There are two reasons why you should think before renting with Airbnb:

by qgregg 18. March 2015 10:32

The hidden danger to Airbnb renters will cost you big time

Plus, a bonus loophole that actually puts your family's lives in danger

March 18, 2015
 

Much has been made of the risks Airbnb landlords face when using the unregulated short-term rental service.

But until now, the hidden danger to Airbnb renters has not been given nearly enough attention. But it is very real and can cost you anything between several hundred dollars to your very life.

This Financial Post piece from just last week accurately describes the risk Airbnb landlords face as follows:

"Because Airbnb believes it is indemnified, the company does not vet renters or units. This means that strangers who have not been checked or referenced can stay in units without permission of the landlord or neighboring condo owners or renters. These people may be convicted burglars, pedophiles or terrorists and, through Airbnb, they are able to gain access to residents, corridors, stairwells, gyms, pools, locker rooms, lounges and parking garages."

However, my family, as first-time Airbnb renters during the recent Spring break, are nothing like the people described above. We are actually mindful of people’s living space and completely respectful of the terms and conditions laid out by landlords, and Airbnb itself.

Doesn’t matter.

Dear renters, Airbnb couldn't care less.

After checking out of the "romantic HILL COUNTY ranch" before 11 a.m. on March 12, we believed all to be well. We heard nothing from the landlord, and left knowing more tenants were coming to rent the place that very day.

Then, more than 48 hours later the hammer dropped.

The landlord requested an additional $250 in damages which she claimed resulted from my stay.

Here is the screenshot of that request, which I denied, and my gut reaction why (click to enlarge, my avatar is the cookie-cutter house):

Airbnb resolution request

Here, let me explain the 5 reasons why the request is highly unusual:

1. Floors are normally made to endure more than wear and tear, and since my family didn’t bring additional furniture into the place, or host a part of the National Plowman’s Union, it is unclear how exactly we caused these scratches.

2. Therefore, in my case, the landlord Sonja in her description suggests moving furniture as it suits the tenant, so in the case that offer is accepted, why should renters be penalized for accepting the landlords offer?

3. If this floor is so sensitive, then shouldn’t the landlord be responsible for safeguarding the surface?

4. Other renters occupied the space in the time between my family checking out and the request for resolution being filed, so what assurances are there that we are the responsible party? How can we be sure the landlord isn’t also sending the same resolution request to other tenants during the same timeframe?

5. The $250 figure doesn’t seem fair. But that doesn’t matter, the landlord is free to ask for $500, or even $750. This ability to pluck a number out of the sky is perhaps most concerning, as under the FHA Managing and Marketing Structure program (M&M III), for example, there are published limits to what vendors can charge for asset repairs. Airbnb, on the other hand, offers no such renter protection.

These five reasons were created by me, initially, to be privately delivered to Airbnb, should the resolution request be escalated. Which is exactly what happened three full days later. If you look at the very top of the above screen shot, you can see exactly when Sonja exercised this right.

So, as a responsible renter, I was prepared and ready to fight this injustice of an after charge. After all, Airbnb provides a list of questions in the resolution form to landlords, so the expectation, as a renter, would be a similar discovery process.

But then, this email happened:

Airbnb gives renters no chance

No requests for additional information and no chance to expand on my version of events. The final destiny of my Spring Break rental accommodation is now completely and totally out of my hands. Renters have no choice but to sit on their hands and hope Airbnb will send a mercy email. Given my experience and research, though, I'm not going to hold my breath for such correspondence.

There are two reasons why you should think before renting with Airbnb:

1. Do not rent from Airbnb expecting a basic level of statutory rights. You have none.

2. Do not expect protection from landlords passing over their cost of doing business, regardless of any and all ulterior motives. There aren’t any for Airbnb renters.

What seems like a harmless community of well-wishers connecting on perfect holiday travels, in fact hides a dark underbelly of potential raw abuse combined with a lack of total impartiality that benefits the landlord well over the relatively unrepresented tenant.

Renters, be warned.

Bonus! And here’s the real icing on the cake!

In our case, the landlord rented the property knowing the smoke detectors did not work. The two main fire alarms were removed from the casing and absent during our stay. The remaining, third fire alarm, located in the master suite, malfunctioned and began beeping around 3 a.m. during our first night there.

The landlord was quick to respond when notified, and offered the following excuse via text message. She clarified that she was in “the process of replacing” the smoke detectors. Translation: Thank goodness your family didn’t burn to death while they were sleeping.

After receiving Sonja’s resolution request, I then decided to pursue my own, based on the above grievance. After all, not having working smoke detectors is pretty much crammed down everyone’s throat at a young age as being an incredibly, horribly terrible idea.

Come to find out, Airbnb never got that message about this one, simple life-saving tip.

Airbnb does not require smoke detectors in landlord properties, but cheerfully suggests that it might be a good idea:

Airbnb doens't require smoke detectors

As this blog is being published, Airbnb is reminding me to leave a review of my stay on its website. What’s more, I need to hurry, as I only have 10 days and anything the landlord writes will be published regardless.

Oh no, a bad review? A ding on my one and only experience?

Will not doing so further hurt my chances of renting again on Airbnb, if I don’t fight back and leave my own review?

If so, then good, it will only be doing me a huge favor.

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General | Real Estate Matters

Research Is Power (For All Buyers)

by qgregg 11. March 2015 12:04
Research Is Power (For All Buyers)

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Is it the right time to buy? You can't tell by what we—or anyone else—tells you. Do some research into not only the real estate market, but your own personal financial situation and your homeownership outlook. Here's how to predict your home buying future:

Be realistic. If you realize that you may not find the "home of your dreams" as your first (or second or third) home purchase, you will likely attain your goal of finding a home.

Never say never. Don't box yourself in thinking you can only buy a home in a particular area or of a specific style. If you don't find a home in your perfect neighborhood or in your ideal style, broaden your search to find a stellar home you otherwise wouldn't have known existed.

Long-term viewpoint. The best use of your housing budget might be owning a home. With your own home, your monthly "rent" doesn't go to your landlord, but instead helps build equity and your own wealth.

Plan smart. Before you sign any purchase offers, be sure you're protected. Ensure you have a professional inspection of the home done (along with item-specific inspections such as mold, termite, etc.) to keep from finding surprises you can't afford—or simply can't handle.

Think ahead. Make a complete list of all the necessary features in your new home—number of bedrooms and baths, yard, eat-in kitchen/dining room, etc. Determine what is a "must-have" and what is a "would be nice" before you go home shopping.

Get preapproved. With mortgage preapproval—not prequalification—you know exactly how much home you can purchase. Best of all, you won't waste time looking at homes you can't afford and your purchase offer will be more attractive to sellers knowing your financing is already in place, and your offer is most likely to close compared to another buyer whose financing is still in question.

You might not be able to predict the future, but you can tell when your family and finances are ready to own a home.

 

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Homebuyers Can Still Get A Great Price Even In Today's Rising Market

by qgregg 11. March 2015 11:23
STEAL A DEAL


Homebuyers Can Still Get A Great Price Even In Today's Rising Market

 

Today's housing market is well into recovery mode in most areas of the country. Along with rising home prices, mortgage interest rates have also been inching up. If you are among the would-be homebuyers who are ready to come to the party before it's too late, don't despair. There are still many opportunities available to steal a great home at a great price—whether you want to buy your first home, a move-up home, a vacation property or an investment property to rent out.

The key is knowing what types of properties still offer bargains in our market. Here are some of the best places right now to focus your search to get a great price:

  • Pre-foreclosure sales occur when borrowers find they can no longer afford to pay their mortgage; they sometimes have a window of time to sell their home before their lender starts the foreclosure process. Because time is of the essence, these "short sale" homeowners often lower the property's price and offer attractive terms to invite a quick sale.

  • Foreclosure auctions involve homes where a homeowner has defaulted on the loan and the lender is selling the property at public auction (sometimes called a trustee's sale or sheriff's sale). Auction sales are often listed in local newspapers.

  • Post-foreclosure sales. These homes include real estate owned (REO) by lenders and corporations. Lender REOs are foreclosed properties that did not sell at auction. Corporate REOs are usually homes purchased from a corporation's employees who were transferred before the properties could be sold. Most post-foreclosure properties are listed with real estate agents in the area.

  • Government-owned properties include homes that previously had loans backed by the federal government through programs sponsored by entities such as Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Once these loans are in default, the lender takes over the property. Then, the government entity pays off the loan and takes possession of the property. Government-owned homes are generally listed on the agency's website or in the newspaper. The bidding process is conducted through real estate brokers who have taken the government agency's training program. While government-owned homes are sold "as is," HUD may escrow part of the sales price to bring a property up to its standards to qualify for a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan.

  • Tax sales result when homeowners fail to pay their property taxes. The taxing authority schedules the tax sale at which a buyer can bid the amount owed in taxes (or more) and, if the bid is accepted, take ownership of the property. Even then, the original homeowner may have time to redeem the property (by paying the outstanding taxes, penalties, etc.). The rules of these types of sales vary from one locality to the next, so it is essential to be familiar with local processes.

  • Fix-up properties generally are in disrepair and are often sold "as is," with the discounted price reflecting their condition. Paying for a professional home inspection is especially important when considering these types of "sweat equity" properties.

  • Estate sales result when people who have inherited properties decide to sell them. Many prefer to sell them "as is" to quickly liquidate the estate. Those who view the inheritance as a windfall may be more interested in a fast sale, and less concerned about the sales price.

  • Divorce sales come on the market as part of a divorce settlement. As with estate sales, the owners may value a speedy sale over a higher price.

  • Builder close-outs occur when builders approach the completion of a housing development. Eager to move on to the next project, builders may lower prices or, more frequently, offer valuable incentives such as free upgrades of appliances, fixtures, materials or custom build-outs.

Remember, price is just one part of the equation. You'll want to ensure that these types of properties won't surprise you with unanticipated and costly physical challenges or legal issues. Working with an experienced real estate professional will help you find a great deal and navigate through the purchase process.

In addition, securing a mortgage with a monthly payment you can afford is critical to any successful home purchase. Call on us to find the right loan program for your low-cost high-value home purchase.

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Real Estate Matters

Radon is an invisible and odor-free, cancer-causing radioactive gas.

by qgregg 9. March 2015 05:38

Most people’s first introduction to Radon is during the inspections of a home. It can be as much a surprise to a seller as it is a buyer. Radon is an invisible and odor-free, cancer-causing radioactive gas.

Radon can get into a home through cracks in solid floors, construction joints, cracks in walls, gaps in suspended floors, gaps around service pipes, cavities inside walls and even the water supply.

It is estimated that one out of every fifteen homes in the United States has elevated radon levels. The EPA recommends that you test your home which is the only way to find out if you and your family are at risk. If the level found is 4 picocuries per liter or higher, the EPA suggests that you make repairs or install a radon reduction system. Even lower levels can have health risks.

The EPA’s interactive map is available to find state and county information but still recommends that all homes should test for radon. More information can be found from the EPA in A Citizen’s Guide to Radon.

Test kits are inexpensive and can be purchased at stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot if you choose to do it yourself. If levels indicate a high enough level, you can contact a qualified radon service professional for another test or to mitigate your home. You can get information on identifying these professionals at www.nrpp.info and www.nrsb.org

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Luxury Insights, Could what you “know” about millionaires be wrong?

by qgregg 13. February 2015 09:05
Luxury Insights Could what you “know” about millionaires be wrong? The number of U.S. millionaires is at an all-time high. Research results indicate that there are 12 million U.S. households with a net worth of a million dollars or more. (Remember net worth is calculated by all assets minus all liabilities equals net worth.) In fact, the U.S. has twice as many millionaires as the next top 10 countries combined. Real estate professionals who have taken our luxury home marketing training know that many common perceptions about these millionaires are often clouded by myths. Who are these very successful Americans and what do we know about them? Just for fun, test your millionaire savvy with this quick trivia quiz. Are the following statements True or False? 1. Most millionaires live in a home valued at less than $500,000 and drive a car which is at least two years old. 2. The largest share of millionaires earn between $100,000 and $249,900 annually. 3. There are as many millionaires created by inheritance as there are self-made. 4. Most millionaires own luxury goods from brands like Rolex, Gucci, Prada, and Louis Vuitton. 5. When it comes to shopping, the top two destinations for high net worth shoppers are the internet and discount department stores. 6. Which of these words best describe the average millionaire's spending habits?  Saver  Big Spender Scroll down for the answers! ANSWERS: Let’s see if you are millionaire savvy or have fallen prey to millionaire myths. 1. True. The majority of millionaires do live in homes valued at less than $500,000 and the cars in their garages are at least two years old. 2. True. Millionaires earn less than you might guess. The majority earn between $100,000 and just under $250,000. 3. False. The vast majority of millionaires in the U.S. (and in the world) are self-made and their money comes from business ownership and employment-related income. 4. False. Far from being conspicuous consumers, typical millionaires don’t purchase high-end brands such as Prada, Gucci, Rolex, and Louis Vuitton and may not even recognize these brands. Yes, really! 5. True. The favored destinations for high net worth shoppers are the Internet and discount department stores. In fact, 68% of affluent households with an average of $250,000 in annual income shop at discount stores according to research done in 2014 by Unity Marketing. 6. Saver. The typical millionaire is generally frugal, saving 15% to 20% of his or her annual income each year. If these government statistics and research findings documented by Unity Research and the American Affluence Research Center surprise you, find out more about the wealthy and how to reach those who are interested in luxury homes by contacting me today!

What is the Temperature in Your Market; Time To Sell? Time To Buy? Time To Invest?

by qgregg 3. February 2015 05:57
2015 Time To Sell? Time To Buy? Time To Invest? Depending upon who you listen to, speak with or what you read, now is a great time to buy, sell or invest in real estate. And generally speaking, that's true. But what's best for you specifically—at this time and in our market? Rather than relying on general rules-of-thumb, why not talk to us? As local real estate insiders we can give you the real answers you need. Local economy? Local neighborhoods? Local information? No matter the direction you want to take, we can give you current, down-to-the-day reports on how long it takes to sell a home here, the sales prices that homes like yours are fetching and where homes sell quickly. If you're looking to sell or buy in today's local real estate market, we can help. Call me today for specifics about the communities that you are interested in. It is all good news—if you're a homebuyer, home seller or investor—at any age and at any life stage! And, remember, we're here to answer your real estate questions and provide you with the best, local advice for your real estate needs throughout the year.

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What is the Temperature in Your Market; Time To Sell? Time To Buy? Time To Invest?

by qgregg 3. February 2015 05:41
2015 Time To Sell? Time To Buy? Time To Invest? Depending upon who you listen to, speak with or what you read, now is a great time to buy, sell or invest in real estate. And generally speaking, that's true. But what's best for you specifically—at this time and in our market? Rather than relying on general rules-of-thumb, why not talk to us? As local real estate insiders we can give you the real answers you need. Local economy? Local neighborhoods? Local information? No matter the direction you want to take, we can give you current, down-to-the-day reports on how long it takes to sell a home here, the sales prices that homes like yours are fetching and where homes sell quickly. If you're looking to sell or buy in today's local real estate market, we can help. Call me today for specifics about the communities that you are interested in. It is all good news—if you're a homebuyer, home seller or investor—at any age and at any life stage! And, remember, we're here to answer your real estate questions and provide you with the best, local advice for your real estate needs throughout the year.

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What is the Temperature in Your Market; Time To Sell? Time To Buy? Time To Invest?

by qgregg 3. February 2015 05:41
2015 Time To Sell? Time To Buy? Time To Invest? Depending upon who you listen to, speak with or what you read, now is a great time to buy, sell or invest in real estate. And generally speaking, that's true. But what's best for you specifically—at this time and in our market? Rather than relying on general rules-of-thumb, why not talk to us? As local real estate insiders we can give you the real answers you need. Local economy? Local neighborhoods? Local information? No matter the direction you want to take, we can give you current, down-to-the-day reports on how long it takes to sell a home here, the sales prices that homes like yours are fetching and where homes sell quickly. If you're looking to sell or buy in today's local real estate market, we can help. Call me today for specifics about the communities that you are interested in. It is all good news—if you're a homebuyer, home seller or investor—at any age and at any life stage! And, remember, we're here to answer your real estate questions and provide you with the best, local advice for your real estate needs throughout the year.

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What is the Temperature in Your Market; Time To Sell? Time To Buy? Time To Invest?

by qgregg 3. February 2015 05:41
2015 Time To Sell? Time To Buy? Time To Invest? Depending upon who you listen to, speak with or what you read, now is a great time to buy, sell or invest in real estate. And generally speaking, that's true. But what's best for you specifically—at this time and in our market? Rather than relying on general rules-of-thumb, why not talk to us? As local real estate insiders we can give you the real answers you need. Local economy? Local neighborhoods? Local information? No matter the direction you want to take, we can give you current, down-to-the-day reports on how long it takes to sell a home here, the sales prices that homes like yours are fetching and where homes sell quickly. If you're looking to sell or buy in today's local real estate market, we can help. Call me today for specifics about the communities that you are interested in. It is all good news—if you're a homebuyer, home seller or investor—at any age and at any life stage! And, remember, we're here to answer your real estate questions and provide you with the best, local advice for your real estate needs throughout the year.

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15 Things Home Owner Association Boards Should Do

by qgregg 3. January 2015 11:49
15 Things Home Owner Association (HOA) Boards Should Do 1. Incorporate the HOA. Having the HOA incorporated provides substantial legal protections for the board and general members. If yours is not incorporated, run, don't walk, to the nearest corporate attorney to make it so. 2. Use Parliamentary Procedure. Meetings can become chaotic without some form of meeting protocol. A simplified version of Roberts Rules of Order is commonly used to run efficient meetings. 3. It's Not About Power. Power is not acquired by vote or appointment, but by the ability to communicate, negotiate and empathize. Leave the agenda, hidden or otherwise, at home and serve on the board keeping the HOA's best interests in mind. 4. Operate like a Business. The homeowner association should be run like a successful corporation. Hire competent people to perform the tasks that need to be done. The board is not expected to do the work itself for several reasons: • Directors are rarely trained in property management, accounting and maintenance. • Directors are unpaid volunteers 5. Maintain the Proper Types and Amounts of Insurance including: • Directors and Officers Insurance. Protects the board against lawsuits. • General Liability Insurance. Covers negligence claims. • Fire & Hazard Insurance. Insures property damage. • Workers Compensation Insurance. If you have employees. • Fidelity Insurance. Insures against embezzlement. 6. Maintain a Safe Location for Records. If you're professionally managed, keep the records in your manager's office. If you're self managed, records should be kept with the secretary or president. 7. Understand your Fiduciary Duties. The board has the duty to act in the best interests of the HOA, current and future owners and the duty to seek out expert advice when making decisions that exceed its expertise. 8. Consult with Experts. All boards should have an attorney, CPA, insurance agent and reserve study provider to provide advice. 9. Stay on Top of Maintenance and Repairs. Preventive (proactive) maintenance reduces costs and extends the useful lives of common elements. 10. Keep Meetings Open to Members. Every member is a stakeholder in the HOA and is entitled to attend board and special meetings. 11. Hold an Annual Meeting. It is required by the governing documents and necessary to hold elections and vote on issues requiring member vote. 12. Communicate Regularly. Keep the members informed through newsletters, the HOA website, emails, postings, letters and in person. 13. Collect Delinquent Fees. Every HOA should have a collection policy to follow when a member fails to pay. Some essentials to collect include: • Process for filing liens •Right to foreclosure if allowed by state statute • Right to be reimbursed for legal fees • Late fees and interest on past due amounts 14. Amend Documents with Legal Counsel. Amending governing documents is complicated and there is much to consider. It's advisable toconsult with a knowledgeable attorney to ensure all is done properly. 15. Be Uniform and Consistent with Rule Enforcement. Include written notification to the offender and the right to appeal.

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Real Estate Matters

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