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Investment Property Part I: How Not to Become a Slumlord
After riding the ups and downs of the stock market roller coaster for a while, an increasing number of investors are looking into property investment as a more stable alternative. With hot markets in many parts of the United States, the time may be ripe for you to get into this potentially lucrative trade. I would suggest, however, that you keep reading before you jump on the first property you find. You just might find something in this article that will keep you from breaking the bank and your back.
The hope of any investor is to build long-term wealth; this is a fairly straightforward principle and probably the reason you're reading this article. There are however, some rules to play by in the property investment game if you don't want to end up taking a shotgun with you every time rent needs to be collected. I'm talking about how to avoid becoming a 'slumlord'.
In order to best relate the rules of being a successful landlord, let me share a story experienced by some extended family members. It's a great example of what NOT to do if you want to get the most out of your investment property. After the story we'll see what rules and lessons we can learn. Names have been changed to protect the identity of the innocent.
Ben bought a beater single-family investment property in a very bad area and he his two sons, Josh and Nathan, all got busy. They put in hardwood floors-don't want to have to replace carpet every time you have turn over, right? And then they thought they'd use really good paint-don't want have to repaint every time, right? And then they decided to splurge on good cabinetry and bathroom fixtures-a happy renter is a good renter, right? And to top it off, they put in nice towels on nice racks that said, "We are Family." Renters would appreciate that, right?
The first family to move in removed the bedroom and cupboard doors for firewood, tore out the nice bathroom fixtures and sold them at the swap meet, and fired small caliber rounds through the new hardwood floors. Ben discovered this when he received a call that the roof was leaking and he should, "Get your *** down here and fix it!" He patiently tried to explain that roofs do that when you pull shingles for kindling. Other wonderful visits ensued, prompted by similar calls.
It only took eight months to get them out of the house; turns out that tenant rights as outlined by the county enumerate more rights than the rest of us enjoy collectively. As the family moved out he noticed that mom and the two older boys all sported matching shirts stitched with "We are Family." The rest carried various pieces of the house.
Ben, Josh, and Nathan began to rebuild the house, finding all sorts of interesting changes to its structure. Nothing really serious other than a supporting beam was chain-sawed out (apparently more firewood), tile pried up in one bathroom-no clear reason why, gang signs scratched into all the glass and mirrors that weren't broken and other little surprises.
While helping restring some crawl space electrical wire-later found strung in the closet for hangers-Josh found a rusted out .32 caliber handgun. Somehow the tenants had managed to pry bricks out of the chimney, which Ben needed to replace in order to meet code. Apparently someone had driven an M1A1 Abrams up the driveway; there was no other way to explain the huge cracks in a driveway that had remained perfect for 20 years.
What can we learn from this horrific, yet unfortunately true story?
Don't repeat the mistakes made by Ben and his sons. Granted, getting into the investment property business takes hard work and you'll have to put up with things you normally wouldn't put up with. At the same time there are steps you can take to limit your liability while preventing yourself from becoming a 'slumlord'.
In the next portion of this two-part article we will be discussing some of the financial aspects you should be familiar with in order to find the best deal possible on your first investment property.
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