First Rate Property Management Blog

$1 of Rent

Melissa Sharone - Thursday, April 30, 2020

Below is a very good graphic provided by the National Apartment Association that explains the value of $1 of rent.  It creates a clear transparent breakdown of where the money goes and in our opinion clears up the misconception that "landlords" take home large margins of profit. This is a valuable educational tool that landlords and property management companies should consider sharing with their investors and tenants.

Melissa Sharone

President, FRPM


Julie Tollifson - Friday, April 24, 2020


One of the unknown, inevitable, and scary parts of owning any property, not just an investment property, is unexpected expenses for repairs and replacements. Sometimes the expenses are small, but other times, they can be quite costly. 

Water heaters are an example of a costly expense for many owners. It is our job to help minimize the risk of these expenses. A brand-new water heater is expensive, but some find that replacing them before they go out is better than waiting until they go out. Unfortunately when a water heater goes out, it does not normally just stop making hot water, it starts leaking. Often times the water heater even continues to make hot water while leaking.   

To make matters worse, water heaters are usually found tucked away in a closet, garage, or even under a kitchen counter. While this may prevent a bit of an eye sore, it also can prevent residents from identifying the leak while it is minor. While putting in their lease and training our tenant during the move in walk through helps, tenants occasionally fail to notice and/or report leaks in a timely manner. As a result of the tenant-neglect or the fact that the water heater is out of sight out of mind, the leak can cause a great deal of damage that extends beyond the mere replacement of your water heater.  That is why some owners choose to proactively replace their water heaters. They would much rather sacrifice a few potential years of use with the existing water heater than pay the huge costs of cabinetry, drywall, or flooring. Another thing to keep in mind is that the potential flood/leak damage increases exponentially if the waters are on the second or third story.

Another cost to consider in this is lost rents. If your tenant doesn’t have access to hot water, this would constitute an uninhabitable property and would result in crediting prorated rent back to the tenants for the days in which it is considered uninhabitable.

Furthermore, many after-hours result in dispatching a vendor with “after hours billing” this is often much more inflated than normal business hour calls. It always seems like these water heaters never go out during regular business hours!

Most water heaters are sold with a 5-year warranty and are said to last about 10 years on average. 

But what if you have insurance? While having insurance is of the utmost importance to help mitigate your risk, most do not cover slow leaks. Most policies state they will only cover “sudden or immediate water losses”. 

So now you’re wondering, how can I minimize these seemingly inevitable costs? Here’s how:

  1. Make sure you know the limitations of your insurance policy, better to be proactive than reactive.
  2. Make sure you know where your water heater is located. First floor? Second floor? Garage? Is there a drain or pan underneath it? Is the pan plumbed to the outside of the building?
  3. Train your tenants on how to check for leaks and how often.
  4. Most of all, have a professional annually inspect and service your water heaters to ensure that they are functioning correctly. First Rate Property Management offers this service, among many others, annually in an effort to provide our clients with the opportunity to increase their profit margin by mitigating the risk of expensive repairs and replacements. 

Julie Tollifson, Leasing Team Leader

First Rate Property Management, Inc.
Boise, Idaho
Contact me for more information about this blog.

NARPM SW Idaho 1st Quarter Vacancy Report

Melissa Sharone - Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The 1st quarter vacancy survey from the SW Idaho Chapter of the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM) was just released.  While majority of the quarter was unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic some of these results (mainly the average rental prices) were due to proactive measures taken (not raising rents and or lowing the vacant ones slightly) when the pandemic first hit by many property managers.  Good news is that vacancy is at 2.7% for Ada County, which includes Boise city and 2.8% for Canyon.  This is well below the national average which is at 6.8%.  FRPM maintained a vacancy under 1% the entire first quarter.  This is due to FRPM's internal processes limiting leases expiring in these  first three months of the year.   Overall rents are still increasing but at a slower rate than normal for this time of year.  As we head into the second quarter vacancies are expected to slightly increase and rents will likely plateau which is not usual for this time of year.  

How will COVID impact the 2nd quarter?  Vacancies are already trending upward, due to social distancing and stay-at-home orders.  There are less people moving, which has decreased demand.  While everyone in the nation is expecting non-payment of rent to be the big hit to Landlords, we actually think the increased vacancy and lower effective rent, may actually be the bigger number.  In order to maintain quality, vetted tenants and avoid a vacancy during these uncertain times, the FRPM team is recommending that investors not be aggressive on renewal rates. We anticipate the Boise market picking back up at its usual pace, but the question is when.

Read the full report here: SW Idaho Narpm Report

Melissa Sharone

President, FRPM

Owners! Get Your Property Rented!

Jim Sharone - Friday, January 24, 2020

One of the scariest times an owner goes through while renting out their property is the vacancy.  First Rate Property Management understands this and is ready to help!

You will be receiving Marketing Updates from our leasing team every Wednesday your property is on the market for rent. These updates include information about recent showings, activity with your property, current advertised rent, and our experts’ recommendations. 

What Does a Vacancy Cost?  On a $1,500 estimated rental property with a $1,250 per month PITI (Principle / Interest / Taxes / Insurance) mortgage, plus utility expenses……a vacancy can cost:

15 Days = $750 in Lost Rent + $625 Mortgage + $100 in Utilities = $1,475

30 Days = $1,500 in Lost Rent + $1,250 Mortgage + $125 in Utilities = $2,875

45 Days = $2,250 in Lost Rent + $1,875 Mortgage + $150 in Utilities = $4,275

60 Days = $3,000 in Lost Rent + $2,500 Mortgage + $200 in Utilities = $5,700

*First Rate Property Management advertises upcoming vacancies between 30 and 45 days prior to the tenant vacating the property. Our average Days-On-Market is below 30 days. By pre-leasing, we save our client anywhere between $750 - $1500 in Lost Rent expenses.*

What Will a Price Adjustment Cost?  On a $1,500 per month property:

$50 per month   =  $600 a year

$100 per month =  $1,200 a year

$150 per month =  $1,800 a year

$200 per month =  $2,400 a year

Which would you rather have for YOUR property?  Dropping the price by $100 from the start and “losing” $1,200 broken up over a year – OR – by thinking your property is worth more than the market will bear, losing $2,000, $3,000, $4,000, $5,000, or more right now?

What Should You Do?  Be aggressive with your pricing decision. It’s much better, financially, to rent your property within the first few weeks on the market making you more money in the long run. 

What Happens When You Price A Property Right?  You get more interest in your property right away. The increased interest leads to more prospective tenants physically viewing the property. We are confident that once a perspective tenant has physically seen the property with one of our well-trained showing agents, your property will be leased in no time!

Consider these other techniques:

  • Lowering the Asking Price for Rent.  If the property is move-in ready and still NOT renting, it’s always, always, always going to be because of the asking price FIRST and FOREMOST.  If a property is vacant, move-in ready, and has even the most basic marketing pictures – the property will rent at the right price.  Finding the right price is an art and a science.  When in doubt – lower the asking price for rent.  Refer to the analysis above for “What Does a Vacancy Cost”.
  • Lowering the Asking Price for Rent for 3 - 6 Months.  We will always recommend a full price reduction when a property is not immediately getting in applications or showings from interested tenants.  However – an alternate technique is to lower the asking price for the first 3 - 6 months to a new tenant.  Be careful with this technique as it can attract more applicants, but can also turn some of them off by what seems to be a gimmick.  
  • Offering a Move-In Credit. Another alternative to lowering the monthly rent is offering a new tenant a move-in credit. New tenants have to pay a large sum of money up front to get in a new property.  A $250 - $500 credit can go a long way without decreasing rental rates or costing our clients very much money! 

Vacancy Update

Melissa Sharone - Thursday, January 16, 2020

The 4th quarter vacancy survey from the Southwest Idaho Chapter of NARPM was just released.  The results are about what was expected for this time of year.  The winter time is always slowed for rentals and therefor rents tend to slightly decrease in order to get units filled.  However through the slow time the vacancy still remained low which indicates that the market is still good.  FRPM’s average vacancy over the last 3 weeks has remained very low at .5%.  As we get going into 2020 we anticipate a good rental market come spring and even better when summer hits.  Rents overall are still increasing and we expect vacancy to remain low.

Please click here for the full Vacancy Report- on this highlighted part please add the below link on these words.  This takes them to the full report.

Let me know if you have questions

Emotional Support Animal or Pet?

Beny W. - Thursday, January 2, 2020

What is an emotional support animal? Are they trained? Who gets one, and who decides that? If you have been in property management in the last few years, you have probably asked yourself at least one of those questions while witnessing the surge in rental applicants stating that they have an emotional support animal, assistance animal, or companion animal. These terms are mostly interchangeable, and for the remainder of this post I will use the term “emotional support animal”, or “ESA”, to refer to all of them. Like so many things, there is a lot of misinformation about ESAs, and for-profit companies have popped up to take advantage of this. First Rate Property Management receives over 2,000 applications a year, many of which state they have an emotional support animal, so, being a Fair Housing Provider, training on this topic has been a priority. Hopefully we can help clarify some of those questions for renters and landlords alike.

An emotional support animal is not a pet, and according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, they also are not service animals. Service animals are dogs that are specifically trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, such as a Seeing Eye dog or a seizure response dog. Service animals have different guidelines, regulations, and laws that apply to them in regards to housing, which I will not be covering just yet. Emotional support animals, on the other hand, can be any type of animal and do not have to have any training of any kind, because it is simply their presence that helps alleviate one or more symptoms or effects of a person’s disability. When a person’s disability is not readily or obviously apparent, a housing provider may ask an applicant to provide reliable documentation of the disability and the connection between the animal and the disability. This documentation from the tenant is sometimes called a reasonable accommodation request.

A reasonable accommodation request is needed to establish two things:

  1. That the person seeking housing has a disability, i.e. a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
  2. That the person has a disability-related need for the assistance animal in the home, i.e. the animal performs a task for the benefit of that person or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more symptoms or effects of their disability.

If the reasonable accommodation request does not establish both of these, or if the request does not come from a reliable source, the request may be denied. If the request comes from a reliable source and establishes both that the person has a disability and that the animal is needed in the home because of the disability, then the reasonable accommodation request must be approved, and all pet fees and pet rent is waived, as well as any “no pet” policies or restrictions such as breed, weight, age, etc.

What is a “reliable” source? In essence, it is someone who is in a position to know. A reasonable accommodation request can be written by a counselor, a case worker, a doctor, a physical therapist, or anyone else who has an established relationship with the applicant and knows their limitations. For-profit ESA businesses have made this process incredibly complicated and difficult for both landlords and those with disabilities. These industries have profits in the millions. A quick Google search of “ESA letter” brings up a whole page of websites where people can purchase an ESA registration card, an ESA certificate, and even letters from healthcare professionals.

There is no emotional support animal registry, at least not one that can provide a valid reasonable accommodation request. Certificates also lack the required validity, though they can cost you upwards of $50. As for the letters that come from these websites, these are often written for the purchaser after a “quick 5 minute survey” and a payment of around $150. The majority of the time the healthcare professional that writes the letter has not had any personal interaction with the purchaser. Out of curiosity, I took a couple of these surveys and after answering “no,” “never,” and “rarely” to questions such as “Over the past two (2) weeks, how often have you felt more angry, grouchy, or irritated than usual?” and “Over the past two (2) weeks, how often have you avoided situations that make you anxious?”, I was still given the news that I was a “good candidate for an ESA letter.” This apparently meant they would write me a letter stating I have a disability when I do not, and any doctor who is familiar with me would agree I do not have any disability.

These ESA businesses are thriving off of misinformation, and many have disinformation on their websites in order to convince people to buy their product. It is not surprising that some applicants who state they have an emotional support animal are not aware of the actual law, specifically the Fair Housing Act, and that it is intended to protect those with disabilities. These websites are preying upon anyone who loves their pet, and especially upon those with disabilities who really do need an emotional support animal. If you have a disability, you should not have to pay a dime for your reasonable accommodation request.

Thankfully, laws are slowly starting to catch up. Virginia has passed a law that cracks down on these businesses and has already fined one counselor for providing a letter based solely on a brief online form, and an Oregon counselor was fined and reprimanded by the state board of counseling for the same thing.

It is important to remember that just because someone has purchased a letter or certificate from one of these companies, it doesn’t mean that they are not disabled, or that they are trying to “cheat the system”; it just means that they were misinformed and/or taken advantage of. When a housing provider receives a reasonable accommodation request that is not able to be approved, it is important to begin an open and respectful dialogue and to provide an explanation to the applicant regarding what is required and why what was provided is invalid.


NBC Article on Fined Counselors:

New York Times Article on ESAs:

HUD Notice on Assistance Animals and Reasonable Accommodations for Persons with Disabilities:

Landlords Beware: A Rise in Fraudulent Applications

Julie Tollifson - Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Landlords Beware: A Rise in Fraudulent Applications

In 2018 it was reported that more than 80% of property managers surveyed have fallen victim to tenant fraud. Many of these cases of fraud were not exposed until after the tenant had moved into the rental property and proven to be an unqualified tenant. Could there be an even greater statistic of undiscovered fraudulent renters? How can landlords and property managers protect these property investments?

The major increase in online rental applications and exponential rise in technology have significantly contributed to application fraud. The most common tenant scams include fabricating a fictional online identity, doctoring identification, and falsifying pay stubs.

            The most effective way to combat these scams is to utilize an established and trusted third party tenant screening agency. It is important that the property investor hire a professional property manager who is doing their due diligence in collecting current & government issued identification, accurate Social Security Information, and have all the disclosures listed clearly on the application.

            Most property managers prefer to use an instant online screening solution. This is largely due to the inexpensive cost and swift completed reports. It is important to consider hiring a professional property management company to invest in the necessary processes to be able to alleviate the grievances of apathetic tenants. First Rate Property Management invests in the knowledge, procedures, screening agencies, and programs on the front end to find qualified and consistent tenants to help capitalize on the investments of our clients. 

            First Rate Property Management’s screening agency, AcraNet, will always notify us if the name provided on the application does not meet the name provided by TransUnion through the Social Security Number. AcraNet is able to identify these “red flags” so we can address them with the tenant to gain clarification. 

            AcraNet does a great job of proactively combating these concerns before they become an issue. However, our screening agents here at FRPM do the income verification. When we heard that there has been a rise in pay stub fraud for rental applications, we went to work finding ways to proactively combat this before it became a problem locally. There are for-profit companies that can be found with a quick Google search for “fake paystubs” that, for a small fee of $10 or less, will formulate seemingly valid paystubs to submit to a landlord or property management company. Some companies will charge “package” fees for rental references, pay stubs, employment verification, and more for almost $100.

            Upon my research, I found there are many avenues to travel to mitigate this risk. The first- and perhaps the simplest- is to request paystubs and bank statements. You can verify that the direct deposits or cash amounts deposited match the check number.

            The second way is to verify employment by calling the employer. While this will verify the applicant is indeed employed, it may not verify the amount. This was listed in my research but was not recommended as it doesn’t alleviate the issue in whole. Some larger corporations that do this will outsource the verification service and can charge up to $25.

            Once AcraNet has reported the applicants’ credit report through TransUnion, we can cross check the information provided and the information found. There will inevitably be exceptions to these rules but it will create a need for open dialogue with the applicants to be able to get to the bottom of it.

            Landlord’s need to make sure they are enforcing a policy that keeps fraudulent applicants accountable, and follow our lead by having a more strenuous employment verification process. This process includes cross checking bank statements with pay stubs, and in some cases verifying with the employer.  FRPM is a Fair Housing Provider so we are allowed to update our screening criteria, but are required to qualify each and every one of our tenants based on the exact same criteria. We hope this issue never becomes prevalent in our market, but on the off chance it does, FRPM is prepared. 

Julie Tollifson, Leasing Team Leader

First Rate Property Management, Inc.
Boise, Idaho
Contact me for more information about this blog.

Google Reviews!

Julie Tollifson - Monday, December 16, 2019

Property Management: Google Review

            We are far too aware of how our Google Rating affects our property management business. With the PM stigma among tenants, the search engine optimization game feels almost impossible to win. However, with a good team, clear goals, and first rate customer service, you can optimize your search engine and drive traffic to your website to minimize the vacancies for your clients!

            Why care about our Google Rating? There is a plethora of benefits to a climbing Google or yelp rating. Everybody, owners and tenants included, uses Google. The ease of being able to evaluate others’ experience with a property management company from either perspective allows for immediate word of mouth, which as we know, is the most inexpensive way to market your company, product, or service. The more tenants or owners that we drive to our website after a quick Google search and evaluation of our reviews, the more we can grow our cliental, and the more tenants we have looking at our available listings to minimize vacancy.

            How to improve our Google Rating? There is a very complicated and extensive algorithm for how the expert engineers calculate a company’s Google Rating. Rather than achieving a degree in mathematics and engineering, I found it to be rather helpful to solicit both tenants and owners for reviews as often as possible. The most effective way to receive positive reviews is to request them after a tenant or owner has had a positive experience. Our company made a goal last year to achieve 4.0 Stars on Google. At the time, we were only at 3.5 Stars. We got together with each department to identify opportunities to ask our tenants for reviews.

            Our leasing department was able to improve the move-in process by creating a “Delayed Send” email to all recently moved-in tenants. The Leasing team adjusts the verbiage to be able to add their own voice to the tone of the emails, but our standard email congratulates the tenant on their new home, asks for any feedback, and provides a link for a Google Review. We had all these processes implemented by the time summer 2019 was starting to pick up. We had 100 Move-ins just in 1 month. All of those applicants were asked to provide our company with a review of the service they received. The reviews poured in. If they had constructive feedback for the company, we ask that they respond to our email so we can take the necessary corrective action.

            Our operations department sent out an email to all of our owners. The notice informed and educated our owners on why they should care about our Google Review rating. We received a good handful of reviews then as well.\

            When our maintenance department responds to a maintenance request with above and beyond service and resolution, they had already fostered a relationship with the tenants to be able to comfortably ask to review the service.

            What happens after our Google Rating improves? We were able to reach our goal in less than the allotted time. Our Google Rating reached a 4.0 by August 2019. When the market began to slow is when we started to see the statistical results of our hard earned reviews. The end of October, when the flexibility of looking for a home for prospective tenants has been restored, we are seeing our vacancy rate drop almost a full one percent. 

            The steady influx of new prospective owners inquiring about our services is undeniable. Without the expense of a marketing software or Business Development Team Member, our services spread vastly across our niche at a rate that we struggle to accommodate! While this is not solely contributed to the Google Rating, it is likely a very magnanimous part of the cause. Again, this has been the most inexpensive way for our company to market our service.

            What other benefits have you seen since increasing your Google Rating? Beyond the owner inquiry and decreased vacancy, our company had a ton of fun working towards this goal. It became an internal competition between each department and sometimes each individual. This not only motivated our team members but also promoted a team-oriented environment. Each review was matched with a ringing of the office bell, followed by words of praise and encouragement. The daily focus of achieving this goal cultivated the team buy-in and, in some cases, the instant gratification that so many seek. 

            We were always asking for our interactions at work with tenants or owners to be reviewed. This inspired all of our staff to think twice before sending an email or responding on the phone. The strive for first rate customer service & success was evident. There was active forethought from each individual with each interaction. 

            We made sure that beyond the instant gratification our team knew that achieving that goal would be worth their while. We planned a big “4.0 Party” to celebrate the victory. This was the positive reinforcement that some may have needed to remain motivated during the “dormant” phase of goal achieving process.

            Don’t stop there! Continue to find ways to achieve a higher Google Rating in hopes of achieving that seemingly expensive Search Engine Optimization so many businesses are struggling to master. We have adjusted our goal to improve our Google Rating again, and have already begun the process of implementing new programs. I am excited to achieve new successes again next year.  

Julie Tollifson, Leasing Team Leader

First Rate Property Management, Inc.
Boise, Idaho
Contact me for more information about this blog.

Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite!

Beny W. - Tuesday, December 10, 2019

As Boise’s population has boomed in the last decade, so have our area’s pest issues. One type of pest that we have encountered more frequently as a property management company is bed bugs. Bed bugs can be an embarrassing and uncomfortable topic, but it is important to remember that anyone can get them. Also, while it is very important to have the infestation treated as soon as possible to prevent spreading, bed bugs are not known to transmit diseases or cause any severe health issues.

In an effort to be proactive about pests and offer our tenants the best service, First Rate Property Management has partnered with Pestcom, a local, well-regarded pest control company, and will be extending Professional Pest Protection to all new tenants beginning January of 2020! This covers bed bugs as well as bees, ants, spiders, cockroaches, fleas, and many other common pests that tenants frequently encounter. Our existing tenants can opt into this service package as well.

Offering a pest control program is a win-win situation for both tenants and owners. Sometimes the source of the infestation is hard to identify, which makes it difficult to determine if the tenant or the owner pays for the costs associated with treatment. Tenants will also be more likely to report infestations if they know they will not be charged for the pest treatments, which will decrease the spread of bed bugs and lower costs for everyone. As bed bugs become more and more common, best practice for property managers is to create a contingency plan on how they will handle infestations, and proactively open up the channels of communication with their tenants about this issue.

Where do bed bugs hide?

When not feeding, bed bugs hide in a variety of places, but they especially love tight spaces. Around the bed, they can be found near the corners, in the piping, seams, and tags of the mattress or box spring, and in cracks on the bed frame and headboard. Bed bugs can squeeze into really small hiding spots; if a crack will hold a credit card, it could hide a bed bug!

How do I know if I have them?

• Small, dark reddish spots on sheets and mattresses.

• Eggs and eggshells, which are tiny (about 1mm) and pale yellow skins that the bugs shed as they grow larger.

• Bites are not an accurate way to determine if you have bed bugs, since they can be mistaken as rashes. Some people do not react to bed bug bites at all! If you do have a reaction, the bites are commonly in a line.

Can I Prevent Bed Bugs?

Unfortunately, bed bugs are excellent hitchhikers and hiders, which means there is no foolproof way to prevent an infestation. However, here are some helpful tips that can reduce your risk:

• Thoroughly check and vacuum suitcases when returning from a vacation.

• Never purchase or bring home used furniture without checking it THOROUGHLY for signs of bed bugs. Keep in mind that they don’t just live in mattresses; they can also be found in dressers, nightstands, etc. Use a bright flashlight to check the furniture, and remember they love tight spaces.

• Keep your home clean and clutter-free.

• Be careful at shared laundry facilities. Check your surroundings and the machines. Only high heat can kill them, so make sure the dryer is working properly.

• Use the room map included in this post to occasionally check your bedrooms for common hiding places, especially after travelling or having houseguests.

What do I do if I think I have bed bugs?

Do NOT try to treat the infestation yourself. Over the counter treatments are ineffectual, and can often lead to the bed bugs spreading out even further into your home or into your neighbor’s home. These treatments can also interfere with the treatments that the professionals will use.

If you are a tenant of First Rate, call us immediately – 208-321-1900

Parking Enforcement - The Good, The Bad, and The Boot

Arica Elordi - Tuesday, November 19, 2019

One of the most important amenities to many tenants is adequate parking at the apartment complex they are renting from. Many value having their parking lot enforced to keep unwanted visitors from parking in their spot. Hiring a vendor for this enforcement can help alleviate these concerns at some of the bigger complexes we manage.

There are various issues that have resulted in enforcing parking at certain complexes. These issues include but are not limited to:

  • Other people park in a resident’s assigned spot, causing a chain reaction of incorrect parking.
  • Insufficient guest parking so guests take up residents parking.
  • They own more vehicles than they are assigned, therefore taking up other residents parking.

Since we’ve started using Deep Six Parking Enforcement, we have had less parking issues that we have to handle, increase rentability of available units through offering this amenity, and keep parking limited to people on the rental agreement; this is especially helpful in downtown Boise during BSU games.

        Obviously, parking enforcement is strict and will sometimes upset tenants but Deep Six has been great about communicating the rules to avoid this from happening. If issues do arise, Deep Six will always take ownership and try to handle the conflict before it comes to FRPM. The residents who currently have parking enforcement feel safer knowing that all they have to do is make a phone call and the parking enforcement company will come directly to the property to assist. One of the greatest aspects of this service is that is completely free for investors and managers!

We have very clear policies detailed within our lease agreement that allows us to issue lease violations and enforce it when necessary. We have also seen decrease in vandalism at our properties and our residents have peace of mind knowing they parking lot is being surveyed. Deep Six Parking Enforcement even complies with city code, records, and documents to ensure they are running smoothly and fairly.

Showing 11- 20 of 82