Interview: How This Military Family Reduced Stress While Making Money Renting Their House
A 20+ year veteran of the U.S. Navy, Kathy chose to keep a house in an area that she loved.
She hoped to come back to that area somewhere further in her career.
As life would have it she got orders to move, met the love of her life, got deployed several more times and had three beautiful children, never making it back to live in San Diego.
I was fortunate to sit down and talk with her about her experience as a landlord and her use of a property manager during her 10 years that she kept her townhouse.
Why did you decide to buy and how long did you rent out your house?
I was already 10 years into my Navy career and was looking at a year in San Diego. I was really hoping that I would get to stay or return, maybe retire there. So I took that opportunity to buy a house.
So, I bought the townhouse, my tour in San Diego, that one, only lasted a year. I was transferred. I rented it out to a lady who, ultimately stayed in it for the almost 10 years that I had it.
We sold it right after my daughter was born. I was actually in the hospital with her when I signed the escrow papers.
When I rented it out, I was fortunate enough to find my neighbor was a realtor/property manager. He offered to help and told me that he did property management. He lived across the driveway from my place. I thought, “He is great. He is perfect. He’s right there. He’s certainly not going to let someone trash my house. Because he is going to have to look at it every day.”
And he was the manager for 7 of those 10 years. When he retired from that business and sold it, I stayed with the person who bought it and continued on with them managing the property, until we decided to sell.
We finally decided to sell to free up more cash flow to buy something that would accommodate (the now 5 of) us.
Were the mortgage and insurance covered by the rent you were getting?
Nope, not even close! (she chuckled) So, I bought in California at the top of the mid-two-thousands housing bubble. I actually bought it from a couple who paid $10,000 more than I bought it for. But then the market kept dropping. Part of the reason I kept it so long is because I was underwater on it. I wasn’t totally underwater, I was able to make my mortgage payments every month. But, I was able to do that because we (her now, husband and her) decided to live in smaller places to be sure we could cover both. But the market rent in San Diego at the time was nowhere near what the mortgage and insurance were.
As soon as we got to a point in the mortgage where we could sell it for as much as we owed on it, and I think we actually sold it for a little more than we owed on it. We did not make any money, but we did not lose any either in the end.
You have talked to plenty of colleagues over the years, what is your take on why people do or do not use a property manager?
A lot of people in the Navy will choose not to have a property manager because they don’t want to pay for it. But my concern was I was single and I was going to potentially be out at sea and unreachable by my renter.
I felt like I needed to have someone that my renter could reach out to if something happened. Something that (a property manager) could take care of it. And the guy I hired, I knew he was a nice guy, he had been really helpful to me over the course of the time I lived there when I needed something.
I trusted the property manager I hired. I knew that he knew the neighborhood. He knew the San Diego area, he had been there his entire life and had been doing real estate there. In fact, he was the one who had managed the property for the people who owned the townhouse before me. I used him to help me rent the place out and he managed it until he retired. We were fortunate that my place was not vacant more than the time it took to shampoo the carpets.
Something that was nice about him, we had an agreement. He would take care of any repairs up to a set amount without having to notify or ask me. So if it was something small he would just take care of it for me and he would just subtract it, with his monthly fee, from the rent.
He collected the rent from the tenant. He made a deposit into my account each month of the rent minus his fee and any repair cost (any repair cost that was up to $75).
Anything beyond that ($75), he would call or email me to get prior approval. He always had a bid if it was over $75 so I knew what I was getting into. We would then talk through it, so it was a really easy thing for me to not have to be worried about managing the property. I didn’t have to worry about the property being torn up.
Would you say that it offered you some peace of mind having a property manager when you were across the country or across the world?
Absolutely!! There are a lot of schools of thought there and I have heard a lot of my Navy and other military colleagues talk about this. There can be tax implications when you have a property manager versus when you do not. But that depends on where you live and the tax laws there. Rather than have yearly write offs, I got some tax relief when we sold. That was an informed decision I made before I rented the townhouse.
I found that it was a great situation. I never worried. I never got advice that felt off or shady about the property.
If you had to do it again, would you hire a property manager or go it alone?
If I had to do it again I would. I would also definitely ask whoever that was going to be, “How will you handle things if and when I need to put this home on the market?”
I would (also) want to know if they would work with me if our situation changed. The guy who took over the business (after our original property manager of 7 years), seemed to be on the side of our renter and pushed back a little when we needed to sell.
In the end, it worked out fine, the renter moved out and we sold the townhouse.
I was fortunate to have only one renter. Had I had renters who were more transient that would have been a different story. She ultimately did not want to leave.
Considering whether to rent or sell your house?
There are many right decisions when it comes to your house. Should you sell, rent it yourself, or should you hire a team to manage your property? Only you know what is best for you.
If you’re considering renting your house in Jacksonville, FL, you’ll want the peace of mind that comes with knowing that someone is close by to handle an emergency when you are gone.
If you’re considering using a property management company, check out this quick video, “7 Tips For Selecting The Best Property Manager”.
Want to know what your house will rent for?
You can get your free rental analysis here.
This in-depth report will give you information about your home and the Jacksonville, FL rental market so that you can make an informed decision.
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