April is Keep America Beautiful Month

recycling image

The month of April is dedicated to celebrating and maintaining America’s beauty.  The Keep America Beautiful Foundation is a non-profit organization founded in 1953 with the mission “to inspire and educate people to take action every day to improve and beautify their community environment.” The foundation has a number of large U.S. corporations, including UPS, Coca-Cola, Lowes, Anheuser-Busch, McDonalds and more.

Along with larger corporate and municipality support, it’s important to note that every person is capable of beautifying their community. A few examples include cleaning up property debris, planting a garden, re-purposing/recycling unused items or adding fresh paint to a deck or fence.  Look no further than your local community for a plethora of volunteer opportunities.  It can’t be said much better than teacher and musician Inavat Khan.

“Some people look for a beautiful place, others make a place beautiful.”

Simply Residential Property Management is dedicated to beautifying our own neighborhoods this summer. Please join us in making the same commitment. When we measure impact, the whole will be even bigger than the sum of its parts.

Planning Ahead for Tax Day in 2017

taxes- simon cunningham

With mid-April comes a sigh of relief. Take a deep breath, you’ve earned it. Tax Day has come and gone. Your 2015 tax filing is now in the rear-view mirror. And while it’s too late to make changes to your 2015 filing, it’s not too early to begin thinking about your 2016 return. Sounds crazy right? We literally JUST celebrated the passing of another Tax Day and we should talk about next year? Know that Simply Residential thinks about taxes year round as we carefully track and document the required tax information for our property owners. You should think about taxes as a year-round opportunity as well, because by following these three simple tips you will ensure your tax filing in April of 2017is easier than the last.

Meet with Your Tax Professional

Tax professionals are so busy leading up to Tax Day that they barely have time to see immediate family, much less discuss next year’s taxes. When the 2016 Tax Day passes and tax professionals begin to regain some semblance of their former life, schedule some time to talk with your tax professional. We at Simply Residential keep in close touch with our tax professional. It’s important to learn about the processes that will make 2017 easier, ensure no important opportunities are missed and stay updated on happenings in the tax community. In between sleeping hibernation and reuniting with family, I’m sure your tax professional would appreciate an off-season meeting over a cup of joe.

Keep Important Tax Deductions in Mind

Investment property owners are eligible for a number of tax deductions. Examples to keep in mind during the year include mortgage loan interest, rental property travel expenses, utilities, maintenance, repairs and legal/management fees. Simply Residential provides its owners with 1099’s each January, but also sends monthly statements during the year.

Examine/Revise Expense Processes

If a folder full of receipts is your current process for bookkeeping, a change is in order. There are two reasons to create a cleaner, more organized approach to tracking your spending. The first is to make preparation for Tax Day in 2017 easier. The second is that properly organized receipts will allow you to maximize your tax savings by spending on certain purchases.  Reducing stress and saving money are two reasons I have a hard time arguing with.

Congrats on surviving another tax day! Simply Residential looks forward to helping our property owners in the year ahead.

Disclaimer: This article merely provides information, rather than advice and should not be viewed as a substitute for the recommendations of a tax professional.
Photo credit:Simon Cunningham; flickr.com/photos/lendingmemo

Being a Landlord is Tough But There Is Hope

Being a Landlord is Tough.

Hiring a property management company makes life easier.

Being a landlord brings with it a LOT of responsibility:
• Market the property
• Find, screen and maintain tenants
• Rent collections
• Understanding of financial and legal responsibilities
• Maintenance
• Eviction and more

But you do have options. Imagine your life AFTER hiring a property management company.

BEFORE: Talking to tenants on the phone in the middle of the night about clogged drains.
AFTER: Surfing, texting and talking on the phone for fun!

BEFORE: Always running to help tenants is stressful.
AFTER: What stress? Enjoy yourself!

BEFORE: You feel like you’re always on an island, with all problems on your shoulders
AFTER: Your property management partner is fully dedicated to your property and there to help!

Next step? Contact Simply Residential today. You can:

Email us: Amanda@SimplyRes.com
Call: 952-893-9900
Receive a free rental analysis

We keep property management simple.

Appliance Life Expectancy

Photo credit: Trace O; flickr.comphotostracy_olson

Photo credit: Trace O; flickr.com/photos/tracy_olson

One of the biggest leaps from being a renter to a property owner is the responsibility to maintain and replace household appliances. Think about the finances dedicated to those often-used, convenient pieces of equipment in your kitchen, laundry room and other parts of the house. The health of these appliances is impacted by the initial quality of the product, the amount of care and proper maintenance you provide and of course general wear and tear. Some good luck doesn’t hurt either.

Replacing those items is not only financially burdening, but also stressful and time-consuming. The best approach to being prepared for the demise of appliances is knowing their life expectancy. No appliance lasts forever. Here is a ballpark life expectancy guide for appliances:

Refrigerator: 15 years
Dishwasher: 8-10 years
Washer/Dryer: 10-12 years
Water Heater: 8-10 years
Stove/Oven: 15 years
Garbage Disposal: 10 years
Microwave: 10 years

Of course, these are all estimates. No single timeline will apply to every home. But this list should help you financially plan ahead for replacing appliances.

Tax Day Cometh: 6 Important Tax Deductions for Landlords

Photo credit: reynermedia; flickr.com/photos/89228431@N06/

Photo credit: reynermedia; flickr.com/photos/89228431@N06/

As Minnesotans, we can count on a few certainties in life. We will complain about winter but most of us will continue to live here year after year.  The purple and gold will annually frustrate fans by not winning the big one, but we will keep cheering “Skol Vikes.” And don’t forget road construction season, which is referred to as ‘summer’ in other states. These are but a few of life’s certainties in Minnesota.

No matter where you live, death and taxes are usually regarded as the two universal guarantees in life. Neither are pleasant topics but both are inevitable. Actually, you can get by without paying taxes but you’re strongly advised against that approach. The government tends to frown on those avoiding taxes and the financial penalties are harsh.

Fortunately, as property owners who rent out their property, tax time can be easier to stomach. There are plenty of tax deductions available to landlords within the U.S. tax code. As always, consult with a tax professional to learn more. Here are a few of the most popular deductions a landlord should keep in mind:

  1. Loan interest if there is a mortgage on your property: This is the big one. If you have a loan on your investment property, the interest is tax deductible. That can be a large amount!
  2. Legal, Professional and Management Fees: With a rental property comes the need for help with taxes, accounting, legal and property management support. These professional fees are tax deductible.
  3. Travel Expenses: If you don’t live near your investment property, we can deduct travel expenses like airfare, ground transportation, food and overnight stays.
  4. Utilities: If you pay for any utilities at your investment property, those costs are deductible. They include gas, electricity, water and city services like garbage and recycling.
  5. Repairs: Repairs refer to fixing items that no longer work properly and include fixtures, plumbing, air conditioning and even the fees for hiring contractors and renting tools for said repairs.
  6. Maintenance: There are plenty of maintenance expenses that are different than ‘repairs’. They include lawn care, pest control, tune-ups on lawn care equipment and even light bulbs and smoke detector batteries!

While Tax Day typically falls on April 15, this year we have a few extra days. That’s due to Emancipation Day being recognized on Friday, April 15. That pushes Tax Day to the following Monday. So you’ve got a few extra days to prepare your taxes. Use them wisely!

Women’s History Month

In the United States, the month of March is Women’s History Month. While the focus of the month in 2016 is honoring women in public service and government, let’s take a look at the impact of women in the real estate industry. As early as the 1880s, women were transitioning from early real estate roles such as bookkeeping to becoming full-fledged agents and brokers.

Today women make up a majority of the residential real estate profession and there are a number of organizations specifically for women in the industry. Women in Real Estate (WIRE), Women’s Council of Realtors (WCR) and Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) are active nationally and have Twin Cities chapters.

In a 2015 interview with Real Estate Agent Magazine, Tasha Soundara, president of the Twin Cities Chapter of the Women’s Council of Realtors, discussed the organization’s role.

“…Empower women to be strong business leaders. Our organization showcases the strength of women in the industry (and) through our work we promote the image of the successful female entrepreneur within the community. “

Simply Residential Property Management is proud to recognize and honor women during this important month, especially all those within the real estate industry.

Be Proactive to Minimize Your Liability as a Landlord


Photo credit: Got Credit

This post was written by Jeff O’Brien for Simply Residential Property Management Magazine.

Last month, I discussed the pertinent legal standards under Minnesota law for when a landlord can be held liable for injuries to tenants and/or their guests.  This month, I’m going to discuss some basic steps that landlords can take to minimize their exposure to such claims.

The Difference Between Liability and Being Sued

When it comes to civil lawsuits, Minnesota – like most states in the U.S. – is known as a “notice pleading” state.  That means that a plaintiff does not have to prove his/her entire case in the complaint.  If the plaintiff has a good faith basis for a claim, their attorney is permitted under the lawyer ethics rules to commence a lawsuit, and the details of the case are then explored later on during discovery, and then come the motions and, well you get the idea.

What does this mean? It means that, even though ultimately you as a landlord may likely prevail in a lawsuit brought by a tenant, you still have to defend the lawsuit.  Hence, taking some additional steps to prevent exposure for a claim brought by a tenant for injuries is a wise course of action.  Here are a few simple steps you should undertake immediately to audit your level of exposure to a tenant claim:

Use of Liability Limiting Entities

Use of a liability limiting entity such as a limited liability company can insulate a property owner’s personal assets from liability arising from tenant claims.  For best results, it is recommended to own each property in a separate limited liability company (or LLC for short).  In this manner, in the result of a tenant lawsuit related to one property, only the assets of the LLC which owns that property are at risk; in other words, the potential claim should not affect your other properties owned within separate LLCs.

Note that I said that the potential claim should not affect your other properties; in order to make certain that other entities and properties are not affected, you must be certain to respect the corporate formalities of each LLC.  Separate bank accounts should be opened for each separate LLC and the income and expenses relative to each property should be run through those bank accounts.  Do not commingle funds between properties and do not commingle funds from your rental properties with personal funds.  Otherwise you leave yourself open to “veil piercing” claims in the event that a tenant prevails in a lawsuit but finds no assets available to satisfy their judgment from the subject LLC.

Do You Have Adequate Insurance Coverage?

In order to best minimize the risk of liability for injuries to their tenants and/or guests, landlords should make sure that they have adequate insurance coverage – including provision of and payment for legal counsel in the event of a claim – for each of their properties.  If you choose to utilize separate entities for each rental property, make sure that each entity is properly named as the insured under the policy.

Review Your Leases

A final preventive step to take would be to review your leases to make sure that they do not create any express liability occasioned by a tenant injury.

With respect to both the lease review and entity formation matters, use of a knowledgeable attorney to audit your entity documents and lease forms would be a cost effective investment given the alternative of expensive litigation.

Jeffrey C. O’Brien is an attorney with the Minneapolis based law firm of Lommen Abdo, P.A. voice of the “Legal Minute on Minnesota Home Talk, heard Saturdays on 1500 ESPN, and a Minnesota State Bar Association Board Certified Real Property Specialist. He can be reached at (612) 336-9317 or via email at jobrien@lommen.com.

Add These 6 Spring Cleaning Projects to Your Calendar


Photo credit: Mayr; Flickr.com/photos/mayr

In Minnesota, the month of March is unpredictable. Some years you’re shoveling a foot of fresh, new snow and cursing under your breath. Some years you’re slicing it off the tee on the back nine of your local golf course and cursing under your breath. Some years you’re doing both. No matter what Mother Nature dishes out in March, we know that spring is just around the corner. It’s time to get the house prepared with a handful of outdoor and indoor home maintenance projects. It’s important these projects be completed, as they’ll help save you money down the road. When the warmer weather finally arrives, you’ll fully enjoy it knowing your home is prepared.

Outdoor Projects

  1. Air Conditioner

Have a qualified heating and cooling expert inspect the home’s air conditioning. It may seem like an unneeded expense, but annual check-ups ensure the entire system runs smoothly. There’s no reason for the air conditioner to work harder than it needs to. And you’ll appreciate that the air conditioning is fully functioning when you hit the hot days of summer.

  1. Faucets

Hopefully your winter prep prevented any faucet freeze damage issues but a thorough inspection of outdoor faucets doesn’t hurt. Water should be flowing well from the faucets. And while you’re at it, you might as well find the hose in the shed, inspect it for rotting and hook it up for yard care that’s coming soon.

  1. Gutters

Get out the ladder and check out those gutters. With April showers around the corner, ensure the gutters are clear and flowing properly. The main job of gutters is to drain water away from the home, not into your basement or foundation. Help the gutters do their job. It’s all they ask.

Indoor Projects

  1. Hit the Laundry Room

It’s a good time to take a look at the washer and dryer. The washer hoses should be inspected for leaks. Cracks in the hose are a warning sign. The dryer vent should be cleaned of all debris not caught by the lint trap. This maintenance will help your dryer run less and you’ll be removing a serious fire hazard.

  1. Repair and Clean Window Screens

In Minnesota, we relish opening our windows to let in a cool breeze. Spring is the time to clean screens by giving them a good soapy scrub. It’s not the most fun you’ll have but you’ll appreciate the clean air flowing into your home when summer rolls around. For damaged screens, you can patch holes or replace entire screens.

  1. Vacuum Refrigerator Coils

The more dust that covers the coils behind the refrigerator, the harder that appliance needs to work to keep cool. This is the easiest spring job you’ll have. Simply run a vacuum hose through the area to keep it clean. It will save you energy costs and prolong the life of your refrigerator.

Being a homeowner provides many advantages, but it also brings with it the responsibility of maintenance. Preventative maintenance is less expensive than dealing with a problem after it has occurred. And it will give you peace of mind. Take these six maintenance steps annually each spring and your home will thank you. The health of your home depends on it.

4 Reasons to Rent Out Your Home


On a daily basis, property owners throughout the Twin Cities mull over the idea of renting out their home. How would I do it? Is this the right time? What if something goes wrong? Just the thought of moving out of your prized possession and opening it up to total strangers can be scary. But know that property owners make the decision to rent their property every day. And it doesn’t need to be intimidating. Before bogging yourself down in the details of renting your home, let’s first look at a list of key reasons why someone would consider renting out their property.

  1. You want to expand your wallet

Who couldn’t use an additional income source? Renting out your property is a viable money-making venture if you’re able to bring in enough rental income to cover the mortgage, expenses and allow some income for yourself. One of the most popular questions property owners ask is what their property will rent for. There are many factors that influence the amount. Simply Residential Property Management conducts a thorough market analysis of the property, which reviews the market, the competition in the neighborhood and the interior and exterior condition of the property. Our goal is to produce a competitive price while also providing you with the highest return. With this market analysis in hand, we allow the owner to decide on the final price.

  1. You are no longer able to stay in your current home

There are a number of reasons a property owner may choose to leave a home. Perhaps it’s due to a job transfer to another market. A budding relationship may mean leaving an existing home behind. Sometimes an owner will run into cash flow problems and no longer be able to cover mortgage and home expenses. No matter the reason, renting out your home can be a solid temporary solution. And whereas selling is permanent, renting gives you a fallback option to take up residence again some day.

  1. The market just doesn’t want to let you go

As property owners, we’re all at the mercy of the market to some degree. We may be ready to sell our home but if the market isn’t going to give us the selling price we want, we need to wait. But this temporary phase need not be painful.  Take some time to allow the market to adjust by renting your home. While Twin Cities’ property values are still recovering from years past, signs are clearly pointing to continued growth in the market during 2016 and going forward.

  1. The tax man cometh…and giveth

Last but not least…taxes. No one likes taxes but how about tax deductions? Renting a property means deducting many costs. The cost of independent contractors like roofers, painters and other maintenance workers can be deducted from costs of a rental home. Rental property expenses like utilities and travel costs when doing business can be deducted. Even landlord insurance is a deductible expense. The word ‘taxes’ never sounded so sweet.

Did any of these reasons resonate with you? If so, it’s time to take the next step and research what it takes to rent out your home. The Simply Residential Property Management website has an excellent FAQ section that answers many questions that property owners have. In addition, we have a free rental property analysis on our website that allows us to provide a custom quote. Our staff would be happy to sit down and discuss your goals and concerns.  Happy Renting!

In Focus: How Can Other Property Management Companies Benefit From a Partnership with Simply Residential?

post-itWhen you own or manage a property management company, it’s easy to see other companies as nothing more than the competition. At Simply Residential, we believe that relationships with other property management companies can be positive and mutually beneficial. It can allow for sharing of efficiencies and other best practices, which ultimately benefits the end customer.

The rental industry is constantly in flux, and many companies are finding that there are different opportunities in the buy/sell arena. If that’s the case, it’s valuable and strategic to have connections in the property management community with whom you can discuss mergers or acquisitions.

Real estate in Minneapolis is increasing in value, and there’s truly a small community of professionals that work within that realm. Many organizations partner with each other so they have a greater reach within the state, for example, one company focuses on Minneapolis real estate while others may focus on Mankato or Duluth. Having partners in those areas helps expand your portfolio of properties, potential to earn, and ability to best service your clients.

The considerable amount of time we’ve spent working in property management has taught us that having a portfolio of under 200 properties makes little to no financial sense. Many companies of that size end up losing money, especially when it comes to single-family residential properties. In that instance, we always advise our friends and partners to consider a merger, they get to keep their clients and we both pool our resources to enhance our businesses!

If you’re thinking about venturing into buy/sell, or if you have single family residential properties that you no longer wish to manage, give us a call! We’re here to help.

If you want to learn more about partnering with Simply Residential, visit simplyres.com/partner or contact Ron Huckabee at 952-831-5300 or via email at ron@simplyres.com!