Be a Happier (Business) Person

The National Association of Realtors publishes a pretty cool magazine, and I get weekly emails from them, with featured articles of interest to Realtors. This one struck me, because it applied not just to business, but to everyday life as well. The article cited six tips to being happier in general. Here it is:

1) Stay positive.

“Bad things happen to everyone, including happy people,” writes Travis Bradberry, co-writer of “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” and co-founder of TalentSmart. “Instead of complaining about how things could have been or should have been, happy people reflect on everything they’re grateful for.” Happy people tend to find the best solution to a problem and then move on, refusing to dwell on negative events.

2) Surround yourself with the right people.

You’ll build confidence and stimulate creativity by surrounding yourself with other upbeat people. Negative people, on the other hand, can zap away your energy.

3) Exercise more.

Even moving for as little as 10 minutes can help release a neurotransmitter that helps soothe your brain and keep you in control over your impulses. Schedule regular exercise into your daily life.

4) Slow down.

Don’t be so caught up in a routine that you forget to appreciate the little things in life. Enjoy a conversation or take a step outside to enjoy a fresh breath of air.

5) Have deep conversations.

Avoid gossip, small talk, and judging others. Have meaningful interactions by engaging with others on a deeper level and seek to build an emotional connection, Bradberry writes.

6) Help others.

Employees who helped others were 10 times more likely to be focused at work and 40 percent more likely to get a promotion, according to a study conducted by Harvard University. Those helping employees also were more likely to be happy during stressful times. “As long as you make certain that you aren’t overcommitting yourself, helping others is sure to have a positive influence on your mood,”

Sound advice … onward and upward!  :-))

Gotta Love It

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You don’t have to have a lot of money to keep your home looking nice. Here’s proof of that. This little house is on a street in downtown Indianapolis, near one of my rental properties. It’s definitely a lower-income demographic.

Regardless of the season, the family that lives here manages to “dress it up” outside — I see the mom outside in the nice weather, trimming and weeding, sprucing up here, there and everywhere. The potted plants, yard art, wind chimes, et. make me smile.

With the holiday season just around the corner, I’m excited to see what’s in store for this happy little place … More pictures to come!  🙂

 

“Eureka” …. not.

Prior to reading this post, go back to my March 26th post titled “Eureka!” and read it, if you haven’t done so already.

She rented a cute upstairs unit from me, right behind her workplace at Popeyes Chicken.  No more two-hour walk home after work at midnight.  She was absolutely thrilled, and I was so happy for her.  She was paying on time, keeping the apartment spotlless … she took pride in her living space.

And then, she seemingly dropped off the face of the Earth.  No call, no rent.  Odd … through relatives, I learned she’d been hospitalized after her blood pressure sky-rocketed and she suffered a stroke.  After a week or two, she texted me and said she was so sorry … she’d be moving out, maybe going to IL to stay with her mom until she was capable of taking care of herself. I told her to take care of herself, to hang in there.

I went to her apartment yesterday, thinking she’d be gone.  There she was, sitting in the dorrway … a shell of the vibrant woman I’d rented to a couple short months earlier.  She was waiting for me, she said in very broken words, almost unintelligible, apologizing repeatedly.  Her mom couldn’t take care of her and she’s going to a county “home” in Morgan County.  “Don’t worry, it’ll be okay,.  You just need to take care of yourself.,” I tried to reassure her.  Tears rolled quietly down her face as she struggled to stand and grab my hand.  “You …. good.  You …. so good.”  I helped her back to the front door so she could look outside and enjoy the sunshine.

St. Vincent de Paul will be there Saturday to take her furniture before she leaves.  I’ll be there as well, to bid her farewell and tell her to stay in touch through texting.

Eureka’s been on my mind since I left her there in the doorway, slumped in her chair.  Life can change in the blink of an eye … this is an excellent reminder of that for all of us.  Stay in the day, make the most of it … none of us knows what tomorrow will bring.

Onward and upward …..

Beautify …

I encourage the tenants in my Indianpolis rental properties to plant flowers and shrubs on the property if they’re so inclined.  Most are not, especially if they’re struggling financially.  Understandable.  If you don’t have much disposable income, you’re not going to consider using it to buy flowers and mulch.

The home in the picture below used to be barren in the front.  I hadn’t gotten around to planting anything along the front porch, although it would’ve enhanced the curb appeal.  But then Shelby moved in and little by little, the outside of this rental property got a facelift!

photo (3)First, the front of the house got a fresh coat of white paint, with my permission of course.  Dirt and dust from the street had grayed it down.  Then the dark gray trim got repainted, followed by the porch floor.

And this spring, the finishing touches … more plants added, a border, a couple of beautiful hibiscus trees and some mulch to finish it off.

I wish I had a “before” picture to show … if you look at the video clip on the home page of this blog under “A Bit About Barb” it’s the first home I drive by … but anyway, it used to be plain and a little tired looking but now?  Warm, inviting, cared for … I love the look!

I’ll continue to encourage my tenants to beautify their exteriors, but for now, I wish I had more Shelbys!

Eureka!

I have a four-plex in a low-income area, right behind a fast food establishment.  The upstairs one-bedroom unit was available and a woman named Eureka came to apply.  She worked the 4-12 midnight shift at the fast food place.  She was in her mid-fifties, had two grown kids and was on her own.

Eureka took the bus to work every day.  She’d been employed there for over a year … her rental house was on the other side of town, however, and when she got off at midnight, the buses had stopped running.  So for the past year, she’d been walking home … a TWO hour trip on foot.  Wow …

She loved the place and hoped to get it.  I checked with her supervisor and current landlord — both gave good references — and when I called her later to tell her the good news, she burst into tears.

We met at the apartment to sign the lease, etc., before her shift started.  It was 10 degrees that day.  She told me she’d be coming there after work, rolling up her puffy winter coat to use as a pilow, and happily sleeping on her bedroom floor for the night.  No more walking home.

As I reached out to shake her hand and tell her, “Welcome home,” she threw her arms around me and tearfully thanked me again.

And this, my friends, is one of the reasons I love my work.  I didn’t make her day … she made mine.  🙂

Eureka!

Meet LouLou . . .

This is LouLou, actually, Louise.  I bought the duplex she and her husband Warren lived in, back in 2000.  It was in less than stellar condition but I got it for a song ($19,000) and knew it had potential.  The rents were ridiculously low but I was going to raise them quickly.  Well, it didn’t work out so well . . .

As I got to know them, I learned they’d been in that home for 23 years, were on a fixed income and Warren was dying of cancer.  They were dear, sweet people, and I just couldn’t do it.  Just couldn’t.  I kept the home for a couple years, drawing ever closer to LouLou as she and the hospice people cared for Warren until he passed away.  I was unable to attend the funeral, much to her dismay.  Her comment:  “George’s people don’t like white people, but I think you woulda done okay.  I woulda had you in the family row…”  (Yikes!)

I sold the home and — surprisingly — made a profit.  The next owner did a poor job of managing it and paying the mortgage, and went into foreclosure.  I continued to visit throughout this time, and was relieved when LouLou found a senior living facility (a renovated old school).   She’s lived there for the past several years and I’ve continued to visit.

She’s a fun, feisty old girl — loves B.B King and the blues, and when I get off the elevator, I often hear the music cranked up loud, coming from her apartment.  She gets many visitors: her son and daughter and various grandkids, nieces and nephews, great grandkids, etc.  They drift in and out on a daily basis.

Sadly, she was diagnosed with colon cancer a few years back and has declined.  Initially, she told me, “I think it’s down there in my utica (uterus).”  One operation was all her body could handle, and now her 5’6″ frame is down to about 80 lbs.  She had a bad episode a month ago and has been in a rehab facility since.

Her daughter calls me with updates and I visit her often, but LouLou’s 81 years may be drawing to a close.  My job as a landlord has enabled me to meet some extraordinary people, and LouLou is one of those.  I’m proud and honored to have known her all these years, and will hope for the best in the coming weeks.

May God bless her . . .

Meet Calvin . . .

This is Calvin.  He’s orignially from Gary, IN, 50 years old and on disability.  Calvin’s been with me for almost five years now, which makes him one of my longest-term tenants.

When he came to apply, I took his application and asked him some history.  He’d been on disability since the age of 40.  “My body was all swole up.  My arms and legs looked like a elephant.  My heart was all full o’ water.”  He was suffering congestive heart failure at that young age, and was forced to quit work as a roofer/painter.

He received $1000/month and the rent was $530, all utilities paid.  He assured me he lived simply and could afford it, and needed to get out of where he was.  The neighborhood was bad.  I checked with his landlord to make sure he was current, and took a drive by the place.  “Bad” didn’t come close.  It was downright scary.  (And it takes a lot for me to say that.)

Although I questioned his financial ability to handle it long term, I approved Calvin for the apartment.  There was just something about him . . . a gentle, sweet man . . . so I went with my gut.  Now, my gut doesn’t always steer me in the right direction, I must admit.  But Calvin keeps his place clean and has never been late with his rent.  His health is an issue but he manages it well.

I asked him permission to write this blog piece about him.  He didn’t know what a blog was but agreed when I explained I was going to start highlighting some of my wonderful tenants every month, and wanted to start with him.  I think I actually saw him blush behind that dark skin!  He was delighted.

So Calvin, here’s to you . . . may I be fortunate to find many more like you down the road!    🙂

The American Dream Revisited

When people ask me about buying rentals in Indianapolis, I like to tell them stories like this one.

Back in 2005, I found a cute three-bedroom foreclosure and bought it for $26,000.  It didn’t need a lot of work, really.  The basement was full of junk, the place smelled like dog urine (it made my nose and eyes burn) and the previous owners had left trash all over the house.  It needed to be totally redone but it was structurally sound, and the major operating systems were in good shape, as was the roof, siding and garage.  So I jumped on it.

It didn’t take long to complete the rehab . . . I planned ahead and got it done quickly, spending about $5000.   After the purchase, every day that goes by is a day I’m not making money, so I organize myself and my sub-contractors and get the rental up and running.

My first tenants wanted to be buyers, so Idid a land contract with them, also called a “rent-to-buy.”  It didn’t work out — they defaulted — so I got them out and rented to a wonderful guy who’d fallen on hard times.  Bill had been in an accident and wasn’t able to work for two years, due to multiple major surgeries.  He tried to keep up with medical bills and just couldn’t.  He ended up losing his home, etc.  But now he was back on his feet (literally) and had a good job. 

I started renting to him about two years ago and he called yesterday and asked about the possibility of buying the house, below:

Of course, my first question had to do with his credit situation.  Bill told me he had been working on credit restoration, and also that he was going to receive clost to $20,000 in monies (disability payments) that were owed to him from the time he was injured and out of work.  He wanted to know how much I’d charge him for the house so I did a quick review of comps in the area —  comparable homes for sale and sold in the area — and came up with a $50,000 price tag.  I felt this would hold up to an appraisal by a bank.  So, he’s working on it from his end, and we’ll move forward.  He’s excited and so am I.  I’ll take that money and run!  Maybe pay down some debt, buy another rental . . . we’ll see.

But, I’m so happy for him.  For Bill, the American Dream is alive and well.  This is why I love what I do . . .    🙂

The American Dream

Yesterday was a good day.  No, make that a wonderful day.  My tenant Jesus and his lovely family gave me the last payment on their house.  They are now homeowners.  To give you a little background, they first rented from me in 1996, shortly after the birth of their first child.  I was thrilled with their tenancy . . . clean people, excellent payers . . . a landlord’s dream.  They returned to Mexico after renting from me for a couple of years.  In 2000, I received a call from Texas.  They were on their way back to Indianapolis and had saved my number, and were wondering if I could accommodate them, now a family of four.  I happily put them in one of my duplexes.

In 2003, Jesus asked about the possibility of buying the house from me.  His sister lived in the back apartment and they were very happy there.  I sold them the house on land contract.  He gave me $7000 down (in $100 bills!) and we set up the payment schedule, at 9% interest.  For people who have marginal credit or no credit (like Jesus) this is an excellent way to purchase a home.  He’s never been late on a payment and has improved the home in many ways.  Here are a couple before/after exterior pictures:

The interior changes are more dramatic; as his family grew to three children, Jesus made the attic into additional living space and added another bathroom.  It looks professional. 

I explain the ins and outs of land contracts in detail in my book, The Landlord Chronicles: Investing in Low and Middle Income Rentals:

“The major advantages to land contracts are the following: 

  • I don’t have to claim all the profit in the year I sell the property; it’s spread out over the life of the loan (check this out with your tax advisor)
  • I have no responsibility for repairs or bill-paying at the property
  • The buyers are invested in it financially and emotionally, therefore motivated to take good care of it
  • Being the bank enables me to make more money on the sale, through principal and interest, than I would by selling outright
  • Land contracts provide long-term income, with little work involved

I’ve had people in tears after being given the keys to their homes.  These are people who never dreamed they’d be able to own a home.  Although land contracts are a great moneymaker for me, providing these dream homes for my buyers makes me feel part of something wonderful…for these families, the neighborhood and the city as well.  I love it.”

(If you’d like to check out more of my book or purchase a copy, you may go to www.authorhouse.com and click or their book store, or you may contact me personally at barb@thelondlordchronicles.net.)   Re: land contracts, with HERA and the Safe Act (see “Is the Party Over?”) my ability to do these without a mortgage loan officer’s license may be restricted.  The jury is still out . . . everything depends on the interpretation of the law.  I’ll keep you posted . . .