Friday, July 29, 2005

Another Update on Cabinets

Keith called me this morning to give me an update on the plans. At the time, he said the cabinets would be in today and the countertops were being installed in the afternoon. He said he would have to do some work on Monday - the cabinets the first guy made had no end panels, meaning the side that faced into the room was just raw wood. So Keith picked up some panels and took them to get them finished the same color as the cabinets. Those won't be ready until Monday and that's what he's got to install them.

This afternoon at 5 PM, he called to give me another update. Two-thirds of the upper cabinets are in and screwed together. They've still got one or two more to put up, which will be done on Monday. He hasn't heard yet on if the panels are finished, so if they aren't done by noon or so on Monday, he may have to come back on Tuesday. The countertops are all in and the sinks are installed. Keith also mentioned he picked up some lazy susans for the two corner cabinets, which did not have any.

So pretty good news so far. I also spoke with someone about clearing the weeds and they will be in the area on Tuesday to give me a quote for that. I'm hoping he can also get the job done on Tuesday, but if he can't, I'm going to go ahead and list the property anyway, assuming all the other stuff is done.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Countertops Going In Friday

I spoke with Keith today and he tells me the countertops are in and will be installed on Friday! Keith suggested I ask if Corbin, the countertop guy, could install the sinks in the bathrooms. This is something of a sore point with me. Originally, Corbin said he likes to install sinks because he can pick up some extra money, but he would not be able to do it for me due to time constraints. This was back before we had to re-order the countertops, so he might have more time now. When I spoke with Keith last week, he indicated that Corbin told him he would install the sinks. Now, I’m supposed to ask again. Ugh. Anyway, I called Corbin and got his voicemail, so I left a message asking if he would be able to do it. Personally, Corbin strikes me as someone who does stuff only if he feels like it. This is twice now that I have talked to Keith and he has said “Oh, didn’t Corbin call you?” The difference between Keith and Corbin is striking.

The tree in the front yard should be trimmed by now and if not, it should be done by the end of the week. Today, I’ll start lining up someone to clear the weeds in the front and back yards. If all goes well Friday, I’ll try to head out there this weekend and do a bit of cleaning and then get the house listed!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Another Cashflow Day!

Yesterday, I received a check for almost $1,450 from another one of the foreclosure investing LLCs I am in. Over the past year, this LLC is returning about 31% and the annualized ROI for the 18 months I've been in it is around 22%. Not too bad. This money is being turned right around and reinvested with the same people. If you recall, my goal was to get into 6 of these ventures so that I will be receiving a check each month. This latest one, assuming I get in (and I haven't gotten confirmation yet), will make four.

In reading the first post I linked to above, I realized that my cashflow from the Indian casino has dried up. Apparently they discovered I was simply redeeming the $5 coupons and never playing, so they stopped sending me the newsletter. Either that or they stopped the newsletter for the summer, which might be possible since so many people leave town for the summer months. These "snowbirds," as we call them, are probably the casino's main target audience. Oh well. Easy come, easy go.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Finally, A Callback

One of the tree services I emailed finally called me back. I got a voicemail Thursday around 4:30 PM asking if I was still needing service. I called back and got the guy's voicemail, so I left a message telling him yes, I still needed service and gave him some details. I didn't hear anything Friday or Saturday. Sunday afternoon rolls around and I get a phone call from the guy. He's calling me from the property and quotes me $275 to trim the dead parts off the tree and $450 to remove the tree and grind the stump away. He tells me the tree is half dead. Since I am going to be selling the place, I think even half a tree would look better than nothing, so I opt for the trim. It should be done Tuesday, but I told him as long as it was finished this week, that would be ok. He's going to send me a bill and, supposedly, call me when it is done. I say supposedly because when I asked him to call me when it was done, he sounded a little put out. I guess that's not something he normally does. But heck, if he's willing to work on a Sunday afternoon, I think he should be willing to follow up and call me when the job is complete.

The tree probably hasn't been watered since I bought the property. I did not see an irrigation system, so I guess the previous owners watered it with a hose. I never thought about watering it of course, since I didn't plan on holding the property as long as I have. We had some storms over the weekend, so the rain should help the tree. It also looks pretty mature and I hope it has deep roots and can find water somewhere underground. Lord knows that with the 110+ degree weather we've been having lately, there isn't much water to be found above ground!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

I Have A Dream

In the wee hours of the night, as moonlight falls across my bed and I drift off to sleep, I have a dream that comforts and soothes me. This dream fills my sleeping mind with feelings of joy and visions of carefree days filled with rainbows and cotton-candy clouds. Bunny rabbits with bushy, white tails frolic and tumble over one another in vast, gently rolling fields of soft, green grass. The air is fragrant with the scent of wildflowers and filled with the lilting melodies of songbirds. Butterflies quiver and dance to and fro in a soft breeze. And in this wondrous land, there are no cabinets.

It is my sincere hope that, in about 10 days or so, my rehab project will be done. I haven’t heard from anyone this week, but I wasn’t expecting to. The countertops aren’t due until sometime next week and the cabinets should be being worked on. So, in anticipation of the job being done, I’ve started contacting tree trimming services to get quotes on taking care of the tree in the front yard. This is proving surprisingly difficult.

I have gone to the websites of two companies that provide tree trimming services. Each one had an on-line form you could use to request a quote. I’ve filled out both of them and waited. And waited some more. It would seem no one wants to call me back. This is one of the things I dislike about trying to do business on the internet. I guess I’m going to have to break down and actually use the phone. How quaint.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Joe Strikes Back

Joe, the fool cabinet maker I had originally hired, and who has given me nothing but problems, problems, and more problems, has bit me again. Keith and Corbin called me tonight from the property and Keith said he needed me to make an executive decision. It seems Joe had measured wrong or built wrong or just screwed up in some other way and did not make the cabinets wide enough on the bottom. There is a 1.5 inch gap between the stove and the cabinets on both sides of the stove. And the countertops are built to the dimensions of the cabinets, so that means the counter tops, which were supposed to be installed today, were also short. Keith said we could go as is and leave the gap or wait two weeks for a new countertop to be made. *sigh*

If I was just renting the place, I'd probably just live with the gap. But since I am planning on selling, I really can't let the gap stay. It'll be a major drawback and probably the most glaring thing in an otherwise completely rebuilt kitchen. So I opted to get new countertops and be stuck with a two week delay. After making my decision, Keith said that's the choice he would have made too. It's better to do things right the first time.

So Keith will go ahead and work on the kitchen cabinets next week and Corbin will order the new countertop on Monday. One piece of good news is that the bathroom vanities are in, including the countertops. The sinks are not installed though. Corbin didn't have time to do them today, but he agreed to install them when he returns in two weeks with the new countertop.

This is why I'm not bothering with the weeds in the yard until I know everything is done.

Another Update Phone Call From Keith

Wow.. Keith the cabinet guy seems to be very big on communication! I got a call last night at 8 PM from him telling me he was heading over to the house to drop off some cabinet doors. He said he found some doors that should fit the weird corner cabinets Joe made and hung. If they work, he said they'll save me $800! The problem is those corner cabinets are pretty wacky and have a wider than normal opening. If the opening is too wide, I'd need to have those cabinets replaced. Although, now that I think about it, I wonder why you couldn't just make custom doors, which should be cheaper (although it would take longer, given the backlog at all the door manufacturers in town.) Anyway, it's a moot point, since he believes the doors he found will work.

I think I've gotten a call from either Keith or the countertop guy (Corbin) every day this week with updates. I like it!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Deja Vu - Damaged Goods

Got a call from the countertop guy today. He said the countertop material came back from being cut, but it was damaged and he sent it back. He's also waiting for the templates for the vanities from Keith. He says the countertops will still be done on Saturday. Seems like I've been down this damaged-goods road before.

Good Communication

I got a call from Keith yesterday around 3 PM just to give me a status update. The countertop guy was delayed a day, so he won't get going on my stuff until today. Everything else is going fine. The job is still on track to be completed early next week. I love the fact that this guy calls me to give me updates instead of me having to call him all the time!

I still need to set up tree service to trim the tree that was damaged in the last storm. Hopefully, the same company will also clear the weeds from the yard. I'm holding off on doing this until just before the house goes on the market, so I'm going to wait for another day or two before setting this up.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Countertops Are Being Installed

I got hold of the cabinet guy when I got home last night and he and the countertop guy were able to connect and work things out. The bathroom vanities were ordered and are being picked up today. Keith, the cabinet guy, will install those. He also picked up some sinks, so it turns out I won't have to get those elsewhere. Then the countertops in the bathrooms and kitchen will be installed today. Keith won't be able to finish the kitchen until next week due to previous commitments, but he thinks he will be done by Tuesday or Wednesday.

I also pointed out to Keith that I haven't received a quote yet for this work :-) He said he forgot, and will get one to me today. When I spoke with him, he didn't even have a price on the vanities - he ordered them before he left on vacation, knowing he needed them, but never got a price. Anyway, he assures me he'll give me a fair price for the job. He said he is a professional and expects to be paid like one, but he's not going to charge me extra just because he knows I'm in a tight spot right now and need the work done. He said in the long run, he can make more money being fair than by trying to gouge people here and there. He estimated a day and a half of his labor, plus parts. I must say I really like the guy so far.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

I Need a PDA Or Something

The countertop guy called me today and said he'd like to get the counters installed tomorrow. (Yay!) Unfortunately, he's not sure if the cabinet guy has got the bathroom vanities installed yet and can't reach him on the phone to ask. I haven't heard from him either. He was supposed to be back from vacation yesterday and I was planning on calling him this afternoon anyway, but now, there is a little more urgency to reach him. The problem is I am at work and I don't have the cabinet guy's phone number and I can't remember the name of his company to look it up! Ugh!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Selling Aid: House Staging

I was reading through the latest issue of Personal Real Estate Investor Magazine and came across an article about companies that offer "house staging" services. This is a service for people who are selling or renting a home and want it to move quickly or for more money (and who doesn't want that?) These companies come in and redecorate the entire house or just a couple rooms in a neutral but inviting way so that potential buyers or renters will feel at home. It's also useful if your house has an odd shaped room, such as a triangular room. If such a room was empty, viewers might wonder how they could furnish it and, not having any ideas, that room could turn into a negative selling point. But if the house is staged, the viewer can see an idea of how to furnish it, easing their fears.

If your house is empty, the company will bring in furniture, paintings, window dressings, etc. If your house is furnished, they will modify your decor so that it reflects less of "you" and more of a "generic homey feeling."

The article didn't mention prices, but they claim customers get a 40% return on their investment. One person interviewed for the article said he got a 300% return. I don't think I'll do this on the house I am currently fixing up, simply because I've already put more money into it that I wanted, but I will keep this in mind for future houses. I think a service like this would help most when an investor is selling a house they fixed up, since those homes are typically empty.

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Are You Collecting Sales Tax On Your Rentals?

This article in my local newspaper highlights an important issue with landlords: many are not aware they are supposed to be collecting city sales tax on their rental income. In addition to the sales tax, I discovered you also need to register the property as a rental property with the county. What happens if you don't do this? Penalties vary by city, but you could face fines of up to 25% of the value of back taxes owed, plus a fine of $1,000 for not registering the property as a rental property. Lack of manpower meant that, in the past, you could fail to do these things and manage to escape detection fairly easily. However, with the real estate boom and the large increase in the number of rental properties, cities have realized this is now a huge source of revenue they are missing out on and are starting to throw resources at it. Chandler, Arizona hired an ASU grad student to search through real estate and utility records looking for mismatches, which may indicate rental units. So far, they've collected $33,000.

When I first got my rental property, I didn't know I needed to collect tax until my CPA mentioned it. It wasn't a big deal, but it did mean I had to pay $20 a month in sales tax, plus about $50 a year for a sales tax collection license. Had I known I needed to collect tax, I would have included it in the rent I charged my tenant. Instead, I had to take a drop in my cashflow of $20 a month.

Tuesday, July 5, 2005

Countertop Installer Called

I spoke with the countertop installer today and he's going to check the place out on Saturday. I asked if he would still be able to get the job done by the 15th, like the cabinet guy told me, and he says he thinks so. Apparently, it's just a one day job. He might be able to install sinks and plumbing at the bathroom vanities as well, but he's not sure. He said if he could get it done in one day, he would like to, since he likes the extra money, but he's not sure until he sees the job. So I'm going to plan on him not installing them.

Joe Returns

I got a call from Joe, the old cabinet guy today. He wanted to send me a fax. The fax at the number he currently has is out of ink and apparently, it's not accepting new faxes. He first asked me for another fax number so he could fax me some paperwork. I told him I was done dealing with him and refused to give him a number. He said ok and hung up.

About 30 seconds later, he called me back and told me the owner of the trailer wants to know where the trailer is. I told Joe I did what I told him I was going to do in my fax. Joe is claiming he was out of town and didn't get my fax until just now and he was going to fax me his plane tickets to prove it. I told him I have been telling him for at least a month that I wanted the trailer gone and I asked Joe why he hadn't hauled it away in all that time. He never answered that question. Joe said the owner was going to report the trailer stolen. I explained that, since Joe was not returning my phone calls or faxes and that the trailer had been sitting on my property for months, it was an abandoned vehicle and I had spoken with the city and they told me I could do what I wanted with it. I also told Joe I was done talking to him and hung up.

Friday, July 1, 2005

Trailer Gone And New Cabinets Moving Forward

I got a call from the new cabinet guy last night. He's faxed his drawing to the countertop guy who will need to visit the house and make a template. He (Countertop Guy) thinks he can get this done by the 15th, so that's pretty good - only two weeks, and one of those days is a holiday. Cabinet Guy thinks he can be done by then as well - good when you consider he's leaving on a 1 week vacation today. I don't have a quote yet, but I'm told it will be fair. Countertop Guy will be calling me to get instructions on entering the house sometime soon so he can make his template.

I also swung by the place yesterday and confirmed the trailer was taken away, along with the trash on it. Yay! The property looks better already!

Relating to the trailer - I had about 100 responses to the offer I posted on craigslist come in within an hour. I responded to the first 10, telling them I was offering it to people in the order their responses were received. I gave each person 24 hours to go check out the trailer and haul it away. The first responder didn't get to it in time, so I offered it to the second, who took it. Once I confirmed it was taken, I then spent about 1.5 hours emailing all 90+ people telling them the trailer was no longer available. This was about 48 hours after I posted the offer. I got many responses back from people thanking me for following up but one idiot actually complained that I didn't respond fast enough to suit him! He accused me of leaving him hanging, proceeded to call me names, and said I probably didn't go in order, but sold the trailer to whoever offered me money for it. He said he responded within minutes of my ad going up and apparently he couldn't comprehend that he wasn't fast enough. (He was the 53rd responder.) And no one offered me money for the trailer. Anyway, I'm just appalled that some people can get so snotty when someone offers them something for free!
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