Austin Property Management Blog

Austin property management blog provided by Stone Oak Property Management. Providing frequent updates and insights into property management for Austin, Texas.

Avoidable Mistakes Landlords Make with Rental Agreements

Grant Williams - Friday, December 15, 2017
avoid these mistake when drafting a lease agreement

While universal leases are available, such as the Texas Association of Realtors’, they can’t possibly satisfy every type of lease term and if you own properties you’ll know every lease is different.

While utilizing a universal lease form is possible, it’s imperative to note that regardless of if you hire a property manager or self-manage your Austin rental property, there will be specifics that need addressing when drafting up a lease with a potential tenant.

As a landlord, there are many factors to consider when filling a vacant rental. If you don’t think you have the time, shopping property managers and what they offer can help out big time. When owners get in a rush to fill their vacancies due to shortage in income mistakes can be made in drafting the lease. In this rush to fill the home, dire mistakes can be made in the rental agreement.

Don’t let the below errors be a detriment to your property for the entirety of the term.

Not Property Identifying & Vetting the Tenants

Regardless of how obvious this may seem, you’d be surprised how many landlords we hear from whom self-manage and were in a bind with a vacant property at one point. Instead of practicing patience, a lot of these landlords resort to craigslist and the many other available resources to find tenants and seem to place the first individual who shows interest in the property.

You must remember, a rental agreement is a legal document that holds significant weight. You must always refer to the tenants by their full legal names in the agreement. No nicknames, no shortened names – Bob is Robert in most cases, so make sure Robert is shown. Good practice is asking the tenant for their driver’s license or identification that will state their legal name.

We partner with Texas Tenant Evictions, and after hearing some stories from our friends over there, we cannot stress this part enough. Failing to do so can result in a tough time in enforcing your lease in the event of a landlord-tenant dispute.

No Due Diligence in Setting Your Rental Rate

A key element, and probably one of the most important to you as the owner, is the rental rate. In most metro markets, rents are on the rise year after year. Failing to do your due diligence on the market and what it will allow your property to rent for is a mistake that is easily avoidable.

This error can cause one of two things – an overpriced rental that doesn’t get the traffic it deserves, or an underpriced rental that will lock a tenant in place and earn your less than what your Austin rental is worth.

If you overprice your Austin rental property, the pool of potential tenants can decrease significantly, and your vacancy can last much longer than you’d prefer. If you under price your property, you’re hurting your bottom line. A great way to ensure your Austin, Texas property earns the MAX rental rate, is to talk to a Stone Oak Management market expert. As a certified property management company and real estate brokerage, we have access to tools that assist in providing an accurate rate.

It’s good practice to re-evaluate your rental rate every time you place a new tenant to ensure you’re in-line with the current market trend and receiving the max rate.

Using a ‘Cookie-Cutter’ Lease Agreement, Instead of Personalizing It

Universal lease agreements are a base model that ensures the bare minimum is covered. While filling in the blanks can get you a tenant, this is a bad idea and one that Stone Oak Property Management discourages. You, or your property manager, should use this opportunity to be as specific as possible. Some examples of clauses to include may be:

Will the tenant be responsible for some of the home’s maintenance, and for which ones?

Pets, which ones will you allow or disallow? Will you have pet rent on top of the normal rate?

Tenant’s like to feel at home in their new place. What changes are you willing to let them make to the property?

Do you enjoy when your tenants smoke in the property? Probably not.

Personalization is key to a successful rental term, both while it’s happening and after the tenant moves out. This is your chance to set some rules and outline the consequences for breaking said rules. However, be sure to follow your state’s fair housing laws and the like.

Failure to do so can result in some legal trouble headed your way.

Not Addressing Late Rent in the Agreement

Above, we mentioned that setting the rental rate accurately is incredibly important. It’s just as important to address the issue of late rent. Imagine this – your mortgage provider is very lax on when your payment is due. Do you worry about paying that bill on time every month in that case? Maybe, maybe not. The same applies to your tenants. We live in the age of consumerism, and people love to spend their money on unimportant things. In fact, 69% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings. You need to make sure you get what’s rightfully yours and that starts in the lease agreement.

Be sure to include the rental rate, a grace period, late fees, and an eviction process for non-payment of rent in your agreement. In the event you ever run into an issue with your tenant, you now have a legal document backing you up that states both parties agreed to the terms and essentially has your back as the owner.

This is important, as your rent probably helps cover the mortgage on your investment property. Failure to address these key factors in the agreement can set you up for continuous late payments.

Not Setting a Term for the Lease

It’s important you set a designated lease start and end date. With this your tenant knows when they can move in and when they have to move out, in the event of non-renewal by both parties.

While it seems easy enough there are a few things that are easily overlooked and can wreak havoc later on down the road. You and your Austin property manager should carefully consider including into the lease.

  •          Automatic renewals – everyone can be a charmer when you meet them for the first time. A year from now? No telling. Avoid automatic renewals to protect you, the owner.
  •         Instead, consider drafting a month-to-month renewal option into the lease. They are easy to get out of for both parties and are a safe option for you down the line.
  •         Include a set amount of days that notice is to be given if the tenants want to move out. Failure to do so can allow your tenants to up and leave at the end of a month with no warning and leave you in a bind with a property earning no money.

Now, these mistakes aren’t necessarily the end of the world, but they can provide you with a lot less stress down the road. Your lease is a reference point you or your tenants will refer to in the event of an issue. The more thorough you are in preparing it the better you are covered. A proper lease agreement protects not only you, but your tenants and can satisfy all parties.

If you own a rental property in Austin and need helping drafting a legally compliant, comprehensive lease agreement the contact Stone Oak Management today! Our extensive experience and knowledge of landlord-tenant laws will leave you feeling that you’re in good hands.


[Video] For Lease: 2428 Green Meadows Lane

Jason Huval - Wednesday, December 13, 2017


1,506 SF | 3 Bed | 2 Bath

The Benefits that Make Real Estate a Great Investment

Jason Huval - Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Investing can mean a multitude of things to someone and comes in all shapes and sizes. Some individuals invest in stocks based on their perceptions of a company and the business they are doing. Others have recently jumped on the latest cryptocurrency craze, riding Bitcoin to incredible success. The word investing wears many hats and there are hundreds and thousands of ways to invest your money. One of the most proven, long-term investments that exists is real estate investment.  We regularly work with real estate investors here at Stone Oak and have heard a multitude of reasons for getting into the industry. What makes investing in real estate so beneficial?

Tax Benefits

Investing in real estate continues to be one of the ideal ways to generate wealth and cut taxes. As an investor, you’ve probably mastered tax season by now. If not, it’s not too late to learn. Real Estate offers many benefits to those who can play the system. 

You have the ability to recover the cost of income generating property through its depreciation, using 1031 exchanges to defer profits, borrowing against your equity to gobble up more investment real estate, and you can also deduct mortgage interest come tax time. Investopedia wrote a great article that goes more in depth on the tax benefits of real estate.

Appreciation

With time all real estate appreciates. From 1968 to 2009, the price of homes increased by an average of 5.4% annually. This article provides more info about the historical appreciation of U.S. real estate. This is the nationwide average so that number will fluctuate as you look at different markets. If you had purchased real estate in Austin, Texas in 1968 you would have one hell of a portfolio in the year 2017!

With other investments, there isn’t a lot you can do to personally increase the value. If you invest in stock, you are at the mercy of that company to continue increasing the value of your shares. Real estate is a completely different asset and allows you to manually increase the value of a property. Upgrades to homes can boost the value of that home. This is why wholesalers, with a keen eye for what a property requires can make a great living off flipping properties for profit.

Rental Income

Now you’re talking our language. If you find yourself with a portfolio of homes or even just one home in a good rental market you can begin earning residual cash to cover the home’s mortgage and line your pockets. We like to equate this type of investment to dividend paying stocks, because that’s about as close as it gets. The more of that stock you own the higher your dividend, this can also be said about rental homes - the more you own the greater the payout! 

Dubbed 'rent-estate' by some - rental properties are a great source of wealth generation!

However, becoming a landlord isn’t as simple as finding a tenant and earning cash. If you’d like to explore rental income with your portfolio and don’t have the time to deal with tenants, maintenance & upkeep, and other necessities we suggest you shop around property managers in your area. A great property manager doesn’t cost, it pays!

Getting in Under Market Value

Have you ever come across this? You’re in your car at a busy intersection and you see a stick sign on the side of the road stating “We Buy Homes” or some other iteration of this. Surely you’ve seen these signs around, especially if you’re in a metro market. This is due to the barrier of entry on real estate not having a set point. Sure, you can get on the MLS or any home search site in your area and find thousands of homes priced at market value, but this isn’t all that is out there. As an investor you can buy up properties from owners who need a quick pay day, bank foreclosures and quick sells, through wholesales in your area, as well as other sources. You can even utilize platforms like Facebook and find investment groups to join who regularly offer properties under market value and the like - we’ll leave it to you to find these groups for yourself. This isn’t the case when buying stock or most other investments. Real estate offers you the unique ability to negotiate on your purchases! I once bought a distressed home in Austin, Texas for $1 – which I had to pay in quarters because that’s all I had on me at the time. Granted, this was the early 2000’s and a deal like that is one in a billion now. Most other investments require a purchase at face value – not real estate!

There are many more  investment options today, but it’s hard to come across a more safe or lucrative investment than real estate. Every investment has risk, but if you’re knowledgeable and cross your T’s and dot your I’s you’ll come out ahead in the long run. A small amount of investment opportunities in the world can provide you with the kind of financial benefit that a real estate investment can. Whether you have an existing portfolio or have yet to start in real estate, now is the time to look into real estate investments! 

5 Tips for Owning Your First Stress-Free Rental Property

Jason Huval - Thursday, November 16, 2017

5 Tips for a Stress-Free Rental Property


For those who don’t, owning a rental property can seem like this great asset that’s going to bring you residual income month-in, month-out. However, for those who do own rental properties, you know this isn’t the truth. Rental properties are more in a category of their own when it comes to types of investments. You’re not only dealing with an asset that you purchased for X and expect Y as a return, but instead you’re dealing with an asset closely tied into others lives as their home. We don’t blame you if you’re in it for the money - a rental portfolio is still a great way to build wealth – but never forget that to your tenants your investment is home.

So, you’ve decided you’d like to start building your rental portfolio. The first step is getting that first property. Then what? Our Austin property management team has thrown together these 6 tips for owning your first, stress-free rental property.

Hire a Property Manager

Of course we’re biased; we’re a property management company after all. There is no denying the return on investment a great property manager can bring to an owner. Effectively putting your investment on auto-pilot, a property manager allows you to be as hands off as you’d like with your property. It doesn’t get much more stress-free than that.

Rental Home Owner Speaking with a Property Manager
A property manager can custom tailor solutions to fit your property's needs

Property managers provide many benefits to you compared to self-managing your rental property. They have the systems and practices in place to run your property like a machine. From leasing your property to handling the midnight maintenance calls, a good property management doesn’t cost – it pays. A to Z, partnering with an experienced firm can have you earning residual income for years to come with little to no responsibility.

Be wary though, not all property managers are the same. Some charge a percentage, some a flat fee – but chances are if the deal seams to good to be true, that’s because it is. We regularly talk to owners who have burned by a property manager in some way or form. Always shop around your market for a property manager and don’t go with the first company you contact. Instead, go with what you feel is best for you and your rental property. If done right, this first step can render the next 5 steps useless as a property manager would take care of them all!

Undecided on whether a property manager is right for you? We've covered this topic in our blog before and you can read it here!

Accurately Price Your Rental Home

Accurately setting your rental rate is an important factor in owning a successful rental property. Set your price to high and you’ll be passed up by quality tenants, set your price to low and you could be in for earning significantly lower than your property’s worth for the next 12 months. Every owner we’ve ever dealt with wanted to try getting more for their property than realistically possible, it’s human nature. If self-managing owners made up the majority of the market it would be interesting to see the fluctuations of prices by neighborhood alone.

Every single property manager you come across is almost definitely offering a ‘free rental analysis’ – as a hook to get you in. Use this to your advantage and get comparisons from them all. Property Managers, at least in the state of Texas, are required to be licensed Real Estate Brokers. They have a suite of tools they use that gives information not made available to the general public.

Put yourself in the position of the tenant. No one likes paying a large sum of money every year, relative to their income, just to live. Tenants are looking for the best deal in whatever neighborhood they want to live. If you’re competitively priced you’ll have more luck shorter vacancies and less stress knowing you won’t have to float the mortgage while you get passed up by every tenant on their search! 

Maybe you own properties in Texas! You can visit here to learn what your property's rental rate is. 

Routine Inspections

As an investor you know you have to stay up to date on your investments, especially a rental portfolio. This investment wasn’t a cheap one so don’t treat it as such. Always have an idea of what’s going on at the property and perform regular inspections. However, if the property is leased, avoid being intrusive of your tenant’s privacy. No one likes the crazy landlord who won’t leave them alone – avoid this stereotype at all costs. If you’ve elected to go it alone and self-manage your property, emailing your tenants every once in a while to check on things isn’t a bad idea, and can show them your dedicated to providing them with a quality living experience. Tenant’s talk and this can do you some real good down the road.

Maintenance

Things are going to break, there’s no way around it. As the owner of this rental home, if your tenant’s AC goes out in the middle of the hot summer then you’re up to the plate. You’re human, and sometimes you want to put things off, but be wary of doing so when it comes to your tenant’s maintenance issues. A happy tenant allows for a stress-free rental. No matter what you do, if they aren’t taken care of you are in for a bad time.


Vendor relationships are vital for the longevity of your property and wallet.

Vendor relationships are also a high priority. If you utilize a property manager, they’ll normally have established relationships with local vendors at a discounted rate that they pass on to you. However, if you’re thinking of self-managing it’s important to build these relationships early on. Having reliable vendors in your rolodex is a must. These companies or individuals will be your saving grace on those hot, AC-less days.

Make Everyone’s Life Easier

In a world dominated by tech, we now have software that helps us with practically anything! This most definitely applies to you and your rental property. From accounting to rent collection software, the tools to make your rental property even less stress exist. Again, if you’ve chosen to follow tip #1, your chosen property manager should have a complete suite of tools they offer. If you self-manage, these types of software systems are available to you on the open market.

Your tenants will be offered the time-saving abilities to pay rent and request maintenance online, and you’ll have systems that make the backend of your investment a breeze. You’ll be able to track expenses and reports with accounting software making tax time a breeze. However, once you stack a couple of these software costs on top of one another you’ll be close to approaching the monthly fee of your property manager as well as being left to do all of the actual work.

Owning an asset such as a rental property can be a greatly rewarding experience if done right. Consider these tips to make this venture as stress-free as possible! You can join large online communities such as Bigger Pockets, ActiveRain, or Let’s Talk PM and connect and interact with individuals across the nation within the real estate industry. Within no time you’ll be a real estate pro with connects across your industry and market. Still, we recommend hiring an excellent property manager, essentially rendering your properties as a source of passive income! If you have any questions about property management or getting started with a rental portfolio contact us! We’re really passionate about what we do and helping others out!

Austin Couple Scammed Out of $2k by Fake Landlord

Jason Huval - Friday, November 10, 2017


This isn't the first time this has happened in Austin, either. When searching for Austin rental homes, craigslist is no doubt full of choices, but individuals seem to forget it's the equivalent of the wild west for the internet. There is a reason most police departments have designated areas for transactions to happen so both parties feel safe and secure. 

Shopping for properties to rent isn't much different. If you must, be very careful in dealing with individuals you find on Craigslist offering housing. They're are plenty of resources online to find available Austin rental homes. Search companies like Stone Oak and other Austin property managers to find homes managed by professionals dedicated to providing you with a quality renting experience. Stay safe out there, Austin!

AFD to ATX Residents: Check Your Smoke Alarms

Jason Huval - Tuesday, November 07, 2017
austin residents to check their fire alarms

It’s that time of year again – daylight savings! Now that we all are feeling great after that extra hour of sleep we received, Austin Fire Department is asking greater Austin residents to use this extra energy to double check their smoke alarms for dead batteries and other malfunctions. Afterall, 3 of every 5 deaths caused by house fires are in homes with no smoke alarm.

AFD Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr addressed the media about the issue. “It only takes a few minutes to check and change the batteries, but it could save your life. And remember: all smoke alarms should be replaced after 10 years. If you don’t know how to determine the manufacturer date for your smoke alarms, we can help with that” Chief Kerr said.

Austin Fire Department is even offering to provide and install the alarms in your home for free! If you or anyone you know needs new alarms you can call the smoke alarm hotline via 512.974.0299.

Like DIY stuff? Visit our DIY maintenance resource page for tips and quick insights into repairs and improvements for your home! 


Dissecting the Property Management Agreement

Jason Huval - Tuesday, October 31, 2017

So you’re thinking of partnering with a property management company. You’ve probably been on Google and have done some searching, maybe you’ve called a few to chat, but before you decide on who to hire you should do one thing – dive into the property management contract!

The document that establishes a relationship between you and your property manager should never be seen as an afterthought. After all, embedded in this document are the rules of engagement for both parties, the services you will receive, what fees are applied and when (if any!), and what rights you, as the owner, have.

Electing to skim over this contract is pretty much the same as choosing not to even talk to a property manager before you hire them. Don’t let a great initial impression and professionalism take you away from the fact that this document is vastly important and you need to know what is inside of it. Again, not all property managers are made the same!

As with any contract, the fine print is never fun to read. Thinking long term, however, if you do this right the first time and hire the best property manager for you, you may never have to go through this process again for several years or ever. Here you’ll find the fees associated with service you’ll receive, how the company will handle tenant issues and complaints, what you are responsible for in the relationship, the process of terminating contracts with that company, and so much more.

Everything in this document adds up! One key provision to look for in your management agreement is the threshold they spend on repairs without notifying you. Set the threshold too low and you’ll be hit with a phone call every time something breaks, too high and you’re management company may decide it’s best to fix everything in your property… Over the years we’ve been able to learn more and more every year about repair costs and what it takes to get things done. We’ve set a threshold limit that allows you to avoid that pesky phone call every time something goes wrong while at the same time providing you with the peace of mind that we aren’t lining our pockets with your “maintenance money”.

As a best practice, ask each property management company you speak with to provide you with their contract. Once you’ve talked to a few you’ll have a couple in front of you and comparison will be easy.

Say you gathered up all property management agreements from property managers in Austin. As you looked at those you’d start to notice some companies are better than others. You may also notice that Stone Oak’s contracts only go month-to-month. Consider this; we are property management company built by landlords, for landlords. We know the type of service you expect as an investor because we’ve been in your exact shoes.

Remember, not everything on these agreements are set in stone as most great managers offer flexible services. If you see a policy or provision you have questions or concerns about, bring them up! If you’re an rental owner in Austin, Texas weighing the options, contact the property manager that tenants love!

Breed Restrictions for Austin Rental Properties

Jason Huval - Monday, October 23, 2017

dog being restricted from a rental home

If you’re an individual who rents in Austin, Texas and owns a pet you’ve probably been asked “What breed?”, when looking for a new place to rent. It’s not that property managers or apartment communities hate dogs or animals, it’s that for the safety of others there are certain animals who are generally considered unsafe. If a dangerous animal isn’t allowed in an area there is a far less likely chance there will be an attack. Pretty simple stuff really.

There are a couple of reasons your dog/pet may be denied when applying for residency somewhere. First, some municipalities and regions have enacted breed-specific rules banning certain breeds from even entering certain cities. The second reason could be that insurance companies have identified that breed as dangerous ultimately barring the insured from accepting your pet. Another reason your breed may be banned is that the landlord/community has the ultimate say in what pets are allowed in their complex.

Common Restricted Breeds

Curious if that Austin landlord will accept your dog? Below are some of the common breeds that find themselves near the top of the 'bad' list.

  • Pit bulls
  • Rottweilers
  • Alaskan Malmutes
  • Siberian Huskies
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Akitas
  • Terriers
  • Bulldogs
  • And more..

Breed restrictions are an ongoing debate with pet owners. However, despite Stone Oak Property Management’s love for dogs, sometimes there is nothing we can do, and the same goes for other Austin property managers and landlords. Thankfully, Austin is an incredibly dog-friendly city and finding a place for you and your pupper will be easier than most other cities!

You can view pet friendly rental homes in Austin here!

Barton Hills | Austin's Neighborhoods

Jason Huval - Tuesday, October 10, 2017

skyline view of Austin Texas from Zilker Park 

As one of the more well-known areas of Austin, Texas, Barton Hills is a community that boasts a love for nature and the outdoors.

Some of the biggest attractions in the area are greater Austin staples. In the photo below you get a glimpse of Barton Springs and the type of foot traffic it can experience on one of those Texas’ summer days. Not even that, the spring is a year round attraction with the temperature a steady 68-74°F. Don’t mind a dip in the spring in the winter months? The spring offers free admission from November thru March!

Swimming at Barton Springs in Austin TX

The next big thing Barton Hills offers residents of Austin is Zilker Park! If you own a dog, have a friend who owns a dog, or are just fans of dogs in general you’ve probably been to Zilker Park. Zilker marks the beginning of the several miles of lush green belt that run through Barton Hills. It’s pretty important to state that Zilker Park also hosts Austin’s annual Austin City Limits. An event that more than helped make Austin known as the live music capital of the world.

aerial view of austin city limits

Live music not your thing? That’s okay! Grab your kite and we’ll see you at Austin’s annual kite festival!

flying a kite at the zilker park kite festival

Maybe you’re a foodie like us here at Stone Oak Property Management… If so, we’ll meet you at The Happy Lobster!

sandwich from the happy lobster in austin tx

The Greenbelt offers active, outdoorsy individuals with a paradise in what seems like the middle of Austin. As one of Austin’s premier neighborhoods, Barton Hills has plenty to offer to those that choose to live there. Maybe you’re curious about living in the area? Be sure to check Stone Oak’s website for rental homes in South Austin!

A Great Property Manager is Priceless

Jason Huval - Friday, October 06, 2017

a property manager balancing his time

Like anything in life, the things that are worth it are worth the work. You may own rental properties and real estate may be your passion so you don’t have any issues with dedicating the time and effort to try on all the different hats required to run a profitable rental portfolio. If you’re one of the many owners who doesn’t have this kind of time or if your portfolio is so large keeping up with everything would be impossible then deciding to partner with a professional property manager, like Stone Oak Management.

A great property management company dedicates 100% of its time to ensuring your property performs as well as it should. Effective and data-driven marketing of upcoming and vacant properties as well as thorough screening by Stone Oak ensures your property spends fewer days on the market and more days with a rent-paying tenant occupying the residence. We use professionally structured leases that establish guidelines that protect you as a landlord if there is ever a conflict with a tenant.

The lifeline of your property is the tenants and the rental income the produce for you. For this reason, renewals are an owner’s best friend. As Austin’s most responsive property management team, we make it our goal for your tenants to love their landlord. We consider both a tenant and owners clients of ours, and set out to provide them with quality experiences.

Stone Oak Property Management has partnered with various professionals across our region allowing us to provide our owners with direct connections to legal pros, real estate attorneys, property tax protests, as well as a variety of other professions and industries.

As your property manager, we ensure accurate reporting. Accounting is a priority for us at Stone Oak, as a good portion of our staff were previous accountants who discovered a love for real estate! Once tax time rolls around, no hassles or headaches, we provide you with all the forms you need and filing is a breeze.

More important than everything mentioned above, if you partner with a priceless property manager like Stone Oak you know your best interests are at the forefront of everything we do. We want to earn your business and will work to do so month in, month out!

Contact our Austin property management team today to learn the Stone Oak difference and how much better your properties could be performing!


Contact Us

Stone Oak Property Management
13497 N Highway 183, Ste. 700
Austin, TX 78750

Phone: 512.617.6766
Toll Free: 888.892.7940
Fax: 512.994.2300

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