After having such a free and fun time in Eastern Ontario, we had to buckle down to turn over our largest apartment. As you may recall, we received notice from our tenant the day after we moved out of our house they would be leaving at the end of August. We spent all of September and October renovating. The apartment is about 1200 sqft and we did most of the work ourselves, painting all the walls and ceilings, replacing most of the flooring, upgrading faucets and toilets, painting and replacing doors, and blowing extra insulation into the attic. Other work we hired out including paving the driveway (this was already scheduled months ago), rebuilding the front porch and stairs, upgrading the linked smoke alarms system by adding more alarms, and other electrical work. It was by far the largest reno project we had ever undertaken! Highlights included the main floor bathroom with a new ceramic tile floor and trendy new vanity with a quartz top. The kitchen also got a huge update with new cabinets, an island and gorgeous granite countertops.
Surprised by 30 Days Notice
The end of our first big trip in June was punctuated by a surprise notice from one of our tenants: they are moving out in 30 days! Of course in Ontario 60 days-notice is required by law. Nevertheless, I was gracious, congratulatory and helpful, even offering them an extra day to finish moving out since their new home closing date was June 30th. Confession time: I have previously spent hours dreaming of how I could encourage them to move out: not only were they paying well below market rate, their apartment had all the household equipment in it and they were not always cooperative when breakdowns happened or access was needed. Yet I had concluded that trying to push them out early was wrong (yes, as in morally) and I just had to wait until the timing was right for them. So it was a blessing when their notice finally came, even with only 30 days warning!
They had lived in that apartment for almost 5 years. I can’t attest to the condition when they moved in since they were already there when I bought the house, but it wouldn’t rent to it’s potential it in it’s current state. I knew taking a vacancy to make improvements was the best option. For the entire month of July, I didn’t have a single full day off except for Canada Day (the extra day I gave the tenant to move out!). All by myself, I completely retiled the bathroom (except shower/tub) with beautiful marble tile floor and backsplash, new faucet and toilet.
I ordered matching quartz countertops in kitchen and bath plus tiled a stunning glass and marble herringbone backsplash in the kitchen with LED under-cabinet lights. I installed high-end, new vinyl flooring throughout the main areas and repainted ceilings, walls and baseboard throughout. The end result was incredible: an apartment that was previously renting for less than $800 was suddenly worth $1100.
Hiring a Property Superintendent
But the best part was implementing a major step in our FTRV plan: rather than placing a regular tenant, I advertised a Superintendent Position, offering a rent reduction for taking responsibility for maintaining the home and dealing with breakdowns. This move turns the liability of having all the household equipment in the apartment into an asset. The position has the opportunity for further rent reduction in the future for taking over the maintenance of our other 2 nearby properties when we transition to FTRV. To my amazement, an Olympian athlete with a degree was interested in the apartment and position and had the necessary background in home repairs to do the job. He is one of those handy, can-do kinds of people with an established background of following through on his commitments and achieving his goals. Most importantly, he is charming with great people skills, necessary for mitigating tenant conflicts.
Successfully lining up a property superintendent to handle breakdowns and conflicts in our absence was a major hurdle to achieving the freedom to travel as FT RVers. It is a huge relief to have this piece of the puzzle in place a year in advance. It gives us the ability to test out this new arrangement while we are still nearby to deal with any unforeseen issues. Plus it means that next summer, we can focus on our own transition of selling our home and downsizing our things. As rental property investors, we have a unique advantage as FTRVers: we have storage that we own and control. The big house has a 2 car garage where we can store a motorcycle, scooter and some furniture. This means we can keep a basic set of household furnishings which would enable us to move into a vacant apartment temporarily in summer if we choose. However, the tenants have access to the garage for laundry and storage plus we keep our home repair supplies and tools there for the Superintendent: the space is limited and it is not completely secure.
The icing on the cake is the previous tenant who moved out had exclusive use of a separate outbuilding on the property that is now available to us. It is small, just 7 by 10 feet but will be secure when we replace the door, giving us a space where we can store valuables and sensitive documents without worry. This is an amazing opportunity for us: we don’t want to get rid of everything we own and there are some business documents that we must keep. But we will pare down significantly, keeping only what is most important. The opportunities for us created by this tenant leaving are huge and I can now see these previously missing pieces of our FTRV plan falling in place.
Rental Property Investing: Canadian MoneySaver Magazine
Based on my experience as a landlord, I set out to write a series of articles about Rental Property Investing in Canada to be published in Canadian MoneySaver Magazine. Between 2012 and 2014, I wrote and published a total of 6 articles all related to the financial side of rental property investing. After each article appeared in MoneySaver as original content, I broke the articles up into blog entries and posted them on my Rent Smart blog to make them available to everyone. In 2014 I also wrote additional articles on property maintenance which I posted exclusively on my Rent Smart blog.
Rent Smart blog
My original plan with these rental property articles was to package them up into an eBook. However, I tried a blog instead because I thought something interactive might work better. In hindsight, I feel a blog is the wrong medium for the material. A blog suggests that the content is rambling and disorganized when in truth I wrote these articles as a series of sequential chapters for a book intended to ultimately cover every aspect of rental property investing. Further, I suspect because a blog is free, people may not recognize how valuable the contents actually are.
Rent Smart eBook
So I decided to go back to my original plan and repackage my Rental Property articles into an eBook. My goal is to better organize the material and make it easier to access everything in one package. The book is comprised of 3 sections. Section 1 Choosing a Great Rental Property includes all the articles published in MoneySaver magazine about the financial side of rental property investing. Section 2 Taking Care of Your Properties includes 3 chapters on home maintenance and improvements which were previously posted on my blog. Finally, Section 3 Finding, Placing and Managing Tenants contains 4 all new chapters on dealing with tenant issues. In all, the book is 13 chapters long and about 21,000 words.
My eBook Rent Smart: Buy Profitable Rental Properties, Create Quality Apartments and Place Great Tenants is a comprehensive guide to rental property investing in Canada and beyond. It is the perfect starting point for anyone who wishes to seriously consider if rental property investing would be right for them. It is also a great resource for current landlords who wish to learn some best practices to run their business more effectively.
Rent Smart is available for sale on my website www.margotbai.com/order.php in ePub format for your Kobo eReader or Kobo app for your tablet or phone. FYI, my books do not have Digital Rights Management (DRM) so there are no .acsm files but can be downloaded from my website after purchasing. You can use Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) to transfer books to your Kobo or read them on your computer.
I am happy to provide a copy free of charge to friends and family – just email me if you are interested.