Lured by Early Warm Weather, Scorpions Emerge to Swarm Arizona Homes
By FERNANDA SANTOS
Hungry and disoriented because of an unseasonably warm winter, some unwanted creatures are invading backyards in Arizona. Look out for scorpions.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The scorpions that scurry around this desert region emerged from their winter slumber early this year.
Usually dormant until late March, the creatures came out in February as temperatures soared, making a month that is generally pretty pleasant the second-warmest February on record.
That got Ben Holland’s phone ringing: Callers were finding scorpions on their beds, in their showers, on walls in and outside their homes and all over their yards. Mr. Holland — a vice president for digital marketing by day, a scorpion exterminator by night — assembled his band of hunters, young men in or just out of college, and put them to work.
“Our approach is population control,” said Mr. Holland, 32, who started Scorpion Sweepers in 2006, putting to use his experience collecting scorpions for a laboratory while in college and his once-ignored biology degree. “We don’t poison the scorpions. We don’t smash them. We pick them up one by one.”
They use a tool called a forceps, which looks like the tweezers one might use to pluck eyebrows, only bigger. Success requires speed and dexterity, skills that are learned on the job. On his second season, Toby Riley, 24, whose other career is in graphic design, demonstrated it as best as he could to Zach Wilson, a scorpion-hunting rookie three weeks shy of graduation from Arizona State University. (Major: digital marketing.)
“Pinch the scorpion’s tail and turn your wrist, like this,” Mr. Riley said, moving his lower arm as if hurriedly scooping beans from a pot.
Pest extermination is big business in these parts and specialties vary — from African bee catchers to termite killers and roof-rat snatchers. Mr. Holland and his sweepers go after scorpions only, and they work only after dark.
Last week, Mr. Riley and Mr. Wilson were zigzagging along manicured grass and river rocks here on a moonlit night — “one acre out front, one acre out back,” the homeowner, a lawyer named John Schill, told them. Water trickled from a three-tiered fountain. Dogs barked inside. A palm tree leaned above the pool, its trunk twisted into a sideways “s.”
Mr. Riley and Mr. Wilson buttoned their shirt collars snug against their necks (to keep bugs from falling in), slipped on thick neoprene gloves, laced up their snake-proof boots and turned on the big black lights they each carried.
Scorpions glow under black lights. The glow comes from a substance found inside a hard-and-thin coating on the scorpion’s exoskeleton. Scientists are not sure what purpose it serves. Some say it is to confuse prey; others believe it is to protect scorpions from sunlight.
There are 1,800 types of scorpions in every place on the planet except for the Arctic, and more than 50 species in the Sonoran Desert, which covers much of the state. At no more than three inches long, bark scorpions are the smallest, most common and most dangerous — “the only one of them considered to be life-threatening,” said Keith Boesen, director of the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center, housed at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy in Tucson.
On average, the center and its counterpart in Phoenix log 12,000 reports of scorpion stings each year, though many more go unreported because people treat them at home. Children, older adults and those who are infirm are particularly vulnerable and should seek immediate help if they get stung, Dr. Boesen said. Deaths are rare — there was one in 2013 and another some 10 years earlier, he said.
Still, pain and discomfort from a scorpion’s sting are inevitable and the reactions can range from scary to bizarre.
Israel Leinbach, a biologist for the United States Department of Agriculture in Hawaii who spent years in Phoenix researching bark scorpions, described the pain as “the feeling of being stabbed with a hot knife.” It may last anywhere from a few hours to several days and resist all efforts to make it go away quicker: cold compresses, over-the-counter pain medication, antihistamine.
One’s face and tongue might feel numb, but there is no treatment for numbness, Dr. Boesen said. And it could get worse. Because venom is a neurotoxin, nerves could fire uncontrollably. Muscles may spasm. Lips might twitch. Sometimes, eyes will roll around, in opposite directions.
“It almost looks like you’re possessed,” Dr. Boesen said.
Unlike rattlesnakes, scorpions have no warning system, and bark scorpions, in very light shades of brown, can be particularly hard to see. Like rattlesnakes, though, scorpions will sting only if they feel threatened — and a threat can amount to as much as a foot sliding inside a shoe, a scorpion’s favorite hiding spot.
Another are the crevices on stucco walls, a staple of homes built in these parts. Mr. Leinbach calls them “scorpion hotels.”
Scorpions are ultimate survivors, having evolved during their estimated 400 million years on this planet to withstand inhospitable conditions such as those they find in the desert.
Until they find a home at somebody’s home, that is.
Mr. Schill’s had plenty of moisture on the ground, as sprinklers wet his grass and 149 palm trees every night. The moisture attracts bugs — food for the scorpions. The palm trees’ flaky bark provided perfect hideaways. Mr. Riley plucked five scorpions from a single one of those, 107 scorpions after 90 minutes of crouching and leaning forward to snag the critters. Scorpions that are not distributed to research labs are killed “in the most humane way possible,” Mr. Holland said. (Freezing them is an option.)
Many of them scurried away, slipping under river rocks and the ceramic tiles on the roof.
“I’m not worried,” Mr. Riley said, holding a plastic box filled with his loot for the night. This was their first visit (cost: $200 to $250, depending on the property size and location). He knew that to bring the infestation under control, there would have to be more visits.
“Scorpions are territorial,” he added. “I’ll know exactly where to look for them next time we come back.”
by phoenix.about.com | Judy Hedding, Phoenix Expert
Prepare to Leave for the Summer – One to Two Weeks Before
In April and May our winter visitors retreat to their northern U.S. and Canadian homes where the summers are not as harsh. If you close up any home for several months there is some preparation involved. Because of the severe heat and monsoon storms in the Arizona desert, there are some extra precautions that are warranted.
Here is a checklist of things to consider before leaving your Phoenix home for the summer months.
Some people will do all of these and some people won’t. Some people will do everything right and still return to storm damage or water damage, and some people barely think about the consequences of leaving a home in extreme heat and come back to find everything in great shape. I know that when I leave my house, even for short vacations, I am always somewhat relieved when I turn the corner and see it for the first time!
Prepare to Leave for the Summer – One to Two Weeks Before
Some items on your checklist take a bit longer than others. A week or two weeks before your departure date you should consider any of these items that need your attention.
Arrange for your mail and regular deliveries to be stopped or forwarded. I’d do this at least ten days before the effective date.
Notify your telephone, Internet service provider or satellite TV provider to put your service on hold.
Notify any newspapers when you will stop delivery and when to resume.
If you live in an area with an HOA, notify them of your departure date and when you’ll be back.
See if there are any local vacation watch programs offered by either your HOA, your local community or your local police department.
Arrange for storage of valuables that you won’t be taking with you for the summer. For instance, store jewelry or important documents in a safe deposit box.
Coordinate emptying of refrigerator with trash and recycling pickup. Start eating up the leftovers and cleaning out the refrigerator.
Speaking of trash, start trimming trees and bushes in the yard so you can have that trash picked up before you leave.
Do not drain your hot tub. The heat will damage it. Turn off the heating system for the water, but leave the filtering system on.
Remove any standing water (kiddie pools, buckets, bird baths, etc.) from the yard. If you have a fountain, either empty it and turn it off or leave the water circulating to avoid mosquito problems.
Checklist: Closing up Your Phoenix Desert Home for the Summer
Now that it is a day or two before you are scheduled to leave, here are some more things to remember to do to prepare your home for closing during the summer.
Prepare Your House to Leave for the Summer – One to Two Days Before
Remove chairs, furniture and decor from patio or yard. Anything that’s cloth, plastic or wood will be damaged by the summer heat if you leave it outside.
Replace back-up batteries in fire alarms, automatic watering systems, thermostats, security systems.
Seal up non-refrigerated products like cereals, grains, boxed foods, baking products and pet foods in plastic bags or containers with tightly sealed lids to keep bugs and moisture out.
If you will be turning the refrigerator off while you are gone, empty it. Leave the doors open while you are gone for circulation.
If you’ll be leaving the refrigerator on while you are gone, toss any foods that will spoil. You can keep items like condiments and water in the refrigerator. A working refrigerator that is nearly empty uses more energy, so add bottles of water. Empty the ice tray and turn off the automatic ice maker.
If you have a soft water system or reverse osmosis water system, determine if any action is necessary on your part before leaving.
If you are leaving a car in the garage, disconnect the battery. You might even want to cover the vehicle to protect it from dust.
If you have a golf cart, put water in the battery.
Remove propane tanks and combustible/flammable chemicals from the garage.
Even if you will be turning off the main water valve to the house, you can still water the plants in the yard. Set your irrigation timer appropriately for summer heat so all your shrubs and trees aren’t dead when you return.
Even though you aren’t in the house, and whether you water the yard or not, there will be weeds. Consider a yard care service that will take care of the weeds, do some trimming, mow the lawn if you have one and check for irrigation system problems while you are gone. Make sure it is a company that you know and trust — obviously the workers will know that you aren’t living in the home.
If you have a pool, arrange for a pool service to handle the maintenance while you are away.
Arrange for exterior pest control while you are gone.
Got houseplants? They probably won’t be alive when you return, so either lend them to a neighbor or take them up north with you!
Provide a key to the house and any external gates, as well as your contact information, to a neighbor or relative who lives nearby.
Final Preparations for Closing Up Your Arizona Winter Home
You’re all packed and you are ready to head out the door.
Prepare Your House to Leave for the Summer – Before you Lock Up and Drive Off
Unplug the appliances, entertainment units, computers — everything. The lightning from our summer monsoon storms can wreak havoc with electrical equipment.
Leave large buckets or tubs of water in each room for moisture.
Turn off the air conditioner, or set the thermostat if you’ll be leaving the A/C on. How to decide? Some people turn off the A/C totally. Some leave it on but at a high temperature, like 90 or 95. Your decision here has to to with the items being left in the house. Is there artwork that you don’t want to dry out in the heat? Does your security system only work at a particular temperature? Do you leave your wine collection in the house?
If you have natural gas, turn off the gas at the main valve.
Flush all toilets and run all faucets.
Turn off the water to the house at the main valve. Drain any remaining water from the faucets, long shower head extensions and such.
Turn off ceiling fans, indoor and out. Sometimes we forget to look up before we leave the house!
Leave all the interior doors open so the air can circulate inside the house.
Close all the blinds and drapes to keep as much heat out of the house as possible.
Have candles? Store them in the refrigerator (if you are leaving it on) or put them in the coolest, darkest part of the house.
If you use call forwarding on your land line, now is the time to remember to set it.
Open the doors to the washer and dryer, the dishwasher, and any other appliance that typically seals up. Put a few spoonfuls of vegetable oil in the dishwasher and in the garbage disposal so the seals don’t disintegrate in the heat.
Unplug the garage door opener.
Turn the water heater off.
Ask a neighbor to check every couple of days to remove any fliers, phone books, packages or other items that may be tossed into your driveway or left by your front door.
I recommend hiring someone –either a trusted neighbor or a professional company — to stop at the house periodically to check for leaks inside and out, walk the house, visit after monsoon activity to check for storm damage, etc.
Our homes, systems and issues are all different. Some of the items in these checklists might not apply to your house, and there may be other items that you’ll need on your checklist that other people don’t have to consider. Some people leave for 3 months and some leave for 7 months. Complications arise if you allow someone to stay at your house for a week or two while you are away. Is it worth the grief? I’d ask them to stay at a motel!
I recommend that you use this information to create your own personal and permanent checklist. Add contact names and numbers for any professional services that you’ll be using year after year. Hopefully you will have the preparation down to a science after a year or two, and you can be worry-free about your desert home while you spend the summer up north.
According to the Douglas Fire Department, it has started receiving of calls regarding bees, as a result they have compiled a list of what to do to be safe around bees and what to do if attack.
The Douglas Fire Department has responded to 6 calls for people concerned about bees already this month. One of those calls involved bees stinging a dog. The dog was tied up, and by the time the Department was able to get the bees to stop attacking, it had been stung too many times, and it died.
Take some basic precautions to avoid problems with bees:
-Fill or cover and holes or cracks larger than one-eighth of an inch in their houses, sheds, or other outbuildings. If an opening needs to stay open cover it with a fine mesh screen.
-Keep clutter in their property to a minimum. Trash piles, wood piles, and similar places are natural places for bees to want to build hives.
-Inspect your property weekly. Listen for buzzing and watch for bees going into or out of an area. If you notice a buzzing sound or bees going in and out of an area repeatedly there is a good chance that there is a hive.
-Teach children of all ages to be respectful of bees and to stay away from hives or large groups of bees.
-If you do think you have a hive keep people away from the area. Contact a professional bee keeper or exterminator. They can be found online, in the phone book, or you can call or stop by the Douglas Fire Department for a list of numbers for professionals in the area.
-Do not attempt to exterminate the bees yourself. Close to 100 percent of the local honey bee population has some level of africanization (sometimes referred to as killer bees) which makes the bees aggressive and more likely to sting you in large numbers.
If you do find yourself near a hive:
-Bees will often start by “bumping” before they sting. If you have one or more bees flying up toward you or into you without stinging you they are giving you a warning to go away. You are probably close to a hive or swarm. Calmly, but quickly leave the area. Keep others away and call an exterminator.
-Teach children to respect all bees and avoid hives or swarms.
-Do not start swatting or killing bees just because they are near you. This will only make them madder or alert more bees to come to where you are. Leave the area quickly and calmly.
-One bee or few bees near flowering plants is not a hive. One or even a few bees flying around flowering plants are usually collecting pollen and are more interested in that then they are in you. Generally leave these bees alone and they will leave you alone.
-Bees are often moving through. If you see a large number of bees in a ball on the outside of a tree or other structure in the morning or evening, they are usually just resting for the night. Often you can keep people out of the area and they will fly away when it gets warm enough. If they stay for more than a day then they may be making a home. Call a bee keeper or exterminator.
If you are being stung:
-Cover your face and head. Use a towel, or even your shirt to cover your head.
-Run. Get away from the area as quickly as possible. Africanized bees may chase you for as far as one-quarter of a mile.
-Do not jump in the water. The bees will wait for you.
-Get inside a secured area. Get in a closed car or building. Remember, many businesses have automatic doors so running in to a business will just bring the bees to more people causing more problems. Get inside a building where you can secure the door.
-Remove stingers. Use a blunt object to remove stingers by using a sweeping motion to push the stinger out. Do not use fingers or tweezers to pull the stinger out. Any venom left in the stinger will get pinched into the wound.
– If you are stung several times, have a known bee allergy, or feel you are having an allergic reaction (difficulty breathing, chest tightness, significant swelling) call 911.
If bees are actively stinging a person or animal or are creating some other sort of emergency call 911 right away.
Residents Encouraged to Take Action during National Home Safety Month in June
New smoke alarm regulations can help keep Phoenix families who live in homes with battery-powered smoke alarms safer, while also reducing smoke alarm maintenance. As of April 2014, homeowners must install 10-year, sealed-battery smoke alarms when replacing outdated, missing or damaged units. Alarms like the Kidde Worry-Free sealed-battery smoke alarms comply with this new law. Kidde Fire Safety, a leading manufacturer of residential fire safety products, is a part of UTC Building & Industrial Systems, a unit of United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX).
Missing or disconnected batteries are the main reason smoke alarms fail to operate in residential fires. A recent survey conducted on behalf of Kidde ranked late-night low-battery chirps as the top smoke alarm annoyance, yet 40 percent of respondents would opt to either disconnect the alarm or wait a day or more to replace the battery. A long-life battery sealed inside an alarm makes it virtually tamper-proof and eliminates the risk associated with disabling the alarm.
Phoenix city ordinance G-5898-2014 specifies that a smoke alarm cannot remain in service longer than 10 years from the date of manufacture. Smoke alarms are permitted to be solely battery-operated in existing buildings where no construction is taking place, provided the smoke alarm is UL-listed with a sealed 10-year lithium battery.
“Long-life alarms provide continuous protection for a decade, and national fire experts like the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) recommend their use,” said Chris Rovenstine, vice president, sales and marketing, Kidde. “We applaud the city of Phoenix for proactively instating the 10-year lithium battery requirement for all residential homes because we know it will help save lives.”
Ten-year sealed-battery smoke alarms, such as Kidde’s Worry-Free line, are available at home improvement retailers and cost between $25 and $50. With no need to replace batteries, consumers will save about $40 in battery costs over the life of one alarm. After 10 years, the alarms will sound a warning to indicate it is time for replacement. For more information, visit worryfreealarm.com.
About Kidde Kidde is a leading manufacturer of residential smoke alarms, carbon monoxide (CO) alarms and fire extinguishers, and has been delivering advanced fire-safety technology since it produced the first integrated smoke detection and carbon dioxide extinguishing system more than 90 years ago. Kidde is a part of UTC Building & Industrial Systems, a unit of United Technologies Corp., a leading provider to the aerospace and building systems industries worldwide. For more information, visit www.kidde.com or follow @KiddeSafety on Twitter.
Amanda Marsh, Bisnow NY
The early findings of IREM’s annual Job Analysis report are out—and there’s a surprising trend. Of the over 1,400 North American real estate management professionals surveyed, the majority believe the top 10 areas of knowledge required for their job all relate to people or soft skills.
“Soft skills and people skills were ranked higher as areas of importance than knowledge specific to real estate,” such as finance, risk management and leasing, says Eugene Burger Management Corp SVP Lori Burger, who’s also IREM president (she’s snapped above with Sunrise Management CEO and former IREM president Joe Greenblatt). “The job functions of real estate management professionals are constantly changing,” she adds, as lines continue to blur when it comes to what asset managers and property managers need to know and do. “Technology and social media, for example, are an addition to the skill set essential for managers in many cases.”
Above are the 10 most important areas of knowledge required in real estate management, according to survey respondents. In the office sector, preparing annual budgets was rated as the most important function of a management exec, followed by enforcing a property’s operating policies and procedures. In the apartment sector, enforcing and maintaining operating policies and procedures were rated as the most important functions of a management pro, followed by coaching and mentoring employees.
Great ways for professionals to improve their skills are to focus on best practices, says IREM CEO Russ Salzman—whether that means taking courses on how to perform a specific task like developing operating procedures, or by developing communication and leadership skills by reading white papers (IREM publishes a series that focuses on topics like crisis communications, conflict management, presentation skills, building teams, delegating responsibility and more). In addition to topical courses, professionals can also expand their knowledge base by keeping up with industry publications and participating in webinars and tutorials, he suggests. (IREM will release the full findings of the 2015 Job Analysis report on Aug. 13.)
By Andrew Beattie | Investopedia
From the first decision to invest in real estate to actually buying your first rental property, there is a lot of work to be done. This task may be daunting for the first-time investor. Owning property is a tough business and the field is peppered with land mines that can obliterate your returns. Here we’ll take a look at the top 10 things you should consider when shopping for an income property.
Starting Your Search
Although you may want a real estate agent to help you complete the purchase of a rental property, you should start searching for your investment on your own. Having an agent can bring unnecessary pressure to buy before you have found a property that suits you. The most important thing is to take an unbiased approach to all the properties and neighborhoods within your investing range.
Your investing range will be limited by whether you intend to actively manage the property (be a landlord) or hire someone else to manage it. If you intend to actively manage, you should not get a property that’s too far away from where you live. If you are going to get a property management company to look after it for you, your proximity to the property will be less of an issue.
Let’s take a look at the top 10 things you should consider when searching for the right rental property.
Neighborhood: The quality of the neighborhood in which you buy will influence both the types of tenants you attract and how often you face vacancies. For example, if you buy in a neighborhood near a university, the chances are that your pool of potential tenants will be mainly made up of students and that you will face vacancies on a fairly regular basis (during summer, when students tend to return back home).
Property Taxes: Property taxes are not standard across the board and, as an investor planning to make money from rent, you want to be aware of how much you will be losing to taxes. High property taxes may not always be a bad thing if the neighborhood is an excellent place for long-term tenants, but the two do not necessarily go hand in hand. The town’s assessment office will have all the tax information on file or you can talk to homeowners within the community.
Schools: Your tenants may have or be planning to have children, so they will need a place near a decent school. When you have found a good property near a school, you will want to check the quality of the school as this can affect the value of your investment. If the school has a poor reputation, prices will reflect your property’s value poorly. Although you will be mostly concerned about the monthly cash flow, the overall value of your rental property comes in to play when you eventually sell it.
Crime: No one wants to live next door to a hot spot for criminal activity. Go to the police or the public library for accurate crime statistics for various neighborhoods, rather than asking the homeowner who is hoping to sell the house to you. Items to look for are vandalism rates, serious crimes, petty crimes and recent activity (growth or slow down). You might also want to ask about the frequency of police presence in your neighborhood.
Job Market: Locations with growing employment opportunities tend to attract more people – meaning more tenants. To find out how a particular area rates, go directly to theU.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics or to your local library. If you notice an announcement for a new major company moving to the area, you can rest assured that workers will flock to the area. However, this may cause house prices to react (either negatively or positively) depending on the corporation moving in. The fallback point here is that if you would like the new corporation in your backyard, your renters probably will too.
Amenities: Check the potential neighborhood for current or projected parks, malls, gyms, movie theaters, public transport hubs and all the other perks that attract renters. Cities, and sometimes even particular areas of a city, have loads of promotional literature that will give you an idea of where the best blend of public amenities and private property can be found.
Building Permits and Future Development: The municipal planning department will have information on all the new development that is coming or has been zoned into the area. If there are many new condos, business parks or malls going up in your area, it is probably a good growth area. However, watch out for new developments that could hurt the price of surrounding properties by, for example, causing the loss of an activity-friendly green space. The additional condos and/or new housing could also provide competition for your renters, so be aware of that possibility.
Number of Listings and Vacancies: If there is an unusually high number of listings for one particular neighborhood, this can either signal a seasonal cycle or a neighborhood that has “gone bad.” Make sure you figure out which it is before you buy in. You should also determine whether you can cover for any seasonal fluctuations in vacancies. Similar to listings, the vacancy rates will give you an idea of how successful you will be at attracting tenants. High vacancy rates force landlords to lower rents in order to snap up tenants. Low vacancy rates allow landlords to raise rental rates.
Rents: Rental income will be the bread and butter of your rental property, so you need to know what the average rent in the area is. If charging the average rent is not going to be enough to cover your mortgage payment, taxes and other expenses, then you have to keep looking. Be sure to research the area well enough to gauge where the area will be headed in the next five years. If you can afford the area now, but major improvements are in store and property taxes are expected to increase, then what could be affordable now may mean bankruptcy later.
Natural Disasters: Insurance is another expense that you will have to subtract from your returns, so it is good to know just how much you will need to carry. If an area is prone to earthquakes or flooding, paying for the extra insurance can eat away at your rental income.
Talk to renters as well as homeowners in the neighborhood. Renters will be far more honest about the negative aspects of the area because they have no investment in it. If you are set on a particular neighborhood, try to visit it at different times on different days of the week to see your future neighbors in action.
The Physical Property
In general, the best investment property for beginners is a residential, single-family dwelling or a condominium. Condos are low maintenance because the condo association is there to help with many of the external repairs, leaving you to worry about the interior. Because condos are not truly independent living units, however, they tend to garner lower rents and appreciate more slowly than single-family homes.
Single-family homes tend to attract longer-term renters in the form of families and couples. The reason families, or two adults in a relationship, are generally better tenants than one person is because they are more likely to be financially stable and pay the rent regularly. This owes to the simple fact that two can live almost as cheaply as one (as far as food, rent and utilities go) while still enjoying dual income. As a landlord, you want to find a property and a neighborhood that is going to attract that type of demographic.
When you have the neighborhood narrowed down, look for a property that has appreciation potential and a good projected cash flow. Check out properties that are more expensive than you can afford as well as those within your reach – real estate can often sell below its listing price. Watch the listing prices of other properties and ask buyers about the final selling price to get an idea of what the market value really is in the neighborhood. For appreciation potential, you are looking for a property that, with a few cosmetic changes and some renovations, will attract tenants who are willing to pay out higher rents. This will also serve you well by raising the value of the house if you choose to sell it after a few years.
As far as cash flow, you are going to have to make an informed guess. Take the average rent for the neighborhood and subtract your expected monthly mortgage payment, property taxes (divided by 12 months), insurance costs (also divided by 12) and a generous allowance for maintenance and repairs. Don’t lie to yourself and underestimate the cost of maintenance and repairs or you will pay for it once the deal is done. If all these figures come out even or, better yet, with a little left over, you can now get your real estate agent to submit an offer and, if everything goes well, order business cards with Landlord emblazoned across the top.
Ready to Make the Move?
Make sure you get the best mortgage rate if you are looking to invest in a rental property.
The Bottom Line
Every state has good cities, every city has good neighborhoods and every neighborhood has good properties, but it takes a lot of footwork and research to line up all three. When you do find your ideal rental property, keep your expectations realistic and make sure that your own finances are in a healthy enough state that you can wait for the property to start producing cash flow rather than needing it desperately. Real estate investing doesn’t start with buying a rental property – it begins with creating the financial situation where you can buy a rental property.
By Tony Sena | Zillow
As a property manager or landlord, there are 12 steps you should take in getting a rental property ready to show to new prospective renters. “Rent ready” means the property has been cleaned, repaired, or remodeled and that it’s in rent-able condition for new tenants. Here is a 12-point checklist to make sure your home is rent-ready:
1. Re-key the locks. Change the garage door and alarm codes. Re-key all outside doors. And remember other locks too: mailboxes, side gates, outdoor sheds. Re-keying and recoding locks makes old keys unusable – which is important since you never know who may have a set of your old keys or codes. You won’t need to change them, but make sure you have all HOA-issued gate remotes and codes, plus keys (and codes) to any community pools and fitness centers.
2. Professionally clean the carpets. Professional “full-steam and shampoo” carpet cleaning works best – you don’t want any residue left because it can attract dirt.
3. Spruce up the yard. Cut the grass, trim the bushes, prune the trees, pull the weeds, fix broken sprinkler heads, replace dead or dying shrubbery, and add some new flowering plants (if it’s the season) to flower beds. Remember to remove flower pots, yard furniture and garden decorations; and don’t forget to spray any dirt from the cracks in the sidewalks and patio.
4. Change the air filters. In addition to changing the air filters, cleaning the vents and surrounding ceiling area, it’s not a bad idea to replace any reusable air filters with disposable ones. Disposable air filters don’t require monthly cleaning (like reusable ones) and make for one less maintenance item your tenant needs to remember.
5. Get a professional top-to-bottom interior cleaning. Renters expect their rental property to be clean for move-in, so have the property professionally cleaned. Professional cleaners can get every area of your property clean – from scrubbing the baseboards to cleaning out the refrigerator, no room will be left behind.
6. Let in the light. Replace any broken light bulbs; consider putting in energy-efficient bulbs, which reduce energy costs and don’t need to be replaced as often. (And don’t forget the bulbs outside!) For outside lights that don’t need to be replaced, give them a thorough wipe-down: dirt and debris tend to make these lights dimmer; and when it comes to outside security, brighter is better.
7. Inspect ceiling fans. Make sure that all fans (indoor and outdoor) operate properly and are dust-free. This is especially important if the property is older and hasn’t been inspected in a while.
8. Clean away all webs (cob and spider). Clean all indoor webs that may hang in corners and walls. On the outside, clean all webs that may be near doors, overhangs and lights.
9. Inspect and clean windows and sliding glass doors. Windows and (especially) sliding glass doors can easily build up dirt. A good cleaning will not only let in more light, but may help them work better. When dirt builds up, say, on a sliding door’s slot, it may prevent the door from operating properly. The door can jam and become a costly repair for you.
10. Clean, repair or replace screens. Torn screens can allow pests into your rental property (besides being a security and visual problem). So repairing or replacing screens may save you money (less visits from your pest-control company) and give you peace of mind.
11. Spray for pests. It’s better to have the property sprayed on a regular schedule than to wait until there’s a pest problem. You’ll definitely want to hire a professional pest control company to give your property a full treatment for all of the common bugs in your area.
12. Paint, repair and fix. Fix any holes in the walls before applying a fresh new coat of paint. Repair or replace any carpet that shows signs of damage (or doesn’t come clean after a professional carpet cleaning). Fix or replace any damaged tiles.
By Cynthia Wilson | Angie’s List
Do you love the look of your laminate wood flooring, but worry it’s a health hazard? You’re not alone.
Currently, the best information consumers have to guide them when buying composite wood products are standards set by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The state’s clean air agency requires certain laminate products to comply with its standards limiting formaldehyde emissions. There are no formaldehyde emissions standards for the laminate product itself.
A number of studies have found elevated levels of formaldehyde emissions in homes. However, most consumers weren’t concerned about potential exposure to the cancer-causing chemical from composite wood flooring until “60 minutes” reported its investigations found elevated levels of formaldehyde in some laminate wood flooring imported from China that was sold by discount flooring retailer Lumber Liquidators.
The company disputes the report and says its flooring is safe. It has also offered to pay to test the air quality in the homes of customers who purchased the product.
The EPA says consumers who have laminate flooring in their homes shouldn’t necessarily be concerned because formaldehyde is present in many consumer products, including cabinets, wall finishes and it’s released when consumers use their gas stoves and wood burning fireplaces.
Nonetheless, following these tips from the EPA and health care experts can help you guard your home and health against formaldehyde emissions.
Understand the health risks
According to the Consumer Product and Safety Commission, formaldehyde is a colorless reactive gas used in many consumer products including hair and fingernail products, flooring and furniture. Acute exposure to formaldehyde can cause coughing, wheezing, and asthma-like symptoms, says Dr. Genevieve Brauning, a family practitioner with Novant Health in Charlotte, North Carolina.
She says long-term exposure to low levels would be most likely to cause asthma-like respiratory problems or skin rash. “There are rarer reports that long-term, low-level exposure can cause headaches, fatigue, and changes in sleep patterns,” Brauning says.
Don’t ignore symptoms
Eye, nose and throat irritation are common ailments among allergy sufferers. But these symptoms may signal exposure to formaldehyde.
If the symptoms are new to you and you believe exposure to formaldehyde is causing these or other respiratory problems, Brauning says to avoid the area for a few days and see if the symptoms resolve.
“This does not necessarily mean that allergy-like symptoms are from formaldehyde, she says. “However, you may look at allergens, including formaldehyde in your home. If you stay at your friend’s house down the street and you feel totally better, it would be less likely from seasonal allergies or spring trees blooming.”
Know when exposure risks are highest
Laminate flooring that is a hardwood plywood, or is made by attaching a wood veneer with formaldehyde-based resin to a composite wood platform, are subject to the EPA’s proposed regulations.
People who make products containing formaldehyde or use the products regularly in their work are more vulnerable to overexposure. That’s why more regulation exists for businesses that work regularly with formaldehyde-based products.
The EPA says formaldehyde emissions are highest when products are new. Because emissions dissipate over time, the agency says the older the floor installation, for example, the lower the levels of formaldehyde it will likely emit.
Buy with care
Environmental health experts say it behooves you to know what’s in the product you use in and around your home to lower your exposure to hazards like formaldehyde, lead and asbestos.
Until the national formaldehyde emissions standards for composite flooring are issued, the EPA recommends you look for products that are labeled or stamped in compliance with CARB’s Airborne Toxic Control Measure (ATCM) or those that meet American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards.
Air it out
It’s hard to avoid bringing any formaldehyde-based products into your home. However, you’re less likely to get skin, nose, throat and lung irritation if you have less concentration of it in your air, Brauning says.
“Having good ventilation or using a mask can be helpful. People should remember that many people tolerate low levels, such as brief exposure to nail polish, without any symptoms at all,” she says.
by Paul Esajian | Fortune Builders
The best real estate apps being used today award both buyers and sellers the opportunity to be efficient. Along with relationships, efficiency is a key ingredient for success among professionals in the industry, and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Social media and mobile apps have granted professionals in the real estate industry the technological tools to streamline processes, get real-time information and ensure efficiency is maximized along the way. Whether buying or selling, these are the best apps for real estate professionals:
9 Real Estate Apps You Can’t Afford Not To Use
Redfin continues to be the main destination for homebuyers, sellers and real estate agents alike. Their mobile app, which is available in 83 major U.S. markets, specializes in efficiency as it updates listings every 15 minutes, allowing prospective buyers to optimize their search with the assistance of the company’s extensive database of more than 70 million addresses, whether it’s by neighborhood, school zone, ZIP code or city.
“What no one really understands about Redfin is the basic secret sauce of the business isn’t technology. It isn’t service. It’s the combination of the two,” said Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman.
Although Redfin hasn’t surpassed your traditional brokerage, yet, the app has become a great tool in terms of comparables, which are used to establish a price range for a home based on current market activity. This includes everything from the last sale price, number of bedrooms and baths, age and style of home, condition, lot size, and views and waterfront access.
Redfin is available for Android and iOS.
Preparing to list or remodel your house? Houzz will streamline the renovation process for you. Launched in 2009, the app is a revolutionary new way to design a home, providing prospective buyers and sellers access to over nine million interior design photos, home decor, decorating ideas and home professionals online. Making things even sweeter, Houzz recently added a Real Estate Agents category in their directory that offers agents the ability to list themselves with a profile, for free.
Something to think about: 15 percent of “Houzzers” are planning to buy a home in the next two years, and 10 percent of them are planning to build a custom home in that time frame.
Houzz is available for iOS.
3. Zillow Real Estate
As the leading real estate marketplace, Zillow is a must-have app for professionals in the industry. Designed to put you and your house on the map with the click of a button, the app allows users to seamlessly browse homes for sale and rent, including access to more than one million listings not on MLS.
Zillow recently integrated a new video feature into the app, Video Walkthrough, which gives buyers a more realistic view of what to expect from a home. Sellers can even create their own video walkthrough by visiting the app. However, an agent will have to approve the video before it goes live.
Zillow Real Estate is available for Android and iOS.
As the Snapchat of real estate, Homesnap works by allowing users to take a photo of any home nationwide and then receive instant information on it from MLS listings, including additional information such as census data, property tax records and more. Founded in 2008, the app has become on of the top-rated real estate apps for home buyers and sellers, providing real-time access to agent-only MLS data as well as unique branding aspect for agents to promote themselves. In fact, Homesnap has all the tools for agents, teams and brokers, including production metrics, agent rankings and reports.
“I like the fact that I can send free private messages to my clients,” said Jennifer Branchini, a real estate agent. “Even if they don’t have the app; it sends the messages as texts. So you can send a link with the property photo and details and chat about it. The mapping feature is useful, too. I can snap a picture and it keeps a history of all my snaps.”
Homesnap is available for iOS.
5. Realtor.com Real Estate
Realtor.com Real Estate is the ultimate app for potential home buyers. Available for Android and iOS, the app provides property listings sourced directly from over 800 MLS — refreshed everything 15 minutes — and offers everything from detailed photos of properties, intimate details such as property tax and sales history, combined with easy-to-use search options.
Specifically designed for agents, “The Find” app by Realtor.com is the pefect app for real professionals on the go. The app provides unique options like cross-sharing of private listing data between partner MLSes, member directory, and even a showing scheduling service which enables agents to easily schedule showings from the app.
Realtor.com Real Estate is available for Android and iOS.
6. Premier Agent
The Premier Agent app from Zillow is the definition of efficiency. It provides realtors instant access to property listing inquiries from both Zillow and Trulia, as well as the ability to manage listings, profiles and reviews in one central location. A new version of the app also includes a video walkthrough feature to bring listings to life.
The Premier Agent app is available for iOS.
7. Mortgage Calculator by Quicken Loans
Crunch numbers on the go with Mortgage Calculator by Quicken Loans, an easy to use app where users can estimate their loan amount, interest rate, and term or monthly payments with the click of a button. As the nation’s number one online lender, Quicken Loans recently launched another mobile app called Rocket Mortgage, where customers can reduce their mortgage application process down to a measly eight minutes.
“Rocket Mortgage lets you lock your interest rate and submit application documents on-the-fly online, and then we go to work on the approval and putting the application through quality checks,” said Regis Hadiaris, Rocket Mortgage Product Lead at Quicken Loans’ technology innovation department.
Mortgage Calculator and Rocket Mortgage are available for iOS.
9. Trulia Real Estate
Another must-have app for the real estate professional, Truila Real Estate allows users to peruse millions of listings nationwide, providing users with everything from updated listing of homes for sale, apartments for rent and open houses, to high-resolution photo galleries and comprehensive information like school ratings and crime rates in the area.
Truila Mortgages, another app from the company, simplifies the process of calculating mortgage payments. If that’s not enough, there’s also the Truila Rentals and Truila Agent app. Talk about efficiency.
Truila Real Estate, Mortgage, Rentals and Agent are available for Android and iOS.
10. DocuSign for REALTORS
If you’re looking to maximize time, DocuSign for REALTORS is a no brainer. The app combines the power of eSignatures and DocuSign Transaction Rooms to make it simple for users to keep transactions organized while on the go. Not to be out done, there’s also a DocuSign Broker Edition, which assist in managing transactions across an entire business while also providing mobility to agents.
DocuSign for REALTORS and DocuSign Broker Edition are available for Android and iOS.
With the competitive nature of real estate being what it is today, it’s important to stay ahead of the curve. Technology will continue to enhance the landscape of real estate for buyers and sellers, and it is up to you to remain in the know. For those in the industry, these are the best real estate apps users can’t afford to go without.
by Marcia Stewart @ Landlord Tenant Law Firms
Whether you own a single-family rental home or a large apartment complex, property insurance is crucial to protect your rental property from many types of perils. An experienced agent will analyze your rental operation and recommend a policy for you.
What Property Insurance Covers
Most property insurance covers damages or losses from fire, storms, and burglary. Be sure to check out whether your policy will cover “loss of rents” as a result of one of these perils (such as a fire in your building which makes a unit uninhabitable).
Property insurance should also reimburse your losses from vandalism (whether by a disgruntled tenant who punches holes in an apartment wall or a local teenager who paints graffiti on the side of your building). Always report vandalism to your local police department (your insurance company may require a police report before reimbursing you for vandalism-caused damage).
Property insurance does not cover all losses (mudslides, for example, may be excluded), so be sure you know what is and is not covered and the dollar limits of your policy.
Earthquake, Flood, and Other Insurance
Depending on where your property is located, you may want to purchase additional protection for special perils such as earthquakes and floods (these are not typically included in property insurance policies).
A comprehensive policy will also include liability insurance, covering injuries or losses suffered by tenants and others as a result of a defective condition on your rental property. For example, if your tenant breaks a leg as a result of falling down your broken front steps, liability insurance will cover the tenant’s medical bills. Liability insurance will also cover lawyers’ bills for defending personal injury lawsuits against you. The most comprehensive type of liability insurance covers libel, discrimination, unlawful or retaliatory eviction, and invasion of privacy (with some exclusions, such as intentional acts or violations of criminal statutes).
Many landlords (particularly in high-end rentals) require tenants to buy renters’ insurance. This covers the tenant from losses or damage to their belongings due to theft or fire. Renters’ insurance also covers as injury to other people or property damage caused by the tenant’s negligence.