Create beautiful floor plans with a fun and easy- to- use app

Floorplanner pictureRenovating a home can be both an exciting and exhausting process. Property owners go through numerous floor plans, but are often clueless on how to read the floor plans. Floorplanner is an app that makes floor planning easy. Property owners can use the app and work with their architects to understand the big picture and the small details of their floor plan, and feel like they are a part of the process in their home design. We spoke with Jeroen Bekkers from Floorplanner to learn more.

APM: Would you mind describing Floorplanner in more detail?

Jeroen: Yes, the idea is very simple. I’m an architect myself and we all have a background from the building industry. We were creating custom software for big building projects for quite some time and we were always missing easy, good‑looking floor plans. They were always created with CAD programs that were difficult to produce. They looked like black and white drawings and they were not very user‑friendly. Only those with an architectural background or a real estate background could understand the complexity of these floor plans. But for an average user, or an average homeowner, it’s pretty difficult to understand and grasp the scale by just viewing the floor plan. We thought we should make a way for floor plans to be easier to read and understand.

That’s why we started Floorplanner as an online tool to create floor plans easily. For example, you can place furniture in the floor plans to get an exact idea of scale. We launched it in 2007, and we saw several people using the app, and enjoying their overall experience with it. We did not really need to advertise either. We now have over 10 million users worldwide and over 10,000 per-day sign up for our tool. We see homeowners, people who are moving, real estate agents and property developers all using our app. Our tool is free to use for one person, for one house. But if you want to use it professionally for multiple homes and want to put your own logo in, then you pay us a small fee for having that premium service.

APM: It’s nice to hear that a homeowner can be a little more hands‑on and understand the details and changes in their own home. Can you talk a little bit more of some of the features you offer?

Jeroen: We have a very simple 2D drawing too that does not require any software to be installed. No plug‑in is needed, and it works with all browsers to create the floor plans. We have a real-time 3D view. So you can see your plans and turn them around. You see them, almost like a dollhouse, like a model. We have the option to place furniture and decorate the floor plans with a library of about 5,000 2D and 3D objects. We also offer premium features that include: inserting your own logo, exporting scales, using your drawings on scaled PDFs and creating high resolution, better looking 3D views from your plan. Traditionally, all this costs a lot of money to produce. With our tool you receive one free trial to create the floor plan, and from there you can pay for the Pro- account.

APM: Are there other apps like this? What makes you stand out from your competition?

Jeroen: There are other apps like us, yes. We see ourselves somewhere between AutoCAD, and “Sims.” It’s fun to use, but it still produces technically relevant drawings. There are other tools like us, but we are the largest online floor planning tool out there. I think we have the largest network of service providers by far. We have our own API. Our technical infrastructure is much larger than any of the online competitors.

APM: Can you talk about some of the customer feedback you’ve received, some of the things that customers say about the product?

Jeroen: On the most basic level, people say they feel empowered when they use it. They say “Oh wow! I can do this in a couple of minutes?” They love playing around with the 3D. The feedback we receive the most is that it is “fun to play around with” and is “addictive”. Once users create their plans, they will spend evenings, alone or together, making nice decorations. Real estate agents say it’s “cheaper and faster than previous options”. We see a lot of real estate agents making the plans themselves on our website, or in combination with a tool like Magic Plan which works on the iPhone. They can capture a house on location and send it to Floorplanner so they can make a full 3D floor plan pictures with their phone. Real estate agents appreciate it a lot because it provides flat drawings that are more detailed, at a substantially lower cost than before. These agents were paying big money for floor plans before they found us.

Interviewer: Great, is there anything else you’d like your customers to know?

Jeroen: Yes, we now have a companion product, called Roomstyler, which allows you to create a room plan with Floorplanner. From there you can decorate the room. You can make realistic interior designs and decorate it with objects from our library with over 150,000 real‑life objects, make interior designs, virtual stagings, all from your web browser. It is very interesting. We see this being used more and more, especially in European territories, where there are a lot of floor plans already created with our software. I think virtual stagings are a next big thing.

To Sum It Up!

Floorplanner is an app that allows anyone, no matter what their experience is, to have input in the design process of a home. Home owners can use the app to work with architects and real estate agents to better understand the floor plan and have fun during the process!

Like this article? Check out other similar articles with information on technology resources on our Property Management Tech Tools Reviews Page!

April 7, 2014 | 0 Comments More

10 Rental Property Tax Write-Offs You’d Be Crazy to Ignore

Tax Deductions All Property Managers Should Know About.

Rental property tax deductions reduce the amount of income tax you pay on your rental income.

They’re a good thing.

And because they can save you money, you shouldn’t ignore them. In fact, documenting your rental expenses and deductions should be a regular and habitual part of your rental business. If you don’t keep current records of your expenses, starting tracking them today so you’re not scrambling at tax time to recreate 365 days worth of deductions.

Here are some of the most important deductions you could benefit from:

1. Interest on Your Rental-Related Loans.

It’s important to make the distinction between principal and interest. You cannot deduct the amount of the loan (the principal); you can, however, deduct the interest on the loan that you pay in any given year.

Typically, as a rental owner, you’ll have some of these deductible interest expenses:

  • Interest on loans to buy your rental property (look for the Form 1098 from your lender each year).
  • Interest on loans to refinance your rental property (ditto: Form 1098).
  • Credit card interest for goods and services bought for the rental property.
  • And don’t forget about personal loans for things related to the rental property.

2. Travel Expenses.

If you have any travel expenses related to your rental property, such as transportation, lodging, and meals, they’re fully deductible. Also, if you use your personal vehicle in your rental property business, you can use one of two methods to deduct your related expenses: use the standard mileage rate or actual expenses. The IRS provides more information in Publication 463.

3. Repairs & Maintenance.

A repair is any work that puts the property back in its original condition. Reasonable and necessary repair costs for your rental property are tax deductible. Maintenance doesn’t always involve fixing something that’s broken, but it gets to the idea of keeping the property in its original condition, and in the long run a regular maintenance program could save you on emergency repair costs. Maintenance expenses that are deductible include:

  • Landscaping
  • Light bulbs, smoke detector batteries, HVAC filters, etc.
  • Pest control
  • Cleaning supplies

4. Depreciation.

Depreciation is a process through which you deduct long-term assets (assets you hold for more than one year) over many years. Long-term assets include rental buildings. Land is not included. Tangible personal property that lasts for more than one year, such as carpeting and kitchen appliances, can also be depreciated. Because depreciation can be very complicated, it’s best to discuss it with your accountant. And if you want more information, Nolo.com does a pretty good job describing depreciation for landlords in more detail.

5. Insurance.

Insurance premiums, including those for landlord liability, theft, fire, and flood, are tax deductible.

6. Taxes.

Real estate taxes, property taxes, and state, county and local sales taxes are deductible.

7. Home Office & Office Supplies.

Many landlords don’t take advantage of the home office deduction, because quite frankly, it’s a bit of a pain AND the IRS tends to closely scrutinize this one. However, if you use an area of your home exclusively for your rental business, it might be exploring with your accountant. In addition to deducting for your home office, you can also deduct for office supplies used in carrying out your rental business. Deductible office supplies include writing implements, paper, notepads, printer ink, envelopes, and stamps.

8. Utilities.

If you pay any utilities for your rental property, you can deduct them. These include:

  • TV/Cable/Internet
  • Electricity
  • Gas
  • Garbage/Recycling
  • Water & Sewer

9. Professional Services.

If you need to hire a lawyer, accountant, or other professional, that cost is deductible and considered part of your operating expenses. Often, DIY landlords hire lawyers to handle tenant evictions (link to evictions article), or they’ll decide not to landlord themselves anymore and hire a property management company instead, for a number of reasons.

10. Advertising.

Any money you spend on advertising your property for rent is deductible, whether it’s online, print, or radio.

Here’s some related information you might find useful:

  1. There is a limit to how much you can deduct: most landlords can deduct up to $25,000 against their rental property income.
  2. Security deposits from your tenants are not taxable (as rental income) when you receive them if you intend to return them to your tenants at the end of the lease.
  3. If you require first and last month’s rent when a tenant moves in, the total amount you receive (two months rent) is taxable the year you receive it, even thought that last month’s rent may not be used by the tenant until later years.
  4. Generally deductions must be made in the same year that the expense was paid. In much the same way, income must be logged in the year the payment was received.
  5. If you use any part of your rental property for personal use, check out this publication from the IRS, and consult your accountant or tax adviser.
  6. Keep receipts and records of payments, in case the IRS has some questions. Some landlords keep an envelope for each year’s receipts; others file receipts based on type of expense. Choose a system that will work for you. This article has some useful tips, if you’re looking for ideas.

As always, the information provided here is just that–it is for informational purposes only and under no circumstances whatsoever should it be considered legal advice. If you have any particular questions or issues, please consult an attorney.

By Tracey March

April 4, 2014 | 0 Comments More

Rental Property Turned Meth Lab: Identify and Prevent

How do I identify and prevent my rental property from becoming a Breaking Bad nightmare?

Breaking Bad, the hit television series based Albuquerque, New Mexico, is in its final season.[1]?While many of us are sad to see this show end, I for one am grateful that my everyday life is not a Breaking Bad world of meth labs and drug dealers.

How do I identify and prevent my rental property from becoming a Breaking Bad nightmare.

However, I am trying to not be naive. Meth labs are often set up in rental homes, so landlords and property managers are at risk of having their rental properties turned into methamphetamine production facilities. This is a big deal because the chemicals that are used to make meth are highly flammable and explosive. And meth residue is extremely toxic and considered hazardous waste. Once it is discovered, the property owner is responsible for cleanup, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars, and most insurance policies will not cover it. In addition, meth residue can permeate an entire building, which means remediating all affected units, losing rental income, and relocating residents.

Given the physical dangers and financial consequences of renters setting up meth labs in your rental home, I thought some meth guidance might be in order:

1) Identify:
What are signs my rental property is becoming a meth lab?

Certain ingredients are necessary to make meth. If you watch Breaking Bad, you might recognize some of them. When you see the list, you understand why it is ?so toxic and why it is good to spot these toxic residues:

  • Large amounts of cold, diet, or allergy pill boxes (over-the-counter ephedrine or pseudoephedrine)
  • Sheets or filters that are stained red or have a white, powdery residue.
  • Empty containers of anti-freeze, white gas, ether, or starting fluids.
  • Drain openers, freon, lye, paint thinner, acetone, or alcohol.
  • Ammonia or propane tanks, anhydrous ammonia (in coolers).
  • Camp stove fuel containers or other compressed gas cylinder.
  • Jars or bottles with rubber tubing attached.

To make one pound of methamphetamine, six pounds of hazardous, toxic waste is produced. Besides ending up in the walls, floors, HVAC system, carpet and other places, some of the waste is often dumped on the ground, so also look outside for dead grass or plants, and stained soil.

2) Prevent:
How can I prevent my rental from becoming a meth lab?

Screening your tenants is and critical. People who cook meth tend to end up in rentals that are self-managed and do not have a standardized tenant screening procedure. So make sure to:

  1. Have a solid tenant screening system in place, or hire a property management company?that does.
  2. Call previous landlords to confirm that your applicant was a good tenant in the past (make sure the phone number you have is to the actual landlord, and not someone pretending).
  3. Check employment references, and verify income. Follow up if your tenant pays for rent in cash.
  4. Include in your lease agreement that there will be regular inspections (with the proper 24- or 48-hour notice, as required by state law. Regular inspections may deter someone who is engaged in illegal activities.
  5. Let the neighbors know you are the property owner, and that if they notice anything suspicious you’d appreciate a phone call to either yourself or your property manager.

3) Disclosure:
Should I let new tenants know that the unit was previously contaminated?

The answer depends on which state you live in. Scripps Howard news service examined state meth disclosure laws in 2012 and found that seventeen states require property owners to tell renters about prior meth contamination, although several of those states waive that requirement if the meth residue has been officially cleaned up.

One more warning for rental property owners: if you are planning on expanding your rental property inventory, make sure you are confident that any properties you purchase were not used as meth labs in the past, because as soon as you own it, you become liable for the cleanup. During due diligence, if you have any suspicions, consider checking with the local police department, and have the property tested during the inspection. If you find suspicious residue, you can even test it yourself with a ten-pack meth residue test kit from Amazon.com for about $30. If you get a positive result, that $30 would be money well spent.

Have you had any Breaking Bad experiences with your rental property?

Are you looking for a local property manager expert?

As always, the information provided here is just that–it is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. If you have any particular questions or issues, please consult an attorney.

By Tracey March


[1] For those who don’t follow it, Breaking Bad is about a high school science teacher (played by Brian Cranston) turned methamphetamine cooker and dealer to provide additional income for his growing family when his cancer treatments start eating up his savings.

April 2, 2014 | 19 Comments More

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