficulty with contractors, and wasted hours started accumulating.

Red flag #1: Rental Warranties Give You No Choice

One of the advantages of running a property management company is that our years of serving landlords have led us to assemble a great crew of licensed contractors, across all specialty areas. WJD has had a long and comfortable history with vendors who specialize in everything from HVAC to plumbing. However, in going through the home warranty for the rental property, we were not allowed to use any of our WJD contractors. The home warranty company assigned the vendor depending on what the issue was.

Well, you may be thinking, how bad could that be? Either way, you get a well regarded local specialist out to the property to fix the problem, right? Well, not exactly….which leads me to the next red flag.

Red Flag #2: Who Are Those Home Warranty Contractors Anyway?

I have been in the property management business (a/k/a fixing stuff in homes) for a long time, so I know most of the residential contractor specialists in my area. At least, I know the ones I have come to have a high regard for–and the ones my clients have worked with already or my colleagues recommend. And, surprisingly enough, had never heard of any of the vendors they assigned to address any of the problems in our properties.

While it may be that some perfectly good contractors end up on the list of home warranty preferred vendors, my guess is, the warranty companies tend to just go for the low bidders. Which doesn’t necessarily bode well for the average landlord looking for expert help.

Nor does it bode well for getting repairs done in a timely manner.

Red flag #3: Slow, C.O.D. Service Puts Your Property at Risk

This next red flag began waving furiously when I was told the rental warranty contractors have up to 48 hours to respond to a problem. What? What about water emergencies?

Well, as I found out in one extreme instance of water leaking all over a beautiful hardwood floor in a rental property, water emergencies have the same response timeframe as anything else.

But wait, it gets worse.I was told by the home warranty company that their contractors would not begin the repair until after they had been paid the deductible.

Yikes. So now we are dependent upon a tenant paying the deductible at the time of service. What if the tenant doesn’t happen to have that money available? Or doesn’t want to pay out of pocket? (Even when a lease requires them to pay it, that doesn’t mean they always will.) You got it. The water (or other emergency you were trying to get fast service for) just sits…and waits until someone shows up with the payment.

Occasionally our tenants were unable to pay the deductible (as required by their lease) which meant the WJD staff had to scramble to somehow get payment to the vendor.

Fortunately, in the incident of the water on the hardwood floor, the contractor accepted our company credit card and the leak was repaired before irreparable damage had been done. But not all contractors accept credit cards over the phone. And not all will go to the trouble of contacting you if they fail to collect the deductible from the tenant.

Red Flag #4: They Fail to Contact the Tenant!

A fourth red flag came to light the first time I experienced a complete communication breakdown. Even though it should be obvious that a home warranty for rental property means dealing with tenants, neither the warranty company nor the assigned vendor contacted the tenant for access to the property.

Instead, they kept calling the WJD office to schedule the service—even though they had been given the tenant’s name and telephone number. In the midst of all of these communication failures, the repair got delayed even further.

We later determined that because the warranties were all in the name of WJD Management, everyone concerned thought they needed to speak with a property manager in order to get into the property. Our takeaway? Having a home warranty on many rental properties did not give us extra clout or better service. Whether you’re an individual landlord or a large property management company, you have to wait. First you wait 48 hours for the contractor. Then, perhaps, you wait (and stress) over the deductible payment snag. Then, after all of that, you get to wait while they call everyone but the tenant for access.
In the meantime, the needed repair waits, your tenants are inconvenienced, and you (possibly) wind up with more damage.

Red flag #5: Racking Up Those Deductibles

We saw this red flag pop up when one of the home warranty vendors had to make repeated trips to a property to deal with a heating issue, each time collecting the deductible. The tenant was becoming very agitated with this cost and the fact that his heat kept failing in the middle of the night. I was becoming equally agitated with the fact that the home warranty’s policy was clearly to continue to apply cheap band-aid “solutions” rather than to replace the appliance, which was obviously at the end of its useful life.

The furnace was eventually replaced, but not before I had to place a number of irate calls to the vendor and the home warranty company. In all fairness, I can’t lay the blame for that situation entirely on the warranty company. But the problem certainly related to the quality of the contractors they chose to affiliate with.

As time progressed, I came to realize that the home warranty simply used substandard contractors. No matter what specialty area I needed service in, that was the case.

Lesson learned, you get what you pay for.

Red Flag #6 (The Final Straw)

The sixth giant red flag came when a fluorescent light in the ceiling of my personal residence stopped working. The vendor assigned by the home warranty company arrived two days after I placed the service call. After pulling the light apart, he told me that it couldn’t be repaired.

I said, “Okay, then go ahead and replace it.”

His reply? The contract I’d purchased did not cover replacement of electrical fixtures, only their repair.
Apparently, this was some contractual fine print that I had overlooked. The next morning I called the home warranty company and cancelled all 15 of our contracts. These were annual contracts which I had only recently renewed, but I was told they would not rebate any of the cost.

By that time, nothing about the worthlessness of owning a home warranty surprised me. The sea of waving red flags had convinced me. I accepted the loss of my premiums and said good riddance to bad warranties.

Are you a Northern Virginia landlord looking for an effective way to manage risk for your home or investment properties?

A more cost-effective and convenient solution than taking out a home warranty is to work with a property management firm like WJD that specializes in residential management. Landlords who work with WJD Management get the benefit of our long relationships with top local contractors in in Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax Counties–and throughout the Northern Virginia region. We keep eyes on your house, doing our best to catch problems before they become emergencies.

And you’ll never have to wait 48 hours for a response, play phone tag with a vendor, or rely on a tenant to pay the bill!

If you would like to learn more about WJD Management, please review our comprehensive Management Program guide. If you are ready to rent your home, jump right in and take advantage of our exclusive FREE Rental Market Analysis. Also, be sure to follow us on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest for tips, ideas and updates.

How to Find the Best Property Management Company in Northern Virginia

Are you looking for the best property management company in Northern Virginia?

If you’ve landed on this page then chances are, yes, you are looking for the best property management company in Northern Virginia. Well, let us give you some candid information and advice about the property management industry. Assuming you are a homeowner or real estate investor who is looking for the best property management company in Northern Virginia, there are a number of overall factors to consider when hiring a property management firm, many of which are addressed in our other informational articles. However, there are three immediate factors to consider – online reviews, if the property management company also sells real estate and the organizational structure of the property management firm.

First you have to know how to approach online reviews.

How Much Should You Trust Online Reviews About Property Management Companies?

These days, online reviews have become an invaluable resource because they provide a way for potential customers to learn about a company from past and existing customers. However, online reviews do pose a problem in that users can also post negative, fraudulent or even fake reviews which of course do not paint an accurate portrait of businesses. Additionally, even if a business owner responds to reviews of this nature, it does not result in a change of the overall star rating. This problem plagues the entire property management industry and is created by both prospective tenants as well as former tenants.

But why? Why do prospective tenants and former tenants take to social platforms, often enlisting friends and family, and post negative, fraudulent, fake or misinformed reviews? The answer is simple: Their rental application was declined for any number of reasons – excessive debt, bad landlord reference, low credit score, etc. Or they disregarded their end-lease requirements and either did something they should not have done or failed to do something they should have done and forfeit some of their security deposit as a result.  Even though the property management company acted as per the direction of homeowner to decline a rental application or forfeit a security deposit, these individuals blamed the property management firm, i.e., they shot the messenger.

You see, one of the most challenging aspects of property management is tenant screening. This is one of the many reasons why smart homeowners choose to mitigate that risk and have their property professionally managed by a licensed and credible management company who is a member of NARPM and NOVA NARPM. We actually culled through reviews of property management companies from all across the country and found that most major and credible companies have similar one-star reviews from both prospective and former tenants. If you do enough research, you’ll notice the same thing. The language, length, and tone of these reviews becomes very familiar. You’ll see a lot of words in all caps, long rants which rarely include any tenant accountability.

WJD Management has a tried and true method of qualifying prospective tenants which you can read about here. The information we obtain is presented to the homeowner and the homeowner makes the decision to accept or decline the application. There are a wide variety of circumstances which can result in a declined application but regardless, some prospective tenants take it personally, become angry and vindictive and head for the nearest social media platform to tell the world about how unfair we were to them. In truth, we were just looking out for the homeowner’s best interests.

When a former tenant leaves a negative review about us it’s nearly always because they did not receive a full refund of their security deposit. In these instances, their actions or lack thereof resulted an expense for the homeowner which was reimbursed from their security deposit. Although these funds were paid to the homeowner, the reviews all infer that “the property management company stole our money.” And here again, we were only looking out for the homeowner’s best interests. So, you can see how these situations can be challenging, and how it’s also a good indicator of why you should hire a professional property management company to manage your rental property. When doing research, you’ll really need to read these negative reviews with a grain of salt, especially if you see a lot of positive reviews otherwise. Further, a few negative reviews may actually be a good thing because they indicate that the property management company was generally looking out for their homeowners.

Okay, so you’ve read lots of reviews about different local property management companies and there seem to be quite a number of similarities. Now what? Well, first and foremost you’ll need to determine if the property management firm has a vested interest in real estate sales.

Does the property management firm have a vested interest in real estate sales?

If the property management firm you interview has a real estate sales arm, you must contemplate some issues that may not be obvious during your search for the best property management company in Northern Virginia. You’ll need to find out if they will require you to use one of their real estate agents if you decide to sell your property. You may also have to consider what happens if a tenant would like to purchase your property. Will you owe the property management company a commission in that instance?

The most important question by far however is whether the real expertise of this property management firm is in management or in sales. The answer to this question is an accurate indicator of not only the quality of the service you will receive but also of the choices that may or not be available to you later as a seller.

It may seem like we’re telling you this to convince you that WJD Management is the best property management in Northern Virginia, but the truth is we are the only property management company that specializes exclusively in residential property management. We are the only licensed real estate brokerage in our area that does not have a real estate sales arm. What that means is that property management is all we do–we do not accept homes into our managed inventory with the hope of generating a future sale. When we need to find a tenant for one of our homes, the property is listed by our own Principal Broker. We do not farm the listing out to as real estate agent – who may be completely unfamiliar with your home – as many of the property managers with the larger “branded” companies in our area do. Moreover, because we do not engage in real estate sales, 100 percent of our company’s resources are dedicated to managing the homes in our inventory. It is no secret that the other property management firms in our area typically invest minimal resources for their property managers because they believe the real money is in selling real estate as opposed to managing it. And yet ironically, when sales slump, these firms look to their property management activity to keep their doors open.

What does the organizational structure of the property management firm look like?

One final consideration is the actual structure of the property management company. Does it employ the traditional “portfolio” arrangement or the newer “departmental” arrangement as WJD Management does? Although sound arguments can be made for both styles, we feel the portfolio style has some limitations which are overcome with our departmental structure. With a portfolio property management company, the homeowner is assigned a “property manager”. This individual may also be assigned to as many as 200 other homeowners. The property manager is mostly responsible for maintenance. This means that he or she is probably not involved in the marketing activity when a tenant must be found and must rely on others to answer such questions as “Why hasn’t my home been rented yet?!” In addition, this means that he or she may have to rely on someone else to address legal issues when a tenant states “I don’t care what you say, my lawyer says I have grounds for breaking my lease!” This also means that he or she probably cannot answer specific accounting questions such as “Why was I charged a double management fee this month?!” The list goes on.

Our departmental structure includes experts within each of the five modules that the best residential property management companies should consist of. These modules are marketing, leasing, maintenance, inspections and accounting, and in the best-case scenario, they are all “under one roof”. WJD Management has a Principal Broker with over 30 years’ experience in determining rental values and listing area homes for rent. We have Leasing Managers who thoroughly vet all prospective tenants before we hand them the keys to your home and who are intimately familiar with each of the many covenants of our lease. We have Maintenance Managers with many years of experience who work with licensed, bonded and insured contractors as opposed to “handymen”. We have Property Inspectors who faithfully take an in-depth look at your home every six months. And we have a Comptroller with an MBA who is also a certified tax consultant. Tying it all together is our exclusive, proprietary software which shares the information from each module with every member of the WJD team. So no matter what your question or concern may be, it can be addressed by practically any staff member or if necessary, immediately referred to the appropriate modular expert.

At WJD, we understand that as a homeowner or investor, naturally, you are looking for the best property management company in Northern Virginia. We hope that our candid advice and 30+ years of experience helps you to make a better and more informed decision about who you hire to manage your rental property. Additionally, if you are in the military, a foreign-service official, or a government employee, you may find this information particularly valuable because you may be overseas and unable to devote the time needed to thoroughly research Northern Virginia property management firms. Also, be sure to read our reviews – there you’ll find a longstanding list of happy homeowners and tenants as well as a few folks who apply to our above explanation of online review problems in the property management industry. Thank you!


If you would like to learn more about WJD Management, please review our comprehensive Management Program guide. If you are ready to rent your home, feel free to take advantage of our exclusive FREE Rental Market Analysis. Finally, don’t forget to connect with us on social media! Follow us on FacebookTwitterLinkedInInstagram, and Pinterest for tips, ideas and updates.

How Much Will My Northern Virginia Home Rent For

“How Much Will My Northern Virginia Home Rent For?” It’s a question I’m asked many times each week–and in reply, I prepare a complimentary rental market analysis. I offer this service as a courtesy to Northern Virginia landlords (as well as those trying to decide whether to become landlords) who are trying to determine how much their Northern Virginia home will rent for. Since visitors to the WJD Management website have asked what goes into one of these local rental market analyses, I thought I’d give our readers the step-by-step process I use.

There’s no magic to it, but it is time-consuming and sometimes takes a “feel” for neighborhoods and market demand. It’s a service I’m proud to offer homeowners in our region, and our determination of rent is objective and numbers-based.

We pull in a variety of factors, including location/neighborhood and the size, features, and assessed value of your home relative to your competition. Here’s what a WJD custom rental market analysis comprises:

Search.

There are many considerations you have to ask yourself when searching for the right rental property.

If you are going to get a management company to have somebody to help you look after your property, your proximity to the property will be less of an issue.

I search the subdivision where your property is located for everything that has been listed over the past 12 months. This will include properties that are currently for rent, properties that have applications registered, properties that have rented, and listings that didn’t rent and have been withdrawn.

Sort by property type.

You must understand where you stand relative to your competition. Sorting out the list by property type will help you see the advantages and disadvantages you can implement or you can improve with your property.

We sort the resulting list by property type and eliminate those that are not comparable to your property. For example, if you have a townhome, I’ll eliminate garden style apartments, duplexes, single family detached houses, etc.

Sort by stories.

One main thing renters ask is the story behind every home. The more bizarre, the more it will click. It is a plus factor to a home.

We then further refine the list by sorting according to number of stories and eliminate those with fewer or more stories than your home.

Sort by bedrooms.

Renters look for homes that will definitely fit the size of their family. Bedrooms are also on the list of searches people look after a house. Bedrooms is the second most important factor in the decision to lease a property.

We sort the list according to the number of bedrooms and eliminate those with fewer or more.

Sort by bathrooms.

The bathroom is one of the most considered rooms. It equals the kitchen in its aspirations. It would be like these: if you would have two properties of equal features, the one that has gussied-up bathroom is not only likely to be snapped up quicker, it’ll be able to sell faster.

We sort the list according to the number of full baths and eliminate those with fewer or more. Then, I’ll sort according to the number of additional half-baths and eliminate those with fewer or more.

Examine current status and prices.

A must-know term should be the market’s current status and price. The rent to value can be a valuable guide and a requisite part of a thorough investigation of an investment opportunity. Next, we’ll take the refined list and eliminate the properties that are currently for rent, have applications and have been withdrawn, noting the prices of all of these.

Examine assessed values.

Determining assessed values is a good factor to give you the confidence and peace of mind that you are asking for/ paying the right amount of rent. It gives advices to what is going around the rental market, and gives idea of what people are looking for in a rental accommodation.

We then do some research from the refined list. I’ll look at the assessed values, noting which listings are similar, more and less in value.

Factor in square footage.

The square footage of your property is a top consideration that people look after to, because of the size of their family, or whether it is because of their dream house. But not just renters, but everyone in the real estate world. It is a measure of any home’s value.

Using the same list, we then look at square footage, noting which listings are similar to your home, which have more and which have less area.

Get some visuals.

People prefer visuals to have some idea of what the property was like, it’s position and it’s calculated size.

We look at virtual tours (where applicable) and determine if any upgrades are present in any of these listings.

Determine length of time on market.

Just like canned goods, property expires. It’s important that listings should always be fresh and updated.

We look to see how many days each of these listings took to rent.

Determine the property’s management status.

Many properties are managed by real estate companies or direct agents. Coordinating with the person involved with the property would be an easy and legal way to do some transactions if needed.

We look to see which if any are professionally managed, the assumption being that if they aren’t then they have been listed by a sales agent who may or may not have a handle on the rental market in that subdivision.

Run the final analysis.

Comparing assessed values, square footages, upgrades, days on the market and if the homes are professionally managed, we calculate an average of what they have rented for. And then I’ll have to implement everything on the market and compete with those on the same market.

Beat your competition.

The final step is to reduce it by at least $25 so as to undercut the currently active competing listings for rent. People love freebies! But no, it’s not freebies. It’s just part of the marketing strategy. The lower your price in comparison with the competition, the more likely it is you’ll have your home rented out quickly. Want to find know “How Much Will My Northern Virginia Home Rent For”? Get a free no obligation rental market analysis today.

free custom rental market analysis

For more updates and information from WJD Management follow our blog and find us on Facebook @wjdmanagement, Twitter @WJDManagement, and Instagram @wjdpm.

5 Ways to Increase your Arlington Property Value this Year

Are you looking for 5 ways to increase your Arlington property value this year? With the immense changes happening in Arlington VA due to the development of National Landing, Ballston, Clarendon and more, if you own a rental property in Arlington VA, you have plenty of reasons to make 2020 the year you reinvest in your property–and work to increase its value. Because Arlington is such a prime rental market, improving your property will make it more attractive to the high-quality, long-term renters you are looking for. And of course, should you decide to sell at some point, your property will be in a good position to do so. In this article, we’ll review 5 ways to increase your Arlington property value.

1. Start by taking care of the essentials

Before you invest in upgrades to your Arlington property, zero in on utility first. Your primary focuse should be ensuring that the property has no looming maintenance or upkeep needs. These include significant repairs or replacements that eat into your revenue, put your existing lease at risk, and have the potential to lead to costly property damage. Some examples include:

A failing roof: If not promptly repaired or replaced, this can lead to roof leaks, water damage, and mold growth in the property that costs you thousands to repair.

An older water heater: A water heater could fail, leaving your renter without hot water until you have the unit replaced. Worse, a corroding water heater has the potential to leak or burst, leading to water damage in the property.

Aging HVAC systems: A new air conditioner or furnace is a significant investment for any property owner. A furnace that fails in the winter or an air conditioner that stops working in the summer can also lead to renter frustration and lost rental revenue.

We recommend that you work with licensed Class A Contractors in your area to ensure that your property’s roof, plumbing, and HVAC systems are in good shape. Once you’ve shored up the essentials and taken care of necessary preventative maintenance work, you can move onto making value-adding improvements.

2. Remodel the kitchen and bathroom

As it turns out, what’s generally true for the home sale market is not necessarily true for rental properties. However, there is a reality that both homebuyers and renters prefer updated kitchens and bathrooms that pair superior utility with fresh, modern design. If your rental property’s kitchen looks like it belongs in a ‘80s sitcom, it might be time for a refresh and re-imagining of the space. Doing so can greatly improve the property’s value and its appeal to a wider group of renters.

In fact, kitchen and master bathroom remodels can offer a solid return-on-investment especially when the update brings a 1980s kitchen or bathroom up to the taste standards of today’s consumer. To get the most long-term value for your remodeling dollar, choose durable materials—such as granite countertops and tile floors—that will stand up to the wear-and-tear renters put on the property.

3. Make the property more energy-efficient

In addition to a remodeled kitchen and bathroom, buyers and renters are also both interested in saving money. By making your Arlington rental more energy-efficient as a whole, you’ll make it that much more attractive to those looking to keep their utility costs down in the coming year. Many property owners are beginning to advertise energy-conserving features when listing their rental, because they know renters and buyers are attracted to properties with low cooling and heating costs.

Even relatively low-cost efficiency improvements—such as adding weatherstripping and sealing around windows and doors—can make an impact. You should also look into having the property’s HVAC systems maintained every year, sealing leaky air ducts, and adding additional attic insulation to cut down on energy waste.

4. Improve the first impression your property makes

The odds are good that your next Arlington renter will find and view your property online long before they see it in-person. This first impression is everything: while scrolling through multiple properties, yours needs to make an immediate, positive first impression on the prospective renter. If it doesn’t, chances are that it’s going to get passed over again and again.

So, how can you improve the first impression your home makes? You may want to start by reworking your front yard landscaping. Whether they visit in-person or view your property online, this will probably be the first thing a prospective renter sees. Overgrown trees, bushes, or grass sends the wrong impression. Since Arlington is a competitive rental market, we highly recommend professional photos and videos for online listings.

5. Make small, impactful changes

Not every rental improvement project needs to be a major renovation. You can also add value to your property through small upgrades and changes. A few common examples include:

  • Repainting the interior and exterior
  • Switching out older lights for brighter, energy-efficient bulbs
  • Replacing or deep cleaning carpeting
  • Changing out older appliances for new ones
  • Extending the backyard patio with pavers or flagstone

One of the best ways to perform research about your own property is by taking a look through rental listings and seeing what other property owners in your area are doing to make their rentals more appealing.

If you would like to learn more about WJD Management, please review our comprehensive Management Program guide. If you are ready to rent your Arlington home, feel free to take advantage of our exclusive FREE Rental Market Analysis. Finally, don’t forget to connect with us on social media! Follow us on FacebookTwitterLinkedInInstagram, and Pinterest for tips, ideas and updates.

Property Management Advice for Investors: Lessons in Tenant Screening

As an investor myself, I think it is important to provide real property management advice for investors. Particularly important are some valuable in lessons in tenant screening. Oh, where to begin. But first…

How I Became My Own Property Manager

I never intended to manage my own investment properties–I sort of fell into that role as a bootstrapping investor and learned the hard way. Unlike the mature markets in Fairfax and Arlington Counties, the market I invested in (in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley) doesn’t yet offer cost-effective residential property management for small investors like me. So, I had to plunge in and learn by trial and error. From becoming a social media tenant sleuth to learning how to sniff out good contractors, every bit of wisdom I gleaned cost me time and money. And along the way, I learned some pretty expensive lessons. I think a few of those lessons are worth sharing with other investors and would-be landlords.

Like a lot of people new to real estate investing, I got my foot in the door by using a combination of home equity loan and savings to purchase several tiny income properties at a time when prices seemed to be rebounding after the lows of 2009 and 2010. My goal was to net some income each month and (hopefully) to see some appreciation in a burgeoning market, over five or six years of ownership.

I joined a real estate investors’ networking group and sought out the best advice I could get. “Don’t lose money each month” was what it boiled down to. And what was the surest way to lose money? Bad (as in nonpaying and/or destructive) tenants.

The Tenant Problems Begin

I had a little problem, however. The houses I had purchased came with tenants (and leases that had more than six months left on them). While I felt a bit nervous about my rough-around-the-edges tenants, I figured I could manage them if I just stayed on top of things. And maybe I’d even end up with a good tenant or two. It could happen, right?

Wrong. From the beginning, I had problems with all my tenants. Problems collecting rent and problems with maintenance. Problems with town ordinance violations and problems with neighbors who didn’t care for my tenants’ habits. The best of the lot were the elderly couple who moved out in the middle of the night the week after I bought the house. They took a couple of major appliances with them and disappeared without a trace. But they did vacuum before leaving, at least. Which was very thoughtful of them.

Screening Tenants

So, I set out to find me some new tenants. I wrote an ad for Craigslist, uploaded some pictures of the cute little Cape Cod house, and clicked Publish. I figured before I even took an application I’d do whatever initial screening I could. I’m a journalist, after all–and I know my way around digital research.

About five minutes went by before the first eager inquiries started rolling in. I cracked my knuckles and started right in on the Facebook sleuthing–which my teenaged daughter informed me was more appropriately named Facebook-stalking. But hey, after the great midnight appliance heist, one couldn’t be too careful, I told her. I was only performing my due diligence as a responsible landlord and investor.

First up: Delilah Shuttleworth (not her real name). She was a hardworking young mom, she informed me–just making it on her own due to her positive outlook while looking out for her darling toddler, who was the joy and light of her life. She had included a couple of photos with her inquiry, which backed up that persona. The head shot looked like it might have come straight out of the annual church directory. Awwwww. And another one pushing her chubby little two-year-old on a swing. Sweet. Oh, and she wished me a “blessed day” in her closing.

Using Social Media for Initial Tenant Screening

On to Facebook. There was Delilah in the profile pic–but with a ferocious animal print ensemble rather than the Peter Pan collar I’d seen in her email. Plenty of photo albums available for public viewing. And, lo and behold, nearly all of them show her downing shots (or unconscious). And right at the top of her profile is a request for money for the incarcerated boyfriend. (It even came associated with an app called JPay. The smarter way to pay inmates.) One friend commented that she’d maybe make a donation to the cause if Delilah would pay her back from last Friday night. Delightful Delilah had snarled back at her with a string of four-letter words that’d make a sailor blush.

Three hours later, I’d completed Facebook research on all Craigslist responders whose emails provided last names. And I’d determined that they were quite a fun-loving, free-spirited, photo-sharing bunch–but alas, not exactly tenant material.

The Tenant Problems I Never Anticipated

I’d subsequently learn a number of tricks in ad copywriting to keep me from even having to do that up-front Facebook detective work. Asking for a work email, mentioning online payment policies, requiring a preliminary application to be considered for a showing, indicating that a broker would be in touch to take application fees, etc. Those measures helped me at least to filter applicants for minimally stable jobs, up-to-date financial practices (such as having a checking account), and incomes. And subsequent credit checks (using the application fees) helped further refine the list, of course.

What were the debacles and time-sucking inconveniences my screens didn’t help me uncover? A history, in one case, of creating “lawsuit traps” and suing people. A drug addiction. A hoarding problem. An employer who went out of business the week after the lease was signed.

What a Professional Property Manager Offers

Would a professional property manager have been able to spot and avoid these problems? Maybe not all of them. But in placing tenants on my own I’ve come to realize one important thing: As a landlord, even when I tell myself I’m keeping emotional distance, I am still too close to the situation to maintain objectivity. I am proud to be providing renters with affordable housing, and I truly want to place tenants who seem to satisfy my criteria.

But it’s more than pride in placing tenants. There’s plenty of fear in this landlord job too. I fear seeing one of my houses sit empty, because of the drain to my bank account (and thus my ability to do things like meet all my own bills, plan vacations with my kids, or grow my primary business). Finally, I have little time for the extra care an empty house requires of me.

No, I’m not objective about my properties–or the tenants who want to live in them. How could I possibly be?

I am emotionally involved in my own properties–no matter how many screening techniques I learn or how much wisdom (and healthy skepticism) I gain. If my market had offered me an experienced property manager specializing in single family homes, I have no doubt that I’d have been better off hiring someone to bear that responsibility (and maintain that unblinking eye to the bottom line).

A property manager with years of insight into tenant issues, applicant red flags, and local employers could have avoided many of the traps I fell into in my push to keep my houses from sitting vacant.

Not to mention saving me hours of time being horrified yet strangely fascinated by applicants’ lives on Facebook.

If you would like to learn more about WJD Management, please review our comprehensive Management Program guide. If you are ready to rent your home, feel free to take advantage of our exclusive FREE Rental Market Analysis. Finally, don’t forget to connect with us on social media! Follow us on FacebookTwitterLinkedInInstagram, and Pinterest for tips, ideas and updates.

Flat-Rate Property Management in Northern Virginia: The Pros and Cons

Wondering about Flat-Rate Property Management in Northern Virginia? Most owners have wondered at one point or another whether flat-rate property management in Northern Virginia is worth it, and we are here to tell you, like anything else, there are pros & cons.

So you’re going to be out of town for the next few years, and you’ve decided that instead of selling your Northern Virginia home, you’d like to put it on the market for rent. You’ve already decided that professional property management is a strategic cost in which you’re willing to invest (for reasons including peace-of-mind, tenant screening, marketing, maintenance, etc.); and you’re on the lookout for a property management firm.

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Property Management in Old Town Alexandria Virginia

Are you looking for real advice about property management in Old Town Alexandria Virginia? We’ve got the advice you need for property management in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia.

How much does it really cost?

You live in Alexandria, Virginia, and you recently learned you’re being transferred overseas for the next couple of years. You’re excited about the big new transition. There’s one problem, though: To keep your house, you know you’ll have to become a landlord. Which means somehow dealing with rent collection each month, the intrusion of 2 a.m. phone calls into your sound sleep when something breaks, the paperwork at tax time, the hassle of finding good contractors to fix stuff, etc., etc.

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WJD is Best of Fairfax in Property Management 2019

Looking for the Best of Fairfax in Property Management?

Fairfax Award Program Honors the Achievement

FAIRFAX October 21, 2019 — WJD Management has been selected for the 2019 Best of Fairfax Award in the Property Management Company category by the Fairfax Award Program.

Each year, the Fairfax Award Program identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the Fairfax area a great place to live, work and play.

Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2019 Fairfax Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Fairfax Award Program and data provided by third parties.

About Fairfax Award Program

The Fairfax Award Program is an annual awards program honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Fairfax area. Recognition is given to those companies that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value.

The Fairfax Award Program was established to recognize the best of local businesses in our community. Our organization works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations and other business advertising and marketing groups. Our mission is to recognize the small business community’s contributions to the U.S. economy.

SOURCE: Fairfax Award Program

CONTACT:
Fairfax Award Program
Email: PublicRelations@businessawardsdecision.net
URL: http://www.businessawardsdecision.net

Alexandria Property Management 101

Looking for a lesson in Alexandria Property Management 101? If you own property in Alexandria, our special Alexandria Property Management 101 was written just for you!

A Primer for Relocating Alexandria Homeowners

Alexandria is always a sought-after location for rental properties —though it’s a sprawling area that encompasses both inside-the-Beltway territory and commuter neighborhoods further afield. For most Alexandria properties–whether condos, townhouses, or single family homes–it’s not hard to attract metro-area tenants. But the majority of homeowners I talk with want to know what they should do — besides relying on location alone to attract top tenants.

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What Does a Property Manager Do?

We are often asked, “What does a property manager do?” It’s a great question—and we have a simple answer for it:

“We do everything you’re going to have to do if you don’t hire us!” Here are a few of those challenging tasks…

Find the Right Tenant

Make a mistake on your choice of tenant and you’ll pay for it—in time, money, and possibly legal troubles. Placing a good tenant yourself actually requires a series of steps.

You must first determine the fair market rental value for your home before advertising for a tenant.

    1. Once you have determined the rent you’re going to try to get, it’s time to advertise.  You can use Craigslist (or other similar classified ad sites) where listings have to be renewed every week. Or you may engage a Realtor who will list your property with the Multiple Listing Service, create the lease, maybe conduct a move-in inspection and then walk away from the transaction.If you list the home yourself, you’ll need to be extremely careful that your advertisement does not violate any of the multiple state and federal Fair Housing requirements.
    2. Once you have found an interested party, you must qualify them to be certain they are a good credit risk. Their employment must be verified, as well as their rental history (with references obtained from current and previous landlords). And if your applicant’s credit score and debt to income rations are not within an acceptable range, you’ll have to start the search all over again.

Write a Good Lease

After successfully qualifying the tenant’s application, it’ll be your job to write a lease that’s both legally compliant and completely enforceable.

What does that mean, exactly? First, you’ll have to determine whether your lease will be governed by Virginia Common Law or the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. And then you’ll have to make certain that the document contains all of the appropriate requirements for your property and is legally enforceable.

Once that’s taken care of, there’s the matter of the security deposit. It must be placed in a separate escrow account, where it has to remain untouched throughout the tenancy, unless it’s used to offset tenant damage. Comingling of funds is a great way to wind up with a serious legal problem!

Fix Things that Break

If something breaks, leaks, bursts, or simply goes kaput—it’s up to you to determine the cause of the problem. For example, did the eight-year-old washing machine die of natural causes (thus constituting reasonable wear and tear), or did it stop running because the tenant abused it? Either way, you’re going to have to fix it. And if it was the tenant’s fault and they’re going to be charged for the repair, you will bear the responsibility of thoroughly documenting the cost with a legitimate contractor’s invoice.

The same same holds true, by the way, for any damage the tenant may cause throughout the tenancy; do-it-yourself invoices are typically not honored by the courts should the tenants take issue with them.

Collect Rent—and Handle Evictions

In the event the tenant stops paying rent, you must do your best to collect it by sending written correspondence and making phone calls. When all that fails and you determine that you must evict them, the law requires that the tenant be sent a legal notice instructing them to pay or vacate the premises. Following that measure, a lawsuit must be filed in court. At the time of the hearing, you or your representative will have to appear before the judge. If the court rules in your favor, you must coordinate the actual eviction with the sheriff’s office and provide the necessary manpower to remove the tenant’s belongings.

Keep Track of Income and Expenses

Finally, there’s the task of accounting. Tracking the income and expenses for your rental property is not merely a good financial habit—it’s the law. You must keep track of all gross rents collected and report this income to the IRS on a specific schedule (form), attached to your 1040. You must also keep track of all legitimate expenses to offset the income when you file your tax returns. The IRS is noted for thoroughly vetting these itemized deductions (and auditing when they flag inconsistencies). So, it’s critical that all of your expenses be recorded and thoroughly documented.

So, what does a property manager do? All the stuff you’ll have to do yourself in the absence of a management professional–market research, advertising, tenant screening, legal document creation, rent collection, escrow accounting, maintenance and repairs and more–while also keeping you on the right side of the law and out of the courtroom.

David Norod is the principal broker of WJD Management. He enjoys keeping his 400+ property owners up to date on the best ways to keep their homes rented and running smoothly. When he’s not managing properties, he’s playing classic rock in local clubs with his band Off The Record.