Have you heard about Zilpy? New site for tracking rents in cities across USA…

A title rep sent me an email today that gave me a head’s up on a new site I’d not seen before called www.Zilpy.com. It looks a heck of a lot like Zillow but with data on rents instead of home values. I’ve been playing around with it a bit and while I can’t figure out exactly yet how they’re getting the data, I’m intrigued. Most likely I’ll make mention of it to some of our investors to get their feedback on it as well and see if they think it’s a worthwhile site.

Check out the function of “heat maps” for rent levels in Washington. More states and cities are covered so it’s not just a Seattle gig. I believe it’s come to life from Silicon Valley.


A class act… Screen for Success via Rental Housing Association

I’ve been a big fan of Tamara Simon and her landlord focused classes for some time. She’s been kind enough over the years to provide slimmed down versions of them for my clients and other public classes I’ve sponsored over the past 5 years. So, today I’m giving her a plug for an upcoming class she is doing for RHA where she has been involved in the education committee for years. She’s a top educator in this field and a darn good business woman and property manager.

Anecdotally, in my own RE business I’ve seen an uptick in interest in rental housing purchases (MFH) as prices have softened in that market area (read dumb money leaving the market! :)) so if you’re one of the people looking to own rental property, and especially if you plan on self-managing, this is a class to attend.

Presented by Rental Housing Association of Puget Sound

Screen for Success
Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Speaker: Tamara Simon, owner of Koss Property Management and a licensed Real Estate Broker since 1983.

Location: RHA Conference Room
529 Warren Ave N
Seattle, WA

Time: 3:00pm – 6:00pm

Cost: $45 for members

Come learn practical useful information on how to screen and select the winners from the losers. This class is more than learning to read a credit report. It helps you from knowing how to effectively advertise and show your rental, to the final step of renting it to your new tenant!

Landlord 101 class offered February 26th by RHA

An excellent class that is offered through the Rental Housing Association is coming up soon. Tamara Simon of Koss Property Management has a been a long time owner of her own business and well respected colleague in the real estate industry and a professional that we’ve referred many a client to for help with their rental property management needs:

Landlord 101
by: Tamara Simon, owner of Koss Property Management and a licensed Real Estate Broker since 1983
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Location: RHA Conference Room, 529 Warren Ave N, Seattle, WA
Time 3:00pm – 6:00pm
Please RSVP before Wednesday, February 26, 2008

Being a landlord can be a scary experience. Come learn practical, useful information on how to manage your rental property. Knowledge is power, get the tools you need to become a more effective landlord. Simon’s “Ten Commandments of Property Management

Do YOU have a durable power of attorney?

So, I haven’t been on RCG for a while because I am gone from Seattle to Wichita, KS where I and my siblings are on hospital watch. My parents were hit by a drunk driver on Monday night and so I caught a flight here immediately since both of them were in the hospital with injuries. My dad has a brain injury and has been unconscious for several days now. For anyone that is interested in reading my blogs about the experience feel free to do so at this link: http://blog.myspace.com/teamreba
When I’m working with clients there are always situations that come up where we have to deal with difficult circumstances. My partner, Michael, and I frequently ask our clients if they have a durable power of attorney. Typically we make it for a specific property based on the transaction and usually the title company has to approve the POA to insure the purchase. Sometimes the POA is put in place under in the context of just making sure we are able to get signatures if there is a spouse or partner that travels a lot or an out of country trip is planned that would make it difficult to get notices or addendums signed. I’ve used these when I have siblings in multiple states as well who are buying or selling property.

Thankfully my parents did put together POA’s about 4 years ago. My mother is a REALTOR(R) in Wichita and my dad works with her as a licensed agent. They also own several rental properties and they had just received mutual acceptance on an offer for one the day they got in the accident.  My mother is conscious, although on pain medication for her broken bones, and she is aware enough that she knows what is going on and can sign things for herself. However, while I am my dad’s medical POA one of my siblings is his financial POA.  I’ll likely have my sister sign for my dad just so there is no question about mental faculties with my mom when the additional paperwork for this transaction is turned in.

It’s been a relief for me (and I think my mom too) to be able to come in and help out with her business while she and dad are in the hospital. I can’t practice real estate agency in Kansas but I have contacted some other agents that know my mom (she’s been an agent 20 years) and they’ll help with any items that require licensing and I’ll be a knowledgeable “gopher”. This also relieves stress from my siblings who may not know what they should do for her contracts and listings. I hadn’t really considered I’d have to help out in this way, but I sure am glad that I can.  It helps to also give me something else to think about rather than my dad in ICU.

My comments to all that read RCG is that if you don’t have a durable power of attorney for your personal affairs you really should do it and the sooner the better. You never know when a truck will slam into you and render you unconscious and you’ll need help with your medical and personal affairs such as paying bills. We stress this kind of long term planning to pretty much all of our clients and we host a client event every year that covers things like this to prevent more cases like Terry Schiavo. I hope you’ll consider it and go do it soon yourself.

Got renter's or condo unit insurance?

I’m constantly amazed at how many people don’t get renter’s insurance when they are renting a house or apartment. Did you realize that if a major catastrophe happens to the property you’re renting that the landlord is not responsible for your belongings?  You should.

Renter’s insurance is relatively inexpensive for the peace of mind that it will give you. Not only are you covered if a major issue happens to the property and damages your belongings, you can also check to see if the policy will cover you in the event of a break-in. Most people don’t consider the fact that a water heater might blow out and cause flooding to the interior of a property. This event could damage clothing, furniture, or more. The landlord will likely be responsible for fixing or replacing the water heater but they won’t be responsible for your stuff.

A while back we were representing a buyer on the purchase of a 20-unit apartment complex. There were 2 buildings with 10 units each. For some bizarre reason the seller decided to replace the roofs mid-contract. Unfortunately for her it rained right at the time the new roofs went on and 4 units were ruined and more were damaged – along with the tenant’s belongings. Thus began a nasty fight between her and the tenants – several moved out, resulting in lost rents, and others started attempting to boycott the property and prevent others from moving in to replace those that chose to move.

The majority of these tenants did not have renter’s insurance. More landlords are getting savvy and are adding provisions to their lease agreements that spell out a requirement for renters to show proof of insurance within a short period of time of moving in. My own lease agreements have similar language and it states very clearly that I’m not responsible for their stuff if something happens. Nature can impact a property at any time – I had this happen when a neighbor’s tree smashed into my duplex roof a couple of years ago. Thankfully my tenant’s didn’t get impacted but they could have since the tree punctured holes in the roof. Thankfully we got the roof repaired pretty quickly so no major damage occurred but it could have been ugly.

New condominium buildings are also requiring owners and tenants to have contents insurance. For owners of these units the requirement is that the policy cover up to the deductible of the homeowner’s association policy. Frequently that amount is roughly $50,000.00.  These are good things to know. Many of the condo sales require proof of insurance at closing so be sure to contact an insurance company prior to the end of your transaction if you’re in the process of buying. One guy I know that can handle this for you is Gerald Grinter of Gerald Grinter Insurance.  He can handle policies for condo owners and renters.

Hotpads: A Slick Search Tool for Apartments, Rentals, Sublets and Roommates

[photopress:hotpads.jpg,full,alignright]Thanks to John Cook post on Real estate timeline debuts, I found the greatest site for Apartments, Rentals, Sublets and Roommates I have seen. HotPads.com provides users with the ability to find dwellings based on Density, Per Capita and Median Age/Renters/Rent. They even use census data to color code their maps based on this data. For the property owner they create listings on HotPads is free and easy! If you are a landlord, they eve send your listings to Oodle and Google Base.

HotPads currently uses census data to color code our map based on a few different statistics:

  • Population Density
  • Per Capita Income
  • Median Household Income
  • Median Age
  • Percent Renters
  • Median Rent

Here are some examples from Seattle: Seattle, WA

Per Capita Income

Household Income

Median Age

Percent Renters

Median Rent

Even though rail stations are not available in the Rain City yet, with HotPads maps you can see various points of interest that might help you decide where to live:

  • Subway and Train Stations
  • Public Schools
  • Private Schools
  • Universities


Points are added to the map with their nifty icons:



Train and Subway Stations

They are currently listing the following rail systems:

  • New York City Subway
  • Washington, DC Metro
  • Bay Area Rapid Transit
  • Bay Area’s Caltrain
  • Boston’s MBTA
  • Chicago’s El
  • Los Angeles County Metrorail
  • Denver’s Light Rail
  • Dallas’s DART
  • Miami-Dade County Metro

As John Cook pointed out (looks like Galen has added Shackprices‘ GREAT search to the list), their Real estate timeline is pretty cool too:


Cocktail Party Primer

I’d like to open this thread up to a conversation on the health of the Seattle market…

but there is a catch. I will not allow it to dissolve into a conversation about racism, liberals, RCG, or faith. If you’d like to have a reasonable intellectual conversation, you are more than welcome to participate. If you attack me, RCG, or any contributor, then I’ll happily delete your comment.

By the way, please consider this post the “anti-linkbating” post. Not only will I quickly delete any off topic comments, but more importantly, I will mark those comments as “spam”. That will allow me to ban your email, name, IP, etc. from the site after only a few off-topic comments.

Two days ago, Michael Lindekugel of Team Reba made a very interesting comment. No one ever challenged him on the merits of his argument, so I think it makes an appropriate starting point into a discussion on the health of the Seattle market:

It’s the hot topic at most cocktail parties. Is Seattle going to experience a bubble and burst? The short answer is no…..the long answer follows:

We experienced a busy market with a shortage of supply and increasing demand resulting in four or five offers and short “Days On Market

Short-term Rentals in Seattle

When moving to Seattle with the intent to buy a home, don’t overlook the option to do a temporary rental. The main benefit of a short-term lease is that it buys you time so that you can check out the neighborhoods, and ensure that you don’t make a hasty home purchase decision. The main disadvantage is that short-term leases is that you pay for the privilege of being able to break out of a lease quickly.

Short-term Rentals
In the past, I’ve worked with Dale Hicklin of Short-term Suites and he does a decent job of providing for people looking to move to Seattle. His places won’t shock you in their upkeep (expect thrift and pawn-shop “finds” for your appliances), but on the plus side, he tends to fix things fast and he’s always only a phone call away. Another great option is to browse the sublet and temporary rentals on craigslist. The Stranger (an excellent local weekly magazine) lists a bunch of rentals, but I doubt that there are going to be a lot (if any) short-term rentals in a given week. Finally, you can always try the local newspaper listings, but I would use those as a last resort.

How can you learn about the neighborhoods in Seattle?
One way is to find an agent who knows all the areas in Seattle and won’t pigeonhole you into the neighborhood they know best. Also, I highly recommend wondering over to the “housing” forum on craigslist. (Have you noticed that I like craigslist? I find the community at craigslist extremely helpful!). As always, feel free to contact me and I’d be happy to give you a local’s perspective on Seattle!