Top Spots to See & Things to Do in Ambler, PA

Ambler PA

Ambler, Pennsylvania which was once a 400-acre farm owned by William and George Harmer in the early 1700s, is now a thriving town of nearly 7,000 people. William Harmer is credited with the mill, the first commercial venture in the area built near and powered by the Wissahickon Creek, along with the stone building with diamond-shaped windows currently located at the corners of Butler Pike and Morris Road, which served as his home.

The History of Ambler, PA

The town’s first road, Mt. Pleasant Avenue, was built in 1730. It started at Harmer’s Mill and went to what is now called Bethlehem Pike. In 1739 a road called Butler Pike was created to go through town, also known as the Village of Wissahickon. It slowly grew to include an inn, a tannery, and several mills including flour, timber, paper, and cloth that were all powered by the creek. The mills were in continuous operation until the late 1800s when steam-powered technology rendered them obsolete.

The town continued to grow with the addition of Wissahickon Station on the North Pennsylvania Railroad line, which was the site of a horrific train crash in 1856. A local Quaker, Mary Johnson Ambler, walked two miles to the site while carrying medical supplies to help with rescue efforts. She welcomed injured people into her home and used it as a makeshift hospital. In return for her generosity, the station was renamed Ambler, soon followed by the post office and, in 1888 the town name was formally incorporated as well.

Ambler, PA, was once known as the “asbestos capital of the world,” but after extensive remediation performed from 1973 to 1993 that was supervised and funded by the United States EPA, the site was removed from their list of priorities and attention shifted to a nearby pond and park for remediation. The EPA continues to monitor the areas to ensure safe conditions for town residents. In 2013, the old asbestos factory was successfully converted into a LEED Platinum Certified office building, complete with a grey-water system, geothermal heating and cooling, solar panels, and a reflective roof system.

Art & Culture in Ambler, PA

Ambler, PA is home to a full range of artistic destinations. Initially operating in the 1920s, the Ambler Theater, a Warner Brothers movie theater, was restored as a non-profit community theater showing independent and limited-distribution films. Founded in 1951, the Ambler Symphony Orchestra continues to perform several concerts every year. The Act II Playhouse, founded in 1998, is a professional theatre and has been nominated for 31 Barrymore Awards.

The Ambler post office is also home to a mural painted by Harry Sternberg called The Family, Industry and Architecture. The mural was part of a fine arts project funded by the U.S. Treasury Department to boost American morale following the devastating effects of the Great Depression.

Ambler, Pennsylvania Today

Ambler is home to a variety of people and has a vibrant, walkable downtown area with something for everyone. With destinations including dining, shopping, nightlife, and various entertainment outlets, there’s plenty to do in Ambler. Locals love the weekly Farmer’s Market where farmers and artisans bring fresh, regional products that move with the seasons. From plants to sustainably raised meats and eggs, grab a local brew and enjoy an afternoon with friends and family.

The monthly “First Friday’s” events are held from May through October and include a range of specials, activities, and promotions. The free Kid’s Zone is a place for little ones to enjoy crafts, games, bouncing inflatables, shows, and more. Live music and original art are always on display, and food and drinks are part of the fun. Shop local and support small businesses while enjoying a night on the town with friends and neighbors.

For those who love to stretch their legs in the great outdoors, the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association maintains a nature reserve and hiking trail that runs to Philadelphia! If that seems like too much of a trek, the Association hosts numerous events throughout the year for guests of all ages. From creek exploration expeditions for the kids to bird watching walks for adults, there are activities for every age and ability. If you’re feeling athletic, try the annual Tex-Mex 5k Race for Open Space that ends with an ice-cold margarita, or volunteer to help with the fundraiser and give back to those who dedicate themselves to preserving natural areas for the community.

Why Choose Ambler, PA?

The locals will tell you that Ambler is an excellent place for everyone. Whether you’re young and getting a fresh start, raising a family of your own, or settling down after a fruitful career, there’s plenty to keep everyone busy. Plus, Ambler is easily accessible by both car and train, thanks to the tracks dating back to the 1800s. And, for anyone looking to live in Montgomery County, you’ll find that Ambler is one of the most affordable locations to rent a home in the county.

Whether you’re looking to rent or buy a place in Ambler, PA, Bay Management Group is here to help. Contact our team of property managers today to get started finding the space for you.

Three Things to Be Aware of When Purchasing Inexpensive Rental Properties in PA

finding cheap rental property

When investing in a rental property in PA, the incentive is often to find something with a very low purchase price to increase the profits from the rental income. In most cases, investors looking at single-family homes at rock-bottom pricing are looking to purchase through a sheriff’s sale, an REO bank-owned house, or a private owner who is very motivated to sell. In other words, these are not properties that have been prepared for sale, and those frequently come with hidden problems. Here’s how to reduce your chances of getting burned when purchasing a rental property.

1. Always Conduct a Thorough Inspection

Start by choosing a certified home inspector, preferably one who comes recommended by someone you trust. Like every other profession, certification matters along with experience and integrity. Aside from a thorough general inspection, you’ll want to hire separate experts to check for these specific problems:

  • Termites. The inspector will need access to all walls, especially any areas that meet a slab foundation. Crawl spaces and basements must be accessible, along with attics and all sinks and drains. The inspector will be looking for current infestations along with conditions that could lead to potential ones, such as plumbing leaks and wood-to-soil contact in the home.
  • HVAC. If the boiler or furnace system is more than ten years old, an inspection from an HVAC company will let you know whether replacement is right around the corner or if the system has life left in it. Many companies provide an inspection as part of a routine tune-up of the equipment, so be sure to mention that this is contemplation of purchase so you’re not paying for unnecessary services on a home you may not buy.
  • Plumbing. Spiteful previous owners who are forced out by the bank may clog drains with rags or other debris. Merely running the water may not be enough to detect any issues that have been forced down the pipes. Have a plumber scope all drains as well as check fixtures, supply lines, sinks, and showers. It’s also critical to inspect shut-off valves, sump pumps, and discharges, along with a video inspection of underground drains and sewer lines.

2. Check for Code Violations

It can be easier than you think to learn about hidden issues within a PA property you are interested in purchasing. Check with the city, township, or other governing bodies to see if there are open violations that have never been cleared up through the city. For example, a pipe that runs from the street to the home could be leaking, and this is an issue that’s impossible for an untrained eye to see and one that’s not detected on many types of plumbing inspections. Other examples include permits that were pulled but never closed, drain blockages, or problems stemming from neighboring properties.

There are many types of code violations that will prevent the home from being sold before they are fixed. For example, any extreme safety violations such as structural failures would typically need to be remedied before closing. On the other hand, many code violations are simply the result of a home aging. For example, GFCI outlets are required in kitchens in most locations, but many kitchens do not have them as they were built or remodeled before this requirement. Most of the time, these code violations only become a priority when the specific area is being worked on and are otherwise fine to leave as-is.

Pay careful attention to the code violations. Decide whether they are severe enough to require fixing before closing or if they’re better used as bargaining chips as you settle on a purchase price for cheap rental property.

3. Talk to the Neighbors

Nosy neighbors can be a hassle most of the time, but they are a tremendous asset for a home you do not intend to live in. Even peaceful neighbors tend to notice when things are happening in the neighborhood and can be a great source of information on a property you are considering. You can learn a lot about the people who used to live in the home, which may give added information on some problems within the home, such as identifying stains from pets or damage resulting from rowdy children.

Neighbors can also provide information about conditions in the neighborhood and whether they may have affected the home in the past. For example, has the area experienced any major or minor flooding? Has a tree fallen on the house requiring extensive repairs? Was illegal activity conducted in the home or neighborhood?

Another thing to consider is a neighbor that may be a little too much of a busybody. If you plan on renting your property to families or people with pets, for example, the last thing you want is to receive constant calls from a neighbor who cannot stand the sound of barking dogs or playing children. Although everyone involved in this hypothetical situation is well within their rights to children or pets and to complain about them, it’s still a hassle that’s better avoided than fought.

Do Your Homework

In many cases, homes that are below the typical price range are usually for sale for a reason. As an investor purchasing a PA rental property, your job is to be the detective and do the work to discover the reason for the property to sell so quickly and if it greatly affected the condition of the home. That way, you can be sure you’re making a sound investment that will pay off for years to come.

If you need help with inspections or finding a property in PA for sale, contact our team at Bay Management Group. We’re the experts in the Philadelphia area and can help you through the entire process.

Minor Maintenance Rental Property Tips that will Save Money

rental maintenance

Rather than waiting for tenants to report every problem, having a proactive approach to your assets will save you money in the long run. Most Philadelphia landlords are aware of the benefits of cleaning, making repairs promptly, and performing proper maintenance on items such as roofs and gutters. However, several less obvious things can be done that offers a great return on your time and expense. Here is a list of rental property maintenance tips that will help you save money over time, so you make the most of your investments.

1. Caulk is Critical

Silicone, latex, and acrylic caulk aren’t the most visible features in a home, but they have a very important job: preventing water from causing damage to areas that are not made to get wet—especially those we can’t see. Corroded or missing caulk will allow water to enter areas behind shower stalls, bathtubs, toilets, and sinks and damage drywall, wood, and other porous structures. Caulk should be replaced every year around these fixtures, and grout should be cleaned around the tile to prevent corrosion. While you’re checking this task off your list, check all the water sources in the unit to make sure there are no leaks and drips that will run up the water bill.

2. Furnace Filters

It is recommended that furnace filters are replaced every month while the appliance is under heavy use, and if it’s only being used occasionally, every three months is standard. If filters and ducts are left dirty, they will begin to fill with debris. Over time, this will cause the HVAC system to work harder, ultimately increasing utility bills. When you leave cleaning the filters to your tenants, you pose the risk that they purchase the incorrect size, type, or product altogether. Instead, buy washable, non-disposable furnace filters that tenants can clean and replace. That way, they don’t have to make a trip to the store or remember any critical details when it comes time to replace them.

3. Toilet Care

Toilets are one of the busiest fixtures in a home, but nobody likes to think too much about them until something goes wrong. Instead, by keeping up with the mechanical parts, you can prevent any running water problems that may lead to high utility bills and long-term damage. All the mechanical parts should be replaced annually as part of the building’s regular maintenance. The installation process is simple and can be performed by a handyman rather than an expensive plumber.

4. Pest Control

Bug infestations are not only gross, but they can also cause damage to your property. Termites are one of the nastiest pests as they actively work behind the scenes to eat away at your investment. In many cases, an infestation may not be noticed until the damage is substantial, and the cost to repair is sky-high. Instead, invest in an inexpensive annual treatment program that will prevent these infestations and keep the structure of your property protected. You’ll want to make sure you use professional services here, as many of the commonly available treatment options are not as effective as professional-grade treatments. Plus, professionals know the correct application techniques to ensure pests stay out without harming your tenants and their pets.

5. Exhaust Vent Cleaning

Whether you have a large building with a central laundry room or individual washers and dryers in each home, maintaining the ventilation system is a must. The buildup of dust and lint in the dryer exhaust system can pose a serious fire hazard and could lead to a critical loss of property and injury to your tenants. Dirty ventilation can cause the system to overheat and the motor and other parts of the dryer to burn out, resulting in repair or replacement. Avoid all of these hassles by having the ventilation system cleaned every year. While you’re tending to this task, it’s a great time to test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the area to be sure the batteries are fresh, and the devices are working properly.

An Ounce of Prevention…

…is worth a pound of cure. There’s a reason why these old sayings stick around: because there’s plenty of truth in them. Rather than waiting for problems to grow big enough for tenants to report or for your maintenance crew to discover upon inspection, getting ahead will save you in the long run. Not only are you keeping your buildings in top shape, but you’re also saving yourself the expense of hiring emergency crews with expensive rates—especially for late night and weekend repairs.

If keeping track of your maintenance tasks is becoming more than you care to handle, leave it to the property management experts! At Bay Management Group, we’re experienced with managing rental properties in the Philadelphia area, and our expertise lies in making property ownership profitable and pleasurable for the owners. To learn more, contact BMG today.

Best Paint, Flooring, and Cabinet Colors for Rental Properties: Keep it Neutral!

Swatches of color and fabric materials for interior design

Creating a living space that appeals to a broad range of potential tenants can be tricky, especially if interior decorating isn’t your specialty! Many times, investors and landlords are searching for simple color recommendations to use in their properties that will make the space look great while also being simple enough that virtually anyone could move their belongings in and achieve a good match.

Choosing the Right Paint Colors

Bright colors and colors that aren’t considered neutrals tend to appeal only to those who have selected the color, or only fit in with a particular decor scheme. These options are likely to be a turn-off for anyone visiting the rental property in Philadelphia and could severely reduce the number of possible applicants for your space.

Instead, choose neutral colors that tend to lend an even background and make sure to keep the tones light, so undertones and subtle colors don’t get in the way of the neutral effect. While white is often a natural, go-to neutral, it can often make a living space look too sanitized or institutional and doesn’t make any place feel like a home. Instead, look for neutrals that offer a bit of warmth. Some examples include trusty beiges and light browns, trendier grays and greiges, and possibly very pale yellows and gold tones.

It’s also a good idea to use the same color throughout the house. This will keep the flow from room to room even and prevent any rooms from standing out or looking off, so it’s easier for prospective tenants to imagine themselves in the space. As a bonus, using the same color throughout an entire unit is more cost effective as you’ll be able to take advantage of bulk pricing.

Lastly, make sure your painting crew does a good job. No matter how perfectly neutral your paint color is, having drips, patchy areas, crooked lines around the trim, and painted over switches and outlets will cause any otherwise lovely unit to look cheap and uncared for. Hire experienced painters and make your spaces look like they’ve been well-kept.

Carpeting and Flooring

When choosing flooring for your Philadelphia rental property, neutral is again the key to getting the best results. When looking at carpet colors, a common choice is a light beige color, but this can be a mistake. Although beige is a neutral color, the lighter tones are far more likely to show stains and wear and tear. Instead, darker browns and grays are a better choice as they will hide stains, dents, scratches, and marks, so the flooring lasts longer.

Don’t be afraid to use lighter color tile and linoleum flooring. Both are much easier to clean, and they’re also stain resistant, so it’s more appealing to a renter. However, it’s essential to stay away from busy patterns and other distracting details that might not be what potential tenants are looking for. Laminate flooring offers a durable, long-lasting alternative to natural wood, but avoid exotic finishes, high variation patterns, unnatural colors such as whitewashed finishes, or anything else too busy. Instead, stick to classics with a hardwood appearance in blonde or honey tones.

Kitchen Cabinets

Dark, deep colored cabinets may be a trendy style for this season, but it’s not one that will last forever. Honey Oak is another popular choice, but its appearance can end up being associated with generic rental kitchens, and sometimes can feel cheap even when you’ve invested in quality cabinetry. Some tenants may appreciate your efforts, but most people are more concerned with looks.

Instead, when choosing colors for kitchen cabinets, make white your go-to—especially if you’ve avoided white paint throughout the rental unit. In the kitchen, white cabinets help the space look clean, bright, and fresh, all things that people want to see in the area where food is prepared. Also, don’t bother with decorative kitchen elements such as a statement backsplash or fancy lighting fixtures. Most of these things are highly dependent on someone’s taste and will impact the broad appeal of your rental unit.

Need Help from a Property Manager in Philadelphia?

Capturing the attention of multiple sets of eyes is the goal when renovating your rental or turning over your unit after a move-out to prepare for the next tenants. While bold, trendy styles might seem like a great way to get the attention of modern renters, the truth is that non-neutral colors and finishes are more likely to turn people away. Remember, most people are moving in with an existing set of furniture and at least a few decor items, and they want a home where their style can be applied. Your job is to provide the backdrop and let your tenants add personality.

We highly recommend that landlords and investors check with our property managers at Bay Management Group before upgrades are installed and redecoration projects begin. We’re happy to provide simple recommendations that will help lease the property quickly and keep it leased for the long term. Contact our team at BMG today!

How Philadelphia Lead-Based Paint Laws Will Change in the Future

Lead Based Paint

The federal government banned the use of lead-based paint in 1978. According to the 2015 American Community Survey 5-year estimates, 69 percent of Pennsylvania homes were built before 1978. So, roughly 86 percent of the homes in the City of Philadelphia were constructed before the mandated change.

While the state of Pennsylvania does not require lead-based paint testing for home sales or rental properties, the city of Philadelphia does have lead-based paint testing for a specific demographic. However, both state and city governments require a lead-based paint disclosure to be signed for any home sale or new tenant entering a rental property if the property was built prior to 1978. The federal government requires a disclosure that must be signed to anyone purchasing or renting a property built before 1978 as well as the protect your family from lead in the home. The city of Philadelphia requires an additional disclosure that must be delivered to tenants which explains the law regarding lead based paint.

What is a Lead-Based Paint Inspection?

A lead paint inspection must be performed by a certified inspector. The inspector will thoroughly investigate multiple surfaces of the property to determine whether lead-based paint is present and where it is located. Under the Philadelphia Lead Paint Disclosure and Certification Law, if a building was built before 1978 and will be occupied by a child six years or younger, property owners must provide tenants with certification that it is lead-free or lead safe. The tenant must sign the certification. If the Department of Public Health discovers a hazard, the landlord is required to hire an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certified firm to fix it. The danger must be corrected in 30 days, or the property owner must appear in court.

It’s important to note that a lead paint inspection differs from a lead paint risk assessment. According to the EPA, a risk assessment is performed by certified risk assessors who perform an “on-site investigation to determine the presence, type, severity, and location of lead-based paint hazards (including lead hazards in paint, dust, and soil). They will then suggest ways to control them.” The risk assessment helps a property owner locate the source of exposure and build a possible solution.

Current Philadelphia Lead Paint Laws

Current regulations in Philadelphia require a landlord to have a lead paint inspection completed if the following three conditions are present:

  • The property was built prior to 1978 (original foundation/structure)
  • The property is in the city of Philadelphia
  • The tenants moving in have a child under seven years old

For landlords wanting to avoid having multiple tests performed with each new tenant, they can go through the process of having the property certified as lead-free. To obtain the certification, you must have a lead-free (different from lead-safe) inspection completed, identify the areas where lead paint is present, and complete the abatement process to rid the home of all lead paint. The city of Philadelphia has specific requirements for how lead-based paint can be labeled, removed, and disposed of during the process.

Future of Philadelphia Lead Paint Laws

The city of Philadelphia is in the process of making homes safer for residents. Donna Cooper, Executive Director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, says it’s nearly impossible for city leaders to know if a child under the age of seven is living in a home with lead-based paint. Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown then introduced legislation that would remove the age restriction on Philadelphia lead paint laws. While the bill will likely not take effect until 2020, it’s designed to protect more families against lead paint poisoning and place more ownership on landlords in Philadelphia. Once legislation passes, the new Philadelphia lead paint law will require a lead paint inspection if:

  • The property was built prior to 1978 (original foundation/structure) AND
  • The property is in the city of Philadelphia

The new law will be implemented over the course of five years, starting in the highest affected areas.

Councilwoman Reynolds Brown also introduced legislation to amend Chapter 9-3900 regarding “Property Licenses and Owner Accountability.” The amendment would call for all Philadelphia landlords who operate under an LLC to disclose the names of specific individuals with an equity interest in the corporation. The bill also requires all LLCs to identify an individual who can receive orders, notices, and summonses.

In 2016, nearly 2,700 children tested in Philadelphia had harmful levels of lead in their blood. The future changes for Philadelphia lead paint laws will work toward providing healthier homes for families and toward keeping children safe.

Bay Property Management Group Philadelphia is devoted to helping property owners understand the lead paint laws with our resources center. We can answer any questions you may have about your Philly rental property. To learn more about how we build a valued partnership with all of our property owners, contact Bay Management Group today.

Rental Property Pet Policy and Recommendations for Landlords

Philadelphia pet policy

As a Philly rental property owner, you know one of the most commonly asked questions from potential tenants is, “Do you allow pets on the property?” Despite the horror stories you may have heard from other property owners, adjusting your rental property pet policy to allow for some animals comes with a number of benefits.

Benefits of Pet Policies for Rental Units

The prospective tenant pool for any given property is significantly higher if you allow pets. Before you throw out the idea of allowing pets on your property, consider a customized rental property pet policy. In order to benefit from the vast majority of renters who seek a pet-friendly home, but still maintain the property, use these example restrictions:

  • Pet Limit: One pet per property
  • Pet Size: No dogs over 40 pounds
  • Pet Type: Decide if you will, or will not allow certain types of animals, like cats or reptiles
  • Breed Restrictions: Ban notoriously aggressive breeds like Huskies, Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Dobermans, and German Shepherds

While implementing these restrictions may help avoid damages or dangers to residents in neighboring properties, keep in mind that the more restrictions you put in place, the smaller your tenant pool becomes.

Another way to hold the pet owner responsible for their animals’ behavior is to require a fee or pet deposit. Consider these guidelines for implementing an additional fee in your rental property pet policy:

  • Monthly Fee: Increase rent by $25 per month per pet
  • Pet Deposit: Require a refundable pet deposit in addition to the security deposit
  • One-Time Pet Fee: Require a non-refundable fee due at the lease signing for each pet

The difference between a pet deposit and a pet fee is whether the tenant gets the money back. With a pet deposit, in the event the pet causes no damage to the property, it’s your responsibility to return the deposit in full. A pet fee is a non-refundable cost that allows the tenant to own a pet, but the pet fee traditionally doesn’t cover damages caused by the animal.

Keep in mind that tenants with an emotional support animal or a service animal are exempt from paying an additional pet deposit, pet fee, or monthly pet rent. You can request proper documentation for the animal, which the tenant is required to provide per the ADA and Fair Housing Laws.

Another benefit of allowing pet owners to lease your Philly rental property is that they stay longer. A FIREPAW, Inc. survey determined tenants with pets stay in a property 46 months on average, compared to the non-pet tenants’ 18-month stay. Also, pet owners are prepared to pay more in rent because they earn a higher income. According to Practical Apartment Management, 65 percent of pet owners make over $50,000 a year. The FIREPAW, Inc. survey reveals housing that was pet-friendly charged $222 more on average than housing that was not pet-friendly—with the average rent for tenants in the study group being $1,070.

Philly Rental Property Conditions

You have the power to set stipulations on your pet policy for rental properties, and research shows that pet owners are longer-lasting tenants and tend to make more money. However, there are disadvantages to allowing pets inside the property, including:

  • Damage: Animals can tear or chew carpets, scratch wood floors, and chew molding or door frames.
  • Noise Disturbance: Neighbors may be disturbed by the barking dog, or the playful running could be bothersome to neighbors on a lower floor in an apartment setting.
  • Pet Waste Odor: The smell of pet urine or spray can be extremely difficult to remove from carpet or the padding beneath hardwood floors. Pet waste can also cause permanent stains on the flooring.
  • Loss of Future Tenants: For prospective tenants with pet allergies, a history of animals living in the unit may be a deal breaker.
  • Lack of Clean Up: Pet waste left outside can create an odor that’s offensive to neighbors and tarnish the appearance of the property.

If you do decide to allow pets on the property, check your insurance policy to ensure you’re covered for the types of breeds you allow and if there are any limitations or exclusions to the coverage.

Rental Property Pet Policy Recommendation

No one understands better than Bay Management Group Philadelphia how to properly manage a Philly rental property, especially those that allow pets. We are committed to treating our clients’ homes as we would our own. We develop pet policies that provide the most suitable tenant pool and bring in the most money for the property.

Our recommended rental property pet policy:

  • No cats permitted on the property.
  • No fish permitted on the property.
  • Birds are permitted in single-family homes with a pet deposit and pet fee. Birds are not allowed in apartments to avoid noise disturbances of other tenants.
  • Small mammals, like a weasel, hamster, or mouse, are allowed with pet deposit and pet fee.
  • Maximum of two dogs on the property based on home size and a total weight of 100 pounds.
  • Pet rent rate of $25 per month.
  • Refundable pet deposit of $500 for the first pet, $250 for the second.

Our Philadelphia Property Management company offers professional services for your Philly rental property. We will perform routine inspections throughout each tenant’s lease term to ensure your property is being adequately cared for. Our client testimonials speak to our reliability and professionalism.

Contact Bay Property Management Group Philadelphia today to learn how you can get the most for your rental property by offering a custom pet policy and expanding your pool of potential tenants.

What to Know About Investing in Property Around Universities

Investing in single-family and multi-family homes around universities can be a challenge for some investors, but it is also an endeavor that can pay off when done correctly. Before diving into investment property in a university town, here are a few things to keep in mind so you can find success.

Location is Critical

Your primary market in a college town is likely to be students, but you may also get a few professors, adjuncts, coaches, and other university staff as well. For that reason, you want to make sure the property is within walking distance of the main campus as most students would prefer to avoid the hassle of maintaining a car and paying parking fees. Being within a couple of blocks may be ideal, but as long as the school is accessible by foot and bike and is within three-quarters of a mile from the epicenter of the university, it should be suitable for most student and faculty needs.

The demands of your student tenants are likely to be reasonable as most are looking to find something that’s affordable rather than worrying about how big the yard is or whether the grocery store is walkable. The surrounding neighborhood doesn’t need to have luxury amenities, but it also should not be questionable or unsafe. A good rule of thumb is to consider whether you would want your own college-aged children to live in the neighborhood.

Carefully Review Current Leases

During your due diligence process before entering into a contract of sale, be sure to carefully read and understand all the current leases for the property. Student leases are often a little different from a typical one, and a single unit could have separate contracts for each rather than one lease for the entire household.

This is a legal practice, but it can make the task of managing the investment property challenging, especially if the leases do not all end at the same time. For example, you could find yourself with an odd vacancy situation with units only being partially leased–and filling those vacancies can be tricky. It can also present a problem when assessing damage to common property such as stoves or walls as discovering who is responsible is a lengthy and troublesome process. You may want to consider asking the seller to get all the tenants within one unit onto a single lease.

It’s also important to find out if roommate agreements are in place, especially for students who are on individual leases. Such contracts often cover how things like utilities are paid as well as any “house rules” of the home such as quiet hours and overnight guests. While these agreements don’t typically include anything that is legally binding with the landlord, specific terms in a roommate agreement can be legally binding among the residents, especially those that deal with financial obligations. It would be wise to investigate these agreements to avoid possible hassles or misunderstandings in the future.

You will also want to be sure that all current leases end at an ideal time for the next school semester. Check with the school’s schedule as each university can be slightly different and aim to have your properties turn over just before the next session, so your vacancy rate remains low.

Gathering Tenant Information

Make sure you have all tenant information upon settlement. Rental properties near a university can have a high turnover rate, so it is essential to make sure the previous owner correctly kept track of the records. It’s crucial to have all current contact information as well as details about cosigners and guarantors to ensure you receive your rent payments each month – this will help when collecting for damages after move-out as well. If possible, it’s a good idea to have the rental applications for all current tenants, so you have critical details such as dates of birth and Social Security numbers in the event that evictions or collections become necessary.

Inspecting the Property

Recently renovated buildings and new construction projects can be prevalent around big universities, but it’s still important to take the proper inspection steps before investing in a rental property. Many of these new or renovated properties tend to be put together quickly for fast turnover, but this can lead to some issues that need to be addressed before leasing. For example, if inexpensive or flimsy materials are used, they may not stand up to the rigorous nature of college life, and you may end up spending a great deal on repairs.

If high-end materials such as granite countertops or plush carpeting are used, not only will college students be less likely to appreciate them (and be willing to pay extra), but those materials are not likely to remain in their luxurious state for long. So, it may also not be worth it for you to pay more for the property because of such features.

There may also be local landlords who do not adequately turn over a rental unit. This may result in high-traffic areas such as walls and floors needing significant cleaning or repair before the unit is ready. When negotiating the list price with a seller, keep these repair and maintenance issues in mind.

Investing in Rental Property Near a University

When choosing to invest in rental properties located near universities, there are several considerations that are particular for that environment – and it can be time-consuming to get all the details in order. From finding a location that will be convenient for students to get to and from class, non-standard leasing arrangements, and additional repairs and maintenance, it’s important to do your homework before entering into a contract. With the help of a property management company, you can ensure all the right information is gathered so you’ll be better positioned to make a profit from your investment. If you’re ready to get started, contact Bay Management Group, the premier property management company in Philadelphia, today!

Security Systems for Any Sized Rental Property

Protecting your Philadelphia investment property from damage or vandalism is always a concern. Along with the safety concerns of your tenants, this type of destruction can be costly – especially if you’re unable to determine who is responsible for causing the problem and must cover the repairs yourself. To ensure you and your tenants are protected, here’s what you need to know about a security system for your rental property.

Large, Multi-Family Buildings

If your building is large and has enough tenants, a door attendant or concierge might make your life a lot easier. Basic door attendant services typically include calling residents to verify visitors, accepting packages and mail, and sometimes even assisting residents with tasks such as calling a ride share or taxi service. A full-service concierge goes even further by offering things such as dog walking, accepting large deliveries, making reservations, and more. While both levels of service will improve your building’s security, a full-service concierge will also add even more value to your rental, especially if your target market is busy professionals.

Managing hundreds of keys for a large building can be a nightmare. On top of that, keeping common areas secure can be nearly impossible. Instead, invest in a key fob system. This is not only simpler to manage, but also provides a bit more security, too. Keyless locks cannot be picked and will allow you to have more control over who has access to different areas of the property. You’ll also be able to see who is coming and going – and when – which can help you track down who may be responsible for damage or theft that occurs in common areas.

A strategic camera system is a vital component of any security system for a rental property. In the interior, all common areas should be monitored, including the lobby, hallways, elevators, amenities such as the gym, business center, decks, and parking lots and garages. It’s also critical to monitor the entire exterior of the building and pay particular attention to back and side entryways. Most modern camera systems allow for live viewing via a mobile device for quick access. It’s also critical to have on-site storage of footage with enough space to date back several days so you can refer back as necessary.

Small Multi-Family and Single-Family Buildings

Investing in a security system for apartments and single-family rentals will pay off in the long run. Not only will your tenants feel safer, but you’ll rest easy knowing you’re taking the right steps to protect your investment.

A complete security system from a company like ADT can be the right solution for many landlords. Not only do they offer around-the-clock monitoring, but they often can tie different services together to get several things off your plate at once. For example, you may be able to combine smoke and carbon monoxide detection, camera systems, and an alarm system for the rental property into a single service with one point of monitoring and contact.

There are other steps you can take to boost the security of smaller dwellings. Smart doorbells such as those offered by Nest or Ring capture footage of surrounding areas and entryways while also providing a forewarning to residents whenever a visitor has arrived. Additional camera systems that provide simple playback interfaces on smartphones are also available. Popular brands such as Simply Safe and Night Owl offer both wired and wireless networks that include cameras and doorbells that can all be operated and monitored from a smartphone.

Digital locks will also boost your security efforts while reducing the need to keep track of keys and change locks. Choose from systems that connect with a smartphone or use a fingerprint to allow access to a device like a fob or keyless systems. Another benefit of a keyless system is that it eliminates the hassle that may result from accidental lockouts. Plus, when a tenant moves out and a new one moves in, changing access to the unit is simple.

Lastly, having a dog on-premise can also boost your safety and security efforts. According to one report, barking dogs and camera systems are the best deterrent for burglars as they would prefer an easier target. If you are uncomfortable allowing pets, consider security systems that use a motion sensor and a speaker system to emulate dogs barking instead.

Smart Security Practices

The best security system for apartment buildings will work best when combined with a few best practices from you and your tenants. Landlords should make sure all door and window locks function properly and equip sliding doors – especially on the first floor – with an inside bar lock rather than a handle lock. Keep entryways, hallways, and other areas brightly lit at all times. Lastly, include background checks and check references during your screening process.

Tenants should be advised to keep windows closed and locked whenever they aren’t home. Main entry doors and doors to common areas like laundry rooms and pools should never be propped open. Don’t allow people to “piggyback” when entering the building; if they do not have a key of their own, do not let them in. If common area lights are burned out or other safety concerns are noted, make it easy for tenants to report such issues so they can be resolved promptly.

Getting the Right Security System for Your Rental Property

Finding the right combination of security services for your rental property means considering the needs of your tenants, the neighborhood, and your budget. Modern security systems and services such as door attendants and concierges will also add value to your properties and make filling vacancies, and meeting rent needs easier. The best place to start? Hire a property management company that can take care of all of this for you. By hiring someone like Bay Management Group, you can make sure you check off all the boxes and find the right balance for your investment while reducing the demand on your time for managing day-to-day needs. When you find a team like BMG that wants to work with you and your tenants, you can rest easy knowing you’re providing a safe environment and doing what is necessary to protect your investments.

Warranty Contract FAQ

Warranty Contract

In theory, a home warranty always sounds like a good idea, right? By default, you’re backing up a big investment with a guarantee that it’ll last a certain amount of time or perform at a specified level without breaking, damaging, or being deemed unusable.

A lot of homeowners ask our team at Bay Management Group if they should purchase home warranties for their houses; unfortunately, many people don’t realize how a home warranty actually works.
In this article, we’ll explore the positives and negatives of buying a home warranty plan, as well as the things you should know before you decide to sign on the dotted line.

What is a Home Warranty Plan?

By definition, a home warranty plan is a one-year service agreement that covers any repair or replacement to major home appliances and components that break down over time. Most plans cover a home’s biggest ticket items. Elements such as plumbing, electrical, HVAC, and the water heater are typically addressed in home warranties. Since these are broad terms, you have to dig deeper to ensure your home and equipment are optimally protected.

The typical home service warranty plan will only cover minor plumbing and electrical issues. You might be able to have a faulty light switch swapped out, or maybe a bad garbage disposal can be replaced. On the other hand, deeper electrical and plumbing problems likely do not fall under your home warranty, leaving you to foot the bill anyway.

People are often caught by the misunderstanding that all plumbing and electrical issues will be covered by a warranty, but that’s usually not true. By always reading the fine print and asking a few simple questions when you’re deciding which plan to purchase, you can eliminate headaches down the road.

Questions to Ask When it Comes to Home Warranty

Here’s a list of some basic questions you should keep in your back pocket to ensure you fully understand how a home warranty plan works as it pertains to your unique property:

1. What Types of Plans are Offered?

  • Systems-Only Plans. These plans cover the electrical, plumbing, and HVAC system (heating and cooling) in your home or rental unit.
  • Appliance-Only. These home warranties take care of major appliances, such as refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers, washers, and dryers.
  • Combo Warranties. Combo warranties are more all-encompassing. They’ll cover some, if not all, of your appliances and systems. These warranties typically include electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems, as well as your major appliances.

2. What Happens When a Claim is Filed?

The warranty company almost always has a set network of vendors who work in your area. Usually, service providers will answer 24 hours a day, meaning you’ll be able to get ahold of someone to answer the call but the repairs may not happen that day or night is A big problem is that often times you’re at the mercy of the vendor that’s assigned to perform your maintenance request. You won’t have many options (if any) in terms of choosing the person or company that performs your property’s maintenance.

If you have a leak or no heat in the winter, odds are high that you’ll have to wait a few days before anyone will be able to make it out. This means you’ll be dealing with unhappy tenants until the situation is fixed.

3. What Are the Standard Costs Associated with Home Warranties?

Every plan is different, and the costs can vary widely depending on the area and the plan you choose. Premium plans typically range from $240 to $650 a year. You can expect to pay about $75 to $125 for a deductible if you have to make a claim. Much of the time, the deductible needs to be paid upon the vendor’s entrance into the home.

4. Do I Need to Pay More Than Just the Deductible?

This depends on the repair. If it’s a basic repair that can be handled with a simple service call, you’re most likely just going to pay the deductible. You might also have to pay for parts if something needs to be replaced. If the repair is fairly major, you should plan for out-of-pocket expenses that go beyond the deductible. Be sure to speak with your vendor or contractor before the work is started so you can understand how various problems can increase the costs associated with the problem at hand. Knowing issues up front will ease any monetary discomfort after the work is complete.

5. What if the Entire Electrical System in the House is Faulty?

Unfortunately, most plans don’t cover catastrophic issues, which is what whole-house faulty wiring would be considered. If your entire home has faulty wiring or knob-and-tube wiring that could possibly cause a fire, you might want to reach out to your realtor if you’ve recently purchased your home. There may be remedies you can realize if the previous seller didn’t disclose important information that’s related to a fire hazard. Alternatively, your insurance company might be able to suggest options that will help you make the most of your situation.

In any event, a typical home warranty won’t cover faulty electrical systems. It will be up to you to ensure your rental property is up to livable standards and safe enough for your renters to live without worry.

6. What if the Piping to and from the House is Damaged?

Most warranty companies will not cover plumbing repairs that aren’t directly within the walls of the home. Sometimes tree roots will grow into the pipes beneath properties and while they’re unpleasant, they’re usually left to the homeowners to deal with. Deterioration over many years of use is another problem that’s typically left to property owners to handle on their own.

7. When Can I Start My Plan? Is There a Grace Period?

Typically, you can expect to wait 30 days after the service starts to put a claim in.

What Does Bay Management Group Recommend?

At BMG Philadelphia, we suggest three options for landlords who want to ensure their properties are well-protected:

Obtain a Warranty Plan IF:

  • Your water heater is over 14 years old (most water heaters have a lifespan of approximately 12 years).
  • The furnace is over 15 years old (most start having minor issues after 10 years).

Obtain a Service-Only Plan for Your HVAC System

  • These plans typically exist in local markets (as opposed to policies with nationwide companies).
  • You’ll usually be covered for bi-annual services prior to the changing of seasons, which can help extend the longevity of your equipment with standard preventative maintenance.

Obtain a Warranty or Service Plan if the Owner of the Property is Comfortable Doing So

At BMG, we work with any and all warranty companies—big and small. As a landlord, it’s important to choose a property management firm that understands why warranties are put into effect in the first place. We will always contact the warranty company for any and all repairs to confirm the repairs and issues are within the scope of the agreement.

At Bay Management Group, we understand how important investors’ properties are to their bottom lines. That’s why we do everything we can to help them find tenants who will respect their spaces and stay as long as possible. If you’re ready to turn your rental into a money-making endeavor, we’re ready to talk to you!

How to Deal with Subletting

How to deal with Subletting

When you’ve chosen the right renter, you have certain expectations—you expect that person to respect your property, pay rent on time, and reside within your space for the amount of time specified on your lease. Above all, you expect them not to let anyone else stay in the space they’ve contracted with you.

Subletting can easily become a sticky situation, which is why it is NOT permitted in any of our leases at Bay Management Group. Just because it’s not allowed, however, doesn’t mean tenants don’t try to do it all the time.

What is Subletting?

Simply put, subletting happens when the person on a lease finds someone else to live in the space and pay the monthly rent. The person who’s actually on the agreement is no longer occupying the property, which immediately makes it harder for landlords to address maintenance issues, collect payment, and communicate with the resident in general.
In short, you may not even have any idea who’s living inside your walls if your tenant decides to sublet. This is why it’s essential to ensure your lease very clearly prohibits your renters from subletting their spaces.

Are you concerned that you might find yourself facing down subletting problems? Let’s look at some of the reasons tenants try to sublet and what you can do about the situation.

Why Tenants Try to Sublet Their Apartments

There are dozens of reasons tenants might want to sublet their apartments. For some people, twelve months is simply a lot longer in real life than it felt like it would be on paper. For others, bad roommates or relationship breakups can lead to uncomfortable living situations. If you’re wondering how to deal with subletting, here are some common reasons we’ve seen sublets occur and what you can do to remedy the situation.

Your Tenant Needs to Relocate

One of the most common reasons we see renters trying to sublet their places is due to relocation – it happens all the time. Often, major relocation occurs when a tenant accepts a job that’s hundreds or thousands of miles away from their current home. For the right career opportunity, many are willing to leave their current cities and start over somewhere new. In fact, the majority of millennials are intentionally renters rather than homeowners because they prefer the freedom and flexibility associated with being able to pick up and move without worrying about selling a home.

Although your contract may strictly forbid tenants from breaking their leases early for any reason, calls or emails concerning the need for relocation because of a new career opportunity are incredibly common. The best way to handle this situation is to work with your tenants rather than allowing them to sublet. This is why it’s essential to know exactly what’s in your lease, so you understand what your break-lease fee is. Typically, the cost to break a lease is an additional two months’ rent.

Since it’s very difficult to get tenants to agree to these terms—and you don’t want to be left without any fee to fill in the gaps—we suggest letting your tenants find their own replacements.

Allowing your tenants to find renters to replace them on the lease means you’re not stuck doing a bunch of leg work you weren’t planning to do. By putting the responsibility on your renter, you can continue with your normal day-to-day processes without being bogged down by advertising or showing your space.

These terms allow for a seamless transition without any vacancy or turnover of the property, as well as additional income from the transfer fee.

  • Application & Approval. The new tenant must apply to live there and pass the qualification process.
  • Lease Transfer. Rather than allowing a sublet, the existing tenant’s leases should be transferred to the new renter. The new tenant then pays the vacating tenant the escrow funds on file and assumes the property and apartment as-is, taking responsibility for any tenant damages.
  • Continuation of Payment. The former tenant must pay for each day until the new tenant moves in.
  • Transfer Fee. The exiting tenant must pay a transfer fee of $300 to $500.

Your Tenant Needs to Leave for a Couple Months and Come Back

If you have rental properties around a college or university, you may encounter this request quite often. The ebb and flow of the academic calendar means students may be looking to fill vacancies in their rentals during summer break or co-op programs when they won’t be around for three months or more. Again, instead of allowing a sublet, it’s always best to transfer the lease, whether there are multiple tenants or just a single tenant. When the original renter returns, you can simply transfer the lease back to that person.

The same process as noted above applies here, but this type of transfer is easier to handle because there isn’t as much to lose on the tenant’s end, since they’ll be coming back in a few months. In other words, they don’t have to pay break-lease fees.

Your Tenant Doesn’t Tell You About a Sublet

This situation happens from time to time, although it’s certainly not ideal. Rather than trying to turn back time, find ways to work with your renters so you can find a mutual solution that works best for all parties involved. The subletter must apply and pass the screening process. If there are questionable financial red flags on the application, the subletter and the original lessee must both be on the lease and held financially responsible.

On the other hand, if the subletter passes the application process, it’s best to generate a lease transfer amendment and try to get some form of compensation out of the original leaseholder by way of a break-lease fee.

In the end, it’s very important to try to make deals with tenants who need to get out of their leases, rather than being extremely strict with them. If you’re too inflexible, tenants won’t be transparent, and you could wind up having complete strangers living on your property. Court should always be the last-resort option if things can’t be worked out. You’ll be in a far better place if you can find common ground and negotiate with your tenants instead of spending money and time in front of a judge.

Bay Management Group is Philadelphia’s go-to property management firm. With an entire team of 24/7 on-call property managers and experts who know how to compose a lease that’ll keep you as protected as possible, why would you look anywhere else? Get started with our services by filling out an online form today!