Frequently Asked (and answered) Questions

We serve three major groups of people; Tenants, Owners, and Investors. The questions we receive most often come from these distinct groups of people. So...we've organized our FAQ section into those groups to better help you find your answer. These questions/answers are not exhaustive and will change on a regular basis. But this is an attempt to help you with answers we provide most often. Of course, your circumstance may be different and we welcome the chance to address your particular situation. If you see your particular question here, great! Consider yourself among the very best and brightest in this arena. If your query is not shown, that's ok too. Scroll down to the end and ask your own question. We'd love to hear from you! To read the answer, click on the question.

Most Common Tenant Questions

What are your requirements to rent a home from TriStone Group?

I wish this was a simple answer. The correct answer is 'it depends'. Every home we manage is not owned by one individual. We have several owners. They are our employer. Each owner may have different criteria for measuring success with their home. It is our job as manager to try and match tenant applicants with homes that meet both the needs of the tenant and the owner.

Do you accept Section 8 housing vouchers?

We have several homes that we rent to recipients of Section 8 vouchers. While we do not recommend Section 8 voucher applicants to owners, it is our job to follow their wishes and what is in their best interest. This is why you may see some houses accepting assistance vouchers while others do not.

How do I apply to rent a home?

Easy! Click here. Complete the form as completely as possible. There is a $25 non-refundable application fee per applicant. That fee can be paid online direct from a bank account, debit card, or credit card. The application fee must be paid before your application can be processed. Everyone 18 or over that intends to be on the lease must apply separately.

What is the leasing process?

  1. Step 1 - Drive by the location. Be sure this is where you want to be. The inside of the home is irrelevant if this is not the location you want to be in. Consider neighborhood, traffic, work commute, schools, and other factors that will impact your stay here. Remember, this is your home for at least the next 12 months. You want to be comfortable with the location.
  2. Step 2 - Complete an application. It's right here.
  3. Step 3 - Your application will be reviewed by our leasing staff and an outside 3rd party service for both personal background and credit.
  4. Step 4 - You will receive email notification that your application has been accepted as-is, accepted with conditions, or declined.
  5. Step 5 - Assuming your application has been accepted, now the decision is yours. Do you want the property? Schedule a day and time online to gain access to the home for your own viewing. Most of our properties can be viewed on your own. They are all listed here. If all looks good inside and you want the home, you have to let us know so we can set up a lease for you with the correct move-in date, rent amount, and other terms as needed. Communicate with us either via email or phone your desire for the home and make sure the critical lease terms are known and agreed upon.
  6. Step 6 - Coordinate the lease review and signing. We will create the lease for you to review before signing anything. The review can either be done in person or remote. Depending on your current living situation, you may be able to read and sign the lease electronically.
  7. Step 7 - Pay the security deposit. Cashiers check or money order made out to TriStone Group Inc. We cannot accept personal checks or online EFT payments for security deposits. As soon as we receive your security deposit and an agreed upon lease is signed, we then remove the property from all marketing activity.
  8. Step 8 - Pay your first months rent. This payment can be made with any of our available methods - personal check, cashiers check, money order, online via debit/credit card. Please note that any method other than cahsiers check or money order must be cleared before the payment is considered received.
  9. Step 9 - Once your first months rent is paid in full, you may then be given keys to your new home. You will also be given an information packet including instructions on how to establish your account online, establish utilities in your own name, how to make maintenance requests, and other helpful info for your arrival.
  10. Step 10 - Enjoy your new home. This is an important step. You just went through 9 trying steps. Do this one!

Most Common Owner Questions

What is your fee structure?

Our goal as your manager is to make you more profitable while allowing you to live your life. This can require a lot of work and we don't take our responsibility and your trust lightly. Typical fees we charge include a monthly management fee, lease-up fee, and court appearance fee (if necessary). Amounts for each of these can vary, but are outlined clearly in our Property Management Agreement with you. There are no gotcha's! While some fees are definite, there are non-standard services we can offer for a small additional fee; such as paying HOA dues, property taxes, insurance, even mortgage payments. It's up to you how involved you want us to be in the management of your real estate investment portfolio.

What geographic area do you manage?

Our Charlotte office will handle any single or small multi-family property in Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Union, Iredell, and Catawba counties.

What is the cost in cancelling or terminatiing the Property Management Agreement?

We do not charge a termination or cancellation fee. If you feel we are not doing a great job for you, why should you be charged for taking your business elsewhere? This is a common gotcha in the property management industry. We just don't subscribe to that type of thinking or business practice. We believe we offer the best service at the lowest cost. If you find otherwise, you should be allowed to move your business to another without penalty.

Most Common Investor Questions

Is it difficult to be a real estate investor?

No. It's easy. All you have to do is find a property at a great price; create a purchase contract and execute the purchase; make sure that the title is clear; perform all of the necessary renovations and repairs with permitting as needed so it is a desirable and reliable property for a tenant; market the property to prospective tenants at competitive market rates; create an application process for prospective tenants; screen applicants for criminal and credit backgrounds; create a lease with your selected tenant; pray they take care of the house and pay their rent on time; collect and manage the security deposit and rent payments in an appropriate and audit-proof manner following the easy to understand government regulations; perform maintenance tasks as requested and needed; check on maintenance vendors to make sure they are doing the work you are paying them to do; pay your mortgage on time; pay your real estate taxes; pay your home owners insurance; pay your liability insurance,....and then just sit back and count your profits. Easy.

Or, work with us. We can help.

What sort of rate of return can I expect?

As in life, there are no guarantees. But real estate has been a successful investment class since...forever. You'd think calculating a rate of return is pretty standard. We've seen very large firms advertising returns of 25-50% annually, only to notice in the details that they didn't factor in any maintenance or management fees. So something we feel is easy to calculate mathematically, can be somewhat subjective. So what's the answer? We target a 10% annual Cash-Flow Rate Of Return. Equity returns cannot be realized unless you bought the house with cash and you refinance the money back out, or you sell it. What is a Cash-Flow Rate Of Return? We're glad you asked. See the next question below.

How do you calculate Cash Flow Rate Of Return?

Each property we propose to you as an investment is offered with our own Opportunity Analysis. This 1-page analysis includes all Acquisition Costs, Estimated Income, and Operating Costs to come up with a Cash Flow Rate Of Return. We consider any money that comes out of your personal pocket up until the day the house is rented as Acquisition Cost. This is purchase money, including down payment, closing costs, any seller incentives paid, broker or wholesaler fees paid, and of course all renovation costs. The Estimated Income is the estimated rental rate minus an expected vacancy/loss factor (because, let's be realistic). We consider Operating Costs to be recurring ownership costs. This would include things like home owners insurance, real estate taxes, debt payments, management fees, condo/hoa fees, unexpected legal fees, leasing fees, and an estimated maintenance factor. Using the Estimated Income minus Operating Costs yields an estimated Net Income. Net Income divided by Acquisition Cost is your annual Cash Flow Rate Of Return.

For example. You purchase a home for $100,000 with a $25,000 down payment and $3,000 in seller incentives, lending and closing costs. Renovations cost you $12,000. Your Acquisition Cost is $25,000+$3,000+$12,000 = $40,000. Your rent is estimated to be $1200/month. With an 8% vacancy and loss factor, your real rent is $1104/month. Management is 10% of rent or $110.40/mo. Your debt payment is $400/mo. Insurance, taxes, and other fees are estimated to be another $250/mo. Total Operating Costs are estimated to be $760.40/mo. Net Income on this house is estimated at $1104.00 - $760.40 = $343.60. Over 12 months that results in Net Income of $4,123.20. Based on your Acquisition Cost you've earned a Cash Flow Rate Of Return of $4,123.20 / $40,000 = 10.3%.
Keep in mind, this has nothing to do with appreciation or Equity! Check out the next question.

What is Equity?

Equity is one of those fancy sounding words that everyone thinks means the same thing for everyone else. Let me ruffle some feathers here by stating the following; equity is a made up number. It's fiction is based on other peoples old opinions in an ever-changing real estate landscape. Let me explain. Equity is commonly known as the value of a property minus the debt on said property. V - D = E. The "D" is easy. We can readily determine how much debt we have on a property. But how is V determined? Some would say, ask a lender. Ha! Lenders do not determine value. They use appraisers. So, ask an appraiser? Double Ha! An appraiser will use the recent sale prices of nearby similar homes, as well as the contract price for the home in question, to come up with V. But where did those previous nearby sales prices come from? They came from other buyers and seller, who used lenders and appraisers, who used previous sales of similar homes nearby, and down the rabbit hole we go! So V, or Value, is being determined by old opinions in an ever changing real estate landscape. And if appraisers can really pin down value, why do they always want to know the contract price of the house they are appraising? They should know its value without knowing the contract price, right? The only way to raise V is to get a bunch of other people nearby in similar homes to band together and demand that their collective sale prices go up. This can happen with an increase in demand, such as a new shopping center, employment center, high ranking school, or any other number of market influences. Changing V is a matter of collective opinion on such market influences. V is at best, a guess. Therefore, E is a guess.

While we do consider equity in real estate investment analysis, we make decisions based on cash flow. We do not base our investments on guesses, and we don't advise you too either.

How does TriStone Group help investors?

The real estate investment life-cycle starts with an acquisition. Shortly thereafter it is common for there to be some required renovations and repairs. From there, we move into leasing; then managing, and maintaining the property. Finally, at some point down the road, we consider an exit or a sale of the property. TriStone Group assists real estate investors with all stages of the life cycle.