Ice Melters – what are they? How are they used most effectively? A common question we Read more →
Ice Melters – what are they? How are they used most effectively?
A common question we get from property owners during the winter time is: “How will you be de-icing my property? Which ice melters will you use and will they be harmful?” There are a lot of misconceptions about which products are the best to use and there are variables which effect that answer. It’s important that your property management company understand the differences between the ice melters, their effect on your property, and the difference in labor cost associated.
First, an overview of a few of the most commonly used products:
- Rock Salt (Sodium Chloride) – Rock salt is typically the first product which comes to mind when someone thinks of an ice melter or de-icing product. It is abundantly available and relatively cheap. However, most experts agree that its lowest effective temperature is around 20 degrees fahrenheit. So, when it is very cold out Rock salt can be extremely slow to work. Additionally, Sodium Chloride is slightly more corrosive than other available ice melter products.
- Calcium Chloride – Calcium chloride is the more effective product for very cold temperatures with an effective temperate of up to negative 25 degrees fahrenheit. Additionally, studies of have shown that Calcium is able to melt ice up to twice as fast as Sodium chloride. So, why doesn’t everyone just use Calcium? Price, mainly. Calcium is a much more expensive product and often the payoff simply is not present when using Calcium over large areas.
- Ice Melt blends – there are a variety of Ice melt blends on the market. Different brands contain different blends of sodium, calcium & other deicers. Many of them also include an abrasive like sand – which has no inherent ice melting capability, but is added for traction and filler purposes. Some ice melt blends are quality products, and others are not. When purchasing a blend you should look at the ingredients and evaluate while considering what your ice melting needs actually are.
Next, an overview of how we typically like to use the above products in applications. It’s easiest to use one of our properties as example, so check out the below image. The spot marked “A” is where we will typically use Rock Salt. The areas marked “B” are areas where we’ll advise our vendor to use calcium or a quality calcium blend.
Why? A few, reasons:
- Spreadability. De-icing materials are applied in a couple of different ways on larger sites like this. The first method is to use a bed mounted spreader. This method requires the least physical work by the vendor providing service. The product is loaded into the spreader and the spread rate is controlled by the driver in the truck which a handheld control. Large commercial spreaders can easily handle spreading rock salt, which can come in rather large pieces. Because sodium chloride often comes in large chunks, it’s not a very good candidate for use with a push spreader. Calcium on the other hand spreads very easily through a push spreader.
- On this site it is very easy for a truck with a bed mounted salter to drive all around the lot while spreading a heavy dose of rock salt.
- The entrances and sidewalks also need de-icing material applied, but it’s not typically possible to do this with a truck due to accessibility issues. So, we have the contractor load a push spreader with calcium or a blend to service this areas. The spread radius is good using this product.
We find that with the above methods we are able to get the best blend of quality service and affordability. If we were to request that our vendor apply calcium to the entire property, the rates would likely double, while we would not be necessarily receiving that value in return. Of course if there is a steep drop in temperature and we’re not sure if applying rock salt will be effective, we’ll alter our game plan. In our experience rock salt is slightly more harmful to concrete, so we try and limit it’s application to asphalt as much as possible. As a property manager devising a de-cing plan we have a 2 fold goal: first to make sure that the property is maintained in a safe way and second offer cost effective solutions for your clients.
Garbage disposal repair and care
We receive maintenance requests from our tenants every day and one of the most common issues tenants have is with their garbage disposal. Most disposal repairs are quite simple and just about anyone can turn a stuck disposal into a functioning one. We’re always happy to come out and repair issues, but disposals tend to break down due to misuse and putting inappropriate material in them. If you follow the steps below, you can probably avoid disposal breakdowns altogether. I’ve also listed some simple steps to repair it yourself, so you can get your kitchen back in action quickly.
Do not put solid items in the garbage disposal. Hard items bind and clog the disposal and will always cause problems.
Avoid the following:
- fruit pits/avocado pits
- shrimp and seafood shells
- anything hard… and never put inorganic material in the disposal
Stay away from fibrous materials such as the following. If you must put them in, make sure to cut into small pieces:
- fruit peels
- onion peels
- potato peels
- large quantities of coffee grounds
- egg shells
- corn cobs and corn husks
Avoid greasy items as they can create a film that makes the disposal function improperly.
Always use cold water while running the disposal and run it for 30 seconds after the debris is cleared to ensure the system remains clear. The cold water helps keep the mechanics from overheating, and hot water has the potential to melt fat which would then solidify further down the pipes and cause a blockage.
Keep it Clean
- Wipe the understand of the rubber flange of the disposal (while it is off). This is where odors can often come from.
- Running ice through the disposal once a month or so helps to keep it smelling clean and free of debris. You can also make ice cubes with vinegar and this works well.
- If you have a really stinky disposal running small bits of citrus peel through it can freshen things right up.
Does your disposal sound like a handful of quarters is stuck inside of it?
1. Turn it off
2. Insert a ¼ inch allen wrench into the bottom of the disposal and turn the motor manually until the debris is broken free. This often removes the debris that is jamming the disposal.
3. If that doesn’t work, try to remove the debris manually with a pair of needle nose pliers or your hand.
4. If steps 1-3 don’t work, call your property manager.
Does your disposal not turn on or make a faint buzzing sound?
1. Make sure all your circuit breakers are turned on.
2. There is a red reset button on the bottom of the disposal. Press it.
3. Insert a ¼ inch allen wrench in the bottom of the disposal and turn until it spins freely.
4. If you are still having problems, call your property manager.
Property management tax deductions
Tax time can be somewhat daunting for real estate investors. Often this means reviewing bank account records to figure out how much was actually collected in rent, adding up receipts to determine maintenance expenses, contacting banks, insurance agents, etc. As a client of JG Real Estate, we’ve simplified much of the equation for you. Through our 1099 and year end statements, you’ll know exactly how much was collected in rent, the total of maintenance expenses, total professional fees, etc. Here’s a breakdown of each form.
- 1099 – A form 1099 will be sent by JG Real Estate to each property owner for the gross amount of rent received. For example, if your property is renting for $1,000/mo and rent was collected for 11 of 12 months, the 1099 would be for $11,000. Prepayments such as last month’s rent are included in the 1099, however escrow funds such as a security deposit would not be included. See below for an example of a 1099 for gross rent received.
- Year end statement – Around the same time your 1099 is issued, a year end statement will also be sent out. This statement will outline cash flows for the property including rent received, expenses (owner paid maintenance charges, commissions, common area utilities, etc), and finally net income. It’s important to note that JG Real Estate’s cash flow report will NOT include expenses such as insurance, mortgage, & taxes as these are items which owners for pay directly. Please see the below example owner statement.
On August 22nd the Philadelphia bike share strategic business plan was released. The plan, in short, seeks to increase personal mobility in Philadelphia, develop an innovative transportation system, and provide a safe mode of transportation. Rolled out across five deployments, there are plans for 185 stations and 1800 bicycles by Summer/Fall of 2017. By 2020 the proposals claims that the bike share program will have over 2 Million users representing both casual/short term & registered membership types.
Read the actual proposal below:
Better yet, administrators would like to hear YOUR feedback as to where Philadelphia Bike Share locations should be – check out the interactive map below which allows you to pin the location where you’d like to see a Philadelphia Bike share station. Additionally, you are able to comment on other proposed locations which starts a dialogue with neighbors and hopefully catches the attention of program administrators. You’ll notice that we suggested a location in front of our office.
For those Philadelphian’s who forgot, procrastinated, or were simply never aware: The Philadelphia homestead exemption application deadline is just a few days away, 9/13/13. If you qualify for the homestead exemption, your assessed value will be reduced by $30,000 for the purpose of computing real estate taxes owed. This amounts to huge savings across the board for Philadelphia homeowners.
According to the City, the Philadelphia homestead exemption “..offers Real Estate Tax savings to all Philadelphia homeowners by reducing the taxable portion of their property assessment by $30,000, starting in Tax Year 2014.”
To qualify for this exemption you must occupy the property as your primary residence (you must intend to reside in the property permanently until you move to another home) and only one property may be classified as primary and qualify for exemption. To apply for the exemption you may fill out a paper application, which we have included here (as well as an instructional sheet explaining how to fill it out) or you may apply online.
Here’s the blank homestead exemption application:
And here is our instructional version (remember, we’re not accountants or lawyers, so if you have questions or are unsure of how to fill the form out we HIGHLY recommend contacting the appropriate professional):
JG Real estate is pleased to announce that it will be offering a pre-licensure real estate eduction scholarship for one qualified individual. Included is full tuition for both courses required by the State Real Estate Commission to qualify to become a PA Real Estate Salesperson – “Real Estate Fundamentals” and “Real Estate Practice”, along with the required textbook.
The ideal candidate will have a passion for real estate and seek to start work as an agent within three months of passing both classes, either in a part time or full time capacity.
The fine print:
- This real estate scholarship is only intended for applicants which will go to an approved Pennsylvania real estate eduction provider, and wish to be licensed in the State of Pennsylvania. JGRE reserves the right to select which school the applicant will attend.
- Upon passing classes, applicant must sit for the state and national real estate exams within 60 days.
- JGRE reserves the right to reject any applicant, for any reason.
- Applicant must be a US Citizen.
- The deadline for all applications to be received is 5/1/13. An applicant may be approved prior to that time, and applications will still be accepted after the deadline, for future scholarship opportunities.
JG Real Estate is a full service real estate brokerage and Philadelphia Property Management Company. Visit us by clicking here.
Choosing the right policy to properly protect your property is an important and often daunting task. As a property manager, I contractually require my management clients to carry adequate insurance, and to also name JG Real Estate as additional insured. Many of my clients are homeowners turned landlords, which have a standard owner occupied policy. Some understand that they need to transition over to a landlord’s insurance policy, while others are naive. It’s important to have the correct policy in place for a few different reasons, as explained below:
- Depending on the terms of your owner occupied policy, the moment you rent the house out, it might be voided. If you move out of the property and continue trying to rent it out (without having successfully located a renter) you might be up against a separate issue. Most policies are rendered ineffective if the subject is vacant for than X amount of days (check your policy for the specific time frame). This is where vacant property insurance comes in, which does just that; insures vacant properties because standard polices refuse to.
- Loss of rents – What happens if your property, due to a loss which is covered under the policy, is no longer habitable, and therefore cannot be rented to tenants? A standard homeowner’s policy is not going to cover the rental income you have lost. Whether you are an accidental landlord, or it’s your primary business- you ARE running a business and it should be treated as such. The coverage is usually not dollar for dollar, but rather a reimbursement formula based on net losses.
- Cost differential – For obvious reasons, a landlord’s insurance policy with similar coverage amounts, deductibles, etc. is going to come at a higher cost. Why? To start with, the level of diligence displayed by renters vs. homeowners. As a professional property manager, I’ve come across a variety of mind boggling circumstances, related to tenant negligence. In one instance, a tenant did not report a leak which caused massive damage, for over seven days. So, for seven days there was a huge ongoing plumbing issue (the water service coming into the house ruptured & was spraying all over the place) which was never brought to my attention, and the damage continued to pile on. If the roles were reversed, and this was a homeowner experiencing damage to his own dwelling, I am sure a call would have been made to a plumber within minutes of discovering the issue. Landlord policy premiums in my experience are 10-20% higher than their counter-parts, because overall they propose a greater risk to the insurance company. Some might say that this is a good reason to NOT switch policy types, but in my opinion the modest savings (maybe $100-$200 on a typical Philadelphia row home policy) is not worth what you’d be sacrificing.
Now that I’ve (hopefully) convinced you that it’s important to switch over to the appropriate policy type once your home is converted to a rental property, what riders are important to get?
- Vandalism – In Philadelphia, this is a must have in my opinion. I have experience with a vandalism related issue causing a lot of destruction to a home that I personally own. In my case, a thief stealthily climbed up on my roof and chopped out a copper drain-box (presumably to scrap it for literally a few dollars). While replacing the drain-box itself was not a big deal, a couple hundred dollar repair, the bigger problem was that it rained that same evening the vandalism had occurred. With a now gaping hole in the corner of my roof,it was easy for all runoff water to find its way directly into the home. In all, due to the vandal’s actions, a few thousand dollars of damage was done between ripping down the ceilings in a few rooms, installing new drywall, painting, and replacing a couple of light fixtures. Guess what? None of the damage was covered due to the fact that I didn’t have a vandalism rider. On a side note, be wary of public adjusters – some are great, but others are awful. I had hired an adjuster who advised me to file the claim, not even realizing that I didn’t have a vandalism rider; because he never even read the policy.
- Rent Guarantee: This can be offered either as a policy in itself, or as a rider with select insurance companies. It’s a new offering in the United States, although fairly common in the UK. Basically, if a tenant is not able to pay rent due to financial difficulties, you’re covered if you have one of these policies. The cost seems to be equal to approximately one month’s rent. I’ve never used one of these policies, or suggested them to my clients, but that’s not to say that in some circumstances they wouldn’t be a good idea. Part of what I offer to my clients is great due diligence on the front end, meaning that we thoroughly screen tenants by checking prior landlord references, pulling credit reports & eviction screens, and verifying income. This weeds out the overwhelming majority of people who might cause a problem down the road, however with all the screening in the world, you’ll still eventually run across a deadbeat tenant. So, you as a landlord need to evaluate this on a risk versus reward level, just like the insurance companies do. Think about it, the only way an insurance company stays in business is by being profitable. Revenues must exceed expenses. So, they’re making an educated bet that the premiums they collect are going to be more than the claims they pay out. You should do the same thing when deciding to purchase a policy; what’s the likelihood that you’ll need to take advantage of this policy? You know your property and the tenant much better than the insurance company does – do you think you’re going to need to evict them? When qualifying a tenant, if you’re uneasy, another strategy would be to have THEM pay for this additional coverage. Of course you probably want to avoid telling the tenant that this policy is in place, as it may translate to a free-ride in the tenant’s mind. Maybe you could have them pay for first, last, 2nd to last month’s rent, and security deposit upfront, rather than the standard first ,last, and security. With that additional month upfront, you could potentially buy this policy for additional protection without coming out pocket.
Of course, as a Philadelphia property manager, I offer advice & guidance to my clients whenever they need it. If you are a current JG Real Estate client, or interested in our services, and would like some more information about insurance please do not hesitate to contact Jared Gruber by emailing Jared@JG-RealEstate.com.
Attention Philadelphians, the business privilege license which you’ve come to know and love (or hate) has been renamed! All business owners in the city are required to have the business privilege license AKA Commercial activity license, which quite literally gives an individual the privilege to conduct business in the City of Philadelphia.
According to The Philadelphia Revenue Department “Effective May 1, 2012, Council Bill 110758 renames the Business Privilege Tax the “Business Income and Receipts Tax“ and the Business Privilege License the “Commercial Activity License“. This change will not be reflected on the actual Business Income and Receipts Tax forms until next tax season.”
As far as we can tell at JG Real Estate, this renaming does not impact any other aspect of the form. The lifetime license (which we recommend for landlords vs the annual version) still costs $300. We wrote an in depth blog post a while back which was specific to the BPL and housing inspection license, and the same concepts still hold true. That blog post may be found here.
The gifts are open, the tinsel is down, and it’s time to put away the decorations for another year! If you’re anxious to get that Christmas tree out of the house, the City of Philadelphia has an eco-friendly option with their two week long Holiday Recycling Program.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA HOLIDAY RECYCLING PROGRAM
The City of Philadelphia is asking residents to recycle their live Christmas trees by dropping them off at the following Streets Department Sanitation Convenience Centers:
3033 South 63rd Street
Domino Lane and Umbria Street
State Road and Ashburner Street
The program will run for two weeks from Monday, January 7, 2013through Saturday, January 19, 2013, and you can drop off your trees at any of the above locations Monday through Saturday 8 a.m to 6 p.m.
The Department of Parks and Recreation will then take the trees for composting and/or shred the trees into mulch. There is no charge for the drop off, and it doesn’t matter if you purchased your tree from somewhere else.
- Remove lights, ornaments and tree stands, including wooden stands and nails.
- Do not place the tree in a plastic bag.
Trees placed curbside will not be recycled, and will be considered trash.
You can also recycle your holiday gift materials, and start earning Philadelphia Recycling Rewards points. Please see the link below for full details.
Where will you be when the clock strikes 12?
New year means fresh starts, opportunities, and new beginnings. It’s important that you start your year off right by being with the people you love and celebrate the many good changes to come. Scroll below to see a variety of activities you and your loved ones can do this year. What will you do to bring in 2013?
Bars & Clubs:
Bike-Share Coming to Philadelphia
Already implemented in other cities, Philadelphia mayor, Michael Nutter, has just announced that Philadelphia will be next in bringing “bike-share” to its streets. An exciting new and innovative form of public transportation, rental bicycles are going to be brought to the city and placed in docking stations for users.
Philadelphia’s Plan for Bike-Share
In its first year, just 650 bicycles will be in Philadelphia, growing to 1,200 bikes in the following years. These bikes would be free to ride for the first half hour and then charge a metered fare for time over that.
Bike-Sharing Pros and Cons for Philadelphians
Clearly bike-sharing will help reduce gas emissions and add to the convenience of the Philadelphia commute for some. It is a nice idea for people who want to go out and explore the area for the day, but, 650 bicycles doesn’t seem like nearly enough. To what areas is the bike-sharing going to extend? Are Philadelphia officials thinking on too small a level? Only time will tell!
4th Annual Christmas Village
Are you looking for a fun night downtown? A romantic evening? A place to take the kids? A night away from all the hustle and bustle? Then Christmas Village should be on your list.
Each year, since 2008, one of Philadelphia’s main holiday attractions has been the Christmas Village. Located at LOVE Park, in the heart of the city, this outdoor holiday market opens Thanksgiving Day until Christmas Eve.
This event grows larger each year, with about 60 vendors selling items ranging from German and European food, hand crafted goods, wines, chocolates, roasted nuts, clothing items, ornaments, and much more. Vendors set up in wooden booths, scattered about the park grounds, selling goods in the fashion of the traditional German Christmas Market, the most famous being the Christkindlesmakrt in Nuremburg, Germany. As you walk from vendor to vendor, you do in fact get a sense that you are walking through a market in Europe. There are covered tent areas for eating, drinking, or conversation, which allows for a break from the crisp winter air. Don’t miss out on this chance to experience this European Christmas tradition right here in Philadelphia.
The market is open Sunday – Thursday: 11am – 7pm, and Friday – Saturday: 11am – 8pm
For more information, visit their website at http://www.philachristmas.com/index.php