Northern Virginia Property Management 101 – Rental Property Marketing


The most important part of a good landlord experience is finding and keeping a quality tenant. Today, we are talking about how to market and lease your property. [Read more…]

Marketing through Zillow and other Third Party Sites

On average, Zillow.com is the 45th most visited website in the United States, and the number one visited real estate site. Trulia, Realtor.com and several other sites also see millions of individual visitors each month. This presents a great opportunity to market your home using one of these sites however, they can also offer challenges that must be addressed.

Even with the number of visitors to those third party sites, it is still imperative that your listing be in the Multiple Listing Service, which in our area is called MRIS. This is the main resource for all real estate professionals and sends out all published listings to said third party sites. Posting in MRIS allows your home to be featured on over 100 different real estate sites and also provide needed private showing information to agents so they can show your home. 75% of buyers and renters use a real estate agent to buy or rent a home, you must make yourself available to agents. However, with this added benefit, we have found there are issues occasionally with its Zillow and Trulia functionality. For the remainder of this article, we will refer only to Zillow as Zillow and Trulia are owned by the same company and are essentially identical in terms of all issues discussed below.

First, it can take up to 72 hours for Zillow to “sync” with MRIS. This is a function of Zillow, Realtor.com has typically synced within a couple hours of any change in the MRIS. This can lead to several issues, one a property might not appear on Zillow when we want it to because it takes so long to sync. We are strategic in our listing recommendations, often recommending you list before the weekend so you can capitalize on weekend traffic. This causes added challenges in that, it often means we need to list by Tuesday or Wednesday to ensure its active and visible on Zillow for a weekend.

Another issue we have found is that Zillow “saves” the old photos from whatever the previous listing had. McGrath Real Estate has professional photos taken for our listings highlighting the features of the home and occasionally even though we have uploaded them to MRIS, your Zillow listing will still show the old photos. This is especially problematic when the condition of the property has changed dramatically. We have even found on several occasions that photos don’t sync and because Zillow does not allow us to edit the listing, we have to specially request they change the photos for us. Our experience has been that it takes several days for the home to be completely updated.

If you as the owner of the property “claim” your home, you can upload the photos to the listing prior to it being listed. It is our hope that will help combat the issue of photos but it hasn’t worked every time. It is very easy to upload photos to your listing and we can provide you the professional photography prior to the list date (if possible). To claim a home it does require a unique Zillow account, otherwise we would just claim all our listings. Unless you tell us otherwise, we do not normally “claim ownership” of someone’s home. We are happy to walk you through this process over the phone if you’d like.

Our sales team does utilize the Zillow Premier Agent program which gives us the ability to list our sales (unfortunately this feature is not available for rentals at this time) as “Coming Soon” prior to listing the home. As your agent (with signed listing agreement in place), we are allowed access to your property profile and can upload all new photos, floor plans and videos that we have had commissioned. This can be a great tool to determine advance interest in a property and pre-market a home to potential buyers.
In terms of rentals, another added issue is that when an application is received, we must change the status in MRIS to “Application Registered”. Unless the application does not meet our minimum criteria for qualification, we must change the status to reflect that an application has been submitted per the terms and conditions of our contract with the MRIS. The issue comes that Zillow removes any listing from search results once changed to “Application Registered” status. This is frustrating of course, but it is why we keep our qualification criteria so high. McGrath Real Estate has higher credit and income standards for our rentals than most lenders have to qualify for home loans. We only will register an application if we have the pertinent details on the application. While likely we are still tracking down landlord references, you can be assured that we have checked credit and income prior to ever “application registering” a property.

Zillow is a great resource and we continue to partner with them and work towards better benefits for our clients. That being said, there are limitations and issues created by the site that as a potential landlord or seller, you must understand. If you would like to discuss Zillow and other third party marketing sites, please feel free to contact Lindsay Curtis.

How to Get Your Security Deposit Back in Northern Virginia Property Management


As a tenant, there are ways you can minimize deductions to your security deposit. Your landlord and McGrath Real Estate Services want you to get your security deposit back. A full security deposit return means you are happy as a tenant, and we don’t have to coordinate any repairs with your landlord. Overall, it’s less money and time for all parties involved. The lease allows us 60 days to return your deposit. This gives us time to assess any repairs that are needed and manage them. We know your security deposit is a lot of money, so we’re sharing some tenant advice that can help you expedite the process. These things don’t guarantee faster turnaround, but they do make it more likely. [Read more…]

Rental Property Inspections: What to Look for | Northern Virginia Property Management


Property inspections are always important, but they are especially valuable during the move-in and move-out periods of a lease. At McGrath Real Estate Services, we maintain a property inspection checklist that’s used anytime a tenant moves in or out.
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Security Deposit Education for Landlords | Northern Virginia Property Management


Tenants and landlords can often be confused about what is a security deposit and what is not a security deposit. So today, we are identifying what security deposit items might include. Security deposits cover tenant damages that go beyond normal wear and tear. [Read more…]

Should I Get a Home Warranty for my Northern Virginia Rental Property?


Sometimes, you’ll buy a house and they’ll tack on a home warranty as a bonus. You can also buy your own home warranty for about $400 or $500, to cover appliances, electrical systems, plumbing systems, heating and cooling, and all the components of house that keep the place running. A home warranty can be a good thing if you’re willing to work with these warranty companies. However, we don’t recommend them for rental properties. [Read more…]

How to Turn Your Northern Virginia Home into a Rental Property – Landlord Basics


Turning a house you’ve lived in into a rental property can be an emotional and challenging ordeal for many property owners. That home is probably the biggest investment you ever made and you love your house. Maybe your kids grew up there and you have memories there – it’s important to you. But when your life changes and you turn your house into a rental property, your outlook has to change too. The property becomes a business, not something you care for yourself. This requires you to switch the way you look at it. [Read more…]

Can I Use My Own Repairman for Maintenance in my Northern Virginia Rental Property?


Rental property owners will often ask if they can use their own repairman for simple maintenance, especially when they want to save money on repairs. They don’t understand why it’s so expensive to fix things, and why a contractor is needed to do something simple, like hang a new door. There are a lot of repairs you probably want to make yourself or send your own handyman to do, but we believe it’s better and safer to use licensed and insured contractors that have been vetted for workmanship and affordability. [Read more…]

Renters Today: How to Prepare Your House for Success

The 2015 rental market has proven itself to be the worst rental cycle in the last 10 years in McGrath’s experience. Later in this issue of the McGrath Quarterly we look at the market in review and discuss more in depth the reasons why and expectations for next year. However, one common theme arose when looking at the properties that were still successful in renting quickly and for higher rent and those that were stagnant or in some cases rents even went down, and that was that presentation sets expectation.
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Why We Like Picky Tenants

moving inSo you have a picky tenant and you’re not happy with the barrage of requests? McGrath completely understand your frustrations, and suspicions, particularly when you made so much effort to present the home. It is also human nature to assume the worst particularly when you are thousands of miles away and unable to put your eyes on things. In some cases, tenants can just be picky. Sometimes picky tenants are preferable, particularly over an apathetic tenant, as the picky ones tend to treat the home as if it were their own. At the expiration of the lease the property is more often than not returned in very good condition by the “high maintenance” picky tenant. As your property manager, [Read more…]