By Rick Snyder
The property management industry has become even more challenging in recent years due to an increase in lawsuits. Ranging from commercial or retail properties to single-family homes and multi-family apartment and condo communities, today’s property managers are facing additional legal liability unlike ever before. As a result, managing and minimizing risk is even more crucial to surviving in today’s litigious environment.
Some real estate industry analysts are predicting homeownership will continue to decline through 2025, yet some 12.5 million net new households will be created, with half of these households renting. By some estimates, about one-third of the U.S. population rents today and by 2023 that number will grow another 45 percent. If true, then the property management field will also experience tremendous growth and, at the same time, tremendous liability.
As part of evaluating increasing risk exposures, try to image everything that might happen to cause financial loss. Then, make your best estimate of the maximum financial loss and determine the options of either absorbing the loss or whether the loss could have the potential of leading to financial ruin. The key is to be proactive. Identify and eliminate risks to stay ahead of conditions that could impede your profitability. Identify potential risks, evaluate and assess and then develop mitigation strategies.
Property management is a very intensive business because you're transacting with owners, tenants, repair companies, contractors and others. Every one of these transactions involves some kind of risk to your business.
Many professionals in today’s property management industry are experiencing an increase in the number of lawsuits relating to habitability claims as well as health and safety issues. We’re also seeing legal liability involving environment concerns such as mold and pollution.
So, how can property managers do a better job of managing risk and liability? Here are a couple of action steps to stay safe:
-- Include an addendum to the lease that requires tenant cooperation, such as notification and interior access. A property manager will have a tough time fixing something breaks, leaks, bursts or wears out if they don’t know about the condition or if they’re not allowed to enter a residence to solve the problem. For example, in the case of an infestation of pests such as roaches or bed bugs, a tenant’s resistance to cooperate can affect the ability to mitigate the condition.
-- Detailed rental agreements need to include specifics spelled out for both landlord and tenant responsibilities and grounds for eviction if necessary.
-- Increase your oversight and supervision of the property by conducting onsite exterior inspections, perhaps as many as once or twice per month. Disasters can still occur, so property managers and owners should ensure their property insurance has the appropriate coverage limits.
We will discuss more strategies at my next class, “Property Management: Legal Responsibilities, Minimizing Risk and Creating Rewards,” from 10 a.m. to 12 noon, Monday, March 26 at the NSDCAR Service Center, 906 Sycamore Ave., Vista. I personally invite you to attend. We’ll discuss what’s working, and what’s not, in property management for the year ahead. You’ll learn what growth-oriented property managers are doing differently to achieve success and lessons you can apply to protect yourself from risks. Topics will include relationship management with owners and tenants, mold insurance and financials and record keeping that will minimize risk for tax and legal purposes. I look forward to meeting you in person.
NSDCAR member Rick Snyder is president of R.A. Snyder Properties, Inc., a full-service property management company with over 30 years of experience managing residential rental property and commercial income-producing rental properties. He is a California Association of Realtors (CAR) director, honorary life CAR member and chair of NSDCAR’s Professional Standards Committee.
Paragon v5.63 Release March 14th Google replaces Bing in Paragon and Collaboration Center! Although there are differences in mapping functionality, users should enjoy the benefits of more up-to-date maps throughout Paragon. In addition, street view is included as part of the normal Google mapping features. Send Listings as PDF Attachments: Users are able to choose a group of listings and report views to attach to an email as a PDF file. The maximum length of the PDF file allowed is 20 pages. Only the manual Paragon email process has been modified. Also note that the HTML attachment type was removed from Paragon emails. Visible Notification to complete Errors/Warnings in Listing Add/Edit: When creating a listing and/or converting a partial listing to a standard listing, Paragon will display a pop-up message anytime an error/warning is found. This helps call attention to the often overlooked warnings/error grid at the bottom of the screen. Address Overlay: When searching for properties in Quick Search, Property Searches, and entering listings in Listing Input Maintenance, the address fields display field mask overlays indicating the information to input in those fields. Agent Photo on Info Page: Agent photos uploaded via the Preferences menu will display with the agent’s information on the Agent information page when clicking the agent name in reports and listings. If no photo is available, the image will display the default image per the MLS. The Agent photo is also included in the Agent Maintenance screen for MLS Admins. Collaboration Center Address Search: The location search control is updated. The “Radius” tab is relabeled to “Address”. The address field will now allow you to type in an address to search. Also, a zero has been added to the radius scale and is the default address value. Consumers can also conduct an address search or a radius search using the same control.
By Lt. Al Owens, retired, Escondido Police Department
NSDCAR REALTORS® can find themselves in personal danger every day, and, unfortunately, many don’t even know it. Typical everyday activities, such as meeting new clients, showing properties, hosting open houses, driving strangers in your car and even your business cards, may be jeopardizing your personal safety. People are in danger, primarily, because they’re not sure about how to deal with unknown situations. In today’s violent culture, real estate professionals are at risk at so many points, ranging from sexual assault, stalking by predators, robbery and bodily injury.
As a former U.S. Marine with more than 20 years of experience in law enforcement, I’ve taught safety awareness, self defense and survival tactics to more than 4,000 people throughout my career. Many of my students have been REALTORS®. My next safety awareness and self defense class will be held from 9:30 a.m. to noon, Wednesday, March 21, at the NSDCAR Escondido Service Center, 1802 South Escondido Blvd., Escondido. I encourage you to attend. We try to make the class fun. Plus, you will learn more about a few potentially dangerous situations that REALTORS® can face on a daily basis, including:
-- Entering foreclosed or vacant homes by yourself can pose a risk because you might find unexpected house guests, including squatters or even former homeowners who refuse to leave. Before you leave to visit an abandoned property, tell coworkers where you are going, or take a buddy with you. Before you enter the property, walk around the perimeter and look for open doors and shattered windows. If you suspect someone is in the property, call the police. Don’t confront a squatter or trespasser. And never go at night.
-- Meeting a new client for the first time can put your safety at risk because the person could potentially be a criminal, stalker, thief or worse. An initial, first meeting should be at a public location, perhaps a coffee shop or your broker’s office. Have all prospects fill out a questionnaire that includes spaces for personal identification, contact information and employer information. Tell them that it’s company policy to make a photocopy of their driver’s license.
-- Showing a property alone can be risky. You still should consider bringing along a coworker or, at least, let others know where you are and tell the client that people know where you are. If you sense a feeling of being uncomfortable for any reason, tell the person that you “cell phone just went off and I have to call the office” or “another agent with buyers is on their way.” Trust your first gut instincts; if you feeling in your heart and soul that something is wrong, it usually is. Also, don’t go into confined places. Let the potential buyers lead with you walking behind.
-- Open houses can be an invitation for anyone to walk through the front door, which could include robbers and assailants. Stow away your valuables. Never leave your purse, laptop or wallet on a kitchen counter in plain view. But, keep your cell phone nearby so you can call for help. Thieves often will work as a team and distract an agent while their partners steal valuables during an open house.
-- In the event of an active shooter, here’s how you can survive. Always have a plan for escape. Mentally prepare and know this may be the toughest event you will ever face. Run and escape if you can. Remember the rules of hide-and-seek cover and concealment (cover can stop bullets and concealment can hide you.) Lock and barricade door if you can’t escape. Stay out of the line of fire. Also, stay quiet (mute cell phones) and plan for an attack if a subject enters. Fighting is a last resort. But, if you have to fight then commit with all your energy by using improvised weapons, swarm techniques or take down the attacker. Key chains and writing pens can work as improvised weapons. You can also use your own body as a weapon, including your knees, palms and elbows to strike vulnerable parts of the body, such as eyes and the groin.
With the right safety training, you can become more self confident and aware of danger clues and your level of risk when in unfamiliar situations and neighborhoods. I hope to meet you in person on March 21.
Lt. Owens operates Owens Training and Consulting, Inc. He is a past recipient of the Escondido Police Dept. Police Officer of the Year award in 2003 and again in 2009. In 2009, he began overseeing the department’s Police Athletic League and still today continues to teach safety classes to children. Owens’ “Child Safety Academy” has instructed more than 1,000 children ages 6 to 18 on various topics, including calling 911 in the event of an emergency, drug awareness, gang avoidance, anti-bullying, gun safety and anti-kidnapping drills.
By Jason Nagy Some people may consider our real estate business as nothing more than a sales job filled with stereotypical, overly extroverted, slick sales agents who act like cut-throat, commission-earning, used-car salespeople. I would like to change that mindset. Instead of a pushy, self-promoter who is convincing people against their wishes, I tell the agents at our company that the way to win new clients is to reframe the situation and think of yourself as a servant and professional consultant who is reaching out to people with valuable housing market data, such as property trends and inventory updates. Unfortunately, our culture defines greatness in terms of power, possessions, prestige and position. We live in a “me-first” era. But, I believe greatness is measured in terms of service, not status. Thousands of books have been written about leadership, but only few on serving. That’s because people would rather be generals than privates. Seeing our role as servants in real estate will help win new clients. Ask yourself: Who out there needs my help out today? I believe the answers will lead you to new clients. Here are a few other tips: “I am not a salesperson.” Your clients want to work with a real estate profession, not just a salesperson. If we want to be regarded as a professional then we should act like one. The difference between merely a salesperson and a real estate professional is that a salesperson focuses on the end result, namely the commission; therefore, their actions are driven by a result. However, a real estate professional earns an income as a result of representing the best interests of their clients. Earning an income is a direct result of representing the best interests of my clients. Yes, there are times when I am selling, such as when I’m negotiating on behalf of my client or I’m asking the listing agent to accept my client’s offer. But, I’m in sales with a client only before they become my client, such as during a listing presentation or buyer representation presentation. Once the documents are signed, then my client has a high-qualified professional on their team. Good leads come from a good database. The most important information you have to win new clients as a real estate professional is your database of previous, current and future clients. Without your database, you have no leads, and without leads, you can’t expect to close any deals. It’s crucial to keep your database current with updated information about people. Whether it’s a new phone number, new job or new email address, or perhaps somebody got married or had a child, all these tidbits of information are important to include within your sphere of influence. At least once a year, you should reach out to everyone in your database to say hello, get updated information and ask them if they know someone who needs an answer to a real estate question. Ask the right questions with potential clients. A real estate professional will win new clients by asking the right questions to new prospects and then listening carefully. One of the most common causes of frustration and friction in relationships is that we don't really listen to each other. Too often we talk at each other rather than with each other. It’s better to be present in the moment with somebody’s wants and needs. Listening is a form of kindness. The best questions are open ended that start with such phrases as “tell me about” or “what are your goals.” You become a good listener by asking creative questions. Approach the conversation from a standpoint of curiosity: “Do you own or rent? Do you view your home as a place to live or as a retirement investment? What would cause you to move to a new house?” Since you have positioned yourself as the source of valuable information that will benefit the client, then tell them, “I promise not to bother you, but based on what you’ve told me, I would be happy to share with you information on homes so that you’re the first to know. Would you prefer a text, e-mail or phone call? Before you share your side of the story, you need to let the other person know you understand where he or she is coming from by paraphrasing what they’ve just said. Explain the entire process ahead of time. When I spend the necessary time to completely explain the entire transaction process upfront, the result often is a new client. I will tell a new client, “If you choose to work with me, you will know everything that’s happening. I will layout a road map of what to expect and possible pitfalls to watch for. And, I promise to return phone calls within 24 hours.” I may need to explain the process again, which is okay because repetition creates a level of stronger comfort and confidence for my client.
This is t the latest is a series of occasional articles on “Professional Standards” from Rick Snyder, NSDCAR Professional Standards Committee 2018 chairman.
By Rick Snyder
Technology is more important than ever in our real estate sales business. In our digital age, high-quality photos can help consumers personally tailor their home search. Indeed, listing photographs can be the most important part of the home sale listing. It’s true that buyers are relying increasingly on images of listed properties to make informed decisions and determine whether they are really interested in the home. Plus, photos can help REALTORS® save time so they give more attention to only their most serious buyers.
However, with a variety of today’s sophisticated photo-editing and enhancing software on the market today, ranging from the popular Adobe Photoshop to such others as Phase One Capture One, Serif Affinity, Cyberlink PhotoDirector and MacPhun Luminar, photos can be easily altered to portray a property as more attractive than it actually is. Retouching may seem innocent, but it can have a profound effect on the real estate business. REALTORS® should be warned that problems exist when you try to remove a tree, cracks on walls, utility lines, fire hydrants and satellite dishes that exist on the property, as well as enhance the landscaping.
This practice of REALTORS® altering photographs of properties with post-production techniques must be undertaken with care. There’s a difference between enhancing the quality of the visual images of the properties and altering the photographs that may result in a misrepresentation of the condition of the property. Photographs should accurately represent a property’s condition. The condition of the property is a material fact that affects the value and desirability of the property. The concept of misrepresentation must be understood and recognized by REALTORS® in the presentation of information relating to the listed property.
In fact, doctoring photos may be a violation of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Standard of Practice. Using Photoshop software can land you in hot water with an ethics violation on your record.
I recently attended a NAR Professional Standards Committee meeting. We approved amendments to strengthen Article 12-10 utilizing the following language:
REALTORS’ obligation to present a true picture in their advertising and representations to the public includes Internet content, images, and the URLs and domain names they use, and prohibits REALTORS® from:
1) engaging in deceptive or unauthorized framing of real estate brokerage websites;
2) manipulating (e.g., presenting content developed by others) listing and other content in any way that produces a deceptive or misleading result;
3) deceptively using metatags, keywords or other devices/methods to direct, drive, or divert Internet traffic; or
4) presenting content developed by others without either attribution or without permission, or
5) otherwise misleading consumers, including use of misleading images.
Photo altering not only misleads consumers who rely on photos in the MSL or on websites, but damages the credibility and integrity of REALTORS® and our industry. REALTORS® have an obligation to present a true picture of the condition of property in their advertising and representations to the public. If the public loses confidence in the ability of real estate photos to tell the truth of a listing in an honest, straight-forward way, then we’re all discredited.
This year could be your best career year ever in real estate. That’s the message from an economist with the California Association of REALTORS® (C.A.R.). C.A.R.’s Jordan Levine recently delivered a “2018 Housing Market Outlook” presentation to Association members.
“The economy is strong, unemployment is low, home prices are up and demand is still high as people still want to own their home,” said Levine. “We’re seeing demand from a variety of clients, ranging from millennials, babyboomers and immigrants to foreign investors and even gen Xers who want a bigger house. There are still many challenges and headwinds, but there’s still no reason why 2018 can’t be the best year ever for REALTORS®. Be prepared and you will rock.”
Levine noted that California’s unemployment rate of 4.1 percent in December was the lowest in more than 40 years. Also in year-over-year comparisons between December 2017 and December 2016, job growth increased 1.4 percent. The growth for specific industries included: Construction, 7.1 percent; Educational Services, 5.3 percent; Leisure/Hospitality, 3.8 percent; Healthcare, 2.8 percent; Management, 2.0 percent. “We’ve seen job creation reflect a good mixture of both high- and low-wage jobs. California is firing on most cylinders,” said Levine.
President Trump’s tax reform is expected to have its biggest affect on higher-end properties, said Levine. The reform caps mortgage interest deductions for primary and secondary residences at $750,000 (down from $1 million), while capping state and local tax deductions (SALT) at $10,000 (previously, there was no cap). Also, the corporate tax rate was lowered from 35% to 21%. Individual tax rates also are now lower at 0%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35% and 37%. The standard deduction was doubled, to $12,000 and $24,000 for individuals and married couples, respectively. The child tax credit also was doubled $2,000, with up to $1,400 being refundable, which means people could get money back if the credit exceeds what they pay in taxes. “With a much higher standard deduction, there’s less incentive for renters to own,” Levine said.
Regarding housing market trends, Levine said, “A tale of two markets continues to be the theme of California’s housing market with the lower end of the market bearing the brunt of the housing shortage. At the other end of the spectrum where inventory is less constrained, homes priced $1 million and higher are posting solid sales gains, especially in the $1.5 million-to-$2 million range. Also, prices have almost doubled since 2012, but active listings are down, continuing a four-year trend. Still, there’s been lots of action in the starter home market.”
In 2018, Levine said housing availability will remain a challenge. “Supply takes the blame, we’re dealing with a supply and demand mismatch,” he said. “Existing homeowners aren’t moving. We ended 2017 at the lowest level since June 2004. In 2018, shrinking inventory will continue to be a major factor shaping the 2018 housing market.”
Demand is expected to continue because clients will still be eager to buy real estate because home prices are appreciating and it’s a safe investment over the long haul. Other causes for demand including millennials need a home to raise their families, households formation is rising, flips of older properties will continue to provide returns and foreigners are still eager to own U.S. property. Plus, the economy is expected to steadily improve under the Trump administration. In January 2018, the median number of days a home in San Diego remained unsold on the market was 21 days, compared to 18 days in December 2017 and 25 days in January 2017.
Also in 2018, mortgage rates are expected to remain affordable, Levine said. “The 30-year mortgage rate may inch up to between 4.3 and 4.5 percent for a standard, 30-year loan in 2018, which is still affordable for many buyers,” he said. “The combination of higher home prices and higher interest rates means mortgage payments will be higher in 2018 for the same home, which means a decline in affordability. Rising rates will hurt and eventually hit, probably due to volatility in the stock market. Still, perspective is everything. When my dad bought a home in 1981, the interest rate was 15 percent.”
Levine said it’s important for REALTORS® to get involved in their local communities, especially with planning and land use groups. “We don’t build enough homes in California and planning groups need to realize this,” he said. “We need to play catch-up. We could use another 100,000 new units annually.”