DEAR BOB: My wife and I plan to sell our home in the next month or so. We are finishing up some minor repairs. Following your advice, we had the house completely painted inside and outside. Frankly, I hate to move, but we recently bought a Florida condo where we are looking forward to retiring. It is in a big, concrete, “hurricane proof,” (at least that’s what the developer says) brand-new building. My question involves which realty agent should get our listing. As you suggest, we interviewed several agents. One agent works for RE/MAX and emphasizes her firm’s Web site and relocation referrals. But another agent works at a local independent firm, which is very successful and has been here since 1924. A third agent we interviewed works at Coldwell Banker and was a little pushy about explaining their “famous name” franchise benefits. My question is should we go with a franchise or independent listing agent? – Harley R.

DEAR HARLEY: Just between us, it doesn’t matter where your listing agent works. You are hiring that individual agent, not the brokerage, to make a successful sale of your home.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

The name on the door of his or her brokerage firm is irrelevant. What counts is the success record of the listing agent you hire.

I’ll presume you asked all the right questions of each agent during their listing presentations. If you haven’t already done so, please phone their most recent home sellers to ask, “Were you in any way unhappy with your listing agent and would you list your home for sale again with the same agent?”

Recommendations from past satisfied home sellers are the most important reference a real estate agent has. Those testimonials are far more important than whether your listing agent works with a famous-name franchise brokerage or a local independent broker.

SHOULD LANDLORD CHECK OUT BOTH TENANT APPLICANTS?

DEAR BOB: In your property management report, you recommend having both tenants sign the rental agreement. Would you run a credit report check on both tenants or just one? What if the second applicant’s credit report isn’t so good? – Michael M.

DEAR MICHAEL: It is extremely important for a landlord to obtain a credit report for all adult tenants applicants for an apartment or house. If possible, also get the applicant’s FICO (Fair, Isaac and Co.) credit score. A FICO score below 620 is not good.

Also, be sure your rental agreement provides for joint and several liability. That means if one co-tenant doesn’t pay their share of the rent, the other is liable for the full amount of the rent.

This can become extremely important if you have one good and one bad co-applicant. Don’t necessarily reject them both. Just be sure to explain that if one co-tenant doesn’t pay their rent share, or moves out, the other is expected to pay the full amount.

Concentrate on the “strong applicant.” Ask yourself, “If the weak tenant moves out, will the remaining strong tenant be able to pay all the rent?”

Or, if the strong tenant moves out, and the weak tenant can’t pay, do I want to sue the strong tenant who has moved out but remains legally obligated for the rent? For more details, please consult a local real estate attorney who specializes in landlord-tenant law.

WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT A BAD PROPERTY MANAGEMENT FIRM?

DEAR BOB: I enjoy reading your real estate articles on the Internet each week at www.washingtonpost.com in Europe where I am working for at least two more years. I’ve been reading your articles for so many years, I feel like you are my real estate chat friend (although we have never met). When I left the states, I entrusted the rental of my house to a local real estate management firm that seemed quite competent. Basically, all they have to do is collect the rent, deduct their 10 percent fee, send me a monthly expense report and check, and take care of any repairs. But about two months ago my tenant moved out at the end of her lease. Since then, the management company says they haven’t been able to find a new tenant. Phone calls and e-mails haven’t produced results. What should I do? – Brent H.

DEAR BRENT: Now you know why I don’t recommend long-distance property ownership. Although many rental markets are very slow now (primarily because most qualified renters have purchased their own homes due to low mortgage interest rates), your rental management firm should have had at least a few prospective tenants in two months.

Unless you have a local friend or relative to manage your rental house, it is obviously time to switch management firms. But before you do that, please phone the president of your current firm to see if the current situation can be salvaged such as by more advertising for tenants. If not, perhaps you need to make a trip to the U.S. to interview better property managers.

The new Robert Bruss special report, “How to Become a Successful Real Estate Negotiator,” is now available for $4 from Robert Bruss, 251 Park Road, Burlingame, CA 94010 or by credit card at 1-800-736-1736 or instant Internet download at www.bobbruss.com. Questions for this column are welcome at either address.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center
).

***

What’s your opinion? Send your Letter to the Editor to newsroom@inman.com.

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