Ashoka Lion wants to help Realtors Grow their businesses when they refer us property management clients!

by jay.raman@ashokalion.com 26, March 2011 16:33

Ashoka Lion launching a "Thank you for the property management client referral" marketing campaign for Real Estate Agents. It is a quick social media campaign that we will do for our property management client referring Realtors. Social Media is a buzz word, but with this quick campaign, you will gain some exposure without it being perceived as you marketing yourself. Here are the three aspects to our "Thank You" program.

1)www.LionRentalMangaement.com Blog Entry: The basis of the program is that we are providing the agents a blog entry off our property management site that links back to your webpage of choice (as long as it is related to your business). Also, if you provide us a bio about yourself and the type of clients that you work with or areas, we will intertwine that in our blog entry off our website (www.LionRentalManagement.com).  The bio will give visitors about the type of practice that the Realtor has, areas that they provide service, and any other information that will personalize the Realtor to visitors who read the "thank you" blog entry.
 
2) FaceBook Marketing: www.FaceBook.com/AshokaLion   We will market the property management "thank you" blog entry on our FB business page that will state "We got a great referral from "JOHN or JANE DOE REALTOR, and we wanted to let you all know about him/her. Check out their story at XXXX.com".   Your also welcome to "like" our Business Page so our update will show up on your Facebook page wall.  This will allow you to share this update to your friends if you have a facebook page.  By "sharing" or "liking" that particular entry, the entry willl show up on your Facebook page wall that your friends and family can see.   This is a subtle marketing announcement that will remind all your facebook friends that you are in the Real Estate business.
 
3) Twitter Marketing: We will blast this property management blog entry on our Twitter account: www.Twitter.com/AshokaLion that has over 500 followers. If you have twitter, you can pass it along (Retweet) to your friends.  This is another method that you can let clients and followers know that you do real estate and a little about your practice.
 
We hope this exposure will be good for our Realtor referral partners, and we hope that our Realtor friends will continue to see our property management team as a valuable asset to their real estate practice. Additionally, the link to your real estate website or profile in our blog entry will be credited as a "quality" link in regards to search engine optimization as our site is a real estate related site that is constantly adding content and updates regarding real estate. Basically, we will be assisting your website in being found by Google or other search engine searches.

Thank you for providing us property management referrals in the Houston and Dallas area markets, and we look forward to working with you in the future as well.
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Survive and thrive by "Going Green and Going Mobile".

by jay.raman@ashokalion.com 22, March 2011 14:49

Today, our economy is facing a double whammy in that we have weak economic data and we also see further cutbacks in governmental support.  For Ashoka Lion, this is just another feather in our cap for thriving and improving our firm's property management services during these difficult times. Since 2008, the real estate market has been in a tail spin, and most economic indicators indicate that it will continue to be weak market for forseeable future. Investors cannot get lending to buy investment property, and so it limits the potential pool of real estate investors that are buying in the Houston and Dallas markets.

Our property management firm saw the writing on the wall, and we decided to reposition our value proposition in this real estate market. Instead of cutting back and shriveling up  to wait out these economic times, Ashoka Lion has expanded our property management service offering every year.

Since 2006, here is a list of improvements that we now offer real estate investors and tenants:

  • Online Rental Owner Portals with financial reporting including income statement, balance sheet, and rent roll
  • Online tenant portals with tenant statements
  • Online document storage of leases
  • Online rent payment option for tenants
  • Online rental owner disbursements
  • Electronic calendars accessible by Mobile phones for property managers
  • Property managers telecommute into our property management system
  • Voice Over IP Phones routed to property managers
  • Electronic disbursements of Vendor Payments for services done for properties
  • Tenants can provide us written notice of repairs or move outs via our online portal
  • Property repair Work Orders are emailed to Vendors
  • Digital approval of Estimates and Documentsby Rental Owners
  • Use of Electronic Signature Programs for Leases
  • Tenants can now pay rents over the phone
  • Mobile friendly riders to Text to get information about Listing and Vacant Properties
  • QR Bar Codes on sign riders to get information about Listing and Vacant Properties
  • Vendors were instructed to fax or email over invoice versus mailing us paper invoices
  • Online rent application for our properties that can be found at www.LionRealEstate.com
  • Providing tenants a letter of top energy saving ideas to reduce down electricity usage
  • Our website's "Green Lifestyle" Section 
  • Expanded our property management operations to the Dallas, Texas area
  • And More!

Do you see a pattern in our improvements? Yes, our property management firm focused on being "Green" and mobile.   We decided that we could not build a business in the traditional mode to server our property management clients in the Houston and Dallas markets, and so we tailored our property management business to be built on a mobile platform that reduces down as much waste as we can.  In Houston,  our property management team got rid of our former office space near downtown Houston.  We shifted to mobile platform that agents  and property managers access from home or  on their mobile phones. This saves us in cost related to overhead for rent, storage space,etc. In addition, our property managers do not waste time driving to the office to do their work,  and so they are generally happier with the arrangement. Our business structure allows us to save in several ways that benefit our bottom line, but these improvements have also benefited our company in our goal to be one of the "greenest" management companies in the property management industry. Our tremendous financial savings also translated to environmental benefits including:

  • mileage lost to commuting to office
  • paper consumption printing invoices to store in paper files
  • paper printing for leases
  • mileage spent driving to collect rent

In fact in 2010, Ashoka Lion was selected as one of the top case studies by our digitial contract and document approval vendor (http://bit.ly/fnzaa0 ).  I know that our property management team is not perfect, but we are trying to improve our property management services for our rental property owners by relying on state of the art technology to maximize efficiencies and reduce our carbon footprint.  We could have waited to be a late adopter to technology or try to do business in a more traditional manner, but these difficult economic times requires us to think in new bold ways; if we want to thrive. If the old adage is that "the early bird catches the worm", then isn't it easier to catch the worm if you are mobile and nimble?

 

What is normal wear and tear? 6 techniques to reduce down issues with tenants

by jay.raman@ashokalion.com 15, March 2011 11:28

I came across a article on the AshokaLion Twitter account, and it got me thinking about "wear and tear" clauses in leases. Every lease has a "wear and tear" clause in it, but it always remains a vague concept. I decided to research what other investors and real estate sights came across, and I found most had the vague notion of the wear and tear clause. I did find one article by Rental Housing Online (http://bit.ly/gklzFl) and they had a pretty good list. It definitely was not exhaustive, but either is our addendum that we provide to tenants at their walk through with our property managers upon moving in.  We have tried to provide a list of common types of damages, explainations what we consider to be "normal", and we try to explain to them what potential charges may be upon them moving out (at least some minimums that we have come across). We know this is not a complete list, but it is impossible to have a complete list due to all the circumstances at the property (including condition of the property at the time of  tenant moving in and age of the items).

I know it is impossible, but we do try to explain that "normal" is based on reasonable standards. For example, we state that scuffing a wall and it needing to be repainted is not "normal".  However, it is "normal" to have a rug steam cleaned with a rug doctor machine. However, if I have to get a commercial cleaner to take out damages to a carpet, then this should be considered "excess" of normal wear and tear".  As a kid growing up in the Houston area, my family lived in a home for over 10 years as kids, and when we moved from that home; our family was able to cleaned our carpet  to make it presentable.  It is not a huge leap of faith to think that our care was not extraoridinary, and this is why our property managers in Houston or Dallas do not understand tenant's claims that it is normal to have punch stains in the floor or bleach on the floor. 

Typical things that we would deduct from the security deposit for include:

  1. Scuff Marks on walls requiring us to paint
  2. Nail Holes in Walls
  3. Damages to windows
  4. Broken Knobs on ovens or stoves
  5. Unreported leaks that cause damage to cabinets or floors
  6. Carpets requiring commercial carpet cleaning
  7. Smoking in the house and it sticking to walls and carpet (we request all tenants if they smoke to smoke outside the house).
  8. Pet Urine requires us to get  a professional cleaning
  9. Lost Keys
  10. Unreturned Garage Remotes
  11. Food left in the refridgerator (if mold is in the refridgerator, then we may just replace refridgerator)
  12. Broken door knobs
  13. Missing Smoke Detectors after it was installed
  14. Blinds damaged
  15. Carpet that burn marks or bleach stains (replacing room carpet)

I know that there are horror stories for tenants about items being charged that they would not consider normal wear and tear. To reduce these confrontations between tenants and landlords or tenants and property management companies in the Houston and Dallas area, I would suggest doing the following:

  1. Fill out the Inventory and Condition Form within the requested time and keeping a copy. Many real estate agents and property managers will give you this form to fill out, so I would strongly urge you to do.
  2. Take Pictures and/or Video.  You, your property manager  and/or real estate agent should take pictures and/or video of the property at the time of the move in. I would make sure to have the correct time stamp on videos and pictures, so you can demonstrate what condition the property is at move in.  As you usually are given a few days to finish documenting this form, it is not hard for tenants to document with video and cameras damages.   I would suggest sharing this with landlords and managers as soon as possible to make them aware of these damages that you find subsequent to the move in walk through, if you want to claim it on your inventory and condition form.
  3. Report damages quickly. Landlords can charge tenants for damages that they fail to report on a timely manner that get worse. For example, if you see a leaking pipe under a kitchen report it, as it may lead to damaging the wood in the cabinets.
  4. Know how to shutoff toliets and cut off water at the main water cutoff. If you see water flowing, know how to cutoff the water at the main water cutoff. This will reduce down damages that remain that could have been prevented.
  5. Do not use items that you know are possibly damaged. If your AC is having problem, shut the AC off to prevent further damage because you used it after it was having problem. The same could go for appliance, disposals, and anything else that you fear may not be working. You should report these items and take the appropriate precautions. These kinds of damages could be grounds to deduct part or all of a repair cost for the matter.
  6. Keep up your preventitive maintenance. If your home has a AC unit, then I would suggest changing the filters to avoid damaging the system. Unpaid repair costs in our leases can be deducted from the security deposit.

I know that some of our real estate investors probably have more examples, so if you do not mind sharing on our Facebook page (http://on.fb.me/dQDvrM) that would be great. We will post a discussion under that tab to collect feedback and input regarding example of what is and is not considered "normal wear and tear", and while you are there; please do not hesitate to "Like" our facebook page.

If anyone has dealt with court cases that involve these issues, then feel free to share this as well in our discussion section. We would love to see how any of our Houston, Dallas, Texas, or any courts around the United States for that matter adjudicate these standards.  

Renting To Tenant with Pets Can Be Tricky!

by jay.raman@ashokalion.com 12, March 2011 11:43

Landlords often ask what our pet policy for our property management firm is, and we explain that we have developed our policy to be flexible to allow pet owners to live at properties that we manage. However, we also acknowledge that risks exist when renting to tennat with pets. Many communities are considering breed ban laws, and in fact some states have passed some very strict policies in regards to pet laws (See Maine). In fact on our Facebook page (http://on.fb.me/ibGgSo), our property management team found a article discussing the new law in Maine that now makes landlords at fault in animal attacks regardless of knowledge (this is referred to as strict liability).  While Texas laws regarding landlord negligence for pets at a rental property is not that severe, there is negligence based liability for landlords who rent to pets. What this means is that if the landlord knowingly put a dangerous animal at the property, then they can be found liable if the pet attacks.

What this means is that landlords must weigh the benefits of increasing their potential pool of tenants versus the increased liability. I know some  property management companies do not rent to owners of certain pets, but as our CEO and several members of our property management teams own  pets including a Doberman; we did not want to take that stance with our property management firm. Therefore, we do rent to tenants who have pets, but Ashoka Lion has our own default procedure for pets including:

  1. Enrollment in Pet Damages Program
  2. Renters Insurance is Mandatory with $300,000 of coverage. The policy or insurance agent must acknowledge that the pet liability is included per the policy.
  3. Renters Insurance Policy must name the owner and management company as insured parties
  4. Signed Pet Agreement
  5. Landlord must have $1,000,000 of liability coverage either through their primary home insurance policy or umbrella coverage with our management company named as a insured party.

We believe that this policy addresses the heightened legal risk for renting to tenants with pets in the Houston and Dallas markets, but  it also allows our landlords flexibilty to not turn away good tenants who happen to love animals. Our philosophy is that you can love your animal, but you must realize that it comes with additional responsibility.

 

 

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