Finding A Home Without Losing Your Wallet

by Christopher Barrow 14. March 2009 14:58

In the past 8 or 9 months I have noticed a trend with today's renters...they have become more frugal and money conscious. And with good reason too. Our economy has really hit the skids. California is virtually bankrupt, there is a 10 % unemployment rate, yada yada yada more doom and gloom etc. That said there is a terrific upside for renters: there is a lot of inventory to choose from and certainly some deals to be had. That's not say that 6,500 sq ft house down the street for $10K is going to be yours for the next year for $3000/mo, but if you're looking to stretch your buck and find a great house you should consider the following:

1. Think outside the box: Several times a week I run into renters coming from outside the Marin area looking to rent a family home in Tiburon or Mill Valley because of their award winning school districts, fantastic downtowns, access to outdoor recreation and all the other wonderful aspects that make Mill Valley and Tiburon so great....only to find  that the rentals available in their price range are somewhat disappointing. I make it a point to expose these renters to areas a little further north. There are a lot of people who don't realize that Larkspur, Corte Madera, Kentfield, and Greenbrae all have great schools (check out www.greatschools.org) and wonderful downtowns and your dollar goes much further. I also recommend that they check out areas in San Rafael, San Anselmo and Novato

2. Don't take a house for face value: I can't tell you how many times people decide not to rent a property because they hate paint color on the walls, complain that the yard was over grown or that the kitchen and bathrooms were dirty or dated. These "awful" aspects are your allies. Not only are they are negotiating tools that a tenant can use to get the rent down a bit, but they are usually reasons that the property hasn't rented. There is no limit to how far your imagination and a little elbow grease can go. Don't like the paint? Change it to what you like (with the owners permission, of course!). Think that yard is terrible?  Get out there and mow, plant and water. Often times an owner will contribute to the cost of improving their property and they will always appreciate a tenant who cares. Kitchens and bathrooms aren't so simple, but a clean space, a color change and nice hand towels can change your perspective.

3. Do your homework: With Craigslist and the Internet you can do a lot of research to see what is out there for rent and compare the inventory. Look at various school districts. San Rafael, San Anselmo and Novato elementary schools are often over looked. Consult a leasing professional. These folks are your eye in the sky and can give you important information on homes, areas and will shoot it to you straight.

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Relocating with Pets? A Word about Marin Rentals and Four Legged Friends

by Christopher Barrow 9. March 2009 11:05

I think I read somewhere that 60% of Marin households have pets.  As a 2-dog/1-cat household myself, I'll believe that.  Marin is a family-friendly demographic. Families have pets.  Pets have families.  And, of course, every tenant who calls to ask about your pet policy has a "very well behaved" cat.  Or Labradoodle.  Or Cookapoo/Dachshund mix.

So if you're a landlord having just installed brand new hardwood floors/new landscaping/have pet allergies/etc and have decided you want to list your property as "no pets" what can you do?

First, I might ask you to reconsider.

If approx 60% of the households come with pets, by marketing "no pets" you are effectively eliminating 60% of your possible tenant pool.  If you simply do not mind spending that extra time on the market and are prepared to wait, then absolutely, go ahead with your firm no pet policy.

But if the prospect of losing an extra 4 - 6 weeks of income while sitting waiting for that perfect pet-free household to apply causes lost sleep, here are a couple tips that might help ease the pain.  Or pet dander.

1)  Get references.  The current landlord is best, but if your applicants are previous homeowners they may not have a reference.  Ask for a current neighbor's contact info.  Ask for a letter from the vet certifying no known urination or defecation issues.  Ask for their trainer's contact info.  (They did send it to to puppy class, right?)

2) Ask to meet the "very well-behaved" pet.  Is it well behaved?

3)  Look extra closely at the applicant's credit report.  It has long been my thinking that when a tenant is sloppy in one area of her life, she is more likely to be sloppy in the rest.  A credit report with several late pays--while the tenant might explain he's been really busy and involved with work and it was just two little Target late pays--might be signs of the type of tenant who, say, lets his pure bred show cat pee on your new carpet because he's too busy to keep the litter box clean enough.  When I see an applicant with two grown Maltese dogs and a 731 Transunion score I'm a lot more likely to accept the tenant than the applicant with the one cat and 620 score with high balances and two missed cell phone bills. 

4) Take the maximum security deposit allowed in your state.  Period.  This is non-negotiable for me when I represent landlords in Marin. I feel strongly about and have killed deals over tenants who refuse.  (Sorry Tenants--I pay it, too!)  A tenant concerned with turning over a high security deposit sounds like a tenant who might be comcerned about getting his security deposit back.  In California, for an unfurnished property two months is the max.  I've seen $15k worth of damage done to a property in under six months!  (These dogs literally ate the outside of a $3 million home in Mill Valley rented for $10,000 a month.  Luckily, we had taken a $20,000 deposit.)  If a tenant believes his pet is well behaved, a high deposit should not be a problem.

5) Sign a Pet Agreement.  The agreement we use here in Marin for our leases asks a tenant to agree to take responsibility for the complete cost of replacing surfaces damaged by a pet; including but not limited to complete hardwood floor replacement.

6) Check the age of the pet.  An older or younger pet is more likely to ruin carpet or floors due to potty accidents than a healthy 2 - 10 year old pet (with the exception of kittens--somehow most seem born litter box trained!).  Also, younger dogs, depending on breed type, are usually more active and better equipped to leave scratches in your hardwood floors.  While you can't discriminate against a tenant's children or age, you certainly can deny applicants who plan to get a puppy this year for Christmas for those children!

Now a quick word to tenants:  if you do have a "well behaved pet" (or two) and are tired of hearing "sorry, no pets", increase your chances of bringing Fido with you by presenting a Pet Profile that takes the above into consideration. Offer up the two-month security deposit.  Bring references.  Offer to introduce the potential landlord to your pet -- in your own home if possible.  (I've been successful with this route even after the first answer was no). You can even create your own Pet Agreement showing that you are totally willing to accept responsibility.  I've done the above every time my fiancee' and I find ourselves moving and have happily kept our own "well behaved" pets with us throughout.

(And, uh, when my own show cat got sick and pee'd all over the carpet, guess who went ahead and replaced the carpet - padding and all - right away?)

Good luck!

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About Marin Rental Broker Christopher Barrow

Born in San Francisco and raised in Marin, broker Christopher Barrow comes from an educational background in communications, with previous work experience in sales and client management.  Together with partner/wife, Darcy Alkus Barrow, the two run Foundation Rentals and Relocation servicing all of Marin County's rental property needs.

Even as the owner of the company, Christopher works every end of the Marin rental spectrum from one bedroom apartments for $1,000 to high-end, executive-style rentals renting anywhere from $8,000 to $15,000+ a month.  A working relationship with Christopher brings round the clock dedication and true client focus.  

When not working--which is rare if you ask his friends and family--Christopher spends his time at the Bay Club in Corte Madera, or at home in San Rafael with his wife and their two dogs, enjoying all the great outdoor life Marin has to offer.

Contact Christopher anytime at cb@foundationrentrelo.com CA DRE Lic# 01722834

http://www.foundationrentalgroup.com/

Areas served include: Sausalito rentals, CA, USA - Mill Valley rentals, CA, USA - Tiburon rentals, CA, USA - Belvedere rentals, CA, USA - Corte Madera rentals, CA, USA - Larkspur rentals, CA, USA - Greenbrae rentals, CA 94904, USA - Kentfield rentals, CA, USA - Ross rentals, CA, USA - San Anselmo rentals, CA, USA - San Rafael rentals, CA, USA - Novato rentals, CA, USA - San Francisco rentals, CA, USA‎ Rentals
 

 

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