Our featured Realtor® of the week is Scott Stephens. Scott can help you with your real estate needs; whether you are looking to buy or sell!
Realtor® | Residential Home Builder | CEPSCI
Phone: (803) 446-3621
FAX: (803) 779-1880
Scott brings to The Mather Company a diverse background in both the construction and real estate industries. He has several years of real estate sales experience as well as more than a decade of experience working with large land holders as an analyst, engineer and consultant.
Scott grew up in the Low Country of South Carolina as an avid outdoors man and the son of a small custom home builder. This is where he developed his core belief that treating people with honesty, respect and integrity is the only way to live or conduct business.
Scott’s experience includes:
- Hands on experience with the marketing, buying and selling of homes, land and homes with acreage
- Hands on experience as an apprentice under several true Southern Craftsmen on construction projects ranging from small Low Country cottages to executive homes, as well as docks and boats.
- Hands on experience working with large land holders with the implementation and maintenance of their land & land information systems. (Timber, Rail & Agriculture)
- Hands on experience with Best Management Practices (BMP) in the timber and construction industries.
- Hands on experience with water quality sampling, including wells, ponds, lakes and streams.South Carolina licensed Real Estate Agent
South Carolina licensed Residential Home Builder
South Carolina Notary Public
South Carolina Certified Erosion Prevention & Sediment Control Inspector
Bachelors Degree, University of South Carolina, Environmental Geography
Our featured Realtor this week is Charlie Mather. Charlie has been voted “Agent of the Year” 3 years in a row (2011, 2012 and 2013) by the readers of The State newspaper! If you need help with buying or selling real estate in Columbia, SC, please contact Charlie. He can help you with all your real estate needs.
President, Owner, and Founder of The Mather Company, Inc.
Phone: (803) 622-9480
Charlie graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in Business Management. Upon graduation, Charlie began a career in real estate, and has been serving clients in the Columbia and surrounding area ever since. In 2009 Charlie started The Mather Company. In 2011 Charlie was voted by the readers of The State Newspaper and other local people as Real Estate Agent of the Year. He has lived in Columbia since 2001. He has been married to his wife Lauren since 2006, and they had their first baby boy in 2011.
Our featured listing this week is a wonderful home for sale in Elgin, SC. This is a gorgeous home located in a wonderful neighborhood!
427 Plantation Pointe
Elgin, SC 29045
Square Footage: 1,978
Beautifully maintained 1,978 square foot Northeast Columbia home!!! Look forward to being welcomed to this 3 bedroom and 2 full bathroom home by its charming front porch just waiting for you to take a seat. Enter into the living room and enjoy the finishing touches of the gas log fireplace, smooth ceiling, and crown molding. The up to date kitchen features lots of crisp white cabinets for storage, shiny stainless steel appliances, and an eating area with bay window and slider to the relaxing screened porch. The spacious master suite offers a large walk-in closet and lovely private master bathroom with a double vanity sink and garden tub to soak in. The finished FROG with walk-in attic storage adds to your living and storage space and could easily be converted to a 4th bedroom. The partially shaded backyard is surrounded by a wood privacy fence and offers plenty of space for entertaining and play. This home is in a great location with easy access to the interstate, The Village at Sandhills for all your shopping and dining needs, and award winning schools. Come make this house YOUR HOME today!
Contact us to find out more about this wonderful home for sale!
Our featured Realtor this week is Neha Jaggi. If you are looking to buy or sell real estate in Columbia, SC, give her a call. Neha can help you with all your Columbia, SC real estate needs!
Phone: (803) 351-9462
Although I was born in India, I have lived in Lexington since I was 6 months old. So South Carolina is home! I graduated from White Knoll High in 2008 and then continued my education at University of South Carolina. I went to the Aiken campus for a semester and then transferred to the Columbia campus and finished my Bachelor’s Degree in Biology with a minor in Business Administration in May of 2012. I hope to go back to school in the near future, but until then I hope to be able to help you have a pleasant and satisfying experience while buying or selling your home!
Our featured Realtor this week is Hart Traylor. Whether you are looking to buy or sell a house, contact him to find out how he can help you with your real estate needs!
Vice-President | Realtor® | Project Manager
Phone: (803) 622-5432
Hart graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in History. Upon graduation, he spent 2 years working at a church in Columbia as the Media Administrator. In 2009 Hart joined Charlie Mather as Charlie was beginning The Mather Company. In 2010 Hart got his sales license. Hart was born and raised in Columbia. He met his wife Vanessa at an on campus Bible study (RUF) at USC. They married in 2008, and in 2010 had their first child; a son. Hart loves Jesus and spending time with his family. He also enjoys Gamecock football/basketball/baseball, the Minnesota Vikings, and music. He and his family are actively involved with their church, Columbia Crossroads Downtown.
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” – Ephesians 5:1-2
Our featured Realtor this week is Nyhma Tramel. Give her a call or email to find out how she can help with your real estate needs!
Phone: (254) 535-4412
Nyhma comes to us with a wealth of real estate and relocation experience. Prior to her arrival in South Carolina, Nyhma had assisted over 187 clients find the perfect home in both Texas and California. She has helped relocate her own family 10 times in support of her husband’s military career. Understanding not only the processes of buying a home, she understands the frustrations of relocating, and is ready to put her relocation experience and real estate expertise to work to help make your family’s move smooth, efficient and fun!
Any landlord who has been involved in the real estate rental business for more than a few years has likely come across a tenant disaster, or at least knows somebody who has. One of the most common comments we hear from prospective, current, and former landlords relates to the headaches caused by accidentally renting to a bad tenant.
The relationship between landlord and tenant is known to be rocky, at the very least, and disastrous or expensive in a worst-case situation. Bad tenants have left landlords with garbage to clean up after suddenly leaving a property, pet damage and repairs in suites clearly marked as not allowing pets, damage to property after massive parties, junk removal requirements after night-time move-outs, and everything in between.
Horror stories are everywhere, and news travels fast: selecting the right tenants is the most important step in the real estate rental business. Landlords who can master this skill will succeed in the business, while the opposite is also true, unfortunately. Bad tenants are the number one reason for landlords leaving the industry and selling their properties in search of greener pastures.
Landlording is a risky business. Selecting a disreputable tenant who causes major damage to a unit can leave a landlord with a significant bill for clean-up and repairs, scare off other regularly paying tenants, and even label the landlord as inattentive or with the classic slumlord designation.
Unfortunately, there is rarely any insurance that can protect landlords in this area, and a problematic tenancy resulting in a massive expense will almost never pass the strict criteria that an insurance policy will require prior to paying out on a repair claim.
How to screen your prospective tenant
The best and most sure-fire way for landlords to avoid having to deal with this problem starts at the very beginning of the landlord-tenant relationship. Landlords who screen their tenants properly will greatly reduce the risk of future loss, maintain their reputation in the greater community without blemish, and not be constantly stressed about their rental properties.
Here are three tried and true methods of selecting the best and most qualified tenants and learning ways to avoid costly disasters.
1.) Rental documents
As any real estate or courtroom lawyer will tell you, good documents are the starting point of any successful business relationship. Having a successful tenancy requires good, clear, concise definitions of everybody’s responsibilities and rights. Skipping this step means a tenancy relationship is beginning without a solid foundation, and during times of difficulty there may be nothing to refer to for clarification.
Rental application form
This document is probably the most important of any document in the entire rental process, which comes as a surprise to many new landlords.
A good rental application will require information on:
• the applicant’s job
• their supervisor
• their income
• current address
• landlord reference, friends and referees
• government identification
• next of kin and extended family members
• any additional details believed to be relevant to the approval process
This information will help landlords gain a better understanding of the tenant’s characteristics. More importantly, however, it gives the landlord some good contacts to track down the tenant if they should disappear. Visit http://hopestreet.ca/rental_resources/ for a free download of a comprehensive Rental Application Form.
Move-in inspection report
This is the second-most important document in the landlord-tenant relationship. Unfortunately, it is often overlooked.
The landlord and tenant should complete a move-in report upon onset of a tenancy. This quantifies and documents the condition of a property so that, when the tenant leaves, any damage caused is clear. A thorough and concise move-in report card is a sure-fire way of avoiding significant disputes over tenant-related damage. Most provinces require a landlord to produce this report prior to deducting any funds from a tenant’s security deposit.
Residential tenancy agreement
As the name suggests, this document will establish the terms of the working relationship between the tenant and landlord. In general, the more detail it provides the better, and sourcing a free online residential tenancy document is not sufficient to cover a landlord’s interests.
Most local rental associations will sell well-written and well-researched versions of residential tenancy agreement documents with several carbon copies for each party. Landlords and tenants fill in various fields relating to names, address, and rental amounts.
Addendum to residential tenancy agreement
This can be a small side document that forms part of the agreement and sets out additional rules for items such as pets, smoking in the unit, or penalties for late rental payments. These documents are harder to enforce but establish good guidelines for the day-to-day operations of a rental property.
2.) What to look for when showing rental property
The first interaction with a tenant provides a great opportunity to gain an impression of them. During the initial showing, the tenant may be more concerned with looking around their new home than acting in a manner consistent with getting their application approved. Some careful observations by the landlord can be extremely useful when considering the tenant’s application.
Here are a few things to look for:
Did the tenants arrive on time?
Tenants who are respectful of their landlord’s time are good tenants to have. Common excuses for showing up late are that the tenant got lost, or was not able to round up family members or kids. Are these seemingly minor excuses reasonable? Probably not. Tenants who do not arrive on time for a showing are not likely to pay their rent on time either. Avoid these tenants at all costs.
Are the children well behaved?
Tenants who want something – in this case, to move into your rental property – are likely to be on their best behaviour. They will speak politely, act respectfully, and maintain a professional manner. Kids, on the other hand, can be cautioned numerous times to behave but have shorter attention spans. Are the kids bouncing around the property in a rambunctious manner? Be sure their behaviour will become much worse when the landlord leaves the premises. If the tenant’s kids are behaving poorly during the showing, expect the property to be returned to you with obvious damage from rambunctious kids.
Did tenant take off their shoes?
If a landlord has to ask the tenant to remove their shoes, this is a good indication that they are not in the habit of doing so. While this may be a personal choice, and can be a cultural issue, tenants who remove their shoes are likely to cause less stress on the flooring of a rental property. Avoid tenants who plan to wear shoes inside their rental property.
What does the back seat of the tenant’s car look like?
This is a tried and true technique for learning whether the prospective renter will keep the rental property clean, or let clutter, dirt and debris build up. Avoid tenants with garbage in their car, as this will mirror the cleanliness of their home.
3.) Verifying information in a rental application
The rental application contains the most comprehensive set of information about the prospective renters and should take the most time to review and confirm.
Renters are extremely unlikely to include information in their application that they know will hinder their chance of having it approved. In addition to thorough follow-up of the details in the application, follow the smell test for your rental tenants. If a landlord happens to smell a skunk hiding in the rental application, then the balance of probabilities suggests there is in fact a skunk hiding there. In practice this means that if a tenant’s information seems too good to be true, it usually is. Ask the following questions:
Does the tenant’s stated income seem unreasonably high?
Look for ways to confirm this income, such as a letter of employment from a reputable business. If the income is from self-employment, ask for a recent tax return to confirm it. Remember: the more intrusive the questioning, the less likelihood of a disaster or massive repair bill from a problematic tenancy.
Is the employer reputable?
A quick Google search to confirm the existence of the company or place of work provided by the tenant should be sufficient. If it does not exist or is extremely difficult to find online, then it is likely to have been made up. If the tenant claims to be self-employed, ask for a business card or marketing/promotional materials to prove the company’s existence. If it cannot be confirmed, decline the tenant’s application.
Are there gaps in the tenant’s rental history?
If a tenant’s application lacks previous landlord information for a period of time (typically six or 12 months), they may be trying to hide a less than positive past tenancy. If they refuse to provide comprehensive chronological information for the past two years, ask where they lived during the missing time. A backpacking trip overseas or living with parents are acceptable responses; disclosure of a problematic tenancy followed by court eviction is not an acceptable response.
Following these strategies will help you weed out undesirable applicants and greatly reduce, if not eliminate, the likelihood of a rental catastrophe.
The Mather Company is a real estate company that works with buyers and sellers in Columbia, South Carolina and serves the Columbia, Forest Acres, West Columbia, Cayce, Northeast Columbia, Lexington, Irmo, Lake Murray, Chapin and Blythewood areas. Our company is knowledgeable of the real estate market in and around Columbia, SC. We help our clients buy and sell homes. We also work with property management, helping renters find rental properties, and managing rental properties for landlords and investors. Whether this is your frist time buying or selling a home, or a veteran at the game, The Mather Company would love to help you get the job done. We have a proven track record. Please contact us and let us know how we can help you and your real estate needs.
Identity thieves have increased their presence in the housing and rental markets making it even more important for potential homebuyers and renters to do due their diligence and know the warning signs of a scam.
The housing bubble caused many homes to be pushed into foreclosure and the owners into the rental market, and scammers are using a myriad of ways to steal personal information and money from unsuspecting victims. According to Raul Vargas, fraud operations manager for Identity Theft 911, many of the scams are occurring online.
Vargas explains that many of the scams involve an online post about an available property to rent and when someone is interested, the scammer sends a rental or lease agreement that requires a plethora of personal information like birth date, Social Security number and current address. Some even ask for bank account information to verify eligibility. The unsuspecting renter ends up giving up the information hoping
Some scammers post bogus properties online and target renters moving from another city or state. “Everyone renting looks online to find a great price,” and the scammers know that, says Steve Weisman, a college professor at Bentley University and author of 50 Ways to Protect Your Identity in a Digital Age. Typically the fraudster will list a rental online with a market price far lower than others in the area. The listing will have a real address and photographs and the renter will be asked to either wire a deposit or send a money order to hold the rental. “The renter doesn’t get to see the place and the next thing they know they don’t have a place,” says Weisman. “It’s very easy to copy a listing and put up a phony one.”
Scam go both ways: People with a property to rent can also become victims. Weisman cites a popular scam that involves someone living outside the country agreeing to move into a rental unit sight unseen. The “renter” will even send a deposit of six months rent to ease any fear. A few weeks later, the scammer will call to back out of the agreement and tell the landlord to keep two months of the rent for the trouble and send the rest back. The landlord cashes the check, sends the money back and a week later the check bounces. “Even though you waited a few days for the check to clear the bank doesn’t tell you that it’s only provisional credit. The bank takes back the money when the check truly does bounce,” says Weisman.
While scammers have become more sophisticated, renters and landlords can stay one step ahead. Being aware of some red flags will prevent them from losing any money or sacrifice personal. According to Vargas, if the person asks for personal information via the Internet and/or asks you to send money via a money order or a wire transfer ,which isn’t easily traceable, should all serve as red flags. He also recommends never sharing personal information without meeting someone and checking their credentials.
Experts suggest out-of-town movers to work with a licensed agent to find a place to live. To verify if an online posting is legitimate, Weisman recommends searching the address and if it turns up on multiple sites with different names, there’s a strong change the listing is a scam listing. The tax assessor’s office can provide the homeowner’s name of the particular property and many of the offices have websites making it easier for renters to check public information. “Be wary if the place is dramatically priced less than others and always check out who the real owner is,” says Weisman.
If you are considering buying rental properties, you should already know how to analyze an investment by penciling out your real estate deal. Within that analysis, one of the critical tasks is accurately estimating how much your operating expenses — property taxes, HOA fees, lawn care, property management fees, insurance, maintenance expenses and all costs other than the mortgage — will be on the property.
Properly estimating your operating expenses will give you confidence that your analysis is on the mark. So to help you better estimate those amounts, let’s talk about some percentages in a broad range and then specific items and costs.
Operating expenses percentage
When people pro-forma, or estimate the projected financials of a real estate deal, the operating expenses are typically 35 to 80 percent of the gross operating income (GOI), depending on the type of rental property.
So let’s say you collect $1,200 per month in rent, and your expenses are $450 per month. Your operating expense percentage would be 450/1,200 = 37.5 percent. For a bread-and-butter house, duplex or triplex building, 37.5 to 45 percent is probably a good estimate. Generally, the fancier the building, the higher the percentage operating expenses are of the GOI. Some types of properties such as vacation rentals could have a 70 to 80 percent expense ratio.
Beware: If your calculation is below 35 percent, there is a high probability something is wrong in your estimation. Make sure to independently verify your projected costs with a few other experienced property owners.
While using an expense ratio is a fair general guide to penciling out your deal, you really need to get into the nitty gritty numbers to be as accurate as possible. Here are the typical expense categories for a normal rental property and how to calculate the costs.
Maintenance and miscellaneous
This is typically the hardest category to estimate, and often people underestimate the amount. A general rule is 1 percent of the property value per year. So a property valued at $180,000 would have $1,800 per year, or $150 per month, in these costs. Many things can impact this, such as the condition, age, size and type of property. Also in a single family home the owner pays for the roof, painting and other costs that typically are covered by HOA fees in a common interest development, so take that into account. Either way, don’t forget about those big capital repairs and replacements. It’s highly likely that maintenance and repairs will be more than you anticipate.
You can contact your insurance agent, run over the property specifics and get an exact estimate of the cost for the coverage you need. Don’t forget to consider earthquake, flood, umbrella liability, HO-6 interior condominium unit policies or any other special insurance you may want or need.
You should contact the county assessor to get the exact amount for the current property taxes. Make sure — especially you Californians under Proposition 13 — that you know how much you will be paying in property taxes after you close escrow. It could be significantly different from what the seller is currently paying.
You should be able to look at the for-sale listing and/or call the property manager to confirm the current HOA fees. Make sure to investigate beyond the current fees to determine whether the fees are scheduled to rise quickly, if they have risen often and if any special assessments are coming.
If you plan to have an outside manager, call around the see what the cost is for that service. Typically it’s 6 to 8 percent of the rent, and that may or may not include re-leasing costs, which could be half to a full month’s rent in addition to the monthly fee percentage.
Gardening, pest control and utilities paid by the landlord also need to be considered. It’s smart to make the tenants cover water (even if pro-rated between units), electricity and gas. I’ve learned when a tenant pays the bills it costs X per month, but when the landlord pays those same bills, they’re 3X or 4X per month. People generally only conserve when they have the pain of paying the bills.
That’s some general guidance on how you can estimate the costs of operating an income property. Talk to other real estate investor-owners, real estate agents and property managers, too. And remember, don’t underestimate your expenses. It likely will cost more than you think!
Renters aren’t the only victims of scams. Due to the turbulent housing market, both apartment hunters and property managers/landlords alike have been seeing a rise in the number of scams. Getting bilked by tenant fraud can happen to the best of us, but by being aware of the strategies and situations scammers use to rent out apartments, you can prevent yourself from becoming a victim. Read more