Saturday, January 28, 2012

Bats and an Odd Rent Payment

This has been an eventful/odd end to the week.  First, while ripping out old ceiling tiles at our little project house I managed to freak myself out, and almost had to change my pants.  I found three bats hiding in the ceiling.  By the way, they are still there.  My brother and I are still trying to figure out the best way to solve this situation.  We have consulted the internet and our local pest control provider, but it looks like we are going to have to push past our "eewww factor" and be real men.  After our first idea of allowing them to simply fly out at night to hunt food failed, we have decided to start next week by going in with thick gloves and big boy pants in an effort to grab them and take them outside.  The next post may be entitled "Screaming Like Little Girls."  We will just have to see how it goes.  Maybe the good Lord above will provide a better idea between now and then.

On to the second part of this post's title...

After a tenant of mine (the same tenant mentioned in a recent, previous post) went missing and abandoned much of his stuff for a few days, he reappeared.  However, the fact was he was still behind in rent and must move out.  He ended up deciding to give me his car as payment for back rent.  It needs some work to get full value, but ain't she a beaut...Ha Ha...

The weirdest rent payment I have ever received.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Distraction, but the Project Continues

Hello again!
I told myself I would post weekly about the project at hand, and other random rental related things.  However, I have been a bit distracted with another property, and have been digging through state laws concerning rental abandonment.

Why you ask...

Here is a brief summary of the last two weeks.  Tenant is behind on rent and admits he will not be able to catch up.  Because I am a nice guy (remember in an earlier post about me trying to be nice?  Obviously I forgot that comment from a couple weeks ago) I agreed to give him 10 days to move out.  I did not serve an eviction notice, or anything like that since he has been very upfront with things and easy to deal with.
I spoke with him 2 days later, he said he would be out sooner than 10 days.  The next day he quit communicating with me, and 10 days came and went.  I went to the townhouse to get it ready to re-rent, but the majority of his stuff was still there, including a car, couch, clothes, etc....  His family said he quit communicating with them and he disappeared.  I left a warning, talked to the Justice Court, Constable, etc... to find out a proper, legal way of handling things.  Long story short he re-appeared and is moving out completely today.  Very weird situation.  Plus, he is considering giving me the car I mentioned as payment for past rent.  We will see how that turns out.  There were a whole bunch of other details I left out to avoid boring myself, but you get the idea.

The positive that came from this... I know much more about the state's landlord/tenant laws and a more efficient way to deal with similar situations.  I could not be a lawyer....very bad and confusing grammar.


Not much to add about the project house, other than we just got a new roof put on (thankfully insurance covered that cost).  Primer is complete on the outside, but we still need to remove the exterior window shades and do a final coat of paint on the outside.  We are also in the process of replacing a support beam that was rotten and causing the house to sag in the back (I know what that's like, haha!).

Below are some new pictures.  The first few are of the interior, but we forgot to take pictures before we cleaned the house some.  So, believe it or not, this is after some major cleaning.

Btw, I can't get this thing to allow me to rearrange the pictures without me having a enjoy the long, single-file column of pics!

We have many broken windows panes that we are in the process of replacing.  Just one in this window, but the dining room has all 16 panes broken out by some folks that need to visit a church sometime.

We have determined by evidence left behind that the previous inhabitants busted the holes in the wall then covered it with plastic.  Plus, the camera does not pick up how filthy the walls, switches, etc... were.  How do people live like that?!?

Ceiling collapsed due to roof leak.

When I say they took everything, I mean EVERYTHING....

....Including the kitchen sink.

Now for some pictures of progress.  Below are shots of more primer on the exterior trim, new roof going on, and the beginning of exterior wood work.

As long as no more distractions come up we hope to move faster and make more noticeable progress over the next few weeks.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A New Project

First, let me say that I am very happy now that I have quit my old job at the college.  I do miss my office friends, and still consider them my extended family. 

From time to time my posts may sound bitter or whiny, but know that I love what I am doing now as my own boss.  This is what I was meant to do!  ....well....that, or be a nomadic beach bum with my wife.

I am very excited about 2012!  I hope to make some changes in how I run the business to be more efficient and capitalize on what I already have.  No new property purchases.  Just focus on improving profit margins on what I have.  I went a few years focused on buying properties.  This can be a good thing, but right now I have determined it to be more beneficial to not purchase more.

However, you may have noticed that the title of this post is "A New Project."  Before you go and think what I just said in the previous paragraph was a bunch of malarky, let me explain.  I said I was not going to "purchase" anymore properties.  Didn't say I wasn't going to take a free house.

My father offered my brother and me an unusual Christmas gift this year.  A house.

As you will soon see in the photos this house was free for a needs work.  Plus, I feel my dad may be using this as an opportunity to teach us, test us, and possibly use it as a tax write-off.

I have learned much over the past 5 years about maintaining and repairing homes (plumbing, electrical, etc...), but this will be a great opportunity for my brother and I to get our hands really, really dirty.  It requires the most work of any house I have ever owned, but I hope to spend less money on it than the last remodel I did by not hiring help, except where absolutely needed.  One reason we do not want to spend too much on this home is the fact we will not be able get much for the house when we decide to sell it in a few years.  As they say, "Location, Location, Location."  This ain't a good location.

Call me a glutton for headaches.

Pros about the house:
2. Income producer someday soon.

1. In a struggling neighborhood near an area that has seen better days (not the safest city around)
2. Hole in the roof where rain has been coming in for a couple years.
3. Broken windows
4. Wood rot
5. Damaged sheetrock
6. Milldew
7. Everything stolen from the inside (including the kitchen sink)
8. The pictures below may help show Cons.
9. Not much money to get the job done right now.

This will be a team effort between me and my brother, and we are very excited about it.  We are in a bit of time crunch, because my brother's lawn care business will be picking up in a month or two, and our time to work on the house will be very limited.

Can it be done on a small budget, as a learning experience, and in a short period of time.  We will see.

So far we have two days of work devoted to the house.  Here are pictures from days one and two.

The next 5 pictures show how we found the house.

The first day we spent most of our time working on the yard and bleaching the exterior.

The following pictures are from the end of day two:

This is after bleaching, pressure washing, scraping, and putting a coat of primer on the house.  Plus, we had to pick up litter that was all around the yard and garage.  The neighbor next door was nice enough to let us used his water and power for the past two days.  We gave him $20 for the use of his utilities.

Bad weather is supposed to be moving into the area tomorrow, so we will wait to put more primer on the trim, paint the exterior, and remove the window awnings.

So far we have $242 in this project:
$121 from each of us.

Things Can Change Fast (back from my hiatus)

It has been a while since my last post.  Below should give a little explanation of where I have been.

As mentioned in the last post things were going "swimmingly."  However, just like in any business or life situation things can change quickly.  I had finally reached a point when nothing really needed to be done, and I felt I could possibly put the business on cruise control for a few months so I could build a little financial buffer and not just make it through each month by the skin of my teeth.  A good thing, since I just quit my job as a college recruiter.  The build up of money would help me focus on making some improvements to properties.  ...BUT...  I found out some of my best tenants are moving due to their own financial and family problems.  UGH!!!  They never complained and always paid their rent.  Plus, they have been living in that house for over 4 years.  Not only are they leaving, but they failed to tell me about some issues that are going to need to be addressed when they move out.  Apparently, they were fine living with a bathroom that had been deteriorating (not sure if because the house is older or their own lack of normal maintenance).  Either way I was not notified of any problems.  By the way, when a tenant says you can keep the deposit, that might be a reason to be concerned. Ha!

Another lesson learned the hard way.  A landlord should walk through his or her properties every now and then to do a quick inspection (more than just stepping in the front door).  Just let the tenant know that's part of the deal.  Don't depend on them to contact you if there is a problem.  I should have known better, but as mentioned before I had the problem in the past of giving some people too much credit.  I continue to be amazed at how some people live and think it is normal, or how others can be so two-faced.

These people appeared to be educated, seemed to know their way around common household repairs, and, as mentioned before, never called with problems. However, they left me with $5,000 in needed repairs (complete bathroom tear-out and remodel, some new carpet, paint, etc...).  If they had simply notified me of the leak in the bathroom I could have taken care of it for less than a $100, and avoided this headache.

Again, I know some of you are probably thinking, "C'mon Chris! You are a handsome, intelligent guy. Why would you not walk through and inspect your properties from time to time?" Good question, and I have no good answer to that, other than I was a sucker I guess.

These are the things that make so many former landlords get out of the business.  I look at it as an education.

Here are some before and after pictures of the bathroom:
 Before (obvious water damage below floor covering and all around tub)

After (everything was ripped out to the studs and floor joists)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Watch Out...Here comes Chris and his wife!!!

My apologies to those folks that live in Virginia/D.C. and the North Carolina Outer Banks.  Apparently now that we have visited those place everything is falling apart.  First, the Outer Banks are being evacuated for Hurricane Irene and second, the Virginia/D.C. area just got hit by an earthquake.  I promise we had nothing to do with it, and we hope to not lose our friends in that area.

However, not to rub salt in the wounds of those up there, things are going along swimmingly with the rental business for now, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time before I'll have an interesting story to tell or lesson to learn.  The wrotten food and dildo have been successfully removed from the house I previously mentioned and the home has been rented to the new residents...  Plus a Bonus... the new tenants are building a very nice privacy fence around the backyard (I'm paying half the cost, but nice to have the labor done for me)!

Still struggling with one tenant being late with rent, which is a lesson I learned quickly and now I'm dealing with the consequences.  Never, NEVER allow a tenant to work out a rental payment plan other than what is specifically laid out in the lease.  I could just say forget it and kick them out, but I'm a weenie wanting to help them out.  They are catching up quickly thankfully, but they are on very thin ice.  This is the final time I will ever allow any deviation from the lease. 

Unfortunately, sometimes when you try to help someone out or be flexible people take advantage of you.  In other, unrelated instances I have been taken advantage of and left hanging being owed hundreds or thousands of dollars.  Good and bad has come from these situations.  Good:  I have a spine now and can be firm with people and stick to a lease making life a little easier.  Bad: I can be firm and good people may not be afforded opportunities I once may have been willing to allow in the past, because of the bad people.  Sorry if I sound bitter or harsh, but business is business and I can't allow my livelihood to be ruined by those with a lack of conscience.

Wow... going back and reading that I sound very angry.  Sorry folks...just had to rant a bit.  I promise things are going pretty well right now =)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Vacation... and the "Welcome Home Gift" I could have done without!

Well, it has been a while since I last posted, and I'm going to take a little break from giving you every little detail of my 4 1/2 year journey leading up to this point in the rental business to share something a little less boring.  By the way, I have several unique stories about odd tenants, weird situations, and new ideas that I hope to share as the blog continues to grow, and I hope it may help others in the business too.  Plus, I would like to hear from you.

My wife and I just got back from a much needed long vacation (3 weeks to be exact).  Let me tell you now that travelling is in my blood, and I don't handle going more than a few months without a vacation very well.  It's a drug!

We took a roadtrip visiting much of Virginia, from the mountains, to Washington D.C., to Colonial Williamsburg, to Virginia Beach.  Then continued to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and made our way across N.C. to the mountains.  We loved every bit of it....well, except Newport News.

Here are 3 sample pictures just to add a splash of color to this little blog (over 1,000 pics were taken):


Virginia Beach

Stuck in the sand on the Outer Banks

Not only did the vacation make me want to never come home again, but it also inspired me to expand the rental business outside of my home state.  I would love to have vacation rentals in places like the Outer Banks, Florida, or the mountains.  Just a note: I found some great deals on condos by the Atlantic.  Then I would also like to have properties in more college towns and military towns (those, I believe, are the key locations for a successful long-term rental business).

I have always wanted to grow beyond my little college hometown.  It has treated me well so far, and I will continue to invest where the money is good, but I can't wait to expand NOW.  However, I must be patient and allow some of my current properties' loans to be paid down.  Patience is something that is necessary and not always within me.  You may hear me mention my lack of patience throughout my stories.  It's something I struggle with, and my wife will agree.


You've heard enough that I love our vacation.  Now on the "Welcome Home Gift" I could have done WITHOUT!

Let me preface this by saying one of my tenants became sick to the point hospital bills were higher than he could handle, forcing him to move out.  I knew this prior to the vacation, and we worked things out so he could be out before I left for vacation and I could inspect.  Even though he was not getting his deposit back (due to moving out early, and a lack of communication at first) he did a fairly good job of cleaning the house...or so I thought.  I made a major error when he moved.  I did not check the inside of the frig and in the bathroom cabinets.  I made the assumption that because the house was in fairly good condition, and the assumption this guy had some sense that the cabinets and frig would be clear too.  


The frig was full of meat, cheese, butter, milk, and an ice cream cake when the power was turned off.  Unfortunately, I arrive home over 2 weeks later.  Let me just say lesson learned.  The smell and bugs were beyond belief.  In fact, after much cleaning I ended up having to buy a new refrigerator...

...But here is what tops it all off...  a dildo!!!... in the bathroom cabinet.  I almost quit the biz right there.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Big Decision

As mentioned in the previous post I am a licensed real estate agent, and this was my full-time career for 4 years after college.  Then an opportunity fell in my lap for a job at a local college.  A CONSISTENT PAYCHECK!!!  No more depending on commissions that may or may not work out!

Unfortunately, this also limited my time with the rental business, cut time available to work on my properties, and I had to cut most of my real estate sales opportunities.  After 2 or 3 years at the college it became very apparent that I may be good at working with students and helping those interested in college, but I have no passion for it.  My passion is my real estate business and the idea of being my own boss.

Yes, starting your own business is a very risky, stressful, and often a religious experience.  However, I have the unwavering support of my wife, and the experiences and lessons my father has learned over the years (he is also in the rental business).

Knowing all of this has led me to a decision I have been wanting to make for a while now.... Do I stay working for a small, constant salary, or do I jump off that cliff called "my own business" with no bottom in sight in hopes of landing on something soft, standing on my two feet, without shattered legs and spine (metaphor, of course)?

I have chosen the cliff!  I do like adventure afterall (as you can see by my love for mountain biking).  This will most definitely be an adventure. 

I'm known to worry and stress about things, and I will probably continue to do so with this decision, but overall I truly believe I will be happier.  Yes, I may have to give up some dinners out on the town and a vacation or two, but it WILL pay off many times over the other option.  If you disagree don't tell me...let me live in the moment for now.

I will be saying goodbye to my full-time job at the college on August 31st.  I will update you on my mental status at that point.