Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Transparent Look At Our Investment Property's Performance

When buying an investment property, I "run the numbers" to see what type of return I can expect. I make a bunch of researched assumptions, plug them into a spreadsheet and it pops back a bevy of numbers. Based on those numbers, we decided to buy or pass.

Jessi cares about one number: the pre-tax profit. She wants to make sure a property is cash flow positive each month. I definitely care about cash flow, and also the total return on our investment (ROI) since that's what we compare to other investments, like the stock market.

Since I recently completed our final accounting for the tax year, I thought it would be fun to look back and see how we're doing. I also know it's super helpful for others to see real live results. So, gird yourself for a bunch of numbers!

Cash Flow Analysis

Let's start with the cash flow analysis. We currently own 4 properties: LYN is the apartments. COL & JAC are duplexes. FIR is a house we converted into a rental half way through last year.

The line Jessi cares about is the 3rd line. Good news! Each of them are positive, even FIR (The money to fix up FIR is in the "Cash Invested" line).

We target $100/month/unit (line 5) and we're hitting it on the stable properties. I expect FIR to jump up around that level next year as well.

The final line (total ROI) is what I care about most. I expected COL to be at 52%, and we're easily beating that. JAC, however, I expected to be at 16% and it's slightly below that level. I knew it wouldn't be as high as the others because of the large down payment, but this is a little concerning. I was planning to re-paint in the near future, but now I'm starting to wonder if we can afford it.

(Side note: The cash invested in LYN shows $53K. That includes a $50K personal loan. The property is paying off that loan, so it's really $3K invested. That puts the total ROI at ~900%, and increases the TTL total ROI to ~60%.)

Overall, I'm happy with the results.

Classic Property Ratios

This isn't the only way investors look at properties. There are some classic ratios used:

The goal is a Gross Rent Multiplier (GRM) lower than 8.3. Technically my numbers are actual rents instead of scheduled rent (what you're supposed to get at 100% occupancy), but my vacancy rates are low enough it shouldn't matter. I don't personally rely on this number much, but I know others look at it. It confirms that JAC isn't our best investment (but not horrible).

In my opinion, a capitalization rate (Cap Rate) of at least 5-6% is. We're doing slightly better - that's good.

The 1% rule states that your rents should be at least 1% of your purchase price. We knew JAC was slightly below, but the others continue to above this threshold. This is another measure Jessi cares about when doing an initial evaluation.

The 50% rule is that no more than 50% of your revenue should go towards your mortgage. This is actually my first time verifying if we're actually hitting that. For both COL and FIR we did minimum down payments, so I'm not surprised that they're above 50%.


When we buy, we assume zero appreciation. We want the investment to be a solid one even if the market doesn't change. Never buy a property "because it'll go up in value". That's speculating, not investing and creating value (and why I'm disillusioned by the stock market). Still, it doesn't stop me from taking a peak. :)

There's two ways to evaluate the value of an investment property: look at comparative sales, and by an income approach (properties tend to sell at a consistent multiple of their rent). I used Zillow's Zestimate for the comparative sales. My income approach is conservative: take the monthly rent and divide by 1% (the inverse of the 1% rule).

Apparently Zillow doesn't feel comfortable making a guess on the value of a commercial building... The first ROI is comparing 2016 to 2015 (Y/Y). The next two lines are looking at the lifetime (LT) increase since purchase. At the very least, it's nice to know that I could sell the properties for a profit if I need to.

Fun to look at. If anything, it tells me it's OK to move forward with cash-out refinance of LYN. I should not attempt a refinance on any of the others at this time.

Final Thoughts

Am I making a killing? No. But I'm beating the stock market (36% vs S&P @ 9.5% and Dow Jones @ 13.4%). (OK. LYN is pretty good and COL isn't bad either.) Having said that, I spent more time managing the properties than managing my 401K, so there is a trade off. Of course, that's one of the things I like about rentals: there's an opportunity for me to add direct value to my investments, and that's what helped me get a 36% return last year. Plus, I actually enjoy working with tenants and doing maintenance. So it's win-win-win.

As for my next steps, I would like to buy another multi-family property (or two!) this year. Through some research last year, I learned that there are a lot of older folks who bought 1-3 duplexes 20-30 years ago for supplemental income. Lots of them own the properties free and clear (or with very small mortgages), are doing a lot of the managing and maintenance themselves, and have rents way too low for the area. I now have the proven experience of buying and successfully managing multi-family properties that I think I can help these folks fully retire. The plan will be to buy these duplexes at their current value, and then fix them up and raise rents to market rates (and then refinance to pull the invested cash out). This is exactly the same thing I did with LYN. You can see above that that's a winning strategy.

I'll probably be able to buy one property on my own. But I'm also interested in finding people with some cash to help fund deals through the refinance. I hear there's people with at least $25K that would like to outperform the stock market. It would be cool to help current owners retire, help improve homes in the city, and help others earn a better return on their money. So I'll be exploring that avenue later this year.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Our Awesome New Bathroom

When we bought our house in July, we knew the bathroom needed some work. Specifically, the shower leaked and needed to be redone. It was at this point we began to live out the book "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" in real life ('ll probably want a glass of milk. And if you give it a glass of milk it probably want...). For example:
  • If you're redo the shower, you'll want to remove one of the walls.
  • If you remove one of the walls you'll need a new cabinet and sink.
  • To get a new cabinet, you'll also need to take off some drywall.
  • If you take one wall of drywall off, you'll probably have to take drywall off all the walls.
  • If all the studs are exposed, you'll probably want to update the electrical and plumbing.
  • Also, if all the studs are exposed, you might as well install a pocket door.
  • You might as well also install a sun tunnel...
You get the idea. We ended up redoing everything. Here's a video of me walking through the bathroom before the project started describing everything I wanted to do.

The final result actually stay pretty close to the original vision. You'll notice I didn't mention the sun tunnel or pocket door in the video. Those were definitely "If you give a mouse a cookie" additions you'll see in the final video below.

During the project I was surprised by the lack of "smart" options. I thought it would be cool to have a shower that somehow recycle water and/or pre-heated the water and/or other magical things, but there weren't any good options. I also ended up putting in standard lights and a standard exhaust fan. There was one fan that played music via bluetooth, and had a nightlight, but the actual fan wasn't very powerful. I also strayed away from floor heating systems, mostly because my floor height didn't allow for it.

But I did install a smart faucet (this one). It's a hands free one with the ability to also control temperature. I also got a hands free soap dispenser. They're actually pretty cool. Not only does it save water, but also helps keep germs away. It takes a little getting used to, but overall we love it. Both are battery powered, so we can still use them if the electricity goes out.

It took many weeknights and weekends, but it's done! Here's the final video:

I also want to thank my friend Steve Gress for helping me. He wanted to learn how to tile and I managed to talk him into also helping with the demo and a bunch of other projects (like hammering nails into an impossible to reach place). Thanks Steve!

And some final pictures.

Now onto the next project: organizing the garage