Property descriptions can be difficult to muddle through, especially for first-time or young applicants. When it comes to apartment rentals, there are a number of terms that get thrown around; here, I provide a few handy definitions and explanations to help newcomers acclimate to the vocabulary.
“Utilities” is a blanket term that typically refers to basics such as electricity, water, and sewer and trash services. However, the term can sometimes include extra expenses such as heat, snow removal, cable, and Internet – although a tenant should never assume that any in the latter list are covered. Often, a landlord will specify which utilities are included in the rent and which are left to the tenant to pay. If the landlord doesn’t specify which expenses are folded into rent and which aren’t, be sure to ask for clarification before signing a lease. Note that in some cases, the landlord will agree to cover a specific bill up to a certain dollar amount and leave the tenant responsible for the remaining balance.
When a landlord lists a home or apartment as “pet-friendly,” they aren’t guaranteeing a home for all types of animals. For example, a landlord might be willing to consider a bird or cat, but turn away someone with a large dog. In all cases, the tenant should assume that only well-behaved pets will be welcome. Check to see if a pet deposit or pet rent is required in addition to the usual security deposit to cover any damage the pet may have caused.
Amenities and Amenity Fees
Amenities refer to the perks of residing in the home or apartment – say, a large deck for entertaining, or wood-burning fireplace. Amenity fees generally appear in upscale buildings that offer an unusually high number of benefits to residents, such as a swimming pool or an on-site gym equipment. Check the fine print of your lease for information on what’s included and assess whether the cost is worth the benefits.
Landlords will often run a criminal background check on applicants through an online service such as BeenVerified. The fees for these services are then passed on to the applicant. Note that the application fee might also serve as a sort of initial refundable deposit on the property. If so, the landlord might just be holding it until the background check is complete – but you should always ask the landlord rather than assuming one way or the other.
Furnished vs. Unfurnished
If an advertisement lists the space as “furnished,” this could mean only that the rental includes a single bed and a table and chairs, or that every room is fully decked out and complete with curtains. If this is a concern, ask for details and the landlord’s expectations before setting up a time to view the property.
Jason Cohen is a real estate investor and broker working in Pittsburgh, PA who has built his career around turning dilapidated properties into profitable rentals. As a veteran operative in the field, Jason is well-equipped to discuss the do’s and don’ts of property rehabilitation – and here, he points out a few renovations that investors shouldn’t make when they begin to prepare a home for future tenants.
Marble countertops, shiny tiled floors, and a brand-new patio: while they might be pretty, upgrades like these won’t help your bottom line. If you plan to invest and maintain a profitable rental property, you’ll need to strike a balance between updating the space and minding your budget. By creating an appealing setting, you can make more of a profit by increasing the rent – however, if you stray from updates to full-scale renovation, you might end up dealing with a property that costs more than it earns. Here are a few renovations that investors shouldn’t make on a rental property.
Adding a Swimming Pool
A pool may seem like an ideal addition to the backyard, but it won’t necessarily increase the value of the home. The feature can also take away space in the backyard for pets or children to play in on the property and make it seem unattractive to families who lack the time or resources to maintain it.
According to loans.usnews.com, room additions don’t always pay off due to the high cost of the construction. Projects with a lower price tag – such as appliance updates and repainting – tend to have a better ROI for landlords.
From painting the walls to installing new sinks, DIY projects are cost-effective at a price; while they may seem cheap at the outset, they often look they were performed by someone who had a lack of experience and ultimately turn away would-be tenants. It’s necessary to leave the work to professionals to ensure that your money is an investment that pays off and attracts more tenants in the coming years.
According to Time Magazine, creating a beautiful garden benefits the aesthetics of a home – but it doesn’t justify increasing the rent that you charge. It can also require a significant amount of money for landscaping services to upkeep the property or the tenants may not want to spend their weekends pulling weeds and watering different areas of the yard. Stick to landscaping that is easy to maintain to ensure that you don’t waste your money if you’re renting out the house.
Many landlords make the mistake of upgrading everything and assuming that the home needs to have all new features or materials to attract good tenants. Overspending on upgrades can make the house appear too chic and regal for the local area, making it necessary to keep the upgrades to a minimum. Stick to adding new fixtures on the cabinets or new hardwood floors in the living room to make upgrades that are minimal, yet aesthetically effective.
For more of Jason Cohen Pittsburgh’s insights on real estate, please visit JasonCohenPittsburgh.org.
About Jason Cohen Pittsburgh
Jason Cohen is a real estate investor in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He created Jason Cohen Pittsburgh, a group of real estate enthusiasts committed to helping others invest in real estate, and he has thrived in the area since 2002.
As Jason’s career has grown and flourished, so has Pittsburgh itself — transforming from an industrial “rust belt” city into a major cultural center abundant with high-end multi-family rental properties. Jason has seamlessly handled the dynamic nature of Pittsburgh and of the real estate industry in general. A research-driven professional, he consistently enables smart and profitable investments in the area, helping to transform modest properties into high-end rentals in Pittsburgh’s hottest neighborhoods.
Jason Cohen first entered the world of real estate shortly after his graduation from the University of Texas. He started out by investing in distressed properties in Pennsylvania. After some experience working full-time for a real estate company, he decided to pave his own path in the industry. He has worked as an independent real estate agent and developed the Jason Cohen Pittsburgh team ever since. The team consists of highly qualified investors, property managers, leasing agents, and contractors.
Over the course of his career Jason has become highly proficient in acquisitions, joint ventures and partnerships, multifamily real estate investments, asset repositioning, real estate management, real estate brokerage, and new construction. He has excelled in high-level investment strategies, but is also no stranger to “ground work” when it comes to the industry. He is well-versed in each step of Jason Cohen Pittsburgh’s unique system: researching local areas and investing in properties, performing renovations to transform these properties from dilapidated eyesores into high-end units, and ultimately repositioning the properties for maximum profit in renting and selling.
Jason Cohen Pittsburgh is the group of choice for anyone who needs advice, analysis and due diligence, and general expertise in matters of investing, whether they are short-term or long-term. Jason Cohen Pittsburgh has dealt with properties in a variety of neighborhoods throughout parts of Pittsburgh, including the South Side, Oakland, Shadyside, Squirrel Hill, Mt. Lebanon, and Regent Square. Each and every one of these locations, paired with Jason’s overall knowledge of real estate investing, has allowed him to play a part in restoring Pittsburgh’s place as one of the most popular cities in the United States.
This blog will share news, updates, and insights regarding Pittsburgh and its real estate market from the perspective of Jason Cohen Pittsburgh. Stay tuned!