The first few games I was easy on her. When she made a wrong move, I would explain why that was a bad idea and tell her what she should do instead. I watched her slowly start to grasp the concept of what each piece could do on the board. By the 4th or 5th time we played, she was starting to figure things out on her own. I stopped helping her. She did fine. She even caught me out once or twice with a move I didn’t see! Whenever I wiped one of her pieces off the board, I asked her if she knew how I did it. She was picking it up, but she still wasn’t happy about losing.
“But you got smarter. You learned a lot about how to play chess by losing.”
“Am I as smart as you?”
“Smarter. You are the combination of me and your Daddy. You got the best of both of us.” I pulled her in close, onto my lap, my lips touching her soft little cheeks.
“You are like a seed that has not yet blossomed into the most beautiful, smart, amazing flower the world has ever seen. It is Mommy’s job to water the seed, to teach the seed, protect the seed – and watch you bloom.”
She smiled. “Can you tickle me until I fart again?”
Lesson #1 – The real estate business is a lot like chess.
Lesson #2 – Don’t take it so freakin’ seriously!
I have been down in the dumps this week. Savannah was home sick from school on Tuesday, and I couldn’t get much work done, although a lot of chess was played. Losing a day of productivity threw my whole week off. Losing sleep made it worse – Savannah has croup, and every time she coughed in the middle of the night my Mommy Spidey Sense would wake me. My baby made it through the night, but I was dead on my feet the next day. And since my daily schedule as a working mom doesn’t leave room for daytime naps or sleeping in, I’ve been running a sleep deficit for much of the week. And that hasn’t exactly leant itself to a positive, uplifting attitude!
Last week we lost a battle in court to an unscrupulous trailer park operator (http://thisgingerjustsnapped.weebly.com/blog/is-the-legal-system-on-your-side) and I’ve been looking at the world through at gray tint ever since. At times like this it’s important to remember that Steve and I are still learning this chess game that is real estate investing. Instead of pouting about losing that move, we need to study what our opponent did there. We are already better players!
Every adverse situation we face is an opportunity to teach us vital skills needed to win the game. That’s not just motivational poppycock. It’s true!
We had an eviction this week. The third one at this particular building since we took back self-management ten months ago. This building was the pride of our company. A beautiful, historic six unit a few blocks from Wilkes-Barre’s public square. We bought it in 2008, abandoned with squatters living in one of the units. It wasn’t long before the 1400 square foot units with 12 foot ceilings and gorgeous original architecture fetched us high end rents, mostly from Wilkes University pharmacy students. Something happened in the years between then and now. We had a property manager overseeing the rentals. Then another when that didn’t work out. Then still another when that didn’t work out! Pharmacy students weren’t renting there anymore. Families were. Families on government assistance programs, and social security disability income. When Wilkes-Barre instituted their One Strike Ordinance, and were actively shutting down peoples’ rental units for six months over the actions of the tenant, we couldn’t justify spending much money on improving our buildings in Wilkes-Barre. As a result, our once proud property suffers from deferred maintenance. It needs a good coat of paint on the façade and a landscaping overhaul. Now that Wilkes-Barre has come to its senses with a little prodding from the ACLU, we can justify the expense.
We’ve spent much of the winter upgrading the interior of three of the units into spaces worthy of the kind of tenant who should be living there. We have a deposit to hold on one of them and strong interest in the other two. This latest eviction will be a new project, but it shouldn’t take too much to fix it up.
Here are some things we learned from this past eviction experience:
1 – If you evict a tenant, and you actually want them to move out, don’t accept a partial payment. If you do, you have to evict them all over again. We kind of knew this, but decided to risk it anyway. She had all but $150 of the back rent owed, she promised she’d have the rest by a certain date, and vowed to never let garbage pile up on the fire escape again. We took her $900, and figured the worst thing that would happen would be we’d have to evict her again. And we did. But she would have been gone a lot sooner had we not taken that $900.
2 – If you want a tenant gone, evict not just on non-payment of rent, but on lease violations as well. Bring pictures of the garbage on the fire escape to show the judge. That way, you’ll get a judgement for the back rent, AND possession of the unit. If you just get a judgement for non-payment of rent, the tenant has the right to stay if they pay you the amount of the judgement, or any part of it. Now, even if she did give us $900, she’d still have to move.
We also know this particular judge will evict based on a lease violation alone. Some of them won’t, but Steve watched him rule in favor of another landlord. That means we could have taken them to court and gotten them out months ago when they were having loud parties, peeing off the third floor balcony, and letting their kids run unattended up and down the stairs. Not to mention moving all these people in that weren’t on the original lease!
In the coming weeks it is my goal to personally take over management of our rental properties. My husband will still oversee maintenance, but I will be leasing the empty units, dealing with rent collections and addressing the needs of current tenants. Or “residents” as Mr. Landlord prefers to call them.
If nothing else, my return to active property management will lead to many interesting future blogs!