Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Investment Property: Maintenance

Did you know that Bonnie Projects has a side business?  Yep!  Welcome to Bonnie Properties!  Just kidding on the name, but that's what my husband calls it when I'm messing around with real estate.

I've never mentioned this on my blog before, but I have an investment property.  It's a 1987 condo near where I went to grad school.  I bought it when I started grad school because I couldn't find a rental I actually wanted to live in (that wasn't horribly overpriced).

It has two equal-sized bedrooms and bathrooms, and a surprising amount of storage space.  It also has free parking and was one block (albeit up a 20 degree incline) to my graduate office.  Perfect for students!

When I bought it, the condo had been a rental for over 20 years.  Gross.  I actually rented it from the seller for a few weeks before closing - otherwise I would have been living out of my car!  It was so gross that I tore the carpet out before closing.  A risky move, I agree, but I just couldn't deal with that carpet.

Over the two years I was in grad school, I completely remodeled that condo.  Maybe I'll share some projects sometime!  By the time I graduated, the condo was cute, functional, and from what I understand, a desirable place to live!  Instead of selling it, I decided to rent it out.

I wasn't attached to my college furniture, so I left it all there and rent it furnished.  There are pros and cons to this.  Pros are that I can charge more for rent.  Also, because the tenants aren't moving furniture in and out, I feel like the condo stays in better condition.  Cons coming later in this post.

So enough back history!  On to the drama!!!

Twice a year I travel to my college town to visit friends and check on the condo.  I test the appliances, chat with the tenants, and make any necessary repairs.  For the past four years, this has worked out really well, and mostly all I ever do is fill in nail holes and touch up scuffs on the paint.  Maybe some light cleaning.  One time I replaced the deadbolt.

Y'all, those four blissful years of owning a rental property just came to a screeching halt.  You ready for this?

Bless her heart, I thought I'd walked into the wrong unit!!!  What happened to my beautiful apartment?!?!

What follows is how I spent two insane days getting this place back in shape.

1. Appliances

Once I could breathe again, I chatted with the tenant (actually a subletter) about the state of the appliances.  She informed me that the dishwasher didn't clean, the clothes washer didn't wash, the dryer didn't dry, and the AC wasn't cooling.  And, oh yeah, the bathroom fan didn't suck.  Awesome!

I took a peek in the laundry closet.  Once I unearthed the washer and dryer from a thick layer of detergent slime, I started assessing the problems.

For starters, the clothes washer was original to the unit, making it 26 years old.  I decided it was time for it to graduate, and I'd suck it up and get a new one.  A hilarious conversation with the appliance lady at Lowe's  left me choosing a Maytag washer that doesn't require high efficiency soap.  Apparently putting non-HE soap in an HE washer can kill it.  Undergrads hardly know how to wash clothes (at least I didn't), so I wasn't going to count on them using the right soap.  First lesson in rentals - keep it simple!  The washing machine also came with free delivery and installation, which saved me a few hours of work.  Crucial when you only have two days!

out with the old ...

... and in with the new!

Next, the dryer.  it turns out the dryer had been shoved back against the wall, crimping the vent.  I checked the vents for lint blockage, and they were fine.  I reassembled everything, and left the dryer farther out from the wall.  Then I remembered.  Keep it simple!  To prevent this from happening in the future, I installed a block of wood behind the dryer.  Now if it gets pushed back, there's nowhere for it to go, and the vent can't get smushed.


smush prevention

no more smushing!

I took a look at the AC filter, and became immediately convinced that it maybe, just possibly, had never been changed by these tenants.  In their defense, it's in a weird place, and the size isn't standard.  But seriously?  Every bill comes with a reminder to change it out!  You'd think they might have said something over the past two years.  I called the AC guys, and they came out bright and early on Day 2 to clean the AC unit.  I also ordered a 12-pack of these apparently weird-size filters, and had it delivered to the condo.  The new tenants have no excuses!

The dishwasher.  I'm a little attached to the dishwasher.  It was my very first appliance purchase.  I bought it used on Craigslist for $100 for my 23rd birthday.  I was even cheaper  more budget conscious back then than I am now, and refused to pay more than the appliance to have it installed, so me and DIY Network spent a few cozy hours together installing it.  Well, it wasn't new when I got it, and it's six years older now, and it might be time for it to go.  I disassembled the insides hoping it was simply a blockage or something, but no such luck.

Finally, the bathroom fans.  It's funny, I'm great at changing air filters, but it never occurred to me that a bathroom fan might also get dusty.  People, these things are a fire hazard!!!  Over the 26-year life of this thing, it had sucked up dust and hair, and created a lovely little hairball around the motor.  That sad little motor just couldn't power through anymore, and it was kapooey.  Luckily, new ones are available for $14, and don't even require flipping a breaker!  It's a few screws and plugging it in, and it's done.  Only one of the fans was toast, but I replaced them both just so the same problem doesn't happen again soon.  Guess what I'll be cleaning in my own house this weekend? 

2. Paint & Holes

In a small apartment, or probably any home really, walls get scuffed and scratched.  It happens.  People also like to hang stuff up and create billions of tiny holes in the walls.  It happens.  So every time I work on the condo, I make sure to bring putty and paint.  I go through every room, and fill every hole.  Once it's dry, I sand it smooth and slap on some fresh paint. 

The past four years, this has worked like a charm.  This time...not as much.  Something happened to the paint, and now what's on the walls is a smidge darker than what's in the can, even though it's exactly the same stuff.  The difference really bugs me, so I guess I'll be painting everything pretty soon!  I had hoped that paint would last more than 6 years, but I guess with renters you just never know.

3. Furniture

Just like everything else, I've gotten incredibly lucky that all the furniture has held up through years of abuse.  If you're still reading, this will come as no surprise - it was awful this time!!!  Well, not everything, but the sofa and chair were really really yucky.  Like, don't keep scrolling if you're eating.

The chair was a garage sale find that my Mom helped me recover eons ago.  It wasn't savable, so it got relocated to the curb.  I found this cute replacement at World Market.  Between their sale and my coupon, it was only $90!  I think the grey will hold up a lot better than the old cream-colored chair did.

The sofa was another story.  It's a La-Z-Boy microfiber sofa, and it's structurally in great shape.  I'm not quite sure what happened to the fabric though...

I tried my usual trick of taking a wet rag to it, and miraculously it came off without a fight!!!  I googled around a little and found some people who had thrown the cushions covers through the wash with good success.  This gave me a chance to test the new washer, so I was in!  I tested a throw pillow cover first to be sure, but it worked and so everything else got thrown in too!  A few tough stains still linger, but overall it's about a million times better.  And now my skin doesn't crawl when I look at it.

4. Blinds

Oh my god, what happened to my blinds?!?

It's simple, really - the cord condenser broke.  They're just cheapo little plastic snap-together thingys.  Some of the cords had come out of the mechanisms all up in there, so I had to do some re-stringing.  I installed fresh cord condensers.  For a more permanent fix, I also tied all the cords in a knot, just above the cord condenser.  This makes it so that all the pressure that was previously on the condenser is now transferred to the knot.  

5. Safety

I tested all the smoke alarms, and they all worked!  One success.

I've provided a fire extinguisher for years, but this time I finally took the initiative to attach it to the wall.  All it took was two screws, and was super easy.  I should have done it sooner.  I also added this to my list of stuff to address at my own home.

Locks and keys were in working condition, too.  Hooray!

6. Other

The old washer had a lid that opened sideways - the hinges were on the left side.  The new washer opened away from you, with the hinges at the back.  Those cool storage shelves I installed above the washer years ago?  Yeah, they prevented the new washer lid from fully opening.  So with my oodles of free time, I drilled new holes, moved the support, then filled and painted the old hole.  Whew!

7. Is it worth it?

This past slew of issues with the income property really added up, both in terms of money and stress.  That said, when I run my numbers on whether a property is a good investment, I budget for maintenance and repairs.  This year they are higher than the budget, but when averaged with past years, everything still looks really good.

As for the stress, I mitigate that with holding babies (my friends in town have two babies that are so adorable that you completely forget about cleaning slime from a sofa) and getting lunch at my favorite campus spots.  Thankfully they're as tasty and successful as ever!  The restaurants, not the babies.  Plus I got to wander around my alma mater a bit.

You might also be interested in these posts:

Kitchen Update: Plantation Blinds
Half Bath Reveal
Sofa Facelift
Updating the Condo (Mirrors and Doorknobs)

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic job, Bonnie. I wish I could be as industrious as you. I had no idea mini blinds could be repaired so easily. I was about to throw some out and install new ones, but I think I will try to repair the existing ones first.


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