Maybe not every landlord hates autumn. But I sure do. Why? There are just too many problems to deal with. I haven’t had to spend much time at the rentals this spring and summer. It was great. Now that it’s autumn, I’m working at least 2 extra hours per week. The leaves are falling and I need to clear the gutters, clean the roof, sweep the walkway, patch the paint, trim the bushes, and various other maintenance tasks. It’s not exactly how I want to spend my Sundays, but that’s life as a small-time landlord.
One option is to hire a landscaper and a handyman to help out. That’s a good idea, but our margin is pretty tight. I’m not quite ready to hire helpers for the things I can still do myself. Also, we’re planning to move into the duplex soon. Once we move in, we’ll do all the maintenance ourselves anyway. There is no point hiring helpers now.
Today, I’ll just talk about our rentals a bit and give you a glimpse into a small-time landlord’s life in autumn.
Currently, we have 3 properties in Portland, Oregon. One is our primary residence and two are rentals.
The duplex – This rental is a single family home that was converted to a top/bottom duplex back in the 80’s. The upstairs is a nice one bedroom apartment with a lot of natural light. The downstairs is a spacious one bedroom unit with an office/den. The duplex is located in a great area and our tenants are very stable. We plan to move into the duplex soon. You can read more detail about our duplex in this post – Our Duplex Investment.
The rental condo – We purchased this 1 bed/1 bath condo as a short sale in 2011. This condo is in the building next to our primary residence. Originally, we hoped my parents could live in this unit. However, it didn’t work out and we turned it into a rental. This condo is usually easy to rent out because it is in a convenient downtown location. You can read more about the rental condo here – Our Rental Condo Investment.
Primary residence condo – This 2 bed/2 bath condo was perfect for us when we first moved in 11 years ago. There was plenty of space for a couple and 3 cats. However, the condo has shrunk as our family grew. Now, our son is 7 years old and my mom lives with us full time. A two bedroom condo is too small for a family this size. We’re making do for now, but we really need to move soon.
This autumn is actually better than usual. The weather has been great and we have much less rain than normal. This makes it much easier to sweep up leaves and put them in the yard debris bin. So what am I spending time on? Here goes.
Ugh, I really hate the trees here. They are dropping a bunch of leaves and they clog up the gutters. I put up cheap gutter screens 2 years ago, but I still need to clean them out every few weeks. If I don’t, the leaves will clog up the drain and water will overflow down the side of the house. This is bad because the basement is made from 129-year-old brick and mortar, which is porous now. When water pours down the side of the house, it will go straight into the basement. That’s why I need to make sure the gutters work well.
The duplex’s backyard is pretty unusual. Four homes combined their tiny backyards into a moderate sized green space. It’s actually a really nice because we can kick the ball around and play back there. There is a huge willow tree that’s probably over 100 years old. However, there is occasional friction. The other homeowners here are well off and they don’t mind spending money.
Last year, the homeowners paid $220 for a yard guy to take the leaves away. It was divided 4 ways so it’s not a huge deal. However, I didn’t like this because everyone was already paying $40 for the city to collect the leaves. We just needed to blow the leaves onto the street. The leaf trucks would come by and collect all the leaves once per year. Why do I have to pay their yard guy extra to do this? This year we’re actively putting the leaves from our part of the yard in the debris bin and will blow the rest into the street before leaf pickup day. I’m going to decline to pay the yard guy this time. They are making out like a bandit here. I’m pretty sure it takes less than 2 hours to collect the leaves and load them on a truck.
*Update – We got a nice surprise. The city eliminated the leaf pickup fee. Yay! Now, the cost will come out of the transportation fund. Everyone will share the pain now.
Last week, the stove at the duplex shorted out. I think it’s the control panel, but I’m not sure. I looked up the model and the stove was made in 1997. That’s pretty old and they don’t make that part anymore. A refurbished control board would cost almost $200. Normally, I’d put more effort into repairing it, but we plan to move into the duplex soon. I figure this is an opportunity to get a nicer stove. That way we can take a tax deduction against the rental income.
Now is also a good time to buy an appliance. Black Friday is coming up very soon. Prices are going down in November as the stores get ready for the biggest sales of the year. The Home Depot guy told me I could buy now and they’ll give me a refund if the price drops in the next 2 weeks. I’ll have to check on that policy to make sure it’s true. The tenants are okay for a few days because they can still use the gas burners on the old stove.
Ooohhh, shiny! The grates on these new gas ranges are awesome. I cook almost every day so I don’t mind spending a bit more for a nicer stove. This Whirlpool gas range cost $630. That’s not much more than the cheapest gas stove, about $400.
Vacancy in autumn
Another reason why I don’t like autumn as a landlord is because a vacancy is much harder to fill. Nobody wants to move during the holidays. Everyone is super busy and they just want to stay put. Last year, our tenant moved out from the rental condo in November and we didn’t get a new tenant until March. The extended vacancy was painful.
The condo comes with a parking spot and I usually rent them out together. Everyone has a car, right? Not true. Our current tenant doesn’t have a car so I had to rent out the parking spot separately. It’s a bit more work because now I have to keep track of another thing. It worked out okay, though. I found a parking spot tenant quickly and he’s a nice guy. However, he’s moving out and I need to find a new parking spot tenant in November. I’ve got a good lead so hopefully, it’ll work out.
Ugh! Property tax is the real reason why I hate autumn. Our property taxes are due in November. We can get a 3% discount if we pay the whole bill at once so we usually do that. The problem with property tax is that it increases every year. Here are ours:
|Property||Last year||This year||Increase|
We saved up for this, but nobody wants to shell out $18,000+ in one day. This year, I put $5,000 on a new credit card. It will net us 80,000 points which will help pay for our travel to Thailand next year. I wanted to do more, but I applied to too many new cards over the last 2 years. I’ll have to wait a bit before I sign up for another card.
There are many credit cards with great signup bonuses today. Check them out through my travel credit card link. Look for at least 50,000 bonus points. Anything less than that probably isn’t worth your time.
The big property tax bill is one reason why I’m planning to consolidate our property. But, money isn’t the only reason. Life is getting more challenging due to a big challenge we’re facing at home. I want to sell our current primary residence and the rental condo, then move into both units of the duplex. That will give us more space and simplify my life.
I told our tenants at the duplex that we want to move in sometime next year. This will give them plenty of time to look around for a new home. We’ll see how it plays out. Hopefully, they’ll move out in the spring so we can put the other properties on the market by summer.
I don’t want to get out of real estate completely, though. Real estate has been a great investment over the last 20 years and I still want to be an investor. That’s why I’m increasing our real estate crowdfunding investment to $100,000. We can reap the benefit of real estate without having to put much time in it. Real estate in Portland is also very expensive now. It’s hard to make money as a landlord because the purchase price is so high. Real estate crowdfunding enables me to invest in other parts of the country where the real estate price is still reasonable.
You can sign up with RealtyShares to browse the various projects and see if real estate crowdfunding is a good match for you.
Okay, that’s it for now. I just have to keep working extra hours until all the leaves are down. After that, it should quiet down for a while.
Are you a small-time landlord? Do you enjoy autumn?
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