Rental Properties Landlord Horror Story
Twenties Thirties Forties Fifties

Dark Side of Rental Properties – A Landlord’s Horror Story

Becoming a landlord and investing in rental properties was the worst mistake I’ve ever made financially.  My story will scare you into thinking twice about trying to become the next “Donald” of your town.

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A Word of Caution Aspiring Investors of Rental Properties

Dear Aspiring Landlord,

I’m crafting this letter in case you ever mention a desire to own rental properties. Please understand the risks and emotional downsides before you dive into any sort of property ownership for the purpose of generating rental income as a landlord. I want to share with you my horror story that exposes the negative side of real estate investing.

There are many who have succeeded and the internet is filled with stories of sunshine and rainbows. Your grandfather managed apartment buildings for decades and ended up in positive territory. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but the risks, headaches, and potential to ruin you are greatly understated by the real estate gurus and media.

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Let me take you back to 2005. I’m sitting in the living room and this new reality show finishes up called “The Apprentice.” It featured Donald Trump testing a bunch of Entrepreneurs in a series of challenges. “The Donald” evaluated their wits, business savviness, and debate skills in a competition for a lucrative position within the Trump Organization.

Before Trump became President, he was an extremely successful real estate investor and built a brand that is known worldwide. “The Apprentice” captivated me and I was immediately driven to try my hand as a landlord and invest in rental properties.

When the show concluded, I sat your mother down and we discussed purchasing our first rental property. She has always been greatly supportive in my side hustles over the years, but this is the first time that we would need to generate sufficient capital to start. She was hesitant, but agreed. If I could go back in time, I would whisper into her ear, “Fight harder and stop him at all costs.”

I was naive and lacking a very important quality that I now embrace, “Know what you don’t know.” I did not admit to myself that I had no idea what I was getting into. Your grandfather made it seem easy enough, so how hard could it be. The next morning I called our Realtor and told her what I wanted to do. We looked at a number of properties and settled on a 4 unit apartment building in town.

The Apartment Building That Cost Me a Fortune

At the time, the property seemed like a great deal and we purchased it for $231,000 in 2005.

Landlord Apartment Building

Rental Property Napkin Math

Please don’t ever use a napkin to calculate Return on Investments.  Now that I’m recounting this tale, I’m quite frustrated with how poorly I researched this decision.  With the newfound motivation from “The Apprentice”, I just wanted to get started and become “The Donald” of town.  How immature of me.

My ridiculous napkin math looked good.  With all four Units rented out, the property would produce $2,750 a month or $33,000 annually. Some of the utilities were separate so I naively figured annual expenses were:

$19,200 mortgage
$1,000 Electric
$2,000 Heating
$1,200 Insurance
$1,000 Maintenance and repairs
$3,000 Water

$2,750 (Income)$2, 283 (Expenses) = $467 a month PROFIT

In my mind, it was a no lose situation. We would also build equity. Boy was I wrong!

Rental Property Real Math

Looking through the records I still have, we only averaged $23,000 annually instead of the $33,000 predicted. This was due to the tenants you’re about to meet, vacancies, and the lovely Murphy’s Law.  In reality, our annual expenses averaged:

$19,200 mortgage
$1,300 Electric
$4,000 Heating
$1,600 Insurance
$5,700 Maintenance and repairs
$3,200 Water
$800 Legal

$1,916 (Income)$2, 984 (Expenses) = $1,068 a month LOSS

Over the course of 5 years, that equals roughly $64,080 operational costs that your mom and I put into the property to keep it going…and that’s not even close to the end of it.

Meet The Tenants

Choosing the right tenants was very difficult for me. I had no idea how valuable screening each candidate was and basically went off gut decisions. I never ran background checks, but did validate references and employment history. My choice of tenants were a large contributor to not being cash flow positive.  Another oversight was the eviction laws in the state and how they were largely skewed against the Landlord.

alcoholic tenant
Professional welder by trade and made decent income, but had a terrible habit. There would be nearly 3 trash bags full of beer cans every week. He was able to buy beer no problem, but neglected to pay his rent for many months. By the time I was done with the eviction process, he owed us over $3,000 in back rent.

When he finally vacated the premises, I was relieved…until I saw the condition of the unit. All of the closets were filled to capacity with trash bags full of empty beer cans. The stench was unbearable. He also nailed empty 30 pack boxes of his choice of beer to the walls. They were floor to ceiling like some sort of mural shine to Anheuser-Busch.

After many court appearances, the judge finally awarded us a money judgement. The Alcoholic never showed up despite being summoned multiple times. Luckily, I knew where he worked and hired an attorney to apply for wage garnishments I could recoup the $3,000 he owed, but at the cost of legal fees. Most of the money was recovered, but this was a very unpleasant first experience.


cat lady tenant
Probably not the best choice, but I allowed pets. This lady abused that liberty by adopting every cat she came across. By the time I figured it out, the Zoo was in full swing. One morning, she called to report her toilet malfunctioning. I was working an hour away so I sent a plumber over. He called me from the building and refused to do the work. “Have you seen that place?” he asked me.

I went in that evening and there were 5 cats and ONE litter box right next to the toilet. That litter box was way over capacity and she rarely cleaned it. Cats were stepping in and out trailing their feces all over the unit. The area near the toilet was especially disgusting. No wonder the plumber wouldn’t work in there.

I was furious and went kind of hard on her. She immediately started crying “I lost my job a few weeks ago and I’m really depressed. I’m so sorry.” I spent the next hour helping her clean up the entire unit and deodorizing the place. It took a lot of convincing, but I talked the plumber into coming back the next day to replace her toilet.

Karma didn’t repay the good deed however. She stopping paying rent eventually and dragged out the eviction process for nearly a year. She gamed the system so well and then disappeared entirely. I had no way of contacting her any longer and she had no job or assets to go after. I still have a $4,800 money judgment award on her that I can’t do anything with. She also left the unit a complete disaster. Picture that neglected litter box a year later… now imagine it exploding all over the apartment.


unemployed tenant
Next door to the cat lady was this enterprising young man. He was a salesmen for sure and talked his way into my good graces with all the random construction projects he’s been doing for years. Never a steady job, but decent money coming in waves. Even said he’d fix some random things around the place free of charge.

He started off well by patching some screens around the porch and other little repairs. Only a few months in, the money dried up. He was very persuasive talking about his next opportunity. Said he’d pay the back rent and then a few months forward. I bought it hook line and sinker. He actually delivered on it the first time so I agreed when it happened again.

Eventually, he got 6 months behind and couldn’t catch up. The constable could never find him to deliver the summons. Turns out… he’s shacking up with the cat lady and she’s teaching him how to extend his stay by gaming the tenant rights laws like she was. I now had 2 units not producing income at the same time, constable fees up the wazoo, and court appearances every other week.

He owed about as much as the cat lady. He disappeared into the sunset with a new girlfriend and 5 cats. I’m stuck with a lousy money judgement that’s no better than the piece of paper it’s written on and another neglected unit.


nurse tenant
Goldmine, or so I thought. A single mother, recently divorced, and with a decent job. The perfect candidate I told myself. She lived up to expectations initially, but started only paying 75% of the rent shortly after. She promised she’d get caught up after the divorce settlement.

Ok, I took pity on her. It must be hard going through a divorce, raising a child by yourself, and holding down a career of helping people. Whatever divorce settlement she was expecting never materialized and it would take an act of congress to evict such a person.

We eventually reached an agreement where only a portion of what she owed would be collected in monthly installments after she left the premises. I think she only paid for 2 months and then never heard from her again. I had agreed, just to get her out of the unit to try and find another tenant that can make payments…they had to be out there somewhere. I was one for 5 years, “they must exist” I kept telling myself.


special needs tenant
This poor lady lived in the smallest Unit prior to my purchase and still lives there today. I didn’t know I was getting into elder care when I bought the place. She was mildly special needs and required help each month to take out the trash, go through a budget, and file for the various government assistance programs. I even had to buy her a phone so she could dial 911. I spent 5 or so hours a month just taking care of this lady. She had no one else and there would be no rent payment if I didn’t help.

Over the last couple years of ownership, she became quite unsanitary by storing trash all over her porch that contains human and animal fecal matter. She wore elderly diapers for some medical condition and just let the soiled ones pile up.  I paid roughly $2,000 for professionals to come and clean up the place only to have the trash build up and become unsanitary a month later.

Evicting her is almost impossible as she has no family or anywhere else to go. It would end up costing me thousands to go through the eviction process resulting in having to store her belongings in a storage unit and forcibly remove her via the Sheriff. Then I’d have to pay a boatload to renovate the unit so it’s livable for anyone else.


Apartment Vacancies and Repairs

I had grossly underestimated the length of time Units would go unoccupied.  It was costly and an extreme burden to get each apartment back into rentable condition after these types of tenants.  Showing the Units were also very time consuming and interfered with work and family schedules.  You kids were young and probably never noticed how often I was there.  I kept your mother away from the building entirely.  I took the brunt of it so she could keep her sanity.  Although, she handled the books and her point of view wasn’t much prettier.

I had no idea prior to purchasing the rental property how much the various maintenance and repairs would add up to.  It was roughly $5,700 a year, but some years were over 10K when something like the furnace would go.  With a negative $1,068 a month operating cost and large repairs, we completely exhausted our family’s emergency fund and some equity in our home.

The Flood

During the 5 years we owned the place, the stress level was through the roof. Both your Mom and I were working full time. I was putting in 50-60 hours a week and both of you kids were infants. This apartment building was supposed to be a nice boost of passive income, but it was a drain on our accounts and no where near passive. We fought a lot, but I kept telling your Mom that “It would get better…we’ve at least built equity in the property.”

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Enter the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis. I won’t get into detail on what this is, but essentially the housing market collapsed reducing the value of the property to less than half what we purchased it for. Equity in the rental property was all we had at this point.  Your Mom would cry herself to sleep and I basically transformed a third of my hair from brown to gray.  The nail in the coffin came in late December 2009.

A frozen pipe and the resulting water damage caused a chain of events that wiped us out financially. The pipe burst in 3 locations and flooded the first floor and basement. The special needs case lost much of her furniture and we had to supply a bed so she could sleep that night. I called a plumber who came in and found a creative way to limit the water flow so that the flooding stopped.

The scope of the work to repair all the pipes and corroded shutoff valves was enormous. It cost nearly $4,000 to fix all the breaks and update the piping where needed. We also had to fix the ceilings and floors that were damaged, which resulted in another few thousand dollars. Minor leaks continued to spring up at various places because the rest of the piping was so old. We tried to file a claim with our insurance company, but received notification that they were dropped our policy instead.

Your mother and I scrambled to find another insurance agency to cover the building. One finally decided to come out for an inspection, but the policy would cost twice as much as before. During the inspection, the insurance company levied thousands of dollars worth of additional repairs and an upgrade to the 2nd egress. The 2nd egress was the death blow. The building inspector met with a contractor I used in the past.  To become complaint with current codes, the whole thing needs to be rebuilt.

Multiple contractors looked at the job and every single quote was in the $40,000 range. The platforms aren’t long enough, the garage needs to be torn down to make room for the longer platforms, the roof is in shambles, there is not enough lighting, rotten support beams…the list went on and on.  One of the contractors quoting the job took a look at other parts of the building.  He came to me after and said, “Roughly $100,000 will need to be put into the rest of the building to bring it up to code.  Let the bank take it, this building is not even worth a $40,000 repair.  It’s practically uninsurable.”  I wish I could recall who did the inspection prior to purchase because I’d leave some nasty feedback.

We were given a deadline by the insurance company to fix the 2nd egress and other repairs, but we did not have the funds nor the desire to do so.  We were told that on the deadline we would no longer be insured and the bank will call in the full mortgage as part of the terms. We did not have the funds to pay the mortgage in full.  This put us in a predicament.  I couldn’t let it foreclose as it would negatively effect my Career, so the only option was to plead with the bank to accept a shortsale.

Rental Property Shortsale

In 2010, we still owed $191,000 on the mortgage, but it was a buyers real estate market.   We initially listed the property for $159,000, but Realtors would not even bother showing the building to their clients at that price. We subsequently reduced the price to $119,000, which resulted in 4 showings and no offers. We had no choice but to reduce the price further to $99,000.  The value of the building was no where near the outstanding mortgage of $191,000.

Even at $99,000, there were still $100,000 worth of repairs needed to bring it up to code.  A buyer was going to have to get a good deal to inherit all the issues that need correcting.  We eventually sold the building for a cash deal of $93,000, from a guy in jail no less.  How ironic.  The bank agreed to the price provided your mother and I brought $25,000 as a cash contribution to the closing and signed a $30,000 promissory note for 30 years.  We cashed out the remaining equity in our home and took the deal.  The bank absorbed the remaining $43,000.

Total LOSS on Rental Property Investment

Let’s see what our 5 year total loss was on this utter failure of an investment.

Operating Costs $64,080
Down Payment $40,000
Closing Contribution $25,000
Promissory Note $30,000
Stress $Priceless

Total Loss of $159,080

That’s not including the expected equity appreciation of around $6000.  Even worse – Consider how much we lost in opportunity cost had we invested in the methods I employ today.  Portfolio Visualizer estimates our real loss during that time period to be $202,525…even during the 2008 stock market crash.  I wish I could blame Donald Trump and “The Apprentice”, but I won’t.  This is the perfect case of uneducated decision making and getting into a market you don’t understand.

This rental property was the worst investment of my life, and your mother didn’t even want me to purchase it.  It created years of unhappiness and stress.  Throughout it all, your mother was a trooper.  She never blamed me, criticized my motivations, and only now holds it over my head in a joking manner.  She quips, “We’d be Financially Independent now if you never bought that place my dear.” She’s not far off.  By the beginning of 2018, that $202,525 loss would have grown to $551,450.  That’s the true loss of the investment property and it grows every year.

Still Want to Be a Landlord?

When I discovered the concept of Financial Independence, I spent nearly a year consuming every FI Resource I could find before making any decisions. I wanted to fully understand the market, investment vehicles, tax consequences, etc.  I was not going to jump into anything blind again. If you really want to invest in rental properties and are strong enough to be a landlord, you need to educate yourself.  Do not be the slumlord I was.  I don’t think I’ll ever have the stomach to invest in real estate directly again, but maybe some other property owners will share their story with you.

I’m sticking to lower risk crowd funded real estate investing now.  If landlording still interests you, start with finding a good mentor.  Someone who is running a successful property management enterprise and learn everything you can.  Research the laws in your state as it makes a huge difference.  Some states are much more friendly to Landlords than others.  Engage in the Real Estate and Landlord subreddits.  Listen to knowledgeable investor podcasts, such as Paula Pant.  Join the Bigger Pockets real estate network and absorb it all.

You can do well in the industry if you understand it and have the capacity to manage the activities of running rental properties.  I encourage you to think not once, not twice, but thrice before jumping in.  I’ll leave you with a parting quote…the best line of dialog from the Rocky movies.

The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place. And I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there if you let it. You me or nobody is going to hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward.

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Kylven Ross is the owner and primary contributor of theFIway.com. He has been married for 17 years and is father to a son and daughter living in New England. Professional accomplishments include a bachelor’s degree and industry certifications in the cyber sector. He has spent the last 18 years working in the U.S. Defense Industry and as a Military Police Officer.

He discovered the concept of Financial Independence (FI) during a rather stressful year in the compliance space. After fully absorbing the benefits of FI, he has since committed to turning his household’s finances in the right direction. His experiences are documented as a series of letters that are used to educate his children and others about money. He does not want the next generation to make the same mistakes, but rather achieve financial freedom and find happiness.

Kylven is not a financial advisor, tax expert, or investment professional. Investment and retirement planning activities should not be considered professional advice. Consult a licensed financial advisor for questions regarding your own situation.

Becoming a landlord and investing in rental properties was the worst mistake I've ever made financially.  My story will scare you into thinking twice about trying to become the next

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32 Comments
  1. Reply

    Financial Samurai

    April 17, 2018

    Man that is tough! What a great letter to send to your kids. It’s true, landlord and can be a royal pain in the butt. I have my own landlord or story, but it really isn’t as bad as yours. I finally sold one of my rental properties last year because I just couldn’t take it anymore after three years and as a FT father.

    thanks for sharing your story and giving warning to those!

    Sam

    • Reply

      Kylven Ross

      April 17, 2018

      I’d love to hear your story. Have you written about it anywhere?

  2. Reply

    thefinancialjourneyman

    April 17, 2018

    Rental properties are classified as a passive sources of income. My in-laws own a few rentals. After watching them manage their rentals, they are more active than passive. They can be a great source of income, but they also require a great amount of time, energy, inconvenience, and expense.

    • Reply

      Kylven Ross

      April 17, 2018

      Yes, much more than many thing as the gurus classify it as passive investing.

  3. Reply

    Wade

    April 17, 2018

    Rental properties are a second job. I tell this to people over and over. Many things have to go right AND you have to have tenants that pay. I have zero interest in this area. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Reply

      Kylven Ross

      April 17, 2018

      A friend mine just recently expressed interest in rental properties…I sent him this link and said, “talk to me again after reading this.” I think he changed his mind…never brought it up again

  4. Reply

    Kathy

    April 17, 2018

    THANK YOU for finally telling it like it is regarding rental properties. Most financially inclined people think having rentals is like going to Mecca. They believe that they just buy the property and sit back as the money rolls in. I acquired some rentals from my mother who never treated them as a business, but instead, treated the tenants like little chicks in a brood that she had to take care of. She would say’ “what will they do if they can’t rent from me?” to which I responded, “they’ll go cheat someone else until the new landlord gets smart to their games” Several tenants were months behind in their rent and others had trashed their places requiring tens of thousands of dollars in repairs before they could be put on the market to sell. When you are a landlord, you are on call 24/7 and good luck ever trying to take a vacation. Your last expense -stress- is right on. Give me the stock market any day rather than rentals. It is much calmer.

    • Reply

      Kylven Ross

      April 17, 2018

      You’re welcome. Sounds like a similar situation to mine. When you research real estate investing your overloaded with products from people claiming they made $X million in 60 days with this amazing $700 course. People need to see the other side of the coin, before risking such an investment.

  5. Reply

    Bo

    April 17, 2018

    Great read and definitely an important post to all the ‘tulips & butterflies’ type of posts out there in regards to real estate investing.

  6. Reply

    Jim @ AcceleratedFI

    April 17, 2018

    Awesome post. You rarely hear about the horror stories in real estate investing, thanks for sharing.

  7. Reply

    Heather @ bizewife | livelihood redefined

    April 17, 2018

    Well I had to laugh a bit when I saw you said Trump was a successful developer. A brand builder yes but his real estate deals with one exception have largely been failures. I actually think that TV stories like that and what is shilled on HGTV etc are responsible for duping people into believing that they have the necessary expertise to make it in the commercial real estate market (even as small landlords). I’m happy to see REITs and other vehicles available more readily to those who just have to scratch the itch. Sorry that you had to go through this horror story.

    • Reply

      Kylven Ross

      April 17, 2018

      I agree. Many people assume real estate was Trump’s golden goose, but it was his branding. I didn’t know that when the Apprentice aired.

      Glad you mentioned HGTV as well. My wife loves that stuff and asked if I’d consider flipping houses instead of rental properties. I said, “The only real estate venture from now on is our primary residence.” Even that has its issues. Late last year, we needed to replace part of the roof due to a rotted support beam, washing machine broke, and water heater need replacing. All unplanned expenses.

      I’ll stick with average index returns of the stock market for investments going forward.

  8. Reply

    Tim

    April 17, 2018

    Putting your efforts into a single rental property is akin to investing a single stock and has a lot of risk. I have a similar story but not as extreme as yours. However, my rental is starting to generate profits and I have a desire to diversify those profits into another property, which I know will lose money. They always do for some period. Then it generally turns around if you have the right processes in place.

  9. Reply

    Sean @ Frugal Money Man

    April 17, 2018

    Wow…I think that’s the scariest real-estate horror story that I have ever heard!

    Real-estate has always peeked my interest, but my real investing knowledge is within the stock market (specifically low cost index funds). Our goal (fiancée and I) is to purchase our starter home in full, or as close to we can, and pay it off as soon as we can. We probably won’t do a rental property until we own our own home in full.

    The more I think about rental properties, the more turned off I get from them. I know they can be a wonderful form of income (if done correctly), but I just don’t like the idea of constantly wondering what’s going on in the property. Who knows, maybe our minds will change in the future…

    Thanks for sharing!

  10. Reply

    Wealthy Doc

    April 17, 2018

    Thanks a lot.
    I won’t be able to sleep at all tonight!

  11. Reply

    Rohan@passiveincomenz

    April 17, 2018

    Wow, what a story. I have always thought about getting a rental property, but here in NZ there are more and more expenses being legislated in law making it more difficult to run it as an investment for passive income.

    Have you ever thought about commercial property?

    • Reply

      Kylven Ross

      April 17, 2018

      I have…greater initial capital and risk that I’m not quite willing to expose myself to after dipping my toe in and losing a leg.

  12. Reply

    JoeHx

    April 17, 2018

    This post really brings to the forefront one of my fears if I ever were to become a landlord. Not so much bad tenants, but that I wouldn’t be able to handle them. I wouldn’t be able to separate the business side of things with the emotional side.

    • Reply

      Kylven Ross

      April 17, 2018

      I definitely had that problem. Too much heart, too little head.

  13. Reply

    payingforprivateschool

    April 18, 2018

    This is very informative and eye opening – thanks for sharing what I am sure is painful to remember to help us avoid a similar rental nightmare and loss of capital. And nicely written BTW.

  14. Reply

    Jacq

    April 18, 2018

    My ex dabbled in real estate. One house rehab missed the market bubble and was sold for around what he bought it for, only he’d put lots of work into it. The first house he let go into foreclosure. The 3rd he had tenant issues with. I was out of the picture by then. At one point I’d considered taking over one of the mortgages because I had a good job, only later that month that changed, so I didnt. Whew !
    I think some people just hit the market right, both purchase and rental markets. Some people can manage well, others budget for management services.
    Having seen what goes into it first hand, and stories like yours and other bloggers, I know I’m not planning to do rentals or a flip right now. With the right partner (life or business) who knows what the future holds.
    Give your wife an extra hug for no reason / all that support! That was definitely a factor in the break up, him feeling I hadn’t supported the house flip enough. While for me, his 2 best friends and I advised against the purchase and he did it anyway and we helped but my ‘all’ wasn’t in it because of that.

    • Reply

      Kylven Ross

      April 18, 2018

      My wife is definitely a trooper. She’s been a rock in my life through tons of bad financial decisions in the early years, deployments during my military years, and supporting the family during my rebound years. We’re finally at a point where I think I’m an asset. Wouldn’t be here without her.

  15. Reply

    Eric

    April 18, 2018

    Thank you for telling it how it is. This is much more valuable than the rainbow & sunshine articles on passive income.

  16. Reply

    Robert

    April 18, 2018

    There are a lot of people who speak about any given investment — be it stocks or rental properties — as the one true way of investing, but it’s so important to view them all as businesses with eyes wide open. There is a lot to understand and to know in order to be successful with any of them in an active capacity.

    Thanks for sharing. It’s too rare that we hear about the harder lessons!

  17. Reply

    Fox

    April 18, 2018

    Can you elaborate (or have you elaborated elsewhere) on the eviction laws or the games the non-paying tenants were playing? Were there bankruptcies filed, what minimum timelines did you have to meet without payment, what levels of court were you dealing with, etc.?

    • Reply

      Kylven Ross

      April 20, 2018

      A combination of things really:

      – my delay of starting the process and falling for their false promises
      – unable to serve summons
      – court no shows
      – judge awarding hardship to tenant
      – fear of having to pay movers and storage fees
      – lack of power a money judgement actually has

  18. Reply

    Jeff Sielicky

    April 19, 2018

    Land lording isn’t for everybody. I am a small landlord as are most landlords. Buying properties 30 years ago is by far the best thing I have ever done. I think with you, as with many relationships and situations, the problem started with unrealistic expectations.

    We were at a dinner meeting last night with a packed restaurant full of happy landlords. Some with only 1 rental and some with many houses and apartments. Most owners had worked RE through good times and bad times and have persevered to have their efforts pay off handsomely. Right now in our area rents and values have skyrocketed making many property owners financially secure.

    The question that needs to be asked is what makes the difference between those that succeed and those fail, give up, or never try. Because you really need to understand there are many many property owners that have done very well.

    • Reply

      Kylven Ross

      April 20, 2018

      That’s true. I’ve witnessed my father have great success. My uncle, not so much. In the end, I feel the stress > risk and that the funds used to invest in rental properties would have had a similar ROI without headaches sitting in simple index funds. Real Estate investing is a business and not a passive wealth building endeavor as many make it out to be. If your smart, do the research, operate without emotion, and put in the work, it’s likely you can make it profitable. I just don’t think many realize what is involved by reading hyped real estate investing content out there. Very few actually show the “dark side” that could become a reality.

  19. Reply

    Michael Blanchard

    May 3, 2018

    Former land lord here… I was not as unlucky as the horror story above, but did have some problems when the 2008 recession hit. I had owned a rental for a few years (kept my first house and converted it to a rental when I bought my second house). Then in 2008 rents in my area dropped by about 25% which meant my rental was suddenly negative on cashflow. Plus I was learning about managing it from about 60 miles away, which was much harder and more worrisome that I had thought. One month a raccoon decided to crawl under the house and die, and the tenants were complaining of a “bad smell” eek – thankfully it was only $100 to get it removed… There was also a lot of maintenance that was upcoming like siding, fencing, and potentially plumbing… So I decided to sell it while the federal tax credit program for first time buyers was still available. The no cause eviction went okay, and I agreed to pay them back the entire deposit in the end, but I knew the tenants were pretty immature. Turns out they had been growing weed in the back room. They left me the stem of a MJ plant on the wall (no buds of course)… I think I got off easy, and came in a little under breaking even on the whole deal, minus all the work I put into it.

    Real estate is a directional bet on a local housing market. In my case it was leveraged because at the time I only had about 20% equity in the place. I’d say with a little luck most people break even or maybe make a compound adjusted profit of at most 5% per year on real estate. I had no idea that rents could drop that suddenly in a recession, none of my spreadsheets or self taught real estate wisdom accounted for that. Like any directional bet on real estate, stocks, gold or whatever, making profit has to do with luck and timing, or being able to stay in the game for decades and absorb short term losses.

    • Reply

      Kylven Ross

      May 3, 2018

      Thanks for sharing Mike,

      Timing was a critical factor for me as well. Not many people saw the 2008 crash coming and real estate seemed like a solid investment at the time. Unless you held through it, like any equity, the losses are substantial. In my particular case, I didn’t have much choice.

  20. Reply

    Jenna

    May 6, 2018

    Wow, what a terrible experience. I’ve acquired 3 rental units over the past year and have no horror stores…Yet. I’m bracing myself for it to happen, but I believe with proper tenant screening you can avoid the majority of issues.

    What I’ve found to help is to show the tenants you care and almost be “friend” like. One of my tenants invited me inside to have lunch with her while I was doing a repair. Another tenant invited me in to show me how she had organized her furniture since moving in and then invited me to her wedding. I couldn’t make it but got her a small gift.

    I also get all my tenants a small Christmas gift each year. Either a reduction in rent for the month or a gift basket filled with various goodies.

    Implementing this “friendly landlord” strategy has caused me to have zero late payments and no 2am phone calls saying the toilet is clogged.

    As others have said, definitely not “passive” unless you hire a property manager but I enjoy doing the work myself.

    • Reply

      Kylven Ross

      May 18, 2018

      That’s great Jenna! Quite the successful endeavor. I may not have befriended my tenants, but I did give them quite a bit of help. I’m pretty sure my failure was in location. The type of tenants in the area left a lot to be desired.

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