The Elements of Good Property Management – Northwood Chats to Ken Bluff

Ken Bluff is an estate agent, property manager and Remax Top Associate, based in Cape Town.  With decades of experience in the real estate and property rental industry, he is passionate about delivering exceptional service to property owners and tenants alike.

In our previous blog post we outlined the benefits of using a property management company to source tenants, collect rent, and deal with maintenance on second homes – but what services should you expect as a property owner?

Northwood chatted to Ken Bluff about his approach to property management to find out what services second home owners should expect from a reputable letting company.

Selecting the right tenant

The quality of tenant you select to occupy your property can make the difference between a pleasant and profitable experience and endless headaches – Ken pays careful attention to the calibre of tenants he selects for his clients’ properties and requires each prospective tenant to fill in an application form before they are considered.

  • All prospective tenants need to provide proof of identity and employment, which are verified.
  • At the same time, a credit check is performed and the tenant’s current or previous landlords and letting agents are contacted for references.

The aim of this process is to select a tenant who pays on time, looks after the property, and is a stable, responsible person. This lays the foundation for a good tenant-owner relationship during the period of the lease.

Dealing with problem tenants

Nightmare stories about tenants who destroy rental properties, leave suddenly without paying rent, and cause problems with neighbors are all too common in the property rental industry. Ken believes that problem tenants should be dealt with in a fair but decisive way:

  • A deposit equal to two months’ rent is required from all tenants. This covers owners against the cost of doing repairs, and is an insurance against tenants who disappear without paying rent.
  • Tenants who pay late or try to “squat” in a rental property are handed over to attorneys who specialise in evictions.
  • Tenants are encouraged to report any maintenance issues as they arise – if they fail to do so, the cost of repairs is deducted from the deposit.

Most importantly, Ken believes in finding the right tenant for the property. A tenant with a clean background and a record of responsible dealings with agents and owners is not likely to behave in a way that would jeopardise the value of a rental property.

Should You Let your second Home Yourself or use a Property Management Company?

Property managementIf you own a second home as a property investment, or if you’re thinking of buying one, you may be wondering how to manage tenants, leases, and maintenance issues. There are two options available to owners of second properties – manage it yourself, or hand the job over to a property management specialist. To find out which option is easier, Northwood spoke to a property management specialist and learned more about the benefits and costs involved. Continue reading

Standard Bank’s New Credit Card Rewards Programme

Standard Bank UCountStandard Bank recently launched its new UCount Rewards programme, offering up to 10% cash back on grocery purchases and 1.5% cash back on other transactions. The numbers sound very appealing compared to rewards programmes offered by other banks, but is this new programme really beneficial to credit card holders?

What makes the UCount programme unique?

Most banks have programmes that “reward” their customers for making purchases on their credit cards, either in the form of discounts at certain retailers, special offers and packages, or by giving the customer back a certain percentage of their monthly spend. Unfortunately, the amount that most credit card users get back each month is usually a tiny percentage of what they spend – that may be about to change with the UCount programme.

UCount offers customers cash back when they use their Standard Bank credit cards at retailers in South Africa. The programme offers up to 10% cash back on grocery purchases and with the current cost of food, that offer alone may be enough to attract customers from other banks. The 1.5% cash back offered on other purchases is also a good incentive, and will certainly sweeten the deal.

What other features does the programme offer?

The generous cash-back offer on groceries may be UCount’s main selling point, but the programme also offers discounts and benefits on non-grocery purchases. Here are some of the programme’s best features:

  • The 10% cash-back reward can be accumulated at most major retailers, including PicknPay, Woolworths, Checkers, Spar, and Makro.
  • UCount customers can collect up to R1 per litre of petrol they purchase at Caltex garages.
  • Up to 5% cash-back rewards are offered when shopping at Clicks, Incredible Connection, or Tiger Wheel & Tyre.
  • Rewards can be spent at the Ucount online mall or travel mall, which offer specials on goods, services, and holiday packages.

What’s the catch?

Every product comes with certain terms and conditions, and UCount is no exception. The programme calculates the actual percentage the customer receives based on a tier system, and the 10% cash back on groceries only applies to purchases which make up less than 20% of the customer’s monthly spend. Once this quota has been exceeded, any other grocery purchases will be rewarded with 1.5% cash back.

If you’re thinking of switching to UCount, take some time to visit the programme’s website and learn more about the rewards and limitations of this innovative new product.

Spreading Risk in Retirement Investments

retirementToday, people of working age face a bigger challenge in planning their retirement than at any time in the past. If you’re anywhere between 25 and 55, the way you invest your retirement savings could make the difference between financial security and money problems in old age – here are some ways you can spread your investment risk and come out on top. Continue reading

How To Mobilize Difficult Staff

difficult-staffEvery business owner would like to work with a happy, motivated, and hard-working team – but what do you do when a member of staff simply doesn’t cooperate?

Difficult employees can make things very unpleasant in the office environment, creating unnecessary tension with fellow team members and managers and even alienating clients and suppliers. Rudeness, poor work results, and a general lack of team spirit are just a few of the tell-tale signs of a difficult staff member – here are some solutions for managers and business owners who’ve reached the end of their tether with a problem employee. Continue reading

Dealing With Conflict at Work

resolving-staff-conflictNo matter how hard they try, some colleagues and team members just can’t seem to get along.  From outbursts during meetings to email wars that can drag the entire office into a time-wasting state of tension, workplace conflict is one of the biggest obstacles to effective management.

If your business doesn’t have an HR specialist on the payroll, you don’t need to spend a fortune on consultants – here are some common-sense approaches you can take to resolving office conflicts. Continue reading