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VOLUME VII: CONVERSATION IN REAL ESTATEMeet Lourdes CodinaPodcast Interview by Sam Kulla | Written by Sam KullaLourdes Codina has been a Realtor with Keller Williams in the Houston area since 2013. Originally from South America, she toggled between Brazil, Chile and Columbia because of her father’s job.
Now firmly rooted in Texas with her family and dog, she understands exactly what’s needed for prospective clients looking to relocate. And by the time her clients do move out of state, they invite her over to visit. Last year alone, Codina closed 25 listings, including rentals and sales, accounting for more than $5 million in production.
“I always absolutely loved everything that had to do with real estate,” Codina said. “I was one of those new moms who would spend the entire day on HGTV, watching and learning and going through the motions thinking, ‘Maybe I can do this. I want to buy a house, and I want to flip it.’ But it's such a time-consuming job. And so is being a mom. So it took me a few years before I was able to do my dream job.”
Houston County, while still below the national average, has experienced substantial increases as well. According to the National Association of REALTORS, rental rates have escalated from $394 last year to $485 now.
For prospective clients who can’t yet afford the skyrocketing rates of buying a home post-COVID, along with property owners who haven’t found the right buyer, rentals may be more attractive.
“We have a lot of buyers who are just not able to close because of the craziness out there,” she said. “I am helping a lot of tenants move this year.”
In these housing market conditions, Codina says there’s no excuse for owners to not be able to rent out a listing.
“There’s no such thing [as not being able to fill a rental] unless you're overpriced, and I'm talking grossly overpriced.”
If a rental isn’t getting filled, she said, “That is most likely because the condition of the property is not matching the price. If that is the case, which is very rare today, you need to take a look at matching that price. It could be that the house is gorgeous, and you just remodeled it completely, but maybe you are in a flood zone. Or, maybe you have something commercial in the back of the property so you must adjust your price.”
Overall, Codina sees the housing market as a place of opportunity.
“We have so many investors in the market,” she said. “They are prepared. They have a large cash flow. And they're ready to just buy everything out there. If you help investors, whether they're landlords or whether they're selling the property, you're able to have that relationship with them for future properties, future investments.”
Codina has a soft spot for tenants as well.
“They are just future [owners],” she said, “Everybody knows that tenants always want to buy eventually, but they need help the most. It's a good feeling when you're able to help them finally find the property that meets their criteria.”
Getting a Property Rental-ReadyOf course Realtors (and landlords) have to make sure the property is as attractive to renters as possible, as well as narrowing down the length of the lease.
“When you're [helping] newbies, first-time landlords, it's such a worrisome thing [for them] to do,” she said. “It's so stressful to think, ‘Okay, I'm going to have these strangers move into my property that I actually lived in.’ So for them, I recommend a one-year lease.”
She continued, "For properties that are furnished, definitely go with a short-term lease because they are [able to be] rented at a higher [price].”
According to Zumper, furnished properties can rent for as much as 15-20% more than unfurnished ones.
From Smart Home Amenities to Major ImprovementsWhile amenities like central heating and cooling, outdoor patios and laundry facilities are attractive amenities, they can require substantial owner investment. For owners looking to boost their property's appeal without breaking the bank, high-tech amenities can quickly and easily increase the popularity of a rental, according to Codina.
“The biggest selling point for renters is security,” she said. “It’s so easy to put a Ring on.”
Other tech upgrades like Wi-Fi door locks and smart thermostats can be attractive to renters who want to control their homes from their phones. The thermostats and smart lighting can have the added benefit of helping tenants save money on utility bills. When landlords are deciding which of these gadgets to install, as long as a property has a quality Internet connection, all of it helps Realtors market the rental.
Bathroom and kitchen remodels will have the strongest effect in making a listing more attractive, according to Codina, because they can appeal to a prospective renter’s perception of cleanliness.
She also emphasizes that owners should be sure to maintain and care for a rental’s planted lawn and garden areas. A good sprinkler system is important, she said, “Because once the landscaping is gone, it's gone. It gets really expensive to bring it back.”Don’t Forget the Little ThingsOnce all the amenities and improvements are decided upon and in place, Codina calls attention to the little things a Realtor can do to set a listing up for success. When a place is ready for a photographer to come in, she always pays special attention to the soft-staging, and takes distinct pleasure in bringing in final essentials like fresh flowers and towels.
Some Rental Biz Techniques Change, Some Stay the SameAs technology continues to advance, Realtors’ work has shifted dramatically too—improved customer database and marketing solutions, and virtual walk-throughs. COVID-19 also required some adjustments, including virtual conference software like Zoom.
“I love the flexibility that it allows me,” she said. “If I'm not able to meet with a client at a certain time, I'm able to just do a quick video for them. And they can watch it at any time.” However, while such virtual meeting tools and other tech solutions may have shown their value in recent times, Codina believes in-person marketing techniques are still a cornerstone of her business.
“You can’t go wrong with door knocking,” she said. “Every owner out there has so many letters and postcards about people wanting to buy their house. The one thing now that not a lot of people are doing is actually door knocking."
Clarifying that farming with postcards is “the only farming that [she] believes is worth it,” Codina also recommends attending neighborhood events. Locals may recognize Realtors’ photographs on marketing material, see those same faces at local gatherings, and trust their familiarity with the community and effective networking.Passion and Compassion: Two Underrated Realtor EmotionsWhether it’s investors, landlords or tenants, Codina keeps the trust of her clients as a top priority.
"I feel like they immediately become part of my family and I must watch for them, I must take care of them,” she said. “I'm at the point that over 80% of my clients are referrals, and only because I think they feel cared for.”
The urge to build authentic relationships, care for and help clients fulfill their dreams is one of Codina’s primary drives.
“[Realtors] that connect with that do really well because it's a humanitarian thing,” she advised. “You are changing people's lives with this profession … by helping them get into the school they want or by selling so they can move into the next stage of their life.”
“I take my career so seriously,” she continued. “You make friends for life. You must be compassionate. You must put everybody else above you. It's a profession of service. And when you see it this way, you get to enjoy helping more families—a lot more.”
ABOUT LOURDES CODINA:
Lourdes Codina is a dedicated and passionate Realtor, serving the Houston community under the umbrella of Keller-Williams Realty. She works with clients in the Energy Corridor, Katy, Memorial, Richmond and Sugarland areas.
Proud to call Houston home, she is an alumnus of the University of Houston, with a degree in Marketing and Entrepreneurship. She resides in the Energy Corridor area and serves on her neighborhood’s board. She also loves recycling, upcycling and learning about the latest home fashion trends.
This Brazilian native is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, and speaks a bit of Italian too. As someone who is familiar with relocating to different parts of the world, Lourdes uses her personal experience and expertise to work with relocating clients.