The Do’s and Don’ts of Getting Your Damage Deposit Back

Real Estate

Source: Zillow &

Tug of war with cashLandlords and tenants often disagree over what qualifies as inevitable wear-and-tear during move-out. Typically, reputable landlords don’t hold residents liable for minor wall scratches and scuffed floors. Even so, you can never be sure how reasonable a landlord is until your deposit is safely returned.

Each tenant and property manager is different, so we turned to personal finance writers to provide insight on their personal experiences with damage deposits.

1. Do you conduct an initial walk-through before signing a lease?

I have taken pictures when doing a walk-through of an apartment. It really has saved me later on when I moved out and the owner claimed I owed money for damage that was already there. If it weren’t for me taking these pictures, I would have been responsible for hundreds of dollars’ worth of stuff that was not my responsibility. There is no arguing with photographic evidence. — Natalie H.

I don’t recall doing an initial walk-through, only seeing an equivalent apartment beforehand. It was a fairly new complex, so there were no noticeable damages when we moved in, and we didn’t damage the property and received our deposits back promptly. — Lena Gott

2. In your experience, what are the most common damages you’ve made or seen in apartments?

The most common damages are usually stains to the carpet and screens. I also try to spot clean any stains on the carpet, so we are not charged. We’ve always been able to get the carpets clean enough before a walk-through to avoid any charges. Remember to agree to in writing who is responsible for cleaning the carpets when you move out. Repairing screens is something you can fix yourself easily and inexpensively before your landlord does a final inspection. — Toni Anderson

3. Why do damages sometimes go overlooked?

I think it’s easy to overlook the damage that occurs when a renter does not keep their home in a clean and organized condition. Some people are much harder on their living space than others, and you never really know whether you’ll get someone like that until it’s too late. — Holly Johnson

4. Any recommendations during move-in or move-out to help secure returned damage deposits?

Meet with the landlord on-site during move-in and move-out and get their assessment in writing of any damages they intend to levy. Also, check your local laws carefully to understand your rights. For example, rather than fighting in court with an old landlord over keeping part of my deposit for bogus pre-existing damages, I got them to return my money on the technicality that they didn’t give me timely notice of their intent to keep part of the deposit. — Wojciech Kulicki

5. Any rental damage horror stories?

When we were renting we had a hot water pipe (from baseboard heating) break around a faulty soldering joint. We weren’t home, and thousands of dollars’ worth of damage was done before we knew about it. The landlord was originally very accommodating but after everything was fixed tried to come after us for “damages” because he said we had something to do with the pipe breaking. — Catherine MacLean


Too Tall Or Too Cool?

Real Estate, What's New In Irvine

Source: The Orange County RegisterKimberly Pierceall

It’s not that the Irvine Co. is trying to build the tallest building in Orange County. It just is.

It built an office tower at 520 Newport Center Drive in Newport Beach, long considered to be part of the master plan envisioned by mid-century architect William Pereira. At 315 feet, it surpassed the 302-foot-tall City Tower in Orange, according to an Orange County Register story about the county’s “skyscrapers”.

Now, the company has a plan for a 323-foot-tall office tower in Irvine, next to the Irvine Spectrum Center, on top of a parking lot at 8055 Irvine Center Drive.

At a meeting of Irvine’s Planning Commission on Thursday night, company officials and an architect said the tall building would be LEED Gold for environmental standards (below the highest level, platinum, but above silver), the stainless-steel finish would be “satin” and the landscape would include a “necklace of palm trees” around it.

The commission unanimously approved the company’s master plan. The building is “obviously gorgeous,” said Commissioner Harvey Liss, but he and others had concerns about a very visible and large parking structure next to it. They approved the plan with the caveat that the company work with city staff to make the parking structure more pleasing to the eye.

No mention was made of the building’s noteworthy height.

The company shies away from standing tall on the playground. While other developers wage battles to have the biggest building, this company doesn’t really want anyone to know how high it’s going to go.

The height is simply what companies in need of office space are looking for, said Irvine Co. spokesman Mike Lyster. For one, prospective tenants want floor-to-ceiling windows and lobbies with a “wow” factor (this one will have a 23-foot-tall entry). Overall, it will span 450,000 square feet of vertical space; 382,843 square feet of that can be leased.

While they don’t have any tenants lined up yet, the company is moving forward with the project, confident that the location near the Spectrum will attract takers.

New York-based architects Henry Cobb and Michael Bischoff of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners are behind the Irvine office design. Cobb designed the U.S. Bank Tower in downtown Los Angeles and the John Hancock Tower in Boston.

The firm also designed the Irvine Co.’s 650 Newport Center Drive (Pimco’s headquarters) and 520 Newport Center Drive buildings, the latter of which will be relegated to the second-tallest building in Orange County when the new Spectrum tower is built.

“The building is part of the Irvine Company’s long-term planning and investment in the Irvine Spectrum and enhances the area’s downtown setting with another workplace option for employers to locate alongside shopping, dining, hotels, transportation and recreation,” Lyster said in a statement.

These Are The 2 Rooms That Really Sell Homes

Real Estate

If you’re planning to put your house on the market, you likely want to maximize your very limited time and extra cash.  That’s why Trulia suggests zeroing in on what we call Buyer Hot Spots: the ‘make it or break it’ focal points of a home.  As a seller with a tight time line (and budget), you’ll want focus on these rooms first.

The Two Hot Spots: The two most closely inspected and anticipated rooms of a house are the kitchen and master bathroom. They’re the interior spaces where the most value can be added during a sale, so they need to look their best.

A well-appointed kitchen will dramatically increase the value of your home, so really spice up this spot to grab buyer attention. The same holds true for the bathrooms – especially the master– which will charm open house-goers with modern upgrades like dual vanities and soaking tubs.

Keeping Up With The Joneses: Before you start planning any interior upgrades, consider your neighborhood – and more importantly, your target buyer.  If most of the homes nearby have tidy, neat kitchens with Formica or tile countertops, then you should, too. If granite and flagstone seems to be the local flavor, hopefully yours will be similar, since that’s what local buyers are after.

Don’t Over Do It: Establishing the quality level of comparable homes is also crucial to saving you thousands. It’ll help you identify when to spend and when not to go overboard on unnecessary amenities. A kitchen upgrade can range from a one weekend, low-budget brush up (think paint job and installing new hardware) to a full-blown overhaul (with tens of thousands spent for granite countertops and luxury appliances). You want to make your home look as fantastic as possible – without wasting money, overinvesting, and ultimately creating a space that’s out of place with the rest of the houses in the neighborhood.

Make The Most Of What You’ve Got: Even if your kitchen is looking very tired, don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Keep the main elements, and simply improve what you can using a cost-effective, low-labor strategy.  Resurface or repaint cabinet doors, replace cabinet hardware, install a new faucet, upgrade the appliances, upgrade the lighting with new fixtures, and put on a fresh coat of paint. Also, the least expensive but most important tip – rid the countertops of all your stuff!

The Master Bath Mystique: In order of buyer-grabbing importance, the master bath is a close second. It’s the most challenging room in the house to upgrade because doing so requires the skills of many different tradesmen. But, on the positive side, there are several little tricks that can help create an inviting look that tugs at buyers’ heartstrings and evokes that “Oh Honey, I love it!” reaction.

When time and money are running out, and you need to get the house on the market, the key to doing a bathroom upgrade is, again, making the most of what you’ve got. Save as much of the existing bath as you can. Then, a quick switch of the sinks and faucets, new low-flow toilets and showerheads, and upgraded lighting, mirrors, towel racks and storage make for an entirely refreshed look. And for goodness sakes, make sure to clean the tile and grout, and organize the medicine cabinets (because buyers will open them).

This article These Are The 2 Rooms That Really Sell Homes originally appeared on Trulia Tips.

Selling your home isn’t the only tax “loophole” you can use
Recent tax increases have affected nearly every American homeowner and taxpayer. But with the right planning, you can take steps to take control of your taxes and potentially even lower your tax bill. In our brand-new special report “The IRS Is Daring You to Make This Investment Now!,” you’ll learn about the simple strategy to take advantage of a little-known IRS rule. Don’t miss out on advice that could help you cut taxes for decades to come. Click here to learn more.

ALL: What was the room that was most important to you when you bought or rent your last home or apartment?

ALL: You can get more information on my books here, follow me on Twitter@1MichaelCorbett and like me on Facebook!

Real Estate News You Can Use: 10 Reasons To Buy A Home

Real Estate


Note from Jon: I’ve cleaned out all the old entries with the relaunch of the blog here in July 2014.  That said, I left this one.  4 years later and most properties here in Irvine have gone up by 25%.  Is this guaranteed to happen again in the next 4 years? Of course not. That said, it’s a great time to explore and be ready to jump on the right opportunity here in Irvine, be it as a starter home, a long term residence or as an investment property.  We’re here to help.  Call or email us anytime and we can let you know the strengths and weaknesses (yes, nothing is perfect) about acting now. Thanks and enjoy – Jon

Time magazine is being overly pessimistic in its recent cover piece that called into question the benefits of homeownership. In fact, now is a great time to buy. And, what’s more, tomorrow will be a great time to own, because the fundamental strength of homeownership hasn’t changed.

Why is now a great time to buy? Here are 10 reasons:

1. You can get a good deal. Prices are down 30 percent on average. They’re at a level that makes sense for people’s income.

2. Mortgages are cheap. At 4.3 percent on average for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, your costs to own are down by a fifth from two years ago.

3. You can save on taxes. When you add up the deductions for mortgage interest and others, the cost of owning can drop below renting for a comparable place.

4. It’ll be yours. The one benefit to owning that never changes is that you can paint your walls orange if you want (generally speaking; there might be some community restrictions). How many landlords will let you do that?

5. You can get a better home. In some markets, it’s simply the case that the nicest places are for-sale homes and condos.

6. It offers some inflation protection. Historically, appreciation over time outpaces inflation.

7. It’s risk capital. If the economy picks up, you stand to benefit from that, even if you’re goal is just to have a nice place to live.

8. It’s forced savings. A part of your payment each month goes to equity.

9. There is a lot to choose from. There are some 4 million homes available today, about a year’s supply. Now’s the time to find something you like and get it.

10. Sooner or later the market will clear. The U.S. is expected to grow by another 100 million people in 40 years. They have to live somewhere. Demand will eventually outpace supply.

Source: Wall Street Journal, Brett Arends (9/16/10)