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Comments Off on Flip This Duplex? Or Not?

Squirrel CondosOver the last several years, it seems as if almost everyone I meet is, on some level, addicted to HG-TV. We’ve all watched those shows and now dream of finding a fixer upper at a steal of a price. We think, “with just some paint, carpet and of course, stainless appliances…I could turn a $20,000 profit for just a weekend of sweat equity.”

OK, here are the facts. In the peak of the housing market I saw that happen…once in a while. Most of the successful rehabbers, however, were professional contractors; with crews. It was the only thing they did for a living.

So many of the foreclosures on the market are half-finished rehabs. And it doesn’t take a novelist to imagine the story behind each one. Someone bought it to flip it, and it took more money and time than they ever imagined.

In spite of this, everyone still has the “Flip This House” mentality. Even with duplexes.

The other day I showed four duplexes. All were either short sales or foreclosures, with some level of deferred maintenance. They ranged in price from $114,000 to slightly less than $260,000. All were in different, but equally terrific locations.

The least expensive was a converted single family home with some decent turn-of-the-century woodwork. As with most of these properties, the upstairs unit lacked a true living room. That unit also featured a makeshift kitchen and the most unconventional, skinny bathroom I’ve ever seen. The basement had one enormous octopus gravity furnace. And the soffits on the exterior of the home had clearly been converted to squirrel condos.

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What About The Toilet?

said on May 9th, 2008 categorized under: Buying A Duplex, Home Repair

2 Comments »

Not That IntimidatingOne of the questions I am most frequently asked by people considering purchasing their first multi-family property has to do with plumbing. More specifically, the toilet.

It seems the biggest fear about becoming a landlord is there will be a phone call in the middle of the night that a tenant’s toilet has backed up. And it will be up to the landlord to fix it.

First, I have been a landlord for over a decade. And in all those years, the only time I ever had a middle-of-the-night plumbing call was when a water heater actually burst and was spewing water everywhere. My inconvenience? Calling the plumber and signing the check! (It was the least I could do — my tenants were buying me my property after all.)

When it comes to toilets, however, a plumber charges too much. And, here’s a tip: they’re really, really easy and inexpensive to repair.

I had zero experience with fixing them prior to becoming a landlord. But I’d had the good fortune of stumbling across Home Depot’s book, Home Improvement 1-2-3. It had pictures, well, more accurately, how-to cartoons of almost every conceivable home repair or improvement. I took that book with me everywhere: propped it up on the back of toilet tanks, crawled under sinks with it…you get the idea.

The good news is, Home Depot still publishes it. The bad? No more cartoons. Just pictures.

And, if Home Depot’s actually closed, there’s always www.fixatoilet.com. No kidding.