Statewide Legal Aid for Low-income Landlord

Volunteer Lawyer Project

     The Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) of the Boston Bar Association runs a statewide program helping Massachusetts’s low-income “mom-and-pop” landlords, called the Landlord Advocacy Project. It began in 2020 to help small landlords struggling to pay their mortgages and utilities due to their tenants’ inability to pay rent and other legal issues owner-occupants of a 2-3 family home may face. The services the Landlord Advocacy Project offers are free for income-eligible landlords.

I attached the project’s press release and materials for your review. You can also visit the project’s webpage to learn more here:

Massachusetts Rental Assistance Programs

It is no secret that for the past several years the prices of real estate and rents have been rising not only in Massachusetts but across the country. Since March 2020 there have been several emergency rental assistance programs created that are available to families to help to be able to pay their rent, and as homeowners, to help pay mortgages, and several types of other deferment and delayed payment packages available.

Since 2020 we have seen a lot of changes in the programs. Over the years we’ve assisted several of our landlord clients to collect tens of thousands of dollars from these government programs and help keep families in their homes. As time goes on and the threat of a worldwide pandemic diminishes, we are seeing the window of opportunity slowly start to tighten and in time, we think we will eventually see this opportunity decline.

But there is still hope! There is still assistance available but you must take action immediately to take advantage of all that is still available.

We have been watching the availability of funding change over time. At the beginning of The pandemic there were programs that would pay rent in arrears all the way back to March 2020 with an advance rental stipend paying up to three months in advance to help families and renters. We have seen families reap the benefits of 10k up to 20k to even as high as $30,000 to pay rents in arrears and keep families in their homes.

Within the last month we have seen a new wave of revisions to the current assistance packages and programs. While there is still money available to help families who may be falling behind in rent, the coffers are not as generous as they once were. But they are still available for families in need.

At the time of the writing of this article the current Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) package covers the following parameters.

  • Up to $10,000 per household
  • Within a 12-month period
  • One month pre-paid advance rent stipend

The program will now offer rental assistance up to $10,000 within a 12-month period per household. However, the three month advance rental stipend has gone away. They will now only allow one month of an advance rental stipend but there is a catch. You actually “have to ask for it in writing” or they will not offer it to you. If you are filling out a RAFT application be sure to ask for the extra advanced rent stipend in writing or you are not going to get it.

There are other assistance packages out there available but right now RAFT seems to be the most popular option. A quick Google search for rental assistance in Massachusetts will get you some other options available as well. For the RAFT program there are a few hurdles to jump through but you may easily apply for the assistance online.

A landlord can fill out the online application as a “tenant advocate” or, the renter themselves may go online to initiate the process. It is illegal for a landlord to refuse a tenant access to these funds. If you are a renter, you need to go onto the website and file the application to get it started. Then a caseworker will reach out to the landlord to get the rest of the documents needed for the approval process.

If you are the renter, you will need to draft a brief letter explaining the hardship. You may have just received a rental increase of $200 to $300. You may have seen increases in other bills with the most recent inflation numbers. You may have medical bills which have knocked your budget totally off the rails. Or you may have worked hard your entire life now just to find your retirement benefits are not enough to meet your needs.

Whatever the case may be, if you are in need there is help available. You can still submit your hardship statement online and upload it to start your case file. The state will then reach out to the landlord and request a list of documents to complete the application process.

Some of the documents your landlord will need to provide are:

  • The deed to prove ownership
  • An ACH direct deposit form
  • A W9 IRS form for the stipend recipient
  • A copy of the rental agreement or lease
  • A rent ledger showing arrears
  • A resident agent form from your property manager if applicable
  • Sometimes a valid photo ID is required from the landlord or property manager as well

Once the RAFT application is filed and the process is started then any attempts by the landlord to evict a tenant are put on an automatic freeze. The courts will not allow a landlord to evict a tenant once there is a RAFT application on the table. If your landlord does bring you to court for nonpayment of rent all you have to do is file the RAFT application and they will continue the case. At that point the courts will get involved to fast track the RAFT application for the tenant and the landlord to be made whole.

It may take as many as 6 to 8 weeks for the application to be completed. Then the checks will be sent directly to the account designated in the rental application. The rent checks cannot be paid to the tenant. They must be paid to the landlord or the property manager. That’s how the system works.

Again this is not a one time shot. At the current time within a 12-month period there is a $10,000 allowance per family household. But if you fall behind again, then you have to start the process all over again. The landlord, I repeat, cannot evict you if you are applying for the RAFT rental assistance and they must work with you to fill out the assistance application.

Below are some of the online links to the government assistance pages where you can get the rental assistance application process started.

Applying for Rental Assistance

Emergency Housing Payment Assistance during COVID-19

Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program

Homeowners can continue to access the federal Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF)

Free legal aid is available to assist low-income tenants with referrals, legal information, and legal representation for evictions statewide.

On our company website we have also compiled scores of other types of websites and assistance programs for families in need. These links cover a range from fuel assistance programs, EBT food cards. Senior care and housing programs, other state venues and programs, and a host of other non-profit associations and assistance programs with a heart to help families in need.

Belaire Property Management LLC – Links

The links on these pages will be a good start to help your family. It’s going to take some work and some effort, but there is help available. You do need to ask for it and there may be a level of hard work involved to fill out the application process.

But at the end of the day it is everyone’s goal to keep families in their homes.

Brian Lucier
NWCLA President

Top 10 Due Diligence Tips for Buying Real Estate Investment Property

During an Interview with Henry Ford the reporter asked Mr. Ford, “How is it that you have become so successful?” to which Mr. Ford replied. “By making good decisions”. After thinking about his answer for a moment the reporter then asked, “How do you make good decisions?” to which Mr. Ford answered, “By having experience”. Again after some thought the reporter asked, “How did you get experience?” Mr. Henry Ford looked directly at the reporter and responded, “By making bad decisions.”

At Belaire Property Management we have been property managers since 2001 and have seen a lot over the years from properties we have bought, and from properties our clients have bought. One thing for sure is that each property, each deal, and each transaction is completely different and that no two properties are the same. We have made some huge mistakes, which have taught us a lot, hence the bad decisions. Probably the biggest mistake we ever made was buying a vacant bank-owned property four-plex with the utilities off and we were never able to check the furnaces. You guessed it. The heating system was shot and cost us in the neighborhood of $24k to resolve the issue, hence the experience.

We have also have had some pleasant surprises in our property adventures. One property we purchased had gross ugly carpeting that all had to be torn out. Low and behold, for some reason the previous owner thought it would be a good idea to cover up gorgeous hardwood floors with rugs. That saved us a boatload of cash and in the end gave us an even better product in our inventory to glean a higher rent. Good decision!

So if you have never bought a property before, or even if you have accumulated a healthy portfolio to provide you wealth for you and your family what should you be looking for when purchasing a property? Well, there is no one-size-fits-all to always get a deal with a positive outcome. If I had to sum it up, for every 100 properties you look at, you may see 10 that fit your criteria, and from those maybe three might be in the wheelhouse of being a good deal. From those three that you would place offers on, one or two may never make it to the closing table at all. So the rule of thumb may be closer to 1 out of 100 properties you look at may be a diamond in the rough. So you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find that prince.

I do not write all this to discourage you. On the contrary, this is to encourage you! Finding a deal is a numbers game. The more frogs you kiss, the closer you are to finding a prince. So get out there and get busy. You will find your deal that ticks all of the boxes on your criteria. But you need to be looking for it to find it. “Let me give you this perfect deal that will make you a boat load of cash”, said no one ever!

So are there guidelines to help you get through the jungle of deals out there? What are some of the keys factors we look at to avoid wasting our precious time when we are on the hunt for deals? I’m sure there are all kinds of ways to answer these questions that will far exceed what we will be sharing with you shortly for due diligence. You may never find out “everything” you need to know about a property, but the following list will definitely help to save you time and money to make “better decisions”.

So let’s review the top 10 due diligence tips and tactics to get you into your first property, or help you continue to grow your real estate inventory empire. The following are some good places to start your Easter Egg Hunt and I would suggest that you visit each one of these BEFORE actually showing up and looking at the property. The reason I suggest this is because it will give you a clearer complexion of the property before you become enamored with the paint colors, or details and finishes of the property. I have seen this happen way too many times. A prospective buyer visits the property, does a quick balance sheet then “falls in love” with the deal because they love the hardwood floors, or the Victorian millwork, or this or that. Then tunnel vision sets in and they start to manipulate that spreadsheet to “make” the deal work and leave some pretty important factors off the table while considering if this is a deal, or not a deal. Let’s get started.


Top 10 Due Diligence for Buying Real Estate Investment Property

  1. Building Department
  2. Municipalities (Water, Sewerage, Utilities)
  3. Board of Health
  4. Assessor’s Office/Land Records
  5. City Surveyor Office
  6. Fire Department
  7. Police Department
  8. Google Maps
  10. The Neighbors

Let’s take these one at a time to see what factors may influence your buying decisions. Again, I cannot stress this enough. It would be a better idea to visit city hall and consider these factors BEFORE seeing the property. This will give you a better idea of what type of deal you are looking at before you actually see the physical property. Then the whole process of seeing the property becomes more like connecting the dots from what you have found at city hall to the physical address. 


#1. Building Department

So many times I have started my journey of buying a property here. Usually I do this after a drive by but before I even seeing the inside of the building for the first time. Here is where you can see the whole complexion of the property, warts and all. You would be surprised at how helpful the Building Inspector will be if you walk into their office seeking their assistance. They are public servants after all and have the best interest of the general public at heart. Their job is to keep the people in the buildings safe.

So what is the purpose of this social visit with the Building Inspector? Well it may be a little known fact that each property in the city has a folder open to the public where you may view all reports, inspections, letters to the owners and most important; a record of all permits ever pulled for the property. This is a jackpot of data where you can find out everything that was ever done where a permit was pulled, or, where one was not! Now, when you go back to visit the property and see that brand new kitchen remodel with new lighting fixtures, plugs, and new appliances like a built-in microwave or dishwasher, you will be able to verify that all of the work was done with a permit and signed off by the building inspector.

The same goes for that new bathroom, plumbing, electrical plugs, windows, and all types of other renovation projects that will make you get emotionally involved with the property and possibly overlook the obvious; no pulled permits. Also, you could end up holding the bag should there be an insurance claim at the property for shoddy workmanship. Let’s say, “Chuck in a truck did some electrical work in the kitchen”. Now later down the road, that plug he installed may have caught fire because Chuck never tested the circuit load. Your insurance company’s first stop will be to the building department to make sure that work was performed by a licensed, insured electrician; which Chuck, was not. Your property may have some substantial property damages, but one thing it will not have is an insurance claim check to cover the repairs, because you guessed it, no pulled permit.

This is a really great idea to check the building department first. You may find that everything in the folder is in order; permits match the work that was performed. Heck, you may even find the work is under some sort of warranty that makes the deal even better. Either way, your job is to connect the dots from what is in property folder to what you will see at the property.


#2. Municipalities (Water, Sewerage, Utilities)

The same goes here for the municipalities. Are the water bills paid up current? Are there any outstanding work orders or issues the city has with the property? When was the last time the water meter was changed? This is another great opportunity to find out more about the property then you are going to see on the listing sheet.

You can also find out if there is any other abnormal water usage at the property. This might be an indication of having to change out some toilets or other fixtures that are wasting water and energy. These can be good leverage points to possibly renegotiate the terms or get an allowance at the closing table to correct the issues. The time you will spend here for the savings you will receive is just a drop in the bucket.


#3. Board of Health

I cannot state enough how important this step is. Just like at the building department, there is a public file on the property that the Board of Health Commissioner will be happy to share with you. They know that you as a property buyer are going to come into their town and make things better, making their job easier. Right? Reviewing the folder is valuable enough but actually hearing from the inspector what the problem was and how it was resolved can be enlightening. I have had the opportunity to find out so much more about the property by listening to the stories about the property directly from the inspector with first hand knowledge of the property conditions. Either way, you cannot lose. You do not want the first time you meet the Commissioner when they are on your property writing up code violations from a complaint. Even worse. What if you do find violations? You are going to be responsible to bring the property into compliance once it is your name on the deed. These problems do not go away on the transfer of ownership. They follow the sale with all of the deadlines and compliance issues to the new owner.

I have seen property folders that go back for decades that have revealed all kinds of violations including mold, water damages, unsafe exterior staircases, and like types of property issues. Now that you are armed with the history of the property, you can connect the dots to the Building Inspection folder. Did that shaky staircase you saw in the Board of Health folder get replaced with the new one you saw at the property by a licensed insured contractor, and did they pull a permit? Did all of those other violations get taken care of with permits and licensed contractors too? I think you are starting to see the bigger picture.


#4. Assessor’s Office/Land Records

As you would imagine, the Assessor’s office also will be a wealth of knowledge for you before you make an offer to purchase. This will be an opportunity to verify the tax information you saw on the MLS Property Proforma supplied to you by the Realtor. You also need to see the last sale or purchase price that tax value was assessed at. The price and taxes the current owner is paying may be based on a lower sales price than you are going to be paying. So, even though you were able to verify the previous sales price and the tax rate the previous owner paid; you should be able to figure out what your new taxes will be based on the new sales price. The Assessor Office can help you with the mill rate to determine your new tax bill to use in your profit and loss spreadsheet for the building. This will give you a better idea of where you stand on your bottom line.

You will also be able to find out if the taxes are current. Sure, this will usually be addressed at the closing table from the proceeds of the sale. But what if the seller is upside down, meaning they owe more than the proceeds of the sale. Well, just like the other sections preceding this one regarding responsibility and compliance, you will be on the hook to bring the taxes up to date.

Land records web sites are an invaluable resource in your property search investigation. We once uncovered a property in pre-foreclosure that had almost $135K in mechanics liens, municipality liens, credit card debit liens, all on the property we were going to buy. We were not going to be able to close the deal without settling the debt. We did end up buying that property and because we knew about the liens, we were able to negotiate some of them down to be paid at the closing table and were also able to further renegotiate the purchase price offer. In the end, we helped the town, the contractors, the credit card companies, and the seller by getting them out from under a mountain of debt and repairing their credit.


#5. City Surveyor Office

The Surveyor’s Office will also be helpful in establishing the boundaries of the property. Boundaries not just on the map, but from neighbors, possible easements, fences over the property line, swimming pools, or deck add-ons that encroach on your property. This can work both ways for you. You may find that the property has additional acreage that may allow you to split the lot or in some other way repurpose the property as a hidden gem adding value to the deal. Or, you may find that that new addition off the back of the property was built with a permit by a licensed contractor, but no one ever checked with a survey and it has to come down. Talk about coloring outside of the lines with some pretty expensive crayons.

This is also the fastest way to find out who owns the properties next to you. Most cities and towns have upgraded to online systems so you can do some of the work without leaving the comfort of your chair. You can also use the satellite view, which might give you a better idea of where the property lines are in accord with the visual boundaries of the property. All of this information should give you some ideas as to what you might try to do with the property. If it is all straightforward information, it doesn’t hurt to double check the property before writing a check for the property. If you do see something that raises a question, then there should be enough time in your due diligence window to hire a professional surveyor to mark off the property. However, if your investigation discovers some unknown fact that may influence your decision to buy the property, then this was time well spent.

Right here on our own street where we live we had an entertaining event unfold before us. We have two neighbors across the street that own dogs. Well as you can imagine as the dogs did their business, one of the homeowners made it their business to get in the other owner’s face about it because they did not like the dog. They began to antagonize them with taunts and complaints. Finally, the situation reached a head and the neighbor being attacked decided to put up a fence to end the issue once and for all. When the surveyor came out and tagged the property boundaries for the fence things got really interesting. Apparently when the builder landscaped the lots prior to the sale with retaining walls, bark mulch, trees, and other shrubs and rocks that suggested where one property ended and the other began.

What the survey uncovered was that the actual property line shifted almost 15 feet into the complaining neighbor’s yard all the way up to the edge of their driveway. Not only was it verified that all this time the accused dog was actually staying in his own yard, but the property line had shifted so severely that the complaining neighbor had to remove a small playground and wood pile that was on the other property owner’s land. The new boundary also determined that much of the landscaping that the complaining neighbor assumed was theirs had just become the property of their neighbor. Armed with this information from a professional survey, the accused neighbor decided not to build a fence, just enforce the boundary.


#6. Fire Department

In some parts of the country, especially New England, it was a common practice to bury oil supply tanks under ground. After decades of time, renovations and service upgrades, there may be no remaining evidence on site that there ever was an oil tank hidden underground. This is where your local Fire Department comes in handy. It is a little known fact that Fire Departments actually do keep records on underground oil tanks within their jurisdiction. Knowing the tank is there is only half the issue. If the tank ever failed down the road and began to leak, you could be looking at tens of thousands of dollars to clean up a Hazmat spill. All of this the Fire Department could have told you up front if you had only asked.

On the lighter side of the Fire Department, it would not be a bad idea to talk to the Lieutenant or Chief about the property. Are there any violations to Fire Code that they know about that you should be made aware of? Building Code, Health Code, Energy Code, and even Fire Code changes from time to time.

I have seen multi-family properties that pass the inspection for fire, smoke, and CO detector compliance certificates to meet the minimum standards to close the purchase and sale, only to be tagged a few months later for a 110 Building Code Inspection that did not pass muster. The result was the new owner was broadsided with a compliance price tag that was in the $13K price range. All of this was for a property that had passed compliance for the closing, but not for occupancy to let anyone live there.


#7. Police Department

You have heard it said a thousand times in real estate. The three most important factors to buying the right property are “Location, Location, Location.” You can change the property, but you can’t change the neighborhood. Over the years I have seen so many would be buyers overlook the neighborhood because they fall in love with the features of the property, or even worse, the spreadsheet. Let the truth be told. You cannot change the location of the property. If your hidden gem is nestled in a high crime ridden area, there is no bucket of paint or flower boxes that is going to change where the property is. We made this mistake early on in our acquisition history. We bought a three family property in what seemed to be a quiet neighborhood (by day at least). The property showed nicely, and had some quality features from a recent renovation that enticed us to make an offer. Heck, we even bought it for a discounted price and I remember how happy we were after the closing thinking we had negotiated such a great purchase price. How little did we know?

Soon after that, we started to realize we might have made a mistake. For some reason, when we started to rent out the vacant unit, we were having a lot of “no shows” for viewings. We shrugged it off in the beginning. Not too long after that we were working late at the property getting the unit ready for showings and we started to notice the neighborhood was, well to put it nicely, not so nice at night. We slowly became aware that the adjacent properties had a lot of drug traffic and frequent stops visiting the apartments next door. It wasn’t long before we figured out we bought a property that was in the middle of a drug-infested war zone. It took us about two years to unload that property, at a discount, to the next buyer.

We learned out lesson. Years after this purchase we were considering an out-of-state apartment complex of some 100+ units. This time we got smart. We called the local police department with the address and told the dispatcher we were considering moving into the complex with our two younger boys. We asked the $100k dollar question, “Do you have many calls at that property address?” We then listened to a myriad of stories of crime, thefts, robberies, break-ins and other incidents that centered on this address. The dispatcher divulged to us that there were 351 calls to the police from this address. I guess they got 2 weeks off of good behavior for the Holidays.

The final story they shared with us was that when the Fire Commissioner’s SUV was stolen, this is the address where they found the abandoned vehicle. The police department was very helpful in helping us avoid a major mistake. These are things you will not be told from the person trying to sell the property. Why would they? They are looking for the bigger fool to get them out from under the mistake they made by not checking out the property before they bought it.

You can also do a quick search on line for crime reports in the city you are looking into. There are also city-data web sites where you can find out about crime activity, the types of crimes, and how this area compares to the national, state, or local averages. Again, this is a free phone call that can save you a fortune from buying the wrong property.


#8. Google Maps

This resource is a bit more fun to delve into. If you launch Google Maps on your smart device, laptop, or desktop, you can quickly see the surrounding area without leaving the comfort of your office chair. If you are looking through the satellite view you can quickly locate critical amenities that may make your potential property more appealing to future renters or buyers. You are looking for what the surrounding neighborhoods look like. Is the property near commuter highways, public transportation, shopping centers, restaurants, or other types of service centers your average renter or buyer would want in their neighborhood. It is nice to have privacy, but do you really want to drive an hour round trip at night to pick up a gallon of milk?

There are tons of other features and filters in Google Maps too. You can get right down to the street view in most cases and do a virtual drive around the block. You can see what the houses look like in the surrounding area to ensure you are not buying in a war zone. There are also buttons and filters to locate schools, shopping, business centers, and all kinds of other local facilities that may be attractive to folks moving into the area.



If you are a serious Real Estate Professional then you probably have a Realtor on your team feeding you deals that meet your criteria. This is an absolutely great strategy to get a leg up on your completion to find the deals first and get your offer in fast. But do not overlook the free web site at Your can use this free site to speculate on neighborhoods, do your own market research and later when you do find a likely prospect you want to buy, find out even more about your target property.

Most Realtors have a specific MLS portal they use through the brokerage office they work from. The information is not entirely the same here. We have one Realtor whose listings only give us basic information. So we need to be more hands on with them to engage in asking more questions about the property. This is ok. But sometimes we need answers quicker than a busy broker can call us back.

On the web site Realtor.Com we can quickly look at comparable property in like neighborhoods, save listings we like that we can later give to our Realtor to set up showings, and find out a lot more about the property than might be in the limited MLS portal. One of the details I like to know is the buying and selling history of the property. will list at the bottom of the page how many days this property has been on the market and what the previous asking prices were. This can reveal some of the underlying story to the listing that may not be so obvious if you do not know what to look for.

Recently, our son and future wife were looking for a property in a nice suburban part of the town where they both work. We found online a reasonably priced property that had an enormous back yard, a great front yard, and was newly renovated with lots of upgrades and features. We could not figure out why it had been on the market so long or had so many price reductions over the past nine months it was on the market. We were so close to putting in an offer then decided to dig a little deeper on We found the property had been on the market for much longer than its comps and saw the price kept dropping. The listing said it was a three-bedroom house so something just was not adding up. After closer inspection on the web page and the photos we found the problem.

Although the property was listed as a three-bedroom, the photos revealed that it was actually only a two-bedroom home where you had to walk through the second bedroom to get to the third. Digging deeper we found that the configuration of the layout did not lend it self to a simple workaround fix and it would actually cost a lot of money to try to turn the property into a true three-bedroom. If we had we not seen the days on market or the declining price reductions on, we probably would have wasted considerable time and resources to drive 6 hours round trip to see the home. I am happy to say that the kids ended up buying new construction from a reputable builder.


#10. The Neighbors

Even harder than changing the neighborhood, is changing the neighbors. Make it a point on your due diligence list to knock on a few doors while you are considering the purchase of the property. The neighbors would probably like to know who is moving in next door too as they have a vested interest in having nice neighbors. Or so one would think.

It would be a nice gesture for you to introduce yourself to the neighbor as a potential buyer and try to engage in a conversation to find out more about the property, the neighborhood, and the sellers. It is always nice to know the little things that you might not think to ask. Such as when is trash day? Are there parking restrictions you should know about? Who are the nice people on the street, and who is not so much. You can also find out about things like frequent traffic to buildings, screaming neighbors, if some one has a barking dog all night, or frequent parties from a college town population.

If you are considering buying a rental property it is always a great idea to leave your contact info with the neighbors to keep an eye on the property while you are not there. If it works out nicely with a neighbor you can trust, it would also be a great idea to offer some type of referral bonus of say $100 if they help you fill the vacancies as they arise. This could help you to build a waiting list of pre-qualified renters as nice families and also help to build a rental community where the neighbors actually get along with one another too. In essence your neighbor will be getting paid to pick who they want living next door. They probably won’t refer someone to you who is going to be a problem for them. $100 referral bonus for them, for a rental community for you were everyone gets along and has barbecues together on weekends = priceless.


A Great Start

So there are my tips on starting due diligence for the purchase of a property whether it be your first home, a flip, or even a buy and hold rental community. As we mentioned back in the beginning, being able to make “good decisions” takes experience. We hope you will find these tips useful in your search for the right property to suit your buying criteria. I am sure you will be able to add to this list over time and make it your own as you add more “experience” to your journey as a real estate investor.

Do you have any other ideas on this topic you could share to help our online community? Please chime in to share a comment or review. All feedback is welcomed. Thank you in advance for your continued support!


Warmest regards,

Brian Lucier

Virtual Showings: Show and Tell for Rental Properties

Show and Tell for Rental Properties
You have heard it said many times: A picture is worth a thousand words. If this is true, a well-staged, bright environment featuring a video tour of the property set to pleasing background music, has to be a worth volumes.

Virtual Showings
Today, everyone is afraid to make physical contact, never mind letting strangers into their homes. So how do you get over the hurdle of having to show a rental? You can follow all of the social distancing protocols previously mentioned, but there may be a better way.

We all know postings with pictures get noticed, but the pictures have to be great or they can produce a negative result. There are three levels of virtual tours we have found to be effective at varying price points.

This solution can range anywhere from photos from your phone to having a professional stager and photographer shoot the environment to show it at its best. It all depends on your entry price point and what you think you can rent the unit for. It is easy enough to upload pictures from your phone to your website or any number of apartment rental websites. The better your pictures are, the better your chances of having some great pictures to work with for your marketing flyers and advertising.

If you have about fifty or more photos of the rental, you can take it to the next level and string these together as a video slideshow. There’s free software just a few clicks away on a Google search to do this. On the Mac, there are programs like “Photos” or “iMovie” that are a great way to get some enticing videos of your space. There is also a feature to add soundtracks to your movie to help set the mood. These videos can then be easily uploaded to your website or a “YouTube” channel for your rental business.

Another option is to purchase a hand-held video stabilizer for about $100. You can attach your phone or digital camera in the stabilizer to shoot a walk-through video of the rental space. We suggest a stabilizer because our first attempts with this method resulted in jittery videos. Eliminating the bounce from your reel would be ideal. With iMovie, you can remove the apartment sounds, and once again enhance the experience with a suitable soundtrack. Then upload these just as you would any other videos or pictures to ad sites or “YouTube.”

Top 10 mistakes beginners make when filming video with their iPhone

  1. You have to remember that your phone is a phone.
    Go into do not disturb, or airport mode.
  2. Running out of battery and memory storage.
    You can get an external drive to download.
  3. Do not forget to lock your exposure in your native application. A square box shows up and you can tap on what you are focused on to do this. Lock the exposure by tapping and holding what you are focused on.
  4. Having crappy audio. Audio is a big deal.
    You can use external mics on the iPhone.
  5. Having crappy lighting. You do not have to go out and buy all kinds of expensive equipment, just make sure you have good lighting. Daylight works great.
  6. Zooming. Do not use the zoom. It creates grainy pictures in your videos.
  7. Filming in a high dynamic range situation. Really bright lights, and really dark shadows. Part of your video will be under exposed or overexposed. Change the view around to have proper exposure.
  8. Only using the native app. iPhone app is super easy to use. Take advantage of the time-lapse and slow-motion right on your iPhone.
  9. Expecting to be amazing at capturing video the first time around. It is going to take some trial and error. Do not give up!
  10. The video has no point to it. Make sure you have a message with your video. As simple as a video montage of the features of the apartment.

3D Virtual Tours
The next tier up in scale is to make an investment in a 360-degree camera and some software to create virtual 3D tours of your rental. A good 360-degree camera starts at about $1,000. Then the monthly software to host your tours depends on your volume of rentals.

At this level, you need to make a business decision. Realtors use these cameras in marketing properties because they can justify the cost from the commissions from the sale. But does it make sense for the landlord? Do you have the number of rentals you need to support the expense? Or, in a COVID 19 world, is this a sign of what is to come?

3D Virtual Tours PROS

  • Safe to view from home in a COVID 19 World, 24/7, 365 days, around the clock
  • With a virtual tour you set it up once and re-use for multiple tours
  • No more “no shows” or wasting your time to show vacancies
  • A candidate can take their time, then share the link with significant others
  • 3D tours allow you to spin your head around to see EVERYTHING
  • It sends a message about the caliber of your business – very professional

3D Virtual Tours CONS

  • There is a learning curve to do something different and new
  • There is an expense to start using this technology
  • There is likely to be a monthly subscription service fee
  • The rent amount you are asking for may not justify the cost for this feature
  • The condition of the rental unit may work against you, no place to hide defects
  • Even after the 3D tour, candidates may still want to see it (verify them first)

Top 3 Reasons to consider Virtual Tours

  1. Virtual Tours will keep you, your family, and everyone’s family safe
  2. Virtual Tours can automate the way you market your rental process
  3. Virtual Tours allow candidates to view on their own time, thus saving yours

If the unit is occupied and you think Virtual Tours will work for you, give your resident a call and do the following:

  1. Explain your concerns for their health, your health, and letting strangers into the rental unit
  2. Explain that by only having one person enter to shoot the video, you can give unlimited tours moving forward without having to displace or put your resident at risk
  3. Offer your resident a convenient time and date to come in to shoot a virtual tour on your mobile phone (5 to 15 minutes)
  4. Thank your resident with a gift card for $20 to $30 dollars
  5. Open up a YouTube account to upload the video(s)
  6. Post the video with contact information and links to your online Rental Application
  7. Serious candidates will download, fill out, and send back the Rental Application plus required documents to verify income, landlords, and rental history
  8. Start the screening and selection process to find the best candidate
  9. With an online service like ZelleVenmo, or PayPal, accept a holding deposit from a qualified candidate
  10. Sign the lease (online), set up a lock box for access, and start collecting rent (online)

3 Examples of online tours

Still Image Slideshow
Created with Mac “Photos” app

iPhone Video Walk Through
Created with Mac “iMovie” app

360 Virtual Self-Guided Tour
Created with Matterport Subscription Service and 360 cameras

Online Rental Applications
Even before COVID 19 happened, we realized we were spending a small fortune printing out our rental applications every month. Our rental application is currently 16 pages long, and it took time and resources every month to keep a healthy supply in stock. Then, there was always the issue of how to drop it off and then pick it up again. At showings, we always had candidates ask if they could take it with them, and then we never saw them again.

In 2019, we took our Belaire Rental Application and created a secured PDF document we are able to email to ALL candidates at their request. We created the application with editable field forms so anyone could download the PDF, open it with a password, fill in the blanks, and send it back as a secure online document. This practice alone has saved us hundreds of dollars a month.

We also use professional property management software. Each time we post a listing, our software creates an individual rental application based on a template we create to meet our criteria. We can then track traffic for individual units and screen the online applications as they come in, safe and secure.

Online Rental Application Methods

  1. Email
    In its most primitive use, it is feasible to send a list of questions back and forth to capture the basic rental application requirements with pictures of documents as attachments. Not a very secure practice at all.
  2. Websites
    For a modest price you could have a web site put together with an online form as your rental application. Important documents will still need to be sent via email or text. A more secure practice.
  3. PDF Forms
    It is easy to convert any document into a PDF to use as your rental application with editable form text fields. Still need to be sent via email or text. PDFs can be password protected.
  4. Word Docs
    Not everyone has Word, but this could be an option similar to sending a PDF. Documents and critical attachments till need to be sent via email or text. PDF documents can be password protected.
  5. Property Management Software
    When you get to 10 or more units, it may make sense to use online professional property management software. Track leads with ease, post rental ads & video, text and email capabilities, all within an online secure database.
  6. Online Verification of Residents
    Not much has changed here for screening during COVID 19. We have always performed a full pre-screening regime on all applications we receive. With a phone number, emails, texts, and a computer, we can complete most of these tasks without physical candidate contact.Top Ten Steps to qualify for our rentals are:

    1. Completed Rental Application for all applicants 18 years old and over
    2. Valid Photo ID for all applicants 18 years old and over
    3. Verification of Income from each applicant for the past 2 months
    4. A combined Rent/Income Ratio of at least 3.75
    5. No outstanding balances owed to other landlords (
    6. Not currently in the process of being evicted (
    7. No Felonies which may endanger our rental community
    8. No Smokers (cigarettes or anything else)
    9. If the candidate is weak but otherwise qualifies, a co-signer living in our state
    10. After passing these, a positive Credit Report looking for delinquent payments

If the candidate passed our initial background check (steps 1 thru 9), we will ask for at least one-month rent as a holding deposit while we complete our due diligence. After we receive the deposit, we pull a credit report to verify no other red flags appear on the applicant or the other occupants. If all systems check positive, we will move forward and offer the rental unit to the candidate.

  • Leases, Lock Boxes, and Move-In Inspections
    We have reached the final stage of our virtual rental process journey. We have completed our due diligence and found a qualified candidate that meets our rental criteria. The next steps are the final checklists to set up the occupancy, sign the required documents, and deliver the rental unit to our new resident.

    • Leases
      Our one-year lease is an online dynamic document that we set up for our residents in our property management software. Once it is completed with the specific details from our leasing questionnaire, we create a custom lease from our template specific to the unit going under agreement. Once the custom lease is created, we send out the link to the lease document via email for all residents and co-signers to read and initial and sign on all required pages. After all renters and co-signers have completed the lease signing, we are notified the lease is ready for us to countersign.The Lease Questionnaire Covers the Following Details:

      • Resident Information
      • Renter’s Insurance Requirements
      • Security Deposit Portion Amount(s)
      • Military Affidavit
      • Possession of Firearms LTC
      • Emergency Contact ICE
    • Deposits
      The initial holding deposit will be transferred to the resident accounting and recorded as a first month rent only. The next deposit is for the last month rent, which goes to the landlord to be placed in escrow. The final monies received are designated to be deposited into an escrow account for the Security Deposit. We always do the Security Deposit as the last step only after all inspections and other deposits have been received.
    • Utilities
      Just before the last step we need to verify the new resident has successfully been able to activate the utilities in their name on or before the move in date. If a resident cannot, or will not activate the utilities, all bets are off and we will refund all deposits. We will not give out the keys without completing this step.
    • Lock Box and Keys
      Success! We have reached the finish line! All other systems have checked out with a positive outcome. We have completed the rental application process, received all of the deposits which have cleared our operations bank account, transferred the utilities, and signed all of the required paperwork online with little or no contact with the candidate.The last step is to put a lock box on the building with the desired number of keys for the new resident, send them the access code, and welcome them home to the Belaire Property Management Rental Community.

What’s on Your Mind?

Do you have any other ideas on this topic you could share to help our online community? Please chime in to share a comment or review. All feedback is welcomed. Thank you in advance for your continued support!

Warmest regards,

Brian Lucier

4 Reasons why it pays huge dividends to have a Business Plan for your business.

Start with the end in mind.

We started buying rental properties 20 years ago and over time acquired quite a few buildings. We started with no clue as to what market cycles were, return on investment, or any of the matrix principles for key performance indicators we track now on a daily basis. It was a few years in before we had our first eviction and realized that we needed to have a better system in place to do what it was we were trying to do.

At that time, we started finalizing the plans to open our own property management business to rent out our apartment buildings. Over the next four or five years we developed all the systems that we needed to run this as efficiently as possible. As we grew we realized we needed better systems. As we built those systems we realized we needed to document all of this. All of this was just for our own property management and for our own rental units.

It was right around this time that we were actively involved in the northern Worcester County landlord association. We were blown away by the expertise of the membership, the Board of Directors, and all of the landlords we met on a monthly basis. We kept learning more and more. Eventually we got involved and started to volunteer and now today I have been the president of the Northern Worcester County landlord association for over 16 years.

Several years ago, we started receiving calls from different members and from different landlords who were asking us all types of a variety of questions having to do with managing their properties. We always did the best we could to give them a straight path to the direction they should take. The calls kept coming and we kept giving out whatever we could to help other landlords. Until finally one day I realized that we could be helping them so much more.

It was at this time that I asked my wife, why don’t we just manage the properties for them? It made sense. We have already been managing our own properties for over 10 years and now we had established all of our systems in place. The last step we needed to take was to write a business plan for the property management company. This was a pretty easy task to tackle as we have previously created a business plan for our holding company that owned all of the properties. That was the real beauty of running our rentals as a business.

What should I do now?

As we started to accumulate more properties we needed to stop doing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans and had to start only doing commercial loans. This was a transition process but after we learned how to do it, it was pretty easy to do. One thing that made all the difference for us was going in to the lending institutions with a solid business plan for how we intended to acquire, run, and eventually dispose of these investments to cash out.

Banks, credit unions, Hard-money lenders, investors, promissory notes, or anyone else that you can creatively think of to fund your deals has one function and one purpose. They want to write you a check, and get a bigger one back when you cash out. The same is true for a mortgage. Pretty much all mortgages are front end loaded on the interest that you will pay at the beginning of the term. Overtime, the positions will switch. At the beginning you were probably paying 2/3 of your monthly payment on the interest and 1/3 on the principal. Then somewhere around the halfway mark of the mortgage those positions switch and the interest payment goes down and the principal payment goes up. The reason I bring this to your attention is because having a great business plan helped us to achieve amassing a huge portfolio and getting better rates for interest from several different lending institutions.

It is true when they say that the process is in the preparation. When you walk into a lender they want to see that you have thought of everything and that you have all of your operations figured out before you ask for their money. Having a great management team, other respected affiliated real estate contacts, lawyers, letters of recommendation, all help to get you the terms and conditions you were looking for. This was one of the biggest differences we found doing commercial loans.

In a commercial loan the terms and rates and interest are all negotiable points. We were able to successfully convince the lenders that we were running this as a business and were professional. This resulted in us being able to obtain loans for a lower interest rate. We were shocked! By having a solid business plan, we were able to prove our business principles and get lower rates on our mortgages.

With the amount of properties, we were purchasing the savings were starting to be significant. For a conventional loan with Fannie or Freddie we had to put down 25%. With the commercial loans being able to negotiate the terms, we were able to put down 20% and get a better interest rate. Think about it. In the long run, if we bought four properties at 20%, then the fifth property was free! So how does that work? If we bought four properties for 20% down then we saved 5% for the down payment on each purchase. By the time we hit the fifth property we had already savings of 5% over four different properties. That equals 20%! We found by having a good business plan with sound business principles written down and were able to prove our investment theories that we were able to get better rates, negotiate better terms, and actually buy four and get one free.

And it got even better after that.

Armed with a solid business plan we were able to start to attract investors who wanted to get a bigger check at the end of the deal. We were able to sit down with several different private investors who wrote promissory notes based off the business plan. And it was pretty simple. All we had to do is stick to the plan, collect the rents, keep the properties in good shape, and we were able to see the returns that we had planned on. Emphasis on that we had planned on this to happen. We also were able to cross collateralized our promissory notes. We were able to have private investors write us a check and secure their loan based on a property we owned out right. There was no additional paperwork, closing fees, appraisals, none of that needed to happen. We just stuck to the plan.

The first benefit to having a solid business plan was being able to negotiate better mortgage rates, interest rates, and terms based on treating this like a business. The second benefit we found to having a solid business plan is we are now able to attract investors.

The third benefit we found from having a solid business plan is that you can actually go into a bank and get a business loan for your business! Having to buy computers, or equipment, or other things that you need to set up shop, you may now be able to finance with a business loan. Obviously, you can always do things on a shoestring with a credit card but when you get large enough and need more equipment and more trucks and things like that it always helps to get resources wherever you can.

The one caveat to getting a business loan is that you’re probably going to have to stick it out for the first three years to establish a track record of being profitable. Any institution or lender that is going to write you a check wants to make sure that they will be able to get paid back. So here are three good reasons why you should do a business plan.

The fourth and probably one of the most important reasons to have a business plan is it will show you how to run your business like a business. With a solid plan in place with procedures in operations you will know what to do when things hit the fan. It also provides the opportunity for you to scale and grow your business which is huge. The biggest bottleneck most businesses run into is that one person is responsible for a given task. Creating a business plan with an operations manual allows you to flip-flop that equation. Now instead of having a process centered around a person, it is centered around a procedure. When you document, you can duplicate. Later if things don’t work out you can always replace that person and have a system in place where they can be up and running the first day.

How can you create your own business plan?

A quick Google search can give you all you need to get started to create your own business plan. With just a few clicks in just a couple of minutes you can have a template on your desktop and get started. When we started out we looked around at all types of examples for different types of businesses and finally ended up purchasing a template for about $97 that seem to be just right for what we were trying to do. It came in a simple word document with lots of instructions and it was all linked together so whatever titles we put as section headers automatically became the table of contents no matter how many pages we added. It took some of the work out of the process but a little bit of a learning curve to learn how to use it.

The first business plan we ever wrote for our holding company was a little rougher. But it did the trick. It was able to show lenders that we had a grasp of the business and knew where we were headed. That alone helped us to achieve the buy four get one free trick. Are used to have fun bringing the business plan into the conference room and dropping it onto the table to make a loud side. One credit union that gave us several mortgages told us they had never seen a business plan so thorough. The vice president actually came into the conference room and told us they work with several larger developers who have never provided this much market insight into their business or where they were headed. Lenders feel much better giving you money when you can prove to them you know your business.

I encourage anyone reading this to take a quick Google search and see what’s out there. If you can find something you like for free then by all means start writing today. The plan we purchased walked us through several elements that a joint venture capitalist or lender would look for in your business plan. Your typical business plan will run 5 to 10 pages to give people the general idea that you know what you’re doing. Unfortunately, our “book” came out to 200+ pages. Once I got started I just couldn’t stop. There was so much data and information relevant to proving our business model that I put it in there.

You do not have to go down that path and write 200 pages. A simple 5 to 10 will suffice. At the bottom of this article I am providing you with the table of contents from our business plan. Hopefully this will guide you on the path in the right direction to your own professional business plan. Enjoy the journey!

Example outline for your business plan

Table of Contents

  1. Executive summary
  2. Target market
  3. Target customers
  4. Pricing and position strategy
  5. Distribution plan
  6. Your offers
  7. Marketing materials
  8. Promotions strategy
  9. Online marketing strategy
  10. Conversion strategy
  11. Joint ventures
  12. Partnerships
  13. Referral strategy
  14. Retention strategy
  15. Financial projections

There you have it! The rest is up to you. Figure out what it is that you’re trying to achieve and start to write it all down and start to plan. I’m sure there are so many more benefits to having a solid business plan that are not mentioned here but go with your core four from above and you are sure to be leading the field in your industry with a professional business plan.

What’s on Your Mind?

Do you have any other ideas on this topic you could share to help our online community? Please chime in to share a comment or review. All feedback is welcomed. Thank you in advance for your continued support!

Warmest regards,

Brian Lucier

Big profits from smaller deals

A path to building wealth through small apartment buildings.

Choose your path

The subtitle for this article is “A path to building wealth to real estate.” We called it “a path” because there are many roads that can lead to building wealth through real estate. There are mobile home parks, syndications, condominium conversions, single-family homes, commercial space, industrial space, strip malls, offices, malls, you get the idea that the list could go on and on and on. Everything around us and everything we touch and see is somehow related to real estate investing.

The version I’m going to cover in this article focuses on buying smaller rental apartment buildings. Right now, in the rental market where we run our property management business, there is a gold rush of investors both seasoned and new who are racing along full throttle to get their hands on a deal. We hear some people say “there are no deals to be found out there anymore.” The truth is, you need to create your own deal. Sure, it’s true that for every listing that goes on the market these days, the offers flood in at $20k, $30k, even $50,000 over asking price. We have seen insane terms for call cash offers and waving all types of inspection contingencies. Don’t get me wrong. The strategy could work during the right time of the market if you know your numbers and have a sound investment, and exit strategy.

We have been through two different real estate cycle since we begin our journey in 2001. Based on what we have seen in the past I think we are near the top, if not there already. No one can say for sure, but we are showing signs of a top market. I called is the “taxi driver phase” of the market. When everybody you know including your taxi driver is talking about real estate and how they want to buy investment property, it’s probably at the peak and too late to get the best possible deal. But there are ways to find that fish in the bottom of the barrel. That would probably be a really good topic for another blog post but right now let’s focus on getting big profits from the smaller deals.

Where the road began

Back in 2001 when we first started investing we knew nothing about market cycles. We were as green as a spring toad. I guess you could say we were following the taxi cab drivers when we first jumped into the market. We didn’t know it, but the market was still going up when we jumped in. The first property we ever bought was a modest 3-unit small rental apartment building. The unit breakdown mix were three units, two 2-bedroom units and one 1-bedroom unit. Nothing super fancy to look at but it was our first property. We did it! We had arrived! We had purchased our first real estate investment property! Woo Hoo!!

We fumbled our way through our first lease which was fraught with legal errors. We discovered and thought 1 ft.² sticky tiles were the best invention since sliced bread, and started to make modest repairs as we could figure out how. But the market was still going up. One of our first mentors, Norman Lapointe only invested in commercial properties. He gave us a piece of advice way back then that changed everything for us.

When you buy a property and the market is going up, this will create equity in your property. Most beginner landlords figure the only way to buy more property is to sell that property and invest it into another property. You can do this with a 1031 exchange where you buy like kind property for like kind property. Or just a straight sale to a larger purchase. It seemed to make sense. But Norman gave us a strategy that we have employed since 2001 and this tactic has helped us to catapult our portfolio to build wealth.

What Norman told us that even though the market was going up, and the value of the property was rising, you did not need to sell the property to reap the benefits of the equity. Today, every landlord I know or that we manage property for, is looking for ways to refinance their property. Now why would you want to refinance your property? Well the answer is really quite simple. It gives you all the leverage, perks, and benefits of selling the property and taking that equity to buy a new property, but you get to keep the original property! Without paying the capital gains taxes. I know! Pretty incredible!

What has always amazed me about rental investment real estate is that you can purchase the property, rent it out to someone, and they will help you cover if not pay all of your mortgage costs and expenses. You provide a home, they provide the cash flow to pay down the principal. As this happens equity grows. So how can you capitalize on this?

Yes, there are several ways in several different types of real estate for several different types of investors with different flavors and styles and appetites for investing. We like the smaller multi-family deals. Back when we started $20,000 to $40,000 would get you a 3-family property. Which is exactly what we did. The first deal we ever did we actually put $40K down but in hindsight that was probably too much to put down into one deal. Over the next three years we refinanced that property twice and were able to cash out an additional $90,000. In today’s market, $90,000 might be enough for a down payment for one of these same properties. But back in 2001 to 2003 $90,000 bought us two more properties.

We took the $90,000 and bought two more properties. And the market was still going up! We did what we had learned to do and refinanced property number two and property number three. With the cash out from that refinance from property number two in Property number three we were able to purchase property number four and property number five. We found a system that worked and continued to work that system.

It was exciting for newbie landlords like us to put this theory into practice and see how we could turn $40,000 into over $1.2 million worth of real estate in 3 to 5 years. But don’t be star struck by the glitter and shiny objects. We held these properties for 15 to 20 years before we could cash out. I always try to explain to people that real estate is a slow-moving train.

Chart your course

Yes, there’s all kinds of strategies to build wealth. For us it was small apartment buildings. At one point we were up to 60 units over some 18 different properties. We were told by another mentor in 2010 that this part of the real estate cycle was the “Millionaire maker.” They advised us to buy every real estate property we could get our hands on. And that’s exactly what we did. Over the next two decades we raise rents, refinance cash out, and put the proceeds back into our investment portfolio.

We are older now and I hope much wiser than we were back in 2001. There is a fortune cookie that reads “once your mind is expanded it will never contract to its original size.” It is our belief that even if we lost everything we would be starting over with 20 years of experience. What we see now from our experience is getting close to the top of another market cycle and time to unload and sell.

When everybody wants to buy. That’s the time to sell. This is called a sellers’ market. In retrospect when property values take a dive, this is a buyers’ market because you can usually buy for pennies on the dollar. This is why we say real estate is a slow-moving train. At the same time that you can sell for a high price, you’re usually going to turn around and buy for a high price. Then again, at the same time you would be buying for a low price, you’re going to have to wait for the market shift change to be able to sell at a high price.

My best advice is to know your numbers in by right. When you make that purchase make sure your numbers work. Make your offer based on the actual rent rolls and expenses. Do not be fooled by the pro forma numbers. Every pro forma sheet I have ever seen presented by a broker has a paragraph on the bottom of the page that tells you these numbers may not be true! You have to do your homework.

Further down the tracks

In our strategy for buying small apartment buildings, it took about a decade for the values to rise. If you’re a younger investor, this may be a strategy for you. If you are an older investor you probably want to seek something with less risk involved. At this time in the market over the past year we have been strong sellers of our portfolio and have cashed out at premium profit prices. Now we will sit in a cash position and wait for the market to turn. Market cycles always follow the same path. They go up, then they go down, then they go up again. If we are at the top there is only one direction to go from here. When that happens, we will be buyers once again.

There is one more hidden gem to this whole strategy of refinancing and cash out from an existing mortgage. When you refinance a property and cash out from the mortgage, this is not considered as income. There is no income tax due when you refinance a property. When our first property investment of $40,000 was refinanced to produce $90,000, then property number two and three were refinanced for an additional $80,000 to buy properties four and five. Just in cash value alone our initial investment of $40,000 generated almost $130,000 that we poured back into our portfolio. By now we were doing all commercial loans with much more creative strategies to purchase these properties. Our $40,000 investment snowballed into a multi-million dollar portfolio all consisting of small apartment buildings.

Probably the main reason this worked for us is because we reinvested the profits. If we had taken this cash and gone on fancy vacations and bought expensive sports cars than the money would be gone on assets which depreciate or become memories, not building real wealth. Instead, we refinanced cash out of our portfolio, not taxed as income, and reinvested it to grow the real estate portfolio creating wealth.

This is one way to do it. If you talk to 10 different investors they will have 11 different ideas on how to make money off of real estate. It all depends on your investment strategies and your risk tolerance. Younger investors can take on more risk. Educated investors are not afraid of risk. There is risk and every investment. If you are educated and know your market that helps you mitigate the risk and invest wisely.

We hope you found this article useful. Hopefully it will add some value to your real estate investing toolbox. I would urge any of you to keep on learning. There are so many different ways to play real estate. It is not a one size fits all game. The more you learn, the more choices you will have, and the more options and opportunities will present themselves. At this stage in our investment lifecycle journey we are looking at more secure investments with less risk as we have less time to recover because we’re older now. That is not an excuse to stop investing. But time changes all buyers and sellers. We wish you all the best in your journey.


What’s on Your Mind?

Do you have any other ideas on this topic you could share to help our online community? Please chime in to share a comment or review. All feedback is welcomed. Thank you in advance for your continued support!

Warmest regards,

Brian Lucier

Q&A With New Landlord Client

Ever since covid-19 we have been inundated with requests from new landlords to manage their rental properties. Just in 2021 alone half way into the year we have already added over 40+ units to our rentable inventory. We are on track to hit a 25% increase in inventory for 2021 and as a result – we are hiring! We are in need of office staff and qualified maintenance service technicians. We already have a great team in place but we need to add more hands on deck to keep things running smoothly.

This leads us back to the exchange of questions and answers with our newest prospective client. Here is an excerpt from our latest email exchange thread. We hope you will find this useful if you are considering taking on a new property management agency.

Hi Brian,

Ok, I have had a chance to go through the materials and have some questions that are mostly just clarification but some are in relation to the situation given the property I am pursuing. Would love to set up a time to discuss over zoom if possible as well.

First of all, I want to say that one of the things I love about the way you frame the issues is that the way you approach rentals is very much in line with my goals as a landlord. I like that your expectation is that competitive market rate rents and timely payment with immediate and consistent action if rents are late but in return for that you hold yourself to high expectations of quality, maintenance and responsiveness to tenant requests. This matches up with my philosophy that rentals are a 2 way street where if I expect to get top dollar rents I need to provide well cared for apartments and good service.

Our number #1 core value is Family First.

So now my questions/clarifications:

  1. So in reading through the credit and background check information it appears that you don’t have a specific FICO score cutoff for rental but it’s more about disqualifying activities (unsatisfied judgements, liens, collections, bankruptcy within the last 3 years, etc.). Is my understanding correct that it’s more about the specific activities vs. the score?You are correct. We have a whole screening criteria set in place before we ever even get to the credit report background screening. They need to pass all of the other hurdles first. If they qualify, then we will pull a credit check at our own expense. In this we are looking for delinquent accounts, high balances being carried, poor credit history. If they are great, then we move forward towards the lease phase. If the candidate is marginal, then we will require a co-signer that lives within the state. After the first year with a great payment history, the co-signer is no longer required. If they have too many delinquencies, we will pass on them and move to the next qualified renter until we find a match.
  2. Similar to that, for the background check it was unclear to me what the disqualifying elements in a background check would be. I see that you ask about evictions, criminal convictions (both felony and otherwise), and registered sexual offender status. Curious which of these are informational and/or require context vs things that are disqualifying.The short answer is – it depends. Felonies are never a good start to the relationship. But again it depends on the circumstances. If they have done the time for the crime, and it was something that was not a clear pathway to putting others in harm’s way, we may consider the candidate as long as the crime would place other in fear of their safety or well-being. If drunk driving were a felony, that would not necessarily be a red flag to put other residents in harm. However, a sex offender would not be ok to rent to if children are in the building. A steady flow of evictions is never a good sign. This shows they know how to play the system and we would probably be their next contender. On the other hand, it is not uncommon for a recent divorce, or unpaid medical bills to show up on a credit report. Let’s face it. Sometimes bad things happen to good people and they really just need a second chance to get on their feet again. This would be a consideration even though the credit report may not look too good at all.
  3. It appears that you keep most or all tenants on a lease. First of all, I want to confirm my understanding is correct. I know that some landlords/property managers require a lease for new tenants but then offer tenant at will after that. Wanted to confirm that you are lease only.Sure, we do a self-renewing lease. There is a 2% to 3% annual rental increase written into the terms of the rental agreement. We also use a lease for many other reasons. With a tenant at will, or month-to-month, a tenant can move out within 30-Days or you can move them out within 30-days. The problem with a MTM is that a tenant can then open up counter-claim, interrogatories and discovery if they “feel” they are being asked to leave as retaliation or for some other reason. This can become an eviction nightmare. The typical eviction notice is 30-days after a FULL RENTAL PERIOD. Some landlords make the mistake thinking if the notice is served on the 2ndof the month then the tenant needs to move out at the end of the month. Actually, if the notice was sent on June 2nd, the next full rental period ends the last month of July. Month to month leases are also looked upon as risky to lending institutions when an owner is looking to refinance a property.Some of the main reasons we like a lease:
      1. Rental stability for the term of the lease. Usually at least 1-year
      2. A lease can be terminated within 7-days, not 30 days like a TAW
      3. During an eviction for cause, a tenant cannot counterclaim with interrogatories and discovery
      4. A long-term investing strategy with planned out rental increases
  4. For the specifics of the property I have an accepted offer on, all tenants are currently tenant at will. If I were to engage with you for property management I assume you would convert them to a lease. Is that something you would do right away and all at once or something you phase in over time (perhaps a preferred time of year for lease starts?). Just curious how you think about that transition process.The first thing we would do is to sit down with you to better understand your investing strategy for the property. Is the goal, long-term cash flow, or quick appreciation and flip, or something else? The different strategies have different management styles. As we up rents, we would have them on our leases. Typically the only time we would do a tenant at will is a year out from when you knew you would be selling the property. Maybe one or two of the units could be month to month during the sale. Banks like to see leases for stability. New owners like to see TAW for flexibility. Depending on your plans for the property, we would develop a strategy cater fit to your property goals.
  5. As far as animals go, I see that you have a no dogs policy but other animals seem to be flexible (and incur a fee per animal). Is that something that you discuss with each landlord about which pets they would like to accept or how do you think about that? In addition to that, the property I’m purchasing already has tenants with pets (one with a dog, one with a cat, and one with a couple birds). How do you handle situations like this? Do you do this during the leasing process once you take on management of the property and add the fee for those who already have animals and make it clear to the dog owner that there are no dogs allowed?We handle animals as a case by case basis. If they are pre-existing as in your potential purchase, we will work with the residents to not create any waves. In new marketing for properties we always air on the side of no pets, then. Make concessions for good candidates. We can not refuse service animals, emotional support, or companion animals. Regardless if they are pets or animals, we do require records of all vaccinations, proper town/city licenses, and pet insurance policies in place. Some of our landlords allows pets because they know once they find a good resident who does have a pet, they will never leave because it is so difficult to find another unit that will accept the pet.
  6. Similar line of question for smoking. Obviously you can make it clear in the lease that smoking is not allowed in units. I saw for pets people can submit paperwork for service animals, emotional support animals, etc. is there something similar for medical marijuana? I did smell marijuana smoke in one of the units. It was obviously unclear to me whether it was for medical or recreational uses but people certainly can have smoke sensitivities. Do you have an exception to smoking in the units for medical marijuana (and require proof) or do you still hold to the no smoking in the units and ask tenants to smoke it outside? Just wasn’t sure where that falls legally in terms of discrimination.For medical, or recreational, we still forbid smoking within a 20 foot perimeter of the building. Medical marijuana can still have prescriptions filled for edibles, such as Marinol, so we are not discriminating against a medically protected class. However, we can restrict the ignition and burning of marijuana in the building as this can also interfere with other resident’s peaceful and quiet enjoyment of the premises. This is another reason we use our lease. Smoking in the building is a 7-Day Eviction.
  7. Final question: while I love the idea of being a high quality unit to claim premium rents there is certainly work to be done on the units in the building I will be purchasing. I bucket the types of into several types: cosmetic (painting needed including exterior paint), fixing issues (some trim and window casings are letting in water), improvements (still has many old windows, many of which seem to have no major draft or water issues but would improve energy efficiency and desirability of the units). My plan was to handle the issues that need to be fixed ASAP and then prioritize the others based on cost, perception, and other issues but not doing all of those immediately. What are your expectations around that as someone who manages high quality rentals? What are your expectations around that in terms of timeframes? Would you evaluate the property and propose the schedule and/or not take on the property until certain items are taken care of?I carry my CSL Construction Supervisor License and we have three crews working pretty steadily on our rental properties for our owners. We are experiencing a backlog of a couple of months right now working for our existing clients. We would be interested in taking on your project so long as you know in advance we are booked out until October. If your sale is going through in 6 to 8 weeks that may fit your plans. Either way, we may be able to hire some third party crews to help out if needed. We would take on the property as pretty much normal operations, then manage the crews and work schedules with the residents. It is always easier to work in an empty building but sometimes this is not possible and we need to work around resident’s schedules.


What’s on Your Mind?

Do you have any other ideas on this topic you could share to help our online community? Please chime in to share a comment or review. All feedback is welcomed. Thank you in advance for your continued support!

Warmest regards,

Brian Lucier