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.

For Realtors Who Hate Doing Rentals

This special article is for Realtors who hate doing rentals. Are you a realtor who hates doing rentals?

“I don’t do rentals.” If you are you a realtor who hates doing rentals, we hear you. How many times have I heard a Realtor colleague tell me how much they’d like to make “I don’t do rentals” their mantra.

But then, whether it’s out of the hope of a future buyer lead or simply a moment of generosity, they’ll relent. “Okay, I’ll do a rental. Just this once….”

Famous last words. Next thing that well-meaning agent knows, the thankless rental grind has begun.

If the following scenarios sound familiar, you’ve experienced the notorious Northern Virginia “rental schlep” firsthand.

  1. You take hours away from nurturing sales leads or planning your next marketing campaign to show rental properties to your client. (And in accommodating your client’s work schedules you sit in late-afternoon Beltway traffic).
  2. You wait…and wait…and wait for your rental client, who never actually shows up. (Because after all, they got held up at work. And they’re not paying you for your time.)
  3. Your client finally decides on a rental. Hooray! Except, as you’ve come to find out, this is when your paperwork nightmare actually begins. Time to get the printer-scanner all warmed up.
  4. You have to collect application fees and earnest money and then scan/send the paper application (which appears to be covered in coffee stains and bacon grease from the client’s breakfast and keeps getting jammed in your document feeder.)
  5. You have to circle back to the tenant to let them know more information is needed because of some (surprise!) derogatory information that turned up in their credit report. Which they somehow forgot to mention to you).
  6. It turns out that if you want to close this thing, you’ll have to do even more work like overseeing the lease signing and making sure everyone gets a copy.
  7. And then, once the lease is signed, it’s time to wait some more. The days drag by as you wait for your small commission check. Which, you decide, probably worked out to be slightly less than a minimum-wage rate.
  8. After the lease is signed, you get back to focusing on sales (which is, after all, why you got into real estate in the first place). And you decide it’s probably best not to even calculate the opportunity cost of that rental you just took on.
  9. “I hate doing rentals,” you tell your colleagues. And they all nod sympathetically, remembering the last time they did the rental schlep in the hopes of forging a client relationship. 

Is there a solution? We think so. At WJD, we’re proud to have perfected an automated rental process that gives the agent just one job. 

Just open the door.

That’s right. Show the property and then send your client to our website – that’s ALL you have to do! Your clients will complete our interactive Rental Application and submit the required funds (processing fee and security deposit) electronically from our site. We will handle the application processing, communication with the homeowner, communication with your client, the lease signing, the walk-through, literally every aspect of the process. And then we make sure your commission check is sent as soon as we receive the executed lease back from your clients. Granted, we can’t help you with the occasional no-show clients or the Beltway traffic while you drive to the next showing. But if you’ll open the door, we’ll promise to take care of the rest.

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

Arlington VA Property Management: A Checklist for Homeowners

You have questions about Arlington VA Property Management? We have answers. 

Here’s Our Checklist for Arlington Property Management & Relocating Arlington Homeowners. Arlington is a hot area for rental properties–and in most cases it’s easy to attract applicants eager to rent inside the Beltway. But many Arlington homeowners wonder whether they could do more to attract the best tenants in the region. After being asked countless times by landlords for tips on what’s worth spending money on and what’s not–here’s our handy checklist for relocating Arlington homeowners.

Read more

Tenants: 18 Ways to Get Your Security Deposit Back

Tenants, are you looking for 18 ways to get your security deposit back? When everything is ready and a tenant can get 100 percent of that deposit back, it’s a big win for everyone. We want to see every tenant get their full security deposit back–and it’s important to note that WJD has no financial incentive to withhold any part of tenants’ deposit money.

For us, it’s a matter of making sure the homeowner is protected against surprise out-of-pocket maintenance expenses, repairs, or cleaning costs, and it helps guard against delays in getting the property back on the rental market.

To help make sure things go smoothly, and to help you get your deposit back, here’s our ultimate advice guide for getting every cent of your deposit back.

Please note that these are only suggestions. The process of returning a deposit is individual to each tenant, and following all of the below steps will not necessarily result in a full refund.

Immediately After You Move In

1. Review Your Property Condition Report (PCR), sign it, and return it to the WJD office within 10 days of move-in. The report states that your home is in the same condition we want it to be in at the end of your lease and will be used as a point of reference when you move out. Be sure to make detailed remarks on the form should you note any problems with the home, such as malfunctioning appliances, carpet stains, paint blemishes, etc., so that you are not charged for these issues when your security deposit is refunded.

Pro Tip: Always keep a copy of your Property Condition Report on file.

Throughout Your Tenancy:

Do yourself a favor by making sure your required maintenance is up to date. That way, when you move out, you won’t be facing a massive list of “to-do’s” that have resulted from a year of neglect. See below for suggested maintenance tips. You can also check out our  maintenance guide here, which can be found in your Tenant Handbook as well.

2. Ensure all maintenance is requested online. If something breaks, you must immediately submit a Maintenance Request from our website as we cannot take this information over the phone. Be as detailed as possible about the problem so that we can determine who to send to fix it. Do not try to fix it yourself!

3. Keep up to date on your fireplace cleaning and inspection. This must be done even if you never use the fireplace. Also remember that you are responsible for cleaning the ashes that result from burning wood, as the fire inspection company does not usually do this.

Tips to Get Your Deposit Back

4. Make sure to keep your gutters clean throughout the year. The cost of a gutter cleaning usually ranges between $50 and $200 depending on the size of your home and the amount of guttering it has. Be sure to use one of our recommended gutter cleaners for best results!

Pro Tip: At the beginning of your lease, immediately add a calendar reminder to get your gutters cleaned periodically. Try to schedule a final gutter clean about a two weeks before you move out, just to make sure they’re clear and you’ve left yourself plenty of time.

5. Replace light bulbs. We recommend getting LED lights at the beginning of your lease. LEDs have plummeted in price recently (three of them cost about $10), so you’ll definitely get your money’s worth by reducing electric bills. Also they should still be going strong at lease’s end!

6. Regularly replace furnace filters. If you change filters monthly as recommended you’ll reduce your heating bills, make the home more comfortable during the cold weather, and avoid add-on charges for replacement at move-out.

Pro tip: Write down sizes, or take pictures of your filters so you can easily reference them (sizes are included in the PCR). Also, you might want to consider buying in bulk through Amazon.

7. Keep your HVAC system clean and well-maintained. Check to see that all supply and return air vents are clean and unobstructed and make sure the condensation drain is not clogged or obstructed. If the property has a radiant heat system, make sure there are no leaking valves or radiators.

8. Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Battery-operated models will begin making an intermittent chirping sound when the battery runs low, and you can easily replace the battery. Hard-wired models will do the same but have no bettery–so when one of these units goes bad you must submit a maintenance request to have it replaced. In either case, test the units periodically to make sure they are in working order.

When You Move Out:

By following the steps below, you’ll make our job easier, which makes everything go much more smoothly.

9. Schedule carpet cleaning. If you have a pet, be sure to order a tick and flea treatment. Our lease requires this at move-out, even if you have no carpets in your home. Be sure to use an approved vendor to clean your carpets. Should you use an outside vendor and their work is determined to be sub-standard, we will have to have your carpets cleaned again by one of our approved vendors, at your expense. Avoid paying for this service twice!

10. Clean! And clean thoroughly. thoroughly.​Remember that when you move out, the property should be left in the same condition as it was when you moved in. This is why it is imperative that you return your PCR right after you move in noting any discrepancies, otherwise you might be charged for pre­existing problems! Common cleaning items that are missed include:

  • Under the refrigerator
  • On top of the refrigerator
  • Inside the oven, oven drawer and underneath the oven
  • Under stove burners
  • Sides of toilets
  • Range hood and exhaust fan filters (Note that you can put them in the dishwasher to make things much easier!)
  • Crumbs in cabinets/drawers
  • Washer and dryer lint.

Pro Tip: Remember to clean the gutters one last time and have the fireplaces cleaned and inspected. Make sure to provide a copy of your receipt for each service.

11. If you hire a cleaning service, make sure you ask for “detail cleaning.” To make sure your money is well spent (and to get all of your security deposit back), be sure to use a recommended WJD vendor. Also, remember to ask for detail cleaning and not surface cleaning.

12. Double-check to make sure you’ve replaced all light-bulbs and furnace filters one last time. Even if you forget to replace just one light bulb that was working when you moved in, we will have to send a contractor to replace it. So, even though the actual light bulb may just cost a couple of dollars, your cost is going to be a minimum $75 trip charge plus the cost of the bulb. The same holds true for furnace filters.

13. Take out the trash. It’s such a simple step, and it would be silly to forget and cause a minimum service fee

14. Perform all necessary lawn care. This is going to differ for each tenant, so check your lease for specifics of what to include (i.e. mowing, pruning, weeding, raking, etc.) Again, if you want to hire someone to take care of this for you, please use one of our recommended vendors for best results.

Tips to Get Your Deposit Back

15. Make the final inspection an easy process by preparing beforehand. Once inspection begins, tenants are not allowed to clean, add finishing touches, etc. Leave all keys, fobs, placards, remotes, and receipts on your kitchen counter; and have the property ready for inspection when the inspectors arrive. It will make everything go much more smoothly.

16. Stagger the work being done, beginning two weeks out from your move-out date. This will keep you from becoming overwhelmed, and will allow you to do one last cleaning spree before inspection. By getting everything done beforehand, we can come and do our job and help you check out quickly and smoothly.

17. Schedule services before the day of check-out. If you’re hiring professional cleaners, don’t have them come the same day as your check-out inspection. Remember that carpets should be dried from carpet cleaning prior to inspection. Essentially, you want to ensure the home is in the exact same condition it was when you moved in. This is most easily accomplished by getting the big stuff out of the way in advance.

Pro Tip: To keep track of everything, we suggest you print off our Move-Out Checklist and post it on your refrigerator or counter. This checklist can also be found in your Tenant Handbook.

18. Ask questions. Ask questions. Ask questions. Communicate ahead of time if there are any issues you have questions about. For example, if you aren’t sure how to clean a fixture or appliance that you’re responsible for or if you are having difficulty accessing light fixtures in high-ceilinged homes, let us know! We can probably recommend just the right tool or cleaning tips.

Concluding:

Moving out is a time-consuming process, but there’s no need for it to be expensive as well. By following the above guidelines, you will dramatically reduce the possibility of having to lose some of your security deposit. And by making it easier for us to do our job, you’ll probably speed up the refund process. Thank you, and we hope you find these tips helpful.

5 Real Estate Marketing Tips for Twitter

Agents, are you looking for real estate marketing tips for Twitter? Do you need to get better at real estate marketing for Twitter? We’ve got 5 real estate marketing tips for Twitter that you can start using right now!

Finding new real estate marketing tips for Twitter is challenging. Generating real estate leads–whether here in Northern Virginia or in any local market–can be as simple as building your brand on Twitter (and sending the right messages to the right people). In this post, we’ve listed some of our own cool discoveries about Twitter. In mastering this noisiest of social media platforms, here’s how even the busiest of real estate professionals can use Twitter strategically. Build your brand, without drowning in a sea of competing voices.

If you know how to manage it, Twitter is a platform tailor-made for local lead generation. In fact, as a Realtor you should be aware of the power of Twitter to drive prospects your way in a remarkably efficient manner. Brand stewardship, the sales funnel, and the importance of connecting with potential clients…there’s nothing new here. Twitter is just a unique way to perform all these old marketing maneuvers.

To get you started on your own social media marketing campaign, here are the 5 Twitter essentials every Realtor should know. Nail these, and you’ll be fielding Twitter leads like the pro that you are.

#1. Become a Master at Positioning Your Brand

Twitter is great for building your brand, but figuring out where it fits into your business can be daunting. Diving into heavy Twitter activity without a first having a well-developed positioning statement could mean you’re wasting your time, at best. At worst, you’re committing social media blunders that could damage your reputation somewhere down the road. Even famous and powerful Twitter users well-schooled in the fundamentals of branding have made serious gaffes on Twitter- Al Roker, Mark Cuban, a Virginia State Senator, and even a press secretary (whose job is all about communication, after all!) have all made career-damaging Tweets in the past. And top brands with mega-sized budgets for social media marketing aren’t immune to Twitter gaffes that made onlookers wince.

In just the last couple of years, McDonald’s, US Airways, and LG have all committed deeply damaging Twitter mistakes. The point is, you should really figure out what your brand’s position will be on Twitter before you ever post your first tweet. To do this, take stock of your brand. Who are your ideal clients, and how can you reach them? Once you find them, how will you stand out in a sea of Realtors on Twitter?

Your positioning statement will emerge after you take the following steps:

Know who your ideal clients are and what they’re looking for. Young families? People who’ve recently moved to the area? Young professionals? Each of these groups will be interested in very different local resources–and will need very different types of real-estate-related information.

Decide what you’re going to tweet: Will you limit your tweets to real-estate-specific subjects, or will you offer glimpses into your personal life as well? You want to make human contact but there’s a limit to how many everyday details your followers will find interesting.

Figure out how to excel by offering better content than your competitors. If they offer tips on buying a home, beat that by offering followers something they haven’t seen before (more on this below, in Essential Tip #3). And whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of just broadcasting out your listings willy-nilly. That’s not really meeting anyone’s needs. It’s just adding to the noise in the Twitterverse.

#2. Strategize Your Profile

You could say Twitter is tailor-made to provide endless marketing ideas for Realtors. That’s because as a real estate sales agent, you have one great advantage over other types of businesses: You are your own brand. Thus, it’s perfectly natural for you to set up your Twitter account under your own name rather than a business name. And it’s way better to be a person on Twitter than a business.

Years of Twitter stats now prove that people prefer engaging with people over businesses. That goes for your profile picture too.  Don’t use a logo, a snapshot of a house, or anything else other than a picture of yourself.

You are your best asset when it comes to reaching out and engaging your followers and turning them into leads…so put your profile to work for you. Think of it as your business card.

(Take a lesson from WJD on this one. We learned that other Twitter users were a lot more eager to engage with us once David, the owner, had his picture up there. The logo came down for good, and now users see David, who’s also a local rock musician, performing on his bass guitar.)

#3. Engage, Engage, Engage

Just like working a room, when you use Twitter the goal is to be engaging. Although you’re limited to 140 characters, tweet naturally like you’re having a conversation.  This is not the time to be using cute chat acronyms like 4COL (for crying out loud). Be interesting, be useful, and be relevant.  And use pictures when you tweet! Sharing local content (like images of places your target market would know) is especially relevant for Realtors. After all, you’re looking for local leads.

Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read.” – Leo Burnett, advertising tycoon of the 1940’s & 1950s

As with just about everything else online, good content will get you places. Whether it’s sharing other people’s tweets (“retweeting”), sharing useful articles you’ve come across, or republishing useful content on your own website, always ask yourself first, before tweeting, if you’d find it to be of value if you were in your ideal client’s shoes.

Stay on top of what third-party tools are available to help you with engaging your followers. One is IFTTT (“If This Then That”), which makes retweeting automatic, among other things. Let’s say you’re a Realtor in Fairfax and your goal is to develop lead potential via Twitter.  You’d like to engage your followers with useful tweets and you’ve come up with the idea of keeping them informed on local real estate news.  Well, guess what? You can manually do tedious online searches via online newspapers covering Fairfax and tweet them, OR you can have IFTTT do it for you. (We sort of prefer the automated approach.) As long as those local sources have Twitter accounts, IFTTT will retweet any of their relevant tweets for you. Meanwhile, you can be elsewhere, doing more important things.

IFTTT will do almost anything for you on Twitter, including:

  • replying to new followers
  • sending a LinkedIn invitation to your new Twitter followers
  • automatically archiving tweets to Evernote or Google docs to keep track of engagement

#4. Learn Twitter’s Search Function and Use it Often

Just as you would do when moving to a new neighborhood, see who’s nearby and make friends on Twitter. Twitter’s search function is very often missed by Twitter users who, sadly, never benefit from this awesome feature. You’ll have to enable your settings to allow for Twitter to learn of your location…enable that and then let ‘er rip. You’ll be presented with a handy list of Twitter accounts managed by people in your neighborhood.  And in the Northern Virginia region, don’t forget local hashtags like #NOVA, #NorthernVirginia, and town names like #Herndon, #Reston, #Arlington, etc. For local interest news items, try combining those local hashtags with interest-based terms that your target market would be interested in. Perhaps terms like #FarmersMarket, #FoodTruckLove, or #Jazz.

After identifying local “tweeps” you want to connect with, strike up a conversation–and enjoy the dialogue with a potential lead or local connector.

#5. Use Stats to Improve Your Twitter Lead Generation Results

Influencing your followers in the non-linear world of Twitter is hard enough, even before you begin worrying about how you’re going to track them as well. But tracking is essential–know your customers and their behavior, so your efforts at engagement aren’t wasted. There are useful apps for tracking your followers and even finding out who the bad ones are and weeding them out of your account like so many uninvited guests.

This becomes a cumbersome task once you have a good number of followers, so having a tool to do this for you is key. One such tool is ManageFlitter. It will scan your list of followers and weed out the “fake” accounts. What you end up with is a highly relevant collection of followers who are more apt to hear your message, engage with your tweets, and maybe someday become clients. In other words, Twitter holds the promise of bringing you “the good leads”, from the prospects you want in the neighborhood you’re targeting. Connecting with the right people and sending the right message have always been what real estate boils down to…Twitter may simply get you there faster.


WJD Management cares about realtors! In fact, as part of our commitment to Realtors, we offer the following:

  • A 30 percent client referral fee at lease signing
  • We guide your clients through the entire rental process making your life easier

Plus…

We give your clients a full menu of services including:

  • a best-in-class lease that protects their interests
  • a secure, automated payment portal
  • a staff of professional, licensed contractors

On top of that, we focus 100 percent on residential property management and leasing and there are no other PM firms in the area that we are aware of who can say this. What this means is that if you refer a client to us for property management, there is zero competition because we do not list or sell real estate; your clients remain your clients after you have referred them to WJD.

To learn more about our Referral Program simply visit our Client Referral Page. Also, be sure to join our Referral Network.

Finally, don’t forget to connect with us on social media! Follow us on FacebookTwitterLinkedInInstagram, and Pinterest for tips, ideas and updates.

Professional Property Management for Foreign Service Homeowners

Wondering about professional property management for Foreign Service homeowners? What Kind of Property Management Do Foreign Service Families Need?

Professional property management for Foreign Service homeowners requires specialized care. If you’re relocating overseas, you will need a firm that a) specializes in residential management, and b) maintains a vibrant network of local real estate agents eager to show their properties. (More on that below.)

Finding an excellent management company takes time–and you should prepare yourself by interviewing several firms, armed with the following key questions. These are the same questions any homeowner should ask–but they’re particularly important for landlords who are going to be in different countries and time zones. You’ll need to rely on your property manager. You do not, for example, want to find out after your relocation that your PM didn’t do a proper initial tenant screen. The consequences could include going for many months without income from your property–and dealing with an eviction from the other side of the world.

I included WJD’s answers to the questions, so that you can learn more about our services.

How do you screen tenants?

Systematic, thorough tenant screening is critical for guaranteeing your rental income and protecting your home. When a property management firm screens prospective renters, they should do the following in every single screen:

a thorough credit history check

an equally thorough background check using public records–especially any record of criminal convictions or civil judgments.

an up-to-date rental history, including eviction history and landlord references.

verification of employment.

Note: Some management companies allow applicants to pull and supply their own credit history. Make sure any firm you consider does the research independently!

At WJD Management, we run a thorough screen on every applicant. We use industry best practices, as well as premium software applications, to vet prospective renters for our clients. Our process is legally compliant, systematic, comprehensive, and effective. How do we know it’s effective? Though we manage 400+ properties in our rental portfolio, we have not had to evict a tenant yet. Which brings me to the second important question you should ask a property manager.

How many times have you had to evict a tenant from a rental property?

Evictions are expensive, and the process takes a long time. If a PM firm refers to having extensive experience with evictions, that should be your signal that something is very wrong. Either their screening methods are deeply flawed or they are ignoring the problems that their screens reveal. (Sometimes PMs will move too quickly to fill vacancies and disregard evidence that a tenant is not qualified.)

WJD Management is proud to cite its record of 0 evictions in the past 10 years. Many prospective clients are surprised to hear that, assuming that we must routinely deal with at least a certain percentage of evictions, due to the volume of rentals we manage. However, our screening process is tested, and it works well to protect our clients. 

Does the firm have longstanding relationships with a group preferred vendors across all home services specialty areas?

When you choose to work with a management company who has established relationships with an elite group of tried-and-true contractors, you (and your tenants!) will get a higher level of service across the board. Work requests will get faster responses, and repairs will happen much more economically and efficiently. Very often, because of the loyalty they show vendors, management companies can get (and pass along to their clients) volume discounts.

WJD Management has worked with an excellent crew of home services specialists over the years. We have formed lasting and valuable relationships with licensed contractors who offer quality services at competitive rates. We receive volume discounts from many of our vendors, and we pass those savings directly to our clients.

How quickly does the company pay owners?

Know the timing of your cash flow.

How and when will you get your rental proceeds?

Does the professional property management firm mail checks to clients or use direct deposit?

Will you have access to an online portal to check payment status and/or update your banking info?

WJD Management remits payment of rents received on the 3rd of each month (even if the date falls on a weekend or holiday). We deposit funds electronically into the client’s preferred account. Our online portal allows owners online access to up-to-date financial information (including payment status). Owners can also use our online portal to update their banking information.

Do the clients have to set aside a reserve fund?

Some professional property managers require their homeowner clients to put a reserve fund into escrow–and in many cases that mandated reserve is the equivalent of one month’s rent (or more). The purpose of this policy is to make sure any costs incurred by the PM in getting timely repairs or replacement parts are covered. Those who do not require a reserve will pay those expenses through the month-to-month rent proceeds and then remit the rent (minus expenses) to the homeowner.

WJD Management’s policy is not to require a reserve fund of its homeowner clients. We make it a priority to keep your cash flow as positive as possible, and part of how we do that is to not tie up any of our clients’ money in escrow.

Does the PM firm report regularly and thoroughly to homeowners? Does it provide easy online access?

Find out whether the property management company has a system of regular communication/reporting to its owners.

How will you get the information you need about your rental?

How’s everything going at the property?

What maintenance requests, if any, have been submitted during the course of the month?

How are receipts and reports of income and expenses being recorded and filed?

Will you have electronic access (preferably through a secure online portal), so that you don’t have to rely on hard copies and overseas mailings?

How easy will they be to reach if you have questions about any of that reporting?

Do they maintain regular office hours, with a dedicated admin staff?

In general, will they make it easy for you to get your hands on any information that’s important to you?

WJD Management upholds a policy of full, regular reporting to clients–as well as secure owner access through a dedicated online portal. We want to make it as easy as possible for all our clients to access the information they need about their property–and especially for our clients who are stationed overseas, we want to make sure that information is readily available in electronic form.  

Does the professional property management firm provide contractor services at cost?

Markup of contractors can take a big bite out of your bottom line and could even prevent you from having positive cash flow. Find out what the property manager’s policy is when it comes to fees you’ll be charged. If a company applies a markup to its contractors’ charges. That markup might be as much as 10 percent, which adds up quickly when a system like a furnace or heat pump needs repairs.

WJD Management is a fee-based company, and we’re not in the business of marking up vendor charges. We price our services in the most straightforward way possible, charging homeowners 8 percent of the monthly rent price and requiring a one-year contract. We believe it’s a conflict of interests to tie our own revenue to higher contractor expenses. The percentage of monthly rent that we charge covers all our services. We don’t markup invoices. In fact, we pass on the savings we get from our preferred vendors to our owners. Our job is to help you maximize our clients’ investment income, not to nickel and dime them.

Does the Property Manager Provide 24/7 Emergency Service?

If your hot water heater bursts in the middle of the night, will the property management firm get the appropriate contractor out to the property right away? It’s critical that you get immediate responses to emergency requests, regardless of whether it’s a holiday or the dead of night. Instant emergency responses protect your home and keep your tenants comfortable and happy.

WJD Management has procedures in place to handle emergencies at all hours quickly and professionally. Contractors across all service areas are on call at all times to address water-related issues, plumbing emergencies and after-hours problems that may arise.

Is the lease the PM firm uses fully legally compliant?

Ask the professional property management companies you interview whether their leases have been developed (and vetted by a real estate attorney) so as to be fully legally compliant. As the owner of the property, you’ll be the one who’ll have to pay the consequences for non-compliance. Additionally, find out whether the company observes all federal, state, and local fair housing laws.

WJD Management has developed a lease that complies fully with all federal and state laws. Moreover, we maintain an active membership in the National Association of Residential Property Managers (as well as leadership at the local chapter level).  Our lease reflects our up-to-date knowledge of landlord-tenant laws, and it is reviewed at regular intervals by our attorney.  Moreover, we do not discriminate in our tenant application and screening process. We are fully compliant with all fair housing laws.

Does the company sell real estate as well as manage properties?

If the professional property management firm you interview has an affiliated real estate sales arm, you need to ask some tough questions.

Will they require you to use one of their agents if you decide to sell?

What if the tenant decides they’d like to buy the property and you’re eager to pursue that course? Will you be bound to the use the management company and give them the commission?

Is the real expertise of this PM firm in management or sales? The answer to this question will determine not only the quality of the service you get–it’ll determine the choices that may or not be available to you later as a seller.

WJD Management is a licensed real estate brokerage that does NOT have a sales arm. That means that property management is all we do–we do not use rental properties as a means to a commission. And therefore, we have no conflict of interest. As a brokerage specializing in independent residential property management, we develop relationships with local real estate agents. We pay them fees and commissions for bringing us new clients and qualified tenants. We focus on managing our clients’ properties, and we allow the agents we work with to focus on what they do best: sales!

How will the company determine the market price for your rental?

Will their market analysis be based on their own experience or on comps? Do they have access to premium real estate services such as the MRIS? Do they search Craigslist, Zillow, the MLS, internal comps or a combination to arrive at a rental rate?

WJD Management uses a tested process for gathering true comps and performing an accurate rental market analysis for each of the properties we manage. As a licensed brokerage, we maintain a subscription to the MRIS and draw upon that data to compile a rental market analysis that we believe is the best and most strategic in our region. Some PM firms draw only upon comps in their own portfolio, but that’s a lazy approach. We examine all market data. For a look at what goes into our process, see this article

How will the company advertise your property?

Have the company walk you through its marketing plan, including where advertisements will be posted. Ask whether they take professional pictures to include in advertisements.

Great property photos are crucial for leasing homes, second in importance only to setting a fair market rental rate. Renters now have access to pictures of hundreds of properties as they search online, compared to the days when brokers would show them only a select number of homes. Pictures are the key to capturing potential tenant’s interest and getting them in the door. We maintain our own listing of properties through the wjdpm.com website. 

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 Keep Tenants From Damaging Your Home

Wondering how to keep tenants from damaging your home? If you’re thinking of renting out your home, you probably have a bunch of concerns, namely how to keep tenants from damaging your home. In our experience, one of the biggest worries our Northern Virginia property management clients have is: “How do we make sure the tenants don’t destroy our place?”

Check out this video from our Northern Virginia Landlords 101 series to learn our pointers.

While it may seem to you that you don’t have much control over what happens in your home while you’re not there–you actually do. It’s really all about following three simple steps:

  • Documenting the property’s condition at move-in and move-out.
  • Doing periodic inspections.
  • Incentivizing the tenant to keep the place in good condition.

And for the landlord who’s leaving the area, these three steps generally require some expert assistance. That’s where professional property management comes in. There’s no mystery to it–just good vigilance at the right times. Here’s how an experienced property manager protects your home from damage.

A Property Condition Report Protects You AND Your Tenant

At WJD Management, with every new account and with every new tenancy in existing accounts, our property inspectors prepare a 12-page Property Condition Report (PCR). Tenants sign off on the PCR and it is this document which will be used as a point of reference at the end of the lease.

If tenants see a problem at the time they move in, such as a stain on the carpet, a scratch on the wall or any other items of concern, they can note those issues with as much detail as they care to include. Additionally, if any appliance is not functioning, the tenants can let WJD know so that it can be repaired or replaced right away.

In essence, tenants do their own walk-through, and they itemize any issues that they don’t want to get charged for at the end of the tenancy.

free custom rental market analysis

The Importance of Keeping Eyes on the Property

At six month intervals, our property inspectors go back to the property and create an interior and exterior interim property condition report. They’ll take pictures of anything they might have concerns about. Then, proprietary software sends the written report as well as the photographs to our website. This way, the homeowner can log into our portal, see the areas of concern and then decide what maintenance they need to authorize.

Every good property management company relies upon diligent property inspectors to protect each homeowner they serve from tenant damage to their property. Our lead property inspector, Henry Kurosaka, is our eyes and ears throughout the tenancies. He goes out almost every day to look at the properties and report back to the WJD office.

What Should Happen at the Move-Out Inspection

At the end of the tenancy, at the move-out inspection, the property inspectors will compare the initial report with what the property looks like at that time. And the tenant will be required to pay for any damage beyond reasonable wear and tear (as defined in our deed of lease).

How do homeowners who use professional property management to monitor the condition of the property keep abreast of what’s going on?

Homeowners who work with WJD Management always have access to the interim reports–and of course they can call the office to talk with us if they have any special concerns.

Remember–A Security Deposit is a Powerful Incentive!

Although the prospect of tenant damage may keep a new landlord up at night, avoiding damage is actually pretty simple. A security deposit is a powerful financial incentive–and the rest is about each party fulfilling their responsibilities. It’s up to the property manager to document the condition and hold each tenant accountable. And it’s up to the tenant to demonstrate that all is in order before they move out.

Want to check out the rest of our video series educating Northern Virginia property owners? Just visit our YouTube channel.

Finding the Best Investment Property

Working on finding the best investment property but unsure of what the ideal type of property to invest in is? You are not alone.

This is a question I’m often asked by Northern Virginia investors and homeowners. While I can’t address the intangible reasons people may decide to invest in a rental property, I do know which types of homes offer the best promise of steady income without draining owners’ profits. And, bottom line, I see, year in and year out, which homes are the most desirable to tenants and easiest to maintain.

When it comes to sheer return on investment, there’s no question: The best investment a homeowner can make is in a townhouse. A townhouse represents a superior investment to condos or single family homes for three main reasons: optimal square footage for the money, a configuration that suits the needs of most tenants, and reduced maintenance.

Want to control costs? Start with the structure.

Let’s begin with the ideal investment property structure. With investment properties, simple and low-maintenance always trumps “big and fancy.” Especially when it comes to the exterior of the home. Unlike a single family home, a townhouse does not require much yard maintenance. And, unfortunately, yard maintenance is a responsibility that tenants usually do not carry out well. It’s typical for me, in my site visits, to see the yards of single family homes neglected even though our lease is very specific about tenant responsibilities in this area.

While yard neglect is a problem that we address pretty quickly with tenants, the main thing is, it’s a whole lot better not to have the problem at all. Plus, single family homes come with the added liability of a larger roof and more interior square footage to maintain.

Is smaller always better?

Well, you might think, if a smaller place is best, then why wouldn’t condominiums make for a better investment than townhouses? Great question. The problem lies in the cost. The substantial condo fee payment that owners have to make each month in addition to the mortgage is pure maintenance cost—it does nothing to gain you equity or increase the value of the home. And, what is more, you have very little control over just how high that fee might go over the years you own the place. Do the math, and that fee takes a whopping bite of our your return on investment. And then there’s the issue of the neighboring units; the resident above you overflows a toilet and it rains in your kitchen. You won’t experience that problem in a row house.

And sure, most townhouses do come with HOA fees—which also cut into your return and have an annoying way of going up each year. Townhouse HOA fees, however, are typically only about a quarter to a third of what condo fees cost—and where there are amenities to maintain, can actually do a lot to contribute to the overall desirability of the subdivision.

The Best Investment Townhouse Configuration

While structure makes all the difference for cost of maintenance, room configuration matters when it comes to sheer appeal for the largest possible population of renters. No matter who they are – young professionals, a family, whatever—you’ll find most renters want the following configuration elements:

  • A minimum of three bedrooms.
  • At least two and a half bathrooms (preferably three).
  • Three finished levels.
  • A family room or recreation room.
  • A large utility room or better yet, an attic for storage.

Having a garage is always nice, but it’s not essential providing the association allocates at least two assigned parking spaces for the property.

My Townhouse Tips for Smart Investors

Pick an end unit.

End units will typically rent for more than interior units—due to the increased privacy and larger yard area.

Go with gas.

A gas furnace rather than a heat pump is a real plus. (Try to stay away from an all-electric home.) In fact, the more gas appliances the home has the better. With gas appliances, the tenant’s utility costs will be spread among three utilities–electric, gas and water–rather than just electric and water. And tenants definitely prefer the resulting cost savings. Receiving large electric bills during he peak heating and cooling months is a rude shock for most tenants—and it can be pretty disruptive to their budgets.

The newer, the better.

Try to pick a property that is no more than 30 years old; otherwise you’re probably going to be faced with major system, appliance and fixture upgrades.

Location, location, location!

You’re used to hearing it, but what does that really mean in our area? While there are still bargains to be had in Northern Virginia, you do need to know where to look. Unless you have the funding for a substantial down payment, you probably won’t find any investment properties worth pursuing inside the Beltway (except possibly in certain areas of Alexandria).

My suggestion for finding the best investment property in our area is to look to western Fairfax County and the adjoining parts of Loudoun County. Whether new construction or an older home, rents in this area appear to be fairly consistent and dependable—and demand is about as steady as most areas inside the Beltway. Do not be swayed by a great bargain you may find in Prince William County! You may be able to pick up a property for next to nothing, but it’s been our experience that keeping homes rented in most neighboring Prince William and Manassas locations is very problematic. The location is simply not as commutable for most people as western Fairfax and eastern Loudoun Counties and the rents are as a rule considerably lower.

And of course, anything you can find that’s close to the new Silver Line Metro is going to be a real goldmine.

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.

VIDEO: How Do Property Managers Find Reliable Contractors?

Ever wondered how property managers find reliable contractors? A big part of what property managers do for homeowners is fixing stuff, so how do property managers find reliable contractors. Well, it’s very important for us to insure that qualified contractors are hired. At any good property management firm, who is responsible for hiring the contractor, […]

INFOGRAPHIC: Rent-or-Buy Home Guide for Northern Virginia

The Rent-or-Buy Home Guide for Northern Virginia Property Managers

Looking for a quick rent-or-buy home guide for Northern Virginia property managers? Northern Virginia property management firms like WJD Management are in a unique position, in that we see both sides of the big (and very individual) “rent-or-buy” home question here in our local real estate market. And we know the best tenant is one who’s made the choice to rent a home over buying, because it fits with both their financial situation and their lifestyle preferences. The main lifestyle reasons for renting?  Flexibility, convenience, location, and sometimes access to shared community amenities that would not otherwise be affordable. We had this simple infographic prepared to try to answer the big “Should I rent or buy home” question.

rent or buy home

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.