Owning a Rental Property: Hearing From an Investor

Investing in a rental property is a great way to generate additional income now, build equity, and provide retirement income for later. At least that’s what this investor did. We interviewed a local investor to ask about her experiences, lessons learned, and advice on owning and managing investment properties. For the sake of anonymity, we’re going to call her Barbara.

Barbara, you describe yourself as an “ordinary investor.” Can you tell me what kind of an investor you were and what kind of properties you had?

Well, my husband and I lived in Virginia, and we were both working full time but wanted to create a financial cushion for early retirement. We found that there was an increase in the number of foreclosure properties in a lower income area so we began to research for any potential income property. The properties we bought were usually in poor condition, so we renovated them and rented them out. Within a couple years, we had 6 buy-and-hold single-family properties in Southern Virginia. The seventh one was in Northern Virginia, which was a house we had actually lived in and then leased it once moving south.

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You had multiple properties and you and your husband had full time jobs. Did you hire professional property management?

No, we had never considered property management. We had friends who were able to renovate the properties for decent prices, and actually sometimes we helped with the renovations. And then my husband and I would take care of collecting the rent, dealing with issues, and cleaning after tenants moved out. Going back, it would have been nice if we had contracted with a property management company because rental properties can be a 24/7 job and it often took up our evening, weekends, and holidays. As you can imagine, with our full-time jobs and children, it was exhausting as far as time, but definitely worth the financial investment.

So basically, you were an active investor. What was the hardest part about it?

Probably the renovations and dealing with the tenants, to be honest. We saved money with renovations by hiring friends who were construction workers but they weren’t as reliable as a company would have been. Also, my husband and I put a lot of physical labor ourselves when helping with the renovations. We would go to hardware stores, pick up the equipment and help with the renovations and cleaning. In terms of the tenants, collecting rent on time was an issue, but like I said, our properties were in low-income areas.

Did you ever consider going outside of the one neighborhood?

Yes and we did. Two of the properties in Southern Virginia were in middle class neighborhoods. And as I said, we had a house in Northern Virginia, which provided the greatest return on investment.

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How much of a positive cash flow were you able to generate from these properties? Were you able to get appreciation on any of them eventually?

That is difficult to answer because each property was different. Since we bought foreclosure properties, the prices fluctuated because they were sold at auction. And then each one needed different types of renovations or repairs. We weren’t interested in profiting immediately. We wanted to invest our money wisely today to ensure a stream of incometomorrow. It worked out well.

How would you do a financial assessment before investing?

Our first real estate investment taught us a lot about what kind of investment costs to expect, especially since we were making doing similar renovations in the same area. But the inspection would give us an idea as well. I do wish we had today’s technology back then, like a rental property calculator. That was another thing my husband and I did ourselves or hired someone to do for us.

How much did you know about real estate investing anyway?

We had no prior knowledge about investing and about becoming a landlord, but our first rental property taught us a lot. A good friend of ours was a real estate agent and we’d consult him from time to time.

What real estate tips and advice would you give to those who want to know how to become a real estate investor?

I would say learn about how to get into real estate investing beforehand so you do not get overwhelmed. I would also recommend using a company if things get too tough because if you are working and have a family, it probably will.

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Do you consider yourself a successful real estate investor?

Yes, I believe we have been successful managing our income properties with full-time jobs and with having a family.

Special thanks to Barbara for speaking to Mashvisor and providing our readers with real-life investing experience! If you’d like to share your experience or ask Barbara more questions, email us and we’ll chat! 

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