Another Great Paint Option

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20 years ago, when I began my real estate investing career, I started using Walmart brand paint, satin finish. It was very adequate, covered well and didn’t splatter much. Through the years, it declined in quality and I switched to Behr, after checking out the comparisons in Consumer Reports.

I’ve really enjoyed their product. I don’t go with their top-of-the-line. I’ve used the Premium Plus satin and eggshell finishes and have been very impressed with the durability of each. Nice, thick formula, great coverage, for around $27/gallon. And considering the price of the Walmart paint had gone up to $18/gallon and I was having to recoat rooms and clean up splatters … totally worth the switch! I was frustrated with Walmart brand.

But then I came across a great deal at the Porter paint store near me. Their paints have always ranked highly as well, but I simply can’t justify spending over $40 for a gallon of paint! Then I found out that, if I opened a business account with them, I could purchase a gallon for around $28. What a fantastic deal! Definitely worth a try. So I’ve been using their Hi Hide satin for the past few months.

I’m going to stick with it, for sure. I can call them ahead and they’ll have it mixed and ready to go, and I totally love the paint. I think it more than measures up to Behr, and the friendly service and other great specials they run at their store are an added bonus. As a small business person myself, I seize every opportunity to support other small operations. “Here’s to the the little guy!”

Onward and upward …. ¬†ūüôā

Rent to Own?

Seller financing, rent to own, land contracts … these are creative ways to achieve homeownership if you can’t¬†qualify for a mortgage.¬†As a real estate investor here in Indy, I’ve sold a few of my rentals this way. It can¬†be a positive route for both the seller and buyer.¬†Laura Agadoni included me as one of her sources in the following¬†Trulia article about seller financing. If you —¬†or someone you know —¬†is¬†in the market for this type of financing,¬†her piece is a good way to get familiar with the process:

http://www.trulia.com/blog/pros-cons-seller-financing/

Personally, I enjoyed giving people the opportunity to become homeowners when they wouldn’t otherwise be able to do so. For the most part, they took excellent care of the properties, knowing the home was “theirs.” I even had one family make multiple repairs and updates as they moved through their contract.

The downside was that occasionally, tragedy strikes. People get sick, lose their jobs, split with their spouses, etc. But as I stated in the article above, they usually just “bow out” gracefully and apologetically, pack up, clean up, and leave. The seller keeps the down payment, and moves on.

Bottom line? As Laura states, seller financing can work well for everyone. The seller earns good interest on the loan, and the buyer achieves the American Dream … home ownership. It’s a win/win. ūüôā

 

 

 

Another Painting Tip

As you know, I’m all about saving time and money.¬† I’ve done a few posts on painting tools, tips and techniques.¬† As an entrepreneur, I enjoy watching the TV show Shark Tank (ABC) and they featured a great new product I’d like to share with my readers:

Paint Brush CoverIt’s called The Paint Brush Cover.¬† Whether you’re a landlord, real estate investor or homeowner in the middle of a painting project, you rarely finish it in one session.¬† So, what do you do with that brush?¬† I’ve usually wrapped it tightly¬†in Saran Wrap and it’ll keep for hours or even a couple days if need be.

Well, this product is air tight, made of plastic, and holds almost 100% humidity!¬† Therefore, it’ll keep that brush moist and ready to use for weeks if necessary!¬† Truly a time saver!¬† And it accommodates brushes up to 3″ wide.

I’m going to order one at http://www.paintbrushcover.com.¬† And by the way, when you’re totally done with the project, don’t forget to clean your brush the right way.¬† Paint brushes are expensive … around $10-15 if you get the right brand.¬† (I recommend Purdy or Wooster.)¬† I use warm soapy water (or my trusty Krud Kutter) and a stiff wire brush to remove all the paint from the bristles.¬† Start in the spine, up close to the handle and brush down to the tip of the bristles.¬† A good brush should last for years if you treat it with love and kindness.¬† ūüôā

Happy painting!

 

 

Take This Stuff Out!

It’s not easy running a rental business on your own.¬† One of the biggest challenges is rehabbing your home(s) according to what your tenant mix demands.

A piece of advice, if you’re into lower income rentals:

Most people in the lower income demographic are looking for something clean and affordable.¬† Period.¬† I always supply stoves and refrigerators, but I never hook up the ice makers in the refrigerators.¬† They leak, malfunction, and aren’t worth the hassle.¬† Ice cube trays work just fine!

Another item I don’t install is garbage disposals.¬† People try to put crazy stuff in them.¬† The unit jams up or just quits altogether.¬† Another repair/replacement issue!¬† Not worth the hassle.

And lastly, take a pass on the sink sprayer.¬†¬†Tenants tend to be rough with them.¬† They’re easily broken, they leak … again, not worth installing.¬† You can buy a “plug” for the hole where the sprayer goes.

Even without the above¬†items, my units compare extremely well to the competition, because they’re super clean, including¬†fresh paint and nice flooring, and they’re accompanied by an attentive landlord!

As I work my way up on the income scale, I add amenities … high-end counter tops, flooring, and other accessories.

This may seem elementary, but I’ve seen too many real estate investors buy their first rental and pour way too much money into the rehab … you must make it attractive¬†to your market, nothing more, nothing less!

Onward and upward …. ūüôā

Primetime Ready? Hmm…

So, I’ve been working on driving awareness for my brand, my blog, book¬†and expertise in real¬†estate investing in general and¬†landlording in particular.¬† So I was thrilled to get this interview on a local TV channel.

Susanne McAlister was doing a show on female entreprenurs and I was one of two women featured on the show.¬† Susanne used to be with Channel 4 for over 15 years and now has her own show.¬† I didn’t know beforehand what questions would be asked and was fairly nervous, but Susanne is a delightful person and did a fantastic job of putting me at ease.

I do wish that camera took off lbs. instead of adding them . . . lol.¬† Anyway, for my first attempt, I’m just glad to have survived!

Onward and upward . . .

Money Down the Drain — Literally!

You’ll find the phrase “Onward and upward” sprinkled throughout many of my blog posts.¬† That’s my typical mindset as¬†I navigate my way through this real estate investing journey.¬† Another favorite phrase of mine is “Show Me the Money!”¬† I mean, seriously, it¬†is about making money, right?¬† And I’m always looking for ways to work smarter and¬†quicker.¬† Above all,¬†I try to avoid throwing money down the drain.¬†

For my single-family rentals, the tenants pay all bills associated with the property.¬† But with my multi-family homes, it’s a mixed bag.¬† None of them are metered separately for water, so it’s all on one bill, and I pay it.¬† Of course, I charge extra rent to help cover this expense.

Some of my duplexes, etc. are metered separately for electricity and heat, so I have the tenants put those in their name prior to move-in.¬† (And by the way, this is something I always check by making a call to the utility company to verify it’s been switched into my tenant’s name.¬† I learned — the hard way, of course — that sometimes people “forget” to take care of this, only¬†after I’ve¬†discovered they have outstanding bills with the company and can’t get the service put in their name until that bill is paid in full.¬† Big problem, especially when they’ve already moved in!)¬† Okay, I digress … back to my original thought, which involves throwing money down the drain …

I got a water bill from one of my duplexes that was $165 for the month.¬† This bill typically runs $40-50.¬† Red flag!¬† I called my tenants and asked if they had any leaks and they said no.¬† Hmmm.¬† So, I had to check things out for myself.¬† They were right, no leaks.¬† But both toilets were running — not loudly, but enough that I could see a bit of water running down the inside of the bowls — yep, money down the drain.¬† After the problem¬†got fixed,¬†the water bill went back to normal.

This situation¬†underscores the importance¬†of doing apartment checks from time to time.¬† Tenants either don’t notice repair issues, or won’t tell you about them until they’ve reached¬†the crisis¬†level.¬† Doing a quick walk-through will save you time and money, and will ensure that your tenants are taking care of the home you worked hard to get in rentable condition.

Yeah, that money needs to line your pockets, not the drain!¬† Onward and upward . . .¬†¬† ūüôā

Yay! Time for “Vacay!”

Yes, we landlords do take vacations!¬† I’m getting ready to leave for Clearwater Beach for a few days — truly one of the most beautiful beaches in America.¬† This trip is with some friends, just for fun.¬† But I have no family here and I also go several times throughout the year to visit them, too.¬† I don’t feel tied down by my rental properties in Indianapolis, or by my property management responsibilities.

When I began this career in ’95, one of the first things I did was to secure an excellent handyman.¬† I started with a team of two guys and when they raised their prices I shopped around and found Craig, who’s been with me 13 years.¬† He actually rents from me now, too.¬† He does a wide variety of repair work, is honest and reliable.

When I leave town, I don’t even let my tenants know about it. ¬†If they call me with an issue, does it matter if I’m talking from FL, AZ or Indianapolis?¬† Not at all.¬† ¬†My cell phone is the iron-clad umbilical cord that keeps me connected to my tenants, even when I’m away, and I’m fine with that.¬† Tenant management issues can be solved over the phone, and repair items can be solved with a quick call to Craig if I’m out of town.

When I’m on vacation, I’m truly on vacation.¬† I check my phone in the morning when I get up, at lunch time, and at night, returning calls as needed.¬† In between, I forget about it.¬† I mean, if you’re going to keep your phone with you on the beach and answer every call, why go on vacation?¬† That’s not what I call vacation.

If you do a good job on the rehab work before tenants move in, you don’t have tons of repair calls, anyway.¬† Well-maintained rentals tend to hold up well. ¬†Many times, when I’m gone for five days, I only get 5-10 calls, total.¬† No biggie.¬† And that’s for all 27 units, plus the properties I manage.

So, if you consider jumping into the wild world of real estate investing, don’t be afraid to leave it every once in a while.¬† You deserve it!¬† Have a good handyman nearby, keep phone numbers of other important sub-contractors with you, and go have a blast.

I know I intend to . . . life is short . . . work hard, play hard!¬†¬† ūüôā

Do’s and Don’ts

When I’m asked about real estate investing and, more specifically, buying rental properties¬†in Indianapolis, people always want to know my input on two things:

  • What does it take to be a landlord?
  • What’s your best advice — do’s and don’ts — to someone who is starting out in this business?

The answer to the first question is easy.¬† Good landlords understand the importance of being very organized and keeping good records.¬† They also understand the importance of “letting go.”¬† There are so many things beyond our control, especially in tenant management.¬† You have to let that stuff roll off your back and move on.

The do’s and don’ts question is very interesting.¬† I was¬†interviewed for an article about this very subject and the piece appeared last week.¬† Here’s the link:¬†

 http://ow.ly/4AWWY

There’s lots of good info there, for people who are either¬†considering investing or have already jumped in.¬† Several of the tips are covered in my book, but one of my favorites is to not fall in love with a potential property.¬† When you make emotional decisions, whether it’s about a purchase or a tenant situation, you’re headed for trouble.

Even though I read everything I could get my hands on before I began my real estate investing career, I made tons of rookie mistakes.  I wrote my book to share my story and expertise, to save others from making needless mistakes.  So, when I come across additional information, I enjoy passing it on to my readers . . . happy investing!

Hoarder Alert!

I’m just soo glad I have a well-developed sense of humor.¬† In my job, I often need it.¬† Here’s a case in point.¬† My tenant Martha is buying a double from me¬†through a¬†land¬†contract, i.e. rent-to-buy.¬† Land contracts are a nice addition to real estate investing plans.¬† ¬†Normally, this is a great way for people who have bad credit, or no credit, to purchase a home.¬† Now, I didn’t know Martha five years ago when a friend recommended her to me.¬† But boy, do I know her now.¬† And I’m afraid she has hoarder tendencies.

She’s good about paying me on time — no complaints.¬† But the inside of her¬† house is filled with “stuff” and the outside — well, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure, right?

I got a call from the Board of Health last week about her back yard.  (Uh-oh . . .)  I went down there immediately and took this picture:

Yikes!¬† That contraption is actually a “dog house” for her little dog, but she had filled it with bags of garbage.¬† (I didn’t bother to check to see if the trash can next to it was empty.)¬† It’s hard to tell from the picture, but there was also trash and junk to the right of it.¬† I was really unhappy about this — I’d be the one to get slapped with a hefty fine if the situation wasn’t remedied within about 10 days.¬† I had a “talk” with my tenant and she cleaned it up to this extent:

So I’ll be having a more detailed discussion with her tomorrow.¬† I don’t think the Board of Health will feel she’s in compliance at this point.¬† At least the garbage is gone.¬† She’s moving in the right direction.

But if she can’t do a better job of maintaining the property I’ll have to begin the foreclosure process.¬†¬† (This is why landlords should always put clauses in their leases and contracts that allow them to evict if the property isn’t maintained to a certain standard.) ¬†It’s more expensive and involved to remove a rent-to-buy tenant than a regular renter.¬† Even though she’s good about paying on time, that’s not enough . . . I don’t want to become best friends with the Board of Health folks because of her!

Onward and upward . . . More later . . .