Flash From the Past

When I began investing in rental properties here in Indianapolis, I usually communicated with my tenants via phone (land line) or in person. To make my life easier, I got a pager. When my tenants had questions or a repair issue, they could call my pager, and I’d see their phone number on the read-out.

That was the easy part. The hard part (before cell phones) was finding a pay phone in the area so I could call them back. Typical scenario:

  • I’m working at one of my empty rentals, trying to get it rent ready. It’s the middle of winter, and there’s 8 inches of snow on the ground.
  • I get a page from one of my tenants.
  • I go to the pay phone a few blocks from where I’m working.
  • I put my quarter in — yes, a quarter — and the phone eats my quarter. I try it again. Same result.
  • I go to another pay phone, a few blocks from the first one.
  • I put my quarter in. I get a dial tone — yay! But the push buttons are frozen and I can’t dial out.
  • I go to a third pay phone, and there’s a handset in the holder, but the cord is missing.
  • I abort the mission entirely, and decide to just call them when I get back home.

I think back on those days, and I’m soooo grateful for the technology that allows us to communicate through so many platforms — email, text, and all that’s made possible  through cell phones. Everyone has one, including people who work minimum wage jobs.

Technology … it’s simplified my life and my business. Love it!

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!  🙂



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


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!

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! 🙂



The “We Care” Garden

Bad news hits the media quickly … good news trickles in slowly.  I came across this beautiful little community garden as I left one of my rentals one day.  It’s nestled in between homes that range from well-manicured to neglected, in one of the lower-income areas of Indianapolis.

We Care Garden

As it turns out, one of my tenants, Shelby, helped throughout the process of creating this space.  It was the brain child of a community-based organization called We Care, which tends to the area parks, picks up trash in the neighborhood,and just tries to improve the area in general.

This little plot of land was designated as a community garden, and community leaders (Tim, Leah, Dixie) as well as Shelby and a few others, went to work.

Lowe’s donated some of the vegetable plants — there are tomatoes, corn, potatoes, onions, carrots, peas, beans, radishes and several herbs.  The gazebo, two peach and apple trees were received through grant monies.

Neighbors tend the garden and reap the benefits.  We hear the down side of our inner cities.  But good works are being done as well.  The We Care garden is a testament to that.  What a wonderful way to support your neighbors, your community … small efforts such as these can effect positive change in our inner cities.

As a landlord who tries to offer decent housing that improves the overall look of my rental areas, I salute fine the work these people are doing in their neighborhood.  Kudos to them!  🙂


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.  🙂


A Helping Hand …

Every weekend, I encounter scenes like these:

photo.JPG1Every weekend, this truck sets up in an empty lot on a busy corner downtown.  It’s a few blocks from one of my rental properties here in Indianapolis.

They give out a large variety of items … fresh fruit, different kinds of breads, etc.  People of all ages come with plastic bags and fill them.  It’s a wonderful service.

photoThis past weekend, I came upon another site where free food items were being passed out to neighborhood residents.  This was probably run by a church or civic group but as you can see, a need was being answered.

I keep hearing that the economy has “turned the corner” and that things are improving, but when my tenants are constantly being laid off and/or losing their jobs, and scenes like these are prevalent in many pockets of the city, it’s difficult to wrap my arms around that optimistic viewpoint.  Onward and upward ………… Still, I choose to think the best, in people and in situations.


I’m always on the lookout for interesting scenes when I’m “in the hood.”  I came across this one today:

This homeowner has quite the unusual Halloween display going.  Caution tape, some unidentifiable spooks here and there, some blow-up figures that never quite got off the ground, and if you look closely to the right, in the side yard, there’s Frosty the Snowman, waiting for his turn to shine!  Wow.

And he has a little buddie with him.  I couldn’t tell what some of the items in the front yard were, but I so appreciate the spirit with which people decorate their homes.

Sometimes, homeowners and renters in the inner city come up with very cute, clever ideas to celebrate the holidays.  They live simply and don’t have much, but they know how to get the most out of what they have.  There’s a lesson here … The rest of us could learn from them, for sure!

Just thought I’d share … the yard art above confused me and made me laugh, but I certainly appreciated the spirit behind it!

Happy Halloween!

Indiana Basketball!

This house is two doors down from one of my rentals, in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood downtown.  But basketball is alive and well, even in the lower-income areas of the inner city.

“Basket” ball

The basket is a milk crate nailed to a piece of wood, attached to the siding.  Above it, they’ve rigged up a light so they can shoot baskets at night.

I own the house with the brown roof, and I had recently evicted my tenant, Yolanda, for nonpayment of rent.  I was out back, picking up trash, and I watched some young boys playing a pickup game for a few minutes.
When they finished and the alley got quiet I heard some crowing.  I couldn’t tell, at first, where it was coming from, but when the animal emitted a full blown “cocka-doodle-doo” I realized it was wedged in between my house and the neighbor’s, in this make-shift cage:

The rooster eyed me suspiciously as I took his picture.  What was he doing here, in this tiny little house from hell?  I’ve seen lots of roosters lately, running loose in the neighborhoods.  I just don’t get it.  Anyway, I thought I’d include it here, as a little “slice of life” in the inner city.  I was born and raised in the city (Gary, IN) and never saw a rooster.  Funny how times change, huh?

All We Need is Love …

I passed this house when I was at work yesterday and I was struck by the simple beauty of the message:


This home is in a pretty rough area.  The sign on the telephone pole advertises “CrimeWatch” for the neighborhood but evidently it hasn’t been effective.   Countless times I’ve driven by, there have been police cars out in front of various homes, with several individuals sitting on the lawn in handcuffs.  Drugs and gang-related crimes are prevalent.

But this homeowner is sending his own message, with his garage mural depicting the last supper, Jesus on the cross, praying hands and the written words, “Jesus Loves Peace.”  A beam of hope and light in an otherwise dark and sinister area of the inner city.

With the economy in a state of disarray, investors are snapping up vacant, foreclosed homes throughout the city, but the lower-income areas will lag behind the other (higher-end) areas.  There are tremendous bargains to be had in the inner city, and the return on the investment in rentals is excellent if you have the heart for it.

I’ve seen improvement in some areas, some rebuilding and rehabbing, and I’m hopeful it will continue.  But progress has been slow lately . . . onward and upward . . . or is it onward and sideways?