“Thanks” Goes a Long Way

As we move through the holiday season each year, it’s easy to get caught up in the stress of schedules, gift buying, rushing to get through items on our lists, etc. It can be overwhelming and frustrating — not at all representative of the season!

I try to be mindful, especially throughout December and into January, of the blessings that exist in my life, and thank those who make my work easier:

  • Tenants who pay their rent in a timely manner and keep their places clean
  • Contractors who are reliable, show up on time and don’t charge me outrageous prices for their services
  • Business associates who respect me enough to refer others to me
  • My friends and family who lend a listening ear after a particularly difficult day, and who love me “no matter what”

Life is tough. But in a sense, struggles and loss help us appreciate and savor the things that really matter. So take a minute and think about the people who matter in your work/personal life. And thank them.  🙂

Onward and upward!

And a happy, prosperous 2016 to you all.

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Deck Renew!

FullSizeRender 2        I do lots of work on my own rental properties in Indianapolis and somehow manage to neglect some items at my own house! It had been years … and I do mean YEARS … since I’d treated or even power washed my deck. It was grey and tired-looking. My friend Jerry brought his power washer over, even though I had one I thought would do the trick. He had bought it a few months ago at Costco for around $300. and it was so much more powerful and effective than mine!

I’d bought some Krud Kutter deck wash solution, but we didn’t even use it. (Check out this video.) His machine is a Subaru gas-powered unit with an electric start. Fabulous! Anyway, I was really impressed with the results and how quickly the job got done using the Subaru.

I’ll let the deck dry out for about 36 hours and spray coat it with Rain Guard, which came well recommended and got excellent reviews. My deck is only about 400 square feet of total surface, and a gallon ($10) covers about 80-100 square feet, so this is a cheap face lift for a very tired-looking deck! Woohoo!

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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!

Success Story

Meet Jesus, Hilda and their family … when they first rented from me, their oldest daughter, Karina, was an infant.

photo 1They were wonderful tenants and fantastic people.  Kind, hard-working, excellent parents.  Jesus approached me in 2004 about purchasing the double in which they lived.  (His sister and her son lived in the other apartment in the duplex.)

I set it up as a land contract and charged him 50K for the home.  (I’d bought it for 20K, did 15K of repairs/updates before renting it out.)  I continued to carry the insurance and property taxes, but I passed these expenses on to Jesus, by adding those amounts into his monthly payment, and also charging him 9% interest.  He gave me 7K down, and paid on time every month.

Within seven+ years, he became the proud owner of that home.  Throughout those years, he also improved the property, inside and out.  Here are a couple of before and after pictures:

#22, Ch12photo 2I’ve been invited to their children’s confirmations, graduations, etc., and every time I stop by, Hilda is offering me some kind of delicious Mexican concoction she has whipped up that day.

Throughout my real estate investing journey, I’ve forged relationships that will last a lifetime.  This is just one of many examples.  Although there are plenty of scammers out there, this family and other tenants like them more than make up for the “rotten apples.”  They’ve enriched my real estate investing experience more than they can ever know.

Income is essential, of course, but these relationships are truly the icing on the cake!  🙂

Random Acts of Kindness

Okay, this is totally off the subject of my normal blog posts, but I just had to share it …

I was at a bar and grill here in Indianapolis with friends last night and, unbeknownst to me, my coin purse fell on the floor under our table.  I’d gone to the ATM earlier that day and had $250 in it.

I didn’t know it was missing until this morning when I went to the hardware store.  When I called the bar, they said they had my purse in their safe, and I immediately went to pick it up.  What I found when I got there totally shocked me.

ALL of the money was still there, and then some.  I found this note tucked neatly inside:

photoKCCO is the acronym for “keep calm, carry on,” or “keep calm, chive on.”

RAK is, of course, “random act of kindness.”

I’ll never know who returned my purse … the employees didn’t know.  But events like this restore my faith in people, and encourage me to be a better person as well.

This made my day, and I wanted to share it with my readers.  I’ll certainly pay it forward.  🙂

“Shut Your Mouth!”

I was pleased to be quoted twice in the current edition of Personal Real Estate Investor magazine … they were doing an article on what NOT to say to a tenant and since I made so many errors along these lines early in my career, I was able to give them some good input for the article.  Of the seven areas listed, I’m quoted in numbers three and five.  Here’s the piece:

Personal Real Estate Inv., Fall ’12

And by the way, if you’re into this kind of thing, Personal Real Estate Investor is an excellent publication.  They discuss investment strategies, the housing market in general as it relates to the economy, foreclosures and how they’re affecting the market … valuable info for those who are looking to profit from this downturn in the economy and come out whole.  Definitely worth taking a look.

Onward and upward …. !   🙂

What Does it Take?

I’ve owned and managed my own rentals for 17 years now, manage other properties, have written a book about the business, recently got my realtor’s license, and am going to be getting my broker’s license soon.  I’m frequently asked, “What does it take to be a property manager?  What personality traits are essential?”

I’d never thought about it but here’s the short list:

  • You must be very organized.  There are records to keep, tenants to manage, etc.
  • You must be laid back.  Things happen that are beyond your control and you have to roll with it.  (Hmmm … organized and laid back?  Those qualities don’t appear very often in one individual.  Most laid back people aren’t organized.  Most organized people aren’t laid back.)
  • You have to be willing to evict people quickly when they get behind in their rent payments.  This is an income-producing business, and although tenants run into rough situations, you can’t let your heart rule your head.  You can’t just hope they’ll get caught up next week, or next month.

Tenant management issues are the main thing that drive people out of this business.  I’ve learned — the hard way — to stick with my lease agreement.  I’ve modified it through the years and it’s short but air-tight.  It protects me from all of the “sticky” situations that can pop up, and I know that if I adhere to it, I’ll be okay.

So for those who are considering buying their first rental, my advice is to educate yourself before jumping in.  Look at your finances, your personality, your risk tolerance.  And if you’re still excited about the possibilities, go for it, and enjoy the journey!

Landlord Intervention

For those of you interested in rentals, I wanted to let you know about a new book recently released, titled Landlord Intervention: How to Acquire and Manage Rental Property, available (paperback) on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0615643213/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=therefofath-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0615643213

and also on Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008KA0TDA/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=therefofath-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B008KA0TDA

It’s written in a straightforward style by a no-nonsense guy, Joseph Brown.  He lives and works in PA but the material in his book is pertinent to investors across the country.  He’s been in the business for over 25 years and knows all the ins and outs, ups and downs.    He’s “been there,” and tells it like it is.

I’m very picky when it comes to books written about owning/managing rentals.  I decided to write The Landlord Chronicles: Investing in Low and Middle Income Rentals because I hadn’t found any books that would educate people about all the facets of this business without boring them to death by the second chapter.

Landlord Intervention succeeds in holding your attention and educating you at the same time.  Well done!   Brown takes the reader through the entire process … buying managing, exit strategies, pitfalls, etc.   I was impressed enough that when I was asked to write the foreword for this book, I gladly agreed.  If you want to explore the idea of investing in rentals, pick up a copy of this book — oh, and maybe a copy of mine as well — you’ll be glad you did!

R & R!

Many people believe that owning rental properties is like having a ball and chain around your foot.  You can’t get away, you can’t take a break or even a short vacation.  Well, check this out:

This is the view from the balcony at The Royal Cancun, an all-adult all-inclusive resort in Cancun, Mexico.  I just spent a week there.  Beautiful!

And no, I didn’t photo-shop the picture.  The water really IS that unreal turquoise color.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  And I’ll definitely be going back again!  So, how does a landlord do this?  Easy:

  • Be organized.  Have your ducks in a row before you go.  If you leave on a vacation with a lot of loose ends, you won’t relax.
  • I don’t recommend going in the first week of a month.  That’s when rents are due, and you’re busier at that time.
  • Have a good handyman who will cover for you when you’re gone.
  • Be availabe while you’re gone, but not TOO available.  I check messages a couple times/day, and if I have repair issues I call my guy to take care of them.  (Some handymen don’t mind getting direct calls from tenants — Craig does, so I respect that.  I wouldn’t want my tenants to abuse the privilege.)
  • DON’T have your cell with you all the time.  If you’re going to conduct business 24/7 while you’re away, why go away?

I take several vacations each year.  I work hard and play just as hard.  Be organized and run your business efficiently — the payoff is not just money in your pocket.  It’s free time to enjoy this life and the fruits of your labor.

Cheers!   🙂

Gotta Do What You Gotta Do…

People refer to me as an entrepreneur, although I never think of myself as such.  So I felt very fortunate to be included in this recent book release:

http://www.amazon.com/Entrepreneur-Intervention-Triumphs-Failures-Entrepreneurs/dp/0615555527/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1321328178&sr=1-1

The book recounts the trials and tribulations of 28 people, in their own words.  It’s difficult for me to consider myself an entrepreneur because I wasn’t the typical person who has a brainstorm or a passion and decides to “make it happen,” come hell or high water.  My scenario was different.  I’d lost my son and my marriage, was short on cash, and had to do something.  My entrepreneurship wasn’t exactly idea driven . . . it was driven by need and, well, panic.

The stories in this book are inspiring and draw from a wide variety of individuals.  It’s a good read, especially if you need a little spark in your entrepreneurial spirit.  Many of the people interviewed had a great idea, and just found a way to make it work.  For me, however, it was simply, “You gotta do what you gotta do . . .”

“Entrepreneur Intervention” gives details about embarking on ventures that enbale your being to soar, not drain the life out of you.  It’s a refreshing read, and a great gift for someone who is looking to start fresh or start over.  Lots of ideas here, lots of viewpoints . . . enjoy!