Manage Your Living Expenses

May 4, 2011

As gas prices, food prices, and housing costs continue to rise, many Americans are concerned about increased living expenses. Increased living expenses can cut into our luxuries and make it difficult to make ends meet. We offer a few money managing ideas that can help your family make the most of its resources.

A Bloomberg article reports that the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables rose 6.5 percent during the first 4 months of this year. Consider starting a garden to reduce grocery costs. While fruits are more challenging to grow, vegetables and herbs are relatively easy. Gardener’s have found that the easiest to grow and maintain are beans, squash, carrots, lettuce, spinach, peppers, tomatoes, basil, rosemary, thyme, parsley, and oregano. Don’t have a yard? Use pots and window boxes.

Home Goods
Research cheaper alternatives for home goods such as household cleaners. Vinegar kills germs, bacteria, mold, and helps with mineral deposits and stains. Use vinegar to clean most surfaces around your house. When you need to stock up on vinegar and other home goods plan ahead. Make a list of the items you need, note which store has each item, and use a GPS program to map the shortest route.

As every homeowner and renter knows, the cost of utilities adds up quickly. Making changes to everyday activities can reduce your utility expenses. Using smaller appliance, such as a toaster oven to reheat leftovers, will save on energy costs. When washing clothes and rinsing dishes use cold water. This will save energy because the water is not heated. Try adjusting your thermostat up a few degrees in the summer and down a few degrees in the winter. Leaving town for the weekend? Adjust the temperature an additional few degrees.

Making a few small changes can add up to great savings for you and your family. We offer a few ideas, but there many more ways to reduce your living expenses. Research online for more information about the ideas here or to discover more ways to save. Want to share a trick of your own? Leave a comment!


Good Friday Storm: An Insurance Reminder

April 27, 2011

Volunteers clean up in Bridgeton, MO where an EF4 tornado caused damage. Photo courtesy of Virginia Tardy.

The Good Friday storm that came through St. Louis, MO caused widespread damage. The storm included five tornadoes, the worst of which was an EF4 tornado (with EF5 being the most severe). Traveling a total of 22 miles, this tornado struck Lambert-St. Louis airport and damaged an estimated 750 homes. As recovery efforts are made throughout the area, we are reminded of the benefits of maintaining proper home insurance.

Most homeowners are required by their mortgage company to carry homeowners insurance. These plans typically cover damage to the house and other permanent structures, damage of personal property, and limited coverage for theft of personal property. Homeowners that were affected by the Good Friday storm are likely protected if their insurance policy is current.

What about renters who were affected by the storm? While the landlord has insurance on the building, residents need additional coverage for personal property damage or loss and personal liability. Be informed and avoid these common misconceptions about renters insurance.

“Renters insurance is expensive.”
Renters insurance is surprisingly affordable. For under $15 per month you can get coverage for $30,000 of personal property and $100,000 of personal liability.

“My landlord’s insurance covers me.”
While your landlord is required to maintain insurance on the building, this does not cover your personal property or protect you in the event of a liability lawsuit.

“I don’t need personal liability insurance.”
If an incident occurs at your residence, you could be held responsible for personal injury and property damage. Some policies will also cover legal fees.

“I don’t own a lot.”
List everything you own – clothes, furniture, jewelry, televisions, sports equipment, a computer, and more. Consider the cost to replace these items, and remember that theft is not the only threat. A natural disaster could claim everything.

At Redwood Property Management we verify that the homes in our portfolio have proper insurance and ask that all of our residents maintain renters insurance. While the chances of a home being swept away are small, the Good Friday storm was a reminder that these tragedies do happen. We are fortunate that our loved ones, clients, and residents were safe this past weekend, and our thoughts go out to those who were affected by the storm.

To Be a Landlord or Not to Be?

April 14, 2011

Buying a rental home can be a wise investment decision. As real estate news headlines consistently report declining home prices, increasing rental rates, and an ideal buyer’s market, now is a great time to look for a deal in real estate. Each day that these headlines continue, we are reminded of the benefits of buying a property at a reasonable price and then leasing the property for a monthly income.

Despite the opportunity to make money in real estate many people are deterred by the potential problems that come with leasing a property. As a residential property management company we are familiar with the troubles of being a landlord.

First you have to study the market to calculate an appropriate rent amount, estimate vacancy rates, and to determine the best marketing strategy. Then you must make efforts to market the property, which includes answering questions and facilitating property viewings on a daily basis. If you are wise you will perform a background check on an applicant to assess whether he will be a reliable tenant. Even if the best measures are taken up to this point, it is virtually impossible to avoid problems during residency.

Water is leaking from the base of the toilet at your rental property. Do you have someone who can fix the problem the right way? Spring winds have blown pieces siding off the exterior of your property. Is this covered by insurance or do you need to find a professional? The garbage disposal is jammed at your property, and the tenant doesn’t have a garbage disposal key to fix it. Should you go out there with the tool or tell him it’s his problem?

Worse yet, a tenant is behind on rent, and you are considering the eviction process. Is it worth the time of filing paperwork and the expense of court fees? Surely the house won’t be move-in ready if they are kicked out of the house. What about the time and cost of preparing the home for a new resident?

The duties required of a diligent landlord can be very demanding. While these concerns are reasonable, they should not deter you from investing in real estate.

Instead put a system in place to manage any difficult situations that may arise in the future. You can achieve this by implementing your own system or by hiring a property management company. To be a landlord or to delegate? Which ever route your choose, be sure to thoroughly research your options so that you can maximize your investment property’s potential.

(Note: The examples used above are all from the experience bank of Redwood Property Management. Specifically, the toilet, siding, and garbage disposal incidents occurred within a month at the beginning of this year.)

Greetings to all!

March 14, 2011

We are Redwood Property Management, and we provide property management services in St. Charles, MO and surrounding areas. We began in 2003, and we offer residential property management services to investors in and near the St. Charles area. The real estate market has experienced many changes since 2003, and our history has been marked with successes and learning experiences alike.

Our purpose in writing this blog is to share some of the knowledge that we have gained over the years. We will touch on a variety of real estate topics from investing and land-lording to decorating and maintenance. Our goal is to share stories and lessons from our experience bank and to give new insights as they come our way with the hope that this information will help you with your endeavors.