Sweat Equity … Literally

So we’re expecting temperatures in the mid- to high 90s here in Indy this week, with heat indices up to 112.  And of course, that lovely mid-summer midwest humidity, with dewpoints in the 70s, will create sauna-like conditions.  Ick.

But I have an empty house that needs a total redo.  Melissa moved out last week.  She did a good job of clearing everything out but the whole house (four bedrooms) needs to be painted, the carpet needs shampooing, and the kitchen and bathrooms need to be scrubbed.  So bring in the crew!  Um . . . that would be me.  When I saw this forecast on the news tonight I was less than thrilled because this rental has no central air.  Hmmm . . . the owner must be too damn cheap?  (LOL)

  My middle-income rentals have AC but I haven’t spent the extra $$ to have it installed in my other properties.  I allow my tenants to use window units.

So with this extreme heat, it’s going to be a long week for me, although I’m enlisting the help of a couple friends who will help paint for a few hours.  I’ll be taking my trusty oscillating fan which will move the hot air around a bit, and Carrie will bring her Ipod and speakers with some great tunes to help pass the time.  My “M.O.” has always been to do all I can on my own, to save money.  Paying someone else to do what I can do myself just doesn’t make sense.  (The paint job alone.would probably cost $1000 or more.)

If you own rentals and also have a full-time job, you’ll have time constraints and won’t be able to do much of your own work at your properties.  You’ll need to hire out some — or most — of the work and maybe get a property manager as well.  But if you buy smart (i.e. cheap) you’ll still make a good return on your investment.

But the more sweat equity you can put in, the better.  Every dollar I don’t pay out to someone else is a dollar that stays in my greedy little hands, and I like that.  So I’m putting a positive twist on this week’s work . . . I’m calling it my accelerated weight loss program.  Barb’s Boot Camp.  Wanna sign up?

Onward and upward!   🙂

That “Decorator” Touch

When I get in discussions about buying rental properties I’m usually asked about amenities.  “Do you provide window coverings?  How about throw rugs, shower curtains?  Do you use two-tone paint and decorator colors?”

My answer to these questions is always the same.  It depends on the neighborhood.  First and foremost, this is not YOUR home in YOUR neighborhood!  Don’t overdo it on the rehab and amenities.  I’ve seen investors make this mistake again and again.  And they never recoup that money they spent in crown molding, granite countertops, etc.  Your rental has to measure up to those in the surrounding area.  Period.

 I rehab my places to fit the nieghborhood.  As for the small amenities prior to renting them out, this is what I do.  For all of my rentals, I supply exterior and interior door mats, to protect my flooring.  My friends save their gently used bath and other rugs so I can use them in my low-income rentals.  They add a homey feel to my units.  I also hang mini-blinds or curtains, at all of my rentals.  These can be bought cheaply at Wal-Mart or Target and they really improve the ambience of the home.

Paint is an entirely different story.  For my lower-income rentals, I started out using one color — a creamy beige — throughout. But a few years ago I began using dark brown on the trim.

I realized that using this dark color saved me tons of time on repainting when people moved out.  After all, the doorways, baseboards, cabinets take the brunt of it in nicks, fingerprints and other dirt.  The dark paint allows me to wipe down these areas with a damp rag and Krud Kutter (for the most part) instead of repainting — a great time saver!  And, people like it.

 (By the way, Kilz Casual Colors is the best deal going.  I use latex satin.  It covers amazingly well, doesn’t splatter, and compares to brands that are twice as expensive.  It runs about $23/gallon, and  Consumer Reports touts it.)  For my middle- or upper-middle income places, I use current colors for the walls and trim, of course. 

If you’re unsure of what the neighborhood holds, you can always check it out for yourself.  Schedule a showing at a nearby rental . . . you could be looking on behalf of your son or daughter, right? . . . and see what you’re up against. 

Remember, you’re in this to make money, and whatever low-cost perks you can add to your rental  to improve its appeal will result in higher rent.  And, higher rent means more money in your pocket.   We like that . . .     🙂