Monday, December 30, 2013

Best Posts of 2013

It's that time of year again! Here are my top stories of the year. Enjoy!

(BTW, I took that photo using a new app called PebbleCam that lets me preview and snap the photo on my Pebble Watch.)

By Views

Is It Worth Buying A Manufactured Home?
Apparently there's some interest in buying manufactured homes because this was the #1 post by far! It had over twice as many views as #2. My guess is that one of the reasons it did well was because A) it contained a lot of details and A) it included information not easily find-able on the internet.

The Benefits of Mowing Lawns
I was shocked by how popular this post was. Perhaps it had more to do with the cool picture than the content. Though, I do think I made a good case for mowing your own lawn.

Top Gun in IMAX 3D #Review
Let's just say the timing was good on this one. That and it is the best movie of all time.

My picks

How To Have Fun In Las Vegas Without Gambling
Of all the posts I've done, this is perhaps the one I share the most. I'm actually surprised, in a good way, by how many people go to Las Vegas but don't want to gamble.

The Jeep Wave
This was was just super fun to learn about because it's so goofy, but true! Sometimes I'll be driving our Prius and wave because I think I'm in the Jeep. I bet that really confuses the other person.

The Slight Edge #BookReview
I've read a lot of good books this year, and for some reason fell off the wagon on my book reviews. Here's my Hunger Games Trilogy review: The books are better than the movies, though the 2nd movie is really good. The 3rd book is only OK, so I'm not sure why they're going to make 2 movies out of it... Well... I know why, I just don't think it's a good reason.

Anyways, The Slight Edge was awesome. It was up there with Made to Stick, which I read in 2012. Let me put it this way: if/when I ever hire someone, this will be on the stack of required reading.

So there they are! I hope 2014 is an exciting year for you!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

We hope you're having a wonderful Christmas this year. We decided not to travel this year and are enjoying a low-key holiday. My mom gave us this flag which we have flying outside our home. It's a gentle reminder of why we're celebrating Christmas: because Jesus was born, and ultimately died for us. Now that's worth celebrating!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Making a Masterpiece out of Aluminum Foil Dryer Balls

I had a fun post planned for today. Back in July 2012 I read a cool article about using aluminum foil balls in the dryer to keep clothes static free. We published it in our monthly newsletter which goes out to our residents, family, and friends. Like most of the articles we include, we actually try them out because they sound cool.

So, a year and a half ago we made a couple balls. And just this week, one of those balls finally cracked. I thought it looked cool and thus came an opportunity to write about it and a couple other drying tips:

  • Cut your dryer sheets in half... you really don't need that huge sheet.
  • Wash your lint trap with soapy water every once in a while because a thin film builds up that blocks airflow. You'll notice faster drying times.
  • If you live somewhere that doesn't rain a lot, try drying your cloths outside on a line.
But then before sitting down to write about it, I decided to read a friend's new blog. She left for Mexico 3 months ago and decided to write about her experiences. Here's a small excerpt:
"I am learning to sense God’s presence in new ways through conversations, different aspects of His creation, and in some of the most simple and—some might argue—undignified tasks. I am learning to practice the presence of God while cleaning toilets; talking to a classmate from New Zealand, Mexico, Belgium or the Dominican Republic; watching a sea turtle burry her eggs in the sand; hand-washing and hang-drying my cotton shirts; playing soccer on the beach with giggling children; waiting with hunger in the dinner line, my physical hunger a subtle reminder of a deeper hunger growing within me; sweeping porches; washing dishes; talking to 17-year old Ameyalli after her basketball game at the park; picking out my roommates’ (and probably mine too) hair from our shower drain; being challenged and inspired through guest speakers;"

Yeah. I'm suddenly trying to figure out the value of my life if the biggest thing I chose to write about this week is an aluminum dryer ball cracking. Clearly, if I try to measure my life in similar experiences it's a futile effort because I'll never come close to her. This also begs a different question: what is the right way to measure your life? Should it even be measured?

I'll admit that I don't know the answer, but I do like John Wooden's famous quote: "Make each day a master piece." It seems to sum of the Lord's prayer pretty well which says, "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." (Matthew 6:9-13)

By the way, what is God's will? Mark 12:28 answers this: "And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, "Which commandment is the most important of all?" Jesus answered, "The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these.""

In other words, make the most of what you're given today to glorify God. For some of us, that means working hard at our job today, spending time with your kids, taking the time to listen to a friend you meet at the bar, cheerfully cleaning a toilet, or writing a blog post about dryer balls to help others save money. In each case, you're creating a masterpiece if you take your situation, set yourself aside, and focus on a) loving God and b) loving your neighbor. This is a commitment every single one of us can make. It's a commitment that is worth measuring and pursuing.

The follow up to this commitment is to change your environment if you don't feel like you're able to accomplish God's will as best you can. For some people it's obvious: too much TV or alcohol can steal your focus on creating a masterpiece. Cut back on those and replace them with activities focused on God's will. For some people, it means packing up and heading to Mexico. For my friend, I know her problem was that life was good (almost too easy) and she found herself looking for more. I actually think getting away is a great way to shake things up and re-align your priorities for when you get back. It doesn't always have to be 3+ months either. One week of purposeful mission-style service will do it for most folks.

So, in summary (I feel like I need one after this ramble):
  • Make each day a masterpiece.
  • Do this by loving God and loving people.
  • If you feel like your not, change your environment so you can.
  • That just might include making an aluminum dryer ball, cleaning your lint trap, and cutting your dryer sheets in half. Then taking that $5 you save each month and using it to bless someone else's life.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas Decorations

Jessi and I spent Thanksgiving in California with family. When we returned home, we couldn't help but notice there were ZERO Christmas lights anywhere on our block. So, we decided to lead by example and hang some lights this year. Here's what we did:

Our adventure started with driving to get a tree. Jessi took this photo that makes Vinnie look huge!

We found, and cut, the perfect tree and somehow managed to get a perfect picture too.

Jessi made this angel in kindergarten.

Here's what the tree looks like all decorated!

I made a joke that Vinnie would look super cute in a scarf. Then this happened.

We also set up a nativity scene on one of our bookshelves. This nativity set used to belong to Jessi's Grandma Christian.

 Then we set up our stockings on the other bookshelf.

Finally, we decorated outside... In the middle of a snow storm. We went for a classic look with snowflakes in the windows. We didn't want to set the bar too high, that way other families would feel like they could do it too. It looks really pretty with the snow.

And we're proud to say that at least one other family decided to get their act together and put up some of their own lights.

Monday, December 02, 2013

The Debt Snowball Begins To Avalanche

It's time for another celebration as I just sent off the last check (via Bill Pay) on another loan. I think it'll be fun to see how we're doing.

We started this journey 2 years ago. At the time, we had $78,000 in debt (excluding real estate investments). and we were ready for all of it to be gone. Including our car loan, the minimums totaled $996 and all we could add at the time was an extra $200. It wasn't a ton, but it was enough for us. Then about every 6 months, we would kick in another $1,000 from accumulated savings. My calculations showed it would take us 5 years to pay it all back at this rate. We were OK with that because we knew we could increase that amount over time.

When I got a raise, all of it went towards paying back the loans. When we increased the rent on a unit, the increase went towards paying back the loans. When we moved to a smaller place, we put the difference towards the loans.

In 2 years, we've managed to get our debt down to $44,000... not as fast as some of the Dave Ramsay callers I hear, but good enough for us. That means we've paid $38,000 in payments $34,000 of which was to principle. Because of how snowballing works, more and more goes towards principle over time, and that means we're now on a 4 year track. Woohoo!

In those 2 years we also increased our extra payments by $767 per month, and by snowballing our old payments, we're now doing an extra $1,345 each month (with an extra $1,000 every 6 months or so, as savings allow).

In those 2 years, we've learned some things. Here they are:

Lesson #1
Start where you can. We could only do an extra $200 at first. That's OK. It's important to just get started. The same is true for saving for retirement: just start. Then next year, you can re-evaluate and add more.

Lesson #2
When making extra payments, it really adds up because 100% of it goes towards principle. So even though it may not seem like much at first, it has a huge impact. This is especially true at the beginning of a loan when a majority of your payment goes towards interest.

Lesson #2.5
People get caught in questions about the order: Biggest balance first? Largest Interest rate first? Type of loan first? So many choices! I would argue it doesn't matter. Just pick one. The BIGGEST determination of how fast you pay off our loans is the amount EXTRA you pay. Instead of spending time figuring out the optimal order, spend that time figuring out how to pay just a little extra.

Lesson #3
Make sure to celebrate your small wins. You can brag about it on your blog to show off how awesome you are. Or, like we're also doing, take a trip to Disney World. In January, we're going for a long weekend. Since it's off-season, we saved money on our plane tickets. We're also staying with friends (and running in a 10K race with them... the "official" reason for going), and used my sister's employee/intern discount for park tickets. As such, we were able to keep the cost under $1,345 for the two of us. Celebrating milestones keeps you excited during a very long process.

Lesson #4
Once you see the fruits of paying off your loans, use that excitement to find other ways to add to the pile. It might be cutting back on something that you don't really use, or finding a side job/gig and putting 100% of your earnings there.

Lesson #5
You can pay off your loans with crazy intensity, but you don't have to. In this time, we managed to also buy a car, another investment property and a new home. Though, you'll notice that each of these purchases were designed to improve our monthly cash flow. Despite that, I'm thinking about setting a 2014 goal of not making any large purchases, or doing any large renovations.

So there you go. If you're lucky enough to get a raise/bonus this year, think about kicking off your journey of getting out of debt before spending it on a new iPad Air.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How To Succeed In Fantasy Football Without Trying Too Hard

We're entering the home stretch of fantasy football and for the first time ever I'm actually experiencing success. I don't actually think I'll win this year (I just lost a big game), but I'm doing much better than previous years when I'm normally fighting to not be last.

A little history...
The first time I played I had no clue what I was doing. I didn't draft well, lost my first couple games and essentially stopped playing. For some reason, they didn't invite me back the following year.

When I got invited to play again, I came prepared. I spent hours doing research on players and actually drafted a good team. I started out well, but it was too much work keeping on top of player news. Honestly, I just don't care enough to invest that much time. So I slowly dropped in the standings and it became less fun. I participated a couple seasons before dropping out.

This time, I got invited to a family league to replace my brother, who is apparently even worse than I am. He uses a "set it and forget it" strategy. This time we used the system, which is slightly better than Yahoo's (though, they're both wonky). Here's what I did this time round:

Leading up to the draft
I was asked to join a day before we drafted, which forced me to take short cuts. So I did 2 things: First, I read a couple (like 2!) stories that gave me an overall draft strategy. I also put a handful of players on a short list. For example, they said that if Jimmy Graham is still around at round 4, take him because the amount of points he'll generate is the same as a typical round four player, and he earns disproportionately high points for a tight end. I did just that and the serious players in my league all groaned when I did it. Thanks Internet!

The other thing I did was surf the video channels. As it turns out, they have a Fantasy Channel. Can you believe there are guys who get paid to analyze the fantasy game and talk about it?! They gave me a couple more names and talked specifically about the system and what to look for.

So I walked into this draft without a planned list. Instead I had a rough outline of what positions I wanted to fill. I won't say I dominated the draft (though I did get Adrian Peterson and Jimmy Graham), but I started off with a strong team.

If you have a strong team, you don't need to do much movement, but you still need to do some. But I didn't want to spend hours researching. So I let the guys on the NFL Fantasy Channel do it for me. Each week they have a Waiver Wire update where they tell you which players to pick up. They can see what percentage of teams own that player, so they know if that's a person worth talking about. For example, one week Arizona's running back got hurt and his replacement stepped in and did well. They noted that few people had picked up Andre Ellington and that we was going start playing more which equals more points. That's the kind of insight I needed and didn't have in the past!

So, I'd watch that week's video while taking notes. Then go search for those players. If they were out performing one of my players, I'd switch them up. It was pretty easy and felt good because I felt like I was making smart moves.

The game gets really interesting when you have bye-weeks. Again, I didn't want to do too much work. For my QB/RB/WR I looked for players on the Waiver Wire a week before I need them. Since I was performing well, I was often low on the waiver (ie. if someone with a worse record request the same player, they would get him). By going a week early, it helped me avoid those problems.

For TE/K/DEF I just found a sub that week. I kept my main player and used another flex position as a substitute. As a result, I did REALLY well during this part of the season and climbed to the top of the rankings.

So, I probably spend 30 minutes a week doing that. I also spend 30 minutes watching game highlights, but I do that every year. It's a way for me to enjoy big moments while not spending hours watching games. If you've ever wanted to play, or like to play but don't like losing all the time, now you have a way to do well without taking up a lot of time. You probably won't beat the person who spends hours analyzing their team each week, but you'll definitely have a lot more fun, which is what it should be all about.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Turning 30 In Portland

Yes, I use Snapchat. More importantly, did you instantly recognize it from this photo?

I turned 30 recently, but I like to think I'm a kid at heart. For one, I use Snapchat. For two, I was breaking out like a 16 year-old all last week.

Of course, in other ways I feel much older. For example, most of the players in the NFL are younger than me now. That's just weird because they're MEN and I don't see myself that way. I also feel myself desiring to wear suits. What's up with that? Thankfully, I talked myself down from that expensive cliff and settled for wearing my existing nicer clothes more often.

Anyways, Jessi and I had plans to celebrate my birthday, but they've been moved out. So instead, we went to Portland for a kid-like day.

The first thing we did was get doughnuts to fuel the day. Then we listened to Ender's Game on the drive up. Then we went to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). Then we took a looooong walk over a couple bridges. Then we grabbed dinner - cheese burgers. Then we drove home, listening to more Ender's Game. Then we cooked an apple pie Jessi made earlier in the month and made ice cream.

It was actually a fantastic plan-B date.

Here was one of our views during the walk. As you can tell, it was a perfect day.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Shocking Amount of Rain Corvallis Receives

So I'm in Washington visiting family. While downtown, a random person asks to pet Vinnie and says, "You know, it really doesn't rain that much in Port Townsend. I'm actually surprised it's as green as it is."

Wait. What?

Before this moment, my mental model was that it rained ALL THE TIME in Port Townsend. It goes something like this:

It never rains in San Diego.
Further North in Los Gatos it rains sometimes.
Further North in Corvallis is almost rains all the time.
Further North in Port Townsend it must therefore rain all the time.

Like any good data scientist, on Saturday morning before anyone else woke up, I visited to see what the actual historical averages are. Here's what I found:

Well... well... well... It turns out the random lady, who likes doxies, was right. I'll resist the urge to connect petting dachshunds with weather soothsaying given my recent record.

The crazy part is that it rains LESS THAN HALF as much in Port Townsend compared to Corvallis.

Well, now that I had the tool open, I opened a spreadsheet and started looking up cities of interest. The chart below is total annual rainfall in inches.
  • Los Gatos = Hometown
  • San Diego = "doesn't rain much" and I know people who work there
  • Boise = I know people who work there
  • Bend = Where I tell my parents it's nice and they should move there
  • Seattle = is Port Townsend special? (yes... to a degree)
  • Newport = I needed to find one city with more rain than Corvallis
  • CO Springs = family lives here

Ok. At this point, some of these look the same, but I think we can all agree that Boise is NOT the same as San Diego. Obviously a better picture would include temperatures, snow and/or sunny days, but that wasn't the claim I was investigating.

I did want to get a better feel for how the average monthly rainfall looked. So the following chart shows the average in inches with bars that span the min/max amounts of rain in a month.

So it might rain less overall in Port Townsend, but there are some months when Corvallis gets less (take that!).

And now for the series. This isn't for the faint of heart. I wanted to see the patterns. If you make it all the way to the end, you're in for a surprise in Colorado Springs.

Most follow the same pattern (more in winter, less in summer) and this shows how extreme it gets in each place. Surprisingly, there are months when it rains MORE in San Diego than Boise, but that's offset by lots of months with little, if any, rain.

I'm not 100% sure, but I think Colorado Springs is broken.

Pretty cool, right? I think I'll spend some time reminding myself why I live where I do...

Monday, September 30, 2013

5th Annual Parry-Furlo Camping Trip: MONSOON Edition!

I supposed it was bound to happen.

You go camping in late September / early October long enough, you're bound to run into some rain. On the previous 4 trips, only one had light rain the first night. Well... Murphy's Law caught up with us on this trip. The good news is that it shouldn't rain for the next 8 years!

Seriously, it was a monsoon outside! According to Wunderground, it rained 0.42" on Friday, 1.31" on Saturday and then 1.63" on Sunday. Not only that, the wind was pretty intense and so most of the time the rain came in sideways. There was also thunder and lightening Sunday morning.

BUT, we had a yurt.

Which meant we were able to stay dry and still enjoy the weekend. We played games, cooked meals on the stove, puzzled, visited both the Oregon Coast Aquarium & the OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center, and ate at the Rogue Brewery. All in all, it was fun. Check out what we did below.

 Here are some seahorses. They sure are weird!

You can walk in a glass tunnel through the shark tank. It was awesome!

PROOF! Smiles inside the shark tank.

The gang, hiding inside a rock cave attempting to avoid rain. There's actually a really cool outside part to the aquarium with sea lions and otters.

 There's a section where you can touch starfish and other sea creatures.

Jellyfish are weird.

Apparently, these are still in use today for really deep underwater adventures.

Pretty scary!

This is at the Marine Science Center. I feel like I'm watching Pirates of the Caribbean II.

They also have a cool wave machine. You build Lego structures, and then see if they can withstand different sizes of waves.

We also decided to have dinner at the Rogue Brewery since our fire pit was flooded. They had games there too and we played Hedbandz while eating dinner.

Another perk of yurting is that you can borrow puzzles. Jessi and Kellie are great at puzzling!

So that was our trip. See, you can still have fun even if it's raining.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Day Hike At Tumalo Falls

Last weekend I went on a camping trip with a bunch of men from my church called "Man Camp". We stayed at Tumalo State Park in Bend, OR. On one of the days part of the group went for a hike to Tumalo Falls. There are a bunch of waterfalls (duh) within a short hike. If you find yourself in Bend looking for something to do, I recommend a day hike at Tumalo Falls.

This was the view on the way back. The large waterfall is right below me.

If you're still looking for something to do, check out Smith Rock State Park in Terrebonne, OR. The hike is pretty intense - they actually call it Misery Trail - but the view is breath taking. That rock sticking up on the right is called "Monkey Face".

You can also watch people do crazy things like walk across a slack line with a 100 foot drop below them. Yes, they're tied in, but still. It does kind of look like he's running away from the Monkey's mouth.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Benefits of Mowing Lawns

Sometimes owning real estate means you need to mow the lawn. In my case, it's starting to add up to a LOT of lawns. For example, yesterday I mowed 4 sets of lawns (front & back).

In contrast to my childhood, that's a lot of mowing. You see, growing up, my Dad's idea of yard maintenance consisted of 2 steps: Roundup in the spring and Roundup in the fall. Done. No mowing required.

When we bought our first place I was excited to finally do this thing that so many people talk about: mow my own lawn. Since it was a duplex, I got a double dose.

A few properties later, I still enjoy mowing lawns. Sure, takes a lot of work and time - about an hour per lawn, once every other week on average - but I still like it.

It's for a few reasons:

1) It's an opportunity to get exercise. I take a lot of steps and push & pull a lot. It's great for my health. I'm not quite extreme enough to use a push mower (I do live in Oregon after all), but I still get a good workout.

2) I listen to audiobooks while mowing. I got a pair of ear muffs that block out the sound of the motor and I get lost in story. Right now I'm listening to book 2 of The Hunger Games. It's a fantastic use of time. I often switch off between fantasy, biographies and self-help books.

3) At one time I did the research & it's anywhere from $40-$70 per lawn to pay someone else to take care of your lawn. So I'm getting paid to exercise & read! I think about this a lot when I'm hot, sweaty and still have one more set of lawns to go. $200 more dollars to the student loan pot!

4) It's a great excuse to check out the property and check in on tenants. It's let's them know I care about the property AND them.

I know my time is finite and eventually we will own enough properties I won't be able to keep up, but for now I really enjoy it.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Mapping Out Real Estate Sales

I talked about this map on a recent podcast and wanted to share it here as well. If you click on it, you should get to see the large version of it. It's meant to be printed on a 17"x11" sheet of paper.

This map shows sales in Corvallis, Albany, Lebanon and Philomath in the last 12 months. People often talk about price differences in Corvallis and Albany, and this map shows it perfectly. Of course, this map takes it a another step and shows the differences in neighborhoods too. Often North Albany is said to be more expensive, and South Corvallis is thought to be less expensive. With the map, you can clearly see that.

What's also fun is finding the place you recently bought or sold on the map. We bought two in the last 12 months and I was able to pick them out (one yellow and one green dot).

I don't know if this will become a regular thing, but it sure was fun to make once I figured out all the tools I needed to combine to make it happen.

Want to make a map yourself? Here's how to do it:

  • I created a grey map using MapBox. They have all sorts of cool styles to choose from. It requires a free account.
  • I installed an app of their's called TileMill. It took a while to figure out how to use this. It's not as intuitive as I would like.
  • I imported a reference layer from map I made in MapBox to TileMill (under setting, link to your map's MapBox ID).
  • Then, I went to the MLS database and exported all the sales in the last 12 months, including their price. This could, in theory, be anything geographic.
  • I went to GPS Visualizer and geocoded all the address (1,700 of them!) to latitude and longitude using their javascript tool.
  • Once I had that, I made a .CSV file of the data and imported that into TileMill as another map layer.
  • TileMill is cool because then I could style the markers any way I wanted using code similar to CSS. I chose plain dots that differed in color based on the price. I could also change the size of the dots if I wanted based on some other criteria.
  • Then I created a 17"x11" image at 300 ppi in Pixelmator. This is like Photoshop for Mac, but much more affordable and just as powerful in my opinion.
  • Then it was a laborious task of taking screen shots of TileMill, cropping them down to only the map using Mac's build in Preview app and lining up the layers in Pixelmator. Since a screen's resolution is 72 ppi, I essentially had to blow everything up 3 times the size so it printed normally. I had more than 30 layers to cover the entire canvas.
  • I couldn't fit Lebanon inline with the other cities, so I broke it out into it's own box. It happens.
  • I could also, if I wanted, upload my dots layer back to MapBox and then have something to embed on a website. Like so:

So there you go. A cool map that shows sales and a really quick guide on how to make it. Or at least, the tools to make it happen.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

How To Finance Commercial Real Estate

I was recently doing some research for a real estate investor's club meeting on how to fund commercial real estate and had trouble finding this information online. So... Here it is as of August 2013.

Let's say you want to buy an apartment complex larger than 4 units (that was one of the properties we practiced analyzing as a group). Those, whether it's 5 or 500 are considered commercial real estate. That means you need to get a commercial loan. When you go to a business-based bank, like Citizens Bank, here's what they'll tell you. Again... this is all subject to change, but these should work as general lending rules.

  • First, the downpayment minimum is 30%! That could come from the seller (or anyone really) as long as they're willing to take 2nd position to the main loan.
  • Second you can only get a loan for 20-25 years.
  • That loan will probably have an variable rate, which can adjust every 3-5 years.
  • Your personal credit score, though looked at, doesn't matter as much. If you're buying with a bunch of investors as an LLC then the majority owners would have to guarantee the loan payment.
  • Instead, they'll look critically at the income and expenses of the property. The income must be at least 1.24 (call it one and a quarter) of all expenses, including all debt repayment.
  • Closing costs will be the fairly standard loan fee: 1% of mortgage. Plus the fairly standard 4% of the purchase price for title insurance. Plus recording fees of course, but those are minimal.
  • Often times, since these are larger properties with considerably more risk, the lender will want to do an environment impact report to make sure nothing comes up.
  • That's it. Gather your funds and paperwork and you can buy a commercial property.

This means you need a TON of capital to buy a property though. The specific one I was analyzing met all the criteria if I had enough money for a downpayment and closing costs. Well... except that I don't have $200,000 to invest... So I guess I don't meet all the criteria! I did officially find out that not having enough money is the #1 reason why people don't qualify. No kidding!

Now, if the seller was willing to take back a 2nd for the down payment, and even though it would still have positive cash-flow, the rent-to-expense ratio would become less than 1.24 in this case and I wouldn't be able to finance the rest of the purchase. Bummer. But... if the right property came along that still met the criteria, it would be totally cool. Good luck finding that deal on the MLS.

It could also work, in theory, with a group of investors adding up to the $200,000 minimum down. Of course, I don't exactly know how to find people with lots of cash waiting to be invested... Plus, I'd have to have a very clear exist strategy, somehow prove my credibility, and put in a ton of work... but it could be worth it. I know some people do this full-time with larger properties where the scale makes it worth the effort. They find deals, find investors, property managers and get part of the equity for pulling it all together. I actually would like to learn more about this style of investing.

Anyways, that's what it takes to finance a commercial property. It's way out of my league today, but still fun to think about.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Sweat Equity: Columbus Final Pictures

As promised, here are some pictures of the remodel we did. It turned out to be a massive project, but looks great (especially now that we're done). Let's start with a couple before-ish photos.

The kitchen. The refrigerator used to sit in the empty spot.

The living room. There used to be wall-to-wall carpet where the hardwood is. Unfortunately, that wood was in horrible shape.

The hole in the wall. The trick is to seal it up while allowing for future access to the pipes.

These sections were rotted away and the whole subfloor needed to be replaced.

OK. Now for the final after pictures.

We didn't do anything on the outside except fix a couple spots where the water didn't drain the way I wanted.

The living room. Boom.

We moved the fridge and my dad built this cabinet & counter.

 New sink. new counters. New dishwasher. All refinished cabinets. Just stop for half a second and admire what took us MONTHS to do.

Custom chop block.

Custom countertop too.

MEGA thanks to my dad for coming up TWO weekends to help make these.

Without the fridge here, we added a mini counter for a microwave.

NEW garbage disposal.

What hole? It now also has an access panel just in case...

We changed the sink facet in the bathroom.

We repaired the subfloor. With carpet, you would never know.

We didn't do anything in the backyard, but I like this panorama.

Don't worry, we didn't work 100% of the time. I did my best attempt at Pottering using a paint roller.

We're ready to relax for a bit before taking on any new projects. It'll be nice to get back to a semi-normal routine too.