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by ARLnow.com Sponsor August 2, 2017 at 2:00 pm 0

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This biweekly sponsored column is written by the experts at Gordon James Realty, a local property management firm that specializes in residential real estate, commercial real estate and homeowner associations. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

One of the biggest questions any landlord faces is how much to rent a property for. Even if you’ve been renting property for years, every time a unit becomes vacant you’ll be faced with the same question. This is especially tricky if you’ve had a long-term tenant and would like to find someone who’s willing to stay for several years.

The Problem With Craigslist

Many landlords start by going to Craigslist to check out similar properties and get an idea of what they can charge. While this seems like a logical place to start, there are two distinct problems inherent with this method.

Craigslist Is Full of Scams

The average rental price is heavily skewed because of the amount of fraudulent rental listings. It’s a common practice for scammers to scrape information from other websites listing houses for sale and repost them on Craigslist as rentals at ridiculously low prices.

This hurts everyone. Landlords using this method to determine their prices may seriously undervalue their rates because of what they find.

Rents Are No Indication of What People Are Actually Paying

Just because someone is asking $2,500 a month for their newly renovated Ballston condo doesn’t mean they’re actually getting that much. Landlords often base their rates on what they need to get instead of what the going market rates are.

Why Zillow Is a No-Go

Another popular method for landlords is to use the Rent Zestimate feature on Zillow. These estimates use a proprietary method for determining fair market rents based on public data, amenities and neighborhood. They provide both a low and high rent amount based on what they find.

The problem with Zillow is that it has no human going behind it and checking the data. You could have the worst house in a nice neighborhood and the rent prices would show as much higher. It’s also rife with scams, which can skew rent prices even further.

It’s common knowledge that Zillow prices are not accurate. It would be surprising that their rental rates would be any different.

What Should I Do Instead?

You may be feeling confused about how to accurately price your rental. But there are legitimate ways to come up with an accurate rate. SmartAsset recommends charging between 0.8 to 1.1 percent of your home’s value.

If your unit is worth less than $100,000 (highly unlikely in Arlington), charge on the high end. But if it’s worth $350,000 or more, charge on the low end to attract more tenants.

Here are a couple of resources to help you research the Arlington rental market.

RentJungle

Keep in mind RentJungle focuses on apartments, which generally have more amenities than single-family homes. But you’ll get a good baseline for how much people are paying, and if you have a condo with good amenities, prices are comparable.

Neighborhood Scout

In addition to rental data, Neighborhood Scout gives a complete picture of the area, including how old most homes are and the average selling price. This gives a better indication of how your rental property stacks up against others.

Contact a Property Management Company

Many landlords are skeptical about paying someone to manage their rental, but property managers have a vast network of resources and neighborhood knowledge that save you money in the long run. In addition to helping you determine the right price for your rental, they can manage the screening process and make sure your property is maintained to meet all local regulations.

Don’t Skimp on This Important Step

Pricing your property appropriately is one of the most important things you can do to attract long-term tenants that will not only pay the bill, but take care of the place as well. Take your time and do your homework to insure you’re charging appropriately. Your bottom line depends on it.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor July 5, 2017 at 1:20 pm 0

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This biweekly sponsored column is written by the experts at Gordon James Realty, a local property management firm that specializes in residential real estate, commercial real estate and homeowner associations. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

Storage space in the D.C. market is very important. Think about it: you may have heard that D.C.’s population is increasing by approximately 1,000 per month. That’s a true popular statistic. So, where are these people putting all their stuff?

It’s no secret that D.C. has less space than other places that people may be moving from. We will go into the needs of warehousing, and how to increase storage availability across your properties.

One of the worst places to run out of storage space is your bathroom. It’s easy to underestimate bathroom storage needs. I mean, how much room could a few bottles, toilet paper rolls and some towels take up?

Here are a few clever ideas to expand your bathroom space:

  • Don’t underestimate corners: Check out those tiny nooks and crannies. There can be a lot of potential in these spaces. Try installing a ledge or shelf above the toilet or tuck a little stool under the sink to reach shelves that you can install a little higher to save space
  • Create ledges: A window ledge is the perfect place to stock your supplies and it also has that cool DIY vibe to it
  • Get organized with a vanity tray: The amount of clutter in your bathroom could be due to poor use of space. If you have products and junk everywhere, a vanity tray can help to rein them in

Ladies – is your makeup taking over? Use dollar store bins to divide your drawers into smaller sections for a designated type of makeup. This keeps everything organized and it’s inexpensive. It is also satisfying to see all your makeup displayed so neatly.

Use command hooks to hang bins on the inside of your cabinet doors. An organizer that fits over the door and hangs down is another simple solution. Think outside the box and try a spice rack – pull-out style to be exact. It’s the perfect size to hold all your tubes, creams, containers and bottles.

Here are a couple more ideas for carving out storage space in your rentals:

  • Buy extra jars for the kitchen for spatulas, knives, herbs, spices and anything else you can name
  • Attach shower curtain rings to hangers in your closet and use them to hang things like scarves, necklaces and belts. This way, you are hanging a bunch of stuff on just one hanger
  • Get furniture that is multi-purpose. For example, an ottoman that opens up and also acts as a storage cube
  • Use ice cube trays to organize earrings, rings and other small jewelry.
  • The space under your bed can be great for storage. Buy under-the-bed boxes to store sheets, shoes, towels, books, and more.
  • If you have the wall space, mount your TV on the wall. You’ll free up floor space for more storage. You can then put a shelf or cabinet under the TV for game, movie, blanket, etc. storage.
  • Cover cardboard boxes in burlap or pretty wrapping paper for stylish storage bins that you can leave out in the open.

Sometimes, landlords provide separate storage units within the building, but if not, many people turn to storage units and warehousing. Here are some tips for packing away seasonal items safely and retrieving them easily when the time comes.

Now that we have covered storage in the rentals, let’s talk warehousing. Living in a rental has many advantages, but storage is usually not one of them.

Why is warehousing in such high demand? Well, because they are so multi-functional. Go to some hip borough in New York City or some cool neighborhood in San Francisco and you’ll find tons of old warehouses turned restaurant, bar or shop. Warehouses also come in handy when it comes to avoiding issues with inventory management and operations.

Just remember, PHTEOL: Pack, Hang, Take inventory, Elevate, Organize, Label. These are great tips to share with people living in your properties.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor June 21, 2017 at 2:30 pm 0

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This biweekly sponsored column is written by the experts at Gordon James Realty, a local property management firm that specializes in residential real estate, commercial real estate and homeowner associations. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

Renting property in the D.C. area can be very lucrative when done properly. Unfortunately, many first-time landlords find themselves in time-consuming and expensive situations because they never took the time to learn how to choose the right tenants.

We’ve combined our decades of property management experience to give you the best advice on how to rent your property with the least amount of headaches and highest amount of profit possible.

Assemble Your Team

Even if you plan on managing your own property instead of hiring someone, you’ll need an attorney to help you draft applications, leases and file evictions.

In addition to an attorney, you occasionally will need to hire one or all of the following people to assist you with various tasks:

  • Financial professional
  • Property manager or real estate agent
  • Handyman
  • Contractors

Prepare The Property

Once you’ve got your team in place, it’s time to get your property ready to rent. Remember that tenants are less likely to take care of a home than an owner is, so be mindful of this when considering upgrades and improvements.

At a minimum, the home should be free of major structural issues and all systems including plumbing, HVAC and electrical should be working.

Advertise Your Property

The D.C. real estate market has a variety of print and online advertising mediums available for landlords to attract prospective tenants.

Craigslist is among the most popular because of its ease of use and low prices. But it is a breeding ground for scams of all types. Be wary of poorly-written messages from prospective tenants stating they are out of the area and will send you money if you send the keys.

The Rentals section of The Washington Post is more expensive, but attracts more serious prospects. Because it is a regional publication, you’re less likely to get spammy messages from fake tenants.

Other options include large national websites like Trulia and Realtor.com, though these may not produce as many good leads.

Screen Tenants Carefully

Before you even agree to meet a prospect in person, you should have a pre-screening process in place to avoid wasting time on tenants who cannot afford what you have to offer. This is especially true in the D.C. market because housing costs are extremely high compared to the median income of most people in the area.

You cannot assume tenants will always be truthful about their financial situation and other details of their lives. It’s critical that you require a signed application and credit history once you’ve met and they would like to live in your rental.

Even if cashflow is an issue, you cannot move in the first person who comes along with cash in hand to rent your property. The screening process is the most important part of the rental process.

If you perform your due diligence and find the right tenants for your property, things go a lot more smoothly down the road.

Have a Contingency Plan in Place

Even if you’ve done a great job preparing your property and selecting the right tenants, nothing is perfect. Problems will happen.

If you prepare yourself for these problems ahead of time, you’re likely to have less issues keeping your tenants happy and your properties rented.

No matter how prepared you are mentally and financially, there will be curve balls thrown your way at the worst possible time.

Adopt a Long-Term Mentality

Becoming a landlord in the D.C. area is not for those looking to make big money in the short-term. In fact, because of the high cost of real estate in the area, you’re likely not going to make much money in the first couple of years, especially if you just bought the property.

You must look at this as a way to build long-term wealth. When done properly, your profits will steadily rise as you build equity in the property and incrementally increase the rent.

Being a landlord is hard work. If you find yourself constantly struggling to handle your growing portfolio of rental properties, it may be time to hire a property manager. They’ll save you time, money, and the headache associated with self-management.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor June 7, 2017 at 2:00 pm 0

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This biweekly sponsored column is written by the experts at Gordon James Realty, a local property management firm that specializes in residential real estate, commercial real estate and homeowner associations. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

Good office space isn’t hard to find, if you know what to look for. The D.C. real estate market is extremely competitive, which puts tenants at an advantage because landlords will be more willing to work with you to meet your needs.

Check out the following factors to consider when looking to rent office space in the D.C. area.

Lease Terms

Unlike residential leases, commercial tenants are allowed to work with landlords to come up with a lease structure that works for them. If you’re looking to open a retail business, you may want to do some renovation, so it’s critical to have a lease that allows you to do that. Be aware of the different types of commercial leases and have a lawyer review the lease with you before signing.

Accessibility

D.C. has some of the worst traffic in the country. Is your space in a heavily congested area? If so, is it Metro accessible? If customers and employees cannot easily get to your location, you’ll find yourself in an empty office. It may be worth the higher rent to find an office space that is convenient to the Metro and offers off-street parking.

Urban vs. Suburban

Your business will likely work in both urban and suburban areas, but there are advantages and disadvantages to each. Urban areas have more foot traffic and higher-income clientele, but rents are way more expensive than the suburbs.

Foot Traffic

Retail businesses will want a substantial amount of passersby in order to attract as many customers as possible. If considering space in a shopping center, check out the anchor stores and ask other tenants how much business they do just from people walking by.

Convenience

Is your office easy to find? What about amenities? Many mixed use office-spaces include little extras that attract employees such as on-site daycare, restaurants and even dry cleaners. Choose a space that is convenient for yourself and employees.

Walkability

While the city is extremely walkable, there are some suburban areas that are not. This may not be an important factor for your business but if it is, take into account the lay of the land and make sure that it is safe for people traveling by foot.

With the amount of choices available, finding an office space can be overwhelming. If you’re unsure of what’s best for your business, contact the commercial property experts at Gordon James Realty. We’d be happy to help.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor May 24, 2017 at 2:10 pm 0

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This biweekly sponsored column is written by the experts at Gordon James Realty, a local property management firm that specializes in residential real estate, commercial real estate and homeowner associations. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

Leasing commercial real estate is very different than residential leasing. In an ultra-competitive market like DC, it’s important to understand the types of leases available and use the one that makes the most sense for your tenant.

Businesses have very different needs, so there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for every business tenant. Businesses with higher seasonal income cannot afford to pay high rents when things are slow. Manufacturing businesses and auto shops will use a substantial amount of utilities and require more building maintenance than retail tenants.

Traditional business such as consultants and corporations will want a fixed rent so they can budget accordingly.

We’ve listed the four types of leases below. Choose the one that works best for your situation.

Percentage Lease

Retail businesses who have higher seasonal sales are an excellent candidate for percentage leases. These tenants pay a monthly base rent plus a percentage of the business’ revenue.

Full-Service or Gross Lease

Full-service leases include all operating expenses and utilities included in the monthly rate payment. They also include an escalation clause that allows an increase in rent when expenses increase. If expenses are higher than estimated during any given month, these leases usually include language that allow the tenants to receive a bill for these expenses.

Triple Net Lease

The opposite of a full-service lease is the triple net lease. Landlords charge a base rent, and then bill for operating expenses. Expense categories include utilities, maintenance, property insurance and management. These leases are very common in free-standing properties and offices with multiple tenants.

Modified Gross

A modified gross lease is a full-service lease that allows the landlord to bill for additional expenses such as higher than average utility bills.

Managing commercial real estate is difficult. If you find yourself constantly struggling to handle your growing portfolio of commercial properties, it may be time to hire a property manager. They’ll save you time, money, and the headaches associated with dealing with commercial tenants and the complicated regulations of the DC real estate market.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor May 10, 2017 at 2:00 pm 0

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This biweekly sponsored column is written by the experts at Gordon James Realty, a local property management firm that specializes in residential real estate, commercial real estate and homeowner associations. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

There’s no better time to live in Washington, D.C. than the spring. While visitors from all over the world flock to see the “City in Bloom” with 3,000 cherry trees in blossom, residents of the city know that there is much more to life in the capital. From Columbia Heights to NoMa, Washington, D.C. is filled with parks, green spaces and other ways to enjoy the outdoors and warmer weather. Professional sports, festivals, al fresco dining options and activities taking place throughout the city make D.C. a great place to live. Take a look at some of the best reasons to love the District in spring and summer:

  1. Open Air Dining

As the weather warms up, the restaurants and bars in D.C. open their doors to let in the sun. Patios become filled with tables and umbrellas; rooftop bars offer great places to enjoy a view of the city with a decadent cocktail or refreshing beer. Over in Columbia Heights, many apartments and buildings are within walking distance to some of the city’s best ethnic food restaurants. Nominated as one of Bon Appetit’s 50 Best Restaurants in America, Thip Khao Laotian cuisine offers air conditioned indoor dining and a spacious patio. Colorful El Chucho has a small rooftop space perfect for enjoying happy hour.

Food trucks are taking over the nation, including the capital. Lucky for D.C. dwellers, spring marks the opening of Truckeroo, a monthly gathering of food trucks that starts having events in April. Held at the Fairgrounds, Truckeroo features food trucks from D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Truckeroo draws families and foodies from all over the region looking for nearby entertainment, games and more.

  1. Festivals and Events

Festival season starts in the spring. Amongst the biggest spring festivals in the city is the world-famous National Cherry Blossom in April. Visitors from all over the world looking to see the blossoms, parades, cultural programs and festivities come to attend the three-day long festival. Lucky locals have the opportunity to enjoy the blossoms for as long as they linger on the trees.

Outdoor movies are just around the corner. Movies on the Green take place in neighborhood parks throughout D.C., Virginia and Maryland. Families and neighbors gather in parks around the city to watch classic family favorites on the big screen while picnicking and making new friends. Georgetown, Chinatown, Woodley Park and numerous other neighborhoods have all held outdoor screenings in the past. The outdoor event is something which residents look forward to each year when the weather warms up.

  1. Sports and Activities

The Washington Nationals are back in season. Throughout the year, proud fans wave flags from their homes and balconies and wear team apparel. Once spring rolls around, fans will be heading to the stadium to enjoy the game in the outdoors. Between games, the stadium hosts events and festivals, so even non-sports lovers get in on the action.

You don’t have to be a pro baseball fan to enjoy sports in D.C. With spring, parks begin to fill up with impromptu soccer games and other sports, while bikers take to the streets.

  1. Hiking

Rock Creek Park may be the most well known spot for hiking in D.C., but other neighborhoods have their share of trails as well. Suburban spots in Maryland and Virginia, including Great Falls and Catoctin Mountain Park are just a couple of favorite places for locals to get out of the city and into nature. Many spots are less than an hour away and make for a great day trip or weekend getaway without having to go too far from home.

  1. Farmer’s Markets

The city offers easily accessible farmer’s markets all over, from Columbia Heights to Georgetown. Often held on weekends in parks and parking lots, farmer’s markets make it easy to get your fruits and vegetables in a city that enjoys healthy eating options. Bring your own bag and try new things from farms in nearby Maryland and Virginia. Many farmer’s markets also offer live music and pre-made food so that you can get the ambience of a country fair without leaving your neighborhood.

Gordon James Realty is available to make sure everything is working well with your rental to allow you to enjoy the good weather.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor April 26, 2017 at 2:30 pm 0

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This biweekly sponsored column is written by the experts at Gordon James Realty, a local property management firm that specializes in residential real estate, commercial real estate and homeowner associations. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

Mortgage rates. Sound boring, right? They’re actually pretty fascinating — especially if you are in the market for a new home. Even if you don’t think so, you better get used to them because it’s something that will come up a lot in the journey to home buying — and even sometimes renting.

First of all, if you are trying to educate yourself on mortgage rates, you may be having a hard time just Googling “mortgage rates.” Typically, the results yielded will be from different lenders claiming they have the best rates. If you haven’t figured it out already, there are a lot of ads for mortgages on the web. You’ve probably seen a ton of different rates from a ton of different lenders. But if you’re not actually looking into that right now and just want to learn more about mortgage rates in general, we are here to help.

Wonder how mortgage lenders and banks even come up with interest rates in the first place? Wonder why a lot of mortgage rates are so different? Well, to better understand all of that, you need to fully understand how mortgage rates are determined.

One of the most important aspects to successfully obtaining a mortgage is securing a low interest rate. After all, the lower the rate, the lower the payment each month. The smallest even quarter of a percent of a change could mean thousands of dollars in savings or costs annually. And even more over the entire term of the loan. Keep in mind — mortgage terms often last a very long time.

When you are offered a rate, it will either be a whole number, such as 2 percent, or 2.125 percent, 2.25 percent, 2.375 percent, etc. The next stop after that is 6 percent, then it repeats itself. Get it? For all you math minds, this should not be too tricky to you.

So, how are mortgage rates set? There are many different factors. If you just want to determine whether rates are going to rise or fall, they say that the best indicator is the movement of the 10-year Treasury bond yield. Most mortgages are sold as lasting for 30 years. But the average mortgage is paid off or refinanced within 10. Treasuries are backed by the “full faith and credit” of the United States, so you can feel confident in their determinations.

Mortgage rates can change a lot. They are different all throughout the U.S. Some states have high mortgage rates and some have low ones. In fact, they can even vary by county. For example, in Washington, D.C., mortgage rates may be higher than in Arlington.

This is not because the mortgage lenders are out to get you in D.C. No, it’s because lenders want to increase their business in a certain part of the country, and thus they’ll offer better pricing for lower rates in, for example, Arlington. Or maybe in Seattle or areas of Dallas, Texas.

It can really be a toss up. And for that reason, this is why you must shop around. Don’t go with the first rate or lender you see, unless you think it’s the best deal. You can easily compare mortgage rates online. Then, you can also easily check mortgage rates with your bank and/or credit union.

It all depends on economic activity, unemployment rates, the stock market, home sales, consumer confidence, home loans, loan criteria and much more. To prove this, we are going to take a couple of states from the north, east, south and west and compare mortgage rates. Let’s compare some 30-year and 15-year fixed loans from state to state. Here we go! (Keep in mind, these are always subject to change – and they do!)

  • New York: A 30-year fixed loan rate is 4.07 percent and a 15-year fixed loan rate is 3.26 percent.
  • California: A 30-year fixed loan rate is 4 percent and a 15-year fixed loan rate is 3.18 percent.
  • Florida: A 30-year fixed loan rate is 3.96 percent and a 15-year fixed loan rate is 3.13 percent.
  • Texas: A 30-year fixed loan rate is 3.97 percent and a 15-year fixed loan rate is 3.14 percent.
  • Virginia: A 30-year fixed loan rate is 4.02 percent and a 15-year fixed loan rate is 3.17 percent.
  • New Mexico: A 30-year fixed loan rate is 4.06 percent and a 15-year fixed loan rate is 3.24 percent.
  • South Dakota: A 30-year fixed loan rate is 4.04 percent and a 15-year fixed loan rate is 3.22 percent.
  • Alabama: A 30-year fixed loan rate is 4.10 percent and a 15-year fixed loan rate is 3.26 percent.
  • Oregon: A 30-year fixed loan rate is 4.05 percent and a 15-year fixed loan rate is 3.23 percent.

Want more great blogs on everything property and mortgage-related in the DC and Arlington area? Visit GJR.

Gordon James delivers full-service residential property management for single-family homes, multi-family homes and condo units in Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor April 12, 2017 at 2:30 pm 0

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This biweekly sponsored column is written by the experts at Gordon James Realty, a local property management firm that specializes in residential real estate, commercial real estate and homeowner associations. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

Renters and homeowners, in general, tend to want the same things from their living situations. Whether it be a house, an apartment, a townhouse or a condo, there are the obvious must-haves like safety, space, cleanliness, affordability and a decent location. Then, there are the more specific wants: for example, a fenced in yard for my dog, a garage to shield my racing bikes from the elements, walk-in closets to house my shoe addiction and proximity to my place of work downtown.

However, when you dig deeper based on where people are located throughout the country, people’s wants and needs become even more specific. For example, people in Florida? They want a pool. People in Phoenix, Ariz. need air conditioning. It gets hot there! In fact, some Junes and Julys have seen anywhere from 118 degrees to 122 degrees.

Austin, Texas has a young, fun crowd there and the millennial group of renters and homebuyers want to be near bars, restaurants and music venues. After all, Austinites claim they live in the “music capital of the world.” Boston renters want to make sure their utilities are included. Perhaps because rental rates in Boston are so high (the average one-bedroom apartment in Boston goes for about $1,180/month) and they don’t want to pay even more for things like heat, electricity, water and trash.

As you can see, different people in different places want different things. Now, let’s talk about the Washington, D.C. area. What do people there want? After extensive research and chatting with both D.C. and Arlington residents past, present and future, we came up with this list. Check it out!

  1. Walkability: Washington, D.C. and Arlington are both extremely walkable. Many people are able to walk to work (think Georgetown, Dupont Circle, Eastern Market, etc.) and even if walking isn’t an option, proximity to the Metro and other forms of public transportation is not an issue in the area.
  2. Job: Careers are a main reason why many people move to D.C in the first place. Lots of young people with high hopes and dreams of a career in politics flock to the area like bees to honey. If you want to work for the federal government, then this is the city for you. The U.S. government employs nearly 150,000 people locally. Not into politics? That’s ok! Though you may hear a lot about it during your time here, living in D.C. does not mean you need to become a politician. The area is also home to many other major businesses: private health care, software development, defense contracting, wholesale and manufacturing, tourism, management analysis and more.
  3. Food: Foodies, unite! According to Livability.com, “D.C. is a great city for people who love food. The cuisine is truly international, and there are plenty of chic cafes, hipster bars, farmer’s markets, and celebrity chef-run experiences to please all appetites and budgets.” Throughout interviews, some of the top restaurants mentioned were Thip Khao (3462 14th Street NW), Tail Up Goat (1827 Adams Mill Road), Convivial (801 O Street), Le Diplomate (1601 14th Street NW), Barcelona Wine Bar (1622 14th Street NW) and Bombay Club (815 Connecticut Avenue). Note that D.C restaurants were not the only ones to be mentioned! Here were the top mentioned places to eat in the Arlington area: Bonchon (2209 N. Pershing Drive), Green Pig Bistro (1025 N. Fillmore Street), Kapnos Taverna (4000 Wilson Blvd.) and Lyon Hall (3100 N. Washington Blvd.), among may others.
  4. The area is welcoming and forward-thinking. Washington, D.C., as the nation’s capital, is extremely LGBT-friendly, and many women there say they feel “equal” to men in terms of their careers. Did you know that nearly 15 percent of adults in D.C. identify themselves as a member of the LGBT community? This is nearly three times the national average. Washington, D.C. has the highest percent of recorded same-sex couple households in the whole country, and a booming LGBT presence throughout. On any given weekend, you can see protests, marches and congregations regarding the fairness and equality of the LGBT community and women. In 2012, D.C. was ranked as the top metropolitan area for women’s well-being in 2012. Why? Because women in D.C. earned the most money and were more educated than anywhere else in the country, according to Measure of America. Girl power!
  5. Education: Many people move here to learn. Colleges and universities in the area include: Georgetown University, American University, Howard University, Strayer University and George Mason University.

Thinking about moving to Arlington? Or, maybe you already live there and want to switch up your location. Whatever the reason, check out Gordon James Realty, a company that invests the considerable hours, care and skill required to manage properties and maximize returns, so you can spend your precious time elsewhere – the park with your dog, a weekend getaway with your friends, the library with your study group, etc.

Gordon James delivers full-service residential property management for single-family homes, multi-family homes and condo units in Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor March 29, 2017 at 2:30 pm 0

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This biweekly sponsored column is written by the experts at Gordon James Realty, a local property management firm that specializes in residential real estate, commercial real estate and homeowner associations. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

When planning a move or considering a new place to live, there are a lot of factors that can go into the decision. After all, it’s a big one!

When looking for new apartments and/or homes, you must take into consideration the inspection list of the property, the location, the price, the value, the school districts, the nearby job opportunities, and so much more. What else is important in a home? Amenities! Are you an avid cook who needs to have an updated, state-of-the-art kitchen? Are you a clothes horse who can’t live without walk-in closets? There are a lot of amenities to take into consideration and it’s up to you to decide what you can and can’t live without.

See below for the top-searched amenities in Washington, D.C. and Arlington in 2016.

Arlington

  1. Washer/Dryer In Unit: 19.3 percent
  2. Utilities Included: 11.4 percent
  3. Air Conditioning: 10.4 percent
  4. Patio or Balcony: 6.3 percent
  5. Dishwasher: 5.0 percent
  6. Fitness Center : 4.2 percent
  7. Cable or Satellite: 3.5 percent
  8. Garages: 3.5 percent
  9. Walk-In Closets: 3.4 percent
  10. Short-Term Lease: 3.0 percent
  11. Microwave: 3.0 percent
  12. Public Transportation: 2.6 percent
  13. Pool: 2.5 percent
  14. Furnished Available: 2.4 percent
  15. Wireless Internet Access: 2.2 percent

Washington, D.C.

  1. Utilities Included: 20.4 percent
  2. Washer/Dryer: 17.2 percent
  3. Air Conditioning: 9.4 percent
  4. Patio or Balcony: 5.5 percent
  5. Dishwasher: 4.8 percent
  6. Walk-in Closets: 3.7 percent
  7. Cable or Satellite: 3.1 percent
  8. Fitness Center : 2.8 percent
  9. Microwave: 2.4 percent
  10. Wireless Internet Access: 2.3 percent
  11. Washer/Dryer Hookup: 2.3 percent
  12. Pool: 2.1 percent
  13. Public Transportation : 2.0 percent
  14. Laundry Facility: 1.9 percent
  15. Garages: 1.9 percent

Let’s delve into these coveted amenities a bit, shall we? At first glance, there’s very little difference between what people in D.C. want from their amenities and what people in Arlington want from their amenities. They want utilities included, a washer and dryer, air conditioning (hey, it’s hot there in the summer!), a patio and/or balcony and a dishwasher. All are in the top five, but not necessarily in the exact same order. In fact, the only areas where they differ a bit are:

  • Washer/Dryer Hookup – D.C. inhabitants place this at No. 10 in level of importance (while Arlington did not even put it in their top 12). Makes sense! If you can’t have a washer/dryer in your space, you might as well have the ability to buy your own and hook them up.
  • Laundry Facility – Again with the importance of clean clothes in Washington, D.C! There, it is ranked No. 14 while, in Arlington, it failed to make the list.
  • Short-Term Lease – People in Arlington seem to be more interested in short-term leases as they ranked this amenity as No. 10. Hmm – perhaps people in D.C. are more likely to stay put in one place longer? What do you think?
  • Furnished Available – This ties in closely to short-term leases. Since people are coming and going from the area a lot (think politics, new terms, new parties, etc.), perhaps Arlington is where they live. It’s cheaper and they can sign short-term leases in already furnished apartments to make their moves easier!

Now that you know which amenities are of the utmost importance in D.C. and Arlington, what amenities are most important to you? If you’re looking for more info on what renters want in the area, contact us here.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor March 15, 2017 at 2:30 pm 0

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This biweekly sponsored column is written by the experts at Gordon James Realty, a local property management firm that specializes in residential real estate, commercial real estate and homeowner associations. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

(Updated at 4:20 p.m.) Moving, though not always the most pleasant experience (think packing, lifting, down payments, etc.), is just a part of life and you CAN make it enjoyable! The best part about moving is being introduced to a whole new neighborhood, a whole new group of friends and, therefore, all new experiences. Read on to see how to make the most of your new neighborhood in Arlington.

The first (and most fun and social) thing you should do when you move to a new neighborhood — whether you’re headed to Aurora Highlands, Douglas Park, Ashton Heights, etc. — is to meet your neighbors. Create opportunities for conversation and be the first to say hi. Take your dog for a walk. Don’t have a dog? Go out by yourself and explore. It’s great exercise, a great way to explore Arlington, and an opportunity to meet new people. Here are some other places to meet new neighbors in Arlington:

Interested in working out? Check out Arlington’s Phoenix Fitness or take a barre class at LavaBarre. Like painting? Ask a new neighbor if they’d be interested in checking out The Art Institute of Washington or reserve a cooking class at Pentagon Row to get your chef on!

Another way to get to know your new neighborhood is by joining organizations. Maybe it’s a church – Arlington has Presbyterian, Baptist, Episcopal and more — where you can get to know some people your age in the congregation and learn more about the surrounding area. Maybe it’s a club or a nonprofit group. Whatever you choose, the point is that you’re meeting new faces and finding out more and more about your new environment.

You should also take your calendar into account. Moving somewhere new can be overwhelming and sometimes is a good excuse to stay inside with Netflix, but check out your calendar and plan some things. Make a resolution (maybe it can be your New Year’s Resolution!?) to do one thing every week. Try a new restaurant, check out a new bar or brewery, hit a jogging trail, check out the local YMCA. See below for some great Arlington suggestions!

  • Try the Galaxy Hut, a funky spot for craft beers and video games – what better combination than that?
  • It’s the nation’s capital, so you know there are some awesome landmarks and attractions. Pick one each weekend. You have the Arlington National Cemetery, the Tomb of Unknowns, the Marine Corps War Memorial, Arlington House, and much more.
  • Craving some lo mein or asian fusion food? Head to TNR Cafe in Arlington for some of the best Chinese in the area!
  • Some people say that breweries are a fad. This one in Arlington says no way! Check out New District Brewing near Shirlington for fabulous service and beer.
  • Into sports? Catch the next game at Crystal City Sports Pub.
  • Get some fresh air and sunshine by taking a stroll along the Mount Vernon Trail.
  • Want to get in touch with your Irish roots? Pick up a pint and some yummy apps at O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub — complete with Irish dance and traditional music.
  • Arlington and the surrounding area has some great shopping. Check out the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, the Village at Shirlington and, for foodies, the Arlington Farmer’s Market.
  • Are you a beer connoisseur? Check out World of Beer in the Ballston neighborhood in Arlington. The casual vibe makes you feel right at home but the beer selection is way better.
  • If you’re into music/theater, be sure to stop by the Signature Theatre on Campbell Avenue. It’s a Tony Award-winning nonprofit professional theater company with a mission to produce contemporary musicals and plays, reinvent classic musicals, and reach its community through educational and outreach opportunities.

Think about places you regularly go — and places others regularly go, too. A great place to get out and about in your local neighborhood (not to mention a great place to meet locals) is the grocery store. The cashiers and other shoppers likely live in the neighborhood to which you’ve just moved. Make it a point to flash a friendly smile and look for a community billboard that might advertise neighborhood activities. The same can be said for the gym, the local dry cleaners, etc.

So, now that you have an idea of some great ways to explore your new Arlington neighborhood, get out there and get lost! Walk around, browse surroundings, figure out what is and is not within walking distance. Use a combination of all the above ideas and we guarantee you’ll feel like you’re home in no time.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor March 1, 2017 at 2:30 pm 0

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This biweekly sponsored column is written by the experts at Gordon James Realty, a local property management firm that specializes in residential real estate, commercial real estate and homeowner associations. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

Investing in the D.C. area is always a sure bet. The combination of the country’s most stable economy, transient population and most desired places to be makes it easy to find tenant for your property.

Arlington is a stone’s throw from the District. It boasts a thriving nightlife, lush parks and trails, and great public transportation. People who work in D.C. prefer the lower rents and (somewhat) quieter streets.

Smart investors looking for rental properties that are easy to keep occupied should look into buying property in this area.

While the pros are many, there is a downside. Let’s take a look at why you should and maybe you shouldn’t invest in an Arlington rental property.

Arlington Pros:

Location, Location, Location

The most northern reaches of Arlington allow you to walk to D.C. by crossing one of the many bridges that connect the two. In addition to its proximity to D.C., Arlington is easily accessible via a variety of interstates and major roadways.

Less Expensive Than The City

While Arlington is not cheap, it still beats living in the city. Houses are readily available with off-street parking, both of which are almost impossible to find in the city. A variety of small restaurants allow for frugal dining, while plenty of public parks are available to enjoy for free.

Recreational Activities for Tenants

Clarendon is a millennial hotspot and is teeming with bars, ethnic restaurants, shopping and plenty of things to do. Restaurants, bars and even grocery stores are open late, catering to late night lifestyles. But it’s not just about the nightlife. Tenants will find plenty to satisfy every desire, from clubbing to bike riding to boating.

Superb Public Transportation

In addition to a vast Metrobus system, underground trains provide easy access from as far as Reston to parts of Maryland. During the week, commuter rails travel from Fredericksburg and Baltimore.

Arlington Cons:

Hard to Get Short-Term Return on Investment

If you’re buying a rental property now, even with minimal work it’s likely you’re not going to rent for higher than your mortgage. Investing in rental properties are a long-term wealth building strategy. Rents are high in the area, but probably won’t be high enough to cover your initial investment for some time.

Difficult to Afford

High rents are great for landlords, but terrible for tenants. Even with a well-maintained property in a desirable neighborhood, it may take a lot of due diligence to find the right tenants. It’s not unusual for renters to hold multiple jobs in order to make ends meet.

High Maintenance Costs

If you can’t do the work yourself, you’ll find repairs to be costly. Expect to dish out more money than other areas for contractors and maintenance work.

Multiple Tenant Situations

Are you ready to rent rooms instead of houses? Because rents are so high, you will likely have several tenants renting individual rooms in shared living situations. Even if you advertise an entire house for rent, be prepared to take multiple applications for one group of people.

Short-Term Renters Are Common

Because many workers work on contracts, it’s common for tenants to need less than a year on their lease. Contracts can end without notice, so don’t be surprised if your six-month tenant has to leave a couple of months later.

If you’re looking for a long-term investment in a stable economy, Arlington rental properties are a good option. Though it may take some time to really start making money, if you are flexible enough to accommodate multiple tenants, you’ll find Arlington to be a great place to buy and rent properties.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor February 22, 2017 at 3:30 pm 0

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This biweekly sponsored column is written by the experts at Gordon James Realty, a local property management firm that specializes in residential real estate, commercial real estate and homeowner associations. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

When relocating, one of the first questions you should ask yourself is if you are going to rent or buy. The answer is not always so straightforward.

With a median home value of $530,000, the D.C. real estate market is more expensive than many. That’s why it’s critical to determine what works best for your situation.

If you’re just passing through, renting may be a better option. But if you’re willing to manage property from a distance, buying and living in a home for a short period may be best because you can rent it out later.

Still undecided? Check out this expert advice on when to rent and when to buy.

When Renting a Home Makes More Sense:

You Plan on Relocating

Unlike other areas of the country, D.C. has a very transient population. While it’s true many people stick around for the long term, many are just passing through. Temporary government appointments, military personnel and short-term government contracts all contribute. If you know you’re not going to be around for the long-term, renting is an easier option with less commitment.

Your Income Is Unpredictable

Self-employed professionals and contractors don’t always know what their income will be in the long-term. While contractors can expect a predictable paycheck while on contract, once the term ends you’ll be stuck with a mortgage payment no matter what. If cashflow is an issue, owning a home will make it harder for you to downsize when times get hard.

Retirement is Close

Even if you have a pretty hefty retirement fund, D.C.’s high cost of living can wipe that out quick. If you can buy for cash and still have plenty to live on, then owning may be for you. Otherwise, renting is a better option. The fixed costs (though rents do rise) will make it easy to budget. Renting also provides you with the flexibility to downsize or move into your RV and travel.

Mortgage Rates Are High

The past few years have seen some of the lowest rates for a long time, but lately rates have begun to rise slightly. Because of the high sticker price of Washington homes, try to buy when rates are at a low and rent in the meantime.

Why Buying a Home Is Your Best Bet:

You Want to Start a Family

Some of the top public schools in the country are in the D.C. area, so it makes sense to want to raise a family here. If you’re looking to settle down, the suburbs are an affordable and more spacious alternative to living in the city.

You Plan on Staying Put for 10 Years or More

Even if you’re not starting a family or already have one, buying makes sense if you plan on spending at least a decade in the area. Rents rise every year, but mortgage payments don’t.

Mortgage Rates Are Low

Rock-bottom mortgage rates are a perfect reason to buy a home. Rates have been holding low for quite some time, so it’s best to look as soon as possible.

Rent is Extremely High

High rent is a fact of life in the Nation’s Capital. Since rent tends to increase by a percentage every year, take advantage of fixed mortgages where your payments never change over time.

There’s no one perfect answer for the rent vs. buy question. It all depends on your situation. Take your time to explore your goals and your financial picture before making the decision. If you’re still unsure, a calculator may help you determine what’s right for you.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor February 8, 2017 at 2:30 pm 0

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This biweekly sponsored column is written by the experts at Gordon James Realty, a local property management firm that specializes in residential real estate, commercial real estate and homeowner associations. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

If you’ve ever been in property management, you know that it takes a lot of time, effort, patience and funds to find and retain quality residents. It costs a lot of money to keep turning over units, so it’s a win-win for everyone when residents are happy — they don’t have to move and you don’t have to pay apartment turnover fees.

The team at Gordon James Realty has compiled a list of action items that you may want to consider in the new year in order to keep your residents satisfied:

  • Rent them a place they’ll want to move into and come home to. Make sure you’re handing over the keys to an apartment that’s been thoroughly cleaned with no sign of former tenants. Renters want to move into a clean palette – a place to make completely their own.
  • Educate your renters from the get-go! If they don’t know the rules, then they aren’t able to follow them. Upon move-in, give them a run-down via the lease, an email, a flyer, and word-of-mouth. Be sure to include things like noise restrictions, pet policies, parking policies, trash day, etc.
  • Send them a welcome letter. Everyone wants to feel welcomed! Especially if they are first-time renters or new to the area. Let them know that you’re glad to have them here and remind them of your contact information should any problems arise. It’s also a good idea to educate people who may be new to the area by giving them suggestions on local restaurants, bars, gyms, grocery stores, hiking trails, breweries, movie theaters, parks, etc.
  • Leave them a housewarming gift. A thoughtful housewarming gift doesn’t have to be extravagant. Leave them something small that will make them think of the awesome leasing staff – a bottle of wine, flowers, or some property swag like koozies, cups, sunglasses, etc.
  • Keep up with them. About a month after they move in, reach out via email to make sure everything is ok and that they are happy with their living situation so far. That being said…
  • Don’t get too friendly. After you’ve confirmed that everything is satisfactory with their living conditions and you’ve reminded them how to reach you should a problem arise, keep your distance. You do not need to be “popping in” regularly. That creates unnecessary pressure on the tenant and they may feel like they are being “watched.”
  • Host events. Community-wide events are a great way for residents to meet one another and a good opportunity for you to get positive exposure online. For example, you host a Thanksgiving party or a Super Bowl party and many of your residents will likely post pictures on Instagram, tweet and/or Facebook about the event – free marketing for you and your community!
  • Ask for feedback. The only way to improve is to ask your residents for feedback! You can send out a survey via email or keep response cards in your leasing office. Your residents will appreciate the fact that you are trying to better the community.
  • Don’t be tardy with maintenance and repairs. When a tenant reaches out about a broken laundry machine, faulty lock, etc., make sure you respond ASAP! Even if you can’t get to them right away, make sure you let them know that their request has been received and someone will fix the problem as soon as possible.
  • Send season’s greetings. Everyone loves getting mail! Pop a ‘Happy Halloween’ mini bag of candy in their mailboxes, and ‘Happy Holidays’ cards.
  • Be realistic. Last, but certainly not least, try to be as reasonable and lenient as you possibly can. Accidents happen. Property sometimes gets damaged. Property managers should consider purchasing tailored landlord insurance in case anything happens. Hope for the best, but always be prepared for the worst.

Have any other ideas to keep residents happy? Share them with us!

by ARLnow.com Sponsor January 25, 2017 at 3:00 pm 0

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This biweekly sponsored column is written by the experts at Gordon James Realty, a local property management firm that specializes in residential real estate, commercial real estate and homeowner associations. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

A great property manager can be hard to come by. In today’s fast-paced, social-media centric society, consumers and renters crave and demand instant gratification – they are ephemeral.

That being said, property managers must constantly be on their toes and ready to take on anything! Not only must they be ready to draw in and lease to rent-ready prospects, but they must also always roll with the punches in order to satisfy current renters. Leaky toilet at midnight? Be prepared for a call. Can’t find the mailbox key. Better be on it. Locked out of your apartment? Must be prepared! Property managers deal with these scenarios (among thousands of others) on a daily basis.

Here are five tips to being a great property manager that you and your team should keep in mind:

1. Communication

Communication is KEY! Property managers deal with tons of people (at all hours of the day) from all walks of life. Some may speak different languages, have different personalities, different needs and different backgrounds. Therefore, those in property management need to have impeccable communication skills. Staying calm and speaking in a professional manner is a top priority. A lot of times, this includes PATIENCE. Residents must always be kept in the loop on things like office closures, maintenance, payments, etc. Additionally – property managers must keep said communication timely. When a work order is submitted, the resident should be notified immediately that their work order has been received and that the issue is being worked on. When a parking lot is being worked on, residents should know of any alternative routes to take ASAP. These are just examples, of course, but the list goes on and on. Keep in mind, that with communication comes listening. Sometimes, the best thing a property manager can do for a current or prospective renter is ensure them that their voice is being heard and that the community is doing everything possible to make their living situation a comfortable one.

2. Organization

Property managers often have to deal with questions, comments, complaints and concerns from dozens of renters and prospects daily. Not only must property managers make sure their current renters are happy, make sure the rents are coming in on time and make sure that work orders are being fulfilled, but they must also work on bringing in NEW renters as well. Organization comes in handy on a daily basis through things like lease expirations and renewals, background checks, security deposits, invoices, etc. A skilled property manager must be organized, and make sure they are hiring organized staff members as well! If you are impatient, anxious, edgy or bad with tight deadlines and daily interaction with “customers” aka your residents, you may want to reconsider your future as a property manager. Do you think you have what it takes?

3. People Person

One of the best gauges of the level of quality of a property manager is the way they interact with people. This does not mean just their renters. This means current renters, prospective renters, renters moving out, maintenance, vendors, other staff, lifeguards, towing companies, plumbers, carpenters, etc. Managing an apartment community is a large undertaking, and men/women that do not have a happy, approachable, “can-do” attitude will find it hard to not only retain residents, but to draw new ones in. A personable property manager must be able to handle the fast-paced nature of community management and make the process of signing a lease and moving in an easy one. Let’s face it – moving is a drag and a hassle. When people move into an apartment, the last thing they want to deal with is an unhelpful property manager with a sour attitude. That said, go the extra mile to make your renters feel welcome! Perhaps a gift basket with community “swag” when they move in? Maybe a couple of take-out menus from your favorite local restaurants? At the end of the day, a “people person” property manager is always easier to work with than a grouch!

4. Honesty

Think about it. What are all property managers typically doing the first week of every month? Handling other people’s money! They collect rents, security deposits, and more. Property managers need to have the utmost understanding that the renters come first. They must always act with the highest level of integrity. As a property manager, they a lot of complaints are heard daily. While it may sometimes be easier to dance around the issue, a property manager needs to always be up front with the renter – even if it’s something the renter doesn’t want to hear. The washing machine can’t be fixed until Tuesday? Tell them ASAP so they can make other plans. The rent check won’t be deposited for another day? Let them know. Not being 100% truthful with renters can lead to mistrust and lower resident retention rates.

5. Reliability

Having a reliable property manager takes the burden off of a lot of people – the staff, the property owners, the renters, the prospects, etc. When a tenant asks something of a property manager or needs help with a certain issue, they should feel confident that their property manager is taking their struggle into consideration. This can be anything from a missing trash can, a broken lock, a bug problem, a noisy neighbor, etc. Property managers must come through for their residents and should be viewed as someone who can quickly and effectively problem solve. Now, the world isn’t perfect and problems aren’t always easily resolved. However, as long as a renter knows that you, as their property manager, are in their corner and working your hardest to make their stay at your property a happy one, then you have done the best you can!

These five qualities, among others, are staple traits of a great property manager. Moving into an apartment is, let’s be honest here, never the most fun and can make for a very stressful time in someone’s life. Working with a quality property manager can make the experience so much more positive – maybe even fun! An organized, honest, reliable, personable property manager with good communication skills is pure gold!

by ARLnow.com Sponsor January 11, 2017 at 2:30 pm 0

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This biweekly sponsored column is written by the experts at Gordon James Realty, a local property management firm that specializes in residential real estate, commercial real estate and homeowner associations. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

The formation of a Limited Liability Company (LLC) entity can be extremely useful if you are a rental property owner. It allows you to protect your assets, gain tax benefits for your rental property, and manage any property ownership transfers in a more convenient way. This article explores the legal, tax and property transfer benefits of holding your property in an LLC, rather than keeping it under your name.

Asset Protection

If you elect to form an LLC and transfer your rental property to the LLC, any judgment against the property will extend only to the LLC and not to your personal assets. In essence, the LLC offers you liability protection against a lawsuit or against creditors who might seek to make claims on your assets. It is also generally recommended that you place each rental property you own in a separate LLC. This provides additional assurance that any judgment against one property will not affect the other properties. Moreover, in many states, creditors can seize a property if it is owned in your name. If it is in an LLC, however, creditors may be limited to placing a lien on your property. Although types of liens vary, a lien may allow a creditor to claim any cash distributions from the LLC to its owners, and may also entitle the creditor to have the right to any proceeds from the sale of the property. In D.C., for example, a judgment lien can be attached to your rental property for up to 12 years. Other liens, which may be attached to the property, will impact a creditor’s ability to collect funds under a judgment lien. Creditor-debtor laws do vary by jurisdiction, and you should research your state’s regulations to understand the rights and obligations that debtors and creditors have under the law.

You can further protect yourself by adding a liability insurance policy for each property, as well as purchasing an umbrella policy to provide additional liability coverage beyond the limits of your primary insurance policies. Placing your rental properties in an LLC and buying additional insurance for them offers you a double layer of protection in the event of a lawsuit.

Tax Advantages

An LLC can be taxed as a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a C corporation or an S corporation. For rental property ownership purposes, it is best that an LLC is taxed as a sole proprietorship or a partnership. This is because any income will flow through to the individual members of the LLC and it will be reflected on their tax returns. In this case, the company will not have to pay any federal income tax and its owners can take advantage of tax deductions for the rental properties held in the LLC.  You would be eligible for the real estate depreciation deduction, but will also have to pay capital gains taxes when you sell the property. However, there are options to defer capital gains taxes, such as a 1031 exchange, if you sell one property and reinvest the sale proceeds into another property of like-kind within a specified time period.

Property Ownership Transfer Benefits

When you transfer your rental property into an LLC, you can create units of ownership with a specific value and allocate them to any other members of the LLC. This offers an easy way for you to designate ownership in the property to other family members, rather than updating property deeds to reflect changing ownership interests. Ownership interests can also qualify for several valuation discounts, depending on the structure of the LLC, the terms of its operating agreement, and the division of ownership interests among its members. Since these valuation discounts can reduce the overall value at which ownership interests are valued, they can have a significant impact on gift taxes and estate taxes when interests in the property are transferred between LLC members.

For more information about the benefits of placing your property in an LLC, see the following:

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