Category: Blog

Contra Costa County Property Investment: 9 Essentials to Fill It & Keep It Full

contra costa property managementLots of Contra Costa property investors will start with one apartment, find that managing it is not difficult and keep going, till they own a portfolio of handsome properties. Enjoying a steady predictable stream of income is just one of the benefits of investing in and holding onto residential properties.

Ask around though, and you’ll find that very few residential property investors are living the high life. Managing properties is still hard work and you’ll be surprised how many investors lose money simply because they can’t keep with the pace of work. Should a house sit empty for any length of time, you’re going to start losing – even seeing significant depreciation. Nobody likes an empty house. These essentials are the bare minimum you’re going to need to do to keep that property occupied and the rent flowing in.

For any one of the following areas you may find that you need outside support and that becomes doubly true with every property you add to your portfolio. … Continue reading

Seven Basic Services Your Property Management Should Be Providing. Are They?

A real estate investment can seem like a scary place to put your money. You’re not sure which way things will go. So many factors can affect whether you come out on top that you really need to do your homework.

Hiring a property management company is one way to reduce the variables. The range of responsibilities you’ll pay them for are – each and every one of the – going to reduce the level of risk. Let’s go quickly through the most basic things you should be getting from your property manager. … Continue reading

The 5 Essentials of Turning Good Tenants into Long-Term Tenants

Finding good tenants and getting them into a property is something any good property manager studies. The process becomes fixed, obsessive at times and it’s going on year-round in bigger management offices.

Funny enough, it would be a lot less necessary if the good tenants are treated just a little better, and the bad ones let go just a little sooner. These five essential practices are intended to keep you from continually needing to search for new, good, stable and responsible tenants. Keep them in mind after leases are signed, and you’ll be signing far fewer leases.

1) Educate Regularly

Not continually, and not intensively. But lots of tenants don’t get the rules from their lease or from anything else. Good tenants are interested in maintaining a good place to live and a good relationship with you and other tenants. It’s your job to educate them about the policies, the procedures, the reasons for some of the restrictions, inspections, maintenance visits and how they can and should help. Finding out who’s cooperative (and who’s not) is on your agenda too. Keep up with it.

2) Property Management is 90% Customer Service

Keep up with repair requests. Diligence, attentiveness and some small favors go a long way toward keeping tenants happy. Follow up on contractors who come in – with your tenants. Make sure they’re satisfied with all the service. The occasional check-in call is important, too. Good tenants will report what they need, but not if they don’t know yet how available you, your office or your staff are. Let them know and be human about all of it. Reasonableness is another essential. A month or so after they’ve moved in is a good time to remind new tenants about any scheduled maintenance or similar routine visits.

3) Reward Longer Leases & Referrals

If you can do 18 or 24-months, let your tenants know there’s something in it for them. Discounted rents, or limited increases are one reward. Probably a little more common are carpet cleanings, ceiling fans or discount coupons from favored contractors or service agencies. But be sure too, that tenants want to stay longer or to have some say in who they’re neighbors are.

4) Understand Exceptions

Exceptions aren’t for everyone. But with good tenants, you should be prepared to forgive or relax. That can mean, after a year of no late payments, waiving a late fee for one late payment. It can mean forgoing a rent increase. But you have to retain the option to be flexible and to be a little more open.

5) Existing Tenants Are Better than New Tenants

Lastly, why is this one last? Red carpets and movie tickets and printed address labels are great for new tenants. Sparkling wine may be going too far, but all these things are just as good – or better – for the people who’ve been with you the longest. Don’t leave them out. If you really are struggling to find the new people, ask the existing, and share the very same incentives with them when you do.

If you’ve had an exceptionally good experience with long term tenants, we’d like to hear about it at

5 Things Tenants Want from Your Rental Property

Keeping your rental property full is not just the goal of a good property manager, it’s also the topic of hundreds of article, pages and online forums. It’s pored over by professionals from loud-talking investment gurus to quieter investment clubs and the old lady who inherited her spouse’s portfolio.

One of the big problems comes when you start looking at tenants as mere aspects of your investment, and forgetting that they’re people. Making people happy is a lot easier than understanding numbers and projecting figures and investing, period. So let’s take a quick look at how to make the people in your property happy so that they lend a hand in filling up any other units – and so that all of them stay put.

In particular for anyone managing and renting single-family homes, keeping tenants in place can present a challenge in terms of simple space.  While they can’t gang up on you, and most likely tenants don’t even know of other tenants with the same landlord, they will pack up and leave just as easily. Losing a month or even two will put a big dent in your bottom line.

1) Customer Service

Start with it, and keep it. Establishing rapport means, your tenants are paying customers and they expect (or maybe they’ll be surprised) to be treated like customers. They’ll accept rules and all kinds of explanations – but take the time to explain them so that your customers understand why and all the limits and give them the time they need to ask whatever questions they have. Explain your business hours, and when they can contact you for non-emergencies, and keep up with them. They’ll always appreciate having a good customer service rep call them back in a timely manner – and they’ll stick with you if you provide it.

2) Move-In Package

Single family homes are generally rented to families with kids. They move from further away and consider your property with respect to their kids, often first and foremost. In fact, some of them would even sacrifice square footage for a better school. Establishing and maintaining a good relationship with them can mean, early on, respecting and assisting with all of these needs. You know the schools, the services and utilities and the moving companies. So, just like we’re trying to do here, providing the right information, upfront, and for later reference goes a long way toward reaching tenants, and keeping them in close contact for the long term.

3) Regular Maintenance

Just as your renting out a clean, newly painted property, you should also spell out what regular inspections or maintenance tasks are necessary. Furnace or air conditioning maintenance is not something you should expect tenants to provide. At the same time though, to ensure long-term relationships you may also offer to send a painting crew once every couple of years. Clear it with your tenants and let them pick the colors. It shouldn’t cost you more than a half a months rent, and a carpet cleaning company or yard maintenance will be deeply appreciated.

4) Respect

Professional protocol means calling and scheduling a visit. No knocking on doors. Outside of a true emergency, your tenants want fair warning, just as they expect from a visit from any professional. Your Move-In Package should already include information on what regular visits they should expect, but you still want to call first to remind them if one is coming up and schedule a time convenient for the tenant.

5) Convenience

Just like they pay their cable and telephone bills, tenants want to be able to easily pay the rent online [ ]. They’ll appreciate being able to request a repair or report any problems, and the interface, online, is a lot easier to keep professional, even if you really are managing properties from your kitchen table. Whatever you can do to keep it easy, professional and convenient will keep your tenants pleased and appreciative.

That said, showing some appreciation goes a long way too. Thank you cards are probably too much, but an annual holiday card is perfectly in order. Gift cards or similar incentives for referring tenants are always well received and for something special – like reporting a problem early – it’s also in your interest to personally call them and thank them for the warning.

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9 Tips for Investing in Contra Costa County Foreclosures

Contra Costa county may be always on the up and up, but there are still very good opportunities for foreclosure investments. When you sell, or when your property is out on the rental market you should be ready to see the results. But good long-term revenue takes a little work.

These nine tips are for anyone, seasoned or newby, interested in Contra Costa’s real estate market. There are dozens of opportunities but finding the right one requires that you shop carefully, do your due diligence and be ready to jump on the right opportunity.

These are nine of the most important tips we’re regularly advising investors to follow.

  1. Start Early. Don’t plan on buying immediately – but start your research on Trulia , for example, and keep at it. You want to be able to develop a general idea of what prices are, and when and where they are likely to change.
  2. Take Advantage of Current Mortgage Rates. Short-term and long-term mortgage rates are excellent, but you should shop around here too. Your own financial picture and what you’re hoping to do with the property could put you in the market for a higher payment and a far shorter term. And of course, being preapproved is not only a terrific shot in the arm, but can be absolutely necessary for buying a bank-owned property.
  3. Plan strategically. Understanding what prices are and where they will go doesn’t mean you can work miracles. Renovating a foreclosure above the going rates in a given neighborhood is always a bad idea. Buyers who want a more expensive property will simply go to a more expensive neighborhood.
  4. Shop solo. No tours or group outings to distressed neighborhoods. The risks of not only for bidding wars, but of muddled “group-think” – and even friendly competition – are simply too high. If you do want to hash things out, speak with a neutral advisor, rather than with a competitor.
  5. Location. It may be the oldest tip in the book, but if your planning on renting a property out, and managing it yourself, then you’ll want to carefully consider how far you’re willing to drive. In general, a property management company should be able triple or even quadruple the area you’ll be able to cover.  RealtyTrac generally has some of the best statistics on the Contra-Costa county scene, and on many others besides.  Don’t forget to check the rental rates in an area too, not only for median rental rates, but
  6. Distressed Neighborhoods! – Taking into account the above, a neighborhood with a lot of foreclosures is probably not going to offer much return on your investment. That’s another reason to avoid the tours or investment groups.
  7. Stay ahead of Default Notices. Contacting a homeowner before a Notice of Default is posted is not necessarily a bad idea. Competition after a default notice appears will frequently heat up the price After the NOD appears in the papers competition for the property can heat up. Current owners may accept an offer specifically to avoid foreclosure and this can mean a very good opportunity for you. Short Sales though, those where you offer even less than the balance due on the mortgage, will need the go-ahead from a lender.
  8. Repairs!  Vacant or distressed properties often need considerably more repair and rehab than happily inhabited homes. Be prepared. You won’t be able to negotiate a better price as most foreclosures are sold as is.
  9. REO Properties. Though the opportunity for something really below market value is not so good, bank-owned properties sold through a Real Estate Brokerage are the safest. Lenders with a bigger inventory are more likely to respond to your offer and let some properties go at levels below market value, if not at a truly terrific price.

One final thing to understand in buying any foreclosed property is that the seller – is a bank! Their job is simply to get as much money as possible. Discounts tend to max at about 8% of a list price. And banks are frequently unable to accept or refuse offers at anytime other than normal “banking hours.” That can be a real drag when you spot a good deal over the weekend. Remember that mortgage pre-qualification letter or proof that you have the funds (if you’re paying in cash) is essential to getting nearly any offer accepted.

If you have questions or to learn more about investing in foreclosures and property management services in the area, contact Best Property Management, Inc.