Save yourself from Rental Scams

Nowadays there are a lot of houses for rent on the market. This is definitely a trend that is here to stay and can be beneficial for both landlord and tenant. However, unlike apartment buildings and complexes, rental houses may not be managed by a property manager.

Rental properties that are not managed by professionals are much more likely to be the target of rental scams. Here are some precautions that every potential renter should take, for every rental property they are thinking about renting:

  • The website where you find the property should have multiple photos, inside and outside. Inquire about the property and ask about something you can’t see in one of the photos.
  • The website where you find the property should have details about all the amenities. Look at the list and make sure the attractions mentioned are actually nearby – within walking distance if that’s what they say they are.
  • The webiste should have an exact address, not just an area circled on a map. Move on to another property if you can’t get the exact house address.
  • You should be able to set up an appointment for a walkthrough. Do not sign anything or make any payments until after the walkthrough.
  • You should be asked to provide information about yourself to be screened as a potential tenant. If you are not asked for your information at all or if you are asked for your information prior to a requested walkthrough, move on to another property.
  • You should be asked to sign a lease, but you should not be asked to sign or pay anything before seeing the property. If any kind of payment is requested before you have signed a lease and received keys (that actually open a door to the property) move on to another property.
  • Pay attention to the following warning signs: if the person asking for the intial rent or a deposit is out of the state or country; if the rent requested is too cheap for the area where the property is located; and/or if you are asked to wire a deposit or rental amount. These are all potential signs that the person asking for money does not own or manage the property.
  • Don’t be pressured. Scammers favorite tool is to try to make you act without thinking something through. Whether there is a time limit or not, you should thoroughly research the property – and if you don’t have time, move on to something else.
  • Know the owner – check real estate, property management, and tax assessor’s records to make sure that the person you are dealing with is the legitimate owner of the property.

Finally, if at any time during the process you feel uneasy or doubt what you are being told is true, move on. There are a lot of scammers pretending to be owners as soon as a house is placed on the market because more often than not, they get away with it! If no one was fooled, the number of scammers would drop significantly. Don’t be a statistic.

Amazon invests in prefab startup focused on smart home tech

Today’s announcement of Amazon’s investment in Plant Prefab, a startup based in Rialto, California, comes on the heels of the company’s announcement of a new line of Alexa-enabled smart home devices, suggesting a potential new avenue of smart home development, experimentation, and expansion.

The new $6.7 million Series A funding round, which also includes investments from Obvious Ventures and other private investors, will support expansion and talent acquisition for the company, including senior hires and new factories operating on the company’s patented Plant Building System. The company current operates out of a 62,000-square-foot facility in Rialto.

Read more at Curbed.com

SharePoint and Project Management

We’ve had several questions in recent months about the capabilities of SharePoint for project management. By design, SharePoint is a collaboration tool and therefore lends itself naturally for team members to collaborate on a project or several projects with great clarity. The latest version of SharePoint as a project management tool is an excellent choice.

Office 365 (O365) and SharePoint combine for an even more powerful tool. Since the number of O365 companies is growing every day, it is easier than ever to take advantage of the great features below to facilitate project management.

Home Page

Your project home page can easily deliver dashboards for the team to quickly gauge how the project is doing. Your dashboard can include things like summary of work, goals, statuses, etc. This visual can be delivered in several ways, including Power BI. If you create the report to feed the dashboard with Power BI it is easy to deploy with the Power BI web-part that is native to SharePoint.

Your home page can also be built to deliver project specific news, issue tracking, etc.

Further, you can display links to common project functions in the Quick Launch menu along the left-hand side of the screen. This makes navigation clear and simple for your end users. Some suggested areas for Quick Launch might be:

  • Project Help
  • Goals
  • Contacts
  • Plan with task update capability
  • Documents
  • Risk tracking
  • Issue tracking
  • Metrics
  • Status reporting
  • Project close items such as “lessons learned”
  • Project surveys

Project Tasks

You can use an out-of-the-box task list to include dates, assignees, items, etc. This is very functional and easy for your team members to learn to update.

Better yet, you can build your project plan in Microsoft Project and then sync that plan to the SharePoint Tasks list. This would mean you only need one license of MS Project to build the plan. Then, all the remaining team members can update using their SharePoint license. This makes it very cost effective for companies and again, requires minimal training for the team. Or vice versa, you can create your task list in SharePoint and then say, “open with MS Project.” When team members make updates in MS Project their changes will be saved back to the SharePoint list for everyone’s use.

Workflows

Don’t forget about SharePoint Workflows to further streamline your project tasks. These could be used for things such as routing documents for approval or status of issues being tracked. You can use the out-of-the-box workflows or create your own. Workflows can help take the randomness out of your routine project tasks.

If the standard Workflow structure in SharePoint is not your cup of tea, you can always use SharePoint Designer or Microsoft Flow. SharePoint Designer is not for the newbie. You will need to understand some of the coding and syntax. On the other hand, Microsoft Flow has an easy graphical user interface that makes building workflows much easier for the average user. Flow is included with most versions of O365 license. They can’t make this any easier.

Templates

Rinse, repeat! Yes, once you get your SharePoint project management site the way you like it, you can save it as a template. Now it can be consistently applied to each of your projects. The same look and feel will make it efficient for Administrators and End Users alike. And of course, each project can have its own security setup.

Conclusion

The folks at Microsoft have made several updates in recent years to make using SharePoint for project management not only feasible but also a first-rate choice, especially for O365 users. MS Project and SharePoint compliment each other, allowing for better flexibility while saving both time and money.

Wall Street versus Builders and Wells Fargo

“After a tough report last month, this is strike two for the housing market,” said John Pataky, executive vice president at TIAA Bank.

“While recent monthly reports warn of a change in momentum, year-to-date housing data show actual growth.”

“Builder confidence, while showing signs of having been shaken in recent months, remains high.”

“Rising material prices have been a detriment to new development for much of the year. Given higher costs for materials such as lumber, many projects now fail to pencil out and have been delayed, especially for entry-level homes. However, material prices have begun to ease recently, a trend that should continue in the second half of the year.”

See the charts and read more from both sides of the debate at ForConstructionPros.com

Tech still not on minds of many CEOs, survey shows

The commercial construction industry has been notoriously slow to adopt new technology, and the results of a survey by Vistage shows that respondents will likely continue in that vein in the coming year.

Despite construction and engineering managers’ reluctance to incorporate new, digital tools in their workflows, venture capitalists recognize that construction technology will inevitably change the market and have therefore been pumping billions of dollars into…

Read more at ConstructionDive.com and get the Vistage Q2 2018 CEO Confidence Index for Construction.

Get the Vistage Q2 2018 CEO Confidence Index (not specific to Construction) and more surveys on the Vistage Research Center website.