It’s no secret that the Dallas / Fort Worth area is a playground for investors, so we went looking for a qualified professional to give you some much needed information. In this article, you will meet Robyn Bullard of Red Phone Real Estate. Robyn has over 30 years real estate experience and is not only a real estate investor, but a real estate broker and certified property manager as well. Here is our interview with Robyn:
Tell us a little about your company.
I am a native Texan, and have worked in several areas of real estate for over 30 years. All of my experience is in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. I began years ago as an investor. In the last 8 years, I decided to formally study real estate, got my license, then my Broker’s license. I own my company and am also a Texas Certified Property Manager. I have a small firm and am very hands on. I know all my renters and owners. They all have my personal cell, and I treat their homes as if they were my own. I have very little turnover rate, as happy renters tend to stay, which is a savings for the owners.
Tell us some stats about you or your company.
I close an average of 5 million per year. I am blessed to pick which people I work with, and it’s very important to me that we are like minded. My average close on a listing is 30 days – from contract to close – however, my lender can get them done in 14 days. In the Metroplex, homes are selling within an hour of being listed. My average price is 250 – 500,000. I have done deals that are 100,000 and well over 1 million. My goal is to close 4 per month minimum without adding additional staff to slow the process. Most all my transactions are residential, however I have closed land and multifamily. My management company is strictly residential – from Burleson to McKinney – and Gun Barrel to Aledo.
Do you work solo, or are you part of a team? Why is that beneficial?
I work solo. I have agents working for me in case I need help, but I like handling my own business. I want my clients to know they are well taken care of and I personally am working for them, not passing them off. I have also worked with some very high profile clients where signing “non-disclosure” was necessary. I can be very discrete when working without other eyes and ears.
How is your company different from others?
It’s not about the money – it’s about the client.
Are you and/or your company on any social media sites?
Many – Zillow, Trulia, Realtor, Pintrest, Facebook. Etc….
Robyn Bullard in white & red hands on hips
Do you have a blog or newsletter to keep clients informed? What type of information is typically in your newsletter/blog?
No, I write for a couple of publications, so that’s all the time I have. I personally do emails to my contact list to stay in touch, or pass along vital info.
What designations do you hold?
Right now – Texas Certified Residential Property Manager, and Texas Certified Leasing specialist. I am working on GRI, Senior Specialist and others. I think you can never learn enough about your business.
Is your company a family-owned business, part of a franchise, small business, etc? Why is this beneficial?
I am a corporation just for my landlord’s protection and my agent’s. However, I believe my small company feels like concierge real estate services.
What is your business philosophy?
Take care of your clients, and the rest takes care of itself.
What associations do you belong to?
NARPM, TAR, Metrotex
Tell us about your service area:
South – Burleson
North – Denton
East – Gun Barrel City
West – Aledo/Weatherford
What types of properties are being rented more frequently (commercial, residential)?
I only handle residential – and it’s booming!
What are the residential vacancy rates?
Almost non existent. Rentals – like sales – are being fought over. As long as they are priced right and in a decent area – they rent in just days.
What kinds of amenities attract renters?
Clean, fresh, non-smoking, allowing small pets, 2 car garage.
What is the average length of time it takes to rent a vacant property?
What is the average rent?
From $0.72 to $1.10 per sq. ft.
What type of marketing do you do when listing a property for rent?
MLS, professional photos, and various rental sites that rank #1 on google searches.
Do you perform regular properties inspections? What do you inspect? Do you take pictures? Do you send the pics to the IRA account holder?
I have a new program called snap inspect. I have to say it’s fairly new, and I began using it in my own HOA. So far I really like it. There is huge controversy over whether a manager should/should not do inspections. They tend to offend the renter, and they sometimes leave as they feel violated. My goal is to keep them full and producing. Turnover is never good for an owner. And, if we do inspect, and find anything we cannot force any action as they must leave the home the way they found it – and they are not “gone” yet. It would be like arresting a shoplifter before they leave the store. If I sometimes do if I feel something is odd. I use the excuse that it’s renewal time and we have new codes to make sure the property is performing and up to code. That usually works. My renters have all been in their homes for years. At least 3 and some 8.
What insurance is required? What additional insurance do you recommend? Do you work with an insurance agent?
The owner is required to have insurance that covers the dwelling, and me as an additional insured so I can handle issues if necessary. The renters are required to carry renters insurance for their contents. I have several agent references.
What is your tenant screening process? How detailed is it?
I run a very thorough background search to include tenant rental history, criminal history, and credit history. I am very conservative in who I rent to. Again, as if it was mine.
What is the eviction process? Do you have experience evicting tenants?
Sadly, yes, I have experience. But, not with my tenants. I have self-managed owners call me often (I am actually doing one right now) that have lost control of their rentals and cannot get the renter to pay or leave. The process is specific in Texas – 3 day notice to pay, 10 day notice to vacate. The courts are a bit stacked up, so it can take up to 3 weeks. However, there are so many alternatives to this process.
I tend to know my renters well enough where they call me if they are going to be late or are in trouble financially. Then we work out a solution. I do not like to do this to anyone, and hate spending the money. Most tenants just want to be heard and respected.
Robyn Bullard in white wagging fingerHow do you handle a difficult tenant?
1. You can usually tell if someone is difficult, and I don’t rent to them.
2. Carefully – and give them lots of attention – so they know I am paying attention.
3. We go by the lease – period. That often takes care of things!
An example of this happens when someone comes from apartment living to a single family. They are used to a staff waiting to get a maintenance call. There is an adjustment period for them. I have a handyman answer them right away – then they adjust.
What is the procedure if a tenant does not pay rent?
Day 3 – letter of default and notice to cure
Day 10 – letter to vacate
However, again, this is the legal path. I prefer to call/text/email and just ask if they are okay. This usually gets a quick response and I try to work through it before it gets ugly.
How often do you provide accurate financial statements? Monthly
How do you help with client determine how much rent should be charged?
I run rental comps no more than 60 days old, and no more than ½ mile from site.
How should the property be prepared for renting?
Fresh is best! I find that a home will attract the renter that looks like the home. If the home is not maintained, then the renter will not take care of it. It should be clean, neat, and free of damage or non-working items. I have an inspection list to work through when someone starts.
How long does it take to process an application? How is it processed?
1 day – if all the phone numbers are correct. I do them personally and have a service that I subscribe to that provides all the information. Then I make calls to verify all the info. I am strict on the application being legible and complete. Also know, that I follow Texas law and cannot forward those to any owners. I do provide basic info and like when someone helps make that decision to rent.
Because I am an individual, I do have an agreement with another Broker – many many years of experience – that will step in if anything happens to me. This is vital for a small firm.
MAINTENANCE / REPAIRS
How do you find service providers? Is it the client’s responsibility to find providers?
It the service is caused by the renter – they must do the repair.
If the house just has something fail because of age, then I have licensed professionals do the work and take the money from rent next month. However, the owner is ALWAYS informed of any upcoming repairs. I like to have them signed off on before I hire a subcontractor.
What are you looking for during an initial inspection of the property?
I have a specific list I can provide. Mostly safety and health issues. As well as any conditions that would prevent fast rental or failing to get good quality renters.
Do you recommend seasonal maintenance to the client? Do you have vendors to help with the maintenance?
I have a couple of recommendations. I like when my owners buy Home Warranty. It can prevent big surprises like hot water heaters or air conditioners. It helps keep expenses predictable. I do have vendors – but if we use home warranty companies - they provide the licensed, insured professional to do the work.
How are clients informed when a repair needs to be quoted or done?
Email, call or text. Whatever you prefer. Most of my clients or managers, I know well enough to call and follow with email.
How do you handle an after-hours emergency?
I have a handyman ready to do whatever we need….however, there are few things that must be done in the middle of the night.
Please share some of your client’s testimonials.
I have not asked for testimonials. However, I have a lovely set of responses on Zillow from my clients that will tell you who I am and how they feel working with me.
Do you have references potential clients can call? Absolutely.
Why do you recommend using a professional management company versus self-managing a property?
I don’t even know where to start this one.
For me, it’s business. For them it’s personal. Being removed from the home is freedom according to my owners. They want to take their time to buy and sell other properties, not calling on a broken toilet.
A professional company is much less likely to get into trouble legally than an owner. With our documentation and record keeping, and knowledge of fair housing, the owner is so much safer.
What repairs or upgrades do you recommend to get the biggest “bang for your buck” before a property is rented out?
Paint and carpet. Fresh kitchen and bathrooms. But, pain and carpet/tile/faux wood are the 1st thing.
What improvements are not worth the time when renting a property?
Real wood floors, expensive tile bathrooms or entries,
WOULD YOU LIKE TO TELL US ANYTHING ELSE?
Just a word – I do not adjust my pricing or policies for anyone. My goal is win/win. That’s between renter and owner. I am held to a strict code of ethics, which include policies and procedures outlined by the State of Texas. I want us to all make money and stay out of trouble!
Personally, I feel real estate can be a great investment. If we have another 2007/2008, you still have something besides a piece of paper. It may be worth a bit less, but you still have something!
Questions for Robyn:
Red Phone Real Estate
5700 Granite Parkway, Suite 200
Plano, Tx. 75024
Questions for an IRA Specialist:
Jaclyn M. Grella