Tax Advantages for Rental Property Owners

Looking for some tax advantages for Rental Property Owners? Owning an investment property or rental property in Northern Virginia is a wise investment – and there are tax deductions that you can use to your advantage as a rental property owner.

Consider this: Your investment property is an income-generating business. Typically, ROI comes through the rental income you get from your tenants.

But there might be costs you incur on an ongoing basis to make that rental income. Whether paying property taxes, doing repairs, or hiring a property manager, these expenses help you rent your property out to good tenants–but they add up!

Many of your expenses and costs ARE tax deductions. These costs can be deducted against your rental property income and should be on your radar to make the rental property an even more worthwhile investment.

Rental Property Tax Deductions

There is a multitude of tax deductions. Every property is different, and there are various costs associated with the upkeep of your rental property. These are the most common deductions you should have on your radar as a rental property owner.

Mortgage Interest

Your mortgage payment includes two parts – one part goes towards paying down your loan, and the other is the interest you pay on borrowing the money. The interest that you pay on your mortgage can be deducted against your tax bill every year.

Any fees that you paid to get your mortgage, like origination fees, are not deductible when you paid them. But you might be able to deduct them over the term of the loan.

Property Tax

Property taxes are an ongoing cost of owning a rental property. The amount of property tax you pay will differ based on the location of your property in Northern Virginia, and the value of your property.

You can deduct the amount you pay in property taxes on your tax return against your rental property income.

Depreciation

Over time, you might consider improving your property – repairing a roof, adding a new room, or a patio – which might be a large sum of money. But they may help you rent out the property at a better rent.

These are capital improvements, and they often increase the value of your property.

While you cannot deduct the total amount in your taxes in the year you paid them, you can deduct them over time. Every year, you may be able to deduct a small portion – called depreciation – to reduce your tax burden.

Some capital improvement items are:

  • Replacing the roof
  • A new furnace
  • Changing the flooring
  • Repairs

As a property owner, you will incur many ongoing expenses with your property. It could be refreshing the paint job, fixing lightbulbs, patching holes in your walls. These constant repairs are often needed to maintain your property so you can rent it out to good tenants.

You can take a tax deduction for the full cost of the repairs in the same year as you paid for them.

Some typical repairs include:

  • Getting the furnace cleaned or repaired
  • Painting the rooms
  • Mowing the lawn
  • Advertising and Professional Services

As the owner of an investment property, you may not have the time to wear all the hats in your rental property business.

You might enlist a property manager to help run the ongoing operations of your property smoothly. Maybe you want to get professional help to market your property to get better rent.

Or you might choose to get help in other administrative areas of your business – such as tax or legal.

These costs can be deducted against your rental income to reduce the taxes you owe on your rental income business.

Some common professional services are:

  • Property Manager
  • Accountants
  • Tax Preparers
  • Lawyers
  • Real Estate Professionals
  • Other Expenses

Every investment property is different. The expenses you incur may depend on where your property is located or how the rental property is structured. Some other expenses that many property owners have are:

  1. Insurance – to avoid any risk or liability related to your
  2. Utilities – if you pay the utilities – not your tenants – you can deduct an additional cost.
  3. Supplies – maybe you DIY some easy repairs. The cost of the supplies can be deducted as an expense.
  4. Keeping tabs on the different expenses in your business and knowing the tax rules can help you make the best return from your rental property business.

Tips for Property Tax Advantages

Keep good records

When filing your taxes, it is essential to keep good records to help prepare your tax returns and to support the items you want to deduct on your tax returns.

Supporting items such as receipts, invoices, and agreements can help you or your accountant prepare accurate tax returns. They can also give you a better idea of how your property is doing financially and whether there are areas for improvement.

Repairs and improvements

Both repairs and improvements can be expensive. It is vital to keep on top of them to ensure that your rental property is smoothly and in good shape.

There is a distinction between repairs and improvements for tax purposes, and when you can take advantage of these deductions for tax purposes.

It is vital as a rental property owner to know the differences or ask a professional so that you can best take advantage of the tax rules without being penalized.

Loss Rules for Passive investor vs. Professional

Depending on the state of your property, the location of your rental property, or general economic times, there may be months that your property remains vacant. At the same time, you might continue to incur expenses like utilities or property taxes.

The IRS places no limits if you are considered a real estate professional, but if you are a passive investor, there are limits for how much of the loss can be deducted.

It is essential to know whether you are a passive or professional investor in the eyes of the IRS. A tax professional may be able to help avoid tax penalties.

Rental Property Tax Advantages

A rental property can be a source of additional income. If you can fully take advantage of the tax rules in place, it can also offer tax deductions. Knowing the tax deductions and rules can help you generate income from your rental property for years to come.

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.

7 Tips for Retaining Good Tenants

Any landlord who has been renting out for a while can tell you of bad experiences they had with problematic tenants. Of course, not all tenants are like this, but the bad ones stick out, and we tend to remember them more. Another thing they can tell you is that good tenants are worth their weight in gold. Once you find reliable renters who never cause problems and always pay on time, you should go out of your way to make sure they feel welcome and stay with you for a long time. Here are 7 tips for retaining good tenants.

A happy couple eating in bed

Be responsive to their requests

First of all, you need to be easy to reach, so try to establish good communication and be available to receive calls and messages. When your tenants approach you with any issues, you need to respond quickly. Address maintenance issues in a timely fashion and fix things on the property without making the tenants wait for days without any reason. However, you need to be wary of tenants who constantly damage your property. If calls for repairs are too frequent, there might be an underlying issue that you need to address. However, when it comes to regular maintenance, you need to let your tenants know that you are there and willing to help.

Make new tenants feel welcome

First impressions matter, so do your best to start off on the right foot. A good way to do so is to help your new tenants get settled. You can even help them move in by recommending the movers from fairfaxtransfer.com and be there to greet them when they arrive. Being there for the move-in is a way to ensure none of your property gets damaged. It’s much better to have professionals carrying the heavy stuff than clumsy tenants who don’t know what they are doing.

Give them a tour of the property and the surrounding area and perhaps a welcoming gift. It doesn’t need to be anything special, just some cupcakes or a welcoming drink. This will set your relationship off to a good start. It’s definitely much better than just doing a move-in inspection and giving them a list of dos and don’ts. If you are looking for tips for retaining good tenants, you need to make renters want to stay in your property from day one.

Help your tenants move in and get settled

Help your tenants move in and get settled

Have the right amenities

Make sure your property is properly equipped with everything your tenants need. If you have never lived there yourself, you can consider talking to the tenants to see if anything is missing. Update the appliances, but don’t leave mismatched sets. The home will look and feel much nicer if everything is new and matches together well. You can organize a garage sale to get rid of the old unwanted items. If you want to keep your tenants happy, you can do so by keeping an eye out for their needs and requests.

Carefully approach the lease renewal

Before it’s time for the current lease to expire, talk to your tenants and remind them in advance that they are up for renewal. Most landlords have a habit of increasing the rent when the lease is renewed. Your tenants will probably expect that; just be careful not to go overboard and increase the rent too much. This is where most landlords make mistakes and scare off good tenants. One of our most important tips for retaining good tenants is to be competitive with the rent. If you have tenants that you want to keep around for a long time, you can place your rent below market value.

You can sweeten the deal and offer tenants a discount on the next month’s rent if they renew the lease. Other things you can offer them are a choice from a list of upgrades when they renew. If you realize you are having trouble setting the price or preparing the lease, you can use our leasing service to help you out.

Enforce rules fairly

Any landlord will have a set of rules, which they need to outline in the lease agreement. Besides letting your tenants know what the rules are, you need to be sure that you are enforcing them fairly and equally. Treating multiple tenants differently will only cause confusion and further conflicts. It is your job to act in a uniform manner and treat everyone the same. Sometimes you will need to remind some tenants of the rules, but remember to do so calmly. If you start losing your temper every time something goes wrong, you will have a hard time retaining good tenants.

Build a relationship

Get to know your tenants, talk to them when you meet them and ask how they are doing. Strive to keep things professional but relaxed. The foundation of any functional relationship is trust, and one of the best tips for retaining good tenants is building trust. Let your tenants know that you see them as people and that you care.

Settle disputes with other tenants

In case there are any problems between your tenants, you should try to arbitrate and settle the issue. Don’t let a few problematic tenants drive all the other ones away. Respond to noise complaints and solve similar minor problems before they grow into full-blown animosity. Don’t wait until some of your tenants start moving out before you decide to act. If you feel uneasy about such things and don’t want to take sides, you can hire a property manager to take charge of the situation.

The bottom line

As a landlord, over time, you will find that it is much better to keep reliable tenants around than to have a revolving door policy and change who is living on your property every couple of months. We’ve given you 7 tips for retaining good tenants; now it’s up to you to put them into practice.

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.

What to Know About Renting to College Students

Do you own a rental property located in the vicinity of a college campus like George Mason or Marymount? If you do, then you are in the prime market for student renters. Student housing is considered a massive, multibillion-dollar real estate sector. Much of the smart money out there knows it and is hungry to occupy this space. Still, there can be plenty of room for individual investors interested in making a mint on this side of education. But what makes this niche so attractive? What are the real ups and downs? Below we discuss what there is to know about renting to college students.

What to Know About Renting to College Students

Pros of renting to college students

Demand for housing is high (and stable)

As long as the university keeps accepting students, the market for your unit will be stable. For starters, most schools do not offer four years of housing. Also, due to high home prices and strict lending policies, homeownership is out of reach for many Americans. So, not only will thousands of college students be on the hunt for a place to live, but also professors and staff during their tenure. For you, this means reduced vacancies and competitive rates.

You don’t even have to work that hard on promoting your listings. The costs of advertising can be extremely low or even free if you advertise where students are looking. You can try Craigslist, Zillow, and Trulia or post for free on student websites. Just be sure to mention the most in-demand amenities in your property adds and offer competitive rental rates.

Higher rents

There are two reasons why this is so. The first one we’ve already mentioned – high demand means you can get away with charging more (just not too much more). Secondly, college students are looking for affordability. For this reason, many choose to live with roommates and split the rent. Having multiple tenants in your rental who are paying rental on one lease means you can up the price a bit but still keep it affordable.

Two roommates eating pizza

Having multiple tenants in your rental unit means you can probably up the price a bit.

A stable third-party payment

The thing about leasing your property to college students is that they’re probably not the ones paying the rent. Typically, either a parent figure or financial aid covers the cost of housing and living expenses. With a more responsible party involved, you will likely receive your rent on time and in full each month.

Students aren’t generally looking for anything fancy

Say you do opt for this tenant base – what this means is that you will likely end up with a lot of low-maintenance renters. You don’t need to be as concerned about attracting new renters with premium updates such as stainless-steel appliances or kitchen backsplashes. What you need to know about renting to college students is that they’re typically perfectly happy with less as long as it is clean and in decent condition. This, in turn, can help you save a lot of time and money.

There are certain amenities they look for in a property, though

Still, there are several things you will need to take care of to make sure your listings match the students’ expectations.

  • Proximity to campus. Students spend most of their time on campus, working, studying, or going to their extracurricular activities. In light of this, it is only natural that they’d prefer to be as close to their campus as possible.
  • A washer and dryer. Having to go to a laundromat can be a serious hassle for a college student. Given they’re so busy juggling their schoolwork and jobs, spending hours waiting to wash and dry their clothes is probably the last thing they want. If there’s something you must know about renting to college students is that they for sure will appreciate an on-site washer and drier.
  • Safety. Both students and their parents, who are most likely footing the cost of rent, want to be sure where they’re living is safe. Adding security features to your property may be your best bet to get a parent to approve of your rental. These may include a deadbolt lock, an alarm system, external security cameras, ample exterior lighting, etc.
  • Wi-Fi. High-speed internet may be one of the most sought-after amenities for college students. Not only do they use Wi-Fi to get their schoolwork done, but also for all kinds of entertainment and cutting down on data usage on their cell phone bills (which we all know can get pricey!) So, if you’re looking to gain an edge over the competition in your area, providing quality internet service is a perfect way to do that. You could also consider offering free Wi-Fi services as a bonus amenity or wrapping it up in the rent price.
A college student writing in her notebook

High-speed internet is one of the most in-demand amenities.

Cons of renting to college students

No rental, credit, or employment history

Likely, your tenants haven’t had the chance yet to build their credit history. It is also possible that they have no experience with renting or paying a debt. This can pose a problem for you as a landlord since screening such a candidate may be a lot more challenging. You are highly unlikely to find the information you need to decide if they would be good renters, cause few or no problems, pay rent on time, etc. However, calling all of their references might help you get some clue about their character. Moreover, you can check if the student in question has previously been expelled from student housing since it’s similar to an eviction. Finally, requiring a cosigner is the best solution for many landlords out there whose tenants have insufficient credit histories.

Students can get loud

With stories about wild parties and students trashing their house, you might feel hesitant to rent your property to students. And you are right, to some extent. Although the majority of students aren’t partying every weekend, they sure are notorious for being noisy. For this reason, be sure to include a Quiet Hours policy in your lease agreement. This way, your tenants would know that there are certain times when they’re free to have their fun and other times when they should be more respectful to others. While you’re at it, consider enforcing a guest policy or any other rules that may seem obvious but still necessary for this group.

Students studying together.

Include a Quiet Hours’ policy in your lease agreement.

They’re inexperienced in maintaining properties

Another thing to understand about college student letting is that your tenants are likely first-time renters. They may have neither the experience nor the maturity to handle basic property upkeep or maintenance issues. Moreover, occasional parties and a high number of guests accelerate normal wear and tear. Finally, you shouldn’t exclude the possibility of returning to the rental at the conclusion of the lease only to find more significant damage. The solution?

Security deposit. Protect yourself against any damages by charging the maximum amount you legally can.

Cosigner. Having a cosigner is bound to discourage negligence since a parent will be on the hook to pay for all repairs.

Walk-throughs. It’s important that everyone is on the same page about the condition of the rental. Also, by conducting routine inspections every few months, you will make sure the unit remains in good condition. Only, make sure to note this in your lease and give your tenants 24 hours’ notice in advance.

Furnished or unfurnished? Many landlords opt for unfurnished student housing for this reason. If you have the same worries, going for an unfurnished unit may be the answer. There are even instances in which the tenant wants to bring his/her own furniture. In this case, having a unit at your disposal is always a good idea. This way, you can have the furniture out of the way (and safe and sound in a storage unit) for this tenant, yet within reach when the time comes to welcome the next one.

Frequent turnover

Yearly turnover is not uncommon with college renters. They may enroll in a four-year degree program. This, however, doesn’t guarantee that their housing plans will remain the same year to year. They also may not be open to signing a lease for longer than a year. Another result of frequent turnover is that you will have to not only make repairs but also find new tenants annually. Otherwise, you run a risk of prolonged vacancy if your unit is vacant the time semester begins. In such an event, it will be pretty challenging to fill your unit until the next semester starts.

Another thing you should know about renting to college students is that they typically sign short-term leases. Since these leases usually run the length of the school year, you might need to find different renters for a summer term. Offering perks for repeat tenants or referrals can be the solution. Have your tenants sign leases for the entire year, even if they do not intend on living in the unit for all the summer months. Another solution is to offer year long-leases with the summer months on discount.

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.

Your Guide to Property Management

Are you looking for an easy Property Management guide to help you understand what questions you should be asking a prospective Professional Property Manager? Well first, let’s review some of the reasons why you may be considering this in the first place. Perhaps you’re a homeowner who is moving out of state, but you plan to return to your current home at some point in the future. Maybe you’ve been called overseas for a tour of duty and want to ensure your home is well taken care of while you are gone. Or possibly you’re planning to upgrade and purchase a new property but keep your current one as an investment. Or you might be an investor who simply needs help managing your portfolio.

Whatever your reason may be for possibly engaging a Professional Property Manager, this is clearly an important decision and there is a lot to think about! Property managers can be a terrific asset or a real detriment if you don’t choose one wisely. Use our quick hit list to help you consider everything you need to do to make an informed decision about hiring a Professional Property Manager. You can also check out our other detailed guides such as “Why Hire a Property Manager” and “How to Find the Best Property Manager for You.

What does a Property Manager do?

  • Locates qualified tenants.
  • Negotiates leases.
  • Resolves tenant complaints.
  • Handles tenant violations.
  • Maintains the property.
  • Ensures that the property and the lease both comply with the law.
  • Manages expenses and collects rent.
  • Does the required IRS income reporting.
  • Performs regular property inspections.
  • Does everything you will have to do if you try to manage the home yourself!

When to Hire a Property Manager

  • You own multiple properties and are unable to manager all of them yourself.
  • You live far away from your rental property.
  • You don’t have any experience managing a rental property.
  • You can afford the monthly management fee (typically 8%).
  • You don’t have enough time to manage the property by yourself.
  • You are willing to delegate this task to a professional.

How to Find the Right Property Manager

  • Ask friends and colleagues for referrals.
  • Research property managers online.
  • Check licenses and certifications.
  • Look for experience and stability of staff.
  • Ask lots of questions!

Top 10 Questions to Ask a Property Manager

  1. How much experience do you have managing properties?
  2. How quickly can you rent my property?
  3. How do you establish rental prices?
  4. How will you market/advertise my property?
  5. How do you screen tenants?
  6. What are your leasing and management fees?
  7. How often do you do property inspections?
  8. How do you handle tenant delinquency? Late payments?
  9. What are my landlord responsibilities?
  10. Can I cancel my contract with you if I’m unsatisfied?

What to Look for in a Property Management Contract 

Services and Fees

You must understand what services the property manager has agreed to perform and how much they will charge for these services.

Your Responsibilities as Property Owner

The contract should clearly define what your obligations are as a landlord.

Equal Opportunity Housing

The contract should state that the Property Manager follows both the federal, state and local fair housing laws.

Liability

Pay close attention to what limits have been placed on the property manager’s liability.

Termination Clause

Make sure the management agreement has a clear termination or cancellation clause.

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.

Read more

Utilities in a Vacant Rental? Keep ‘em On!

“Should I cut off the utilities in my vacant rental property?”

My answer? No way.

It’s one of the first questions my homeowner clients ask me—and my emphatic answer often surprises them. After all, none of us is eager to have higher bills—and my maintenance staff and I pride ourselves on looking for ways to conserve energy and lower costs for clients.

Yet, at the same time, I know it’s the best advice. Don’t turn off the utilities in a vacant rental. It’s a shortsighted solution—and one that can be enormously wasteful of time, money, labor, and fuel in the long run. On the other hand, keeping everything running as though the house were occupied isn’t the best answer either.

Keep your future tenants in mind.

The most successful landlords know how to think beyond short-term costs to put themselves in a tenant’s shoes. Remember that when prospective tenants walk through the door, the very first thing they do is to imagine themselves living in the home. It’s only natural to want to turn lights on, run faucets, and generally feel comfortable just being in the house.

Especially if you’re looking for tenants in the coldest part of the year, your best bet is to welcome a prospective renter into a setting that feels cozy—or at the very least, doesn’t require donning a hat and mittens. Spending a little extra money on creating that welcoming setting is ultimately the most cost-effective way for a landlord to prevent extended vacancies. And good communication between leasing agent and property manager will guarantee that the house can be checked and made ready a couple of hours before the showing—and then restored to an energy-saving mode afterward.

Which brings me to my next point.

Yes, you need all utilities on (not just electricity).

Sure, the temptation is great to leave only the electricity on; but 30 years of experience as a property manager has taught me that all utilities should remain in service for every vacant rental home. Keeping water running is just as critical as keeping the lights on. And for those property owners who fear possible water emergencies causing disaster in their vacant home, I remind them of this: Preventing most water emergencies (and burst pipes in winter) is as simple as turning the water off at the main valve. I recommend taping commode covers shut—and, as I mentioned above, turning water on temporarily for tenant showings.

Keep the AC running in summer—and winterize in fall.

Another big temptation for landlords looking to control utility costs is to set the thermostat around 80 degrees during the hottest part of the summer—and then around 60 degrees in the winter. While those settings will lower the utility bills for your rental, they will also guarantee the house is pretty uncomfortable for anyone who walks in during a heat wave or a cold snap. If it’s the summer season, the air conditioning should be set no higher than 75 degrees. If it’s the winter season, the heat should be set no lower than 65 degrees.

Having said this, I’ll add that vacant homes should definitely be winterized prior to the cold season. Draining hose bibs where residual water lies—as well as ensuring water is turned off at the main valve—is really all that’s needed to prevent pipes from bursting in a deep freeze.

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.

WJD Management Celebrates 36 Years Supporting Foreign Service Officers

We here at WJD Management are excited to share our big news! We are celebrating 36 years supporting Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) and their residential property management needs. Below you can read our recent news release! We hope you find our information useful!

For immediate release: WJD Management is proud to announce 36 years supporting Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) and their residential property management needs. WJD’s commitment to the Foreign Service Community is exemplified by their nearly 70 percent FSO clientele. WJD is honored to reflect upon their excellent reputation in the Foreign Service Community marked by years of commitment and service in residential property management.

WJD Management is proud to announce 36 years supporting Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) and their residential property management needs. WJD’s commitment to the Foreign Service Community is exemplified by their nearly 70 percent FSO clientele. WJD is honored to reflect upon their excellent reputation in the Foreign Service Community marked by years of commitment and service in residential property management.

WJD Management is led by Owner and Principal Broker David Norod, who is approaching 40 years’ experience in determining rental values, managing properties, and listing area homes for rent.

About WJD Management

Based in Old Town Fairfax, Virginia, WJD Management is particularly focused on the needs of FSOs because they recognize that when a FSO homeowner has to relocate overseas, they need to locate a property management firm quickly.

He explains, “By definition, people in the Foreign Service don’t live here so if they’ve made the decision to hire professional property management, they want to hire the best. There really isn’t a lot of difference between a Foreign Service homeowner and any other absentee homeowner, but there are definitely some very different considerations in terms of expectations, with communication being paramount. You know, if they’re on the other side of the globe they may barely have internet access at times and for that reason need to have access to information about their home 24/7.”

Norod maintains a core mission centered on being the only local firm that does not have a real estate sales arm. He notes, “WJD does not sell real estate and that is really the major difference between our firm and others. It is actually a BIG difference! Nearly all property management firms engage in real estate sales and that can create certain conflicts of interest and issues that a potential client may not understand when hiring a property management firm. It is no secret that the other property management firms in our area often invest minimal resources for their property managers because they believe the real money is in selling real estate as opposed to managing it. WJD does not engage in real estate sales, so 100 percent of our company’s resources are dedicated to managing the homes in our inventory.”

Supporting Foreign Service Officers

WJD Management’s unique departmental structure is designed to respond immediately to FSO needs. Their Leasing Managers thoroughly vet all prospective tenants. Maintenance Managers who work with licensed, bonded and insured contractors have many years of experience, Property Inspectors faithfully take an in-depth look at your home every six months and their MBA Comptroller is also a certified tax consultant. Additionally, WJD utilizes exclusive proprietary software to manage their inventory of homes. Their homeowner and tenant web portals contain a wealth of information such as account statements, leases, invoices, inspections, year-end statements and much more.

Norod recalls, “It took a lot of hard work and dedication to get here, but we could not be prouder of our agency, and humbled by the opportunity to serve Foreign Service Officers all these years.”

David Norod is an industry-leading expert committed to professional market contributions. He is proud of his integral role in chartering the local NARPM chapter in Northern Virginia and works hard to stay active in the Property Management industry and local Northern Virginia community. As an industry leader in residential property management, David has been featured in several noteworthy publications over the years to include Inman News, The Huffington Post, and more.

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.

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.

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.