Don’t Throw it Out!

When one of my tenants moved out of my Indianapolis rental property — it was a bad scenario — he left a filthy apartment behind, including a grease-caked stove top. My handyman suggested I throw it out, but I knew I could save it. Here’s what it looked like half-way through the clean-up:

IMG_2197[1]My handyman was astounded! LOL

Here’s what I used to produce this miracle result: the day I went in there (after the eviction and after the judge had ordered my tenant out) I sprayed the entire stove top with Easy Off (fume free) over cleaner. I also sprayed the outside of the refrigerator with it.

I then proceeded on to some other tasks … painting, small repairs, etc. I didn’t touch the stove again that day.

When I returned the following morning, I sprayed the entire stove top with my trusted Krud Kutter and got to work. I used a flexible, 2″ putty knife. All of that crusted-on grease came right off … no scrubbing! Afterwards, I used a Scotch Brite (dark green) scrub pad to get the remainder and voila!

I get my used appliances cheaply, about $160 for a stove like this. But why spend that money when you don’t have to?

Investing in real estate is an income-producing journey. If I can put more money in my pocket by contributing a little sweat equity, I’ll do it!

Onward and upward …. :-)

Applicants With No Credit

If you’re a landlord and your properties are mid- to high-end, you probable run credit checks on your applicants, as you should!

With my lower income properties, I don’t normally do this, as many of my tenants have never established a credit history … they pay cash for everything. This is unbelievable to many, but makes a lot of sense to some people. They’ve decided they’ll never buy anything until they have the money to purchase! What a novel idea, right? And not a bad one, at that! Others who have had credit in the past have totally trashed it … unpaid bills and credit cards, etc.

But that scenario isn’t limited to lower income folks, believe me. And so we get back to the issue of credit checks on the mid- to higher-income applicants. When you run someone’s credit (I use National Tenant Network — they’re excellent) and it comes back as non-existent, you’ll need to check on a few issues:

  1. Did they record their Social Security number correctly on the app? Have them repeat it back to you for verification. If that can’t be done, raise the red flag!
  2. Maybe they really don’t have ANY credit that’s been established. This is certainly possible, especially with young people who have not used credit cards or had utility bills in their names.
  3. That person may not be included in that reporting bureau’s files. There are three major bureaus — Trans Union, Experian and Equifax. Make sure you recheck that.
  4. Did they mention any credit cards on the application? If so, and there’s no report that comes back, they’re lying. If you have a credit card, you have a credit history.  Recheck the driver’s license, SS number, etc. Something’s not right … get ready to raise that red flag.

Many people present well, and aren’t what they appear. That’s why the application process is another tool we use to help determine qualifications.

On the other hand, I’ve rented places to people with no credit trail, and I’m not afraid to do that. I talk with the employer, verify income, talk with the previous landlord, do a drive-by of the previous residence to check the neighborhood and condition of the property, and assess the applicant personally. And from there, if there are no other parameters to lean on, I go with my gut.

Happy screening!

 

 

E-Cigs and Renters

E-cigarettes are all the rage. They come in all flavors, shapes and sizes, and have become popular not only with those who are wanting to quit smoking (via a “step-down” process) but also with a whole new segment of people who’ve never smoked in the first place. Many see the e-cig as a harmless replacement for the traditional cigarette.

While they don’t contain tar, e-cigs definitely contain nicotine, so they aren’t harmless. The goal for those trying to stop smoking traditional cigarettes is to decrease the amount of nicotine in the refillable/replaceable cartridge used.

I’m not here to discuss the pros and cons of the e-cig, but what about landlords who don’t allow smoking in their single-family homes? Should that include e-cigarettes? Hmmmm….

Here’s my thought: it’s the tar in traditional cigarettes that causes the nasty yellow film that sticks itself to every wall and other surface in the home. Believe me, I know too much about that. I allow my tenants to smoke inside, although I encourage them to step outside to do so. Most aren’t super-heavy smokers and it’s not labor intensive when they move out. But with a heavy smoker who’s been with you a while, you’ll need to wash down the walls. Ick!

So, I’d welcome the e-cigs over regular cigarettes, of course. No tar, no nasty yellow film. But if you’ve not allowed smoking inside, and you own a large complex, do you allow the e-cigarettes? Here are my thoughts on that:

  1. If you have a non-smoking apartment complex, that’s part of your marketing strategy. If potential applicants see tenants smoking (“vaping”) the e-cigs, public perception may change, thus hurting your occupancy.
  2. From a distance, it’s difficult to distinguish the two. The e-cig “vapor” can be mistaken for smoke. Do you really want to try and police that? Will other tenants see someone with an e-cig, think it’s real and cause a ruckus? Again, perception becomes an issue here.

It’s a tough call. With my small units (single to four units in a building) I’m okay with it. If I had a non-smoking apartment complex, I’d keep it that way. Cigarettes? No. E-cigarettes? No. Candy cigarettes? Maybe …. LOL

 

 

 

Small Money, Big Improvement!

IMG_1645[1]I try to make small improvements to my Indianapolis rental properties each time a tenant moves out. Kitchens and baths are the two most important rooms, in my opinion … for the other rooms, if you have fresh paint and decent floor coverings (I suggest carpet for the bedrooms, for sure, and I usually put it in the living areas as well), it’s all good!

But the kitchen and bath need to be fresh, clean, and updated where possible. The cabinets in this duplex were very old, metal ones that had been painted. I’ve had the house for over ten years, and it was just time to get rid of them. The drawers weren’t shutting well any more, and were rusting out in places.

IMG_1723[1]So I bit the bullet and had my handyman install these stock cabinets from Lowe’s, prefinished, and a stock counter top. The counter top is just formica, granite look-alike … so inexpensive, but durable and nice looking!

So, for under $1000, I have a new kitchen, which attracted a good-quality tenant who was excited about the update!

Of course, I won’t take the “good quality” assessment for granted … I’ll do apartment checks periodically, as we all should, to ensure our tenants are caring for the property and keeping it in good condition.

As I look to the new year, I hope to serve more people in need of reasonably-priced, clean housing. Establishing good relationships with tenants, taking care of the properties I manage … these are the keys to a successful 2015!

Happy New Year!

 

Renter’s Insurance

Some landlords force the issue and require their tenants to purchase renter’s insurance, some do not. It’s a personal choice.

For many, money is tight and spending extra money on insurance isn’t an attractive option for them, even though it’s fairly inexpensive … about $10-20/month, depending on what value you place on your belongings.

I make my own tenants aware that the owner has insurance on the building, but not their contents, and I leave the decision to them. But a few people I manage properties for have made renter’s insurance a requirement in their lease agreement. The tenant has to provide me with proof of insurance.

And this past year, a supply line for a toilet at one of those properties broke while the tenants were at work. Three rooms totally flooded, damaging several pieces of furniture. Those tenants were sooo glad they had that insurance!

The policy protects them in several situations:

  • Robbery
  • Vandalism
  • Flooding of the house due to rain or broken plumbing
  • Fire
  • Liability — the dog bites someone, or a guest gets hurt at the home
  • Many policies cover hotel cost in the event the tenant would have to move out temporarily

So although I don’t require it, renter’s insurance is probably worth the expense … just ask someone who’s had to submit a claim!

 

Removing Cigarette Stains from Sinks

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Here’s a sample of what I run into when a tenant moves out of one of my places. Not everyone is a smoker, of course, and most people won’t put a lit cigarette on the edge of the bathroom sink. But when they do, this is what I’m left with … a nasty stain, or several nasty stains. Ugh! For years, I tried all sorts of products to remove these brown marks scattered around the edges of my sinks, to no avail.

Then, one of my contractors, who’d been employed by an large apartment complex for a few years, gave me a wonderful piece of advice … “Go get some plumber’s screen!” I didn’t even know what that was, but Bill told me I’d find it at any hardware store, so off I went.

It comes in smallish sheets — I bought a 12″ square piece, which will last me several years — and it’s very inexpensive.

I cut off a small piece of it and simply rubbed the stain out. Voila! The sink looks nearly new. If the light catches it just right, that area has a little less shine than the rest of the sink but it’s not really noticeable.

A quick, easy fix for an annoying problem! Get some plumber’s screen today … I plan on using it for other tough stains/cleaning challenges in the future!

Inexpensive Updates

When you’re trying to sell your home, you realize you may have ignored some cosmetic issues, repair issues, decorative updates … lots of things just tend to “slip through the cracks” over the years.

I was helping someone sell their condo recently and she had an excellent idea that would give this 90s kitchen sink area a little facelift, without costing her an arm and a leg. Here’s what she was working with:

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As you can see, the ceramic tile above the sink wasn’t damaged anywhere, but with the thin forest green line of tile, it looked dated. She decided to buy some 12×12 sheets of decorative tile, remove an entire row of the white tile (along with the narrow green strip) and freshen up the area, without replacing the counter top or cabinets.

 

 

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The finished look is fantastic. It updates the entire area, although she spent very little money in the process. The cabinet handles were also dated, so she invested in a couple of contractor 10-pack bronze handles from Home Depot and switched them out. I told her to make sure she took an old one with her to the store, so she could ensure that the holes lined up. (Some are 3″ apart, some 3 1/4 or more.) The hinges were close enough in color, so they could remain.

 

Small changes, nice effect! I’ve also painted older oak cabinets with semi-gloss white paint, for a fresh update. There are lots of options you can choose, aside from a total tear-out (and a total wipe-out of your wallet!)