Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Whew! I just looked at the Blog, and realized I haven't posted since February! My how times slips when you're busy!
So, a quick update on the Real Estate Realm llc.
In early March, we received an award for Best Interior Renovation from the Noblesville Preservation Alliance. Many thanks to everyone who helped make that award possible! It was such an honor for us!
With the difficulties in the housing market, work has been very slow this spring. We parted ways with our regular carpenter Kyle in March. As anyone who has ever run a crew will know, you get to know the people you work with pretty well. We'll miss him, but we feel confidant that he will be very successful in his new work.
Because of the slow economy we have decided to set our house of 10 years on the market, and relocate to a smaller home in the Noblesville area. It's such a nice town, with lots of opportunities in it for us. We feel we know people up there, and shortening our commute of 25 miles each way will do wonders for our gas & tire bills as well as our carbon footprint. There's also a much larger yard, which will offer more opportunities for vegetable and flower gardening for us.
So, if you would like to pick up a nice 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath for a really good price, please let us know. The structure is sound, the systems work. It needs carpet and paint throughout, as it has
the original carpet in it. It needs a few baseboards. Personally, I would go with a more modern wood floor if I were re-doing it. The crawlspace has been insulated, and so has the garage. It has a nice built-in bookshelf in the living area that simply needs a bit of tile or flooring, nothing major.
During all of these changes, we have been dealing with some sad things on a personal level that cropped up rather unexpectedly. We hope and pray that those things get resolved quickly and peacefully.
We also would like to thank everyone who has helped us out this spring with all the craziness that came about from having to fill 8 empty rental units, and a hearty welcome to all of our new residents! Thank you for choosing our homes, and I hope that you are happy with them. And as always, please give us a call if you have questions or concerns.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

How To Clean A Filthy Bathroom in 20 Minutes or Less

Let's face it, some Landlords end up cleaning a lot of bathrooms. Some don't. If you're one of the Landlords who wants your property to have a minimal amount of cleanliness before a showing or leasing, try some of these ideas.

Prepare a "Cleaning Bucket." I like a good wide 2 gallon bucket, the kind that Kilz paint comes in. I put in: 1. Mr. Clean diluted into a spray bottle; 2. Toilet cleaning liquid; 3. Windex; 4. Softscrub or powdered Ajax; a toilet brush; a scrub brush; and for really ugly applications, both bleach & vinegar alongside. You'll also want rags (cloth baby diapers work really well), sponges or paper towels. I prefer a sponge and cloth combo. A broom and mop are also indispensable. Gloves too.

Start at one end of the room. Todays bathroom started with the toilet. Put the toilet cleaning liquid in the bowl, then spray the rest of the toilet with the Mr. Clean solution. Wipe down the outside of the toilet, then hit the inside with the toilet scrubber. Those little flushable toilet wipes on a stick? Don't waste your money. Usually a fast scrub around the bowl and rim with a brush will take care of all of the problems. If you still have streaks, usually a vinegar soak will take care of the worst of them. Just don't mix your chemicals unless you want to shuffle off this mortal coil.

Next the tub. They can be difficult to get the grime out of, especially if they haven't been cleaned in a year or two. With very hard water, sometimes it helps to fill the tub with water the night before if possible, and add a half gallon of vinegar. Otherwise, it will just take more scrubbing power, and you won't always get a good clean look out of it.

Barring the vinegar trick, I like to use soft scrub with a brush on surfaces that can handle it. Surfaces that can't? Mr. Clean & a brush. Start at the top, and do one wall at a time. Empty your cleaning bucket, fill it with water, and rinse between walls. This way the soap doesn't dry while you have to take a call on your cell, making a worse mess to clean.

Vinyl tubs, I would use the Mr. Clean on. Porcelain, I would use the soft scrub or Ajax. Vinegar works best with a long soak, and you can use it on all the surfaces. If you think to, when you go to soak the tub, take off the shower head and soak it as well. The sink aerator can be soaked in a separate dish of pure vinegar. Just don't soak the rubber gasket.

Then there's the mirror, vent fan and light fixtures. Usually a squirt of Windex will take care of the mirror and light fixtures, while a quick swipe with a damp rag will clear the vent fan. Sometimes at this point it's a good time to give the trim and baseboards a quick wipe down with that same cloth.

Next the sink. Make sure your rags are rinsed first, then spray it down with one hand, wipe with the other. On all of these surfaces, waste no motion. Use both hands - one to spray, one to scrub, then the other again to wipe dry. Reassemble the sink aerator and shower head if you soaked them, and reassemble your cleaning/rinsing bucket. Once the fixtures are clean, spray the floor with your Mr. Clean solution, then mop yourself out of the room. Done!

The thing that will save you the most time for all of this is to have the tools to hand ahead of time. If it's possible to soak a disgusting bathtub first, that will save a lot of scrubbing time and energy as well. This is also a good time to asses the caulk, floor around the toilet, and other basic maintenance items that tend to occur regularly.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Busy Busy Busy! Gardens and Rentals!

It's been a busy week here at the Real Estate Realm. We've had lots of interest in the properties we have up for rent, and lots and lots of calls, especially about 2137 Lesley. Hopefully we can get that one turned and re-rented very quickly.

It's almost time to start the seeds for gardens! While we don't do much landscaping with the rental houses, mainly because we've found most residents don't know how to care for something as simple as a ditch lily, we have done some landscaping around our own house. Some roses, some veggies, a couple of bayberries and some herbs make up our little gardens. Even some ditch lilies!

Gardening is fairly simple, but requires some time and a little work. The benefits are that you can grow veggies for your family, get some sun and exercise, and maybe even meet your neighbors.
Some simple plants that we would encourage anyone to grow are oregano, thyme, mint, and, of all things, collards. Thyme and mint can be used easily in many dishes, and mints can be used in drinks as well. Oregano can be used in canned spaghetti sauces to flavor them a little, or used on the bar-b-que. Collards are large leaf veggies that can be grown in most rich soils. They need about two feet of soil per plant, and 4-6 plants can feed a family for most of a season. Harvest a few leaves, cut the stalks off and chop. Drop the stalks in boiling water for a minute or two, then add in the tops. Boil for 2 minutes, maybe 3, then serve with salt & pepper. They have an extremely high vitamin count, which makes up for their slightly bland taste.

So, landlords and residents, do you garden or allow gardening? What are the pros/cons in your eyes, and what are your 4 simplest recommended plants for anyone?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Indy Home Show Recap

"What's a Green Zone?"
Apparently, this year's Indy Home Show features a "Green Zone" located at the end of one of the aisles. The carpet is
a slightly greener shade of green than the green carpet used in the rest of the aisle, and the area features a couple of signs to denote that it is, in fact, the Green Zone. Here the discerning home improver will find, tucked neatly away from the beaten path to the featured house (created by Davis Homes, a local builder who had some money troubles for a while, and whose contributions to the local home inventory were great enough to leave Central Indiana with a glut of homes for hmmm, let's say some years...), a short aisle full of businesses touting Green products.
Shouldn't we be pushing Green products a little more? They can save us money on utilities when used properly, they can save our bodies from the effects of harmful chemicals. They can even save the world that we live on from getting all cluttered up from petrochemical products so it ends up looking like a teenagers closet. Whew! That's quite a feat! Should we really be tucking them into a back corner
of the home show? C'mon Indy Home Show Organizers!
Nevertheless, Greenway Supply was there with a beautiful display of alternative energy sources and solar panels. Other featured items in the Green Zone were patio composters (they're wonderful!), a group that does organic recycling for compost and mulch, and a group touting LED's as the lightbulb of the future.
One custom home builder (Frank Redavide of Castalia homes) we spoke with at the beginning of the show told us that Indiana ranks "49 out of 50" in Green prac
tices. Apparently W. Virginia is 50th. He does all Green homes, and is very proud of his work and LEED certifications. He recommended that anyone looking to make their home or investment property more Green should start simple.
One of the greatest things we saw at the show, however, was in the model home. Designers from The Inside Job inc. went wild with the idea of reuse-recycle. The home featured antiques of all kinds as decoration, as usable objects, as reused objects. One of my favorites was an old door converted into a chic dining table, and another was the valances on the upstairs windows that featured collages of different antique house and door bits. Every time we do a renovation, it always breaks my heart to have to let go of doors, lumber and other cool house parts. Now there's a way to reuse them with style!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Apartments and Houses

Just got done with a weekend full of showings, an open house at 10th St., and my part-time job. Now, on to more work! We have plans for finishing up the 10th St. garage today and tomorrow, then a look at the home show on Wednesday.
Currently we have 3 apartments, 2 townhomes and one house up for rent. You can find them all on Rentalhouses.
Of the apartments, two are one-bedrooms downtown near Sacred Heart Church in the area of Arizona and Union St. Both of them are available for $499.

The other apartment is a nice two-bedroom in Downtown Noblesville. All have wood laminate floors and tiled baths.

The townhomes are on 10th St in Noblesville, and are available for sale, rent, or lease option. They are 3 bedroom, 2 bath, 2500 square foot lovelies, and are situated right across the street from a park.

The house is a 3 bedroom, 1 bath ranch in a fairly quiet neighborhood near 21st and Ritter. The yards are a little larger in this area,
which seems to attract fewer problem tenants. (Is there a correlation between lawn-mowing and problem tenants? Where is the research??) The house is currently occupied, and we require a two-day notification before showings, so if you know someone who is interested, let them know to plan ahead!
As always, if you are interested in any of these rentals, or would like to purchase one of these buildings from us, please don't hesitate to call us at 317-410-3977. If you don't get us, leave a message. We do call back!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Heat Exchanger? What's a Heat Exchanger??

Furnaces. Can't live with them, can't fix 'em with a sawz-all! This week's fun began last week with the final and utter demise of one of the furnaces in one of our rentals. I'll call it "Joy" street. Names of course must be changed and all of that.
So apparently, the heat exchanger on this furnace cracked. Then the blower motor stopped running altogether. Add in the pilot light that refused to stay lit, and you have an equation with two darned chilly and not terribly happy residents. Can't say I blame 'em.
What's a heat exchanger, I asked. "You look in that furnace and see that thing that's kind of running this way on it? That's the heat exchanger." Frighteningly, I understood what he meant when my HVAC guy said that.
Apparently it's a bad thing when they crack.
Wikipedia says, "A heat exchanger is a device built for efficient heat transfer from one medium to another." I think that's just amazingly helpful. Yeah.
I went back to my HVAC guy. What happens when it cracks? "Flames will roll out and the sensor will kick it off." Awesome. Just what my residents need.
So how old IS that Magic Chef furnace anyway? "Mmm, pretty old?" "Ancient history?"
Apparently you can't get parts for them outside of a New York street vendor on some very interesting chemicals.
So, Many Thanks to Dave and Bob from the Ken Maddox company for installing my furnace at "Joy" Street.
And if you're in the Indy area and need a new furnace, you can give them a call at 317-787-1354. They rock!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The last couple of years there has been a lot of buzz about "green living," "sustainable practices," "recycling..."
How do any of these things affect investors? And what can we do to help without losing money hand over fist? And why would you want to?
Let's start with a simple step. Insulation.
It seems to be a fact that older homes tend to make up the majority of rentals in the city of Indianapolis. Many of these homes were built during the victorian era and have had little to no insulation installed in them since. This is both good and bad. Good for the structure, as the air flow between the walls allows the structure to dry out. Bad for your tenants, as that same air makes the home/apartment harder to heat affordably.
I don't have to tell you that there's a recession out there - it's pretty obvious. And I'm not going to say 'hey, go insulate the heck out of all your rentals,' either. I know cash flow can be tight these days, especially in Marion County.
But what I'm saying is that we as landlords need to treat insulation just like every other system of a rental house. When it stops working, it needs to be fixed. Why? So that your tenants spend less on the utility companies, less on space heaters that'll burn the place down, and more on paying their rent. Which is a good thing for cash strapped landlords.
So, next time you have a vacancy, test the plumbing, check the hot water heater, roof, and gutters, and add some insulation to the attics and walls. Caulk around leaky windows, or better yet, replace them with energy efficient ones from a place like Window World. Weather-strip doors. Conserve energy. It's not tree-hugging, it's wallet hugging.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Fabulous Websites!!

We get asked a lot about websites for landlords, Websites for finding people and things, and Websites in general. So, today I'd like to post a list of websites that you may find helpful, enlightening, or just plain fun.
Our own website, of course:
A website for what NOT to do when listing real estate for sale, and one of my favorites:
A website for fixing things, whether they should be or not:
A website for finding property info, lawsuit info, police incident reports:
The lighthouse:
Have a website that you find useful? Send us and email, and we'll look at putting it in!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

CIREIA Sub-Group and Other Entertainment

Today is our day off! We will be attending a Cirea (Central Indiana Real Estate Association) Sub-Group meeting on Molding the Investor Mind. Or maybe it's Moldy Investor Minds, but I hope not!!! After that, it's on to the YMCA to work off the Christmas cookies that are still clinging too tightly, and Gary will be trying for his 4th straight win in Hockey. He plays in a beer league called BUNS at the Fishers Forum on Sundays, so feel free to stop by and cheer him on!
And, as it's Sunday, and Sunday is NASCAR day; I would like to thank our Advertisers in my best Mark Martin style... Thanksto allour advertisers thatmadethis win(blog) possible: GoogleFixedIncomeInvestmentsRealEstateRichesLetter100K/MoinshortSalesPleasestop by theirsitesanddon'tforgettosupportthem!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Passions and Sins

For some in Real Estate, Money is their passion. More Money, More Money! Buy this horrible little house that should have been condemned so you can make Money and More Money!!! Your tenants will just tear the place up anyway, right? So put as little Money in as possible, and reap the cash. When it finally is too torn up to fix any more, walk away. Neighborhoods that were once decent start to disintegrate. The abandoned houses attract vermin of all sorts, and the cycle starts again on another house nearby until the property values in the area have long since ceased to exist.
Making Money is necessary for continuing and growing any business. But, if a landlord takes care of their rentals, screens their tenants and tries to keep property values up by making sure the property is taken care of properly, the asset is more likely to perform well for a longer amount of time. This means more money over a longer term.
Most of us want less government in our lives, as governments tend to charge money (taxes) for their services. So how do we keep our assets performing well while the houses nearby crumble and the vermin fight over territories? Self-governance is the only answer I can see. Property owners helping other property owners.
But I don't have all the answers, even though I now write a blog. So I'd like to hear from everyone what you think.

Friday, January 22, 2010

339 S. 10th St, Noblesville, IN

This is a picture of the parlor at 339 S. 10th St, Noblesville, IN. Since the original hardwoods had been badly damaged through the years, we replaced them with sustainable bamboo flooring throughout that entire side of the building. We used oak on the steps and railings to match the gorgeous original pocket doors you see in the background. Even the return air vent in the bottom left corner was cut from an original return air vent in the house, cleaned up and returned to use to reduce waste.
We are offering up this home for sale, rent, or lease option, so if you know someone who needs a place, please don't hesitate to contact us!

Wrap Ups and New Beginnings

Last year the Real Estate Realm and crew rehabbed an old, ugly 4-plex in Downtown Noblesville, IN. You can check out pictures of it on our website: www.realestaterealm.net . This year we are looking to expand both the rehabbing end of our business, and the investing end of our business. Or at least hold steady!
Last year, 2009, was a hard year for much of the real estate industry, and we are no exception. The governor of Indiana decided to raise property taxes - that hurt. Some of our taxes went from $300 a half year to $1200! And there's just no way to raise rents that high or fast.
Hopefully, this year will offer us a little better luck!

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