Big changes ahead — moving from “owner-occupied duplex” to just “duplex”


This site is about to take a big change in direction. I’ve lived in my duplex for nearly six years now, as an owner-occupant, and have spent most of my time and energy focusing on improving the rental unit and common areas, so that the rental would show better, rent more easily, bring in a higher level of tenant (who would of course pay more rent, and take better care of the place).

However, I’m about to make the switch from owner-occupied duplex dweller to straight-up landlord — my boyfriend (who’s been starring in some of the latest posts as the uber-handy guy) has asked me to move in with him, and I said yes. With the current real estate climate, it’s a terrible time to sell a house. And, the original plan when buying this duplex was to live in part of it for a while, but hold onto it as an investment when I eventually moved out into a single family house. After all, when the mortgage is paid off in 25 years or so, expenses will go waaaaay down and the rent coming in each month will mostly be money in my pocket. (A nice supplementary retirement income, too.)

I’ve always kept in the back of my mind that this day would be coming eventually, and have been making lists in my head of everything that I’d have to do to fix up my half of the duplex to turn it into a nice, low-maintenance rental that would be attractive to good tenants. Unfortunately, most of these things have stayed on that list…. not as much incentive to get the work done as there was for upstairs. We’ve set a date two months out to get most of these things done (July 1st), at which point I’ll start advertising and showing the apartment to people looking for a place in September (60 days out). A lot of the big, visible things (redoing the bathroom, replacing the kitchen floor, finishing the back room and turning it into a true four-season room) will need to be done before July; smaller, less visible things (fixing the ignition on the burners on the stove, fixing the lock hardware, painting the inside of the cabinets) can wait until later.

In fact, only about half of the things on my list absolutely HAVE to be done before renting the apartment out (the bathroom, for instance, leaks into the basement and absolutely needs to be remodeled). Other things could wait (I’m putting new french doors on the bedroom, replacing some ridiculous bifold closet doors that are used as a bedroom door, for instance.) While the bifold doors do look incredibly stupid, they don’t absolutely need to be fixed. However, once I move out, I’m never going to have this kind of unlimited access to the apartment again, unless I let it go unrented for a month or two (which means losing $1000 or $2000). So, I’d like to do as much as I can now, before I move out.

Aside from the list of repairs and improvements, I have several other things to figure out as well.

  1. Snow removal
    Will my current tenants be interested in doing this, perhaps for a bit off their rent (or a monthly payment)? Othewise, I think I’ll talk to the neighbor in the duplex next door, and see if he’d be interested in taking this over, for a fee.
  2. Lawn mowing
    Again, this is something my current tenants may be up for, otherwise, I’ll talk to my neighbor. If neither of them are interested, I may have to go through some sort of professional service, and I’m not sure how much that costs.
  3. Insurance
    As an owner-occupant, right now I can get away with just a plain regular homeowners policy. However, once I move off-site, I’ll need to change to a landlord’s policy. This may cost quite a bit more, depending on who I go through. My boyfriend switched to a landlord’s policy on his old house, however, and his rates didn’t go up significantly.
  4. Taxes
    Once I move out of the duplex, I’ll no longer get the “homestead credit,” which means that my property taxes will go up, most likely to the tune of $200-$300 more per year.
  5. Deferred Loan Status
    About three years ago, I qualified for a deferred loan, through the city, for exterior improvements. I used it to put some new storm windows and exterior doors onto the house. The loan was structured such that the city paid for half of the improvements, via a deferred loan, which was forgiven over the course of five years — as long as I continued to occupy the home. I’ll be moving out at the end of year three, so I may have to come up with some cash to pay back a portion of that loan.
  6. Rental License
    Right now I’m only licensed to rent out one unit; I’ll have to contact the city and get a license for the lower unit as well.

Other things to think about…. how much do I leave behind? There’s a common area in the basement, I’m thinking that I may get a locking cabinet and keep some of my tools here, for repairs and whatnot (especially since my boyfriend has a duplicate of most everything anyway). It certainly makes sense to keep all of the leftover touch-up paint here.

What else am I forgetting? I’m excited to be making the move, but I sure do have a busy couple of months ahead of me…


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5 thoughts on “Big changes ahead — moving from “owner-occupied duplex” to just “duplex”

  1. Congratulations on your next phase of life! We’re planning to rent out our current home as well and are evaluating many of the same things.

  2. I have spent the last few hours reading your blog and wishing I’d found it earlier. I have been hoping to buy a duplex and your blog has provided some wonderful insights. I REALLY hope this blog will still be available for at least a few months after my purchase Ihopefully soon).

    Congrats on your next step and thanks for the great info and tips!

  3. Yezenie —

    Don’t worry, this blog isn’t going anywhere. I’ll keep posting about my non-owner-occupied duplex adventures, and my boyfriend also owns rental property, so ther should be a lot to write about.

    I’ve been too busy renovating to post much lately (ironic, since I probably have had more to post about in the last three months than the rest of the year). Hopefully when we’re done fixing up the place (hopefully this weekend), find renters (hopefully within a few weeks), and get me moved (within the next month, or possibly two), I’ll have some “free time” to catch up on the duplex blog.

    That’s the thing about living in a construction zone… any “free time” is generally spent painting trim, patching plaster, etc….

  4. Awesome to hear you’lkl still be sharing your experiences as Landlady. I hope to be as handy as you some day (I am really klutzy and kinda dumb when it ncomes to repairing things so here’s hoping!).

  5. Good luck in your future; thanks for the posts.

    I live in a 1934 3,200 sq. ft. side by side. I currently take care of the property for the owner and draft leases etc. The tenants are require to pay all utilities and they are required to shovel snow and cut and rake the grass. I have had no problem getting them to do their fair share. In the case that this obligation becomes a detriment to renting, rarely, I include a service fee in the lease (rental) that more than covers my time and expenses. Just some thoughts.

    P.S. the property is for sale. I might just have to take your advice and buy. I would probably continue to occupy it and be a owner-occupant.

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