Archive for the ‘how to make money renting housing’ Category

Our First Rental House Plunge

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

By Terry & Angy Sprouse

 

We (Terry & Angy) are partners in both marriage and in real estate business.

Who says married couples can’t be business partners? And the great thing is we have never considered divorce . . . murder sometimes, but never divorce. Well, never murder, really, but maybe forcing each other to watch, in an uninterrupted viewing, the horrifyingly bad movie, The Clan of the Cave Bear.

In reality, this business has been a bonding experience, not only for us, as husband and wife, but also for our two boys, who have been active participants in the business from the very beginning.

9/11 Attacks Take the Starch Out of Us

We started in real estate investing following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. The ensuing economic recession forced our hand. The hours at Terry’s job were drastically reduced. We realized that for the security of our family, we needed to have a business on the side—a business able to provide regular cash flow in case Terry’s 9 to 5 job suddenly went away.

This led Terry to experience a very intensive period of soul searching and in-depth research (accompanied by gratuitous whining and moping). We decided that a rental house business was the best way to go. We were excited to find the rental business was an easy business to learn and to start. This business required no special license, degree, or training. And the results tempered the most important source of Terry’s whining. The rental business offered the potential to make money.

We Jump In and Hope the Net Appears

We essentially just jumped in with good intentions and very little practical knowledge. After we made up our minds that this is what we wanted to do, we simply bought an inexpensive fixer-upper house, one that had foreclosed and been repossessed by a bank. We moved into and lived in the fixer-upper house while we did the necessary repairs.

But most importantly, we did not sell our original home. We rented it out.

Angy Puts Her Foot Down – On Top of Terry’s Foot

It took a little adjustment to move into that first fixer-upper house. The first thing we did was to get one of the bathrooms back into working condition. Angy’s negotiating stance on that topic was, “I’m not living in that house unless at least one bathroom is fully operational!” At that, who could argue? Marveled by a mother’s logic, together Terry and the boys nodded their heads and dropped the labeled empty plastic bottles they held in their hand into the Recycle Box.

As we went forward with the repairs, we changed bedrooms frequently. Moving from room to room, we cleared out of one bedroom to install tile and then moved again out of the next to make room to install carpet. Huffing and puffing, we moved furniture from one side to the next as we worked through the house painting all the walls. We replaced the cabinets in the kitchen, the fixtures in the bath, the leaky plumbing and the outdated lighting.

Group Hugs

Preparing meals required serious creativity. Entertainment and rest required the same. But the support and flexibility from all family members, and a few timely “group hugs” (some through gritted teeth), got us through.

 

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Recommended reading:

What is Manliness? at Fearless Men

How to Effectively Use Video In Your Real Estate Business at Louisville Gals

The Average 401(k) Balance Is Still Way Too Low! at the Untemplater

Opening Investment Dollars By Changing Opportunity Cost Ratios! at KrantCents

6 Steps to Deal with an Identity Theft Crisis at Work Save Live

The Saturday Weekly Review #21- End of May And A Dog and Garden Update  at Canadian Budget Binder

Should I Get a Smartphone? at Eyes on the Dollar

Blogging Your Way to Wealth at Modest Money

5 Steps to Get Your House Ready to Rent by Terry Sprouse

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

Helen Keller

If you are following my suggestion and turning your old home into a rental house, or if you are just purchasing an investment fixer upper house, use these 5 steps to prepare your house to rent out.

 Step 1:  Remove Furniture

Move all of your furniture and personal belongings out of your old house. The absence of these items makes the house look bigger and the home is more inviting if it is not cluttered up with beds, chairs, food supplies, and toys. It also makes it easier to do a thorough job of cleaning the house.

This only applies to the first time you rent out your new rental house. After tenants leave in the future, they will take most of their things with them. Of course, some tenants do not follow the normal procedure, and they may leave in the middle of the night to avoid paying their last rent check.

(Occasions like this make it tempting to slip a magnetized GPS tracking device under the fender of the renter’s car.)

An incident like this happened to me a couple of years ago. Not only did the tenant leave a pile of clothing, bottles and boxes of cleaning supplies, cupboards of food, and a sofa, but also left behind a car that didn’t work. (So much for the GPS idea.)

Renters like this one are the exception. Tenants normally take all their things with them when they leave, making it easy for me to prepare the property for the next tenant, and without much effort, present an appealing yet empty house.

Step 2:  Clean Up

 Thoroughly clean the house. This includes painting walls (a fresh coat of paint makes the place look and smell good), washing floors, cleaning appliances (especially the oven), shampooing carpets, washing the windows, cleaning the bathrooms and checking the roof.

 Step 3:  Make Repairs

 Take care of all repair work. Leave nothing to chance and make all repairs before tenants move in. Change broken outlets and switches, patch holes, remove stains, replace cracked and broken glass, repair dripping faucets, replace missing shingles, and fix roof leaks.

The old saying that “Left to themselves, things always go from bad to worse,” is especially true with rental houses. It’s tempting to assume that that small leak in the bathtub, or a toilet that flushes most of the time, won’t bother anyone. But trust me, you will get that call to repair the bathtub or toilet at the most inopportune time.

This doesn’t mean that everything in the house has to be new, but everything should be in working order.

It is a rental house after all, and not Buckingham Palace.

For example, bedroom doors do not have to be replaced every time they have a crack or a hole in them. I rehabilitate the door with wood putty, and a fresh coat of paint. The guy in the “Easy Repair of Hollow Core Door” video below uses drywall mud to fill the hole, with equally good results.


 Buy used construction materials

Missing or broken light switches, outlets, covers can be replaced inexpensively with quality used ones. I have also purchased reliable doors, cabinets, stove tops, dishwashers, and toilets at stores that recycle construction materials, for pennies on the dollar. The Habitat for Humanity Store is one such place that I frequent for good used materials. There are 825 Habitat Restores in the United States and Canada. You can locate a store near you at www.habitat.org

Buy new or used appliances?

 If broken clothes washers or dryers cannot be easily repaired, our policy is to replace them with a quality used one, or with lower end new appliances (like the Kenmore brand from Sears).

 Buy bargain appliances before you need them

 Craigslist and yard sales are great places to find good used appliances at bargain prices. If I see a nice working appliance for a good price, I will purchase it, even though I don’t have any immediate need for it. I’ll just store it in our shed until I need it.

I bought a like-new furnace at a yard sale for only $40 and installed it into a rental house and it has worked great. For furnaces, there are very few moving parts to worry about, and the wiring is relatively simple. As long as the motor works, you’re home free.

I once literally picked up a clothes dryer from the side of the road that had a “Free Dryer” sign taped to it. I gave it a new home and it has been working

Low maintenance yard (in the southwest)

reliably for over 10 years now. The only repair, about five years ago, was that I had to change the on/off switch on the door.

Step 4:  Simplify Landscaping

The front yard of your rental houses must look great. Curb appeal gives the potential tenants a good first impression. Simple and neat landscaping gives the client  comfort that the yard is low maintenance and ecologically and economically low in water consumption saving the tenants money on water and saving you time later not having to replace a yard of dead plants.

This yard went too low maintenance!

I personally like to utilize decorative rocks on our rental yards, and plants that don’t require any watering, like Mesquite and Palo Verde trees, which have long roots that tap into the aquifer.

 Step 5:  Re-key the Locks

 One other thing that I like to do before a new tenant moves in is to re-key all the locks. This is cheaper than buying new doorknobs, and it provides security for our tenants. This protects you and your tenants in case a previous tenant has surreptitiously kept an extra copy of a house key.

 

            

Add “Start a Rental House Business” to Your Bucket List

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Taking a break from my regular fixer upper rental house blogging, today I am going to comment on some favorite blog articles that I have recently read.

Fearless Men

While I agree with Fearless Men’s article on the silliness of most bucket lists, in their article, 12 Things A Man Doesn’t Have To Do Before He Dies-Stupid Bucket Lists, I also think that starting a part time business is the exception to the rule.

While most bucket lists consist of activities that might reduce your life expectancy ( e.g., bullfighting), or your ability to enjoy life (e.g., broken body from the ever-popular choice of skydiving), a part time business, like owning rental houses, can actually improve your life.

Landlord Investor

Chuck’s article on Vacancy, First one in a while for us . . . is an insightful description a recent episode of  losing  and replacing a tenant. I appreciate this “real life” rental story that I can both relate to and learn from.

Louisville Gals Real Estate Blog

In her article entitled, 13 Cool Tools to Make You a Marketing Superstar, Sharon describes 13 amazing tools to help real estate investor to streamline their business. This is great for me because I didn’t know a lot of these things even existed, or that I needed them, until I read her article.

Any Shiny Thing

I actually read Lynn’s article Nora Ephron Left Us Sleepless a couple of weeks ago. It’s the type of article that touches your heart and makes you reflect on life’s bigger issues.

Turn Your House into a Rental House

By now, you probably know that my theory is that one of the easiest ways to get started in real estate investing is by turning your home into a rental house, instead of selling it.

My wife, Angy, and I are presently finishing up a book about how we go about doing this, entitled, not surprisingly, How to Turn Your Home into a Rental Property, Instead of Selling It.

Here is a quote from a book

According to the American Association of Realtors, the average American purchases 7 houses during their lifetime. In our opinion, those are 7 houses that we should hold onto for the rest of our lives, to generate monthly income and for long-term economic family security. Don’t give away the goose that lays the golden eggs!

The usual procedure that most people follow is to sell the home that they live in and to use the cash from the sale to buy a new house. If we tweak the old procedure just a little, it can result in a huge difference in our net worth and our economic security. We propose that instead of selling your home, just refinance it, and use the money from the refinance as a down payment on your next house. Now, you own two houses and you can just turn your old home into a rental property.

Presently, the book is going through the final editing and formatting process. Of course, it’s being reviewed by Homeland Security and the Pentagon, to avoid any classified information from leaking into the wrong hands.

By September the book should be available in both Kindle and paperback editions.

The 5 Rules on How to Lose Money and Get Your Rental Property Trashed by Tenants

Friday, August 10th, 2012

The Arizona Network of Real Estate invited me to give a presentation to their group about my book “Fix em Up Rent em Out.”

I thought the video might be available to the general public but it looks as though that’s not going to happen.

However, so that no one feels left out, I am going to provide  a summary of the key points that I hit during the presentation. As someone who was regularly picked last for teams in gym class, I’m sensitive to people feeling left out. Casting modesty to the wind, I am also including exclusive photos of the event.

So here are:

The 5 Rules on How to Lose Money and Get Your Rental Property Trashed by Tenants (based on an article by Andrew Stefanczyk)

1. Choose the Worst Possible Area

Location will determine the kinds of tenants you will attract, and how much rent you can fairly charge.

Do you want these bearded wonders as tenants?

The best approach is to identify target areas in your city where you would like to focus your purchases. I like to focus on “transition zones” (where there is a mixture of housing types) which are good for investors because we can purchase properties at lower prices, and there is high demand to live in these areas.

2. Put in the very best of things when fixing up  an investment property

Use new and expensive sinks, doors, refrigerators, light fixtures, etc. Never shop at stores that recycle construction supplies. Spare no  expense.

Of course, the problem is that tenants will not take care of our properties as well as we would,

Habitat Store

so we end up with many broken or worn out items. The better alternative is to shop at used building supply stores, and to purchase good, inexpensive, supplies for our rental houses. One such store is the Habitat for Humanity store.

3. Make sure you have absolutely no experience in make basic repairs

Not knowing how to change electrical outlets, unclog drains & toilets, and replace broken windows will cost quite a bit down the road.

The better way is to:

A. Learn as you go, and comply with EPA regulations

B. Take construction classes at junior college

C. Learn from handymen and contractors

D. Take the Zen approach to  house repair learn to do everything yourself

5. Utilize fix-up books, investing books, & YouTube to find answers on how to make house repairs

4. Do not screen your tenants

Being as uninformed as possible about who you rent to may be the best way to lose money as a landlord. Do not ask for or check references. Do not call previous landlords and ask questions like, did they pay rent on time? How was the condition of the house or apartment when they left? Did they ever disturb neighbors with loud music or shouting matches? How often would you have to make special trips for repairs? Being as uninformed as possible about whom you rent to will make a huge difference and will increase the chances that you will get tenants that will trash your property and refuse to pay rent.

However, the better way is to:

A. Use a checklist for tenants. Decide what kind of tenant that you want ahead of time.

B. Look at their paycheck to verify income.

C. Check county records to see what illegal activities they’ve been up to.

D. Know the Fair Housing Act. Never select tenants based strictly on “race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap (disability).”

E. To find new tenants, use Craiglist, put up arrow signs, and host an “open house.”

5. Make sure you have not learned about your rights as a landlord

Be completely unfamiliar with the eviction process to guarantee long, drawn out disputes with tenants. Don’t keep up to date financial records or copies of correspondence with tenants. Most states provide online information about tenant and landlord rights so avoid reading these.

The better way is:

A. Get an authoritative legal guide like  “The Arizona Landlord Deskbook” by Carlton Cassler.

B.  Copy forms and letters from your legal book to send to tenants.

C. Comply with legal ways to deal with bad tenants.

D. Use memos to communicate with tenants so you have a record of correspondence.

E. Use a month to month lease instead of long-term lease to more easily scrape off bad tenants like barnacles.

F. Reward tenants for paying on time by discounting their rent $25.  

G. Send good tenants Target  gift cards for Xmas.

In Conclusion

Share Your Knowledge

“Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”

–Albert Schweitzer

Carve Out Your Niche Update

My award-winning book on self-publishing, Carve Out Your Niche, is now available in Kindle format.

The Midwest Book Review called Carve Out Your Niche,

“Invaluable for anyone seeking to successfully write, publish, and market their own work.”

How I Got Started In Fixer-Upper Houses

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

The intrepid Sharon Vornholt, of Louisville Gals Real Estate Blog, interviewed me last week about my book (Fix em Up Rent em Out) and how I got started in my fixer-upper house business. Today she posted the interview on her website. It’s entitled “Escaping the 9 To 5; How I Did It Interview With Terry Sprouse.”

I encourage you to check out some of the other interviews that Sharon has conducted with several real estate investors. Its always interesting for me to hear how other people operate their businesses.

Upcoming Speaking Engagement

I will also be making a presentation to the Arizona Network of Real Estate Investors. Mark your calendars.

Where:
Fidelity National Title, 6760 N. Oracle Road, Suite 100, Tucson, AZ

When:
June 7th, 2012

Time:
Meeting begins at 5:30 pm, presentation at 6:00 pm

Also for your reading pleasure:

Top (Secret) Book Marketing Tips on Amazon – Part 2

Why You Must Own Certain Real Estate Books

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

The fixer-upper house business is a great business to be in these days. But, if you are just starting out, and are as green as a gourd, as I was, you need some help.

To speed up the learning processes, you need to have a collection of reference books on home repair, buying and selling houses, rental properties, tax law and all other aspects of real estate.

If a home without books is like a body without a soul, then a fixer-upper business without reference books is like a cook without a cookbook.

You may not know everything at the start of your new business and you may need help in some areas, especially in the initial stages. However, each time you pay to have someone do work for you, or go through some new process, you should observe everything, ask questions and learn the process.

That way, the next time you will be able to do it yourself, or at least perform a larger part of the project. The key is to keep doing things over and over until you master how it works. You will eventually reach a point where you make decisions of where to make repairs and which houses to buy based on your instinct.

Books will help you to reach that point sooner.

Here are some books that I have found particularly useful to have on hand:

1. Fix em Up, Rent em Out, by yours truly. Yes, believe it or not, I read my own book! Anyone who says otherwise, is just itching for a fight.

2. Investing in Fixer Uppers, by Jay DeCima. His first, and still my favorite, of his books.

3. Investing in Real Estate, by Gary Eldred.

4. Arizona Landlord’s Deskbook (or the equivalent for your state.) by Carlton Casler.

5. Real Estate Debt Can Make You Rich, by Steve Dexter.

6. Wiring 1-2-3, by Home Depot

7. Plumbing 1-2-3, by Home Depot

8. Tiling 1-2-3, by Home Depot. Are you getting the impression that I like the Home Depot books? In addition to mastering the art of tile installation, I made my first grout repair after reading this book.

9. Fix it Yourself Manual, by Reader’s Digest.

10. Upside Up Real Estate Investing, by Bob Zachmeier (teacher of the first real estate class that I took).

An amazing time to buy a foreclosure

Monday, February 27th, 2012

The past several months I have been searching for another investment/rental property to purchase, and have so far come up empty. Several times I found one, only to have it sold before I got my bid in. Today, I got my bid in on the above pictured foreclosure house. There are four bids on it and the bank will select one of us sometime this week.

The house is 3 bedroom, 1 bath, 1,400 sq ft, property in a nice neighborhood. The price is $53,000. It needs somewhere between $5,000 – $10,000 work to bring it up to rental condition, e.g., replacing sheet rock, electrical work, roof work, and flooring. It sold for $149,000 in 2006. I should be able to rent it for around $800/month. I’ll purchase with cash, if I get the house.

I would have preferred 2 bathrooms, but the house is in a good location and is otherwise a pretty good deal. I know several people with children who only have one bathroom and it works for them, even though I’m used to two.

Now is the time to take action

If you are just sitting on the fence, now is an opportune time to get into a investment house.

Of course, you must conduct a good inspection of the property either before you make the offer, or during the 7 to 10 day inspection period after your bid is accepted. Usually there are is no history of the property for you to examine, on foreclosures. It’s sold as is.

My main motivation is to that I can fairly inexpensively purchase a rental house, and it will provide me with an unusually large stream of income. I have other rental houses, but this new one will produce much more revenue because most of my income on the other properties goes to pay the mortgage company. Since I’m able to pay cash, this time all the revenue goes to me.

Rentals better than pensions

The great advantage of owning real estate property over having a pension is that your pension is fixed and what you get when you start it, is all you will ever get. For rental houses, the amount you receive from tenants goes up over time, with inflation, and you can never use it up.

The double win

It’s like being able to bet your money in Las Vegas, but then you get all the money that you lost back again when you leave. You get the monthly payments, like a pension. But, if you ever want to sell your investment house, you get the entire amount that you spent back again, and usually a lot more than that.


OTHER BLOG ARTICLES:

I encourage you to check out the insightful article How do you handle the whining tenants? over at landlordinvestor.com.

Security in Retirement with Fixer-Uppers

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Are you like me and never socked much money away for retirement? We are not alone. The Employee Benefit Research Institute’s Annual Retirement Confidence Survey found that pre-retirees (Americans between the ages of 55 and 65) greatly underestimate how long they are likely to live and how much money they will need in retirement.

Experts say that we need to change our mindset from “assets” to “income” in retirement planning. It’s not enough to know how much money we have in savings; we need to know how much income our savings can generate over time.

There is no better way to change our mindset and our portfolio from “assets” to “income” than by investing in real estate. If we invest wisely before we retire, and can have a stable of reliable rental properties that generate steady monthly income. We can look forward to a retirement that provides security instead of uncertainty.


Don’t rely on politicians to provide you with retirement security. If you want it done right, you must do it yourself.

Avoid Perfectionism with Fixer Upper Houses

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Govern a great nation as you would cook a small fish. Do not overdo it.
–Lao Tzu

A key to fixing up a house is to know when to stop fixing up. You want the house to look good, yet you know that people are not going to care for your house the same way that you would. For rental properties, I don’t purchase the most costly, or even new, materials. I do a lot of my shopping at stores that recycle construction materials, like Habitat for Humanity’s Re-stores. You can get bargain basement prices on things like doors, kitchen cabinets, hinges, toilets, paint.

Need I say more? It’s a fixer-upper person’s paradise.

If I know that I am going to sell the house I may install higher grade of materials, especially where it really counts, like the kitchens and bathrooms. As Lawrence Dworin says in Profits in Buying & Renovating Homes:

“It’s easy to get carried away on renovation projects – wasting time and money on repairs that buyers won’t pay extra for. I assume you like to do good work. We all do. And we’d like every finished project to be a showplace. But you can’t make money that way. Your buyers have a limit on what they’re willing to pay. That’s why you’ve got to limit repair costs. In this business, you concentrate on fixing code violations and creating a clean, safe, livable house.”

Do tenants pay utilities, and how much for damage deposit

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

Here is another letter that I recently received that asks some pertinent and common questions related operating a fixer upper house business, that I would like to share with you.

Dear Terry,

We’re moving along towards renting out our first rental house…and I was reading your month-to-month lease agreement from the Never Sell Your Home book– it looks very good and we plan on using much of it, but I did have a few questions:

1) What % of the monthly rent do you require as a security deposit?

2) Should the Lessee(s) be responsible for all utilities, or should I pay the utilities for them?

Thanks for your help – !

Steve Klausman
Santa Fe

Dear Steve,

Congrats on your progress in preparing to rent our your first house. Don’t get discouraged if it’s rough sledding at first, the first house is the one that you learn the most from.

Security Deposit

In answer to your first question, the amount that I charge for security deposit is the amount of one month’s rent. So if the monthly rent is $900, the security deposit is also $900.

Some tenants may have trouble coming up with both the rent and the security deposit at the same time, in this case, a tidy sum of $1,800. So, I sometimes let them pay the security deposit over the course of 2 months, to make it easier on them.

Since you are just starting in the business, something to do from the beginning is to keep the security deposit and the monthly rental money from your business in a separate bank account from your personal bank account. The IRS doesn’t like to see the funds mixed together.

Who Pays Utilities?

In answer to your second question. I always have the tenants pay all the utilities themselves. Not only does it encourage them to conserve, but it vastly simplifies the process for you. Also, I have the tenants put the utility accounts in their own name, so that I’m not liable for their expenses.

In most states, you can sign up for a “Landlord Agreement Account” with the utility companies that allows you to switch the accounts to the tenants and back, with less paperwork and expense.

As you move along feel free to send me more questions as they arise.

Your (self-appointed) personal rental-home consultant,

Terry

Letter on Selecting Tenants