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.

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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.

Property Management Software for Single Family Homes

Did you know that WJD Management helped to innovate the only property management software for single family homes that specializes in the Washington DC market. Our clients are local and we wanted their data to be local too. When software for the property management industry moved into the cloud, WJD Management’s remained local—in the truest sense of the word. Here’s our story of how a 25-year relationship with a Northern Virginia software developer transformed our business—while allowing us to co-create the exact technology we needed to serve our Northern Virginia clients.

Back in the early 1980s, right at the advent of the personal computing movement, a Fairfax County programmer named Frank Cockrell decided there must be a better way to keep track of the myriad bits of information involved in managing rental property—other than with a calculator and a typewriter. He created a professional residential property management software in DOS and called it simply “The Property Manager.”

As I quickly discovered, this application was unlike anything else on the market. It’s property management software for single family homes—a relatively new field within property management at the time. (One that is a world apart from managing apartment communities or multi-family properties). Cockrell’s program did it all—it kept track of tenants and their leases, it noted all of the important HOA or condo information, and it had a complete maintenance module for generating estimates and work orders. It sent notices to tenants, and it handled lease extensions.

It even came with a complete accounting package for posting rents, paying bills, and reporting the owner’s income to the IRS.

This program did everything imaginable except cook lunch for the user. And when Windows superseded DOS in the early 1990s, Frank added on capabilities for collecting rent from tenants and making payments to homeowners electronically.
It was around that time that I began giving input to Frank, getting in touch with him and asking for changes. He was always responsive, and the next version of the software always moved us closer to having a system tailor-made for our unique Washington-area clientele.

The Property Manager has been a perpetual work in progress and an ongoing client-developer partnership. The biggest change came three years ago when Cockrell transformed the archaic code into a brand-new version with an SQL database. At the same time as many other businesses were moving their databases into the cloud, we were working alongside our developer to keep our business (and the information it runs on) local.

Frank Cockrell, even though he’s got a world-class app after all these years of listening to our needs, has chosen to keep his software exclusive to the Northern Virginia property management market.

For me, it’s been an eye-opening experience on the power small businesses have to co-create the applications they need—and to make processes work well at the most local level. Most business owners assume we must work with the tools and packages software companies hand us—even when doing so goes against our better judgment. WJD’s creative partnership with Frank Cockrell taught us that the best software is created through active involvement over time—and with local customers’ needs front and center.

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.


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.

WJD Celebrates 20 Years of Residential Property Management in Northern Virginia

We are proud to announce that WJD celebrates 20 years of residential property management Northern Virginia this month! WJD Management is the best property management company in Northern Virginia and we have the experience and credibility to back that up!

They say that we are what we repeatedly do and when it comes to excellence, it is not an occasional circumstance with WJD Management, but a habit. We have continually provided excellent property management services in the Northern Virginia area for the past 20 years and this year marks a pivotal and special moment in our history. On July 3rd we celebrated our 20th year in business and this milestone is particularly important because it exemplifies our stability as well as our steadfast effort toward providing our services to homeowners in need every year despite a fluctuating real estate market.

Northern Virginia is an ever-evolving and incredibly vibrant and transient area because people are always coming and going due to the concentration of military, government and tech firms in the region. In serving the Northern Virginia area, WJD has maintained a stellar reputation for outstanding, comprehensive property management services for absentee homeowners, especially Foreign Service and military homeowners stationed overseas. In fact, FS officers make up more than 65 percent of our client database.

Why Choose WJD Property Management

We are often asked what makes us unique. The answer is simple: we have remained true to our slogan that “managing rental property is our only business.” We focus 100 percent on residential property management and leasing and there are no other firms in the area that we are aware of who can say this. Why is this so important? Again, the answer is simple: because property management is a constant process of information management, decision making and action, and that is only the tip of the iceberg. Our competitors engage in real estate sales, which can easily be a distraction when a sale begins to go south. For example, there is a call from a buyer who is backing out of a $600,000 sale and another call from a tenant with a broken pipe that is leaking all over your new hardwood floors. Where do you think the focus is going to be?

Additionally, we offer clients peace of mind with our proprietary property management software that is unlike anything commercially available. Our system resides in the WJD office rather than on a third-party server somewhere, as is the case with all of the popular cloud-based software that our competitors use. Our clients rely on us for flawless record keeping for a long list of reasons, so we want them to know exactly where all of their records are kept.

New Services at WJD Property Management

WJD is in the process of rolling out our new non-managed “lease only” service for those homeowners who need help finding a tenant but do not need our comprehensive property management program. Those who decide to take advantage of this new professional program will receive the same aggressive marketing effort and thorough tenant qualification process that our property management clients enjoy. We are also in the process of partnering with a new affialiate firm MMK Realty, LLC which will offer real estate sales assistance to all who may need it.

If you would like to learn more about WJD Management, please visit and 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 Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest for tips, ideas and updates.

WJD Management Wins Fairfax Small Business Excellence Award

WJD Management wins the Fairfax Small Business Excellence Award for providing outstanding customer service in Fairfax! In January, WJD Management was again honored to be selected as a recipient (in the local services category) of the 2017 Fairfax Small Business Excellent award for 2017. The Fairfax Small Business Excellence Award Program vets area businesses through a combination of their own independent consumer research and a variety of third-party data. Winners are recognized for providing outstanding customer service in the Fairfax community and surrounding metropolitan area.

In order to qualify for the Fairfax Small Business Excellence Award, WJD Management had to demonstrate high ethical standards, as well as best practices in our day-to-day property management operations. According to the local business award committee, WJD Management is one of the exceptional companies that “enhances the positive image of small business through service to customers…and help make the Fairfax area a vibrant and vital place to live.”

The Fairfax Small Business Excellence Awards was established to reward the best of small businesses in Fairfax. The organization works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations, and other business and marketing groups. Their mission is to recognize outstanding contributions by small businesses to the U.S. economy.

For more information on ow to interview and hire a property manager in Northern Virginia check out other stories on our blog and find us on YouTube.

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