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Ka-ching! That’s Your Curb Appeal Working for You

little rental propertyGosh, it is so cool to own a little rental property!

It’s (normally) growing in value, it’s a forced savings so you’re not tempted to spend your down-payment and growing equity on doo-dads and bright shiny things, your great tenants are paying your mortgage down every month, you can keep more money in the family budget every year because of the savings on your taxes, you will have nice passive cash flow from now through retirement, plus you’ll have something of value to leave to your loved ones or favorite charity. 
But it takes constant vigilance to keep the property in good repair.  On the front end, it can be painful when you’re shelling out remodeling bucks.  But upgraded properties = an improved tenant clientelle, an improved qualify of life as a landlord, an improved quality of life for your tenants, plus the value that will be added to the neighborhoods where your properties are located are all immeasurable benefits!  Good landlords add a lot of value to the communities where they own property.  It’s the ONLY way to do business as a landlord.

My son and daughter-in-law and I currently have rentals ranging from one-bedroom apartments to a few big gorgeous homes that rent for upwards of $xxxx per month.  Every single tenant has our cell phone numbers, we self-manage all our units, we have time to run our other businesses and hang with our friends and family, plus I have time to tend my cute grandson.  That is the value of no deferred maintenance.

We didn’t do it all at once, but we upgraded when we purchased each property, and upgraded some more between each tenancy, so that now we have a great little residential rental business. 

It wasn’t always cake.  I remember when we only had 9 rental units, we had no budget and no time and no economy of scale yetOne night I was on my hands and knees after work, all night long, pulling thousands of staples out of the hardwood floors of an apartment because a contractor was arriving the next morning to refinish the floors.  [I didn’t know anything about scrapers back then!]  I pulled staples all night, left the apartment at 5:00 AM in the morning with my back killing me, and was at work by 9:00 AM.  (I have more stories just like that when I tiled a bathroom floor all night, mudded walls, hung blinds, cleaned, plus I hand watered the landscaping of our first 8-plex for a whole summer because we couldn’t afford a sprinkler system yet.  Oh, and I was at work the next morning.)

When I was practicing law, I had more than a few clients that thought it was a good business plan to not fix up their properties.  They rented their properties to unqualified tenants (because nice tenants want nice property) and then paid me (the money they should have spent to fix up their property) in order to evict the unqualified tenants they accepted because their properties were not well kept. 

I loved my clients and hated to see them get beat up, but I never understood that business model.  I learned a huge lesson from observing the outcome of that model, and I hope you do too.

Take it from a happy landlord: upgrade your properties, raise rents, then upgrade your tenant clientelle, all of which will improve your bottom line and your quality of life.  Then rinse and repeat.   

Start at the curb!  By doing little things like freshening up the landscaping, planting some flowers and putting out a welcome mat, you will lay the foundation for a long and profitable relationship with your tenants.

  • Oh, I whole heartedly agree. Upgrading, every chance you get, is the way to go. Addressing your curb gives prospective tenants an idea of your management style and also tells your neighbors that you respect them. All this helps you create a virtuous spiral that sustains vibrant neighborhoods.

    Al Williamson

    March 1, 2012

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