Thursday, December 20, 2007


I am just now calm enough to be able to write this out. Man was I MAD.

I was worried on Tuesday that perhaps the tenant did not clearly understand about last months' rent and 60 days notice. So I called and left a message saying that hey - it's the law to give 60 days notice! So you'll be paying your rent on January 1st and if we find someone to rent Feb. 1 and you are out I will go above and beyond and return your last months' rent. Otherwise, it is gonzo. I will do my best to find a tenant but February is not easy.

So she calls me back Tuesday afternoon and says in that sicky-sweet liar voice "I talked to a lady at the tribunal and she said I could use my last months' rent for January as long as I'm out by February 1..."


I know you are lying. The tribunal people would never advise you to break the law. And it is very very clear in the 2006 Landlord Tenant Act - Thou shalt give thy landlord notice of two rental periods, the second one being your redeemable LAST MONTH. I clearly explained this to her, and pointed out that also - she had signed an effing contract with that exact statement.

Soooo....she's not paying the rent January 1, you know it. She has a "friend" who might move in and take over payments. I do NOT think so. Out you go. I'll list the place and try to find someone and if they don't pay Jan. 1 we're filing in court and then she'll find out who the tribunal really is.

So I listed the place, and seriously - who is looking for an apartment the week before Christmas?

Well - Lance the perfect tenant is! I am so shit-lucky it's not even funny. Lance and his wife of 11 years are splitting, but she gets the house, he gets the mortgage payment. He and his daughter from a previous relationship are still living in the marital home but it's --- awkward. He is the General Manager of a well-known children's playset-making company, he has good credit, he owns his own vehicle, he doesn't smoke and doesn't have pets. His 17-year-old daughter LOVES the third floor loft room and he loves the big kitchen and bathroom.

First and last is paid and Lance-the-man is movin' in as soon as the ladies are out. Oh, and Lance is also paying slightly more per month than the ladies were. He's getting an extra-special move-in gift.

GET OUT LADIES. You and your lying jerk mouths.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ugh. Turnover again

My newest tenants are leaving. Apartment #1 in the triplex. Ugh. What a pain. I guess the sister of one of the women moved down here from Halifax as well, and now the place is too small for everybody.

At least they've given me proper notice. Unfortunately they haven't painted yet, which is a bit of a pain in the arse. So now I have to find a tenant to move in February 1 (preferably) or March 1. And I have to paint that top room. It'll be way nicer in a nice plain off-white - it's too dark with the hunter green.

But. Finding another tenant is not what I wanted to do this Christmas. I may have to suck up a month's vacancy on this one, honestly. Who wants to move in the end of January in Canada?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Snow removal

I think I need to hire someone to take care of the snow removal and lawn maintenance at the triplex. I wonder how you go about doing that? I was thinking of a $75/month contract (December to February), and that way if it snows a lot, I'm alright, but if it snows a little bit, they do alright.

Or, $35 per snowfall. But that could get expensive, especially the way this year is going. I don't even know who would do something like that! To me - wouldn't it be nice to pick up $75 extra a month, tax-free, just for shovelling a bit of sidewalk once in awhile?

It's coming down hard right now, we'll probably see 6" again if it keeps up. And we're both at work. Tonight I won't be home until 9:30-ish, and who knows when Rob will be home. Tomorrow is my work Christmas party, and you know what? I hate getting up early in the morning, ESPECIALLY to shovel snow. Gah. Especially to shovel snow 4 blocks away.

And seriously - we're planning for a third house in July. So next winter will be damn impossible. 111m of frontage kills my shoulders, I don't think I could do two houses.

Lawn maintenance could continue on the same sort of contract. This year with the drought, we mowed the triplex for the final time in mid-July. Horrible, eh? But seriously - the grass just did not grow at all after that! I would pull out weeds whenever I went over there, but it didn't need mowing. In a wet summer, it could need mowing once a week.

Agh. Rob hates spending money, but I don't see him over there shovelling either! He'll just say - "They can wait". But they can't. I don't want to be that kind of landlord. Blah.

Some thoughts on real estate investment

I'm finished the year-end accounting on the properties, yay! And god-damned I'm good. :) We bought the triplex in March, had one tenant for April. Two for May-August, and three from September on. Which adds up to 81% of possible income collected in the 9 months we've owned it. One turnover with no vacancy, which is a miracle (usually I end up with a month's vacancy on a turnover, at least), and we increased the rent at that time. Only $25, but still. Our operating income (Revenue - operating expenses + mortgage + insurance, not including renovation expenses) was -$74. That's pretty freaking good. With a full year of occupancy, we'll net a profit on this house. Of course, that doesn't include the $3500 furnace, $2000 basement reno/kitchen installation, or $450 stove.

I can divide people into three groups. First are the people who "get it". Next are the people who don't get it, at all, but say to each his own. The third are the bitter ones. These are the ones who tried and failed, or tried and bailed, or wanted to try but have 100 reasons why they didn't.

I hate the bitter ones. And laugh at them. Which isn't nice, but seriously - it's all about education (yourself and your tenants). I listen to those who failed, and they're going on and on about tenants destroying your house, not paying, or otherwise making your life a living hell. In other words, their failure was not caused by them.

But it was. I am not being cocky or condescending, and I fully appreciate that someday someone will get the better of me. And that day, I will look back on this post and say "Good god, why did I put that in print?" Haha. But anyway - if you're interested in rental investment, here is my list of things you MUST do if you have a hope of success.

1. You make money when you BUY a house. Do not buy a property without at least a little bit of positive operating income, even after your mortgage payment. I have people say all the time "But it's still a good thing if you have to put a couple hundred dollars into it each month." Something about putting money into your retirement savings. Don't listen to this. You will never have 100% occupancy, you will never go a year without repairs, you will never be able to make a significant profit on a property while you're still paying a mortgage, and basically this is forever, in my mind. Twenty-five years is still too far away. This is LONG TERM investment, and it should be relatively sturdy. If something is costing you money at the BEST of times, what is going to happen to you during the bad times?

2. Know the law. Inside out, backwards, and upside down. Have a lawyer you trust and who knows you, and will help you when you need it, not when it's most convenient to them. Someone will try to screw you at some point, whether it be a seller, a real estate agent, an inspector, or one of your tenants. Know your rights, but most of all, know your TENANT'S rights. That way, when they try to say something foolish, you don't freak out.

3. This is a business and you are not their friend. My mentor said to me, "If you cannot evict a single mother on Christmas Eve, you won't make it in this business," and he was right. That was my biggest mistake at the start - liking my tenants and giving them too many chances. Issue an eviction notice as SOON AS they are late, no questions asked. If they pay, it goes away, if they don't, you've already got the process started and are not wasting time (and therefore money). It should never take more than three months to have a tenant evicted for non-payment. Landlords who tell you horror stories of freeloaders staying there for 6 months or more were too lazy or nice to get the process started when they should have.

4. It's your house, but it's their home. Remember this. You will have happy tenants if you stay out of their business, unless they call you about a problem, or someone else notifies you of a problem. And when they do call you - fix the problem right away. Small issues are cheaper than big issues.

5. Still - you want to check on your property. Do every-6-month smoke alarm inspections. This way, they know you're coming, you're not prying, but you can take a cursory look around and make sure things are ship-shape.

6. Keep your neighbours happy. These are the people that will report you to the city and make your life a living hell, if they're not happy with the tenants next door. Face it, multi-unit properties lower property values, no matter which way you look at it. I own in areas where that doesn't make too much difference, but it does matter to the guy who shares a driveway with your tenant. So introduce yourself, give him your card, and make sure you address anything he calls you about.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


Because, you know what? That's a lot of sidewalk to shovel. I woke up early-ish today to see 10cm + of snow outside, and getting warmer by the minute. So I guess I was feeling peppy, needed the exercise, and didn't want the snow to get any heavier. I walked over to the other house (my car is currently buried) and shovelled all the sidewalks. I looked it up and I have 111m of street frontage sidewalk to shovel. Plus three walkways. Good workout.

Then when I came home I figured I might as well shovel our frontage and walkway as well. Holy crap I got a workout. It started to rain while I was doing all this so I'm kinda glad I didn't wait. I also dug my car out.

Then at 4-ish I had to go get the rent from #1 tenant, and just as I was heading out the door the plow came and I'm buried up to the driver's side window. Fuck me. So I walked 4 blocks, in the pouring rain and slushy snow, to pick up my rent. But hey, it's 900 bucks, so I guess that's alright.

Tomorrow morning, however, is going to be a bitch to get to work. The streets are destroyed. All that snow is blocking catchbasins, and the pouring rain has nowhere to go. Besides the fact that my tiny car is in a mountain of snow.


Saturday, December 1, 2007

Well, that went well

#2 tenant was working afternoons, as suspected. Paid today. #1 tenant had a last-minute chance to go to Niagara Falls, so she's paying tomorrow. Upstairs guy I haven't seen today.

Talked to #2 and everything is going really well over there. I love her, and she loves my house, which is great. I hope that she stays there forever. She even liked my magnets I made with my new phone number. Which I have to admit, were pretty freaking sweet.

We actually started the bathroom. It's all gutted now except the tub surround, which we don't want to do until we absolutely need to. The damage is better than I expected in some places. Installed new shut offs at the sink, which no longer exists, ripped out all the old crappy wall tiles, the stupid huge cabinet and counter top are gone. A good day's work!

Friday, November 30, 2007

I have decided to focus my energies

Why have I not updated recently? Hey, because my life is incredibly boring! Haha! Well, it is to me, lately.

Anyway, I think I am going to start using this thing more often again, focusing on the fun and exciting life of a landlord. I figure it'd be good, when the shit hits the fan, to remember the good times. Or, at least, to remember the previous shit/fan times and realize that it didn't work out THAT badly. My friends list (not exactly voluminous) may get bored of landlord fun, so feel free to tell me off about it!

This way, I'll probably throw in some real life stuff too, to keep it interesting.

My office stinks of coffee. I got a big old 5% raise today (yay!) and I'll be getting my official engineer stamp later this month. My God. Nearly 6 years I've been doing this job. Now I'll have legal responsibility and all that crap.

Anyway...on the property front. Tomorrow is rent day and not one single tenant has called me yet for my money pick-up time. My #3 tenant is out of town until Monday for a wedding, but he's my brother so I know where to track him down. :) Upstairs chick is paid, but her cousin hasn't. I usually nab him on the porch sometime tomorrow. He pays with a cert. check so he's always good.

I'm pretty happy with my tenants right now. #1 tenant (this is not ranked in order of faves, only by unit # at the triplex by the way) has just moved in at the beginning of November, so this is the first time they have to pay in residence. I hope it goes well, I've had a few twinges about her. She seems okay, and doesn't give me any trouble, but this is usually when they try to push their boundaries.

#2 tenant usually calls me a day or two before rent is due, I'm wondering if she's Christmas-strapped. She has a 2-year-old granddaughter, so she may be waiting on payday. She also may be on afternoons this week. We shall see. I love her so I don't want to push her around, but she better be around before Sunday.

Our own personal bathroom hasn't even fucking been started yet. The toilet is leaking, the shower faucet is trashed, the shower surround is popping off (can't wait to see the water damage there) and the floor has some serious soft spots. We have been putting this off way too long.

I'm hoping my boss pays my Christmas bonus in Home Depot giftcards this year. That bathroom is going to cost us at least $1000 and give me some seriously grey hairs. Who guts their only bathroom and re-does it top to bottom?

Me. Crazy me. That's who. Anyone have a shower I can borrow for a few weeks?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

OMG? Who are you?

Yeah, I know. I haven't updated in forever. But seriously, folks - my life is not so interesting. I don't do anything except work, play baseball, and do renovations. I am SICK OF RENOVATING.

Haha, not really. I'm sick of renovating on a time crunch, because we are seriously running out of time and not one single thing is finished. Everything is *almost* finished. We need to finish SOMETHING!!

Well, the utility room is finished. Augh - no it's not! It has a new furnace and a brand spankin new water heater, but the electrical panel still needs two new breakers. Bah.

The kitchen is getting it's final coat of paint today, the colour is going on. I'm excited about that. Cabinets are partially built, countertop is ordered, tomorrow we go buy a stove. Fridge is clean.

The living room is our work area as it needed the least amount of effort. Only one short section of wall had to be replaced and the extension added to the heating ductwork. All it needs now is a coat of primer and paint. Too bad there's a big saw and piles of lumber and drywall all over the place!

The bedroom has had half of it's walls replaced, and the walk-in closet is all framed and insulated. Drywall needs to be finished in there. Paint.

The bathroom still needs a shower ceiling. All the busted ceiling tiles have to be replaced (we have them, they're in a pile in the living room). Ack!

Too much to do.

Other than that, my ball team finished 3rd with a record of 14-5-2. Pretty freaking good.

And we're going to the Dominican in January with Mike and Liz and seriously looking forward to it.

Have to go to a wedding on Labour Day weekend. Gah. In Oshawa.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

I am the awesomest!

For the past week and a half all I have been hearing is "We HAVE to get that apartment rented. Have to have to have to..." from the budget King. Mind you - he *IS* in charge of the finances and how much we owe and don't have. Ha! This was actually a pretty rotten month to close on a house, considering. We had to front end a year's worth of house insurance on the new property ($1200), April 30 is the quarterly property tax due date ($481 on new house, $760 on our duplex), and the every-tw-months hydro bills are due on the 17th (about $550 for the duplex, probably around $450 for the triplex). Yikes! And only two of four units occupied!

BUT. The problem with renting is that the cardinal rule is to list in the paper around the 15th of the month or you're wasting your ad fee. NOBODY responds to ads at any other time of the month, oddly. Since we closed on March 16, I figured on listing April 15, and May 1 would be a lost cause, have move-in to the first floor 1-bedroom on June 1. But at least I'd get a last month's deposit. I put it on the free websites and have shown it a few times, but mostly to lookie-loos..had a couple of people interested, but it didn't pan out.

Today, however, I rented the damn thing! SOLD! To the sister-in-law of my upstairs tenant. She loved the place. And she wants to move in May 1st. Amazing! I gave her a bit of a discount on the price but it was just to the low end of our threshold. I listed at $700 and figured on $650, which is what I got.

So excited. Well, relieved actually. And I came through on my part, as Rob said, with flying colours. We're a good team. He gets the bills paid and I get the cash flow. Damn!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007


I'm a terrible updater, eh? Ha. Too busy.

What's up in my life lately? The upstairs tenant moved in to the new house, loves it (of course). Her kids are great, she's super polite, and I hope they stay for a long, long time. It looks like they will, though. They think this is the nicest apartment they have ever seen! Her sister and brother-in-law were actually asking if we had anything else like it. :)

Downstairs is not flying off the shelf, but I haven't done any serious tenant-looking yet. It goes in the paper next weeek-ish so that should be okay. Really, we should get those last few things finished rather than saying to prospectives "This will be done before you move in...". Unfortunately, I need their deposit to do the work! :) My brother and his girlfriend are looking for a place right now, and they're sorta interested. Which would make things easy/difficult. I think it's more than they should be paying, but they really like it. I'm trying to steer him towards something almost as nice, but cheaper. I don't want to bankrupt my baby brother!

Besides the landlording, I'm finally relaxing a teensy bit. Work is insane, and I am SO looking forward to the long weekend. SO MUCH. You have no idea.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


So after we took possession we set right to work. First thing - figure out what we need to do.

The painting they did was horrible. So we have to finish that. Mom and Sister put a second coat on the foyer and Apartment #2's kitchen cabinets. They also did a good cleaning.

I Shop-vacced the fireplace in Apt 2, and went down to the basement to discover my prize! They had junked, but left (thank God! Probably due to its weight) the fireplace insert. It's glorious. A vintage, probably original cast iron grate, weighs about 75 pounds. And it's not painted! Apt #2 is about ready to go.

Apt #1 is already rented, and the horrid room is in there. It needs wallpaper and ugly-ass border stripped, and it needs to be primed and repainted. We have enough white paint to cover the red. And we have a various assortment of blue paints to make up a nice shade of calm blue for the room. It is going to be a boy's bedroom, so all is good. That's what we're doing tonight.

We also have to fix the kitchen light switch. That might get delayed until after can turn the light on and off, but it's a switch ON the fixture. You have to climb on a chair to do it. Mike is going to help me wire a new wall switch. And the railing on the second floor deck is not exactly safe. Ha. None of the spindels are attached at the bottom. Locks need to be changed. Stove for Apt #1 has been purchased and will be delivered on March 31. Two breakers are oversized and MUST be changed. Apt #2's bathroom needs towel rods, toilet paper holder, and a floor vent.

Don't even ask me about the basement apartment. That's a total re-do. :) At least we planned on that.

Then we had a kick-ass drunkfest BBQ for our friends and family, and our real estate agent and her husband. She really busted her butt for us, and she's 3 weeks from giving birth! We just had burgers and hotdogs, and people brought camp chairs to sit in. It was a blast and we didn't get home until 4am. Yay!

Then on Monday Rob went and spent the whole day in ER for a kidney stone! Yay! Way to mess up our plans, Fate! Ah well. At least he passed it, and is only a bit sore now. Not that he's doing any work. Boy has soccer tryouts for under 16 today, so Mom and Sister and I and Mike are doing the wallpaper mess tonight. Yay.

Before and after pictures to come!

Busy busy busy

Yes, I haven't updated in ages. But, really, everything has either been same old same old, or incredibly frustrating!

So, anyway - we closed on the house on Friday! Not without a great deal of drama, mind you. We had our "substantial completion" inspection on February 21, where nothing (of course) was anywhere near completed. In the contract of sale, they were to finish painting to our satisfaction, and replace a wall they were in the process of tearing down. Not so much, really. Oh, and clean all the crap out of the basement. There was a lot of crap. At the end of our inspection, we left a laundry list. Because, well, finishing painting also involves replacing switchplates and cabinet hardware, in my opinion.

So, final inspection last Wednesday. For those of you who have not sold a house, final inspection takes place after the seller has given up a copy of the keys to their lawyer, but before the buyer takes possession. Basically, you should be packed and ready to move, or already moved. It usually is one or two days before closing day.

Yeah. We showed up on Wednesday, closing is Friday. Nothing is done. Guy isn't even PACKED. No painting finished. No clean-up in basement. Oh - wall is replaced. Badly.

We call the lawyer, say "What now?" Lawyer says, negotiate a price decrease. Set agent to work. Ha! We FINALLY hear from them Thursday night, and it's this - "We're finishing the work. We'll be done by 6 tomorrow."

FREAK OUT!!! Keys must be exchanged, money signed over, before 5pm on closing day. Technically, you aren't even supposed to be there past midnight the night before. Frantic calls go out, no response from selling agent. No response Friday morning either. We start to panic. Have plans for the weekend! Tenants moving in April 1, need to complete work! If they delay closing past 5pm, we won't be able to close until Monday!

Call lawyer again. Lawyer sends cease and desist letter to seller's lawyer. Basically, contact us for meeting before we take possession or we WILL delay.

They call, frantic. Will sue if we delay. HAHAHAHAHA!! Apparently, now it's *OUR* fault they've delayed everything. I finally saw the place at 2pm on Friday, and said "STOP PAINTING!" The colour is awful, the work is terrible. At least the basement junk is gone.

Seller begs and pleads and mistakenly tells me he HAS to close because otherwise his other purchase will fall through because -TADA- he has no bridge financing.

I don't want bad karma, so I agree to sign off. I then get the keys from my lawyer, thereby releasing his money to him, and sit in my parked car for 2.5 hours watching them move out of MY house. The fiancee even dared tosay "You don't have to sit there and stare at us you know!" Yes. I do. You're trespassing and I *could* call the police.

To Be Continued...

Monday, January 22, 2007

The house

Here it is!


Pretty, eh?

I have no inside pictures because I was trotting around with the inspector and he only took pictures of things like the hydrostat and plug sockets and plumbing.

So we waived our conditions today and have officially bought this house, to close on March 16. Gah. Remind me again that this was a good idea?!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Now the fun (not) truly begins

Booked the house/fire inspection this morning. $550 for that. He's coming on Saturday which is good, since I don't want to take time off work for that.

Rob is arranging the deposit to the seller's agent. $5000.

Arranged financing with mortgage broker. $5270 CMHC fees because we are only putting down 3%. At least they'll roll that into the mortgage. 5.2% 5-year fixed rate mortgage.

Called lawyer to let him know documents were on their way, gave him the heads up. $1500 for fees and disbursements.

Gave the insurance company the heads-up that we'd be swarming them soon. I don't know what that will be $$-wise.

And good God, I have to buy my license stickers ($75) and my professional license needs renewal (Happy Birthday, give us $250!).

Buying a house ain't cheap!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

We bought a house!

Oh yes. I didn't expect this to get done in a week. Crazy. I don't have a picture of the house, unfortunately.

We saw the place Friday night. We walked in and said, "This is the one!" It's a triplex. First floor appartment is 1-bedroom, all original wood, brand new carpets, paint, kitchen stuff (sink, fixtures). Good colour taste too. Second appartment is 2 floors, on second floor a bedroom, living room, kitchen, bathroom, on third floor another bedroom. The amazing thing about this one is the bathroom. Slate floors, cathedral ceilings, a SKYLIGHT! All new paint, carpet, fixtures up here, too. Third apartment is the basement, pretty typical 1-bedroom, but pretty bright and spacious for a basement. It needs a bit of finish work (paint).

So we get home, and it's listed for the ridiculous price of $179,900. What the heck is wrong? This is nicer than most of what we've seen at 210. We make an offer and figure out why. Two young guys bought this house last year to flip it for a profit, and they now HATE each other and are out of money. They need to sell, and they need to sell fast.

So we bought it for $170,000. I should say we stole it. Amazing. Who knew we could be so lucky? Well - it still has to pass inspection, but we shall see. He had an inspection done when he bought it a year ago, and he's insured. So I don't think it'll be a problem.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Are we crazy? Yes, we are!

Holy man. We're standing on the precipice, about to take the plunge. Teetering there, every day asking "Are you sure? Should we?"

The make or break moment is fast approaching. We have crazy people willing to lend us vast mortgages for basically nothing, we have a hard-working real estate agent, and we have a plan. Hopefully the plan is solid and the numbers crunch together properly. We shall see. This is not short-term riches, but long-term savings and retirement plan. However, you still want to at least break even while you're paying for these types of investments. are some of the houses we're looking at:

33 Nightingale, 3-plex, nets about $200 a month:

203 Grenfell, another 3-plex, does alright:

143 Avondale, 4-plex, good income, bad-ish neighborhood:

And then, the top of the line, 21 Proctor. If you know Hamilton at all, this is a beautiful street and even in bad landlord times tenants line up to rent here. This is expensive and barely within our top price range. But it actually makes money, since the rent is high:

This is only a few of what we're looking at. We're going to see these places tonight. We've already seen 6 and completely eliminated 4 of them. Of the other 2, one is still a maybe, the other is a definite yes but unfortunately they JUST accepted someone else's offer. Bah. Snipers.