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Horse Pen 40 – Steele, Alabama

Horse Pen 40 – Steele Alabama

Horse Pen 40 sits atop the 3rd tallest mountain in the State of Alabama near a small town called Steele in St. Clair County about 59 miles northeast of Birmingham.  Chandler Mountain is approximately 10 miles long, covers an area of approximately 25 square miles and is nearly 1500 feet high.  It gets its name from an early settler whose land butted up against the mountain.  Other settlers discovered the mountain was rich in animals to hunt and the easiest way to get to it was on land owned by Joel Chandler so little by little people in the area referred to the mountain as Chandler Mountain.

HISTORY OF HORSE PENS 40

Horse Pens 40 has a rich history that dates back to the earliest occupation of the area.  The Indians and early white settlers saw this mountain as a huge fortress that could provide them with shelter, protection, food, and water throughout the year.  There are numerous springs and streams throughout the mountain.  Many of the earliest occupants lived under the overhangs along the streams.  During the civil war, many deserters hid out in these same overhangs.  Along the years, criminals have also hidden out beneath these overhangs to avoid capture.

Since there is a natural stone fortress high atop a fortress-like mountain, it was used by the Native Americans as a protected village and ceremonial area for thousands of years.  There have been discoveries of living and working areas as well as burial areas dating back to the Paleo (pre-Stone Age- 12,000+ years ago) and Archaic (early Stone Age – 10,000 year ago).

It is also what may be the only remaining example in the United States of an ancient leaching system.  It was used to remove the tannic acid from acorns & hickory nuts to render them edible for making meal for bread.  Normally those were temporary structures of clay, but this one is a natural stone cavity and could still be used today.

It should be noted that all areas of the Horse Pen 40 park are strictly protected under Federal law as well as closely guarded against looting, vandalism, and destruction.  They allow no digging, artifact hunting or the removal or disturbing of the ground, rocks, plants or animals.  There are several rare and endangered species of plants, animals, and birds as well as many unique rock formations throughout the park.

During the Civil War, the Horse Pen 40 area was used by the locals to hide their horses, children, and valuables from the invading troops and others who might want to steal them.  After the Confederates discovered this area, it was reportedly used as a supply depot, staging area, and Home Guard outpost.  (The Home Guards were comprised mostly of local young boys, older men and others generally deemed physically unfit for service in the regular Confederate Army).

Later years brought the moonshiners and the outlaws who used the remoteness of the area to carry out their activities.  There are two known outlaw hideouts in the park, while many of the rock shelters would have provided perfect hiding spots for anyone who did not wish to be found.  One of the hideouts was used by the famous Alabama Outlaw Rube Burrow whenever he was in the area.

Horse Pen 40 Park
 
 
 
Today the top of Chandler’s Mountain is the site of the Horse Pen 40 Park.  It offers year-round activities such as hiking, rock climbing, bird watching, disc golf, glass blowing, blacksmithing, yoga, multiple kid’s activities, craft arts, rustic camping, rental cabins, and RV/camper areas.
They also offer multiple festivals throughout the year.  They offer a Songwriter festival, bluegrass festival, and multiple other music events.  It is said that Emmylou Harris gave her first public performance as a teenager at the Horse Pen 40.
Photo of the natural amphitheater
The views are certainly worth the hike!
If you, your friends and/or your family are trying to decide what to do some weekend, why not venture out to the Horse Pen 40 and spend a weekend?

How to Know if a Rental Market is right for you?

Arguably the greatest advantages of single-family real estate investment is choice.  There’s the choice of strategy, variety of properties, and markets.  If you made a list of the many ways to invest and build your financial future, single-family real estate investment is perhaps the most self-directed of them all.   The idea of maintaining complete control of your investments is incredibly exciting.  I mean, who among us doesn’t want to have the autonomy to make our own decisions?  However, it can also be overwhelming. Not only are we the proverbial captains of our fate when it comes to real estate investment, but when we take this route, we suddenly find ourselves awash in a sea of choices.

When it appears there is an infinite number of markets to choose from, how can real estate investors possibly choose a market that is right for them? What makes one market different than the others?  Are they really different at all?

The answer to the last question is yes.  They really are different.  Each and every market is distinct and different to one another to some degree.   The choice in a real estate market absolutely matters as each and every market deals with their own economies, supply and demand, and rental needs.  A real estate investor must thoroughly investigate their market before they begin searching real estate listings and thinking about purchasing properties if they want success.

What are the signs of a  desirable rental market?

There are a few signs that investors should look for as they investigate potential markets.   There are, of course, factors that are directly associated with the real estate market those being which markets are “hot” (rising home prices).  But more than this, single-family real estate investors should turn to the factors that indicate one key thing: sustainable, long-term growth.

A Few Major Indicators That a Particular Real Estate Market is Healthy

Population Growth

Population growth is one of the major indicators of the health of any market. One of the things that single-family real estate investors want in their given market is steady, healthy population growth. This is an indicator of the overall health in any market.  An influx of people typically indicates economic opportunity and growth, which in turn positively impacts things like home buying and home prices.

Population growth also affects demographics, which has a significant impact on opportunities for real estate investors as it relates to their tenants. For example, a population that is comprised mostly of Baby Boomers will likely be looking to downsize and retire while a population that skews young with millennials will likely have many renters, either through lifestyle choices or necessity. The wants and needs of these markets are drastically different!

The Economy

The second indicator is economic growth.  Is industry coming to this market? Even if you aren’t a commercial real estate investor, it always pays to pay attention to the commercial and retail sectors. See what businesses are moving in or out.  Are these businesses the type of businesses that would appeal to your ideal tenants or are they the types of businesses that might discourage your ideal tenants from wanting to live in that market?  Example:  If nationally healthy businesses like TJ Maxx, Target, Starbucks, etc are moving out of the area and are being replaced with businesses like check cashing, title loan companies and adult book stores, that is a pretty clear indication of the economic health of that particular area.  On the other hand, if new viable businesses such as Starbucks, Target, locally owned boutiques, and higher end restaurants are being built in a neighborhood, the chances are great that demand for that neighborhood is rising.

The links between the economy, the real estate market, and the rental market are vital and intertwined.  If the economy and wages are strong, people want to live there. If people are moving in and making money, they will want to buy houses. Housing demand increases. Prices increase. As a direct result, rental demand increases and so does rental income.  The obvious reason for this is the fact that if a market becomes desirable, buyers aren’t the only people that want to live there, renters want to live there too.

Positive Price Fluctuations

In real estate markets that are considered “hot”, we tend to see some pretty drastic price fluctuations from time to time. These can offer thrilling investment opportunities, but they tend to burn out fast and bright. That’s because rapidly increasing prices can only increase for so long. While investors that are quick on the draw may be able to take advantage of rapid appreciation in such markets, they may find that a crash is just around the corner because severe pendulum swings in price and value just aren’t sustainable for the long-term. For buy-and-hold investors especially, it’s not about getting swept up in rollercoaster markets. It’s about honing in on the reliable, steady markets that will provide predictable returns.  A healthy real estate market is one that is even and steady in growth.

Investors typically should look for markets that experience a 3 to 5% annual increase in home prices.

Supply & Time on Market

Investors can look to inventory supply and time on the market as an indicator of overall market health.  Everything in real estate investment is about balance. Too much demand without supply increases prices. The opposite, and they decrease.

Time on the market is an indicator of health. While it’s not 100% accurate because a property can be delisted and listed again (thus resetting its time on market), one can take a cursory glance on an MLS and see, in general, how long listings have been on the market, how many new listings pop up each day, and if inventory is moving. If the market seems slow, it could indicate any number of problems: lack of buyers, lack of buyer confidence, issues with the property, too-high prices, or general lack of demand.

The major factors to consider in any given market

As a real estate investor looking to invest in single-family properties, there are specific factors worth your consideration when investigating particular markets. That’s not just including a market as a whole, like a city or a town, but in more specific terms as well, like districts and neighborhoods.

Cities, especially large ones, are full of markets within markets: if you’re only looking at the large, zoomed-out chunk, you’re not going to get the whole picture that you need to make a wise investment decision.

Quality of the Neighborhood

On a zoomed-in level, investors must consider the quality of the neighborhoods they choose to invest in. As always, it’s not enough to just look at individual properties. Quality neighborhoods are a crucial piece of the puzzle.

Some of the key factors to look for:

  • Signs of decline. Things like cheap apartments, lots of for sale signs, vacant businesses, and a lack of upkeep on properties are all red flags. You can only control your property’s quality. If the area is declining, there’s not much you can do on your own.
  • Quality of life. Here’s an exercise. If you’re thinking of investing in a neighborhood, picture yourself living there. Would you be able to go about your day with the same routine that you enjoy? How long would your route to work (or in this case, a major business district) take? How about getting to the grocery store? Shopping? A neighborhood coffee shop? Put yourself in the shoes of a parent. Can you easily get to a safe park? Schools? Family-friendly amenities?
  • Public services. You can get a fairly quick idea of the state of a town or city’s public services by looking at what usually gets cut first when tax income is squeezed: libraries, parks, and police. Are the streets clean? Public spaces well-maintained? These are valuable not only from an aesthetic standpoint, but they’re key indicators of market health on a level that can’t necessarily be changed by the same factors that others can.

Appreciation Potential

While appreciation is not the driving force behind a passive single-family real estate investor’s income, it is something worth looking for. Investors should be searching out markets that have appreciation potential. Can you do this accurately? No. That’s why it’s always secondary to your passive income earning potential. Appreciation is based on speculation. It’s not concrete, so you can’t rely on it.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with trying to capitalize on emerging markets and honing in on the “next big thing,” when looking to invest. It may be like catching lightning in a bottle, but sometimes it pays off in a big way.

Median Price

Price, obviously, is a hugely important factor when considering whether or not you want to invest in a given area or property. For most real estate investors utilizing a traditional buy and hold strategy, you’re looking to buy low. There’s a trick to it, though! Buying too low comes with its fair share of problems. A home that is listed at an incredibly low price is usually that way for a reason. You always get what you pay for, and sometimes you end up paying more than you think when your property winds up having problems upon problems.

The trick to picking a market to invest in is picking one that is affordable to you. It always goes back to the numbers. You want to choose a market that you can comfortably compete in, one that will provide cash flow, and one that will be manageable to scale in.

Age of Properties

Certain markets are older than others. For example, east coast markets tend to have more historical neighborhoods than west coast markets. Within cities, you will almost always encounter a historical neighborhood. Age of properties is something to consider: while they may be cheaper, they often come with issues that you won’t encounter as readily with newer construction. Asbestos, mold, odd layouts, cramped storage space, and just a bigger need for TLC are all on the table.

Economy, Industry, Education

We’ve already covered how the economic health of a market is crucial to its investment potential. But worth considering are the specific building blocks of that market’s economy and industry. Even if these seem like secondary details, they’re important when taking into account that buy-and-hold investors plan to be involved in a market for the long haul.

Example: you buy a rental property in an economically strong small city in the midwest. This city’s economy hinges on the employment provided by a single manufacturer that has a factory nearby. A few years later, the manufacturer pulls out and those jobs disappear overnight. Rental demand vanishes, prices bottom out, and real estate values plummet.

Amenities & Access

One big consideration in a market are the things that would draw tenants to live there over other places. This is particularly important when considering specific neighborhoods, districts, and areas to invest in within a market as a whole. Get into the mind of the consumer and think about what they value and how you may ultimately market your property. What amenities does your market offer? Quick access to major business districts? Proximity to universities and high-quality school districts?

This is a time to examine things like the influx and growth of businesses in your markets. Population growth plays a role in that as economic development will go hand-in-hand with an influx of people. Knowing, however, that your market has vibrant, attractive qualities—things beyond you and your property that will make your tenants want to live, work, and enjoy that market—will be a great benefit to you.

Why does your real estate market matter?

So we know what some of the things to look for in a market are when considering a real estate investment, but why exactly does it matter? Why can’t a real estate investor just invest right where they are? After all, isn’t it wise to invest locally? Many will say that there’s a lot of risk in remote real estate investment.

Investing in your local real estate market isn’t always the best option. That’s because where you live isn’t always the best rental market, the most affordable market, or the market with the best earning potential. Thinking about markets as a homebuyer and as an investor are two separate undertakings.

The market you choose can drastically impact the long-term success of your investments. It’s not just about appreciation, it’s about reducing the struggle and risk you’ll contest with during your whole investment journey.

These are just some of the dangers you may face if you wind up in a bad rental market.

The Dangers of a Bad Rental Market

Property Value

This is number one when investors think about buying in a bad rental market. When you buy a property, you should primarily buy with cash flow in mind, but that doesn’t mean that property value and appreciation are non-factors. They matter. You may think otherwise because, as a buy-and-hold investor, you have no intention of selling anytime soon and you can ride out any bad spells and wait for a turnaround. But what if circumstances demand otherwise? We can’t predict the future.

Low Rental Demand

Just like homes on the market for sale, rental properties are subject to supply and demand. As a real estate investor, it’s crucial to take that balance into account when you buy. What is the state of affairs where you’re buying? Within the market, where is there a need for more rentals? Where is there an oversaturation? It’s not just about single-family rentals, either—apartments are competition, too.

We have to consider their prices and whether or not that income makes sense with the cost of the properties. Low demand drives down your income earning potential. What affects demand? A lot of factors, but not so different from what you would expect: excess supply (too many other rentals on the market) and a lack of demand (this can be affected by many factors; low home costs, decreasing population, economic decline, etc.).

Exit Strategy

In real estate, your “exit strategy” refers to the method in which you offload a property. Typically, it means selling it, though when and to whom is where the strategy comes in. For buy-and-hold investors, an exit strategy isn’t often top-of-mind. It’s a distant thought and a low priority. Think about this, though: what if you want to refinance your property at some point? The value of your property matters, then, too. You don’t want to be in a declining market and be stuck wanting to refinance or sell your property. Not only will you likely lose in your deal, but you’ll find yourself wrestling to find buyers and it will likely take more time and energy to exit than you’d like.

Rental Income

We’ve already mentioned rental demand, but what about the specific ways a declining real estate market can affect your rental income? Obviously, a lack of demand can drive down the overall rental prices down. Not only can it decrease your cash flow, but it can cut it off. With lowered demand, you increase your chances of prolonged vacancies in times of turnover. Investors know vacancy periods are the most expensive times to be a real estate investor.

Lack of demand, decreases in population, etc., can also affect tenant quality, which can affect the stability of your income streams, regardless of vacancies and turnover rates.

The Potential in a Growth Market

The Domino Effect

If a declining real estate market brings risk, it’s only natural that a growth market brings opportunity. There’s a domino effect for real estate investors to consider that very neatly breaks down why it’s so important to focus on finding and investing in a growth market.

Long-Term Quality Tenants

When we look a little closer at the value of some of the key pieces that benefit real estate investors in a growth market, long-term, quality tenants are at the top of the list. There’s no understating the value of quality tenants. In a market where there is economic growth and stability, long-term tenants are more likely. When you have long-term tenants, your turnover decreases and passive income increases.

Stable & Growing Rental Income

In a growth market, you should reasonably expect that as demand grows for rentals, you will be able to grow your rental income as time goes on. You will find that as housing demands increase, so do rental demands and prices—which is good news for investors.

Scaling Potential

As a real estate investor, you should not be content with a single rental property. Building your financial future takes more than one investment! Here’s where a growth market comes in: if you are invested in a market that is constantly helping you grow with what you have (in income, in appreciation) then you will more quickly be able to take advantage of new investment opportunities, scale your portfolio, and work towards achieving your investment goals. It’s the difference between smooth sailing and fighting an uphill battle.

So How Do I Analyze a Real Estate Market?

Knowing the why is a start. Knowing some of the things to look for in a real estate market when evaluating potential investment opportunities is also valuable. But how should an investor evaluate a market in a practical, tangible way? What is quick and efficient?

There’s a trick every investor should know, and it starts with CAFR.

Reading Financial Statement for Real Estate Investors

Picked a market? That’s a start. Before you do anything else, look for a city’s latest Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). These documents are compiled by the city government and audited by an outside firm. They catalog a ton of information that can be used by real estate investors to quickly assess market vitality.

Key statistics in a CAFR:

  • Population trends and demographics
  • Unemployment rates & economic diversity
  • City net position & outstanding debts
  • Yearly shifts in property taxes
  • Top ten employers / top ten taxpayers
  • Median age & income

Similarly, it is helpful to go through websites like city-data.com, which offers similar statistics from government and private sources as well as some tools that may be helpful when comparing different cities to one another. The financial and demographic data from a market is incredibly telling when you want to learn a lot very quickly about an area’s investment potential.

Turnkey Real Estate Investment for Pre-vetted Markets?

Navigating rental markets is no small feat. For real estate investors, the ins-and-outs of evaluating and choosing where to invest can be time-consuming, frustrating, and challenging. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be. For single-family real estate investors, there’s a solution to the hassle of evaluating rental markets, sifting through data, and banking on predictions: turnkey real estate investment.

Turnkey real estate providers spend a great deal of time targeting the markets that they do their business in. After all, a lot is hinging on it! They do all of the research and vetting that you would ever hope to do on top of finding, buying, and renovating the properties that have the best investment potential.

Ultimately, no rental market is 100% foolproof. There is always risk associated with single-family real estate investment and any market that you choose to invest in. That said, there’s more or less risk in different markets at different times depending on economics and how the pendulum swings.

It is up to each and every one of us to do our due diligence to ensure that we are making informed choices that not only yield short-term income but set up long-term investment success.

You can start building wealth today in the same great markets with thousands of passive real investors when you partner with Decas Group.  We will do the legwork, the research and the market valuations for you.  You can depend on and learn from our decades of experience.  While no one can guarantee an investor 100% success, Decas Group can certainly lower the risk levels drastically.

Woodlawn Neighborhood of Birmingham, Alabama

Did you know that the Birmingham, Alabama neighborhood known as Woodlawn was once a thriving independent city with its own city hall and jail?  It was indeed!

As with anything, in order to know where Woodlawn is today, one needs to know where it came from.  The Woodlawn area of Birmingham was settled by Huguenot farmers in 1815 who traveled from South Carolina to settle in Alabama.  The leaders of this group were Obadiah Washington Wood and his son Edmond.  The Huguenot’s were French Protestants of the 16th–17th centuries. Largely Calvinist, the Huguenots suffered severe persecution at the hands of the Catholic majority, and many thousands emigrated from France.

Obadiah Washington Wood

Headstone of Obadiah Washington Wood

Edmond was granted 1200 acres of his father’s homestead and went on to form a small community known as Rockville in 1832.  It was just a small group of homes near the roadway.

When the railroad came through in 1870, the area was renamed Wood Station and with the advent of the railroad through this area, it began to grow.  But the end of the 1870’s, Woodlawn Academy had been created to educate the children of the approximately 90 families that called Wood Station and Rockville their home.  By 1891 Wood Station was recognized by the State of Alabama and it was incorporated under the name “City of Woodlawn”.  In 1895 the residents erected their first city hall and jail.

By 1910 the city of Birmingham had annexed Woodlawn but the sense of community in Woodlawn remained strong.  The Wood family had turned their estate on Georgia Avenue into a park for Woodlawn complete with a spring-fed swimming pool and named it Willow Wood Park.

In 1922 the gothic-inspired and historical Woodlawn High School opened.  It is still a thriving high school and truly a landmark in the Woodlawn area.

Woodlawn High School
The site of the estate of the Wood family.
The Wood family had turned this estate into a city park prior to 1910.
Unfortunately, in the 1970s a culmination of events saw urban blight take over.  Some of those events were the tumultuous race riots of the 1960s, white flight, the aging population in Woodlawn and the desertion of Woodlawn by its younger residents as they moved elsewhere in search of employment.
As for notables who were raised in Woodlawn, Richard D. Zanuck’s wife, Lili was from Woodlawn as was Hop-a-Long Cassidy’s wife, Dorothy.  Dorothy Sebastian was raised at 801 N. 49th St.  Follow the link below for a street view of what her childhood home looks like today. https://www.google.com/maps/@33.537845,-86.762978,3a,75y,90h,81.73t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sGj1X8RJ45Fi_kQ_r64RWcQ!2e0 
Of course, no town would be complete without a cemetery.  The Wood family still owns and maintains a private cemetery located on 57th St. N. across from the Woodlawn High School. The descendants of the founders of Woodlawn maintain the cemetery themselves.
There is another cemetery in Woodlawn.  This one is a lot larger and a bit more notorious.  It is known as Greenwood Cemetery and is located by the airport.  Some years ago, the airport took many acres of the cemetery and expanded its runway system.  They were supposed to move all the graves in their paths in order to accomplish this but there are doubts that this occurred.  A part of the interstate runs on the edge of the cemetery which again raised some suspicions as to whether the graves they disturbed were properly moved as well.
For years folks had complained about not being able to find their loved ones but no one ever paid much, if any, attention to them since the cemetery itself was not always properly maintained.  This fact coupled with the common knowledge that vandals frequented this cemetery led authorities to take the families complaints with a big fat grain of salt and they simply replied that the graves in question simply could not be found – but certainly were still there. Perhaps the headstones had been vandalized?
Then in 1998, the sister of Addie Mae Collins went to visit her sister grave for the first time since Addie Mae was killed in the 16th St. Baptist Church bombings of 1963.  The owners of Greenwood had gone bankrupt in the 1970s and the cemetery was nearly in shambles and had been completely deserted.  A few times a year the city would go out and have it mowed and would have the police patrol it from time to time, but that was all the maintenance that it ever received.  The City of Birmingham estimates they have spent approximately $250,000 maintaining the abandoned cemetery.
Addie Mae’s family wanted to move her to another cemetery.  One that was better maintained and perhaps had security to keep the vandals away.
They found the marble headstone marking her grave but when the workers dug, they didn’t find a coffin.  To this day, no one knows what happened to the coffin containing the body of this young girl who was killed in the bombing of her church.

The original fire station for Woodlawn still stands.  It was built in 1929 and was one of the most interesting fire stations in the area as it was not built in the usual square box like fashion.
When Woodlawn hit its lowest point in the early 1980’s the fire station was all but abandoned and sat empty and boarded up for 20 years.
Then in about 2008 a drive was founded to restore the formerly beautiful building.  Below is what the fire station looks like today.
There are a lot of buildings in the Woodlawn area that are still in decent shape.  The downtown area of Woodlawn is attractive and for the most part, well maintained.  It could be brought back to its former glory and when that happens, the rest of the area will follow suit.
Other neighborhoods in the Birmingham area such as Avondale, Crestwood, South Side to name a few have all had their ups and downs but once their commercial area began to be refurbished and revived, the residential areas followed suit.
Woodlawn is a stone throw from downtown Birmingham.  The trendier neighborhoods of Avondale and Crestwood sit on its borders.
The original City Hall is still standing.  It has been repurposed as a funeral home and is well maintained.
Below are a few more shots of downtown.
The downtown area of Woodlawn has a nice urban feel to it.  I can imagine coffee shops, art galleries and perhaps even a community theater there.  The trendier neighborhoods are so close to Woodlawn that I am positive these residents would bring their business to Woodlawn rather than drive further down the road to Forrest Park or Southside to get their Sunday cup of coffee while watching the traffic and reading their paper.
Another reason that I am hopeful that Woodlawn will see a major revival is the fact that property in the adjoining neighborhoods of Avondale, Crestwood and Crestline have become expensive.  It would make sense for those investors who are looking for the older historic feel in which to invest their money to head to the Woodlawn area.  Still conveniently located and historically significant but much more affordable.

Fountain Heights Neighborhood in Birmingham, Alabama

The Beginning of Fountain Heights

Fountain Heights is a historic neighborhood located in Birmingham, Alabama.  Separated by Enon Ridge and Evergreen neighborhoods by I-65 and 17th Avenue on the north; from the Central City neighborhood to the east by 19th St. N.; from the Five Points South neighborhood by the Railroad Reservation; and from the Smithfield neighborhood to the west by I-65, Fountain Heights also includes the former area of “Little Korea” or “Newmongo” north of 8th Ave and the NW section of downtown Birmingham which includes the Civil Rights District surrounding the Kelly Ingram Park.
 
The beginnings of Fountain Heights can be traced to George C. Kelley.  Mr. Kelley was born in Wilmington, North Carolina on July 30, 1847.  By 1881, he had become a resident of Birmingham, Alabama.  He built a building devoted to the mercantile trade on Second Avenue, where he established a wholesale and retail hardware business that extended throughout the South. In 1882, he purchased ten acres in the Fountain Heights area and built a beautiful residence there.
 
Assistant Professor Pamela King of UAB has performed extensive research into the homes at Fountain Heights and tells of her project in the film below.

The abandoned homes in Fountain Heights are some of the oldest in Birmingham. The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Assistant Professor Pamela King has surveyed its historic buildings. She says the neighborhood “has some histories that are absolutely unique in the city, so when it’s gone, it’s gone.”

According to King, it began in the 1880s as a Jewish community. Jews eventually migrated out, and by the 1940s, it was a working-class white neighborhood. Middle-class blacks began to move into the area, crossing over from Smithfield.

“I think of it as the frontline of Birmingham’s desegregation,” says King. “And there’s a huge wave of African-Americans who move in right that year. I interviewed some and … by 1969, 1970, according to Birmingham Census and Records, it’s 100 percent Black.”  Around this time, construction began for Interstate 65. It cut directly through Fountain Heights and the neighboring community of Enon Ridge.

By the 1970s, Fountain Heights was surrounded by interstate on three sides and property values declined. Middle- and upper-income black families began to leave the area. John Colón, Birmingham’s community development director, says these outward migration patterns occurred throughout inner-city Birmingham.  “We’ve lost a third of our population essentially over the past 50, 60 years,” he says. “And as folks left the city, they left sort of a surplus of housing.”

In communities like Fountain Heights, residents look forward to change.  But with each vacant home that’s demolished, they risk losing touch with the very history that led to the problem.

Early 1900’s Street Car that ran between Fountain Heights and Avondale

In the early 1900s the streetcar carried passengers from Fountain Heights to Avondale and back.

The early 1900s also saw the opening of the weather station for Birmingham that remained in Fountain Heights for over 40 years.
One of Fountain Heights biggest claims to fame was the fact that it had a weather station for Birmingham and the weatherman, E. C. Horton even broadcast from there.   Horton was marooned in his weather observatory at Fountain Heights in a disastrous sleet storm on February 5, 1923, without telephone communication with the outside world. He made his readings by candlelight while the city of Birmingham awoke under a solid sheet of ice. The whole city was without electricity and was forced to return to kerosene lamp and old-fashioned candles. Magnificent oaks and tall pines went down as if hit by a cyclone according to The Birmingham News.

Henry F. DeBardeleben lived in Fountain Heights

Henry F. DeBardeleben, the founder of Bessemer, had his home in Fountain Heights. This mansion was later the start of St. Vincent’s Health System. The first temporary location was established in DeBardenleben’s home in 1898 by the Sisters of Charity Hospital Association. “Groundbreaking for the facility shown in this photograph took place in March 1899, and this permanent location opened on Thanksgiving Day 1900. Known as Mount Saint Vincent, the hospital was the first in Birmingham to have x-ray equipment installed”.

A Jewish Settlement was established in Fountain Heights

A Jewish settlement extended from near 13th Ave and then to the West.  “Hidden in plain sight”, the Knesseth Israel/Beth-El Cemetery, the oldest Jewish cemetery in the city, is situated at the top of Enon Ridge in the Fountain Heights neighborhood of north Birmingham. Modest wooden houses built during the 1930s line the cemetery on two sides.  Center Street runs through the middle, with Knesseth Israel on one side and Beth-El Cemetery on the other. A strip of woods screens the peaceful grounds from the sounds of cars and trucks roaring by on I-59, constructed during the late 1960s as part of Eisenhower’s urban renewal plan.

Fox 6 WBRC actually began in Fountain Heights

WBRC station actually began broadcasting from Fountain Heights as a radio station in the late 1920s.  WBRC AM 950 operated with a power of 10 watts. The transmitter facilities and studios were in the home of J.C. Bell in Fountain Heights, and WBRC-AM had a broadcast day of only four hours.  WBRC actually stands for Bell Radio Corporation. 

One of Birmingham’s historic fire stations, No. 11, was built in 1910 in a commercial style, in contrast to later suburban stations. The garage door sat on the left side of the building next to a central entrance door. A brick belt over the office portion of the building and an awning over the doors are the only decorative elements in the building.

There are many more stories connected to the Fountain Heights Community and it is sad to see its deterioration. I know progress is important, and we must have improvements on our Interstate system, but Birmingham has lost so much of its history that makes it a unique city. The destruction and loss of the Birmingham Terminal Station is and will forever be a disappointment felt by many.

Terminal Station in 1910

Jemison magazine of June 1910 volume 1, No. 2 stated that the “Terminal Station cost $2,000,000 and had a wonderful effect on property values on Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Avenues, East of Twentieth Street.” Can you imagine what it would cost to replace such a property today?  Unfortunately, the Terminal Station has long been demolished in the name of “modernization”.   Imagine how wonderful it would be if we still had the terminal in conjunction with Railroad Park.

Old Homes Abandoned and New Homes Built

Photo on the left courtesy of the Birmingham Department of Archives. Photo on the right courtesy of Mary Scott Hodgin, Health & Science Report for WBHM

H. Clanton Miller house located at 1110 Fountain Ave. cica 1910

Not all of the houses in the Fountain Heights neighborhood is abandoned and/or neglected.  There are many well-maintained homes in the area, as well as, new builds.

Over the last several years, there has been a renewed interest in the Fountain Heights neighborhood with many new builds that mimic the bungalows and Four Squares that were original to that area.

Photo above taken from the following article:  https://birminghamview.com/online/2008/01/22/new-fountain-heights-homes-signal-revitalization/

As is true of any long neglected and overlooked neighborhood, Fountain Heights will rebound into a thriving community only with the help of progressive investors.  With its close proximity to downtown and all the amenities and businesses that the downtown has to offer coupled with the easy access to interstates and major highways, the Fountain Heights neighborhood has a lot to offer.

12 Improvements that could actually Devalue your Property

A lot of things factor into how much your property is worth.  Things such as the location, square footage, school district and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms.

As a homeowner or investor, your job is to consider both what you can do to improve your home’s value, as well as what you may be doing to decrease the value and desirability of your property.

One of the main things to remember while trying to boost the value of your house is that people have a wide variety of tastes, wants, and desires.  These vary greatly both geographically and demographically.  A house with the ability to suit the largest group of people will sell and/or rent quickly.  The more people who find a house attractive when it hits the market, the better.

Let’s take a look at 12 improvements that many people make to their properties that can actually devalue their house.  These improvements can, and very often do, cause an otherwise desirable property to sit on the market far longer than it should and sometimes even lower the final price by thousands.

1.  Over the Top and/or Overly

Personalized Lighting Fixtures

Bit over the top unless you’re trying to sell or rent a Georgian Mansion

This is a really cool set of light fixtures.  However, I don’t think I’d want to live with them and 
I’d bet most people wouldn’t want to live with them either.

Nice lighting can actually help sell or rent houses.  However over personalizing anything will immediately cut your market by half or more.  If you’re an investor or landlord, save the personalized items for your personal home.  If you’re a homeowner looking to sell, it would behoove you to remove all personalized features whenever possible and replace with more “crowd friendly” features.  Remember, just because you LOVE it, doesn’t mean that everyone will.

2.  Over the Top and/or Overly Personalized Tile

Example of an extravagant tile design that is very taste specific
Another example of taste specific tile

Just like lighting fixtures, it’s best to remember that taste vary and what you think is stunning beyond belief, someone else might find garish beyond belief.  It should also be noted that while light fixtures are relatively easy and inexpensive to have removed, tiles are not.  Potential buyers will remember that when it comes time to make an offer.

3.  Too Much Wallpaper or too Taste Specific Wallpaper

While this wallpaper is unique, would you really want to live with it?
 
I’m sure the homeowners thought this was a great idea, but will potential buyers agree?

Wallpaper is making a strong comeback.  I personally think it’s great.  I love the way wallpaper allows me to add textures, colors, and design to my walls and sometimes even ceilings.  However, not everyone loves wallpaper and no one loves to remove it, potentially repair wall damage and then paint.  As a side note, border wallpaper makes a room feel smaller and shorter than it really is, so I don’t suggest ever using it anywhere.  People walk into a wallpapered room and the first thing they think is, “how much money and time is it going to cost to get this off the walls?” and “I wonder what’s behind that wallpaper?  Did they put it up to hide issues with the sheetrock and if so, what’s that going to cost me?”

4.  Textured walls and Ceilings

The two pictures above show textured ceilings
The two pictures above show textured walls

Textured walls and ceilings were all the rage for decades.  Popcorn ceilings or the swirly designed ceilings can still be found in many many homes even today as can textured walls.  Putting a texture on the ceilings and walls was an efficient and cheap way to hide any imperfections and the practice also grew in popularity as a design feature.  These days people like smooth ceilings and walls so when a potential buyer walks into a home with textured walls and ceilings, they tend to hit the nearest exit.  Not only can removing the texture (and then repairing the ceilings/walls) be expensive but it’s one of the messiest jobs in all of homeowner land.  If you have wall and/or ceiling damage, it’s cheaper, in the long run, to repair it rather than try to hide it behind texture.

5.  Carpeting Everywhere

How would you like to live with the carpeting in these two houses?  
I don’t know anyone who would love either of these.
Above are examples of neutral carpeting that isn’t beige, brown or cream

While carpeting is another design element that is making a strong comeback after years of being the first thing new homeowners ripped out, it’s still not popular enough with the majority of people to warrant installing it wall to wall in every room.  If your time and/or budget won’t allow for the installation of new hardwoods or neutral tile throughout your home and you simply must install carpeting, keep it neutral….not white neutral…but a neutral that won’t show dirt easily and will blend with many interior color choices.  If you go with carpeting, don’t skimp on the padding.  No matter how expensive your carpeting is, if it feels “thin” when you walk on it, it will automatically feel cheap.

6.  Bright and Bold Paint Choices – inside or out

Nothing changes the appearance of a room or house quicker and more dramatically, then the addition of paint.  While paint can definitely be your best friend, making a bad paint color choice will be your very worst enemy and can cost you thousands of dollars in resale or can make potential tenants run screaming for the hills!  So while painting is probably the cheapest way to refresh, update and improve the appearance of any property, the wrong paint color(s) can wind up costing you more time and money than almost anything else.

If you must paint the exterior or the interior of your property and you like bold colors, try to limit those colors to the hues that are less difficult (and expensive) to cover.  Anything in the families of red, pink, purple, blacks or deep blues and greens will take so much primer to just reach a coverable state that potential buyers will only see dollars and time flying out the window.  If your property is a rental and you paint these outrageous colors, you can expect very few applications.

Depending on the style and age of the home there are charcoal grays, slate blues, forest greens that will make the exterior of your home feel updated while still maintaining the integrity of the period in which the home was built without feeling garish…and will still give you that pop of color that will satisfy your desire and set you apart from the rest of the houses on your block.  Inside, it’s always best to go with muted tones.  Sage, gray, cream, etc.  Another great way to satisfy the tastes of those looking to purchase or rent your property would be to paint it white and give a reasonable allowance to the buyer (or renter – to be used on the interior only).  This allowance would be used to paint it the color of their choice.  If this is a renter situation, their color choices should be limited to a set of color swatches that you have pre-approved.

7.  Over-Improving the Kitchen or Bathroom

Everyone thinks that a great kitchen or bathroom can overcome any obstacle when it comes to selling or renting their property.  Everyone would be wrong.  While an updated attractive kitchen and/or bathroom goes a long long way, it is not the end all be all when it comes to a potential buyer or renters decision.

As a matter of fact, over improving a kitchen or bathroom can actually cost you money.  Taste, trends, fads come and go.  If you install a kitchen or bathroom that was designed on your own personal taste the chances are the next folks are going to rip it all out and start from scratch so they can have the kitchen or bathroom of their dreams – not yours.  You should also realize that when you improve a kitchen or bathroom that is a lot nicer than the rest of the house, you have just accentuated the fact that the rest of the house needs massive work.  The kitchen and/or bathroom immediately feels out of place with the rest of the house.

According to Zillow, you should try to never spend more than 10 to 15% of the value of the home on the kitchen and the same applies to the master bath.  In 2015, Remodeling.hw.net estimated that the average kitchen renovation costs approximately $56,768 with a return of only $38,485 which works out roughly to a 53.9% return on investment.

Be aware that the opposite also applies.  If you replace flooring, paint and dress up the rest of the property but don’t fully address the kitchen and bathrooms, you have just lost money.  Buyers understand that the most expensive and timely renovations in a property are always the kitchen and bathrooms and when they see that you have left those up to them, they will move on down the road unless you are willing to shave thousands of dollars off the price….and maybe not even then.

8.  Permanently Converting or Removing a Bedroom

Permanently converting a bedroom into anything else, is never a good idea and could devalue your property by as much as 10%.  That means converting it to a dressing room/closet, TV/Media room or home office.  That number is also true whenever you take a bedroom in order to make the master larger or to enlarge bathroom/master closet space.  If you must use a spare bedroom as a home office, TV room, playroom for the kids or even a home gym, make sure nothing in there is permanently installed so if you decide to put your house on the market down the road, everything can be removed and the room staged for its original purpose.

Combining bedrooms to make a larger bedroom might sound like a great idea at the time but according to Brian Davis, real estate investor & Co-Founder of the renting resource SparkRental.com, this is a very bad move if you don’t plan on staying in that house forever.  He states, “Even small bedrooms add value to homes, as most families want children to have their own rooms but don’t mind if they’re on the small side.”  He goes on to say, “In my experience, each bedroom can add about 15% to the overall value of a home.”

9.  Sunrooms

A sunroom can be a great place to enjoy the outdoors away from the elements, but adding a sunroom is one of the worst home renovations when it comes to return on investment.  The only exception is if you go the extra, and very expensive, route of adding HVAC and highly insulated windows which in effect turns the sunroom into another interior living space.

You should also be aware that if the sunroom wasn’t properly permitted and built to code, you can be forced to tear it down before you can sell it.

Another thing to consider before deciding to add a sunroom is available outdoor space.  If your outdoor living space is already limited and you add a sunroom, you have effectively erased your outdoor area.

10.  Built-In Electronics

Home theaters are great for movie or sports fans but built-in electronics take up space in an otherwise usable room and could be very offputting to potential buyers.  As with all home renovations, personalization can deal to a decrease in home value and built-in technology that can quickly become outdated is no exception.

11. Swimming Pools and Hottubs

Unless you’re somewhere that’s hot at least 6 months out of the year, pools are generally more trouble than they’re worth.  Research has shown that only about 50% of the population really want them so you’ve just narrowed your buying market by half.

When you add the cost to build a pool, the added insurance cost, fencing and maintenance expenses, swimming pools add very little potential value to your property.

Hot tubs, just like swimming pools usually aren’t worth the investment.  Potential homebuyers with children might consider the pool and hot tub both as safety hazards.  Most homeowners don’t want a hot tub and they must consider the costs of removing the hot tub and then repairing the damaged lawn area or deck area where it sat when they consider their offer on your property.

12.  Garage Conversions

If you’re a fitness buff, if your children need a dedicated playroom or if a relative has moved in with you and you need more space, converting your garage into space for those needs may seem like a good thing.  However, many potential buyers may not agree.  Recently MarketWatch did a survey of 7,500 people on this very topic and a whopping 74% said that having a garage is extremely or very important to them.

As in the bedroom, conversion spoke of earlier, if you can convert the garage into whatever space you need without making permanent alterations, then you should be fine.  Otherwise, use the garage as a garage.

Completing Maintenance Requests Like a Pro | Birmingham, AL Landlord Tips

Completing Maintenance Requests Like a Pro
Maintaining your home is an important part of renting out a property. You have to keep the place in good, habitable condition, where everything works and is safe. Responding to your tenant’s maintenance requests as quickly as possible is necessary, which means you need access to a great team of vendors. There are a few tips and tricks that will help you manage maintenance like a professional. (more…)

Things a Real Estate Investor should Consider When Evaluating a Rental Market

The most self-directed way to invest and build our financial futures is investing in single-family real estate.  This is incredibly exciting but it can also be overwhelming.  Not only are we the proverbial captains of our fate when it comes to real estate investment, but we have an enormous amount of choices.

Each choice is distinct and different.  An investor’s choice in real estate market absolutely matters as each and every market deals with their own economies, supply and demand.  Each market also has its own individual set of rental needs.

For long term success, every real estate investor must thoroughly investigate their market before they begin searching the real estate listings and thinking about purchasing properties.

 

What makes a rental market desirable?

When it comes to rental markets, there are a few key factors that investors should look for as they scope out potential places to invest.  More than the factors that are directly associated with the real estate market, you will need to know which markets are hot and have rising home prices.  Every single family real estate investor should turn to the factors that indicate one key thing:  Sustainable, long-term growth.

How do you know if a real estate market is healthy?  Look for these 4 indicators:

1 – Population Growth

Population growth is one of the key indicators of the health of any market.  One of the things that single-family real estate investors want in their given market is steady, healthy population growth.  It’s an indicator of the overall health in their city, town, or neighborhood.  An influx of people typically indicates economic opportunity and growth, which in turn positively impacts things like home buying and home prices.

Neighborhoods that are mostly comprised of baby boomers will likely be looking to retire and perhaps downsize.  A population comprised mainly of younger people will likely have many renters, either through lifestyle choices or necessity.  The needs of these markets are drastically different.

2 – Economic Growth

The second indicator to observe is economic growth.  Is industry coming to your market?  Even if you aren’t a commercial real estate investor, it pays to pay attention to the commercial and retail sectors.  see what businesses are moving in or out.

There is a direct link between the economy, the real estate market, and the rental market.  If the economy is strong and wages are strong, people are moving in.  If people are moving in and making money, they will want to buy houses.  Housing demand increases.  Prices increase.  As a result, rental demand increases and so does rental income.

3 – Steady Price Fluctuations

Even in “hot” real estate markets, we tend to see price fluctuations.  While these can offer thrilling investments opportunities, they tend to burn out fast and bright.  That’s because rapidly increasing prices can only increase for so long.  While investors that are quick on the draw may be able to take advantage of the rapid appreciation in such markets, they may find that a crash is just around the corner.

That’s largely because severe pendulum swings in price and value just aren’t sustainable for the long term.  for buy-and-hold investors especially, it’s not about getting swept up in rollercoaster markets.  It’s about honing in on the steady markets that provide predictable returns.   Typically investors should look for markets that experience a 5% annual increase in home prices.

4 – Month’s Supply and Time on the Market

 

The classic indicator of real estate market health is to look at inventory supply and time on the market.  Everything in real estate investment is about balance.  Month’s supply is about the balance between supply and demand.  Too much demand without supply increases prices.  The opposite, and they decrease.  A six-month supply is considered healthy in most markets.

Similarly, time on the market for that supply is an indicator of health. While it’s not as accurate as month’s supply because a property can be delisted and listed again (thus resetting its time on the market), one can take a cursory glance on an MLS and see, in general, how long listings have been on the market, how many new listings pop up each day, and if inventory is moving. If the market seems slow, it could indicate any number of problems: lack of buyers, lack of buyer confidence, issues with the property, too-high prices, or general lack of demand.

 

 

How Much Should I Charge for Rent in Birmingham, AL?

How Much Should I Charge for Rent
The amount you charge for rent really depends on one thing: the market. Many landlords want to charge an arbitrary amount that matches their monthly expenses or the amount of cash flow they expect to earn. However, you cannot control what the market demands. There are, however, a few things you can control that impact the rental value of your home. (more…)

10 Mistakes Landlords make that can cost them tenants and cash

Everybody makes mistakes from time to time in their lives…..even landlords.  There’s no shame to it.  However, a landlord can make fewer and less costly mistakes if he/she is careful to avoid these 10 mistakes.

1.
Incomplete or inadequate tenant screening
The tenant you place in your home will either make you a happy, profitable landlord, or a stressed, frantic landlord. Everyone’s perfect tenant usually has three of the same qualities. They pay rent on time, they take care of the property, and they follow the terms of the lease. You also want a tenant who is willing to stay in the property for a long time and is able to communicate any questions, maintenance problems, or concerns in a timely manner.
Many landlords glance at an application and maybe run a credit check before approving a tenant for their property. You have to dig a little deeper than that if you want to be sure you’re getting a great tenant.
If you fail to do a thorough tenant screening, you could end up with a tenant who has prior evictions, a history of damaging rental homes, or a problem keeping jobs. It takes time to screen tenants, especially if you’re a landlord doing it yourself. But, not screening tenants is one of the worst mistakes you can make.
The elements of a thorough tenant screening include a few important things:
  • Credit history. Ignore the credit score and focus on whether the prospective tenant pays utility bills and meets other financial obligations. Make sure you don’t see any outstanding debts to previous landlords or management companies.
  • Criminal history. Recent felonies or a history of violent behavior is problematic. Check everything from the terrorist watch list to the sexual predator database.
  • Employment and income. You want a tenant who earns at least three times the amount of rent. Talk to employers and ask for pay stubs.
  • Landlord references. Ask previous and current landlords about the tenant and whether they would be willing to rent to that person again.
  • If your prospective tenant is a parent whose child or children don’t live with them full time, are they current with their child support?  If their paycheck is garnished, where will your rent come from?
  • Do they like to party?  Check their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.
2.
Failing to perform a thorough Move-in and Move-Out Inspection
Before your tenant moves in, you need to conduct a move-in inspection. This is where you go through the property, room by room and closet by closet, and you document its condition.  This is not only an important step in making sure the property is ready to rent but it also gives you the opportunity to demonstrate what the property looked like when you handed over the keys.
Make detailed notes and take a lot of pictures. No detail is too small. Photograph the condition of paint and appliances. Take pictures of floors, windows, ceilings – everything. At the end of the lease term, you’ll also conduct a move-out inspection. This will allow you to compare the move-in condition to the move-out condition.
This is important because if there’s damage that you want to charge the security deposit for, you’ll have to prove that the damage wasn’t there before your tenant moved in. Judges aren’t going to take your word for it. If you withhold $200 from a security deposit to fix a wall that has a gaping hole in it, you’ll need to show a picture of that wall without the hole before your tenant moved in, and a picture of the same wall with the hole when your tenant moved out.  It’s a mistake not to do this because you’ll end up spending money on repairs that should have been the tenant’s responsibility.
3.
Lack of Legal Knowledge
Unless you’re a lawyer, you probably don’t spend a lot of time keeping up with legal changes and regulatory requirements. But, if you’re a landlord renting out property, there are a few things you need to be aware of, otherwise, you could find yourself embroiled in a lawsuit.
There are federal laws such as the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act which impact how you rent out your property and to whom. Not following these laws can cost you thousands of dollars.
It’s easy to make an unintentional fair housing mistake. When landlords advertise their properties and choose tenants, they often don’t think about how their words, questions, and decisions can look to federal agencies such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Landlords often make the mistake of not screening all applicants consistently. You should have a written set of procedures so you can show your process of choosing a tenant to anyone who asks. Establish a list of criteria and hand that out to every applicant so that your requirements are in writing and non-negotiable.
Service animals and emotional support animals are not pets. You cannot deny someone with a documented service animal because you have a no-pet policy. This will get you in a lot of legal trouble. You cannot allow a documented emotional support animal and then charge a pet deposit or extra pet rent. It’s a violation of federal law.  However, the tenant must have documentation from the appropriate source that clearly states the animal is a required service or emotional support animal.  This documentation should become a permanent part of the tenant’s file.  In other words, if you don’t know the laws, you could make some very serious and costly mistakes.
There are also state requirements to be considered in addition to Federal requirements.  Further, some municipalities also have their own set of additional requirements of which you should be familiar.
You need to know as much about the landlord and tenant laws as you can in order to avoid disputes, lawsuits, and claims. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you don’t have to worry about these things.
4.
Inconsistent Rent Collections
Tenants who don’t pay rent on time are a huge problem.  As a landlord, you probably want to be a nice person. That’s admirable. However, this is a business, not a social networking opportunity.  In other words, you’re not doing this in order to make new friends.  Your rental property (or rental properties) need to be viewed as a business because that’s what it is. It’s an investment that needs to bring you a regular income. When tenants are late with rent payments, your cash flow is disrupted. It’s a mistake to be laid back about rental payments.
Make sure your lease is clear about when rent is due, how much is due, and how it’s expected to be paid. The lease should also reference any late fees and other consequences that are part of your rent collection policy. Then, you have to enforce this part of the lease.
When you allow tenants to pay whenever they feel like it, you’re setting a dangerous standard. What if the tenants stop paying altogether? You might find yourself having to evict them, and if you’ve been inconsistent with your rent collection up to that point, getting them to meet their obligations or leave your property will be difficult.
Don’t get emotionally involved with your tenants. They will have excuses and stories about why rent is not paid on time, and some of them might even be true. But it’s your responsibility to get the rent in on time so you can meet your own obligations. If you have trouble enforcing your lease and consistently collecting rent, turn it over to a professional property manager so you don’t end up losing money or your property.
5.
Deferring Property Maintenance
Maintenance can be expensive, and if you don’t have relationships in place already with some great vendors and contractors, it can be a struggle to coordinate. However, it’s a fact that your rental property will need maintenance and repairs at some point. Some landlords put those things off, which is a mistake. You absolutely must be responsive to maintenance needs. You have to be thorough and proactive.
Preventative maintenance preserves the condition of your property and keeps it increasing in value.  If you begin to ignore the small maintenance problems like leaks under the sinks or a hot water heater that leaks “just a little bit now and again”, you’re going to end up with bigger, more complicated and more expensive repairs in the future.  You’re also going to compromise the integrity of your property.
It will be difficult to increase rent or to keep good tenants in the property if it’s falling apart.  A badly maintained property has a negative impact on your tenants.  Your current tenants will move out as soon as they have the chance if their repair requests go unanswered.
You should also know that if you want to sell the property down the road, you can bet you won’t get anywhere near the money you might want for it if it’s not properly maintained.
6.
Weak or Illegal Lease
It is well worth the time and money to get a licensed attorney who is experienced in both real estate and contract laws within your state to draft a strong and legal lease.  While it will be an upfront expense, this is a lease that you can use over and over so it will more than make up for the expense involved over time.
What is an “illegal” lease, you might ask?  An illegal lease is one in which the lease ask the tenant to do, or not do, something that isn’t allowed under the law.  An example would be if you put in your lease that the tenant could not become pregnant and have a child while she lived in your unit.  There was a time when landlords could refuse to rent to an adult with children.  No longer is that the case.  What if you include wording in the lease that states the tenant cannot have lights on past 8 p.m.?  If you said this would be unenforceable, you’d be right.
Another example of an illegal lease is one that while detailing what the landlord expects from the tenant doesn’t include details of what the tenant can expect from the landlord.  A contract can be declared null and void if there is no give and take written into it.  There is no such thing as a one-sided contract.  You must include what the landlord expects from the tenant AND what the tenant should expect from the landlord in order for it to be considered a legal and binding contract.
A strong lease will be very detailed as to the exact conditions of the lease.  Better to include too much detail as too little.  As an example, if you don’t want bikes stored in the breezeways but fail to include that in the lease, you may find it difficult to enforce that rule down the road or if you don’t want grills used on covered patios, that needs to be in the lease.  If you don’t allow non-working vehicles parked at the property, then include that in your lease.  It doesn’t matter if all of these items don’t apply to each and every tenant that you have or will have.  However, if you don’t include them in the lease and it does apply to even one tenant, that tenant can legally claim not to have broken their lease when you try to enforce the “rule”.  The stronger your lease, the more protected you are.
Perhaps the most common excuse a tenant will have for violating a term of the lease is the “I didn’t know” excuse.  That’s why it is imperative to sit down with the tenant(s) and go over each and every word of the lease with them.  Have them initial each paragraph as you have read and explained it to them.  Answer any questions they may have at that moment.  Getting them to initial each paragraph will go a long way to prove that they did indeed know and it will blow that excuse right out of the water.  Taking 10 minutes upfront to read the lease in its entirety and have them initial each paragraph before they sign the lease will save you countless hours down the road.
7.
Showing a Property Before it’s Ready
It’s great to get your property rented as quickly as possible.  However, you should never advertise a property for rent until it’s ready to occupy.  Jumping the gun and allowing prospective tenants to tour the rental before it’s completely done, will turn them off quicker than it will excite them.  There are a few exceptions, like with anything else, but the vast majority of people will hear the price and see the condition and not be able to reconcile the fact that the price is based upon the finished product, not the current product.
Be patient and if someone should drive past your house while the workers are there and want to come inside to take a peek, nicely explain that you would be happy to take their name and number and call them once the work is completed.
Never show it to them before you’re done.
8.
Not responding timely – being a Mystery Landlord
Everyone loves a good mystery and being mysterious is intriguing.  However, no one wants a mystery landlord.  Make sure your tenant(s) know how to contact you.  Make sure they know who to call at 3 in the morning during a hard rain when the roof is leaking or at 2 pm on Christmas afternoon when the basement is flooded.  Maybe you don’t want them waking you from your sleep or interrupting your Christmas Day festivities, but make sure they have the phone number of someone who can take care of it.  Not losing sleep is a perfect reason to hire a reputable property management company.  They have emergency numbers to call for these things.  Your sleep remains uninterrupted and they get their issue resolved.  Win-win.
I would venture to say that more business disputes are caused because the unhappy customer (or tenant in this situation) feels they have been inconvenienced or wronged and the business (or landlord) either responds in anger or doesn’t respond at all.  More lawsuits are filed for this reason than for any other.
As with any business that deals with the public, a landlord must be a good ambassador for their business.  Even if you feel their complaint is trivial….it’s not to them or they wouldn’t be so upset about it.  A sincere apology goes a long long way in diffusing potentially volatile situations.  Even if you don’t believe you did anything wrong a simple “I’m so sorry this happened.  What can I do to make it better” can oftentimes save a landlord from a lot of ugliness.
9.
There is a difference between Raising the Rent and Jacking up the Rent
Some states have laws in place as to how much a landlord can raise the rent and when.  If your tenant has a one year lease in place, you cannot legally raise their rent until the lease is over.  Having said that, it is extremely wise for you to study the neighborhood in which your property is located.  If the neighborhood normally rents within the range (example) of $500 to $800 per month, charging $1,100 for your property is not a good idea.  You can trust me when I tell you that during the life of their lease, your tenant will discover this fact and when their lease if over, they will be gone.
The same can be said for raising the rent by $300 when their lease is up.  Raising the rent is fine but $300 a month is jacking up the rent.  The only exception to this, is if you have gone in and totally rehabbed the property to justify the $300 a month increase.
10.
Not Offering Specials in a Soft Market
You don’t have to own a large apartment complex to offer a rent special.  Moving is expensive and anything you can do to make it less expensive is majorly attractive to a potential tenant.  If a tenant has looked at a property that is similarly priced, similar in appearance and amenities as yours but you are offering a move-in special, they’re going to take yours.
Move-in specials don’t have to break the bank.  My favorite is the free month with a 13-month lease.  They don’t get that free month until the 13th month.  Another good one is one month free but it’s spread out over 2, 3 or even 4 months.
If rentals are in large demand in your area, your property is located right with great amenities and it’s in great condition,  then it’s not necessary to offer a special.  But if there are other properties for rent like yours and priced near to yours in the neighborhood, a good move-in special could make you stand out from the crowd.

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