Best Grass Trimmer Ever …

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I detest yard work. I’m always looking for the most efficient ways to get it done quickly and painlessly.

For years, I used gas-powered grass trimmers. They drove me crazy, with their undependable starts, refilling the gas chamber, refilling the string, etc. (I swear, the directions on those things are written by people who have English as their second or third language. Between the photographs and the instructions, I usually end up wanting to throw the machine in the creek out back!)

Anyway, I came across this Black & Decker battery-powered, super lightweight trimmer a couple years ago and have been thrilled with it. (Well, as thrilled as I can be with any type of work revolving around a yard, that is.) It’s the 18v GrassHog, and it came with an extra battery.

I get enough charge to do two rounds of trimming, then I just switch it out for the other battery — very simple — which I keep on the charger.

I haven’t had to replace the string yet, but I’m betting it will be as easy as the operation of the GrassHog itself. Fabulous!

OMG….

Saw this contraption on the way to one of my Indianapolis rental properties. Whaaat?

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I imagine it’s some type of heat source, being vented right through that window and up the side of the house. Wow …

I’m surprised the Board of Health hasn’t tagged this owner and sent a threatening letter. Crazy! If this is the scene outside, I can only guess what’s going on inside!

Watch Your Back

Whether you’re a landlord, property manager or real estate broker — I am all of these —  personal safety issues pop up frequently, and we need to be aware and prepared to deal with them before they occur.

Here are a few of my personal guidelines that keep me safe.

  • Never show a property after dark. NO exceptions.
  • Never walk in ahead of the person. Always position yourself between the applicant and an exit.
  • Don’t let them out of your line of sight.
  • Pre-screen them when they call you to set up the appointment. For example, if you find they want to squeeze six people into a two-bedroom rental, or if their income doesn’t qualify, you’ll save everyone time by denying them on the phone.
  • Don’t give out any personal information. (This doesn’t apply for real estate broker situations, of course.)
  • If you carry protection, have it with you.
  • Have 911 programmed into your cell phone. Everyone should do this, but for those of us meeting total strangers to show homes, it’s a good back-up, should all hell break loose.
  • Make sure the entire house, including windows, is locked and secure upon leaving.

Hopefully, you’ll never be put in a precarious situation but it’s like my mom always used to say … “Better safe than sorry.”

Thanks, Mom.  :-)

Tenant of the Month

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Meet Shuyu Li … his friends here know him as Terence. I stopped in while he was having a lunch of Chinese noodles, juice, and a little touch of pop culture on the side … the energy drink! LOL

Born and raised in China, Terence is attending grad school here at IUPUI in furniture design. He was given some scholarship monies to attend.

He responded to my ad on Craig’s List, which I also posted on Postlets. (When you put a property on Postlets, it automatically goes to Zillow, HotPads, Trulia and several other internet sites, all free of charge. Postlets is another excellent marketing tool I use to get the word out about my Indianapolis rental properties.)

I mentioned the proximity of my property to IUPUI in my ad, hoping to attract someone like Terence — a serious student, not a party animal! He lives in one of my duplexes, which is about 100 years old but very sturdy and in great condition, everything updated.

There was one glitch on his application. He wasn’t employed so he volunteered to show me his bank account balance as verification of funds/ability to pay. It was in Chinese. LOL! Anyway, we worked through it and he’s been fantastic. He lives simply … Terence ordered all of his household furnishings on the internet (a bed, a shelving unit, his card table where he’s sitting to eat Chinese noodles in this photo, etc.) and had them delivered. He purchased a bike to commute to school, which is about 1-2 miles from the house.

On school breaks, he travels to California or Hawaii, where he has some relatives. He’s hoping to have his parents come from China to visit sometime this summer. I hope to stop by and meet them while they’re here, although I don’t know if they speak English at all …

Terence has been an excellent tenant — here’s to diversity!  :-)

 

Classy Wall Repair

Bet you’ve never seen anything like this … me neither! My tenants hadn’t been getting along and I told them they’d need to move, or face eviction. So they moved, quickly.

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But not before one of them took their anger issues out on this wall. This was a make-shift storage room off the hallway, adjacent to the attic area, and the walls were thin to begin with. I find it interesting that they made this crazy attempt at “repair” … using the term loosely! A plastic bag, cardboard, duct tape and clear packing tape. Nice.

I don’t put up with disturbances at my multi-family rentals. People deserve to live peacefully, and when I get noise complaints, I give tenants one written warning, period. (“Be nice, or leave!”) I got this place up and running quickly, and now, peace and quiet has returned. Onward and upward!  :-)

 

Kitchen Update

This old kitchen had metal cabinets and an old, heavy porcelain counter and sink. The cabinets were starting to rust through … they were probably over 50 years old. They weren’t closing very well, I’d owned this rental for 15 years, and it was just time to do the update.

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Before and after: notice my pink tool caddy on the counter (LOL) — initially, I had decided I could probably make this last through one more tenant, then I abandoned the idea and ordered the new counter top, sink and cabinets. The counter was a pre-cut granite-look formica from my local Lowe’s store, and the cabinets were also one of their pre-finished, in-stock styles. I picked up the stainless steel sink at a surplus store — it was it great shape. Materials ended up being somewhere around $1100 total. Not bad, right?

As in real estate sales, the kitchen and baths are the prime rooms that “make the sale.” Doing this update made the duplex a lot easier to rent, and I was able to ask a higher price. A win-win situation for me and the tenants as well.

Every time a tenant moves out, I look for updates that could improve the unit — fresh paint, new flooring, light fixtures, or a mini-facelift like the one above can improve the return on your investment and attract quality tenants. Combine that with quality property management, and everyone’s happy!  :-)

 

 

 

Attracting/Keeping Good Tenants

Over the past 20 years as a landlord in Indianapolis, I’ve learned a lot by trial and error … a lot of trial and a lot of error! And one thing I know for sure is that the secret to happy land lording is to attract and keep good tenants. And it all starts with:

  • Curb Appeal — I assume my prospective tenant will do a drive by before meeting me or pursuing an application process. With that in mind, I do as much low-cost/high return sprucing up as possible. (Fresh paint, at least on window trim and front door, minimal landscaping like some perennial flowers or shrubs, mulch, window washing, a door wreath, new lighting, a pot of flowers or hanging flowers on the front porch.) This mini-facelift can make the difference between someone driving on by, or pursuing your rental as their next home.
  • Good Screening — As I’ve mentioned before, I use National Tenant Network as my screening tool. They’re quick and efficient, and after filling in the tenant’s personal and work info, I get a qualification score back immediately through the website. A basic screening costs anywhere from $20-$36, depending on how detailed you want to get. (I go basic.)
  • Quality Workmanship — Your unit must be in good working order and immaculate throughout. Would YOU live there? I always make sure there are no leaks/repairs needed, the entire unit is clean and paint is fresh.
  • Be Attentive — Once your wonderful tenants have signed the lease and moved in, don’t abandon them! Stop by (give them notice, of course) and say hello occasionally. This will also give you the opportunity to see they are taking good care of the place. If repairs come up, take care of them immediately!
  • Reward Good Behavior — When you come across those tenants who are just downright spectacular in every way, i.e. they pay rent in a timely manner, keep the home/yard clean and are a great addition to the neighborhood, give them perks as evidence of your appreciation! A gift certificate to a local restaurant or grocery store, a “coupon” for a dollar amount off their next month of rent, etc. Be creative, and always put a personal note with it expressing your gratitude.

I have people who’ve been with me for years, and I do appreciate them. I try to keep rent prices reasonable, while making a decent living for myself.

The nice side effect of attracting good tenants is that good news travels. Those great tenants (who also appreciate your excellent land lording) tend to spread the word to their friends and relatives, thus bringing more quality people into your rental world. Your good tenants will network on your behalf. Nice (free) perk for you, right?

Onward and upward!  :-)