Vacant Rental Marketing
Owner Reports & Distributions
City Rental Compliance
Have questions about a specific service and our corresponding process?
Please click on an icon for an overview or read more for in-depth information.
Please note we are set up by departments instead of having a single property manager trying to do everything. Please reference below which department to contact to address your question:
Handles bills, owner payments, owner statements & reports, etc.
Processes rental applications and prepares new leases.
Contacts tenants past due on their payments and processes evictions.
Manages the challenges of inspections, maintenance, repairs & renovations, assigning ServiceTechs, obtaining bids, etc.
Responsible for advertising vacant units to generate showing activities.
Answers tenant calls/emails/texts, coordinates Section 8 issues, solicits lease renewals, tracks MoveOuts.
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While communication is critical to meeting your expectations, documenting communications is just as important. We use your Owner Portal to document all calls and emails, so you & our staff can reference as needed. Please let us know if you’d like to schedule a tutorial about using your portal.
Our online system uses Conversation & Comment threads to track communications. See an example of what they look like below:
Vacant Rental Marketing
We publish rental properties on 20+ websites, track all inquiries, showings and applications, so we can provide you with feedback via bi-weekly Property Marketing Reports.
Here’s some of what our Marketing Department does:
- Marketing Pics are edited, so your property looks its best:
Pics have our Watermark, to avoid crooks copying them and creating fake ads that may result in our ad being dropped from a website.
- Advertising is published on 20+ websites :
- We no longer use “For Rent” signs, they statistically attract lower quality prospects and increase the likelihood your property will have a break-in and theft.
- We track Web Views and Inquiries, analyzing the numbers to identify problems and trends.
- Showings are exclusively scheduled via our online scheduling software:
- Prospects can self-schedule at their convenience, 24/7/365, which increases showings.
- Prospects receive multiple automated communications after a showing, encouraging them to apply and give feedback.
- We track Scheduled Showings versus Completed Showings to identify potential problems.
Our bi-weekly Property Marketing Reports show you Period & Total amounts for the following:
- Web Views
- Showings Scheduled
- Completed Showings
We analyze this data to provide you feedback about what the numbers mean we should do to get your property rented faster. Our goal is to rent your vacant property as efficiently as possible, which requires us to balance how long a property is vacant, rent amount and tenant quality.
Poor screening often results in lost rents, legal & court costs and costly damages.
- Screening of applicants includes the following:
- Full credit/eviction/criminal checks are done, instead of score-driven reports
- Verification of rental history includes validation of actual property owner to avoid fraud
- Verification of stability of income & employment via YTD paystubs & W-2(s) (analyzed to confirm not fakes)
- Income is calculated 3 ways to spot stability anomalies: pay period, YTD average and YTD + W-2 average.
- Debt-to-income analysis (more accurate than traditional 3x rent requirement)
- Bank statement to see if NSF issues, if deposits support income, prove MoveIn Funds, also analyzed for unusual transactions.
- Pet screening
- Holding Fee required from approved applicants to make sure they are serious, before your property is marked pending. We will still show your pending property & take backup applications until MoveIn occurs.
- Lease Signings include signing of our annually attorney reviewed, 27+ page lease, completed MoveIn Checklist & Video – all published to your online portal.
- Lease Terms are set to avoid end-dates from October to February whenever possible. This period is the hardest time to find new tenants, so we try to avoid it and minimize the length of your property’s vacancy.
Tenants range from the autonomous, to those needing constant attention. We have strict, yet fair, policies & procedures in place to manage all tenants. Accountability is critical, so we document all tenant communications, including recording phone calls, and inform you of important developments.
Because tenants all need different levels of monitoring, we have extensive written policies & procedures for our staff to consistently enforce. Problems are identified and addressed or escalated to you as needed. Being strict, yet fair, usually results in most tenants following the terms of their lease and wanting to renew for additional years.
Renewals: Our lease is an evergreen contract, which means it auto-renews unless the tenant or landlord gives the other party proper notice. A 5% increase is included in each auto-renewal period, but the tenant and landlord can negotiate this if done so within the notice requirements. Instead of a traditional 30-day notice period, our lease requires a 60-day notice, which gives us more time to evaluate your property for advertising and market it for a new tenant.
Desperate tenants say & do desperate things, so we aggressively pursue past due balances via enforcing a strict eviction process. We offer tenants numerous options to avoid eviction but enforce deadlines to minimize loss exposure. Eviction actions and milestones are available to owners via their online portal.
Our lease states rent is due on the 1st of each month, with a 5-day grace period. Eviction Notices are generated on the first business day 1-3 days after the 5th of the month. From thereon, we aggressively pursue payments while moving forward with the eviction process. We allow payment plans, but since desperate tenants will say anything over the phone, we require tenants to submit payment plans in writing, with specific payment dates & amounts, as well as proof of income to support the payments.
We make at least 6 strategic calls to tenants during the eviction process, giving them opportunities to pay and halt the process:
- When eviction notice sent to tenant
- When notice sent to attorney to schedule court date
- When court date is confirmed
- When court judgment obtained
- After 10-day court ordered time to pay expires
- When a Writ of Eviction is obtained, and bailiffs scheduled
Owners often want us to call more frequently, but no amount of calls will get a tenant to pay if they don’t have funds. We publish our Eviction Process Milestones to owners on their online Rent Roll Report.
Pursuing tenants for unpaid balances after they move out is dependent on being able to find them and personally serve them as required by Michigan law. This is beyond the capability of a property manager, so we hire outside attorneys and collection agencies. Instead of paying them by the hour, we hire firms that work on a contingency basis, where they take a percentage of what they collect. NOTE: Finding dependable firms is an ongoing challenge due to the limited number of accounts we can send them.
For more information about the legal process of evicting tenants according to Michigan statutes, please read below.
Michigan Eviction Process Explained
|Day 1:||RENT DUE: Rent typically due on first of each month.|
|Day 5:||GRACE PERIOD UP: Last day of Grace Period|
|Day 6-9:||EVICTION NOTCE SENT: Tenant has exceeded grace period of their lease. Proper Demand form is sent to all tenants to start the legal eviction process, so we force them to address their balance:
Forms can be found at: https://courts.michigan.gov/Administration/SCAO/Forms/Pages/Landlord-Tenant-and-Land-Contract.aspx
|Day 13-16:||COURT DATE FILING: While waiting the required 7 days, we try to communicate with tenant to determine if they intend to pay and when. Tenants are offered option of Payment Plan. To keep pressure on them, we usually move the Eviction Process forward by sending the following to an attorney to file for a court date:
NOTE: Only the property owner can represent themselves in court, we MUST use an attorney.
|Day 16-19:||FILING CONFIRMATION: We follow up (f/u) with attorney to make sure they received our email & are filing case with court.|
|Day 19-22:||COURT DATE CHECKUP: We f/u with attorney for court date if not received yet.|
|Day 20-25:||COURT DATE SET: When we get a court date, we try to determine if tenant(s) still in property:
|Day 25:||COURT DATE: Our attorney appears in court to present case against tenant(s). Tenants are given opportunity to challenge the balance we are suing them for.
|Day 35:||AFTER REQUIRED 10 DAYS: We contact tenant about their plans to move or pay. We try to be nice, but firm, keeping the pressure on them.
|Day 36:||WRIT OF EVICTION ORDERED: The next step in the eviction process is to request an Application and Order Of Eviction (form dc 107, also known as a Writ of Eviction) which requires judge signature.
|Day 43-46||WRIT OF EVICTION RECEIVED: Order of Eviction should be signed by now, if not f/u with attorney.
|Day 46-53:||WRIT OF EVICTION POSTED: Bailiff will mail or post the Writ of Eviction with date they will physically remove tenant’s belongings.
|Day 53-60:||BAILIFF REMOVAL: Court appointed bailiff(s) will remove tenant & their belongings and legally return possession of the property to us. Cost is at least $300, depending on city, number of bailiffs, size of home & amount of possessions and cost of possible required dumpster. We can then rekey the locks and evaluate damages to prep for marketing.|
|Day 91:||EXPIRATION DATES: If we agree to an extended payment plan with a tenant, the judgment expires 56 days after judge signs it. We can extend this deadline by requesting the Application and Order Of Eviction (form DC 107), which will usually extend our case another 56 days. Otherwise, we will have to start all over again.|
Please reference this great document for additional information: Tenants & Landlords, a Practical Guide:
Maintenance is very challenging as it’s never fast enough for tenants, or cheap enough for owners. We handle maintenance, repairs & renovations and strive for fair pricing and reasonable timelines. Owners are provided bids, actual invoices and supporting pics & videos to document expenses.
We do our best to address maintenance issues promptly to keep tenants happy, so they want to renew their leases. Our biggest challenge is the time it may take to provide you with a satisfactory bid – and requests for multiple bids only increase this delay.
Another challenge is agreeing on what maintenance issues should be addressed. Our goal is to “maintain to the neighborhood” and not over-improve a property and waste your money or ignore maintenance issues and be labeled a slumlord.
When owners hire us, many ask if we have our own maintenance staff and contractors – but then ask us for multiple bids when service is needed. Here are some logical issues we request owners keep in mind:
- If we’re requested to get multiple bids, we rarely have weeks to search and interview contractors for bids unless a property Is vacant. For tenant-occupied properties we only have a few days before the tenant starts getting upset and then may contact the city to report the issue, potentially resulting in a ticket, or withhold rent.
- It’s not as easy as everyone thinks to find dependable, yet affordable contractors. If they’re good, they are booked weeks or months in advance.
- A lot of good contractors don’t advertise because word-of-mouth advertising keeps them busy. This makes it hard to find them.
- Contractors often want 50% down to start a job. We find the risk involved is too high to do this. Contractors claim they need these funds for materials, but the reality is they are often using the money to “rob Peter to pay Paul”. We prefer to cover materials and only pay labor when work is satisfactorily complete. Many contractors won’t agree to this.
- The cheapest contractors typically work for cash to avoid taxes and want to be paid immediately when they are done. We require them to complete a W-9 for tax purposes and also need time to inspect their work before paying them. So, they won’t work with us.
We’ve also learned that contractors usually fall into one of the following categories:
Type 1 (High Quality, High Price)
- They can do new construction, additions, full remodeling, but maintenance work is too small for them.
- Typically pay for advertising, have sales staff, separate bid preparers, inhouse designers, full office support.
- Equates to a lot of overhead, leading to markups of 50%+.
- Bids: Usually have a dedicated salesman that does their bids, so able to supply quality bids.
Comment: Usually have the highest prices & quality, and so these are the contractors you’d hire to work on your own home. Too expensive to work on rental properties.
Type 2 (High Quality, Average Price)
- They rarely do new construction (except for garages), focus on additions & remodeling, no maintenance work.
- Often online advertising, may have one-person sales/bid staff, outsources design, office support typically consists of secretary and bookkeeper.
- Equates to a decent amount of overhead, leading to markups of 35%+.
- Bids: May take a while to get a bid from them because they don’t have dedicated sales staff. Often depends on how busy they are.
Comment: Contractors to work on your own home, flips, high-end rental properties. Usually too expensive to work on average rental properties.
Type 3 (Average Quality, Average Price)
- May build an occasional garage or addition, typically focused on remodeling and maintenance work.
- No advertising, the contractor is the sales/bid staff, no design services, office support is typically wife/girlfriend/mother.
- Low overhead leads to markups of only 25%+.
- Bids: Difficult to get a professional-looking bid from them because they would rather be making money working, instead of spending their time doing bids for free.
Comment: Contractors that are perfect for medium/low-end flips & rental properties. Because they don’t advertise, difficult to find.
Type 4 (Low Quality, Low Price)
- Not able to do any new construction or additions, rarely licensed, focused on low-end remodeling & maintenance work.
- Just one or two-person operation with no support staff.
- Very low overhead, markups seem low, but they often end up higher due to issues they didn’t price.
- Bids: Almost impossible to get a reliable written bid from them because they don’t have the knowledge to prepare proper pricing. So, they usually only give verbal pricing – that often changes once they start.
Comment: Contractors to avoid as they are unreliable in every way possible, including showing up. 2-day jobs turn into 2-week jobs, or worse. Forget trying to get them to return and fix poor work. They always want to be paid in cash as soon as they are done. We cannot hire these types as owners & tenants will not be happy with timing or quality of work.
We hope our categories make logical sense and help you better understand the challenges we face.
Keep in mind, since we have several clients buying foreclosed, abandoned properties, we’ve done many renovation projects to make properties Rent-Ready. This includes properties bought from the Detroit Land Bank with required renovation dates.
We do periodic inspections to monitor the condition of your properties. Inspections include Annual Interior, exterior Driveby, MoveIn Checklist, MoveOut and City Rental License. We do our best to video all inspections and provide copies to owners.
It’s important to understand that Inspectors don’t have x-ray vision, so they can’t see what’s inside walls or underground. If you’ve watched any TV show about renovating older houses, you’ve probably seen the surprises that often occur once work is started. While it’s easy to blame the Inspector for missed issues, they logically can’t be held accountable.
Owner Reports & Distributions
Just like you get a monthly bank statement, we send you a monthly Owner Statement to monitor the performance of your property(s). Your statement for the previous month is emailed on the 15th of each month and always available on your portal.
Each statement has a Portfolio Summary page that aggregates income & expense numbers for all your properties. Income & expense numbers are then shown separately for your portfolio and each property you own, along with areas showing Unpaid Bills, Management Fee Calculations, and Security Deposits. See the example below:
Just as you can check your bank account activity online at any time and see transactions since the last statement, we provide you with several live reports that offer the same benefits. Additionally, these reports let you track tenant payments, reference information about your properties and show monthly income & expense comparisons.
Distributions: We’re one of the few property managers that transfer funds to owners twice a month. So, if a tenant pays late, you don’t have to wait until the following month to receive your funds.
On the 15th and last day of each month, or the first business day after if those dates fall on a nonbanking day, we process owner transfers. To make sure a tenant payment doesn’t bounce and cause accounting issues, we fund based on payments received 7 days prior to our funding dates.
While tenants typically setup their own electric & gas accounts, utilities for vacant properties and tenants being evicted must be monitored. We prefer to handle all utilities, but owners can choose to self-manage. Most Metro Detroit cities only allow owner accounts for water, so we monitor water bills.
All utility documents we receive for your properties are scanned and published to your portal. You can choose to have us pay utility bills for vacant and multi-family properties, or you can pay them.
Metro Detroit utility companies have landlord programs that allow us to register your properties, so that we’re alerted if a tenant utility account is flagged for shutoff. This is important during winter months to avoid a lack of heat leading to water lines potentially freezing and bursting, causing major property damage.
Water Bills: In Michigan, a Water Affidavit form is required to legally transfer the liability for water bills from the property owner to a tenant. Most Metro Detroit cities do not allow Water Affidavits, or if they do, their requirements are deliberately arduous and expensive to discourage them. City water departments will put the tenant’s name on the bill and mail it to them, but this does not actually transfer the legal responsibility of the bill from the owner to the tenant.
Allowing a water bill to be sent to the tenant and counting on them to pay it, often leads to horror stories of tenants leaving owners with unpaid $1,000+ water bills when they move out – that their security deposit doesn’t cover. Another challenge is Michigan statutes do not allow unpaid water bills to be included in eviction judgment amounts. To avoid this, we have all water bills sent to us, we pay them from owner funds, add the bills to the tenant ledger and then reimburse owners when the tenant pays. If the tenant doesn’t pay their water bill, it is considered unpaid rent, which legally allows it to be included in any necessary eviction proceedings.
City Rental Compliance
Most cities in Metro Detroit require some type of periodic rental license/registration to legally charge & collect rent. We handle the application process, arrange any required inspection(s) and address any repairs cited, so tickets are avoided.
Not every city sends out reminders about their required inspections, so we’ve customized our software to track due dates, expiration dates, etc., and have auto-generated monthly reports for our own reminders.
Report #5 on your owner portal shows the status of any city inspection in progress and the expiration date of any license/registration obtained.
Any application and/or inspection fees involved are communicated to you and if any repairs are required by the city, our Maintenance Department communicates them to you.
Looking to acquire an additional rental property(s)? Let us know your budget, and target ROI or CAP rate, and we’ll assist with finding Single-Family, 2-4 unit properties & apartment buildings. An upfront fee of $500 is required, credited to any purchase through us within 90-days.
Unlike 95%+ of real estate agents, we understand what real estate investors are looking for. A typical agent thinks getting a property for 5-10% below market is a great deal. We understand that the purchase price should be driven by your ROI or CAP rate, not a discount off the asking price. Other issues we consistently see real estate investors exposed to with average agents:
- Agents not requiring in purchase offers that sellers must supply information on existing tenants prior to closing the purchase. Too many times an owner has hired us to manage their new rental purchase, yet never received a lease, rent ledger, rental application or even tenant contact information!
- Agents not telling real estate investors about Michigan Property Transfer Affidavits. They must be recorded at the city assessor office within 45 days of purchase or a $5/day fine is charged, maximum $200. More importantly, an owner won’t receive tax bills, assessment notices or any other city communications – which can lead to serious problems.
- Most agents have no idea how to evaluate a neighborhood for rental viability. We feel it’s important for an owner to know if a neighborhood is a “A”, “B”, “C” or “D”. We won’t manage properties in “D” areas because they only attract the worst tenants who never pay on time and trash the property. Agents will often sell you a bad property, get their commission and never deal with you again.
Based on your “deal” criteria, we setup automated MLS searches for you that you can choose to receive daily, weekly, etc. We’re available to discuss and review properties you identify for possible purchase. Since most properties listed for sale have multiple pictures and your purchase offer should include an inspection clause, we don’t visit properties to pre-screen them unless you want to pay for an Evaluation. Once you have a property under contract to purchase, we can assist with scheduling a formal Inspection or Evaluation. We can also obtain bids for any necessary work at this point.
Upon you purchasing a new rental property, we can start repairs and advertising for tenants.
NOTE: we also have access to properties that you can’t find on the MLS that are distressed and therefore have discounted prices. These come and go, but we will also forward them to you as we find them.
No matter how or where you find a property, we want to assist in ensuring it’s a good rental – especially if we’re going to manage it. So, we offer Desktop ($100), DriveBy ($200) & Full Access Evaluations ($300) and credit up to 50% back to you if we’re hired to manage it.
Our onsite Evaluations will include a narrated video of the property, pointing out any potential issues, with feedback for repairs, typically labeled: required, recommended and optional. We believe “rental properties should be maintained to the neighborhood”, to avoid over improving and wasting money or ignoring repairs and becoming a slumlord. Depending on timing issues, for a $150 fee we can also provide a bid for any necessary work.
We evaluate neighborhoods as “A”, “B”, “C” or “D” based on multiple demographic factors. These determine rents and more importantly, what type of tenant you can expect and what standards the property must be brought up and maintained to.
Our goal is that you purchase a rental property with high probability of being profitable. This requires knowing what repairs and challenges to expect, so surprises are limited.