Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Reclaimed Lumber: From Trash to Treasure

I recently made improvements to a rental property where we removed an old collapsed porch roof and made the space an open deck.  While disassembling the roof, I was impressed with the weight and heft of the beams used.  While some were rotted due to water damage, the remaining ones were worth saving.
We reused most of the old 2X4s when reconstructing a lean-to style roof over the laundry room.  Yet, in the end, I had a lot of leftovers.

I couldn't bring myself to throw the rest of this away, so I put an ad on KSL advertising "FREE Victorian Era Lumber".  But why would somebody want this old lumber?  As it turns out, it is much better than the new stuff that is being made.

Below is a cross section of two 2x4s.  The one on the left is over 100 years old.  The other on the right is about 5 years old.  Both of these are pine.  The old lumber has very tight and dense rings.  The new lumber on the right has broad rings.  The difference comes from how lumber is grown and harvested.  Old lumber was from virgin slow growth trees.  Today's lumber is grown on tree farms where the trees are given growth hormones.  Old growth trees took 100 years to reach maturity.  Today's trees are ready to harvest in 20.  Thus, today's lumber has more of the characteristic of balsa wood than it does it's rugged predecessors.   

Fortunately, this value is recognized by a few people in the market and I received several calls from folks wanting the wood.  "Junk Man Dave" showed up and hauled it away.

I asked folks what they would use the lumber for.  Answers ranged from wall paneling to antique looking wheel barrows to planter boxes.  I am just glad it found a new home and was able to be reused.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Ogden Valley Development: Edgewater Estates

One of Ogden Valley's most exciting development projects is currently being organized. Edgewater Estates will be located just west of Lakeside Village on lake front property and also at the base of the road to Snowbasin ski resort.  What makes this project so unique is its combination of residential, recreation, and retail commercial space.  It will be unlike almost any property in Ogden Valley.

Here is a layout of the master plan for the project (click to enlarge):

If you are interested in learning more about this up and coming development in one of Utah's best resort locations, contact me.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Junk Trees: Dealing with the Pernicious Chinese Elm

For the last several years I have been trying to figure out a plan to remove junk trees from my properties.  The most prominent problem was a chinese elm tree straddling the property line of two of our properties.

Junk trees are notoriously resilient to pruning and damage.  When their seeds land in fence lines of absentee owner's properties, they grow unabated and turn into landscaping eyesores.  Often they will grow into fences and destroy concrete.  Such was the case with the tree I was tackling.

You can always tell a chinese elm from the leaf structure.  It has serrated edges and an easily identifiable shape.   The leaves will drip sap on your car or anything else you leave under it. It also casts seeds everywhere in the spring. 

They were once thought of as a good idea by pioneers to the area since they grow without water.  They are extremely drought resistant.  That is great when you are a pioneer.  Today they are a scourge.

If you look carefully, you can see the guy wire that has been "consumed" by rampant tree growth.  Looking at the tree rings, it appears the tree grew about an inch or more in diameter each year.

The stump will require an aggressive regiment of herbicide treatment to kill permanently.  If left as it is, it will bounce back with a vengeance next season.

Here is a photo of the landscape before the tree was removed:

 Here is the view afterwards:

If you have a junk tree that needs to be removed, let me know and I can put you in contact with my tree guy.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How To Screen Tenants: Criteria and The Sweet Spot

Screening tenants is as much art as it is science.  There are a wide variety of risk variables to consider and no two situations are exactly the same.

Nevertheless, as a professional property manager, I make it a point to have clearly defined criteria for qualifying tenants to rent.

A landlord wants to find the best person to live in and pay rent for his property.  As such, landlord is concerned about three things:

1.  Preservation of the property condition
2.  Timely and consistent rent payments
3.  Tenants minding their own business and being neighborly

As long as all three of these conditions are met, landlords are typically  ill-advised to interject themselves into the lives of their tenants or micromanage the way they live.  

To make sure these three conditions are met, I follow a rigorous screening process that looks heavily at risk factors.  Here are the qualities of tenants who I typically approve applications for:

1.  Good rental history
2.  No pets
3.  No smoke
4.  Income is 3 times rent
5.  No felonies

Of course, we never discriminate based on protected classes.  You shouldn't either.  We are interested rather in the economic viability of a tenant.

Notice that "Good Credit" is not one of my key criteria.  Tenants are tenants for a reason and I understand many life circumstances can destroy credit.  Such experiences include bankruptcy, divorce, a medical wipe out, and/or identity theft. I consider credit when reviewing the application but I am often looking for key red flags.  A good rental history will often but not always override concerns about bad credit. 

To illustrate who I look for in a tenant, I have put together this chart:

Many of the pools of people overlap each other but the the number of folks that fit in every category is pretty small.  Hence, it may take a little longer to rent a property following this criteria.  However, the rewards for screening are well worth it.

My experience has also taught me that there is a caliber of tenant that will almost certainly result in the destruction of a property or significantly degrade its condition to a point that future tenant quality is impaired unless expensive renovations occur.  This tenant falls into the center of these three categories:

The objective of a landlord is to get the best tenant possible for his property given its current condition.  As carpet wears, paint fades, and neighborhoods change, rent prices will fluctuate.  Tenant quality in turn will also change relative to rent price.  A tenant that is allowed to have a big dog in their unit may make significant changes to the condition of that property.  This change may result in the unit being "pet friendly" until the owner can afford to stain block floors, repaint, and replace carpets.  Pets are an expensive proposition.

Yet, despite all these risk factors, there are things can can be done to compensate if a tenant does not fit perfectly in the ideal tenant category.  Adjusting the deposit, or asking for a co-signor are an excellent way to work around some of the problems that can come up.  This also reduces risk for the landlord and provides more assurance that the tenant will perform on their obligations.

Being a landlord requires some careful thought and risk management skills.  If applied properly and equitably, screening criteria can make being a landlord a rewarding and worthwhile experience.

In the meantime, if you are looking for a professional property manager, contact me and I will show you how our services make owning investment real estate hassle free for you.  

Friday, May 11, 2012

FOR SALE: Historic Arts and Crafts Style Duplex

This grand home located at 2370 Madison Ave. was built in 1909.  It boasts over 3200 SQFT, 2 original fireplaces, original woodwork, brick construction, and all the Arts & Crafts ornamentation characteristic of the era.

The home is currently arranged as a duplex with tenants upstairs and and on the main level.  The basement is large and used currently for storage.  The home has a 2 car garage/carriage house in the back with a private yard.

The property would make a good investment or could be converted back to a single family home for elegant living.  Here is the video tour of the property:

If you are interested in this property and want details on financing terms, rents, and other specifics, please contact me.

Home Improvement Hilarity: More From the Rogue's Gallery

I have been looking at a lot of homes lately while shopping with clients.  Sometimes the things I see are just too hilarious for me not to photograph and share.

Funny home improvement

Ever wonder why your knees and nose hurt every time you go downstairs?

When your red brick just isn't red enough, you can always paint it redder.  There, that's better.

Want black trim on your stove?  Spray paint does the trick...sort of.  NOTE: Spray paint is not heat tolerant.

This is really an oddity.  The home grown mini-fireplace surrounded in bookshelf-esque masonry work.  Interesting....

I am not sure if this massive gaudy light fixture was put in the back entrance hall to hide it from everyone or if this was a special place in the home.  The jury is still out.

That's all for now...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Restoring Old Homes: The Timeless Cedar Shake

One of the common materials used in building old homes was the cedar shake.  It was light weight, weather resistant, and aesthetically appealing.  However, as old growth cedar has been mostly harvested, the price has increased significantly and made cedar roofs much more expensive.

Nevertheless, cedar also has useful applications as siding.  Many old homes have dormers, porches, or gables that are sided with cedar shake.  My home is such an example.

Here is an example of a stairway I built for a rental property.

The OSB board is used to cover the 2X4 studs but is really unsightly.  The property was built in 1910 and the sheeting is really not very appealing.  I needed to cover it with something but vinyl was too ugly and paint would just look terrible as well.  I decided to go with a traditional cedar shake siding.  Here is the result:

That looks alot better.  There is still some trim work to be done but this compliments the rest of the buildling.

So what do you do when the surfaces you are working with don't fit together?  We ran into this problem with a home we restored at 2670 Jefferson Ave. years ago.  Here is a snapshot:

As you can see, this house was in really bad shape.  It also was a series of additions that were constructed over decades.  The roof behind the sunporch had a strange parapet that I had to fabricate a metal overlay for.  The roof beyond that was put on in the 1970's.  The dormer was OSB board.  Very strange and difficult to tie together.  Yet, with the power of the cedar shake, we were able to pull it all together.

If you are looking for some cedar shakes in Ogden, Utah, the best place is ABC Roofing on 21st Street.  They are on the south side of the road just before Flying J.  Call in advance because they often have to order them in.  They are about $50 a bundle right now. 

So now that you know, get out there and start shaking your siding.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

FOR SALE: Turn-Key Triplex Investment Property

For those of you shopping for an investment property, I present 835 E. 27th Street in Ogden for your consideration.

Built as a true triplex in 1949, the home is in excellent repair.  The building is three units with a 3 bed, 2 bed, and 1 bed unit.  Utilities are all separate metered and paid for by the tenants.  The property has newer appliances and the grounds we well kept.

Here is a video montage of the property:

The property currently yields a return on investment of 12% annually.  Please contact me for current pricing, rent, and operating expenses.  This will make a perfect investment for someone's portfolio.

Monday, May 7, 2012

DEMOLITION: Historic Ogden School District Building Razed

I was cruising down 20th Street the other day in Ogden and notice a dramatic change in the landscape.  Here is a photo of a cool old building found on the Ogden School District administrative campus from several years ago:

The structure was quite large, extending almost a quarter length of the city block.  I thought it was also architecturally significant with great lines and ornamental brick work.

 Here is the scene I fell upon recently:

The whole edifice is gone.  When I inquired with the guy holding the hose what happened, he indicated that the roof was bad on the building and the bid to replace it came in at $1,000,000.  Wow!  It was much less expensive for the school district to knock the building down and turn it into landscaping. 

It is sad to see this building go but the resources of the school district are lean.  As stewards of public funds, I suspect the School District couldn't justify the repair expense to the public that it serves.

This building was quite different than Ogden High School which recently was the focus of a restoration and preservation effort.  Not only did taxpayer funds support the preservation effort, but private funds paid for the most elaborate and expensive part of restoring the amphitheater.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Marketing Rentals: The Yard Factor

As the lawn growing season approaches, it is important for landlords to consider their curb appeal.   I always find examples in the real world a valuable teaching tool.

For today's lesson, I will use two properties on my block, one across the street from the other.

Here is our first example:

This yard has missed the first and second mowing opportunities of the year.  Is anyone excited about renting this home?  Across the street we have this example which is also for rent:

Curb appeal makes a big difference in attracting quality tenants and lifting up a neighborhood.  There is something to be said about having dignity in being a landlord.

For my yard care I use Master Maintenance.  Call Jeremiah at 801-814-0183.  He is affordable and provides a good service.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Before and After: Parking As A Landlord Priority

One of the biggest impediments to getting good tenants at a property is providing adequate parking.  I recently took on a rental property for a client that has never had parking.  It shares a common driveway with a duplex and here is what the end of the driveway came to for this property:

After visiting with the owner, we determined that it would be a tremendous benefit to install the parking pad.  Here is the 13' X 18' result:

This rental property should see an increase in performance as an asset.  Tenants that have cars have jobs.  Tenants that have jobs pay the rent. 

If you are looking for a quality concrete contractor who is tremendously affordable, give Gary Cobia a call at 801-663-0321.  He does good work.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Photo Of The Day: Laundry Basket Ball Hoop

I found this at a property I viewed recently:

This is the more affordable alternative to purchasing one of those Lifetime brand Basketball standards.