Morris Massre's Blog

Thoughts on South Florida Realty and the Planet in General

Understanding Florida’s Landlord/Tenant Act

This nifty little disclosure has literally gone from two pages to eleven overnight.  What once was used simply to protect the tenant from losing his or her security deposit has now gone to protecting both sides.  Afterall, landlords seemed to be getting the short end of the stick on this one time and again, espcially with all of the tenants refusing to pay rent in the event of foreclosure, short sale, or even a simple modification. 

I have since come to find out that a rental agreement between a landlord and tenant and an agreement between landlord and bank are two different things and should be treated as such.  Just because a landlord may not be making his or her mortgage payments does not relieve you of your duty to pay rent as stated in your lease.  It is your duty or your agent’s to check on the property’s status beforehand.  Why get yourself into something that is already in trouble?

But it gets better.  Included in the Act are both sides obligation to maintain the unit, the landlord’s access to the unit, termination of an agreement, holding over, prohibited practices, and my favorite, choice of remedies upon breach or early termination by tenant.  This last one has been ignored forever, but now a landlord can charge for liquidated damages for either in the amount of two month’s rent. 

Is that fair?  Absolutely.  My advice to all tenants now is to read every page of this act before signing a lease in the state.  It is so much more detailed and goes beyond the scope of a simple security deposit.  That is provided your agent gives you one.  Be sure and always ask for the landlord/tenant act before signing a lease in Florida, whether it’s from an agent or a by owner.

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Once Upon A Real Estate Time…

I ruled the rental world of South Florida with an iron fist.  When times were good, nobody wanted to touch rentals or property management.  It was beneath them.  And I thrived because I was the Wal-Mart of real estate rentals. I went where nobody else wanted to go.  And it paid off.  But as soon as the market tanked everyone was now a rental specialist.  Now these realtors were dipping into my territory and profits and there was really nothing I could do about it except keep giving out my superior service and keeping my clients informed that I was in it for the long haul and would never abandon them.

And four years into this recession from hell I am still here plugging along and my clients appreciate it.  They know that if I can hang in there and still at least help them through all of this then there is hope for us all.  The only thing that can set you apart as an outstanding realtor is service, especially now.  And yes, it is a cliche for most, but this is a philosophy I have always adhered to, not something that I came up with now because there are no other tools.  My clients speak for themselves and as professionals you too should strive to keep your clients happy and informed by always going the extra mile for them.  It always pays off in the long run.

However, it doens’t always work that way.  I thrive on referrals and the only way to get them is to impress your clients with superior service.  Others don’t so much.  This is why I make it a point to insist that my potential clients read my resume, call my references, and read my blogs.  How else are you going to know anything about your agent?  Just because an agent has a big, fancy ad in the paper or glossy magazine does not make them a specialist.  Do your homework.  The hiring of an agent, including one that specializes in rentals and property management, is just as important as a sale, and therefore, should be interviewed thoroughly.

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If it’s too good to be true, don’t do it

Homeowners facing foreclosure are prime targets for scam artists. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission identified 71 companies running suspicious foreclosure rescue ads, and the Better Business Bureau counts foreclosure rescue rip-offs among its top 10 scams. Understanding how these scams work can help you avoid becoming a victim.

The variations are seemingly endless, but one popular foreclosure scam involves a representative of a so-called foreclosure rescue company promising to negotiate a deal with your lender. The rep, vowing to take care of everything, will instruct you not to contact your lender, lawyer, or credit counselor during the supposed negotiations. The more brazen ones will even tell you to pay your mortgage directly to them.

Once you pay an upfront fee or hand over a few months’ worth of mortgage payments, the scam artist will disappear. You’ll be left with an emptier wallet and a mortgage that’s in even deeper trouble because no deal was cut and no payments were made on your behalf. According to John Riggins, chief executive of the Fort Worth, Texas, office of the Better Business Bureau, upfront fees can range from $500 to $5,000.

Rip-offs come in many forms

A bankruptcy foreclosure scam can involve a promise to fend off foreclosure in exchange for an upfront fee. Instead of getting you legitimate relief, the fraudster will pocket the fee and secretly file a bankruptcy case in your name. The scam may seem to work initially, because a bankruptcy filing will stop foreclosure proceedings temporarily, but they’ll resume. Compounding your problems, a bankruptcy can mar your credit report for 10 years.

Another common scam, called the bait-and-switch, results in a scam artist taking ownership of your home. You sign documents supposedly for a new loan that will make your mortgage current. What’s really happening is you’re signing over the deed of your house. In this scenario you would still owe on your mortgage but no longer own the home.

In a rent-to-own scheme, you’re told to surrender a home’s deed as part of a deal that lets you stay put as a renter. The scam artist, perhaps claiming to be able to refinance at a better rate with you off the title, promises to sell the house back to you in the future. However, terms of the deal may make it all but impossible for you to repurchase the home, or the scammer may get you evicted by raising the rent beyond your means. Either way, you end up losing the home while remaining on the hook for the unpaid mortgage.

Look out for red flags

Being aware of the warnings signs can protect you from foreclosure rescue scams. Red flags (http://www.loanscamalert.org/things-you-should-know.aspx) include:

·Demands for high upfront fees.

·Guarantees to stop a foreclosure.

·Instructions to make mortgage payments to someone other than your lender.

•Pressure to sign over a deed.

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Landlord/Tenant Responsibilities

Anyone out there acting as a realtor or those practicing leasing on their own should know this;  tenants will always try to get away with as much as possible on a lease agreement simply because they either do not trust the landlord or just want control.  One of my favorites is when a tenant will want a clause written in a lease where they have the ability to repair anything that breaks down and bill it to the landlord. 

This is taboo as far as I am concerned.  It pretty much leads to the tenant simply calling anyone they wish to in the phonebook without a care as to how much it’s going to cost.  Most landlords, at least the experienced ones, always have someone that they work with that won’t rape and pillage them for a repair.  That is why this should never be allowed by a tenant. 

On the other hand, if you have a deadbeat landlord that never repairs anything, that’s another story.  But how is one to know that?  That is where your agent comes in.  If I had a landlord that I knew was a deadbeat I would do everything in my power to give the tenant the authority to make the repairs responsibly.  Other than that, your next best bet would be to hire a property manager.  As one myself, I have a handful of vendors that I specifically use for these purposes and because of my constant stream of business I get preferential treatment and prices.  Always look for  these types of clauses in the lease or agreement.

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This Realtor Likes Velma Hart

I was astonished today when I turned on the news and watched this woman finally stand up to the President in disgust.  Her comments were clear, well thought out, and to the point.  How refreshing.  Finally, instead of praising and kissing his behind someone has the guts to confront the President and ask him point blank what he is doing about the current state of the economy.  What surprised me even more was the way in which she delivered her questioning and lecturing.  Not a hint of disrespect, but more like a parent expressing her disappoint in her child.  She did not fumble her words in the least.  Nothing could be more disconcerting to a man in this position of power.  How humbling it must have been.  Maybe now he’ll get the message.  If you haen’t seen my new hero yet, take a minute to view this Youtube vido link.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnMMo8lVG5M

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Short Sale Madness

I think so. These days just about everyone is processing a short sale for little to no money at all. But, like my Grandpa always said, cheap is expensive. And that applies in this case too. Even if you have to shell out a few dollars to get a short sale started, is it not worth the peace of mind knowing that you are protected by an informed and licensed individual, rather than someone simply setting up shop? I only say this because I recently lost a listing when my competition offered the attorney side for free through their title company. It just seems to me that when you jump in this pile with the others you eventually end up at the bottom of the short sale stack, which eventually leads to no closing at all. When it comes to protecting the integrity of your credit and property I always recommend hiring a qualified real estate attorney. He/she will take all the harassing calls, slow down the foreclosure process, negotiate the best deal for you, and work in all of the closing costs so that you have no out of pocket expenses. My competition also stated that she knew someone at the bank whom she had an “in” with. That was probably going way too far because I don’t believe anyone has an “in.” What makes you so special that the bank is going to give you priority over the millions of others who are in mortgage trouble? Nothing. As I always say in situations like this, take a ticket and stand in line. The moral of this story? Be careful who you hire to list and represent you in a short sale transaction. Not everyone is built for doing it and there are a lot of agents and processors who will simply tell you everything you want to hear. Check them out thorougly and even go so far as to check references from prior or current customers. If an agent or lawyer is not willing to give these to you they probably are not for real. In this case in particular, I would have asked to speak to the “friend” at the bank personally.

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Florida real estate service at a premium

When your real estate services are free..

it’s very easy for a buyer to take your efforts as a realtor for granted & not value your time or efforts.  But I guarantee you that if the industry started charging by the hour for their services if a buyer abandoned ship attitudes would change drastically.  In this day and age with all of the internet shopping it’s easy for someone to drop you if something interesting comes along.  So, how do you keep those you are working with loyal?  Not as easy as it used to be for certain, but I have found that if you provide them with good, caring service & stay communicative at all times you have a better shot.

I am feeling the pinch as much as anyone else when it comes to this, but four years plus into this recession and I’m still in the office plugging away and on the street conducting open houses.  You cannot lose interest or the will to move on to new things.  The industry has changed so much since I entered in 1997 that whatever methods I was using just five years ago are now out the window.  The world of real estate has become very impersonal and almost soley reliant on the web that buyers have come to the conclusion that maybe they don’t need us any more.  Why not use the social media to your advantage by embracing the new era of social media and topping it off with a heaping tablespoon of first class service?

I like to tell my customers that you can always go to Home Depot for a special screw that might fit your hurricane shutters because it is supposedly cheaper, but in the end you spend an hour looking for it , finding a parking space, waiting in line to pay for it, and probably coming back because you got the wrong one.  Or, you can go to the local Ace hardware store, pay a little more, but get out of there from park to finish in minutes because a helpful and informative salesman guided you from the instant you walked through the door.  I am the Ace guy and that is what you all have to be.  Volume sales worked in the heydey.  Who cared if the customer came back or not.  There was always another waiting around the corner.  If that is your attitude today you are in for a rude awakening.  Gain your customer loyalty by being a caring friend and going the extra mile and your chances of keeping them will improve, sending them an email with a listing attached and your’re probably going to lose them.

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