Here are some of our most frequently asked questions.
If your question is not answered below or you need more information, please contact us.
Q: What cities do you cover?
We serve the Greater Long Beach area. We want to be within a short drive of our properties. We manage single family homes from Rancho Palos Verdes to Santa Ana and even Whittier. Beyond that perimeter, we will manage larger complexes. Sorry, we don’t handle rent control cities.
Q: What types of property do you manage?
We handle mostly residential and small commercial. About a third of our inventory is single family homes/condos. The balance are apartment buildings and small commercial complexes.
Q: I’ve been paying a neighbor to manage my property – saves me a lot of money. Why should I pay you?
Qualifications and professionalism aside, consider this: California State law requires that anyone managing property for hire must be a licensed Broker [B&P C §10131(b)].
Remember that you, the owner, are liable for the actions of your agents (your manager). You will certainly be named in any lawsuits.
Even if your neighbor is a Realtor: Is he or she a licensed Broker? Or do they work for a licensed Broker who will take responsibility as the manager of your property? If your management fee goes directly to the Broker, it’s probably legal. On the other hand, if you’re paying the real estate salesperson, you might want to think twice.
Q: Another office charges a percentage point lower than yours. I’ve got a high mortgage; I need the best deal.
We understand that service and qualifications are always a balance against price. If you choose your professionals based on the lowest bidder, whether it’s your doctor or your mechanic, then we won’t stand in your way.
Keep in mind, your rentals are probably the largest investment in your life. They certainly expose you to the largest liability. Stay focused on next year’s bottom line, not today’s profit. Take a moment and pause before you hand over the keys.
Q: How much rent can I charge? (I need at least $X to break even.)
Especially in recent years, this has been a real challenge. First, too many owners bought at the height of the market or refinanced, pulling money for other investments.
At the same time, mortgage payments have graduated from fixed to variable. Monthly payments have trended up while rents have trended down. The hard truth remains: “Tenants don’t care about the size of your mortgage.” If you’re mortgaged to the hilt, you’re competing against owners whose mortgages are low.
The bottom line is, the market will only pay market price and not a penny more. Being a good salesman makes no difference. All the tenant sees is price, quality of the home, and the competition. If you are overpriced, vacant weeks become vacant months until you finally lower the price.
The problem is, almost every day we get calls from an owner who says, “I have to get $X dollars rent”. It’s our job to pick the right price and get the vacancy filled quickly. We usually have a tenant moved in within two weeks.
Q: Can Spurr & Associates pay my bills? (I want to travel and not worry.)
Yes! Our owners are spread across the globe. Being “full service” means you can relax. Whether it’s collecting rents, dealing with a pipe that bursts at midnight, or overseeing the gardener, we treat your property as if it were our own.
We would be glad to pay the mortgage, the insurance, the utilities, the taxes. We’re here to make your life easier.
Almost all of our rents and owner payments are transacted electronically. Whether you’re on a cruise ship or working in far off jungles, your money will be in your bank account on time. If you have access to email, you will get all statements and receipts by the end of the month, anywhere in the world.
Q: Why don’t you send me the rent money immediately? Why should I wait a month for my money?
I heard one company claim they would send money within a week of receiving it. I should have asked: What happens if the rent check bounces? (It can take a week for the comeback). Or maybe the check bounces and the tenant promises to bring in the cash. The cash arrives a few days later. By this point, the Trust Account has been negative. The manager could lose his license.
Side note: Money in the Trust is not a profit center for us. We don’t earn any interest.
Q: How much money do I need to pay up front?
If the home is currently vacant, we will need an upfront reserve of $500 in the Trust Account.
Until the first rents arrive, there will certainly be small expenses; e.g., rekeying locks, utility bills and lawn care expenses.
Q: Why should I pay for the gardener?
A tenant’s concept of good lawn care can be very different from yours. Because the grounds are an important part of your investment, it’s worth the money.
We use licensed and insured gardeners that are surprisingly competitive. If you have a favorite gardener, we won’t change that arrangement but, for insurance reasons, paying that gardener will have to remain on your books.
Q: I don’t want any pets!
No problem. That is your choice. Be advised, however, in recent years it has become much more common to accept pets. Experience has shown vacancies will fill faster and the tenant will stay longer. Of course their security deposit is increased. And, of course, we don’t accept dangerous breeds. We insist on meeting the pet. But ultimately, the choice remains yours.
Q: What if the tenant starts a kitchen fire?
Or maybe the tub overflows and floods the home and maybe the downstairs neighbor? Or the tenant has a guest and their dog bites the mailman? There are a lot of “what ifs” that could stretch your insurance beyond its limits, and possibly land you in court.
Compared to the tenant, you are the “deep pockets”. You’ll be the one receiving a summons. And if you lose money because of the tenant, good luck getting money from the tenant. We’re one of the few companies who require renter’s insurance paid by our tenants. It keeps you covered and doesn’t burn through your policy.
Q: Can I keep copies of the keys?
Key control is extremely important. If there’s ever a crime in a rental, and no obvious forced entry, the first question is always: Key control? To reduce your liability and ours, the only keys should be secured in our office and with the tenant. (Tenants get very uncomfortable thinking about person(s) unknown having their door key.)
Q: What about advertising costs?
As with all management companies, advertising costs are passed on to you. The good news is, we rarely spend your money for advertising. Almost all of our tenants are sourced from signs and websites. This includes Craigslist, the MLS, and a number of other websites. We have a great track record of fast turnovers. Thanks to these technologies, advertising money is rarely needed.
Q: What about late night emergencies?
Tenants are given emergency telephone numbers.
Q: What about routine repairs?
We keep our maintenance staff very lean. We don’t hesitate to call independent contractors when the best skills are available outside our payroll, and when our staff is already booked.
Q: Can I use my favorite tradesman or do the work myself?
Yes. Since we have no control over the quality and liability, we ask that the work is performed on a timely basis and to a professional standard. But remember the tradeoff. When the owner tries to save a few dollars and makes it a DIY project, invariably we see weeks pass on projects that would have taken us days. Lost rent makes our costs look like bargains.
Q: Do you think home warranty insurance policies are a good idea?
A number of management companies don’t allow them for valid reasons. We discourage them.
Home warranty companies are invariably slow. Usually the subcontractor is not local and, too often, second rate. The insurance company may be in Chicago. When they look at the map, it looks like Long Beach is just down the street from Hermosa Beach. And of course, they don’t know the building or the community, and they can be hard to reach if you have problems. Then, there are so many exclusions, you will probably end up hiring another repairman to finish the job.
We recently had a simple shower repair. Because the owner insisted on using the home warranty, it took six months before the job was properly completed, at great inconvenience to the tenant.
Our experience is that, in the long run, home warranties are great for their intended purpose: insurance that protects real estate sellers from lawsuits over disclosures.
Q: What about larger repairs: re-piping, remodels, etc?
We will be happy to provide quotes.
Q: How often do you really inspect the property? (More than just driving by)
Every nine months we go through each rental. This is more than a walk-through and a bed count. We exercise all the valves and make sure they’re not frozen. We remind the tenants what the valves do. Of course we’re looking for leak stains and peeling paint (we are EPA Lead-Safe certified). We even check for gas leaks (yes, gas leaks – we have an electronic sniffer) and water pressure. We also test and replace smoke, carbon monoxide, and even water alarms. You will receive a thorough report.
Q: How about real estate sales?
If your Realtor has referred you to us, we will respect that relationship and rightfully refer you back to your Realtor for sales. Otherwise, we do Broker sales.