Monthly Archives: March 2012

Wednesday Rewind

Sometimes, we get Spring Fever too!  Thankfully, we have a lot of great posts that can stand the test of time.  Originally posted September 22, 2010, Property Manager, Brenda Armstrong offers some sound advice for the do-it-yourself owner.  Enjoy the rewind!

When we get calls in the office inquiring about our property management services, it’s usually the case that the client on the other end of the phone call is already sold on the idea of having their property managed. At the stage in which they contact us, they’re essentially shopping around, trying to find what they think is the best deal for services rendered.

But what about those people who remain unconvinced that property management is a fit for them? What about those who feel as if they can manage every aspect of their investment themselves? For the ones who find themselves faced with the option of handling their investment property, a very small percentage of those are actually prepared to deal with the sometimes-stressful financial upkeep, the various legal ins and outs, the marketing and prospective tenant screening and the sheer amount of time and patience required to manage a property successfully.

For the rest, however, trying to manage a property without these overall experiences and abilities can often end in less-than-desirable results.

I’ve heard horror stories of homeowners who decided to manage their own property having to deal with months of litigation and unpaid rent simply because they didn’t know or weren’t aware of the many North Carolina laws and procedures dealing with the eviction process. Not only did they have to foot the bill for the mortgage payments themselves, on top of legal costs, but but oftentimes when they finally regained possession of the property, it had been trashed by the finally-evicted tenant. Would you want to spend one to three months marketing a property, getting the property freshly painted and repaired, only to have to evict a destructive tenant months after a signed lease and spend hundreds of dollars getting it ready to rent again?

We’ve all seen those “People’s Court” episodes with the tenants disputing the loss of their security deposit and the landlords making their claims for the damages caused by the tenants – these situations can be extremely emotionally draining on the average property owner and, even in the case of the court finding in favor of the landlord, the amount of legal fees almost makes the ordeal not worth the hassle. Would you feel comfortable taking time off from work to stand in front of a judge, providing pictures illustrating damage done by your tenant or proof of unpaid rent?

The pitfalls of tenant screening can leave a landlord stuck with a less-than-desirable resident as well. I hear from owners quite a bit that when they managed the property themselves, they did check the applicant’s credit, but just stopped there, not bothering to check rental history or even do basic background checks! I’ve heard tales of illegal activities, damaged properties and tenants skipping out on the lease because of these neglected details. Would you let someone sign a lease to rent your property if you knew they had trashed the last place they lived in or caused the police to be called out to their property every other weekend?

Even physical presence becomes an issue with handling rentals. Many homeowners/investors live out of state, and can’t handle issues like emergency repairs or being physically present in court to handle evictions and other claims. Would you feel confident sending a friend or family member with no experience in court preceedings to represent your investment in front of a judge? Would you have any confidence sending a friend at 3am to fix a burst pipe in a basement?

At the end of the day, a homeowner/investor has to ask the question: Do I want to handle all of these details myself or pay a company with experience in these matters to handle the details for me?

Brenda

Really, I Just Have Allergies.

 I am enjoying the warmer temps and the pretty flowers outside  (if only I could see them better through my itchy, watery eyes), but I don’t think that I have ever prayed harder for a sudden down pour of rain.  This pollen HAS GOT TO GO!!!

For the past week, I have felt yucky.  I am tired, have a headache, body aches, stuffy nose and dry cough.  Thank goodness for over the counter medication and pain relievers, otherwise I would be a total mess.  You are probably thinking, what are you doing at work?   The fact that I am even discussing it here in a blog post may set off the Lysol Assault Team that goes through our office after someone sneezes.  However, if you look out the window, it is hard to miss the yellow haze in the air around us. It’s everywhere!! 

According to Livestrong.com, many people have flu-like symptoms associated with hay fever and allergy attacks.  These symptoms include:

  • Headache – usually due to sinus pressure. 
  • Respiratory Symptoms – stuffy/runny nose, sneezing but also what I call itchy face (eyes, nose mouth, ears and throat).
  • Dry Cough – inflammation of the throat and mucus accumulation can lead to a dry hacking cough.
  • Fatigue – contaminants in the lungs force your body to work harder to help you breathe which may result in you getting tired much faster during the day.

Hopefully with everything “springing” up so fast, April and May won’t be so bad.  It will probably just be hot.  We can gripe about that then.

Spiritual Wellness Month

During the month of March, the T. R. Lawing Realty, Inc. Wellness Club has focused on Spiritual Wellness.  Spiritual Wellness Month is historically celebrated during the month of March to remind us to practice living our lives in perfect balance within our body, mind, and spirit. 

Spiritual Wellness is defined as a dimension of wellness that involves seeking meaning and purpose.  It includes developing a deep appreciation for the depth and expansion of life and achieving a deeper knowledge of greater forces that exist beyond ourselves.  Learning to appreciate our inner spirit will reinforce your core values and beliefs as you go through this busy world.  You can engage in activities such as meditation, prayer or simply appreciate the beauty that comes from nature and life.

If you find that your life seems to be out of balance, there are some simple things that you can do to achieve a new balance in your everyday life.

  • Learn to Control Your Anger – I know, easier said than done.  I am the worst when it comes to my temper.  But if I were to stop and take a breath before launching into some crazy rant, things are much easier to deal with and the aftermath is much easier clean up.  We have always heard, just walk away when confronted with a hot tempered situation. There is a reason that piece of advice has never gone away.  Why not take it.  The next time someone or something upsets you, just walk away.
  • Smile! – It’s such a simple thing to do, but try it for even just one day.  The physical act of smiling will actually change how you feel and how your perceive things.  Even if something upsets you, try smiling through pain.  It’s hard to do but seriously, you will have a much better attitude and you may come to a resolution much quicker if you aren’t too busy pouting.  Try it!  I DARE you!
  • Change Your Behavior – Are you sad, angry, alone?  Do something about it!  Don’t complain that you are all alone in this big ole world and sit in front of your TV night after night in the dark.  Get up and out of the house.  Find a community that makes you feel comfortable.  It may not happen right away and you may need to try out different communities to find the right one for you.  If you don’t like your life the way it is, try something different.
  • Be Optimistic – Pet peeve alert!  Negative people suck the life out of the room.  I can’t deal with negative people for very long.  I feel sorry for them and try to help them see a positive light, but some folks just love to wallow in the mud and there is nothing you can do about it.  It’s also draining.  If you are a negative person, I just gave you a HUGE insight to why people don’t hang around you for very long.  Try to be a little more optimistic.  Positive thinking leads to good energy.  Good energy attracts good things to you. 

Happy Spiritual Wellness Month!!!

What’s That Smell?

Driving through any “newer” Charlotte neighborhood in summer through late fall, you will notice a very attractive hearty tree with just the perfect shape to go along with our ticky tacky little boxes.  They are known as Bradford Pear Trees.  Right now you probably notice these little beauties waking up and producing sweet little white flowers that make the trees look like they are almost covered in snow.  But beware because looks can be deceiving.

Bradford pears do have many attractive qualities to them both outward and inward.  Introduced to the US in 1963, Bradford pear trees produce hearty green leaves that change to brilliant crimson and orange colors in autumn.  They are quick to grow (especially in urban areas) because they actually thrive on pollution.  Think of it as natures McDonald’s.  They adapt in areas of poor soil, resist tree disease, and are tolerant during drought conditions.  You can see the appeal of these little guys but these trees do have a dark side too.

On a warm day, much like today, if you step outside and under your Bradford pear, you might notice a very distinct foul smell.  Personally, I think that they smell fishy.  The warmer the temps to more you might notice their smell because oils from the tree burn off in the warm sun, causing the odor to be more pungent.  But their horror doesn’t end there.  All that pretty foliage and flowers make a very top heavy tree.  Bradford pears do weaken as they age because their trunks don’t expand to withstand the super growing branches and leaves.  This makes them susceptible to splintering and one good t-storm or wind storm and you could have tree debris everywhere.    

Bradford pears were originally bred to be a sterile tree, meaning give me the flowers but hold the fruit.  However, over planting has led the trees to adapt and some hybrids have actually started producing a very small fruit and seed which birds love to get rid of all over your car.  Not to mention that they are producing unwanted “offspring” which shoot up out of the ground like little thorns.  This is a nightmare to cut back and will mess up any lawnmower that tries to cut over them.

If you are building a new home or  you are  simply looking to plant a tree this spring, avoid the Bradford pear (we have enough of them).  If it is the white flowers that you desire, consider our state flower the Dogwood (from the Dogwood tree).  They are just as lovely, if not more.

Realtors® Care Day

Every day, Realtors® help make home ownership a reality for many.  Once the contracts are signed and the keys are handed over, it is up to the individual owner to maintain their investment, but what if something went wrong.  We have all been living the economical nightmare that has been going on in our country in some form or fashion but for some people, the economy has hit especially hard.  Whether it is a loss of income due to unemployment or severe illness, or maybe the death of a beloved family member,  there are so many homeowners right here in our area that just can’t afford a simple home repair.   That is where The Charlotte Regional Realtor® Association and Realtors® Care Day® step in. 

For the past four years, area Realtors® have stopped showing houses and negotiating contracts  for one day to come together to hammer nails into roofs, paint fences and building handicap ramps. 

This year, Realtors® Care Day® will be held on April 20, 2012.  There still time to sign up (deadline is April 1, 2012)!  If you are a CRRA member and a licensed Realtor®, you can volunteer to help.  If you are not, there is still a way to get involved through charitable contribution and sponsorship.  Click here for more details.

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Ready For A Dip

With the flowers blooming and warmer temps on the way, many of our residents will be ready to take a dip in the pool soon. Owners, this is the perfect time to make sure that your pool and clubhouse privileges are enabled for your residents.

If you have already received your passes, please forward them to our office.

T. R. Lawing Realty, Inc.
Attn: Jennifer Mullis
1445 East 7th Street
Charlotte, NC 28204

If your HOA requires additional information before releasing any FOBs or passes, such as a copy of the resident’s signed lease, please contact your Property Manager or Jennifer Mullis  (Administrative Assistant) at jmullis@trlawing.com as soon as possible to avoid any delays or inconveniences to the resident.

 

Don’t Get Duped!

As long as I can remember I have always been warned that there are bad people out there and to always be careful.  Even if we have all heard that piece of advice, why do so many people find themselves scammed by these “bad people”?

Recently a couple told a local news station about how they were duped out of money when they listed an armoire for $400 on Craigslist.  This couple found a buyer and the buyer sent them a check for $2,600, way more than the actual asking price.  When they contacted the buyer (it didn’t say but most likely through email), they said that their assistant messed up and they were supposed to get a check for $400 and the movers were supposed to get their own check for $2,200.  The buyer asked them to deposit the whole check and wire them back the $2,200.  I think we all know what happened next.  If not, click here for the full story.  Looking back on everything, there were serious sirens and red flags everywhere.  For me, CRAIGSLIST would have done it.  So, why were they so trusting?  I like to think that we always want to see the good in people which probably make it so easy for many of us to get duped. 

Almost daily, we here at T.R. Lawing Realty battle scammers looking to make off with your money.  One of the quickest and easiest schemes is to prey on the not so credit worthy folks through fake listings of our real properties on Craigslist.  Some are so desperate to just find a home, they will do anything to get one, including wire money to an African nation where missionaries await your assistance to take care their American dream.   Sounds fake, right? You would be surprised how many times I have sat on the other end of a sobbing or angry person wanting to know what we were going to do to help them get their money back.  The simple answer is there is nothing that we can do, but rest assured that we monitor all of our listings on Craigslist to make sure that we flag and request removal of any false listings.

I promise there is still good in this world and you are able to trust the common man, but practice a little caution.  If it seems to be too good to be true, it not just probably is, but REALLY is. 

Stay safe!!

ACT or SAT?

Today across North Carolina, high school juniors took the ACT exam.  This is the first time in our state that students have been required to take the exam and the state has put 4.6 million dollars into implementing this program and to offset the cost, many of the regular EOG tests have been discontinued.  With this load off on my pocketbook, I am happy that my son (who did take the ACT today) has the opportunity to have a college admissions exam on his record.  The question I am now asking is do we still need the SAT? 

I have signed up my son to take the SAT in June mainly because I was tortured as a youth and took this very stressful, boring exam and I believe in passing down these rights of passage through the generations whether it be standardized tests or doing the dishes.  Also a recent high school graduate, who is now attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, recommended that anyone getting ready to go through the college process should actually take both the ACT and SAT exams because most colleges and universities will look at both scores and may use the higher of the two in their decision process. 

The SAT will cost you $49 for just the test.  Before you close your shopping cart online,  there will be materials galore to purchase.   Also, let’s not forget the age old SAT prep classes available (usually on a Saturday morning) for your child to take, of course at a fee.  My son luckily took a semester long SAT prep course as an elective but by June, he may need a refresher.  And that is only the start of this whole process.  In May, there will be AP exams that will cost us $135 for two of theses exams.  Also, he will be required to take these exams if my son wants to count them towards college credits and receive his grade based on a 6.0 GPA scale rather than the Honors 5.0 GPA scale.  All I can think of is we haven’t even begun to apply for a single school or truly looked into how to pay for whatever school he will decide to attend. Thus, the struggle to figure out if he really needs to take the SAT exam because we are looking at a nice chunk of money as we approach the end of my son’s junior year.

What is the difference between the ACT and the SAT exam?  According to the www.act.org, the ACT® test is a curriculum- and standards-based educational and career planning tool that assesses students’ academic readiness for college.

  • The ACT motivates students to perform to their best ability and often results in increased college enrollment, especially for underrepresented students.
  • Test scores reflect what students have learned throughout high school and provide colleges and universities with excellent information for recruiting, advising, placement, and retention.
  • To support college and career planning, the ACT career exploration component helps students identify personally relevant career options.

The SAT, on the other hand (www.collegeboard.org), is a globally recognized college admission test that lets you show colleges what you know and how well you can apply that knowledge. It tests your knowledge of reading, writing and math. Almost all colleges and universities use the SAT to make admission decisions.

So, back to the original question, do you need to have both for your college admission?  Well that is a great question, because again many colleges and universities, including Harvard University are not necessarily interested in the standard student and will look at both scores.  Of course, if you are looking for help with paying for college,  you will probably want to go ahead and invest in the SAT  because many financial aid and scholarships will depend on the score.

 

Run! The Beavers Are Coming!

A few weeks ago, I discussed the dangers of the coyote population here in the Charlotte area, but now I have learned of another new wildlife threat running amuck in our area parks, The Beaver.

Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation’s Nature Preserves and Natural Resources Division is set to begin battling these beasts mostly likely this month due to the mayhem that they have been causing at Beatty Park and Park Road Park.  During a recent survey at Beatty Park, 196 trees within 50 ft. of the lake’s shoreline had “mild to fatal damage from beavers removing bark” according to the department’s website.

Beavers are the largest rodent species in North America and adults can reach up to 4 feet long and weigh as much as 60 pounds. Their primary food source is cambium, which is the soft tissue just below the bark of many hardwood trees. Beavers are important to our area wildlife because they help build wetlands, reduce stream erosion, and increase biodiversity which ultimately helps create forests. Typically beavers are allowed to live and work without being disturbed in many of our area’s nature preserves and parks, but with increased populations, extensive damage has occurred and concern for public safety has required the County to place a plan into action where they will reduce and sometimes completely remove the beavers.  Mecklenburg County Parks and Rec hopes to begin by laying wire fence around the shoreline trees and as a last resort, set traps to capture and euthanize the beavers.  Of course, the later will be a “last resort”.

My thought is with the wild coyotes on the loose in Charlotte; let nature take its course.  Beavers are on their menu.  I know, I know, that was mean, but when a tree falls on you during your next morning jog, you will be thinking the same thing.