Archive for October, 2013

Property Management Online

Property Manager OnlineAs with all businesses these days, the property management business is also going online for both employees as well as tenants and investors. Property Management Online is a major trend that is impacting all businesses and if your property manager is not heading in that direction it is time to find out why. You could be receiving much more up to date information in real time that also decreases costs over all and allows the owners to keep closer tabs on just about everything.

Online Information for Investors

Investors can look at all of the reports on line regardless of where they are simply by logging on a server or CRM system that the property management company will provide access to. They will be able to see their income statements, expense statements, and all reports. The modern property management online company is now providing these kinds of services. In addition they should be able to review work orders and the status of these orders. In situations where there are multiple investors or owners, a limited number of people may have access to ensure security and privacy levels are maintained. For example the board members might be the only ones with access or someone who is designated the job of keeping tabs on the property manager.

Online Information for Employees

Property management employees can also update the CRM system so that management can review the results, work orders that need to be completed and the status of all of these work orders. All of the information associated with an apartment or facility that is being rented can be viewed online making it easier for everyone to understand what is happening.

This also provides a record of the activities associated with a particular unit. At one glance all work orders for a given unit can be reviewed and the history of the work completed can be viewed. This is a good way to determine if a rental unit has had more work than others completed. The same applies to common areas or the outdoor facilities. It is information that many owners and investors find helpful, but for property managers it is invaluable to them. This information helps them do their jobs better and reduces the cost to manage the building over all.

Corporate memory has long been relied on to manage apartment buildings and town houses as well as commercial properties. There may have been lots of paper records available for someone to dig through, however when it came to finding out what was really going on, you spoke to the superintendent of the building. He or she could always provide anyone with an up to date report of just about everything that was happening.

But what happens when the superintendent leaves for whatever reason. He or she may have retired, or have been let go. All of the real time corporate memory goes with them and this can be a large problem if there are also no accurate records to fall back on. There are many small invoices for repairs that need to be accommodated and if there is no record of them how is anyone really other than the tenant supposed to know.

Also if a tenant was asking for something to be completed in their unit and was turned down for some reason, if there is an online record of this a new superintendent can look at the records and make a decision on better information, rather than just listening to the tenants side of the conversation. There might have been a good reason the request was turned down by the previous manager.

Tenant View of Online Property Management

In some cases tenets of property buildings apartment buildings will also be able to log on the CRM system and view the status of work orders associated with their unit only and any common areas of the building. This provides him with a status update and helps to manage the expectations associated with the apartment.


Reduce Energy Usage

Reduce Energy UsageWe just wrote a post about reducing electrical consumption at home which may be interesting to many people, but there is a lot more that consumers can do to reduce their overall energy usage. Expanding from electrical usage to include heating systems, our cars and even our offices, there is a lot more that we can do to reduce energy usage and put a lot more money back in our pocket. The picture on the left should also persuade you to reduce energy. There is a lot of pollution being produced at this plant. Check out our previous post about reducing electrical consumption or read on to learn more about some of the other things we can.

Reduce Energy Usage – Driving Cars

For example our cars use a great deal of gas and cost a great deal to manufacture. Every time you can decrease the use of your car, you can save some money and contribute to the greening of the planet. Walking to work, taking the bus or riding a bike to get to work makes such a difference when it comes to saving money instead of buying more gasoline.

But if you must use your car, make sure that it is always properly tuned up and the tires are fully pressurized to ensure that you obtain the best mileage per gallon that you can. You can reduce your gasoline usage by as much as 10% by keeping your car in top shape. In addition, avoiding jack rabbit starts and stops will save gasoline and allow your brakes to last longer. Even keeping your tires properly balanced will make a difference.

We all love to drive fast and beat the guy beside us. We routinely drive 10 or 20 miles per hour over the speed limit. You can save a lot of money and get better gas mileage by driving at the speed limit. Do your own test to see what a difference 10 or 20 miles / hour makes on your gas mileage.

Heating Our Homes to Reduce Energy

Just by setting the temperature a few degrees lower in the winter time and a few degrees higher in the summer time will reduce your overall energy foot print. Many people heat their homes with gas, oil or even propane. You can reduce your usage a great deal by simply setting the thermostat a bit lower and even shutting off rooms that do not need to be heated. Just make sure that there are no water pipes in these rooms that could freeze during a cold snap. You will save both electricity usage by not running your fan as often as well as the fuel used to heat your home.

The same applies to air conditioning in the summer. Although you will not reduce fuel, you will reduce your electrical energy usage by a significant amount if you set the temperature higher and close rooms that do not need to be cooled.

Reducing energy at Work

While you may not put money in your own pocket by reducing energy usage at work, you can certainly help to reduce the company’s energy usage and make them more profitable. In our books this is a good thing in most cases since it helps to protect our jobs.


Car Maintenance Tips

Car Maintenance TipsKeeping your car in tip-top shape will save you money and prevent costly repairs over the long run. When your car decides to break down, it is usually at the worst possible time such as when you are stuck in heavy traffic or on vacation a long ways from home. Any time is a bad time, however when you must have your car towed a long distance, perhaps stay in a hotel somewhere and take taxis back and forth to the hotel or motel it can become very expensive.  If you are traveling it is just not worth it to not have your car perfectly tuned up and well maintained. This includes your tires being balanced and having sufficient tread on them. They should also be pressurized at the proper level to ensure minimum wear and tear, a smooth ride and efficient gas mileage as well.

What are the Car Maintenance Tips  to Check

We put together a list of items to check on a regular basis that can be completed by most drivers. For detailed  instructions follow your cars manual.

  • Check your tire pressure
  • Look for abnormal tire wear
  • Check the engine oil level
  • Check the brake fluid level
  • Verify the power steering fluid level
  • Check the windshield washer fluid level
  • Check all lights
  • Confirm your antifreeze fluid level

Your dealer can also check the above items while performing an oil change, which should be completed every 3000 miles or 5000 kilometers for most cars. Most oil change locations will check all of the above and quite a few other items as part of their normal procedure. They will give you a report on everything they find and make recommendations regarding what you should do about the issues if there are any.

Some Auto Shops will Do a More Detailed Check

They should also check the following items:

  • Tire wear, especially  abnormal wear from poor balancing or alignment
  • Brake pads and calipers as well as disc’s
  • Muffler system including the catalytic converter
  • All belts
  • Transmission oil

If these car maintenance items are checked on a regular basis and corrected if needed along with regular oil changes your car should run very well free of major repairs for many thousands of miles. Failure to check on anything that is making some sort of noise that is not normal or checking the engine when the engine light is on is another  problem waiting to become really serious.

If your tires look like they are low in air pressure, check them immediately.  A tire that is low on pressure could be going flat and driving a tire that is low on air pressure will heat up the tire and cause it to wear that much more quickly. Hot tires have been known to explode which is something you definitely do not want happening at high speeds or in heavy traffic. It can be very dangerous and even a cause of a major accident. It is really the last thing you want to have happen at any time of the year.

Winter Driving Requires Special consideration

Make sure you have tires that are meant for winter driving on your car to prove extra grip and better handling on ice and in snow. Engine anti freeze should be set to handle the temperatures that occur in your region and anywhere you may be driving. the same even applies windshield antifreeze. a reservoir that is full of water will only freeze in cold conditions and not do your windows any good at all.


Regular House Maintenance

Regular House MaintenanceRegular house maintenance is something that all of us need to pay attention to if we want to protect our investment and make sure that our home goes up in value over the years along with our neighbors houses. One of our neighbors thinks that his house is worth $600,000 because he has a large home and he has a large lot which is on the surface very attractive. In fact there are homes in our neighborhood that are worth amounts in that range.

He has not maintained his house that well and so it needs a lot of work. Someone who would like to buy his home would look at it and then look at all of the money he would have to spend. for example it is a 2500 square foot home and all of the carpets and the linoleum ( who has linoleum in their kitchens now) would have to be replaced. Most people would put in hardwood and tile. The cost can vary  a great deal, but let’s assume the cost would be $20,000. The entire home would also have to be painted which would cost another $10,000 approximately. He has a three car wide, 2 car deep driveway that would need to be repaved, which could cost another $8000.

Regular House Maintenance

The windows should also be replaced and there are a lot of windows and these could cost up to $30,000. While they are at it they would probably want to update the bathrooms and update the kitchen which can cost  anywhere from $40,000 to as much as $70,000. the sky is the limit of course and it could be done on the cheap or nothing at all could be done. Excluding the cost of the kitchen and the bathrooms, the total comes to $70,000 and most people would want to something to the kitchen and bathrooms so let’s allow a total of $30,000 for that which takes it to $100,000 in maintenance expenses.

We have not even touched the outside in terms of things such as landscaping etc that needs to be done. The point is that a what should be a $600,000 home might only be worth $500,000 or less depending on what the comparable are and how much competition there is from other homes on the market.

The point we wanted to make with all of this is that consumers need to complete regular house maintenance in order to maintain the value of their homes. This man has lived in his home for over 25 years and could have completed some of this maintenance over time without it all adding up in the manner that it has.

Maintenance Activities

Here is a brief list of maintenance activities that will help to maintain the value of your home provided that repairs are completed when identified.

  • Check your eaves trough and make sure it’s clear of leaves during the spring and again in the fall
  • Check all of your windowsills to make sure they are not rotting and are well sealed, paint them every year or two
  • Repaint your window frames if necessary, especially if the paint is flaking off
  • Replace your air filter on your furnace at least once every 3 months and more often if your home is dusty
  • Make sure there is no debris around your air-conditioner, other wise it will overwork and burn out
  • Trim all of your trees and shrubs, to keep them looking great and also not block windows
  • Add fertilizer spring summer and fall to your lawn
  • Remove all leaves and debris from the lawn and gardens in late fall and early spring to protect your lawn
  • Check all exterior walls and the roof for any damage from the wind, rain or snow

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Professional Hardwood Floor Cleaning

Professional Hardwood Floor CleaningMany people would prefer not to have to clean their own floors. They would prefer to hire someone to do that work for them whether it is the basement, the kitchen or all of the floors in their home.

Usually people will hire professional companies to come and clean all their floors and wash all of the rugs. It saves them a lot of time and they do not need to do the work that is involved in shampooing floors. It really is just that they do not want to make the effort to do some work and save themselves a bit of money.

What About Rugs?

As with rugs, special precautions should be taken to ensure that the detergent that is being used will not harm your rug or discolor the rug. Usually people remove all of the furniture to make sure that the rug is not stained in any way from the feet of the furniture sitting on a wet rug. Allow your right to dry before placing any furniture on it or using the rug or walking on it.

Professional Hardwood Floor Cleaning

When it comes to hardwood floors, special precautions should be taken to ensure that a mild soap detergent is used and that no water or liquid is left on the floor. Any excess liquid can harm your floor and cause the floor to buckle after it swells from absorbing the moisture. In addition, depending on the liquid, it may also stain the floor.

Immediately wipe up any liquid that spills on the floor and droplets that may be left over after washing the hardwood floor. Before washing the floor whether it is a hardwood floor or a rug, be sure to vacuum the floor and remove all loose dirt and grit that maybe on the floor. This will ensure that your cleaning will do a much better job on both kinds of flooring and ensure that your floors will last much longer than they would otherwise. In the end this saves a great deal of money.

If you really do not want to have to clean or refinish your flooring often, then we suggest that all shoes be removed at the front door and you vacuum often to remove all grit that may be brought into the house. This grit can act like sand paper and remove the shine from your floor. Over time your floor will have a dull looking finish and require a complete re-sanding and refinishing to regain that shiny new look. Your floors will last much longer if you take care of them, they will look better and the cost of refinishing your floors will be deferred well into the future. Take care of your floors regardless of whether they are carpet,  linoleum or hardwood to reduce your annual maintenance costs.


Electric car Charging Stations on 401

Electric Car Charging StationWe are trying to get more information about this topic. However it appears that there are now 20 electric car charging stations that have been set up along the 401 between Windsor and the Québec border. Apparently 20 of the fastest charging stations have been installed every 50 to 98 kilometers along the highway for electric car owners to stop and charge their cars. At the current time the use of the chargers and the electricity is free to drivers. It is provided by the host of the location. These sites have been set up by Sun Country Highway to promote green products and particular the all electric vehicles that are gradually becoming more popular.

Location for Electric car Charging Stations

For example a Comfort Inn along the highway is one of the sponsors that has a charging stating installed on it’s property. It is providing the electricity free of charge to customers. It takes about 3.5 hours for a full charge. And bout one hour to top up the batteries on these electric vehicles using a level 2 charger. Level 3 chargers are under development. They will significantly drop the charging time down to 30 minutes to recharge a battery.

This is really great news for the electric car industry. This is one of the most Significant issues when it comes for consumers to purchase electric cars. They want to know what will happen when the batteries run out. Where they can recharge the battery of the car. In the United States, they expect that sales of  hybrid and electric vehicles will reach 100,000 in 2013 compared to 53,000 sales in 2013.

We have also heard that California is making it possible to drive an electric car from Mexico to the northern California Border. They are installing charging stations all along the major highways to make this possible.

Stumbling Blocks

The main stumbling blocks to significant increases in purchases for all electric vehicles is the higher price. Also the time it takes to recharge the batteries. Availability of locations to charge the batteries is becoming less of a problem. More and more locations provide charging points for electric car owners. However they are becoming more popular as sales indicate. Even Justin Bieber has an electric hybrid!


Estate Manager

Property Management InformationAn estate manager typically looks after the financial planning of the estate and the administration of the estate of the deceased person. Specific types of estate managers may also look after significant property assets that an individual may have had during his lifespan . These assets may consist of investments in the markets, they may consist of property that must be managed, they could consist of business interest that must be kept running. We may not all have a home like this one, but our estates are still worth something and it is important that it is managed properly according to your wishes. Many employee jobs may even be at stake along with their livelihood and their families if there is a company of some kind involved.

Estate Manager – Property

The property manager or estate manager must account for all income from tenants, and all expenses for the property that is being managed. They must also be prepared to provide reports showing the income statement which outlines the income and expenses and the resulting profit and loss situation for the property. Much of this work may be delegated to the property management company that was originally in place and the estate manager may only need to liaise with them to keep everything running smoothly until the estate is wound up and the properties sold.

They must also be well acquainted with the estate planning techniques, as well as property management in the city or state or province that you live. There are significant requirements for estate managers who are also property managers.

Hiring Property Managers

Many estate managers will hire property managers to look after the property assets for the estate or for the deceased person. There may have been a contract in  place for example with the deceased and the property manager. An updated contract would need to be put in place between the estate and the company hired to deliver the property management function.

The skills required are typically not something that many estate managers possess themselves or within their company. The services will be contracted out and it is important for the administrator to understand this. It is also important for the heirs of the estate to appreciate the complexities of the estate and the steps that must be taken to ensure that everything is properly put in place to maintain the value for the estate and the heirs.

Who Can Be Estate Managers

In the vast majority of cases, the estate manager is a member of the family and the estate is wound up in an organized fashion with the guidance of the lawyer for the family and the accountant if there is one. The estate manager must also ensure that all taxes are paid from the estate as well as from the deceased income prior to their passing.

If the estate is complex and significant value, some families will opt for an unbiased estate manager to manage the estate. The fees associated with this sort of service is expensive, but sometimes warranted based on the skills and services that are provided. If there are many assets, investments and property with trust funds being set up it may be necessary to hire an estate manager to look after all of the details. Families need to be prepared to either do the work themselves or hire a professional and pay the required fees.

It is also an emotional time and it is difficult to make decisions that involve family heirlooms as well as investments and property. Someone who is separate from the family and not emotionally involved is sometimes better equipped to handle these affairs and make recommendations regarding various decisions that need to be made.

Finally the services that many people need are legal advice, accounting advice, investment advice and tax advice regarding the best approach to managing the estate as well as winding up the estate. Don’t forget the tax man wants to be paid as well and unfortunately this is one of the things that a lot of people forget about and then find the estate owes more money than everyone thought.


Reducing Electricity Consumption at Home

Reducing Energy UsageMany people do not pay attention to reducing electricity consumption at home for a number of reasons. Some just do not have the time to focus on this issue. Others do not realize how much it is costing them because they do not pay the bill each month. Quite a few people also just do not care. They want to be comfortable. Consumers do not want to be bothered by anything like this. They figure that they have worked for their money and they can spend it in whatever way they wish to.

There are many people who are on tight budgets and every dollar they can save is a dollar that can go to other more important things like food on the table and paying for kids clothes or whatever is important in life to them. These are the people that should really pay attention to reducing electricity consumption at home and of course those of us who just want to avoid paying companies for services that we do not need.

Reducing Electricity Consumption

The following is a long list of suggestions that can be considered. They will not apply to everyone since we all have different circumstances, but they can save all of us money and our lives can still be very comfortable. If you notice something missing, let us know and we will be happy to add it to our list:

  • Turn the lights off when not in the room
  • Turn the TV off if you are not watching it for longer than 15 minutes
  • Cook using the microwave instead of the oven
  • Use a clothes line to dry your clothes
  • If you have time of day charging, take advantage of the rates and run AC, pumps, dryers etc in off normal time.
  • Run the AC only at night
  • Turn up the temperature during the day so the AC does not run as much
  • Turn down the temperature in the winter to use the furnace less
  • Unplug TV’s and other electronics in unused rooms to avoid trickle usage
  • Convert all lights to fluorescent or LED’s
  • Take advantage of discount when buying these lights.

These are just a few of the ways to ensure that your electrical consumption at home is kept to a minimum and even if you save $300 to $500 a year in electrical charges, the money is better in your pocket than someone else’s.


Rotate Your Tires

Consumers should rotate the tires on their car according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. On the writer’s car this would be every 12,000 kilometers or 7,500 miles. Usually the tires are moved from the front to the back and the back to the front. Always follow the car manufacturers instructions regarding how you rotate your tires. You can find this information in the manual for your car. In some cases a garage may not rotate your tires if they are running smoothly or if thy are also wearing evenly. This is the first time the writer has heard of this situation. Readers would welcome your comments on this subject.

Why Front to Back Tire Rotation

It turns out that most tires if not all tires have a direction of rotation on them. This is designed to provide better traction and better water clearance to avoid what is known as hydro planning. If you move your tires from one side of the car to the other, you are actually changing the direction of rotation and your tires will wear improperly and not deliver the traction that they are designed to provide.

If in doubt about what to do, always rotate by moving the front tires to the rear and the rear tires to the front and never move them from one side to the other.

Why Rotate Your Tires

Tires are rotated to even out the wear on the tires and gain the maximum use out of the tire. If a tire is wearing abnormally you may want to have a front end alignment completed on your car at the same time. When the tires are being rotated, tire balancing should also be completed as a part of the job. This will ensure a smooth ride and even wear on the tire. Finally the tire pressure is checked and the tires inspected for safety.

While it might be considered expensive to have the tires balanced and rotated, it is definitely a safer situation for all drivers. If the tires are inspected, balanced, the proper inflation is checked and they are all wearing the same amount.

Cost of Tire Rotation

Several tire dealers will include tire rotation on your car free of charge for as long as you own the car when you purchase the tires from them. This is a good deal especially when you consider tire rotation can cost as much as $20 to $25 per tire. Buying tires on sale with tire rotation and balancing included is an excellent deal.

The writer always buys tires with this kind of deal in mind and one other attribute. We travel a great deal by car, so I also want a dealer that is national in scope and in fact is in several countries that we routinely take our car to. This allows us to have our tires checked, balanced and rotated all for free when we go to this particular national tire dealer. Every time I have this done, I am saving approximately $100 which can be as much as $400 over the life of the tire. If you do not travel long distances for extended periods of time, then it might not be as important to you as it is for us.


Routine Home Maintenance

Routine Home MaintenanceBy doing routine home maintenance, consumers can save themselves thousands of dollars in major repairs. For example by making sure that the down pipe from the eaves trough is delivering water onto the lawn instead of around the foundation can avoid major leaks in your basement.

Routine Maintenance List

The following is a list of routine maintenance items that we consider important to help ensure that major repairs can be avoided, which will save you thousands of dollars. Of course each situation is different and should be evaluated in the context of your own home and weather environment. Here we go:

  • Routine maintenance should include the following kinds of things –
  • Check your eaves trough and make sure it’s clear of leaves
  • Check all of your windowsills to make sure they are not rotting and are well sealed
  • Repaint your window frames if necessary
  • Replace your air filter on your furnace
  • Make sure there is no debris around your air-conditioner
  • Trim all of your trees and shrubs
  • Add fertilizer spring summer and fall to your lawn
  • Remove all leaves and debris from the lawn and gardens in late fall and early spring
  • Check all exterior walls and the roof for any damage from the wind, rain or snow
  • Have your furnace checked on an annual basis
  • Change the oil in your lawn mower  and snow blower at least annually
  • Reseal wooden decks as needed whenever you see sealant chipping off or exposed wood
  • Seal your asphalt driveway at least every two years
  • Evaluate when you should replace the shingles on your roof

We could probably add more to this list, however we think we have captured the major issues that home owners need to deal with to ensure that they do not end up with a major expense. We will expand on one of them to give you more detail.

Clean all Leaves etc out of the Eaves Trough

This small maintenance step should be completed in the spring and the late fall. Basically you want to have all of the leaves removed from the eaves trough to ensure that the water flows easily and does not sit in the eaves trough. Heavy water sitting in the eaves trough will cause them to sage and even fall down over time. If you live in a cold winter environment, the water and leaves will freeze and block the flow of water when it does thaw. Water can back up under the shingles due to ice dams and cause leakage into your home causing all kinds of water damage. Keep the eaves trough open and clear will help to reduce this kind of issue from occurring.

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Installation of Hardwood Floors

Installation of Hardwood FloorsInstallation of hardwood floors is made simple by hiring a hardwood floor installer who really knows what he is doing. The trick is to make sure that the guy you hire has experience and will plan your floor out to make sure that it is done properly and looks great when it’s finished.

Learn the Basics of Hardwood Floor Installation

Knowing a little bit about installing hardwood floors can help you interview the installer and make sure that the guy that will do the job for you has experience and will do an excellent job. While you should ask for recommendations from the store where you purchase your hardwood, you really want to go beyond just getting a recommendation from the hardwood floor store. Understand the best approach to laying out your flooring. Which direction should the floor run in? Across the joists that support the floor or along a hallway?

Ask for References

You might also ask for references and actually go and see the people to look at their floors and discuss with them what their concerns and issues about their floor are and how it was installed. Are they totally satisfied or would they do something different? You can ask for references from the store, however hardwood flooring is so popular these days that many of your friends will have had some experience with installing flooring. Ask for their opinion and references as well.

We are all in hurry, especially once we have made the decision to go ahead with the purchase and the installation of the hardwood in our homes. If you know of an excellent installer, you may want to wait until he is available rather than go with another installer that you are not as confident with. Sometimes the wait is worth it to get the best installation that you can.

Installation of Hardwood Floors

The hardwood floor strips should run across the joists that support the floor. You can usually tell by looking at the direction of the joists in the basement to find out which direction they’re going and the hardwood strips should be placed across those joists on the upper floors. In addition there should be at least 5/8 inch plywood on the floors to provide maximum strength and avoid any squeaking or movement of the floor once the hardwood is installed. Some homeowners will also add additional nails or better yet wood screws to hold the plywood in place and prevent squeaking after the floor has been installed.

The hardwood floor strips should run the length or the same direction of the hallway. This makes the room look larger and not as narrow. We have two hallways that intersect, so we chose the longer and wider hallway to run the hardwood planks the length of that hallway. In the other hallway which intersects with the first we had no choice but to run then across the width of the hallway. This makes it look a little smaller, but it is a short one and not used as much as the first one, so we are more than satisfied with this decision.

In the living rooms or dining rooms or family rooms the same rule should apply that the hardwood strip should run the length of the room rather than the width of the room. Installing the hardwood floor strips in this manner should also usually comply with the earlier suggestion that the hardwood floor strips be installed across the joists in the basement or in the second floor. Once your hardwood floor is installed, many people will place area rugs to enhance the décor as well as protect the flooring in high traffic areas. This is a great way to add accents to the room as well as complement your furniture and bring everything together from a color perspective.

Some consumers will also hire decorators to help them with this step to make sure that everything is color coordinated and looks great.

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