Property Taxes 101

Property Tax 101

If you’re a new landlord, you might feel overwhelmed at the idea of filing your taxes this year. It’s no longer as simple as just turning in a W2! An organized system of records and receipts is now going to be your best friend. If looking at a Schedule E form is giving you a headache, a tax professional can walk you through the process. Before you go file though, there’s a few things you need to know…

  1. What Counts As Income

You probably know to include the rent you receive for the year as income. But have you considered how to treat advance rent and security deposits? An example of advance rent that you need to include would be if a tenant signs a multi-year lease that requires it. So if they pay an installment for 2016 and also their last year, 2018, BOTH count as 2016 income. The consideration for security deposits is that you do not need to count it if you plan on returning it to the tenant.

  1. Deductions You Can Make

It’s not just repairs and supplies that can count as expenses deductible from your return. Keep great records throughout the year, and you’ll thank yourself. Cleaning, travelling, and even advertising are all fair game if they are “deemed appropriate” as a necessary expense for running your business. However, improvements are not deductible. The full list is available on Form 1040, Schedule E.

  1. When there’s Depreciation

Depreciation can be a complicated concept. The process begins when the property is officially placed “in service for the production of income”, which means it does not need to have a tenant to begin depreciating. The process ends when the property is either retired from use or you have recovered all the costs associated with it. Landscaping is not usually tied to depreciation, but it might be under certain circumstances

  1. How You’ve Been Using The Property

If you’re new to property ownership, you might not realize you need to keep track of personal use days. Even if the rental property is in service most of the time, you still have to report any days you used it for something else. If you are in business with a spouse, you will count usage as a qualified joint venture.

  1. Who Needs a 1099

A good rule of thumb for 1099s is that ANYONE who receives more than $600 dollars in relation tomanaging the property needs a 1099 MISC Form, postmarked by January 31. For you as a property owner, this means you’ll probably be providing this form to people who maintain the upkeep of your property – any repair men, plumbers, carpenters, etc. who aren’t a part of a corporation.

All of the above information is available for review on You can also download the necessary forms and even speak to an interactive tax assistant within the website! But don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional. Over time you’ll find a record keeping schedule that works for you, and tax season will feel less like fighting through a mound of papers and more like a simple check of a box.

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How to Attract Families to Your Rental Property

How to Attract Families to Your Rental Property

Not every landlord wants to rent their property to young people who are just starting out in their career or in life. For many landlords, the best tenant is a family of 4-5 people. Why is this? Families usually are a bit older, further along in their careers and earn a higher, steadier income. Since they have children, families usually want to develop roots and are less likely to pick up and move somewhere else. If your ideal tenant is a family, there are specific things you can do to attract families to your rental property.

Proximity to Schools

Parents always want the best education for their children, so close proximity to good schools is high on the list of features families look for. If your rental property is located within highly rated school boundaries, this will definitely appeal to parents. A good school system might mean that parents stay in the area while their children complete school, since moving them away would be difficult. List any positive data, like rankings or test scores, when you’re marketing the property. You could also include a list of schools in your information packet.

Neighborhood Amenities

As you’re marketing your property, highlight what the neighborhood has to offer families. They may be interested in nearby parks, pools, public libraries and so on. Also be sure to mention convenient, family-friendly shopping and dining locations to further convince a family to choose your property. Include location and contact information that families will care about. This includes information about the local fire and police departments, music lessons, sports teams, gyms and other child-friendly venues.

Appropriate Space

A family’s spatial needs are much different than those of millennials or seniors. They’ll be looking for slightly larger rooms, more bedrooms and effective storage space. You obviously can’t change the number of rooms in your rental property, but you can turn other rooms into bedrooms. Try and maximize storage with closet organizers, built-in bookcases or a backyard shed. Families also want at least two bathrooms, so try and maximize these spaces as well. Make sure a laundry room or closet is available, as these are extremely essential to families.

Features for Kids

Wear and tear is unavoidable when you have children, so parents need properties that cater to the needs of their kids. Kid-friendly features include tile or laminate floors that clean easily, strong door stoppers and durable paint with a satin finish. You could consider installing an outdoor toy in the backyard, or highlight family-friendly features like a swimming pool if your property is part of a multi-unit complex.

Safety and Security

Parents want their kids to live in a safe area. If your rental property is in a low-crime area, this is a major bonus. Emphasize the local neighborhood watch program and other community safety events. Fenced backyards are important for families with young children, along with safety latches on toilets, ovens and windows.

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5 Smart Property Renovations

5 Smart Property Renovations

So you’ve found yourself with a property vacant again– and it’s a disaster. There’s a strange smell, stains on the carpet and walls, and some of the appliances aren’t even working. It might feel tempting to just scrap everything and start over to avoid tearing your hair out. But this isn’t likely to get you the best return on your investment.

Before you take a sledgehammer to the wall, make sure you know what you expect to make back on the property. And while every situation is going to be unique, keep in mind the 5 smartest renovation choices:

  1. HouseCurb Appeal

No one is going to want to come inside your property if the outside isn’t appealing. If you have a yard, make sure it’s landscaped and free of trash. Make sure the grass is routinely mowed and even consider planting a few flowers. It also doesn’t hurt to invest in a nice mailbox, where the street address is easy to identify if someone is trying to look it up.


  1. Update the Kitchen

Your tenants are going to have to spend everyday cooking food in the kitchen. The last thing they want is to prepare food in a space that isn’t desirable, or even worse, isn’t functional.  Granite countertops is an expensive choice, but will stand the test of time.  If you don’t want to splurge, do some research on what trends are popular in your area and attempt to emulate them. For appliances, try to make choices that will lower costs in the future – such as a dishwasher with stainless interior.


  1. Living room with fireplaceCheck the floors

Especially if you are in between tenants, the area that has likely taken the most “wear and tear” is the floor. If you’re still using carpet, consider replacing it to hardwood, or at least a nice looking laminate value tile. You’ll thank yourself later when you save money with a quick wash instead of spending valuable time and money getting out carpet stains. While it may feel like a big expense up front, eventually you will see the return on this investment by reduced turn over cost. If it’s not a move you can afford to make, at least make sure the carpet is professionally cleaned and consider adding rugs to spruce up the area and protect it.


  1. Look at paint

New coats of paint might just be the cheapest renovation you can do that will immediately make a difference. Try to stay away from trendy colors that will quickly go out of style. While you might see an initial spike of interest, the rate on investment is going to fade when you have to replace it once the trend is over. Instead, consider bright but neutral colors that stand the test of time. And try to paint the whole unit the same color – ideally at the same time. This is more cost effective and allows easier accountability when your tenant moves out. 

  1. bathroom-1336164_1920Simple Bathroom Upgrades

Even if there isn’t the budget to replace the shower or bathtub, take a look at the smaller pieces of the bathroom you might be able to update. A new shower head or toilet seat is not going to be an expensive purchase. But if you pick a nice one with different settings that’s in good condition, it’s going to be a touch that makes your bathroom like new. When it comes to the sink, take a look at the faucets. Replacing these will give it a fresh feel, even if the hardware is the same. Recaulking will also create this effect.


Despite these renovation guidelines, you may still feel like you don’t know where to start. If there are more serious issues with the property such as a broken window or damaged ceilings – of course this will take up a major part of your budget. So you have to make the tough choices on which renovations to invest in. If you are still unsure, consider contacting a property manager. An expert will be able to asses your specific situation – and turn your property from a disaster to a delight.


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