Almost Like New…

photoThis is my mom’s golf cart.  She bought it used, about five-seven years ago.  We’re moving her from FL to AZ (she’s 90, and it’s time to get her closer to several family members).

Anyway, it’s been sitting outside all this time and has collected so much dirt and, of course, mold.  I bought a bottle of CLR Outdoor Furniture Cleaner on the recommendation of the people at her neighborhood hardware store.

I can’t say I had much faith in the product, as I’ve tried other CLR products and have been less than impressed with the results.

But I’m pretty amazed at the difference this is making!  I sprayed it on and spread it evenly, allowed it to sit a few minutes, then scrubbed it with a stiff wire brush and voila!  I think she’ll be able to get the most out of the resale when I’m finished.

I’m wondering what other items it may address … like vinyl siding, etc.?  I’m going to find out, when I get back home to my rental properties in Indianapolis!

Take This Stuff Out!

It’s not easy running a rental business on your own.  One of the biggest challenges is rehabbing your home(s) according to what your tenant mix demands.

A piece of advice, if you’re into lower income rentals:

Most people in the lower income demographic are looking for something clean and affordable.  Period.  I always supply stoves and refrigerators, but I never hook up the ice makers in the refrigerators.  They leak, malfunction, and aren’t worth the hassle.  Ice cube trays work just fine!

Another item I don’t install is garbage disposals.  People try to put crazy stuff in them.  The unit jams up or just quits altogether.  Another repair/replacement issue!  Not worth the hassle.

And lastly, take a pass on the sink sprayer.  Tenants tend to be rough with them.  They’re easily broken, they leak … again, not worth installing.  You can buy a “plug” for the hole where the sprayer goes.

Even without the above items, my units compare extremely well to the competition, because they’re super clean, including fresh paint and nice flooring, and they’re accompanied by an attentive landlord!

As I work my way up on the income scale, I add amenities … high-end counter tops, flooring, and other accessories.

This may seem elementary, but I’ve seen too many real estate investors buy their first rental and pour way too much money into the rehab … you must make it attractive to your market, nothing more, nothing less!

Onward and upward …. :-)

Pre-Screening Tenants

I’m — basically — a trusting person.  But this personality trait doesn’t work well in the wacky world of landlording.  I found that out the hard way, early on in my career.  Choosing to think the best in people, I believed what my tenants said.  When they told me the (late) rent would be in my hands “next week,” I believed them.  When that didn’t happen, I waited patiently when they promised it for the following week.

Fortunately, I wised up through the years and I file evictions quickly when rent isn’t being paid, or when someone is trashing the apartment.  But how do you improve your chances of finding a great tenant before they sign on the dotted line?

One great way to do this is to check out the neighborhood they are moving from.  Is the applicant willing to have you stop by and visit their current residence?  If so, take advantage of the invitation!  This visit will speak volumes about how they live and care for their home.  Is it clean and orderly inside?  Even if it’s a bit cluttered, are the floors, appliances, bathrooms clean?  Does it smell funky inside?  If there’s a basement, make sure you check that out as well.  Sometimes, there’s scary stuff going on in basements!

If the applicant isn’t comfortable having you stop by, BEWARE!  This is a red flag.  If they move into your rental, they won’t want you to stop by there, either.  If they give what you feel is a valid reason for refusing, do drive the neighborhood and check out their particular house and yard.  Is there trash in the yard or on the front porch?  Is the home well-kept?  How about the back yard area? Is there trash scattered around?  Are there people “hanging out?”  Do the windows have proper coverings, or tattered sheets hanging up?  What about vehicles?  You can tell a lot about a person by the look of their car(s), inside and out.

Beyond these things, I always observe the personal cleanliness of the applicant/family.  This factor has a bearing on how they’ll treat my rental as well.

Aside from the obvious factors — work history, financial ability to pay, rental history — the above factors are equally important.  A filthy tenant who pays you on time, every time, is still a filthy tenant.  You will lose time and money renting to that person.

So protect yourself.  Go the extra mile … check out their living habits.  It’ll be worth it down the road.

Onward and upward!   :-)

Defining “Hoarder”

You be the judge … check out these pictures I took of one of my tenant’s basements:

Hoard 2Hoard In my opinion, this tenant is a hoarder.  When I asked her — several months ago – why she had so much stuff down here, she said she was having a “garage sale.”  Well, it’s six months later and there hasn’t been a garage sale and the pile has grown.  Fortunately, she’s moving, so I’m not being faced with having to force her out.

There’s a fine line between what constitutes a hoarder vs. someone who just has a lot of “stuff.”  I’m kind of a minimalist, I don’t like clutter, so it’s difficult to judge other peoples’ lifestyles when I do apartment checks.  Some of my tenants’ homes have what I’d say is a lot of clutter, but they aren’t dirty.  The floors are clean, the dishes are done, bathrooms are clean, etc.  I may have a negative reaction to the clutter, but that’s my problem, not theirs!

But as for the tenants who let the junk — and funk — stack up, I strongly advise people to 1) protect themselves — with appropriate wording – from hoarders in their leases, and 2) perform apartment checks on a regular basis.  Basements like the one above are invitations for pests, mold and other hazards.

This case was a bit different because this person was buying the house from me on contract, i.e. a type of rent-to-buy agreement.  I was a little more hesitant to evict her, since the process would be more costly and involved than a straight eviction.  But she initiated the move-out, and I’m thrilled.  I’m even going to put a dumpster on site for a couple weeks, to expedite the process for her.  I wonder if she’ll use it and fill it up with some of her hoard, or whether she’ll take it all with her?  LOL

More follow-up on that issue later …

Onward and upward!

Baby, It’s COLD Outside!

As a landlord, I dread seeing this on my TV:

BrrrI try to keep abreast of the weather and contact my tenants with good advice on preventing their water pipes from freezing.  I include these tips in my monthly tenant letter, but reminders are valuable for all of us.  Here are some great tips I’ve gathered through the years:

1)  Run a thin stream of hot AND cold water from each faucet in the house.

2)  Open cabinet doors under all sinks.

3)  If possible, open access covers to expose pipes to bath tubs/showers, etc.  Sometimes these are just panels that are screwed on.  It helps to take the panel off and allow the warm air from the room to circulate around those pipes.  I even had one plumber tell me to put a small fan on low speed and direct it toward the opening.

By the way, in the event the pipes do burst, you must turn the water off immediately, of course.  I always make sure my tenants know where the shut-off is in the basement of the house, just in case the worst happens.  If not, the water co. has to be summoned to shut the water off at the pit outside.

When I saw this recent weather report, I sent a mass text to all of my tenants, reminding them to take care of their pipes.  I’ve been lucky so far this winter, but the end is not in sight!  Ugh …

Fingers and toes crossed …



Indy Makes the NY Times …

So, the New York Times came out with a list of 52 places to visit in 2014 and, lo and behold, Indianapolis appears on the list, coming in at number 34.  The focus is on our fantastic cultural trail throughout downtown which is so bike-friendly.

Who knew we’d be on a list with the likes of Yorkshire, Dubai and Seychelles?  Since the Super Bowl and before, our growth has been phenomenal … business, housing, a vibrant downtown easily accessible … and an excellent place in which to invest, and raise a family.

There are some interesting  locations on the list; thought I’d share it here.  Enjoy!

Throw it Out?

When confronted with a stove that looks like this, many landlords would pick up the phone and just get a new one delivered:

BeforeBut not this landlord!  My tenant at this rental went down quickly.  She’d been with me almost a year and had been fine, but within a couple months, her baby got deathly ill, her car needed major repair and she got laid off.  Everything caved in on her at once, and she followed suit … stopped cleaning and stopped paying rent.

So, she was gone, but the baked-on grease and grime on the stove top remained.  Ugh!

But this is no challenge for the likes of Easy-Off (or the generic equivalent) oven cleaner.  I use the fume-free type, spray it on and let it sit for at least a couple hours, while I do other chores at the rental.  Then I use my small putty knife to scrape off the crusty stuff.  Follow that with a healthy spray of Krud Kutter or Awesome! (I’ve done separate posts on each of these products because they’re so effective.)

A little final scrub and you’re done.  Whenever I scrub something, I use the dark green scrubber pads made by Scotch Brite.  They’re sturdy and get the job done quickly.  And the finished product looks brand new, right?

AfterI’m all about saving/making money.  That’s why I do a lot of my own work.  Why pay someone else to do what I can do?  Of course, since this is my full-time work (along with Realtor stuff and my property management company), I’m able to devote the time.  Those who have a full-time job and try to own/manage rentals on the side have time constraints and by necessity, hire out much more.

Within a couple days, this duplex apartment was ready to rent again.  All it took was some cleaning, carpet shampoo, touch-up paint here and there, and a couple of minor repairs.

My new tenant loves the unit and is treating it well.  Of course, things can change quickly in this business but for now, all is well …

Onward and upward!

Foster The Change

Many of the rentals I personally own are in the inner city of Indianapolis.  I bought there, back in the 90s, because of a government program called “Weed and Seed.”  Law enforcement was teaming up with community, educational and spiritual leaders to rid blighted areas of drugs, prostitution, gangs and the crimes that accompany them.

Indianapolis (Haughville area, to be exact) had tremendous success with the program, and was used as a national model for “Weed and Seed.”  While there are still issues with poverty and crime, I’ve seen progress.

I’ve tried to carry that progress into my personal journey with my rentals, by carefully choosing tenants, and being a strong, positive presence in the neighborhood.  Part of this is accomplished by putting responsibility and accountability on my tenants.  They’re required to keep the yard and garbage areas clean, and their apartments clean inside. 

I’ve also encouraged other landlords to jump on board by improving their properties and tenant mix.  This is how neighborhoods turn around … I urge my tenants to watch each others’ backs, and to keep an eye on suspicious activity and report it to the police immediately.  When authorities know the residents care, they’re more likely to respond.

Improving my rentals puts a better face on the neighborhood, and when I see others doing the same, I always stop and compliment them on the “facelift” in progress. 

Slowly but surely, as residents feel a sense of pride and community, blighted neighborhoods can make a turnaround.  Be part of the change … the reward may come slowly, but it will come.

Onward and upward! 

May 2014 bring you all good health, happiness and prosperity! :-)



Affordable Indianapolis … #1 Nationally!

CNNMoney came out with an article last month about the most — and least — affordable cities in the nation.  Not surprisingly, Indianapolis won out as the most affordable (tied with Syracuse).  When the housing market collapsed, we took a hit, yes.  But not nearly as catastrophic as most other areas in the country.  We just stay “steady” here, for the most part.

Here’s the link to the article:

With home sales up over 16% year-to-date and our market tightening up, housing in Indianapolis continues to be strong and stable.  Prices are on a steady rise as well.  Here at “The Crossroads of America” we’re climbing back toward a healthier economy, and housing is leading the way.

Onward and upward!  :-)

Random Acts of Kindness

Okay, this is totally off the subject of my normal blog posts, but I just had to share it …

I was at a bar and grill here in Indianapolis with friends last night and, unbeknownst to me, my coin purse fell on the floor under our table.  I’d gone to the ATM earlier that day and had $250 in it.

I didn’t know it was missing until this morning when I went to the hardware store.  When I called the bar, they said they had my purse in their safe, and I immediately went to pick it up.  What I found when I got there totally shocked me.

ALL of the money was still there, and then some.  I found this note tucked neatly inside:

photoKCCO is the acronym for “keep calm, carry on,” or “keep calm, chive on.”

RAK is, of course, “random act of kindness.”

I’ll never know who returned my purse … the employees didn’t know.  But events like this restore my faith in people, and encourage me to be a better person as well.

This made my day, and I wanted to share it with my readers.  I’ll certainly pay it forward.  :-)