How to Find the Property Lines for Your Land

As a land owner, knowing the location of your property lines is one of the best ways to avoid disputes with your neighbors.Property lines, or boundary lines, are the defined points where one owner’s land ends and the neighboring property begins. A property owner uses boundary lines to determine where they can legally place items such as fences, driveways, outbuildings like pole barns or anything else. Erecting a structure on or partially on another person’s land can lead to lawsuits and unpleasant situations with neighbors.1. Check your deed. The deed contains the legal description of your property, which is basically the property’s measurements and boundaries in words. For most people, the property description can be difficult to interpret, so you may not find it helpful. However, sometimes, the legal description uses landmarks and measurements that you can interpret. If that’s the case, measure from the landmarks in the description to the property lines. Mark each corner with a stake or other marker. Measure from each stake to the next all the way around your property to ensure the measured lines match the deed. Physically measuring the boundaries will allow you to visually determine where the lines are and avoid encroaching on your neighbor’s land. Just be warned: An old description may rely on the location of a tree that no longer exists or a creek that has gone dry.2. Check the official website for the assessor’s office in your municipality. Some assessors have mapping tools available online for all of the real estate in the area. You can use the maps to find the boundary lines for your property and to determine where nearby landmarks are located, such as the east line of your street. You can use these landmarks as fixed points to measure from. Using a tape measure or measuring wheel, measure the distance from each of the landmark points to your property line as shown on the maps.3. If you don’t have a copy, and there’s nothing available online, visit the county recorder’s office or the assessor’s office. When you bought your property, you may have received a plat map, showing property lines and measurements. If it wasn’t included with your paperwork, check with your local clerk’s or surveyor’s office. Ask if there are any maps available for public viewing that include your neighborhood and street. Some of these maps may be available online, while others will be hard copies or microfiche copies. Even maps of neighboring properties can be valuable if they show shared property lines.4. Last but not least, hire a surveyor. The most surefire way to determine legal property lines is by hiring a professional. The surveyor can measure and map the property and will generally also mark the corners of the property with stakes. It’s always a good recommendation to be present when the surveyor comes to measure your property, so they can review the property lines with you. The cost of a survey will vary depending on your location, lot size, and other variables. The surveyor needs to be licensed with your state and should carry professional liability insurance, which can cover you if the surveyor makes a mistake in the survey.

Landlord Property Management Software – Evaluation and Analysis of Different Letting Software

What is property management software?Property management software or as it is sometimes known, letting software is software that allows landlords to manage their rental business by enabling them to organise and store the data relating to a landlords letting business. There are a whole range of software companies that produce suites of property management software for landlords, often with various levels of functionality.What functions can property management software be used for?There are a whole range of functions that property management software can perform. The main things that property management software is used for in managing a landlords business is as follows:∑ Recording rental payment from tenants∑ Providing a financial overview of a landlord’s portfolio in respect of the buy-to-let mortgages secured against the residential investment portfolio and the total value of the residential investments∑ Enabling a landlord to record key dates such as the dates for the landlord safety certificates or renewal of the landlords buy-to-let insurance∑ Most landlord software packages will provide the key lettings forms required by the landlord such as: tenancy agreement, section 8 notice, section 21 notice for possession, section 13 notice for increase of rent, inventory.∑ The landlords and tenants contact details∑ A means to calculate a landlord income tax liabilitiesThere is some property management software which offers much more than these basic functions. These ‘high end’ property management software suites are very much aimed at the professional full time landlord who probably has a portfolio of at least 10 residential investment properties and derives their main income from letting out residential property to tenants. The sort of additional functionality available in these property management software packages would be:∑ Repair monitoring & maintenance schedules∑ Invoice facility∑ Preparation of advertising material relating to residential investment properties∑ Account reconciliation∑ Creation of a landlords own website to host their rental properties∑ Financial report writing facilityFor most landlords with several properties a basic property management software package is probably adequate to carry out their day to day landlord duties. In fact a more comprehensive property management software suite could be a disadvantage. This is because their complex nature featuring all the ‘whistle & bells’ means that for a landlord to learn how to operate the ‘high end’ property management software will take a landlord many hours if not days to understand and master. It will often mean a landlord having to go on courses and being instructed by the property management software company. This is both costly in terms of the landlord’s time and the overall price of the property management software package.How much does it cost?For the basic property management software package landlords should budget about £100. This type of landlord property management software will enable the landlord to carry out the basic management functions relating to their portfolio. For the more advanced facilities a professional landlord would have to pay several thousands of pounds for a full property management software suite. This will of course include full support by the software company and will probably include training on how to use the property management software.It is also effectively possible for landlords to obtain property management software for free. There is one UK website for landlord’s called Property Hawk that provides within the website the basic functions of landlord software referred to earlier. Technically it isn’t the same as property management software in that it does not sit on the individual landlord’s computer. Instead the landlord’s data is kept on the website’s server. This means that the landlord can only access the data through an internet connection. It does have the advantage that the data relating to their residential investment portfolio is available to the landlord using any computer at home work or any where else they can get an internet connection, rather than only being available on their single chosen PC. It should also mean that should the landlord suffer a hardware failure or loss, that the landlord’s critical property management data is not lost.What software should a landlord choose?Landlords should consider carefully the advantages and disadvantages of using specialist property management software. For those landlords with a single property the advantages of purchasing a specialist package of property management software is probably not going to be worth the £100 purchase price given that much of the data recording can be done using a simple spreadsheet. Those landlords with several properties may find the added facilities of property management software useful in organising their residential investment portfolio, particularly if they are unfamiliar with spreadsheets or are not naturally good at organising their lettings business. Those landlords that use the Internet regularly and have good internet access at home, work or even remotely through 3G or WiFi may consider that a web based application is preferable; particularly if it is free to use.For professional landlords that may employ specialist staff an outlay on ‘high end’ property management software amounting to several thousand of pounds may be justified for their residential investment business. This is because the efficiency savings may allow a landlord to quickly recoup the initial expenditure of the property management software package.

Profiting From Mismanaged Properties

Real estate investors instinctively pass on deals presented to them simply because the numbers don’t work. This is quite understandable, however sometimes a little more digging can uncover a simple reason for the property’s lack of cash flow. This issue often comes down to incompetent ownership which results in mismanaged properties.Mismanaged properties or properties which are “underperforming” can be a virtual goldmine if you know how identify and capitalize on the true potential another investor simply is not realizing.Owner incompetence typically comes down to six major issues. In most cases these issues can be remedied simply with a combination of good management practices, an understanding of fair market value pricing and rents in your neighbourhood and of course, injecting a little cash.The following examples generally pertain to smaller multi-families (2 -20 units) however the principles can be applied to larger multi-families.Below market value rentsThis common faux pas stems from a lack of knowledge of fair market value in the area, resulting in a cash flow issue. If a property is at +/- breakeven cash flow at 100% occupancy, any vacancy results in the property owner having to cover any shortfall.The solution is clear. Raising the rents even $100.00 per unit (depending on the number of units) can turn an apparent cash flow issue around. This can be more difficult process however, based on which province the property is in, and the Landlord/Tenant board guidelines of the particular province.As the new buyer of a property, you have the option of requesting vacant possession. This allows you to reset the rental amounts at whatever the market will bear. It is not until you have set the rental amount that you are bound by most provincial Landlord & Tenant guidelines as to how much of an annual rental increase you are allowed.It does need be said that by requesting vacant possession, you must abide by provincial laws which clearly state you must be either moving into the property yourself (or a family member) or you are intending to do significant renovations.Absence of good property managementLack of this skill is one of the biggest downfalls of any would be investor. This encompasses everything from improper screening during the tenant interview process to the daily aspects of running the property. Neglecting any of these areas will result in an underperforming property.Without a rigid system in place to screen the tenants, owners subject themselves to delinquent rents, frequent vacancies and potentially large repair bills. Lack of initial tenant qualification, absence of urgency in collecting rents and not having proper eviction procedures in place are common characteristics of a mismanaged property.Using property management or self – managing is another factor to consider. The novice investor often self manages to save money, however lack of efficiency is typically equated with the lack of time the investor has to dedicate to property management and ultimately the property suffers and becomes an underperformer.Hiring an incapable property management company can also create an underperforming property. Property managers have been known to have poor screening procedures because they only get paid when a unit is tenanted. This is more common than you may expect. The bottom line is low rents and high turnover.Often property managers also outsource repairs and “pad” the bills as extra income. If the owner was in control of the management, they would know exactly what the repair was, the cost of materials and labour necessary to fix the repair, not to mention the name and number of people in their database to do the repair.If the property you are looking at is part of a condo corporation or strata, there could also be mismanagement of reserve funds. This is common and results in excessive monthly fees. Being on the condo/strata board and having a hand in how money is being spent can potentially bring down the monthly fees, thus enhancing the bottom line.Ultimately by leaving the management to someone else or not managing the manager will often lead to underperformance. Negative results stemming from poor property management is also the main reason why many incompetent investors get out of property ownership.Lack of routine maintenanceLack of response to tenant requests of routine maintenance is the number one reason for turnover and vacancy. This obviously results in negative cash flow which contributes to underperformance. This issue is very easy and inexpensive to correct. Hiring a caretaker instead of a property manager who has handyman skills allows payment of an hourly wage instead of an overall percentage rate and “padded” repair costs. A caretaker can show units, perform tenant interviews, enforce leases, collect rents, deal with tenant issues and repairs as well as oversee more significant repairs to ensure they are done satisfactorily in terms of budget, schedule and quality workmanship, especially if you are an absentee owner.I also make sure my tenants get a repair request sheet which forces the tenant to document each repair and creates a paper trail. This helps avoid any hearsay if an issue arises and gives the landlord incentive to get the repairs done within a reasonable amount of time. This goes a long way in creating long-term tenants, which in turn creates an efficient property.Letting properties become rundown by neglecting routine maintenanceThe properties being referred to are neighbourhood eyesores. Common characteristics are unkempt landscaping, clearly visible overdue repairs to even a makeshift car (or appliance) repair/storage facility on the driveway (or front lawn).Not only does the incompetent investor have an undesirable looking property but probably thousands of dollars of renovations. These properties ultimately attract the type of tenant that nobody desires.The good news is they can often be purchased for great deals and turned around into highly functioning properties with good tenants and great cash flow. To understand if it is worthwhile to get involved in such a project, it is important to ask yourself the following questions:a) Is this an ugly property in a good area?b) Are the repairs required cosmetic?c) How much will the repairs cost?d) If I do repair the property, will I be able to raise the rents enough to offset the costs?e) At the proposed new rental amount, how long will it take to retrieve my capital expenditure?f) If I do the repairs and raise the rents accordingly, will this property attract the type of tenant who will want to live in the neighbourhood and afford the “new” rental amount?Not taking initiative in your eviction processAn incompetent owner who allows delinquent rent to perpetuate for months or is not familiar with the landlord/ tenant guidelines can create an inefficient property producing negative cash flow and tenants who often take over the property.These owners can be very accommodating when it comes to negotiation for purchase as they are often looking to get out fast. Properties do not have to be in a bad area to get to this state, they simply have an inexperienced or neglectful landlord.By demanding vacant possession, doing the necessary repairs and creating a new tenant base, these properties can be turned into gems.Records mismanagementPoor record keeping of rental income, repairs, employee payments, property management documents and even lack of formal lease agreements can “catch up” are signs of an incompetent owner. It is surprising the number of owners who run their business with cash and little documentation. This type of owner eventually must “wake up and smell the taxman”. A business can only survive like this for so long before the owner must change their ways or sell.Repositioning PropertiesRepositioning means turning a property into its highest and best use, which is what we have been talking about this far, essentially ensuring the highest potential earning capacity of a property. Let’s touch on the repositioning process.A property that is very accessible to all amenities and transportation could be categorized as an “A” area, but the property could be older, run down and may have significant vacancy, therefore categorizing it as a “B” or even “C” property. A cash injection to improve the property to the standards of the “A” area may allow significant rental increase. Once the building is renovated and can justify higher rents with less vacancy, it is easier to refinance to get most or all of your renovation capital out, allowing you to repeat the process on another property.Unfortunately we can’t reposition all properties. There are many building where the cost of improvement is excessive compared to the increased income expected, or perhaps the area just doesn’t warrant the effort. Proper diligence is everything.When repositioning a property, implement a strategy for both the repairs and the management simultaneously. For the repair phase, make sure to:a) Get at least 3 repair quotes to formulate a budgetb) Hire a project manager if the repairs are extensive; otherwise hire handymen who specialize in particular trades. Make sure they have referrals of past clients you can call, proper insurance and are willing to work within a schedulec) Schedule the maintenance with the contractor or handyman for the quickest turnaround time and put the expected timelines in the contract, including bonuses for being on or under budget and time or penalties for being overd) Base your contract on materials and labour separatelye) Make cosmetic improvements to create a safe and pleasant environment maximizing curb appeal. This will attract better tenants to the property and command a higher resale profitFor the management phase:a) Hire a reliable caretaker or property manager; making sure they have referrals (call the referrals!)b) Create a marketing plan to attract higher income tenantsc) Create a screening system and a tenant retention program for your caretaker or property managerIf you are keeping existing tenants, have your new manager:a) Notify each tenant of the new management and give them a schedule for the upcoming renovations to their unit and the groundsb) Give each tenant a repair request sheet(s)c) Give the tenants a copy of the new “house rules” outlining expected behavior of both tenants and guestsd) Collect any rents which are in arrears and begin immediate eviction proceedings on those who refuse to complye) Alert the tenants of new rental rates on all renovated units. You can get exceptions from some Landlord/tenant boards to raise your rents higher than the annual allotment based on significant renovations or additionsf) Pay any non-compliant tenant a “moving” fee to leaveg) Begin new leases with all compliant tenants if possibleRepositioning properties is kind of like becoming the new coach of a losing sports team ¾’s through the season. (Sounds like the Leafs!) Use your skill and experience to inspire and help coordinate many non-functioning parts into an entity which has chemistry and gels.