6 Pro Tips for Property Managers to Get More From Their Taxes

6 Pro Tips for Property Managers to Get More From Their Taxes

One of the benefits of owning and managing properties is the ability to leverage your taxes as a property owner. If you’re not an accountant, however, it can be more daunting than exciting—especially if you don’t know what you can deduct, or how to best position yourself and your income.

We’ve talked with a variety of professionals in the fields of property management, tax laws, and accounting to bring you their best tips for getting the most from your taxes.

1. Don’t forget to deduct repair costs

“If you pay a repairman or other person $600 or more during the year to perform services for a client’s property, you must separately report those payments to the IRS.”

—Stephen Fishman, Tax expert, attorney, and author

2. Claim your home office

“You may not consider your rental income to be a business with a regular office, but it is. You have to record your income and expenses somewhere and that is likely to be your desk or a room in your home. If you use a room or other dedicated space in your home exclusively for your rental activities you can claim a portion of your house expenses as a deduction against your rental revenues.”

—TurboTax,  Intuit.com

3. Add additional revenue streams where possible

“In multi-family properties, look for the opportunity to add services like coin-operated laundry and vending machines, which will not only provide revenue but will add resale value by raising the property’s return on asset value, or capitalization rate.

In single-family homes, offer extra house cleaning and landscaping services to tenants when they sign the lease. They may be happy to pay extra to avoid responsibilities they’d otherwise take on. You can negotiate the rates of independent landscaping and cleaning services, contract them out, and collect a fee as the contractor. For instance, if a cleaner agrees on a $75/month fee, you may offer the service to your tenant for $85/month, increasing your annual revenue by $120.”

—Blake Hilgemann, Property Manager and contributor to BiggerPockets.com

4. Use rental losses to your benefit

“If a taxpayer is an ‘active participant’ in a real estate activity, they can normally use up to $25,000 of rental losses to offset other sources of income. Unfortunately, if a taxpayer’s Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) exceeds $100,000 those losses begin to be reduced and at $150,000 are phased out completely. Essentially, you can use rental losses to reduce your ordinary income unless you start making too much money.

One interesting exception to this is if you are a real estate professional. In those cases, the entirety of rental losses can be used against ordinary income—regardless of income level. There are other considerations, but the two main requirements are that:

  • More than one half of your personal services performed across all businesses and activities are performed in real estate trades or businesses
  • More than 750 hours of services are performed in real estate property trades or businesses in which the taxpayer materially participates

As with anything tax related, who exactly qualifies would vary on a case-by-case basis, but property management companies would be in a very good position to qualify as real estate professionals for the purpose of this deduction.”

—Micah Fraim, CPA and best-selling Amazon author

5. Minimize tax liability when you file

“Whether you’re running a property management business full-time or are a realtor who’s working as a property manager on the side, you can take steps to minimize your tax liability as a Schedule-C filer. [For example] track your mileage for every site visit and errand that you complete, which includes making bank deposits, buying office supplies, driving to the post office, affixing for rent signs, showing apartments, and attending meetings.”

—Thomas J. Williams, EA, Tax Accountant & Owner of Your Small Biz Accountant, LLC

6. Join the landlords’ association in your area

“Joining an association will provide you with a wealth of experience as well as sample leases, copies of laws and regulations, and lists of decent lawyers, contractors and inspectors. Some associations may even allow you to join before you buy a rental property.”

—Andrew Beattie, Investopedia

Jessica Thiefels has been writing and editing for more than 10 years and is now a professional freelancer and consultant. She’s worked with a variety of real estate clients and publishers, and has been featured on Forbes and Market Watch. She’s also an author for Inman, House Hunt Network, Homes.com and more.

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Should downsizing baby boomers rent or buy?

We can unequivocally conclude: It depends.

for rent

Rent here in the big city! (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

It’s one of the most difficult questions people face when they sell a house: is it better to rent or buy? Writing in the Washington Post, Michele Lerner looks at the issue and talks to a financial advisor:

“Many of our clients who are at or near retirement like the idea of downsizing and moving into the city or closer to the city, and they assume it will be less expensive than maintaining a large home,” says Laly Kassa, managing director of financial planning at Chevy Chase Trust in Bethesda. “The reality is that it’s just as expensive to move closer to the city to an area that’s walkable and close to transit. Some are opting to buy, and some are opting to rent, but the decision is unique to each client.”

Lerner is talking mostly to wealthier people (the first couple has a second home in Italy) but for others, the house may be their biggest asset, and selling it unlocks that equity. And while I do go on about getting out of the suburbs and into a walkable community, you don’t have to move to the big city to get a taste of this; there are lots of university towns, for example, that are walkable, fun and affordable. And when you rent, you get to check them out without as big a commitment.

Jane Hodges of the Wall Street Journal notes that people with oversized houses and inadequate savings can do much better by selling and then renting. She writes:

Renting has both advantages and disadvantages for older consumers. On the plus side, renters typically enjoy a wider range of housing options, flexibility (a one-year lease is a short-term commitment) and the fact that building managers handle repairs, landscaping and snow shoveling.

The money question

Party in mom's apartmentParty time at my mom’s apartment. (Photo: Lloyd Alter)

Certainly that’s how it worked out for my parents. After they sold their house, they moved into a popular building but found the apartment a bit small and moved after just a few years. Their next apartment was huge, and when my father died, mom called the landlord and moved to a smaller apartment a few floors down. It was a building from the ’60s and had a terrible kitchen and no air conditioning, but the staff all knew her and watched out for her as she aged in place. With additional help in later years, she was able to stay in that building for 30 years.

Was it better for her to have rented all those years instead of owning? Probably, as she would not have seen the gain in value in her lifetime, and meanwhile her invested money did quite nicely and she was able to live on the income. You can’t eat a condo, and as John Maynard Keynes noted, “In the long run we are all dead.”

On the other hand, you can’t “fritter away” a condo or house; the money is locked up and could appreciate a lot more. There may also be tax advantages. But as Americans know from the Great Recession, housing prices don’t always go up, and they certainly don’t go up evenly across the country. Some homeowners are still under water 10 years later.

Renting may make more sense than buying for boomers for a lot of reasons, but here are the best of them:

  • It’s more convenient: None of the usual homeowner worries about maintenance and roof repairs apply — the landlord does it.
  • It’s more flexible: A condo is a real commitment, whereas a lease is much less of a deal and can often be terminated with a penalty if you really want to get out of it.
  • It can be cheaper depending on where you’re moving. People also underestimate the costs and insecurities of condo living where there can be high operating costs, special assessments and changes in taxes.
  • It might be easier at the next stage of your life. Things change, and if something happens and you have to move, it’s easier to move out of a rental than to dump a condo in a hurry.
  • You have money! Why not enjoy a bit of it instead of tying it all up in real estate?

Sanibel IslandSanibel Island might be a nice alternative right now. (Photo: Lloyd Alter)

Renting also offers some real opportunity to try out different parts of the city, the country or even the world for a couple of years, but buying pretty much ties you down. Just put all your stuff in one of Matt’s storage lockers and hit the road. That might be the best investment of your time and money that you ever make.

Lloyd Alter (  @lloydalter ) writes about smart (and dumb) tech with a side of design and a dash of boomer angst.

Do you need a landline for emergencies?

It depends entirely on the type of phone service you have.

A blue rotary phone on a wooden table

This phone could be a lifeline in the event of an emergency or disaster. (Photo: BrAt82/Shutterstock)

Storms, power outages and other emergencies can suddenly and all too readily demonstrate the limitations of our beloved cellphones. With no way to charge them and no way to make calls — whether it’s due to malfunctioning cell towers or congested wireless networks — that device you use mostly to text and access the internet may not be good for much more than serving as a very expensive flashlight.

As a result, you may stop and consider the value of that lumbering piece of technology that sits forever tethered to the wall, the landline telephone. Yes, that holdover from the end of the 1800s is still around and ringing, and it could be the only way for you to reach and call someone in the event of an emergency.

But only if you have the right kind.

The phone rings for thee

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 46 percent of American households still had landline telephone service by the second half of 2016, while almost 51 percent had only cellular service in their home. While the survey didn’t get into why people kept their landlines, Consumer Reports suggests a few reasons why some keep their landlines, including.

1. Better call quality. Chalk up your cellphone’s tinny call quality to the small receiver and microphone on the device and bandwidth allocation, says Scientific American. While cell providers are inching their way toward to better calls, a landline’s quality tends to be on the crisp and clean side.

2. Saving a bit of money. Some households are still getting good deals on their home phone service thanks to bundle deals with the telecommunication company. Dropping the landline may force them to start paying more for the services they already have.

3. Emergency contacting. This is probably the big reason a lot of folks keep their landlines. In the event of a power outage or emergency, a landline phone is still capable of making calls, especially to 911. They’re also more precise in this scenario than cellphones are; 911 operators will have your location information right on their screens when you call from a landline, but they don’t always have immediate access to your location if you call from a cellphone. This is particularly important in situations where communicating verbally might be difficult.

However, even this last, and perhaps most valuable, perk of a landline isn’t always available, and this is where things get tricky about whether or not you should have a landline.

Copper lines vs. VoIP

The reasons why landlines are so prized for emergency situations is because when we talk about landlines, we’re talking specifically about copper wires that connect to switch boxes and transmit calls between phones plugged directly into the wall. The benefit of these copper-wired connections is that the phone company is supplying power through the copper wires, and that’s what keeps the lines up and running. Even when the lights go out, there’s still a dial tone when you pick up the phone.

The challenge for telecom companies is that while copper wires are great for making phone calls, they’re lousy at transmitting things like cable television and internet, especially over long distances. They’re also not great when you add additional features (apart from caller ID or call waiting) and that makes them a tough sell. Additionally, copper wiring is expensive to maintain for the telecoms, and since they don’t offer a whole lot and options and fewer people are using them, the incentive to keep them in good order may be low on the priority list.

Nowadays, when you look into adding a landline, you’re more likely to end up with a voice over internet protocol phone, or a VoIP line. These phone lines transmit over the same cables and wires used for the internet. Many such phone lines need to be plugged directly into your internet gateway device to function. These VoIP are typically what telecoms — especially the companies that started off as cable companies — offer in their myriad bundles since they don’t have copper line holdings.

Naturally, this means that when the power goes out, your phone line is almost certainly going to go out as well. It requires an internet connection to function, after all. In some instances, companies may offer a battery back-up for the phone that can last up to eight hours, depending on use, but it’s up to you to maintain the battery, replace it and even test it to make sure it works in the event of an emergency.

For the legacy phone companies that now offer TV and internet services, copper wiring may be available but the question becomes for how long? We already mentioned that copper wiring can be expensive to maintain, but when you factor in that the companies now have to maintain the lines and wires that likely generate more revenue in addition to the copper wiring, it seems like a potentially losing battle.

Phone line alternatives

An amateur radio deviceDon’t want to rely on a telephone? There’s always the radio. (Photo: Aubord Dulac/Shutterstock)

In the event that you can’t get a copper-wired phone, or you’re not fully convinced by the battery back-up, there are a few other communication options available to you.

1. Satellite phones. Unless the emergency you’re facing is a massive meteorite strike, satellite phones will allow you to make a phone call in an emergency. Plenty of these phones can use solar power, which means that even if the power is out, so long as you have access to sunlight, you’re good to go. Satellite phones can be fairly expensive to maintain, so this a costly alternative.

2. CB radio. CB radios have a limited range, and despite their popularity with some groups, particularly with truckers, if there’s not someone else operating a CB radio in the area, it’s not going to solve your communication problem, good buddy.

3. Ham radio. This likely your best alternative to a phone in any sort of an emergency, provided you have a power supply like a small generator or a solar bank. Ham radios have access to plenty of emergency frequencies to monitor even if you can’t transmit on them. However, there are significantly more ham radio operators out there than CB operators, and your chances of reaching someone is greater. Ham radio operation does require you to get an operating license of some sort (there are three different ones), but the ability to communicate when you most need it could be well worth the studying and the exams.

Are Cool Pavements All They’re Cracked Up to Be?

The unexpected consequences of reflective paving

Asphalt Concrete is the most common pavement material, but its dark color absorbs heat.

Reflective pavement can go a long way toward reducing the urban heat island effect, but the embodied energy and emissions in some materials may present unexpected drawbacks, according to new research from the DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The research team conducted lifecycle assessments of conventional and cool pavement materials and simulations of building energy consumption to examine the environmental impact of each material’s full lifecycle. Asphalt concrete, the most common material used for pavement, is dark and has a low albedo (a measure of solar reflectance). Cement concrete is lighter, and thus has a higher albedo, but it requires a high-temperature process that is considerably more energy- and carbon-intensive than making asphalt from petroleum. Albedo affects buildings by reflecting more or less sunlight to them and by changing the outside air temperature, though a higher reflectance is generally considered a positive as less heat is absorbed.

The researchers also compared the two types of concrete to reflective coatings as well as pavement that includes industrial waste products like slag and fly ash as a way to replace some of the energy-intensive cement in concrete. The energy and emissions associated with each pavement type’s materials and construction were paired with a regional climate model and simulated building energy consumption to determine the likely impact on buildings. The team was surprised to find that in most cases, the extra energy embodied in the cool material far outweighed the energy savings from increasing the albedo.

“Over the lifecycle of the pavement, the pavement material matters substantially more than the pavement reflectance,” explains Ronnen Levinson, a researcher in Berkeley Lab’s Heat Island Group. “I was surprised to find that over 50 years, maintaining a reflective coating would require over six times as much energy as a slurry seal. The slurry seal is only rock and asphalt, which requires little energy to produce, while the reflective coating contains energy-intensive polymer.”

Solar powered air conditioning is finally here, and it’s totally boring

by Lloyd Alter 

ecoworld

Video screen capture EcoWorld

Instead of fancy new technology, it’s all about combining improved efficiency with low cost solar panels.

For over a decade we have been writing about how solar powered air conditioning was the holy grail. AC is a huge energy suck and is needed most when and where the sun shines brightest. We have looked at absorption technologies and all kinds of fancy solutions and alternatives to traditional AC units.

But it turns out that solar powered AC is not some new technology, but simply a result of grinding out improvements in existing heat pump split units, combined with the continuing drop in the price of conventional solar panels, with a dollop of building energy efficiency improvements that reduce solar gain and resultant cooling loads.

That’s how we get to the EcoWorld Solar Hybrid Air Conditioner. Australia’s Renew Magazine calls it much more sensible than all the complicated solar powered absorption designs:

It simply uses a dedicated 1kW solar PV array to drive the air conditioner, greatly reducing the energy required from the grid. In full sun, the unit can draw as little as 30 watts from the grid while producing its rated 3.5 kW cooling/ 3.8 kW heating capacity.

EcoWorld claims that you can “stay cool or warm without the huge energy bills. Use it more often without regrets.”

passive vs grandmaPassive house or Grandma’s house?/Public Domain

What is so cool about this (sorry) is how it is not a revolution but an evolution. For years we went on about designing our homes so that we could live without air conditioning like Grandma did, which is hard when Grandma didn’t have a choice, and when we live in a warmer, more crowded world.

Now we know that a combination of solar panels, better mini splits and radical building efficiency can keep us comfy all year round.

Tags: Air Conditioning | Australia | Solar Power

5 Answers Your Property Management Visitors Must FIND on Your Website

By  –

Websites on the Internet have an average conversion rate of two percent. What does that mean? It means that 98 percent of website visitors are not doing what you want them to do – like filling out a form on your website to learn more about your property management services.

It’s up to you, to grow your property management business, to make sure visitors can quickly find the information that matters to them so they choose your company over your competitors. At Fourandhalf, we’ve worked on hundreds of high-converting property management landing pages and we’re excited to share the 5 details you need to have on your website to convert more visitors today.

What Do You Do and Why You’re Special

People searching for property management services can still end up on the wrong page. It seems obvious, but make it easy for people to see exactly what you do (property management) and where you service (whatever city of market you’re in). This is as simple as displaying at the very top of your home page: “[Area you service] Property Management.”

Next, you need to demonstrate what makes you special. The best way to do this is by addressing the pain point that matters the most to your clients. Ask yourself, “What’s my customer’s morning thought?” As this will help you pinpoint your customer’s biggest headache when it comes to property management.

Once you are able to identify the issue, you’ll be able to position yourself as the company that solves that problem. This can be as simple as a tagline:

Case Study #1Tough Time Placing Tenants

Gulf Coast Property Management learns after speaking with new prospects that the main challenge for Bradenton landlords is placing a tenant.

Notable QuoteI’m not able to find a qualified tenant to my rental property. 

The Solution: Mention the average amount of time it takes for you to rent out a property.

Good Property Management Tagline

Case Study #2: Burned By Bad Service 

Hampton & Hampton learned that many of their clients are coming to them after a bad experience with other property management companies.

Notable Quote: I can’t seem to find a good, professional property management company.

Solution: Mention your experience and the accreditations that you have achieved.

Good Property Management Tagline 2

Chances are, this copy is already on your website! Don’t hide the juicy stuff that can really draw your visitors in. If you are able to connect your clients’ pain points to your solutions, then you will be the company that gets the phone calls.

What You Offer

Can visitors quickly understand what you offer? Show them how they can engage with your services so they not only know what you do, but how it will benefit them. Real Estate Connections does a great job in showing what they offer to landlords and owners.

Why Are You Trustworthy?

Give your visitors’ confidence that you are qualified to help them! Validate your work by including testimonials and reviews that you have generated on the internet. This will give visitors peace of mind that you’re a company people like to work with. Reference the associations you’re active in. When you’re affiliated with professional organizations, you’re demonstrating that this is your passion and your focus, and you’re dedicating your life to being a better property manager rather than someone that is just chasing a quick buck.

Independence Realty does a great job in letting their customers speak for themselves. Their use of Fourandhalf’s Managed Reputation widget has translated into new business for Independence Realty by allowing them to showcase their best reviews. Show your reviews, affiliations, and credentials, it will go a long way in getting that owner phone call.

What Do You Want Them To Do?

This is an area people tend to forget. You only have a limited amount of time with your website visitors. You are taking them on a journey, so remember to tell them what you want them to do. It is as simple as asking them to book a free consultation. You want visitors to provide their information, and you need to make it easy for them to do so. You can’t have visitors getting so far into your page and then not knowing what to do.

Bonus-Tip: What Can They Do If They Are Not Ready to Buy?

Not every landlord on your site is ready to buy; they may be visiting sites for research. So, you want to give that landlord a reason to visit your site again. This is why creating blogs and articles is so valuable. Blogs giving your best advice in handling rental property in the area gives landlords a reason to visit your site. If you want to get advanced, include free downloadable materials, such as a free e-book or a free rental analysis from sites like Rentometer or RentRange so that you can stay in touch with them when they are ready to buy property management services.

Your website is useless if it’s frustrating to navigate. Make sure your visitors can find what they need immediately, and give them a good reason to contact you. If you have any questions on how your website can help you grow your property management business, please contact us at Fourandhalf.

About Nitu Sidhu

Nitu brought to Fourandhalf a Google AdWords certification where he began working on client’s PPC Campaigns. A year later, he eventually led a team of three in working with over 180 clients on hitting their marketing strategy. Today, Nitu works on taking care of Fourandhalf’s own marketing initiatives.

Building a Model to Help Restore Oroville Dam’s Shattered Spillway

https://player.vimeo.com/video/223679839

Anyone who contemplated the wreckage of the Oroville Dam’s main spillway back in February — either while water was pounding down the shattered concrete structure or when the flow was stopped later and the enormity of the damage was fully visible— probably had this thought cross their mind: “That is going to be tough to fix.”

Officials with the California Department of Water Resources were apparently thinking something similar. They got in touch with researchers at Utah State University as part of the process to figure out just how to approach the job of rebuilding the 3,000-foot-long concrete chute.

The department hired the university’s Water Research Laboratory to create a scale model of the spillway to help assess its condition after it breached and broke apart and to test concepts for its reconstruction.

“When we were contacted back in February, DWR had no idea what was feasible in this construction season,” Michael Johnson, an associate professor of hydraulic engineering at Utah State, said in an interview Thursday.

Michael Johnson, a faculty member at Utah State’s Water Research Laboratory, alongside the lab’s scale model of the Oroville Dam spillway.The model was created to help California water officials plan for rebuilding the partially destroyed structure. (Utah State University)

“They realized they may have to run this thing again this year, before it’s finished. So part of our work was evaluating conditions for this coming season,” Johnson said.

To do that, Johnson and a team of fellow researchers, engineers and technicians built a 1:50 scale model — essentially, a replica that’s 1/50th the original’s size — of the wrecked spillway. To create the very realistic 3-D model, Johnson says, the team used lidar (light detection and ranging) data from the Department of Water Resources.

The lab has since created a version of the model that depicts an intact spillway. The purpose of Spillway Model 2.0 is to test design features under consideration for the rebuilt structure.

Among those features being examined on the model: aerators for the surface of the concrete chute that are designed to prevent or dampen some of the destructive effects of water that prototypes suggest can move down the steeper sections of the spillway at 130 feet per second — nearly 90 mph.

The Department of Water Resources and its contractor on the project, Kiewit Infrastructure West, have outlined a spillway rebuilding plan stretching over two construction seasons.

A technician welds a section of Utah State’s Oroville spillway model. (Utah State University)

In the first season, which began in late May and is slated to last through next November — later if weather and reservoir conditions allow — crews will demolish and rebuild most of the lower section of the damaged concrete chute.

At the same time, workers will undertake a second massive project to reinforce that unpaved hillside designated as the dam’s emergency spillway. A 1,730-foot concrete weir at the top of the slope and adjacent to the main spillway is designed to allow uncontrolled flows down the slope from Lake Oroville to the Feather River. The slope eroded rapidly when water flowed over the emergency weir in February, threatening to undermine the weir and unleash a catastrophic flood.

To try to stem erosion in the event the emergency spillway is pressed into service again, DWR’s plan calls for building a huge “cutoff” wall on the slope beneath the weir. The water agency has said that work should be finished by November.

In the second construction season, contractors will rebuild the upper portion of the main spillway chute and build a massive concrete “splash pad” below the emergency weir — another step intended to prevent erosion.

Utah State’s project is not the first time hydraulic engineers have created a model to test the design of the Oroville Dam Spillway.

If you’ve dipped your toe into the history of the dam since February’s crisis — wondering, for instance, exactly what the engineers who designed the complex had in mind when they decided to create an emergency overflow down a bare hillside — then you may well have stumbled onto a document labeled HYD-510.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation produced the 189-page paper in 1965 to summarize the results of spillway design testing it had performed at the request of the California Department of Water Resources, which had puzzled over how to configure the structure.

Just as a reminder, major dams need spillways to regulate the levels of the reservoirs behind them. They allow excess water to flow at a controlled rate through or around dams and prevent reservoirs from flowing over the top of the dam itself. In the case of an earthen embankment dam like Oroville, an overtopping event could erode the dam, undermine its structural integrity and lead to collapse — a calamity.

The design of the spillway at Oroville presented some special challenges, though not necessarily unique ones, because of the sheer size of the dam (you’ve read by this time that it’s the nation’s tallest) and the reservoir it would create as it held back the waters of the Feather River watershed (the reservoir, Lake Oroville, is the second-largest in the state; when it’s full, it holds enough water to supply about 7 million California households for a year).

Now back to HYD-510.

The report describes the process of testing conducted at a Bureau of Reclamation lab in Denver, and it’s full of details that might never occur to the casual spillway-watcher.

For instance, how much water the main spillway and the nearby emergency spillway were designed to handle, and under what conditions. One of the big areas of inquiry was how different configurations of the the channel outside the massive spillway gates would affect the speed and turbulence of the flow heading into the spillway’s concrete chute.

More than 50 years and one major spillway crisis later, Utah State’s researchers are revisiting many of the same problems.