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Rental Property Series: Overcoming Setbacks

I only planned on updating this series every couple of weeks, but so much is happening with the rental right now. Waiting two weeks would make a super long post, and I tend to be on the wordy side anyway. If you are new to this series, you might want to start by reading these.

Rental Property Series: Buying Our First Rental Property

Rental Property Series: Renovating Our Rental Property

As a brief recap,

We purchased this property on August 24, 2012 for $63,000, with 25% down.

We plan on spending $3000-$5000 on renovations.

We hope to be done and have a renter by October 1.

We are using a property management company and are asking $750/mo for rent.

What we’ve done this past week

Hubby finished installing the vanity and faucets in the bathroom. It needs some shims for leveling, but it is working, and we now have water. We are still waiting on our toilet to be delivered. We were told the Home Depot ones aren’t as durable. That’s  funny because our home toilets are from Home Depot and they stills seem to be fine after 8+ years. Maybe renters are harder on toilets? I really don’t want to think too much about that one! Anyway, we ordered one from a plumbing supply, and after much miscommunication, it should be here today. Yah! No more peeing in the yard (that was a joke), but it is inconvenient to go to the service station when the need arises. Hubby also hauled off all the demolition trash, so we no longer have a sink and toilet in the side yard. Husband’s total hours: 8

I removed all the cabinet handles and hinges and  soaked them overnight in vinegar and water. They were still covered in grime, so I soaked them in diet Pepsi (it works for car batteries, right?) for another night. The film was then somewhat pliable, so I scraped it off with a scouring pad. The handles are now a shiny brass color instead of the brown I thought they were, amazing! I cleaned out the scary closet, so it is only mildly frightening now, and I cleaned the remaining floors and windows that I missed last week. Kim’s total hours: 7


We’ve also had a few setbacks this week.

Our insurance agent called to inform us that they were cancelling our policy because the property has asbestos siding. Most of the houses from this era have this type siding. Every other house on our rental’s street does. We were concerned at first but the inspector, property manager, and the agent didn’t believe it was a problem as long as it was in good shape. However, the  honchos at the insurance company obviously did not feel that way. Our original quote of $257/year was going up to $850-$950/year unless we changed the siding. That is not in the budget right now, so we found another agency who is able to insure the property for $497/year. While that isn’t bad, it cuts into the cash flow. I’m not very happy with our insurance agent, but I’m not sure what we could have done differently in this situation. I think we would have still gone ahead with the property purchase if he’d quoted us the higher amount to begin with, but it is hard to have to adjust upward after you think you’ve gotten such a good deal.

Another problem we discovered this week was with our countertops. We purchased some pre-made laminate countertops at Home Depot on our original trip. We live an hour away from big orange, so we hoped this would be our only trip. When our friend came to help install them, they didn’t fit. Apparently our cabinets are a half inch wider than standard. The precut countertops have a bullnose end that is really pretty, but won’t work with our cabinets. They don’t extend back to the wall. Rookie mistake! Home Depot did take everything back, but that required a trip back to the store. We then had to get estimates to have them custom made. I found a local shop that can have them done next week. We picked a pattern that was an overstock, so they gave us a deal. The Home Depot set was $220, and out custom ones are going to cost $350. The money keeps flowing, but unless we want to nail down some particle board on the cabinets, I don’t see another choice.

When you are doing a huge project like renovating a rental property, you have to have some room for the unexpected. We were a bit disappointed this week, but it could have been worse. By the end of the week, we should have our new stove, the electrical should be done, and then the painter will start next week. It has been a long month, but we are almost finished. Now if we can just get that renter, the effort will be worth it. Hopefully I will have good news at the next update. If you can’t get enough about rental properties, check out this series at Planting our Pennies or follow Paula at Afford Anything as she continues to build her rental empire.

Have you ever had a setback when doing a project?  Would you rent a house with a toilet in the yard?


About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. The amount of goo and grime on the door handles and hinges can be amazing! We tried cleaning the ones at our place first, but then gave up and replaced them with new ones from Lowes – not custom, so maybe $50ish for the whole kitchen. The cabinets instantly looked less dated!

    Also I’m insanely jealous of your insurance quote – even the high one! Do you mind if I ask what dollar amount you insured the property for?

    • It is insured for $135K to rebuild and I can’t remember the contents right off the top of my head. We don’t have many natural disasters here, so I guess insurance is fairly cheap. Yes, I should have just ditched the handles, but they actually don’t look dated and I was so invested that I just had to finish it!

  2. I know it can be difficult when you encounter a set back during a project, but you have a good goal in sight so that helps. It does sound like you and your husband are putting a lot of work into the rental. I hope that your renter will appreciate that. It reminds me of the first place my wife & I rented after first getting married. We lived in a duplex and it was an absolute dump. We were so young that we eally did not know better. Looking back it’s obvious the landlord did nothing to the place and can now see how obvious that was.

    • It is going to be so ironic if the renter could care less. We lived in a crappy rental while we were building our house and we were happy to get it after looking at even crapier ones. Our thought is by keeping it a bit nicer, we can charge a bit more but maybe get a higher quality of renter. That may all just be wishful thinking. We’ll see.

  3. It sounds like you’re trying really hard to keep your cost structure LOW. Keep doing that, it’s the only way to make money.

    Remember: the rental is not your house nor should it be designed to suit your taste nor those of a particular renter. It needs to be safe and clean. It’s a business.

    Besides the insurance setback — which SUCKS, I hope you negatively review that agent online so that other people can avoid him!! — you’re being smart and active. The only thing I’d say is consider cutting out the cost of a property manager. For a few hours a month, you’ll keep your structure much lower, especially when you have both yourself and a husband to do the work.

    • It is hard to separate my tastes and remember this just needs to be functional. We will certainly consider managing it ourselves, but I don’t think we have the experience and time right at the moment. We plan to have several rentals in the future, so this will most likely become another job for me when I sell my business and am not doing optometry so much.

  4. I think you guys are doing a great job. With anything good there it always takes hard work and overcoming obstacles. Don’t worry things will work out.

    As far as the insurance goes, you can always reduce the premium later if you do end up changing the siding. It can be just temporary.

    • Yes you are absolutely right. $500 a year is not bad at all really, but I liked $250 better. Someday we will have to change the siding, just not right now.

  5. I’m really enjoying this series as I just think it’s a little insight to what we’ll be facing in the years to come (once we eventually purchase our first rental property). I’m still not sure I’ll look for a fixer-upper, but it doesn’t sound all that hard. More time than anything…

    • I actually get more frustrated with what is out of my control, like will the electrician show up on time? If you are doing it yourself, at least you are in the driver’s seat.

  6. So interesting. I can’t wait to see what it looks like finished!

  7. It sounds like you’re doing a great job. Don’t be discouraged by the insurance and the bullnose/countertop situations; those types of hiccups are common. As long as you have a property with a decent margin of error — which you do — it’s just another part of doing business.

    One thing I recommend, especially if you live an hour away from Home Depot, is to purposely over-buy while you’re at the store and then return whatever you don’t use. In other words, do one HUGE buying trip and one HUGE returning-stuff trip. If an item is in new condition and you have a receipt, they’ll take it back.

    Also, do you have an LLC? If so, go to the contractor’s desk at Home Depot or Lowe’s and set up a contractor’s/business account. You’ll get 5 percent off. (At least that’s true at Lowe’s, so I assume Home Depot has a similar policy).

  8. Asbestos sucks, that’s too bad they cancelled your policy, but it sounds like you got a good deal with the other company. We have asbestos tile in the basement at our new home and it sounds like it’s not a big deal and that most people just put carpeting over it.

    • Exactly, as long as you don’t damage it and inhale the particles, it’s not a big deal. Smoking would be way more dangerous. I guess renters can sue you for anything, so just to CYA you need more insurance.

  9. Kim, looks like you are still making progress though, even with the setbacks. I guess in life there is always setbacks. I look forward to reading your report when it is finished and rented. Then all the hard work will be worth it. Cheers, Jason

  10. Renovating a property sounds so exciting, although of course it is a lot of work. But in a few weeks you will be done and you can start looking for your next property 😉

    • I do find myself looking at the for sale signs and then I remind myself how over our heads we are right now, but I think I have the bug.

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