The would-be, could-be landlord.

I have a friend who just bought a half-million dollar house on the lake for about $300,000. Why so cheap? The previous owners left it in sorry condition, and he plans to fix it up over the next couple of years, while living in it, and sell it for a hefty profit. The trouble is that he’s currently trying to sell his old house… and not having much luck in the current real estate market. Its been on the market for over two months, with only 5 showings. A second showing had him hopeful last week, but still no offers. Not even any low offers. And its a nice house.

It’s hard to find a good handyman

My uncle recently bought a fourplex, using some inheritance money as a down payment. He’s a realtor, and this is his first foray into investment property. I saw him last weekend, and was excited to see how things were going. But my innocent (and excited) “How’s the fourplex doing?” was met with a good deal of defnesiveness… So, not so great, I take it?

New neighbors – the duplex next door is sold

Well, in the process of waiting-and-seeing about the duplex next door, it looks like someone else has swooped in and bought it. Not exactly swooped, because I wasn’t sure how badly I wanted it anyway. The new owners are a husband and wife with two dogs, who plan to owner-occupy the upper floor, and rent out the lower unit. They seem to have grand plans for renovation, too — they’ve cut down most of the scrub trees from the backyard, put up planters in the front, and have some lumber sitting out behind the house…

Oh, the fraudulent tenant from overseas scam…

Annie spencer will be moving to my very specific (yet undisclosed) city/state! She saw my nonexistent for-rent ad! Sounds like it must be for one of those scam deals where they send you a big deposit on the apartment, then ask you to wire a portion of it back (because some emergency takes place), and then only after you’ve done that do you discover that their original check was fraudulent…

Why is the tap water yellow?

I have a complex and relatively unhealthy relationship with plumbing. I understand most of the basic concepts of plumbing, and have successfully replaced “modern” plumbing fixtures myself, however, my house is 107 years old, and when pipes and fittings are that old, that corroded, and haven’t moved in a hundred or so years, they get a little more difficult to deal with. Often, I simply don’t have the physical strength to get the old pieces off. I’ve learned that its best for my mental health to simply hire a plumber…

So, given that, whenever receiving an email from my tenants having anything to do with water, panic sets in (plumbers can be expensive, especially in an old house.) Tonight I received one with the foreboding subject line “water troubles.”

Rules and Regulations for Tenants (that’s shorthand for “NO”)

When I first bought my duplex, I didn’t really have a set of rules and regulations. I was too new at this game to have one, and I also had this misguided idea that I would be “cool landlord” who was informal, and let people “make the place their own.” That has only worked to varying degrees. People will unfortunately always have at least a little bit of animosity for the landlord; they’ll always think that you’re a big rich moneybag who’s too cheap to buy them new (fill in the blank). The landlord just says “no” and cashes their rent check every month.

Ah, but there is a reason for that “no.” Many reasons. Here’s a list of things that I’ve learned to say “no” to…

Tenant perennials – a good or bad idea?

My tenants are making themselves at home in the backyard. I’ve given them a fairly free reign over planting things in the yard (as long as there isn’t already something else growing there, and it won’t be a pain to mow around), and they’ve taken me up on it. They’ve planted some hostas around trees, and created a small flowerbed by the fenceline, with flowering annuals, and a clematis that should return year after year.

Buying a fourplex

My Uncle, a real estate agent, recently inherited some money, and decided to use it to purchase my duplex’s big sister, “the fourplex.” Not sure exactly if they purchased it out-right, most likely they just used it for a 20% or larger down payment.

How is buying a fourplex, or four-flat different than buying a duplex?

Gardening for tenants

My duplex has a large yard, and thus attracts tenants who are fans of the great outdoors. I have a lot of space for flower gardens, hanging pots, and a large vegetable garden. I’ve planted a lot of perennials around the house, and in the front yard, but reserved ample space for my tenants to get their hands dirty. Why? While this may result in a lot of untended plants (which it has, in years past), allowing tenants to garden helps to foster a sense of “attachment” to the property. They feel like they’re a part of the place, rather than just staying there for a while and writing a check to me every month.

Magnetic Wreath Holder: Better for Windows than Doors

So, my mother gives me a Christmas wreath every year at Thanksgiving when I visit her, and I hang it on the front of the duplex, adding a little holiday cheerfulness to the front of the house. (Outdoor Christmas lights are definitely waaaaay too much work for me to get into.) This year, however, she has upped the quality of the wreath, which caused a bit of a dilemma…

The wreath, when hung on the front door, wouldn’t allow the storm door to close! It was too nice, and big, and full of holiday cheer (unlike the relatively flat, scrooge-like wreaths of years past, which nestled in between the doors just fine.)

I found a novel product that allowed me to hang the wreath directly on the glass of the storm door, using a magnet on either side of the door.

Rents Rising?

I had a much easier time renting out my duplex apartment last April than I have the previous few times… I had chalked it up to better advertising, cosmetic improvements, and luck. According to an article at, however, perhaps there was something bigger at work — rental vacancy rates (and rents) are turning around, coming out of the five year slump they’ve been in.

You can’t (unfortunately) control the neighbors

There is a large commercially zoned lot next to me that just went up for sale. It was previously occupied by an immigrant church community, and they were the perfect neighbors — quiet, friendly, courteous. The only time I heard anything out of them was on Sundays, when they would sometimes hold their worship services outdoors (and even then, it was kind of interesting, being in a different language and all). The building isn’t much to brag about, but they have a large lot that goes from the southeast to northeast corners of the block.

I’m wondering, will it go to condos? Or a new apartment building? Sit empty? Become a SuperAmerica??