Category Archives: property management

walkway with landscaping

Fall Landscaping to Prep for Winter 

The work of a property management company is never really done. There are tasks to be completed during every season. Fall is no exception to that rule. In fact, this time of year is critical to ensuring that steps are taken to prepare the landscaping including the lawn, walkways, and driveways for the onslaught of a typical New England winter. 

Responsive and proactive property management companies know that there are many tasks that should be completed during this time of year to ensure that residents and visitors alike will remain safe and that the landscaping will flourish in the coming year. 

Here are a few of those steps that your management team may want to consider. 

gazebo and green grass

Landscaping 

While the growing season may be almost done, there is still much to do to ready the grass, shrubs, and trees for the winter season. 

We all know that winter can be fairly wild here in Massachusetts but if you take the right care of your landscaping you will find the winter more bearable and the spring to reap rewards of your fall efforts. 

  • Rake all leaves and remove them from the property. This will help the grass breathe and stop leaves from becoming slipping issues along your walkways and driveways. 
  • Aerate grass and apply the last fertilizer. 
  • Cut grass for the final time during the season. 

In order to protect your shrubbery and ornamental plants from the cold and snow build-up our region can experience, you may want to take further steps. 

  • Prune trees to ensure spring flowering will occur. 
  • Trim dead or broken branches so they won’t fall during winter storms. 
  • Protect shrubbery against winter water loss by protecting it in a layer of mulch. 
  • Wrap tender plantings in burlap or by building an A frame wooden protection system around bushes that are open to heavy snow. 
  • Minimize salt damage by having an area to shovel or plow snow that will not impact plantings. 

pavers in circle

Hardscaping 

Non-organic aspects of your landscaping such as the walkways, stone walls, and driveways will need upkeep during the fall months as well. 

Make sure you have removed all leaves and debris after the majority of foliage has fallen. This will save you time and effort in the spring and keep your walkways and driveways safe for your residents to walk. 

Provide driveways guides for your snow plow operators to visually see the edges to stop damage to sidewalks and landscape areas. 

Place salt containers in easily accessible areas so residents can use them if their cars become stuck on ice or snow. This will also make it easier for your shovel crew to salt after each storm. 

Prep now so that your New England winter will go smoothly no matter what Mother Nature sends our way. 

 

condo building

Filling Rental Vacancies Fast 

As a side effect of the pandemic, many rental properties have remained vacant for longer than usual. Whether it is due to college and universities going remote, so students no longer need their rental, or a major shift to suburban living overcrowded city life, apartments that are usually a hot commodity have slowed down in rental allure. Thus, filling rental vacancies has become a pivotal part of property management responsibilities. 

Here are a few ideas that may help landlords quickly fill vacancies that may occur over the course of the year. 

Keep Your Listings Current on Your Website

According to RentTec Direct, “72% of renters use the Internet when looking for a new apartment according to a study conducted by Apartments.com and Google which evaluated the top avenue renters use to find their next rental property.”

If you are not keeping your vacancies up-to-date on your site, you may be missing a large portion of renters that find their next apartment online. 

Evaluate Your Pricing 

Your future renters will be doing their homework and shopping around to see which spaces include utilities, which do not, and which ones may offer some sort of amenities such as a yard or outdoor entertaining space. 

Be sure to examine what the market is telling you your rent should be according to current situations. Once you have examined you can easily justify why the rent is set at a certain amount. 

condo pool

Utilize Professional Cleaners 

Apartments that have been professionally cleaned, including the kitchen and bathrooms, appear better to potential renters. If you hire a cleaning crew you will not only save yourself some time and elbow grease, but also make your property look more appealing to those hoping to rent. 

Keep in mind that renters check out every corner of the unit before they sign on the dotted line. By contracting this chore out, you will be maintaining your reputation for having spotless units as well as having renters find the unit above reproach. 

Consider Perks 

If you want to fill your rental quickly with quality renters, consider some perks. 

Offer your current renters (or outgoing renters) referral awards to entice word-of-mouth recommendations. There is nothing better than finding a renter through a referral from someone who has been a quality tenant for years! 

home or rental key

Advertise Immediately

If you do not have a referral program, you should try to advertise a vacancy immediately upon getting notice from the tenants. 

Most rental units come with a requirement of giving 30 days’ notice to the landlord before moving out. Act immediately upon getting the notice to advertise the unit so that there will not be a vacancy the next month. Every time that unit sits empty you are losing income from that space. 

Follow our blogs for more ideas on how to keep your properties well run and efficient now and going forward. 

 

1558 Mass ave Cambridge

Announcing Permanent Financing for 1558 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 

The New England Real Estate Journal (NEREJ), a commercial real estate industry leader, announced this summer permanent financing for the 31-unit apartment house located at 1558 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

Commercial Mortgage Bankers, Fantini & Gorga, located in the Greater Boston region arranged $5.264 million in permanent financing for the quintessential brick building in one of Boston’s most sought-after locations. 

Harvard Square

Classic Harvard Square Location 

Positioned near Harvard University’s campus and directly across from Harvard Law School, the property possesses the classic red brick building feel of historic Harvard Square along with the ease and convenience to local shops and restaurants that stretch from Harvard Square to Porter Square. Just a short walk allows access to unique dining or entertainment opportunities as well as ease of commute to major corporations located in Boston and the surrounding communities.

Originally constructed in the heyday of the 1920’s, the building has some remarkably desirable features such as fireplaces, traditional dining rooms, and original pantries in some of the units. Each feature can become a coveted focal point aesthetically and a talking point for the notable charm of the building.

On the exterior, the five-story building is not only surrounded by grand historic homes in the New England style, but also includes a landscaped courtyard that adds to the beauty of the brick and decorative cast stone exterior. 

Fantini & GorgaFinancing & Property Management 

Buildings with this type of historical significance and location do not come along every day. The financing for this classic property came from an FHA-insured loan placed through Fantini & Gorga correspondent lender, Eastern Mortgage Capital. 

Tim O’Donnell, Principal at Fantini & Gorga, noted that, “We were delighted to be able to structure 35-year fixed-rate financing for this asset, locking in today’s incredibly low rate for the next generation. As always, our correspondent, Eastern Mortgage Capital, underwrote and closed this loan using their unparalleled expertise in the FHA financing field.”

Thayer & Associates, Inc. was proud to play a role in this acquisition of this gorgeous property. Tracey Ficociello, the Property Manager at that time, was the direct interface along with the Property Accountant, David Cores. Together they assisted in completing any requests for information, data gathering, property inspections, and any other tasks the lender required to approve and complete the refinance.

We look forward to many years of delighting in the property at 1558 Massachusetts Ave in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Congratulations to the team at Fantini & Gorga, Eastern Mortgage Capital, and our own team members who were integral in securing financing for this property.

 

 

 

key in door lock

Locks: When Should Property Managers Make the Change? 

Locks are often a last line of defense to robbery attempts or a home invasion. A criminal may be deterred by a few home features such as: exterior motion sensor lights, security systems, and, of course, a locked door. 

Safety and security are two of the most important aspects of property management. According to the FBI, burglary is the most common threat to homes and rental units. 

Knowing this, when should property owners change the locks to a unit? 

Managing keys and lock replacement protocol can become an expensive part of running any community. The average cost of replacing a lock can run from $100-200 for each lock needing to be replaced. Given that most units have more than one entryway, this can add up as renters move on to other living communities. 

The laws regulating whether a landlord (or property management group) is required to change the locks after each tenant vary state-by-state. In fact, some even vary jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction. 

According to LandlordGurus online, “most states require the landlord to provide a functioning deadbolt on all exterior doors to the unit. If it has been damaged, then you may be required to replace it for the new tenant.”

Here are situations when your community may want to consider changing the locks. 

red door

When a Key Has Been Lost or Stolen 

One key can mean the difference between a break-in and a safe evening at home. If you have a tenant who has lost a key or possibly had that key stolen, you may want to change the locks. This one step can show your management company’s commitment to safety in the community. 

When the Property Turns Over

While not always required in every state or municipality, changing the locks when one tenant leaves and another moves in can be a safety measure that can give everyone some peace of mind. 

Tenants may choose to change the locks even if a management company does not. If this is the case, you will need copies of the key and to gain permission for the change. 

When Vendors Have Completed Major Work 

If your community is completing major renovations such as electrical, plumbing, or exterior work that requires the vendors to have copies of keys to access all areas, you may want to consider changing the locks at the completion of the work. 

This will give unit owners a sense of security as they probably have seen the vendors using the buildings and accessing areas with keys. This is also a good way to ensure that any extra keys that may have been used are no longer useful. 

According to Brink Home Security, “Apartment owners or renters should keep their spare keys only in the hands of a trusted few, such as roommates or family members. You should also consider smart locks that help you control who enters and exits with customized entry codes.” 

If you have questions about what is legally required in your state, comment below or contact us about safety in your community. 

old friends walking

What are Typical Guest Policies in a HOA?

Do you like to entertain, have friends or family over, or enjoy the amenities of your community with a friend or two? Do you invite guests to stay overnight at your condo? If so, how long is an acceptable amount of time before guest status becomes resident status?  Let’s take a look at guest policies, their purpose, and some typical details that are meant to protect homeowners. 

two people hugging

What is a Guest Policy?

There are a couple types of guest policies when it comes to homeowners associations. First, there are guest policies in regards to using the amenities at an association. For instance, can a certain number of guests visit the pool, gym, or tennis courts at the association? You may find your HOA has a limit to how many people who can invite to use those amenities. 

Usually these guest policies explain how many guests are allowed as well as appropriate behavior of those guests while using the amenities. 

Beyond use of the community amenities, guest policies are used to differentiate between a long-term visitor and someone who has become a renter in a unit. 

Why Have a Guest Policy? 

Guest policies in a homeowners association are meant to prevent unauthorized, unsafe, and unmonitored rentals or use of a homeowner’s unit. 

For instance, Airbnb or Vrbo rentals for unoccupied units could become a problem for associations if rules are not followed or guests become unruly. 

Having a guest policy protects the association from liability should anything happen to the guest and allows for shared use of amenities in a fair and reasonable manner. 

swimming pool

Typical Policy Details 

At a basic level, curbing unruly guest behavior at the pool, in the common areas, or anywhere on the property is an important detail included in a typical guest policy. Often these policies will limit the number of guests a unit owner can have on the property at any given time. 

Determining when a guest has transitioned over to becoming a resident is important for HOAs, as they will need to know who is living in what unit. In this situation, there are an entirely different set of policies to consider. 

HOAs will want to determine if a guest who may have stayed overnight (on occasion) has become a more permanent part of the community. To determine this, they may need to know if mail is being delivered to the guest, if they have a key to the residence, and if they are paying part (or all) of the rent. 

If your association has noticed any of these behaviors, chances are your short-term guest may have morphed into a long-term guest, or even a resident. At this point their name may need to be added to the HOA paperwork. 

Other, more detailed aspects of a guest policy may include: 

  • How long a guest may stay
  • How many guests are allowed at any one time
  • Maximum occupancy of a unit based upon square footage and safety considerations
  • How many consecutive nights a guest may stay before they are considered a renter
  • Behavior of guests while in common areas 
  • Determinations of who is responsible for the guest during their time in the community

Do you have questions about drafting a guest policy for your community? Talk to our specialists about how this can be accomplished while still allowing homeowners flexibility to entertain and visit with family and friends. 

 

software on a laptop

Benefits of Association Software in 2021

Running an association can be difficult and time consuming work. Responsibilities run the gamut from collecting association payments online to handling vendors for landscaping, electrical work, and plumbing issues. In addition to these tasks, constant communication with the HOA board and association members is necessary to make a property run well. Association software is one way to help streamline these tasks and make them more manageable. 

texting communication

What is HOA Software? 

Software helps most of us stay organized and on top of what’s going on in our home and work lives. For instance, many of us use a calendar program to stay up-to-date on family and work dates. We use accounting software to pay our bills automatically. We may even use a timekeeper app to keep us on schedule. 

HOA software is similar to these personal software programs in that they can help HOA boards or property managers handle a specific aspect of HOA’s operations such as operations, payments, scheduling, and CC&R (Covenants, Conditions, & Restrictions) enforcement. 

Many times HOA software comes in a convenient bundle to manage all of these components of association life, but sometimes specialty platforms and programs should be used to help keep things organized. 

phone apps

What Are the Benefits of HOA Software? 

When it comes to managing an association, software can mean the difference between a well-maintained property and community amenities and one that needs some work. Here are the top benefits for enlisting the help of HOA software in your community. 

Security

HOA’s store and transmit quite a bit of personal and sensitive information including the payment methods, names, addresses, and phone numbers of all the people living in the community. Software that is backed by current security measures can keep that information from being hacked or falling into the wrong hands, ones with malicious intent. 

Streamline Data

Running a property or community means lots of maintaining information from the people who live there as well as from the vendors who help maintain the property. Requests for repairs, reports of CC&R violations, and payments can be done automatically with software at your fingertips. 

Improved Communications 

Depending upon the software you choose, everyone in your community will most likely have some level of access to communications whether it is a weekly newsletter or announcements of changes/repairs that are upcoming in the association. Both internal and external communications can improve by using software to help spread pertinent information to the right groups of people.

For a substantial list of the best software being used by communities across the country and right here in Massachusetts, check out this list of programs or platforms you may want to try out to manage your community.  

 

gazebo and green grass

What Does Landscaping Say About Your Community? 

We all know the old adage that a “picture says a thousand words,” but did you know that landscaping, and the image that it portrays, can be just as important to a homeowners community? 

In fact, according to landscaping professionals, “landscaping can be one of the simplest ways that your community establishes its identity. Simply by insisting on annual flower rotations at entrances and regularly filling in mulch or pine straw, the community keeps a vibrant appearance and demonstrates that the residents care about their homes.” 

Look around your community. What does the landscaping say about your homeowners community? 

landscaped walkway

The Importance of Landscaping 

One of the top reasons why many residents choose living in a community is the bonus of not having to mow, weed, edge, trim, and plan out plantings or gardens every year. 

And, it’s not just during the warm, growing months that landscaping pays off for the community. During the cold winter months, the walkways are shoveled and the driveways plowed and treated by an adept landscaping crew. 

For many residents, this release from having to maintain the landscaping every weekend is enough of a benefit and why they find professional landscaping within the community advantageous. For others, there are a number of ways that landscaping curates an identity for the community. 

Here’s how…

Increases Curb Appeal 

In the world of real estate, curb appeal can either draw in a buyer in seconds or repel them even faster. This is true in single family residences and homeowner’s communities as well. 

Just like at any property, landscaping can send a signal to buyers that the property is well cared for and maintained throughout the year. Well-manicured lawns, carefully edged gardens, flower beds that are weed-free, walkways that are not overgrown, and trees that are mature and healthy can tell a home buyer how healthy the community is as well. If HOA communities hope to attract quality buyers, the landscaping needs to shine. 

walkway with landscaping

Promotes Safety

Landscaping isn’t just about mowing and planting. It is also about maintaining a safe environment for all community members. Professional landscapers can help keep the community safe by trimming and pruning tree branches before storms or ocean winds create a hazardous situation for structures and people living in the area. 

Landscaping also helps promote safety by keeping walkways and driveways clear of debris or overgrown bushes or trees that could pose a hazard for the residents walking or driving in the area. Removal of roots or pavers that are loose in the entertaining areas can prevent falls that could result in injury. 

During the winter months, landscapers often take on the job of shoveling, plowing, and de-icing walkways and steps that could pose a slip-and-fall threat for residents. 

Can Help Maintain & Increase Home Values 

Realtors have found that good landscaping can help maintain and even increase a home’s value. This goes for communities as well as single family homes.

In fact, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) suggests that you can increase your home’s value by 5% to 15% by spending the equivalent percentage on landscape maintenance and upgrades. A home or community’s value can be assessed in one viewing by a potential buyer. Make sure that the first impression is a vibrant and positive one. 

 

rental apartment

The Impact of Covid-19 on the Rental Industry

The outbreak of the coronavirus last year continues to impact the nation socially, medically, and (not surprisingly) financially in major ways. Our hospital systems are stressed, families have gone months without seeing each other, and families are struggling with unemployment issues that are having a ripple effect in the rental industry. Let’s take a closer look at this problem and how it is currently being dealt with in Massachusetts and across the nation. 

medical mask

What the Statistics Tell Us

According to a study conducted on 1,000 U.S. renters by Entrata, a property management software company, showed that most of the study participants started the COVID-19 lockdown with virtually no savings and had to work with apartment management to defer or cancel rent payments. Many renters reported using their stimulus checks to keep a roof over their heads.

Other national research estimates that one third of all tenants did not pay their full April rent on time. Some did not pay because they had lost all sources of income and did not have sufficient savings to cover their bills. Others were waiting for their stimulus checks to arrive before paying the rent. 

Closer to home, newly appointed Boston Mayor, Kim Janey announced late in March that $50 million in new funding for the city’s Rental Relief Fund would be released.

The human impact of these difficulties goes well beyond these statistics and may never really fully be understood. 

the scales of justice

What to Expect Regarding Rental Payments & Potential Evictions

While this issue is extremely fluid and may change and evolve over the next few months, this is where we stand right now. 

Halt on Evictions

Most states have implemented a moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent during the pandemic. More specifically, Nolo, an online legal resource states that, “On September 1, 2020 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an Agency Order titled Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions to Prevent the Further Spread of COVID-19 (Order). The Order went into effect on September 4, 2020, and was extended on December 27, 2021. (See Section 502 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021.). The CDC’s latest order extends the residential eviction ban until at least June 30, 2021.” 

Pause on Utility Shut Offs 

In addition to halting evictions for this year, most states have and paused utility shut-offs due to non-payment. It is a temporary pause, not forgiveness, of the amount owed. 

Rent Relief Bills 

Most rental property owners do not have the luxury of considering rent forgiveness. State governments, however, have started programs for Rent Relief that can help take the pressure off both the tenants and the property owners who also need the income to pay their bills. Massachusetts Rent Relief bill details can be found here for reference. 

 

woman communicating on the phone

How to Maintain Great Communication Between  Homeowners & Property Managers 

How does your community maintain good communication? In light of recent global events, there have been fewer and fewer in-person interactions. This goes for people living within a community as well as every day interactions on the street. Has your community, including property managers and homeowners, adjusted their communication methods to account for these changes? 

Today we are taking a closer look at how communications can (and should) occur within a community. Often homeowners will have building maintenance issues or property managers may have notifications that they would like to pass on to community members. That open and transparent line of communication is critical to keeping a community running smoothly. 

texting communication

How Property Managers Can Foster Good Communication

Property management is a partnership between homeowners/renters and management… with communication as the bridge between both. 

Property managers or even landlords can do a few things to help foster this communication bridge. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Make it easy for tenants or community members to get in touch with you or your team. A published list could help immensely. 
  • Create multiple channels for community members to use for communication including: email, online tools, and have regular call hours where an actual person can be reached to handle problems. You may also want to include an emergency number for after hour emergencies. 
  • Respond quickly to issues. You may want to have a policy of answering emails or online requests within a certain time period. Responsiveness is the key to fostering good communication. 
  • Make it a priority to communicate regularly. You may not feel the need for a monthly email newsletter, but the more informed your community members are, the better relationship you will have with them. 

email and online communications

How Tenants/Community Members Can Foster Good Communication 

On the other side of this partnership are the homeowners/tenants/community members (depending upon your situation). Here are a few ways for people in this position to increase communication. 

  • Prioritize your communications. In other words, if you have a list of maintenance issues be sure to state in writing what is most important. Less pressing issues may need to wait.
  • Put all communications in writing, if possible. Phone calls are a different story, but you may want to note what day and time, as well as the person you spoke to, when you called to report a problem for future reference. 
  • Give as much detail as possible for your requests. For instance, what is the problem, how long has it been happening, and details about the problem that could help resolve it. 

Transparent communication, whether it happens in writing, virtually, or over the phone is a hallmark of a great partnership between property management companies and their owners. 

student reading library book

The Pros and Cons of Renting to College Students

Is your rental property located in a college town? If so, you may be considering opening up your rental units to students who attend classes at the neighboring college or university. If you have doubts about renting to a less mature group, be sure to know the perks that you may be missing out on if you pass up this opportunity. Is renting to college students in your best financial interest? 

College students often come with a bad rap, but there are some key factors that may balance out the risk of renting to this group. Read on to find out what college renters are looking for and whether this rental relationship may be advantageous or conversely, disastrous for your and your property. 

college lecture hall

What College Age Students Are Looking for in a Rental

According to the College Board, 44% of college students live off campus. That translates into millions of students looking for housing each and every year. In the college saturated region of New England, college towns dot the map from Maine to Connecticut and can provide a huge chunk of revenue for small towns and big cities alike. 

College students are often looking to live off campus in residential housing in later years of college in order to spread their wings and potentially save a little bit on room and board costs. They search for characteristics such as:

 

  • Proximity to campus
  • Affordability
  • Proximity to public transit
  • Walkability
  • Security of the neighborhood
  • Laundry facilities
  • Access to Wi-Fi

Benefits to Renting To College-Aged Students 

Given the list above, the property’s location, and amenities granted by your rental unit(s), you may be in a position to benefit by opening up your rental agreements to college students attending school nearby. 

High Demand 

To start with, the demand and stability of rentals in college towns or cities is constantly high. The turnover every year and the fresh load of students means you will rarely have a vacancy. With thousands of students on the hunt for vacancies you will be able to fill your rentals easily every year. 

Higher Rent Yield 

The housing market is all about supply and demand. With the demand for college town rentals incredibly high, owners or property managers can generate higher cash flow than traditional investment properties. According to Fortune Builders, an average house near a college town can yield 30-40% higher rents than the same house five miles away.

Lower Marketing Costs 

Renting an apartment or multiple units in some areas can be costly. Advertising in newspapers and online can add up to a significant cost depending upon your turnover rate. With college students competing for rental, you will not need to invest as much in your advertising budget. 

university building

Risks of Renting To College Students 

The risks or disadvantages to renting to students that are less mature run the gamut from being late with payments to noise complaints. Here are a few things to take into consideration when weighing the pros and cons of renting to this group. 

  • Increased risk of damage that will need repairs. 
  • No rental or credit history to access prior to approving a rental agreement. 
  • Potential noise complaints. 
  • Potential late or missed payments. 
  • Frequent turnover at the end of each school year. 
  • Potential local regulations. 

Deciding to rent to college students can be a complex one. Be sure to do your due diligence as to looking into local regulations as well as those required by the neighboring schools. In the end, do your research and plan knowing the best and the worst of what it could be like when opening your units to college-aged students.