Students at USD are beginning to weigh their options for where they want to live for the next academic year. While some live on campus, some students decide to live off campus. Real estate agencies in Vermillion are starting to prepare for the off campus business.
Policies and Codes
Nadeen Peterson, a property manager at Dakota Realty, said the real estate agencies and individual agents must follow certain policies and practices that are set forth by federal government and state government.
“There’s a board, a set of policies, you follow those rules, those are the guidelines,” Peterson said.
Policies that real estate agencies must follow include the Fair Housing Act, which says it is illegal to discriminate against “anyone based on race, color, sex, disability, familial status or national origin.”
“There is no discrimination whatsoever,” Michelle Maloney, owner of Maloney Real Estate, said. “That doesn’t necessarily set us apart, but it’s an absolute rule.”
Jami Baedke, owner and broker associate at Premier Real Estate, said one policy that is specific to Vermillion is that realtors cannot rent to “any more than four non-related people.”
“So, even though we have five bedroom houses, sometimes we can’t rent to five people,” Baedke said.
Jessi Wilharm, a property manager at Maloney Real Estate, said when it comes to landlords, they also have certain rental codes set forth by the city of Vermillion that they must follow.
“We have rental codes through the city that they have to follow, but we stay on them and let them know when a tenant lets us know that something’s not right,” Michelle said. “And we follow up with it and make sure it does get fixed if a tenant is not happy with it.”
Peterson said technically nobody rents from Dakota Realty. People rent from the landlords, who the agencies work for by selling their property. However, Barb Iacino, a realtor at Dakota Realty, said each landlord is different.
“Some landlord might live close and he might want to cut his own grass and deal with his tenants and do some of his repairs,” Iacino said. “There’s some landlords who might live in California (who) don’t want anything to do with anything.”
Maloney said they make sure their landlords maintain their properties.
“We let our landlords know, we’ll represent you, but you have to maintain your property and you have to fix it when it’s broken,” Maloney said. “We don’t have any interest in representing landlords who aren’t interested in keeping up their property.”
Baedke said as a real estate agency, they are the “in between” for renters and landlords.
“We don’t own any of our properties, we just manage them for the owner,” Baedke said. “But we’re the in-between for everything. The actual owners rarely talk to the tenants or deal with any maintenance issues. We really handle the whole process for them.”
One thing both Maloney Real Estate and Dakota Realty want to stress to first time renters, or any renters, is to buy renter’s insurance.
“If a pipe breaks and their Xbox gets ruined, it’s not covered under the property owner’s insurance,” Wilharm said.
Many students might base their opinions of the agencies off reviews they found online. Maloney said no matter what the review is, they’re just trying to make sure their renters are safe and their landlords get paid because “that’s our job.”
“We only had one bad review, and it was by someone who didn’t even rent from us,” Maloney said. “We have people who come to us specifically because of our reviews, but we’re never going to make everybody happy all the time. I mean, someone’s late on paying their rent and we make them pay a late fee, they can give us a bad review and there’s nothing we can do about that.”
Iacino said she has a strong opinion about the reviews they have gotten at Dakota Realty.
“The good tenants may never give us a review at all, they just love us,” Iacino said. “Ones that have a vendetta will often put in a horrible review and we aren’t going to sit there and argue with them when they say things that aren’t true.”
Baedke said people usually only review for bad things.
“That is something we’re working on, unfortunately, our online reviews are not accurate at all, because it’s the people who have had a bad experience and unfortunately it’s kind of their initial reaction,” Baedke said. “It’s something we’ve worked through with them and we’ve fixed the problem, but the review is already out there.”
Peterson said Dakota Realty has been in business for 20 years and most of their clients think fondly of the company.
“On the whole, we rent to thousands of kids a year, literally, 99 percent of them are happy,” Peterson said. “It’s just sometimes the more public ones, we weren’t happy with them either.”
Maloney opened her real estate business in late 2013, and she said her goal is that people will look back fondly on their renting experience after they leave Vermillion. Wilharm said this is because her and Maloney also used to be students at USD.
“Michelle (Maloney) and I both went to college here,” Wilharm said. “We lived in some places that I wouldn’t have rented them now that I know what I know. So that’s a big one for us, is making sure that they’re happy. It is a struggle because you feel like you don’t have much power when you’re a student renting, but you do. You have renters rights.”
Anthony Edelen, owner of Louie’s Cleaning and Disaster Restoration, said his company does a lot of the cleaning for Premier Real Estate. He said they are one of the most professional companies he’s ever worked with.
“Being in Vermillion, our number of places to rent from are fairly limited,” he said. “But Premier, along with other companies here in Vermillion, are professional. Their interests are in the care with the people renting from them. So they want to make sure that everything is to the highest standard that people want.”