Property Managers

As of last Monday, we don’t have any tenants in our rental house.

English: Farmhouse at Little Renters Farm This...

English: Farmhouse at Little Renters Farm This farm stands on Beckingham Street. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That makes me sad.

It makes me sadder that we were too nice and gave them an extra week free to get their stuff moved out.

Now we get the fun job of painting, replacing the linoleum, and probably cleaning the place up to get it ready for new renters that we haven’t found yet.

New renters.

Ick.

Now, we could put an ad on Craigslist and try to find renters ourselves.

Background checks.

Credit checks.

Interviews and walk-throughs.

Then, when we find someone, we’ll be collecting rent and dealing with any whiny issues that come up.

Yuck.

Or….

We can hire a property manager.  The big name property management company in our area charges a $99 set-up fee plus $80 per month.

That covers:

  • Rent collection
  • Coordinating maintenance
  • Accounting
  • All of the other mundane details

If we add on the tenant-finding service, we’ll be paying them one-month’s rent, but they’ll handle the showings, advertising, background checks, and the lease.  And their average tenant placement is 19 days.  Another house in the neighborhood that used them had the house rented in about a week.

That moves our landlording firmly into the passive side-hustle category and all it costs us is (essentially) one and a half month’s rent with the added bonus that we’ll be asking the right amount for rent according to the market, instead of guessing.  Our last tenants were probably paying $300 too little.

I think the property managers are the way to go, but I have absolutely no experience here.

Have any of you used a property manager?  Was it good?  Bad? Hell-on-Earth?

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Thrifty Sucks – The 30 Day Compact

Forman's Pawn Shop, 01
Image by waving at you via Flickr

During the month of September, we went on a 30-day compact.   We decided to avoid buying anything new for 30 days.   The plan was, if we needed to buy something, we’d hit a pawn shop, a thrift store, or Craigslist. Obviously, food and consumable hygiene products were exempt from the rules.   I’m not going to stink or starve for an experiment like this.  Ideally, at the end of the month, our discretionary budget would reflect our extra thriftiness, leaving us a couple of hundred extra dollars at the end of the month.

Great plan.

I found out a few days ago that we actually made it 3 days.  Grr.   That’s when the credit card bill came.  Double-Grr.

All in all, that one slip isn’t a big deal.   We also had a few presents we had to buy for a couple of birthdays and one wedding.   Also not a big deal, since we have a budget for gifts.  It may have been against the rules, but what were we going to do, drink the free beer at the wedding without bringing a gift?  How rude.

So we had a few slips. That’s not bad, considering exactly how well “consumer” describes us.

Avoiding retail shopping is a lot harder than it sounds.   We have everything we need, so on paper, it should have been simple.  We didn’t need anything, so we wouldn’t have to buy anything.

Like I said, great plan.

There were a few books released this month that I have been anxiously awaiting, like Monster Hunter:Vendetta and Chris Guillebeaus’s book, The Art of Non-Conformity.   They have both had to wait.   In the next few days, I will be buying both of these books.    That makes this project very similar to an inverse “Cash for Clunkers” program.  Instead of moving spending that would have happened anyway to an arbitrary time-frame, I moved spending out of an arbitrary time-frame, but the spending is still happening.

My wife has an admitted shopping addiction.   This project caused a rather…explosive…discussion this week.  Not-so-coincidentally, that happened the day we got the credit card bill.   Note to self: “What the heck is this?” is not the right way to start a conversation. Oops.

We had 30 days of trying to avoid the retail trap, and kicking ourselves when we slipped.   What did we learn?

1.  We are big damned consumers. We are so much better than we used to be, but so far off of where we’d like to be.

2.  Target is infinitely more convenient that Craigslist. We may pay a small premium for that convenience, but generally, it’s worth it.

3. When you forget to budget for a speeding ticket that needs to be paid 5 months after you received it, it does not matter if you saved some of your discretionary budget by not shopping retail that month.

4. When you open a credit card bill and get upset, be prepared to get clubbed over the head with #3.  Repeatedly.

This month, I’m going to do my best to learn a new language.    I’m having a hard time deciding which one.   Spanish would be most practical.  Norwegian would let me read some of the artwork on my Grandma’s wall, but Italian sounds like the most fun.

Nothing like waiting until the last minute.

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Halloween Decorations Ain’t Cheap

This year, Americans are expected to drop $5.8 billion on Halloween, with most people spending $66.28 per person.  About 1/3 of that is candy.

Zombie Girl

Zombie Girl

The rest?  Costumes and decorations. $4,000,000,000 on costumes and decorations.  That’s a lot of freakin’ money.

Over the years, I have certainly spent more than my fair share on building that number.  We are the Halloween house in our neighborhood.  A few years ago, we were even featured on the evening news.    Filling a yard with decorations is expensive. When money’s tight, or you just want to save some money, how can you decorate on the cheap?

1.  Plan ahead. The best time to buy Halloween decorations is in the two weeks after Halloween.   After that, all of the seasonal stores are closed.   If you want the best selection, get up early on November 1st and hit all of the stores.  Prices drop to 50% or lower the morning after the big day, but won’t drop below that, even when the seasonal stores are closing for the year.   The goods will either be warehoused or bought back by the suppliers, so there’s no motivation to sell at cost.

2.  Buy used. You can find some screaming deals on Craigslist, but always check the prices.    I’ve seen cardboard and wooden coffins both going for $50.  One is a good deal, one is a ripoff.    Do some research and you can save a ton of money on some really neat pieces.    Last year, a local haunt decided to close shop after Halloween and posted a “going out of business” sale on Craigslist.  There were some excellent gory corpses for sale there.

3.  DIY. When department stores close, you can buy mannequins for little-to-nothing.  Throw some clothes and mask on that, and you’ve got a quick monster.    Grave stones can be made by gluing two sheets of insulation styrofoam together and using a Dremel to shape it and add the epitaph.  Make sure you brush paint it.  Spraypaint will eat the foam away. Finally, if you can run a drill, you can cobble together some truly intense props with the aid of some monster mud and discarded lumber.   Monster mud is made by mixing 1 gallon of latex paint with 5 gallons of sheetrock compound.    I get a gallon of paint from the “oops” bin at the hardware store, preferably in a dark color.    Dip some clothes in that, then put them on a a human-shaped frame built out of 22 lumber, and you have something not too disimilar from actual Hollywood props.

Over the years, I’ve managed to shrink my Halloween budget, while increasing the quality of my props.  It just takes some time and research.

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Saturday Roundup

The float of the King carnival parading in Pat...
Image via Wikipedia

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Holiday weeks are supposed to be short, aren’t they?

I’m 11 days into my 30 Day “Compact”.  So far, it has gone well.  Unfortunately, there have been a couple of books launched that I’d love to own, and a friend keeps showing me new gadgets that I’d love to get.   Not shopping at all is harder than it sounds.

The Best Posts of the Week:

Brian Wood, without a doubt, understood the responsibility he took on as a father.    The story makes me get all misty.

On Wise Bread, they asked if you are saving too much.   Don’t save as an excuse to stop living your life.

Free Money Finance will help you save money on travel.

Parent Hacks has a great use for a Google Voice number.  I have a spare, so I think I’ll start using it.

I’m a big fan of selling on Craigslist.  I’ve never sold a car there, so this was informative.

Finally, a list of the carnivals I’ve participated in:

5 Reasons to Quit Saving and Start Living was included in the Carnival of Personal Finance.

Bonding Relationships was in the Carnival of Wealth.

Hippy Month was the Editor’s Pick in the Festival of Frugality!

If I missed a carnival, please let me know. Thanks to those who have included me!

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