Rental Applications 101

Let’s paint a picture together. You’ve been scrubbing the depths of Craigslist and have finally come across a rental listing that ticks every box. You can barely contain your excitement and think to yourself, it’s perfect! You’re anxious to hear back from the landlord and can’t wait to see the space in person. It’s a sunny weekend and you travel across town to drop in and view the unit and it looks even better than the pictures do. You’re in love and you must have it! The weather is excellent, so you bike down the seawall, tend to the community garden, enjoy a patio beer and before you know it, the weekend is over so you decide to fill out an application bright and early on Monday morning so you can get ahead of the competition. Three and half hours go by and your stomach sinks as you read a polite email that is thanking you for your interest and letting you know that the place has already been rented. For a lot of you renters out there this tale sounds all too familiar, doesn’t it?

Face it, finding that dream home in Vancouver’s competitive rental market can be a challenging task to say the least and to help with that we’ve put together a few simple tips and habits that should have you stand out from the competition and give you the edge you need to call that perfect listing, home sweet home.

We believe that preparation makes its own luck so we’d advise prospective renters to put their best efforts towards ensuring that any and all potential documents that a landlord may request are prepared and scanned into email format before even beginning their rental search. Seasoned landlords and professional property management companies would request a combination of employment, residential and financial references and some standard pieces of information that we believe a rental applicant should have ‘at the ready’ could include but aren’t limited to:

Confirmation of current employment status: This could be a letter of employment, an offer letter, a recent salary certificate and/or current paystubs that confirm the name, job title and clearly show the current date.
Proof of finances: depending on the type of work you do, this can include but isn’t limited to two recent pay stubs, tax information about your employment, statements of earnings or an employment letter from your company that provides a clear picture of your earnings.
Landlord reference(s): This is critical and residences that span the last three to five years would be ideal. Essential information that is looked for would include the length of the tenancy, consistency of rent payments, the unit’s condition, whether there were any pets and subsequent damage, complaints or concerns and the all-important understanding as to whether a prospect’s current or previous landlord would rent to them again. If you currently own a home, it would be great to get references from previous landlords or personal references from individuals that aren’t family members. We would even recommend sharing some proof of ownership of your current house and providing some visuals on the kind of home you own and maintain.
Credit History: An updated copy of your credit report with certain personal information redacted can help cut down the transaction time of your application and is a common request from landlords. It may also help to have a soft check done once and provided to landlords if you are applying to numerous places and do not want multiple credit reports requested.
Personal References: A couple of references from friends or neighbours are also great to have on hand. We would not say that they are critical to an application but are undoubtedly helpful in providing a potential landlord with valuable information on yourself as a resident.
Personal, residential and employment references should be clearly presented and easy to reach out to. Our advice is to let your references know in advance that they may be contacted and to keep a lookout. This is a great way to ensure that the inquiring landlord receives a prompt turnaround time.

Now that you have your information available, there is no harm in dressing things up and providing a landlord with some information outside the standard employment and financial requests. A well-written cover later that explains your interests, lifestyle, hobbies, and what an ideal rental would look like or why their rental appeals to you would be great additions as they are great ways to have your application stand out for a reviewing landlord who would be able to bring to memory your brief encounter if multiple prospects were viewing the rental. Most importantly, having more information on who you are would give a landlord the increased confidence they need when deciding on who they would trust their home with.

Lastly, have you ever heard the old saying that if you are right on time, you are already late? This could not ring truer than with applications. Great listings will often have pronounced interest and it’s our experience that verified renters are often in the habit of either applying before the viewing, handing in their completed application at the showing appointment itself or in a worst-case, applying right after the showing. Timing is a crucial factor in getting ahead of the competition and if you know you have a strong application then by all means, let a landlord see it first. Most landlords are looking to rent out their homes as soon as possible and will likely review and decide on applications on a first-come, first-serve basis so don’t wait until the following day or when the weekend is over as the home could be rented by then.

We will leave you with the idea that Preparation, Presentation and Punctuality are the 3 P’s to submitting an application that stands out and we hope that these tips go a long way to helping you secure your next dream home. On behalf of the team at Sycamore Property Management, we wish you the best of luck on your search!



Do you need tenant insurance?

The topic of tenant insurance (or renter insurance) may be the riveting conversational equivalent to watching grass grow. Still, it is an important one and no matter how we slice it, the truth remains that “you don’t need it until you need it” and if you don’t have it, you are already too late.

Alarming statistics show that less than half of Canadian renters have tenant insurance and in Vancouver, approximately 60% of renters feel that it is an unnecessary expense.

A professional property manager will be the first to advocate that the property owner and the tenant must protect themselves with their own insurance plans in place. Insurance products can differ from each provider and should suit the lifestyle of the resident. It is a smart move for any renter to speak with a broker and learn more about how they can protect their tenancy.

Over our many years in property management, we have come across several reservations that tenants have when rental insurance is brought up so we thought we would list the five most common statements we have heard and do away with any confusion around them.

The owner is insured. Do I need more insurance? Yes, you do. An owner’s insurance and tenant insurance are not the same. Simply put, an owner would be insured to protect and support their property in the event of damage to it. Their policy would not be designed to cover the needs of the tenant. In most cases, the replacement of possessions or any additional living costs associated with property damage would be the tenant’s responsibility which is not a pleasant out-of-pocket expense.

Hey, I just rent here! When you tenant a property, any activity performed on that property by you or your guests is your responsibility. Property managers have seen it all, so we’ll ask you to imagine a scenario where a friend who visits your home (now that’s an imaginative thought in 2020, eh?) wants to showcase a risky new dance move. They slip, fall and seriously injure themself. As the tenant of that property, you could be responsible for all their medical expenses and lost wages created by their inability to work. Tenant insurance, when structured correctly, could cover this. Experts advise that the minimum liability coverage should be $100,000 but suggest that $1 million – $2 million in liability coverage is ideal.

I could crash at my friend’s place for a few days. The thought of your buddy with the Ikea pull-out couch is excellent when you have had too much eggnog to drive home but we can promise you that the novelty will soon wear off after a few days. It would be best if you kept in mind that repair work can be extensive and untimely. You could be in a long-term lease and even with a professional property manager involved it could be months before you can return home. Your tenant insurance could be designed to protect and support your living costs should you require to move. Else, you’d better hope that in the past, you’ve picked up a few dinner cheques for that friend with the pull-out couch.

My rental already costs me too much! Okay, sure. But what if we told you that you could have rental insurance coverage for the cost of, say, four toffee nut lattes a month? Would that be too much of an additional expense to protect your home and everything you own? More than ever, this year has proven that uncertainty is the norm so why place yourself in a state of risk? The average cost of tenant insurance in BC comes in at around $25 a month and varies depending on the type of unit you are renting and your possessions. Our advice would be to skip a latte or two, break out the coffee maker at home and invest those savings in the peace of mind that being insured can bring.

I don’t own much stuff. We appreciate that this can be a subjective statement but what about your laptop, TV, tablets, phones, appliances, clothes, shoes or that Pokémon card collection you never told your friends about? If there is no tenant insurance in place you would likely require to re-purchase all these items yourself. Coverage for the necessities needed to get you back onto your feet can be a blessing during an already stressful time. The average replacement value suggested for an apartment is usually around $20,000 but is subject to each individuals’ items. An insurance broker would be able to better advise on the best amount that would have you covered.

At the Sycamore Property Management Group, we can’t stress enough just how important having rental insurance is for a tenant. Our recommendation is to start your New Year off protected by talking to an insurance advisor today. On behalf of the team, we would like to wish everyone a safe and happy festive season, may love, laughter and good fortune carry us through 2021.

Should you hire a professional property manager?

Managing a successful tenancy is certainly no walk in Stanley Park. A landlord has to wear many hats and often navigate legal, financial and technical scenarios to ensure quiet enjoyment is maintained. In keeping the investment property viable, any doubt or lack of understanding of the above frameworks can be damaging to an investors time, finances and more importantly, their peace of mind.

At Sycamore Property Management, our goal is to offer turn-key rental services that maintain strong tenancies and remove the stress of being a landlord.

Here are 5 reasons why hiring a professional property management team is the best decision for your investment property.

Bespoke fits better
Hands down, the enemy of a rental is a vacancy period. It is far too often that we see excellent properties sitting on the rental market unoccupied because they had the wrong rental listing strategy in place. In addition to location and marketing trends, there are several added elements that a professional property manager would include in their approach to finding exceptional tenants. This expertise, when combined with a custom strategy for your rental, could save you thousands of dollars brought on by an empty property.

Property managers are “show offs.”
A successful property manager requires to be a seasoned rental marketer. Knowing exactly where to list a property to ensure the highest amount of traction is vital. Additionally, a professional property manager will also be able to optimize a rental listing to appeal to the right demographic. Whether it is the use of captivating photography, video walk-throughs or 3D tours, a property management company will ensure that your listing is seen by as many people as possible.

When curiosity doesn’t kill
A bad tenant can be a nightmare that brings on property damage, unwarranted stress and potential lawsuits. An experienced property manager knows what to look for when interviewing and assessing prospective tenants and has had enough experience to spot the red flags. The professional approach is systematic and extensive. Employment, residential and financial history are screened so no stone is left unturned and your rental income is left more secure by placing qualified and reliable tenants in your home. Also, never discount the instinct of a professional who has been doing this for years! We’ve seen (and avoided) it all.

Been there, done that!
At best, the business of being a landlord is unpredictable and untimely. Emergency repairs, an everchanging legal landscape, life changes for tenants and inclement weather are only a few of the time-sensitive matters where if not addressed appropriately can cost you both a substantial amount of time and money. A professional property manager will have contingencies on hand based on their knowledge of the legal framework, familiarity with the rental market and access to industry resources. A wrong decision taken by an inexperienced landlord can prove to be very damaging. Ask anyone you know who has had a bad tenant experience. They are our best promoters!

Staying on top
Hiring a professional property management company will go a long way towards keeping your maintenance costs in line. An experienced manager will decide and prioritize what is needed to be done and their strong relationships with trade partners will keep price and service competitive. A qualified approach to preventative and emergent maintenance will increase overall savings and assist with property value. And don’t worry, you are involved along the way to approve costs so you aren’t surprised by your monthly financial statements.

The rent is due
We have all heard the saying “time is money” but have you ever thought about all the time you could save when you aren’t chasing your own money? A professional property management company would have systems in place that would ensure prompt rent collection each month and provide you with consistent cash-flow. It is clear that we are in uncertain times and rent may be challenging for a tenant on occasion. Even so, you can rest assured that an experienced property manager would have remedies in place to ensure all facets of rent collection were available to you as an owner and that it always remains paid.

In closing, when you make the decision to hire Sycamore Property Management you can rest assured that your investment and your tenants will be well taken care of. Our expertise and service level remains unmatched in the industry and is the reason our clients trust us with their rental homes. Connect with us today so we can discuss building and protecting your rental wealth!

7 Tips to lower your heating bill

Residents in Vancouver are often grateful for experiencing a milder version of the Canadian winter. Even so, an ambient home can prove to be a subjective topic. As we bid farewell to fall and temperatures across the province start to drop, it’s safe to assume that squabbles around the thermostat are to ensue. But what is not so subjective? You guessed it…heating bills!

With the current climate around COVID19, we expect less travel and a lot more time to be spent indoors during this season. Here are some easy to implement tips from the team at Sycamore Property Management that can help reduce and maintain heating costs for both landlords and tenants alike.

When one door closes.
Closing all the doors and windows in the house ensures that heat is trapped in your rooms, which would mean that less energy will be used in maintaining the warmth of your home. Simple steps that can be put into practice at your property are:

– Placing a mat at the bottom of doors to prevent heat from escaping or cold air from entering.
– When starting a conversation with someone, either invite them in or step outside closing the door behind you promptly.
– Use basic weather stripping available at your local hardware store around doors and windows to prevent further heat loss.

Getting fired Up.
A fireplace can add a cozy and inviting feel to any room. However, when lit, they can draw heat from any space right up through the chimney. An easy solution to this is, when your fireplace is operating, turn down your main thermostat and adjust the damper (if applicable) when not in use to slow the rate at which heated air escapes.

The winter wardrobe.
Did you know that setting your thermostat one degree lower can actually cut your energy bill by 3% and setting it 3 degrees lower can save you up to 10%? A cost-effective method of ensuring these savings are possible involves the simple act of putting on a pair of socks, pajamas or even that cable knit your aunt so thoughtfully made for you last Christmas.

Don’t get exhausted.
Bathroom fans and oven hoods are key sources of energy loss during the winter months. Using exhaust fans only when needed and shutting them off as soon as you are done can go a long way to reducing energy bills during those colder months. 

Is your refrigerator running? 
Did you know that the condenser coils at the back or bottom of your fridge are required to be cleaned regularly and can contribute to a higher energy bill? Dirt, food, pet hair, and all that other unwanted stuff that gets lodged under your fridge causes it to work harder to stay cool. A vacuum, coil brush, and some elbow grease are recommended to easily remedy this.

Adjust your temperature.
Ensuring that your thermostat is set to the lowest comfortable temperature across the home and is turned down at least 10 or 15 degrees when you away or asleep can save you a significant amount on your energy bills. A programmable or smart thermostat is recommended to make the process both convenient and efficient.

Out with the old and in with the LED.
Winter is a good time to switch over to LED lighting. They use at least 75% less energy than traditional bulbs and provide you with a massive saving on energy bills during the winter. This applies to all your holiday lights as well.

At Sycamore Property Management, we are always looking for ways to improve the lives of our clients and tenants. We hope that these easy to implement energy tips go a long way towards ensuring your comfort, saving you money and help us all be better friends to the planet. We wish you all a safe and healthy winter.


6 Secrets to a better tenancy

Creating personal wealth through rental income is extremely rewarding. Being a landlord on the other hand, isn’t easy. The journey can often become complicated when faced with challenging properties, strained tenant relationships, or, as we are all experiencing right now, a global health pandemic. We are in a time that has created immense financial strain for a great number of owners and renters across the globe and this can affect tenancies.

Although times can often change, the fundamentals of being a good landlord remain the same. Our advice at Sycamore Property Management is to create and maintain tenant relationships that last so that your rental property continues to see an income from great tenants rather than a vacancy. 

1. Hire a professional property manager
Being the ‘best property managers in the business’ biases us when saying this, however, hiring a professional is by far the single best decision one can make towards maximizing the potential of their investment property. Being a successful landlord is essentially a people business that merges communication skills, knowledge of rental law, experience with preventative and emergent maintenance and excellent administrative skills. Property Managers do this for a living and we can assure you, a professional will always net you a healthier and longer-term tenancy.

2. Small Investments can go a long way
We certainly don’t advocate for spending large amounts of money on vanity projects for a rental, especially in this time of economic uncertainty. What we do encourage is spending ‘time’, which is just as valuable a currency. There are plenty of small scale and affordable projects that can be done with the help of family and friends that can raise the status, cosmetic appeal and even add a few dollars to the rental price all while keeping your tenants content in a pleasant living space. Things like a fresh coat of paint, higher luminescence bulbs, power washing of deck space and drive-ways and a shampooing of carpets or buffing of floors can add tons of a appeal to a rental space without breaking the bank.

3. Honest advertising
Being honest about the strengths and opportunities of your rental goes a long way to starting a relationship off on the right foot. Pictures, specifications and listing plans should clearly highlight features that would attract your desired renter while letting them know exactly what kind of space they are renting. Be clear on price and what is included as this can avoid strained communications in the future.  Additionally, your rental property should be showcased across the correct mediums and platforms based on both location and needs. There are a number of portals that are often ignored for the ones that are the most popular or easiest to post on.

4. Be open to alternatives
These are especially tough times. Quarantines, work stoppages and business being unable to operate can make both rent and mortgage payments difficult. Having an open and honest conversation that includes discussions around government supplements, rent deferments and/or payment plans that suit both parties can go a long way to ensuring that you have a great tenant remain in your property while gaining a portion of your rental as compared to a vacancy as well as doing your part to providing an individual with safe housing during these difficult times. At the end of the day, we are all in this together.

5. A rental is a business, repairs are a business expense
Staying on top of repairs is a powerful gesture that lets your tenants know that you care about their tenancy and respect them as individuals. Of course no landlord wants to hear that their washer and dryer need to be replaced but a house is a sum of many moving parts and eventually, even with careful usage, repairs and replacements need to be done. Having these responded to and fixed in a timely manner is a surefire way to ensuring a pleasant and long-term tenancy.

6. Respect privacy
Often overlooked, landlords must understand that some tenants do not enjoy face-to-face interaction and although it is nothing personal, they would like to have as least contact with you as possible. A pleasant tenancy is one with the least amount of required interaction, which would give rise to a tenant feeling that a space is truly theirs. In the event that a visit is required and/or an inspection needs to be completed, we urge to always give proper notice and never intrude. Additionally, email is a great way to stay in touch as the communication is already automatically documented.

If you are a property owner that is currently facing a challenge with marketing your rental property or have questions about navigating this rather complex environment we would be happy to get connected and see where we could help. We are currently offering incentives on our services to assist during this challenging time.

We are truly grateful for the opportunity to continue to work with our clients and tenants. At this time we would like to take a moment to applaud the tireless efforts of our front line essential workers who, through their bravery and commitment are allowing our beautiful city to continue functioning. We will all see each other soon.

5 Secrets to Maximizing Rental Potential

In a competitive rental market, experienced property management professionals will tell you that there are a number of ways to ensure that your rental is performing well. Below are 5 industry secret’s to ensure that you are getting the best out of your investment property.

Tip 1: Quality Advertising
In a competitive market, with thousands of ad’s that can be used to compare to your listing, taking measures to having your rental stand out is the first step to demonstrating ‘value’. Telling a story that includes all of the wow-factors of a particular property will peak greater interest in the home and most importantly, when a viewing appointment comes through, sell it…. don’t just show it.

Tip 2: Screen your Tenants
In our opinion, there is no better way towards protecting your rental and ensuring it gets the top market price than thoroughly vetting prospects. This is your most valuable investment and taking calculated steps towards placing great tenants who will rent respectfully and treat your home responsibly can save thousand’s …even, ten’s of thousands of dollars in repairs, arbitration and potential vacancy.

 Tip 3: Annual Rental Increases
The government of BC allows for a nominal increase to be applied to a rental every 12 months. The last few years have shown us that this can range from 1% to 4% on the monthly rental rate. Allowed increases such as this are aimed at keeping in line with inflation and/or rising costs for managing a rental property. This can, if communicated appropriately with tenants, be a relatively easy way to ensure that your property remains tenanted while increasing costs are supported.

Tip 4: Preventative Maintenance
At Sycamore Property Management our belief is that ‘a dollar saved, is a dollar earned’ and one of the best ways to increase returns is to lower expenses. Preventive maintenance can do just that. Tenants can’t be relied on to perform such maintenance as they’re investment in the property is limited. In addition, we often find that tenants can sometimes be unaware or oblivious to small leaks that can often result in thousands of dollars worth of damage. It is important to have a plan and a team in place to ensure that your home is functioning as efficiently as possible. The bottom line is that regular maintenance will ensure that units are working as efficiently as possible and extending their lifespan tremendously.

Tip 5: Communicate, Communicate and Communicate
Perhaps one of the most underrated financial tips. Simply put, communicating consistently and being responsive to your tenants has the following side-effects; a longer healthier landlord-tenant relationship, rent will be timely and consistent, potential risks to the home will be made visible at the earliest and above all your tenants will appreciate you and care for the home to a deeper degree. A little gesture can go a long way to protecting your rental.

BONUS TIP – Connect with Sycamore Property Management – RE/MAX Masters Realty to experience many more best practices aimed at maximizing the rental potential on your property. We don’t just tell you…we show you.