Ground Clear!

I try to keep up with all the trimming, weed control, etc. at my Indianapolis rental properties. It’s a challenge.

At my own home, I’ve had the same issues … the back of my property runs along a small creek, and weeds, undergrowth, etc. have crept up into the yard. I finally had someone come and clear it all out. I asked him how to control regrowth, as I don’t want to lose any of my property to weeds!

He suggested I purchase Ortho Ground Clear. He sprayed it all along the back edge of my property after he’d cleared out all the undergrowth. Thistles galore, mulberry, etc. That was about a month ago. Evidently, this product keeps weeds away for a up to a YEAR! Just to make sure, I purchased a gallon myself and went down to respray last week. There was NO evidence of thistles resurfacing, and all the small junk saplings showed no “rebirth.” Another nice feature … The sprayer has an “on” switch, so no pumping.

When spring rolls around, I’ll recheck the area, allow some grass to grow, and respray the areas I’d like to remain clear. Of all the weed removal products I’ve used at my rentals over the years, Ground Clear is the big winner. I plan to take Ground Clear to my rentals as well, because this stuff definitely works!

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Weapons of “Mouse Destruction”

Over the years, as I added to my Indianapolis rental portfolio, I came across a myriad of pests that found their way into my units … ants, fleas, bedbugs a couple of times, cockroaches, and mice.

I’m not afraid of any of these, but I certainly don’t want my tenants to share their space with them! So, I’ve done lots of research on eradicating all kind of infestations.

20 years ago, I purchased a fourplex that had been empty for quite a while. There had been squatters in the second floor unit, and they had left all kinds of drug paraphernalia and a toilet full of human waste and dirt. Utilities had been turned off for months.

I ventured into the basement apartment with my flashlight. There was quite a bit of standing water down there, and I could hear several critters skittering around. I caught a couple with my light — RATS. The basement was full of them. Babies, teenagers, moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas. Ick!

So I went to Lowe’s and purchased six rat traps. The next day, I loaded them with peanut butter and scattered them around down there. I unloaded them the following day. And reloaded. It took me about two weeks, but I got rid of those freeloaders. Here is the house today … I have great tenants there and the ROI on it is incredible. I recently replaced the roof and had it painted.

Formerly the rat house

Since then, I’ve found a much easier solution to mice/rats. I’ve never seen another rat in any of my rentals, but there are little field mice that somehow manage to get in when the weather gets cold.

The product is Final Blox. It can be bought on line. It’s a red pellet, about 1″x3″, and I just put one under the bath sink, behind the stove or frig, etc. (You wouldn’t want any pet or child to get to it.) A much easier solution than traps!

This product, and many others, have streamlined my journey into real estate investing!

 

Flip vs. Buy and Hold

People from near and far contact me regarding buying flips, or buy and holds here in Indianapolis. Having been in the rental business for over 25 years now, I’ve had experience in both worlds.

I started with the idea of buy and hold, for income and long term investment. That strategy has been really good to me. At one point, I owned and managed 29 units near downtown Indianapolis. They were a mix of single- and multi-family homes. Even throughout the housing collapse and beyond, my rental properties stayed full. I also obtained my realtor certification, so that I could help other investors (and non-investors) find and buy properties. Because my real estate brokerage has gotten busier, I’ve sold a few of my personal rental properties, but I still own and manage most of them.

I’ve also gone the route of flipping a few times. Here’s what I see as the challenge of being a flipper:

  1. First and foremost, those HGTV shows aren’t realistic! Somehow, they manage to make really good money on every purchase/flip. That just doesn’t happen very often in the real world, regardless of where you live.
  2. Secondly, people tend to believe the rehab is going to take “X” number of days and cost “X” number of dollars. Beyond that, they also believe they’ll get it on the market and sell very quickly. (After all, that’s how it happens on TV.) Well, it RARELY happens that way. During the rehab, additional issues are often uncovered, which means more money and time spent. And when done, what if the house sits? Two months, three months, six months? All of those “carrying costs” fall on the owner — utilities, taxes, insurance, etc. And sadly, they watch that big profit they planned on disappear.
  3. Lastly, in this market today, there’s not much “room” for profit between the purchase and rehab costs, vs. the ARV (after repair value) and actual profit made after paying a realtor or giving someone a finder fee for locating a buyer.

If you’re planning on being a flipper, go into it aware of these downsides. With either option, educate yourself thoroughly before jumping in … you’ll be glad you did!

Onward and upward … 😊

O Cedar!

I’ve owned rental properties in Indianapolis for over 24 years now. For years, I carpeted my units throughout, except for the kitchens and baths. But a few years ago, I started switching my flooring from carpet to laminates.

There’ve been so many improvements over time, many of these laminates are waterproof and can be put into kitchens and baths as well.

So, that’s great, right? Well, one solution presented another problem. For cleaning these floors upon move-outs, I used many options, including an old fashioned string mop, a couple different  Swiffers, etc. Everything took way too long, and most of them left streaks on my floors. Not good!

Then I came across this O Cedar microfiber “easywring” product … OMG … it’s been a life saver! It’s such an easy process; I just put a bit of Dawn or other cleansing soap in the bucket side with water, and I’m good to go. The mop is effortless, and because of its triangular design, it gets into the corners quite well. That was a pleasant surprise. Just be careful when you go to Walmart or Target, etc. to purchase one, because there are a few knock-offs out there now.

The other beautiful component of this system is the spin feature. You don’t even need to rinse out the mop head. You can give it a couple extra spins to dry out the head before your last swipe of an area.

This has been one of my favorite recent “tips and tricks” and I just had to share it. Cleaning floors has never been one of may favorite chores, and this O Cedar mop/bucket is fabulous!

Happy mopping!

No Heat Call (Uh-oh)

I own several rentals in Indianapolis, and I’ve self-managed them for over 24 years. It’s been quite a ride — very eye opening — but I’ve enjoyed it tremendously.

At the end of every month, I write a news letter to all of my tenants, and I deliver them to each home, along with pre-stamped, pre-addressed envelopes for their next month of rent. The reasons I do this?

  • Hand delivering these allows me to check out the condition of the outside of the property. If I see messes outside, I talk to the tenant or add a handwritten note to the tenant letter. (And I make a mental note to do an interior walk-through very soon.)
  • I’m able to give them reminders re: some of their lease commitments, like keeping noise (music, voices, TV, children) to a low level so as not to disturb neighbors.
  • I’m eliminating the “no stamp” and “no envelope” excuses for not sending their payment on time.
  • And during cold weather, I can give everyone valuable tips to help them stay warm, keep their pipes from freezing, etc.

But sadly, things don’t always go as planned …

I got a “no heat” call from a duplex tenant, in the dead of the cold, Indianapolis winter. I called my HVAC guy and had him go check it out. The furnace was older, and I hoped it wouldn’t need replacement. Now, there’s one furnace in that duplex, and a thermostat in one of the units that controls the entire house. My repair man walked into the unit and yes, it was really cold in there. The furnace access was in the other side, so he went to check it out.

Amazingly, it was totally warm in there! Whaaatt? There sat the tenant, toasty warm. But when Jim walked into the kitchen, he discovered that the stove top elements AND the oven were turned on “high.” And of course, since it was so hot in there, the thermostat in the dining area wouldn’t kick on.  He and I both had a serious talk with the tenant. Not only is that practice dangerous, the furnace wasn’t kicking on at all. There was nothing wrong with the furnace, only something wrong with the actions of my tenant!

So NOW, when winter approaches, I include the “Never, ever use your stove or oven for heat!” advice in my tenant letter! 🙄

Onward and upward, right?

 

Setting the Tone With Tenants

The first contact with your tenant actually sets the tone for your entire relationship. It occurs when you show them the house … they loved the ad they saw on Zillow or elsewhere, loved the pictures, and the price fit their parameters. When I meet with potential renters, I let all of them know what’s expected of our tenants, mainly:

  • We expect you to pay rent in a timely manner
  • We strictly enforce late fees and file eviction for lease violations
  • We expect you to treat this home with loving care

With those things in mind, if someone moves in and is late with rent, they know we aren’t going to let that slide. Early on, I tended to let things go, and accept late rent with no late fee attached. Tenants caught on to this quickly, of course! Why the urgency to pay on time if there’s no penalty for paying late? I learned the hard way, of course ….

Now, I stick by my lease, which demands a 10% fee if I don’t have the rent by the 6th day of the month. If someone has to pay that late fee one time, they make sure it doesn’t happen again. Those fees can be hefty, especially on higher end rentals.

Moral of the story? Be kind, but be firm and stick to your lease terms. At the end of the day, it’ll create a calmer environment for you AND your tenants!

Rental Fraud!

According to apartmentlist.com, In the US alone, over 5.2 million renters have been victimized by rental fraud. Here’s the entire article: http://www.apartmentlist.com/rentonomics/how-common-is-rental-fraud-scams/

Scammers are everywhere, in every industry. As a landlord myself, I’ve encountered this issue over and over again. One case in point:

I had advertised one of my 3-bedroom homes on Craig’s List for $900/month, and a young woman happened to call one day and asked if it was available for $650/month. She had seen it in another CL listing, with my pictures, listed for that amount. The “owner” emailed her and said to send him the deposit and half of the first month’s rent, and he’d have his “agent” meet her at the house with the keys. I told her she was being scammed, and that his “agent” would never show up and she’d be losing that money. She started crying, but was so glad to have avoided this disaster.

Telemarketing and insurance fraud mainly target older people, but rental scams aim at the younger demographic. Renters 19-29 years of age are 42% more likely to have lost money in a rental scam … often over $1-2000! Fake listings, fake addresses, stolen listings (as is the case most commonly here in Indianapolis) … these scammers get pretty creative.

What can be done on the part of the smart consumer? Here are a few tips, also from apartmentlist.com:

  • Always visit the property in person and meet the leasing agent.
  • Never pay with a wire transfer. Scammers often use this tactic, saying they live out of the country.
  • Don’t ever give your SS number or other personal information until you’re comfortable the management co. is legitimate.
  • Sometimes the scammers advertise false amenities and features. Make sure the ad matches the true features of the home.

Here’s the detailed article from apartment list.com: http://www.apartmentlist.com/rentonomics/how-to-avoid-rental-fraud-scams/

And remember, if something appears to be too good to be true, it probably IS! Renters, beware!

 

So, You Want to be a Flipper?

Yes, it’s all the rage … reality TV shows like Flip This House, Flip or Flop, and even the one filmed here in Indy, Good Bones … they all make it look so easy, right? And the reality celebs reap incredible profits on all the sales. It’s no wonder I get approached fairly often by new investors who want to be flippers. I mean, what could go wrong????

When asked, I tell people the harsh reality of the flipping world:

  • When you estimate repairs/updates, there are always unplanned expenses and repairs that pop up. You should always pad your repair estimate to cover those unexpected surprises.
  • What if you can’t sell it immediately? What if it sits six months, or even more? You’re still carrying all your holding expenses, i.e. utilities, taxes, insurance, mortgage — slowly draining your eventual profit.
  • In a really tight, strong market, like Indianapolis (and many others), there isn’t a lot of wiggle room between what you can purchase a fixer-upper for, and what you can sell it for on the “flip side.” Bargains have gotten much harder to find.
  • Several of the HGTV celebrities have started programs/seminars you can purchase, where they’ll lend you money, teach you, get you set up, etc. How well do you think they know YOUR market? And many of their programs are 30K+ — crazy! I’m attaching an article that addresses the “business” of flipping and the pitfalls. It’s a good read.

Flip, Don’t Flop

My best advice would be to contact an experienced local flipper who might be willing to mentor you if you’re super serious about pursuing this route. Flipping houses isn’t guaranteed, steady income, and it isn’t for the faint of heart!

Is Indy Cool Enough for Amazon?

Are you kidding me? How could “IndiaNOplace” be in the running for Amazon’s coveted second national headquarters? How could this former sleepy “Naptown” even be in the conversation? An article appeared in the New York Times recently addressing that very question.

Well, we’re non-partisan about promoting business, with a favorable tax structure.  That, coupled with a reasonable cost of living/housing market enabled us to make the final top 20 list of candidates. Here’s the full article that appeared in the New York Times:

Is Indy Cool Enough?

Our award-winning airport makes travel easy, and our traffic patterns are ridiculously smooth compared to other 2M+ metropolitan areas. Fed Ex, who already has a major presence here, has just announced a 1.5B expansion over the next seven years. And we continue to attract hundreds of national conventions each year.

As a local Realtor/Broker, I get inquires from all over about our city. Our market is strong and very stable, and there’s no end in sight.

We may not be the final choice for Amazon, but we’re definitely — finally! — “on the radar.”

Keeping Those Great Tenants

It’s all about the golden rule, whether you own rental properties here in Indianapolis or elsewhere — “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Here’s my recipe for keeping my great tenants happy:

  • Thank them for tending to the house and keeping it clean.
  • Show appreciation for the fact they pay the rent in a timely manner — give them a gift card to a local grocery store or other popular venue, i.e. Target or Walmart.
  • When they call with a repair issue, get back with them immediately, not the next day. This shows you care about them and the apartment.
  • When they have an issue, even if it isn’t something within your realm of duty (like “The cable’s acting up” or “Our internet’s down, for some reason”, don’t brush them off. Try to offer some options toward a solution.
  • When you exceed expectations, your tenants appreciate it. They’ll also share praise of you with other friends/family, often sending you other potential great tenants.

Remember, your reputation is one of your most prized possessions in this business. Providing clean, updated, well-maintained homes is Step 1. Delighting your great tenants is Step 2. And the result? Happy land lording and a happy bank account, of course!