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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Selling Market Creates Reluctant Landlords

Slow market creates reluctant landlords
Homeowners unable to sell turn to renting.


DETROIT — A growing number of homeowners are finding out what it means to be a landlord after failing to sell their homes in one of the worst housing slumps in history.

Call a private investigator.
For less than $50, you will find out whether the prospective tenant is a deadbeat right there and then instead of finding out after he or she owes you three months’ rent and you have to evict. — Tom Youngblood Jr., landlord
Don’t be scared by bad credit. Renters who lost their homes come to the landlord having gotten rid of their biggest expense — their mortgage. If they have a job, they are pretty good tenants. References are as important as the credit report. — Dan Elsea, Real Estate One
If you use a standard lease contract, have a lawyer review it to avoid surprises. — Mike Balduf, landlord PHave the tenant provide acopy of his or her credit report, references and proof of employment. Contact the employer to ensure the potential tenant is working there. — Katie Hill, Realtor with Real Estate One in Troy, Mich.
Find out whether your city or township requires you to have a permit to rent out the house and pay the fee. Do everything by the book. — Mark LaVelle, landlord
Request wire transfers and automatic deposits for monthly rental payments to avoid being scammed by people who don’t want to pay. Fraudulent checks and cashier’s checks are easy to create on a personal computer. — Steve Cole, Realtor with Coldwell Banker Weir Manuel in Birmingham, Mich.
With home prices down nationwide, many don’t want to take a huge loss when they decide to move. They want to wait to see whether they can rebuild their equity. So they rent.

“People just really don’t want to be landlords, and they really have no choice,” said Dennis Dickstein, a Realtor at Real Estate One in Farmington Hills, Mich., who estimates 20 percent of his deals are leases.

Mark and Rhonda LaVelle decided to buy a bigger home while the market was down. The couple had a 1,100-square-foot house in Royal Oak, Mich., to sell but decided to move when they found a 2,300-square-foot home about two miles away. They started renting their house in January after it had been on the market nine months.

“After paying two mortgages and the house wasn’t moving, we were at a point where we would have to sell it at a substantial loss or get someone else in who could pay the mortgage,” said Mark LaVelle, 38, a freelance cameraman.

He and Rhonda LaVelle, 37, a television-news producer, turned the leasing over to his real estate agent.

“It’s been a great experience. We’re getting the full mortgage payment from the tenants,” Mark LaVelle said. “My wife just wanted to wash her hands of the whole thing. She looks at it like a liability. I look at it as an investment.”

But it’s not always moving up that sparks a home rental.

Sometimes it’s a life change, such as marriage, college graduation, divorce or death in the family.

Many homeowners who decide to lease their homes use their real estate agents to handle the transaction, including background and credit checks.

The service generally will cost a landlord one month’s rent, and property management could cost 10 percent to 20 percent of the monthly rent. But with rent often set just high enough to cover the mortgage payment, some landlords do it themselves.

Dan Elsea, president of brokerage services for Real Estate One in Southfield, Mich., advises landlords not to be too turned off by potential tenants with bad credit.

“The people coming to them have gotten rid of their biggest expense, their mortgage, when they arrive at the door. They arrive with a reasonably clean income statement if they have a job,” he said. “You should look at the credit report, but don’t scrutinize it too closely. References are just as important.”

Other real estate agents agree.

James Silver, an agent with Keller Williams in Troy, Mich., said there are many good tenants to choose from.

“As long as you get everything: a credit report, the last few pay stubs, references. As long as you have everything in front of you, you’re fine,” Silver said.

And the beauty of the rental market is prices there have not fallen by 40 percent, as many parts of the sales market have.

The reason is there are a lot of renters to feed demand.

“So many people have lost their homes ... they are looking for a place to live,” said Linda Hiller Novak, a Realtor with Max Broock Realtors in Birmingham, Mich.

There are horror stories, of course, for untested landlords. Some learn quickly that the old saying, “Possession is nine-tenths of the law,” is true.

Steve Cole, an agent with Coldwell Banker Weir Manuel in Birmingham, Mich., said he knows a homeowner in Birmingham who rented his house to tenants who not only didn’t pay rent, they trashed the home before the landlord could evict them.

“When times are tough, people look to scam,” Cole said.

Tom Youngblood, a 38-year-old human resources director, is renting his St. Clair Shores, Mich., home to a responsible tenant after having to evict the first one.

He was lucky. First off, a court clerk helped him figure out how legally to evict the tenant. He had to give the tenant seven days’ notice to pay or face eviction. Then he filed eviction paperwork with the court.

In December, a judge ordered the tenant to pay or be out in 10 days. She chose to leave and did not damage the home, he said. If the tenant had not moved out within 10 days, a court officer would have done it for her.

It can take from 27 to 57 days to evict a tenant, according to the Michigan State University College of Law’s Rental Housing Clinic.

Youngblood’s home is now being rented by Danette Trice, 30, an engineer design specialist at AT&T in Mount Clemens. She had been living in Eastpointe, Mich., with her son, Ephraim Gibson Jr., 4.

Ephraim has bronchitis, and the two had to move because the air conditioning wasn’t working at their house.

Her real estate agent helped her get a $100-a-month reduction in rent and made air conditioning a requirement in the lease.

“I didn’t have to do this or that to move in,” Trice said. “There was new cabinetry in the kitchen, the appliances were nice and the tile was nice.”

Dickstein helped Cyndee Pote, who works in advertising and marketing for Real Estate One’s corporate offices, lease her home earlier this summer after Pote, her husband and three children moved to a 2,400-square-foot home in Bloomfield Hills.

Pote and her husband, Jason Pote, had their 980-square-foot house on the market for a year with no offers. Houses in the neighborhood were going for $50,000, and she had paid $94,000.

Once it was put up for rent, the showings increased, and they had it rented within a week.

The young man who rented it lived just 10 houses down the street and was losing that rental because the owner let it go into foreclosure. Dickstein did a background check, a credit check and contacted the renter’s employer before letting him rent the home.

“The rental market was strong. We were able to cover our mortgage and then some,” Cyndee Pote said.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

For Our Clients: How To Prepare Your Home For Fire Safety

Friday, October 8, 2010

5 Common Mistakes When Planning Retirement

5 Common Mistakes When Retirement Planning
RISMEDIA, October 7, 2010--Since there are complicated aspects of retirement planning, many people choose to work with professional financial planners in order to better ensure a comfortable retirement. In addition to accumulating an appropriate-sized nest egg, retirees also need to consider their debt, amount of insurance, inflation, other sources of income and how to protect their investments. offers five common mistakes that people make when retirement planning that can greatly affect their golden years.

1. Retiring with too much debt. Financial planners will generally recommend not retiring until credit card, mortgage and other forms of debt are paid off. These monthly payments can quickly cut into savings, which will be paying for past expenditures -- plus interest and current expenses. Increasingly, Americans are entering traditional retirement years with heavy debt.

2. Not buying enough insurance. Although people over the age of 65 are eligible for Medicare, they will still have additional healthcare costs that are not covered. Depending on coverage, many items are not covered, such as premiums, deductibles, coinsurance, eye glass coverage, hearing aids or long-term nursing home care for longer than 100 days. Guidance from a professional is recommended if the family has significant assets to protect.

3. Not taking inflation into account. Inflation will slowly decrease the spending power of savings. However, there are steps that can be taken to avoid this. Social security, some annuities and pensions are adjusted for inflation annually. Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS) are a government bond that promises a rate of return that exceeds inflation.

4. Depending on one source of income. A certified financial planner may recommend having four to six sources of retirement income without counting on just one. By diversifying, retirees can avoid losing all their income if one source loses value. Guaranteed sources can include Social Security, pensions and annuity payments. Other common sources can be 401(k), IRA, CDs, personal investments, cash investments, rental properties and royalty income.

5. Not protecting savings. About five to 10 years before retiring, people should start to focus more on protecting their savings rather than growing them. People can reduce risk by shifting assets to more conservative investments, avoiding borrowing or taking early withdrawals and minimizing fees and taxes deducted from savings. More funds should be placed in low-cost investments and traditional and Roth retirement accounts.

The Web's 10 Best Resources For Raising Financially Savvy Kids

The Web\'s 10 Best Investor Education Resources for Raising Financially Savvy Kids

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

"Commitment leads to action. Action brings your dream closer." -- Marcia Wider