How to Prepare Yourself for Becoming a Landlord

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at

If you own some property that you are not actively living in, you might be thinking about renting the property out and becoming a landlord. Renting usable property is a great way to make some extra money, but if not done carefully, it can turn into a disaster. Here is a list of some of the most important things to learn before taking the plunge.

Study Local Laws
Since shelter is a basic human need, a large body of legal rules and regulations apply to the process. Rental laws vary a great deal from state to state, so you’ll need to find a good resource for researching these laws, unless you are already a lawyer yourself. While looking around online is a good start, you’ll probably also need to consult a legal professional, or at least some books on the subject. Your local library is an excellent resource to find any of the information without spending an arm and a leg.

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Set Up Your Maintenance Team
As the rental owner, for the most part, you will be legally liable for keeping up the property in terms of basic maintenance. Between electrical, gas, water, HVAC, and other systems, a home is a bundle of potential maintenance issues waiting to explode in your face. Hiring good people to keep everything working properly is important to staying ahead of the curve, especially if you are renting out multiple properties; the more locations you are leasing, the more maintenance hours you will log. Of course, sometimes the problems will go beyond what a maintenance team can cover. For those cases, you’ll want a working relationship with a good local contractor.

Get the Proper Insurance
However many steps you go through in your tenant screening process, the fact remains that problems can and will occur. Whether from unruly and careless tenants, freak accidents that cause serious damage, or simply from regular wear and tear, your property is at risk when you rent it out. You can protect your investment by making sure you are covered by the best home insurance possible, so you can recover against any losses. Protect your home further with a home warranty that can keep your pricey appliances covered in case of expensive damages.

Set Up Your Lease Properly
With all the knowledge you’ve acquired in the previous steps, you should be well prepared to put together a strong lease at this point. This document is hugely important to beginning your time as a landlord right, since it outlines the rights and responsibilities of both you and your tenant. As such, it protects both people in the relationship from problems, intentional and otherwise. You’ll definitely want to get a lawyer involved in at least one draft of the document, and ask him or her how to make sure you aren’t put in a dubious legal position.

Whether you are renting out a single property or operating multiple rental properties, the basic requirements for success are fundamentally the same. With a little work, you can turn that property into money in your pocket.

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Mansion Madness 2017

The four regional champs face off to establish dominance on the fine real estate field.

The field has narrowed from the original 16 to just four luxury listings, and the competition is fierce.

No single home has pulled far ahead of the pack the way the lakeside looker in Lake Geneva, WI did in the first round, when it got 86 percent of the vote in its match up against the stately Georgian revival in Shaker Heights, OH. Still, the waterfront home remains a clear favorite, leading the second round with 68 percent of the vote to beat out the Boyne City, MI contender and win the Midwest region.

The West region was a much closer contest: the craftsman-style stunner in Billings, MT lost to the sprawling Mediterranean estate in Gold Canyon, AZ by just 2 percent.

The South was a pretty close call, too: the Jupiter, FL villa bested the European-inspired home in Asheville, NC by winning 55 percent of the vote.

In the Northeast region, however, the results were clear. Traditional elegance in New Canaan, CT took 63 percent of the vote to beat out a similarly gracious home in Weston, MA.

Now we’ve narrowed the field to the four luxurious properties that won their regions. These listings are making all the right plays, and it’s up to you to choose which ones win their brackets and move on to the next match up.

Northeast vs. South

See more about the homes: New Canaan, Jupiter

Midwest vs. West

See more about the homes: Gold CanyonLake Geneva


Missed the first round?

See all 16 homes in the tournament:

For more photos of the homes, check out their listings: New CanaanRed Bank, RyeWeston, Asheville, Metairie, Dallas, Jupiter, Shaker Heights, Lake Geneva, Boyne City, Indianapolis, Rutherford, Gold Canyon, Yorba Linda, Billings

Still hungry for high-end real estate? See even more one-of-a-kind homes and luxury design ideas.

Photos from Zillow listings


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House of the Week: A Paintbrush Stroke of Beauty in Venice

A brushed aluminum covering, Corian walls, and “rainscreened” roof help make this home one of a kind.

Technology blends the art of design with the build world in Mario Romano’s newest home, Preston House.

You may remember the renowned designer-builder from his Wave House. This time around, he’s not only incorporating nature in his architecture, but also art and science.

The result is a stunning 5,700-square-foot, 5-bedroom, 5-bath home listed for $5.445 million with Halton Pardee + Partners.

By using his own design-build system, which connects a written script with a machine similar to a 3D printer, Romano is able to create a home that is intricate and ornate. He refers to the process as “master builder expression.”

With Venice, CA’s Preston House, Romano wanted to blend paintbrush strokes with construction to “unify what is going on with the sky and what’s going on with the landscape in the sky.”

Photos by Dan Arnold and Brandon Arant

Wood can cause a lot of problems in the long run. For this reason, Romano prefers to use a variety of environmentally-friendly products to increase the longevity of a home. “That’s where the science comes in,” he says.

Brushed aluminum gives the home its reflective finish, while Simowood (recycled rice husk from Germany) is used on the front of the home. Simowood is not only impervious to termites, but is also waterproof and resistant to mold and viruses, which makes it one of Romano’s favorite materials to use.

The roof has a rainscreen, which provides an inch gap, allowing hot air to rise and pass through to keep the space dry.

The walls are Corian, a solid-colored, UV-rated material that doesn’t require paint or sanding. Romano even incorporates nanotechnology into the countertops, so minor scratches can be buffed out with a little applied heat.

While technology plays a big role in the dwelling’s overall structure, Romano truly enjoys the art of dressing the home. “When you build something and create something, there’s an element of surprise,” he says. Like a sunset or snowflake, there’s complexity in its beauty.

The home’s exterior has almost a ripple-like texture that carries into the interior design. The kitchen features a tranquil line detail on the far wall, while the floors upstairs are blended in color, tone, and pattern. They give off the appearance of wavelets as you move throughout each space. Even the stairs possess a similar feeling of motion in the way the wood seamlessly curves from one step to the next.

A family man himself, Romano wanted Preston House to be a place of connection as well as privacy. The kitchen, which includes a large dining area, is close to the stairs, creating visibility, circulation, and flow.

Outside, there’s a big yard with a luxurious lap pool surrounded by privacy hedges. “We retreat, then we connect,” he says.

Everyone needs their space, but then they come together. Ultimately, the people living in the house are what truly make a home come alive.



Article source: Not Every Market Is a No-Go for Millennials

Millennial homebuyers are struggling against a tide of too-high prices—but not in every market.®’s recently released Top Cities for Millennials ranks the markets with double the draw for millennials: (relatively) affordable housing and employment. The top 10:

  1. Salt Lake City, Utah
  2. Miami, Fla.
  3. Orlando, Fla.
  4. Seattle, Wash.
  5. Houston, Texas
  6. Los Angeles, Calif.
  7. Buffalo, N.Y.
  8. Albany, N.Y.
  9. San Francisco, Calif.
  10. San Jose, Calif.

Aside from being twice as nice, the markets in the ranking already have tracts of millennial residents, setting them up as home-buying hot spots.

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“High job growth in markets such as Orlando, Seattle, and Miami, and the power of affordability in places like Albany and Buffalo, are making these markets magnets for millennials,” says Javier Vivas, manager of Economic Research for “But what really stands out is that all these markets already have large numbers of millennials, which translates into strong populations of millennial homebuyers.”

Breaking down the top 10:

  1. Salt Lake City

Millennial Hot Spot: Sugar House
Millennial Share of Population: 15.8 percent
Share of Income Spent on Housing: 30 percent
Unemployment Rate: 2.9 percent

  1. Miami

Millennial Hot Spots: South Beach, Wynwood
Millennial Share of Population: 13.1 percent
Share of Income Spent on Housing: 49 percent
Unemployment Rate: 5.1 percent

  1. Orlando

Millennial Hot Spot: Thornton Park
Millennial Share of Population: 14.6 percent
Share of Income Spent on Housing: 34 percent
Unemployment Rate: 4.4 percent

  1. Seattle

Millennial Hot Spots: Belltown, Capitol Hill
Millennial Share of Population: 15.2 percent
Share of Income Spent on Housing: 35.6 percent
Unemployment Rate: 4.2 percent

  1. Houston

Millennial Hot Spots: The Heights, Oak Forest, Timbergrove
Millennial Share of Population: 14.5 percent
Share of Income Spent on Housing: 36.1 percent
Unemployment Rate: 5.4 percent

  1. Los Angeles

Millennial Hot Spot: Silver Lake
Millennial Share of Population: 15 percent
Share of Income Spent on Housing: 64.1 percent
Unemployment Rate: 4.7 percent

  1. Buffalo

Millennial Hot Spots: Buffalo, North Buffalo
Millennial Share of Population: 13.4 percent
Share of Income Spent on Housing: 22.7 percent
Unemployment Rate: 5.6 percent

  1. Albany

Millennial Hot Spot: Downtown Albany
Millennial Share of Population: 12.7 percent
Share of Income Spent on Housing: 27.3 percent
Unemployment Rate: 4.5 percent

  1. San Francisco

Millennial Hot Spots: Mission, North Beach
Millennial Share of Population: 15 percent
Share of Income Spent on Housing: 56.2 percent
Unemployment Rate: 3.7 percent

  1. San Jose

Millennial Hot Spot: Downtown San Jose
Millennial Share of Population: 14.2 percent
Share of Income Spent on Housing: 53 percent
Unemployment Rate: 3.7 percent

Salt Lake City takes the lead in the top 10 for not only having the highest millennial share in its population (15.8 percent), but also having the third most affordable housing costs as a share of income (30 percent) and the lowest unemployment rate (2.9 percent). Seattle (15.2 percent) and San Francisco (15 percent) have similarly high shares of millennials in their populations.

Albany and Buffalo, on the other hand, win when it comes to affordability, with Buffalo’s housing costs taking up the lowest share of income (22.7 percent) and Albany taking up the second lowest (27.3 percent).

Seattle and San Francisco round out the top three for their low unemployment rates, both at 3.7 percent.

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Building the BLOCK Project to Help the Homeless

How one innovative community-building effort is taking a new approach to finding a solution for homelessness.

My friend Rex Hohlbein, the compassionate force behind the community-building project Facing Homelessness, just launched a visionary new endeavor to alleviate homelessness: the BLOCK Project.

The BLOCK Project aims to put a BLOCK Home in the backyard of one single-family lot on every residentially zoned block within the city of Seattle. While this goal sounds ambitious, Rex is not tackling it alone. BLOCK Architects – a collaboration of Rex and his daughter Jennifer – has formed partnerships with over a dozen companies and organizations who are providing their services pro bono.

And community members are already raising their hands to host a BLOCK Home in their yard. “It’s been a community effort to get this community project off the ground,” Rex says.

A new approach

The BLOCK Project is different from other efforts to combat homelessness because it is not solely trying to solve housing problems for the homeless. “That will be the byproduct, but we’re not starting there,” says Rex. “We want to bring community together, so people are engaged on their blocks. We want to inspire a sense of purpose.”

Along with the backyard BLOCK Homes, the BLOCK Project team is working on ways to build that community. With support from one of their pro-bono partners, POSSIBLE, the team is working on an app that can help mobilize neighbors to reach out and form a support net for the inhabitants of the BLOCK Homes. Community involvement could include doing a load of laundry, providing a meal or just spending time together.

Not only is the model innovative, but the BLOCK Homes themselves are a first of their kind in Seattle. Each 109-square-foot home will be completely off the grid. The homes will have solar panels for electricity, filtered rainwater for plumbing and self-composting toilets. Thus, neither the construction nor the ongoing usage of these homes will create any new costs for the property owner.

Going forward, the BLOCK Project will be a collaboration between BLOCK Architects, Facing Homelessness and their supportive community. Facing Homelessness, which started as a Facebook page six years ago, has over 43,000 followers in Seattle as well as 25 affiliate programs in other cities.

To date, that community has met every need posted to help people experiencing homelessness, and Rex believes they will continue to step up to support tenants of the new BLOCK Homes. Combine that with Rex’s 30-year architecture career and support from several key business and government partners, and the dream of a BLOCK Home on every block starts to look attainable.

Rex says the reaction to the BLOCK Project has been so affirming. “Every single person that we have shared this with has embraced it. We think this will create a giant YIMBY [“Yes, In My Back Yard”] movement and the critical mass that is needed to get past people’s fears.”

I personally can’t wait to see that happen.



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