Rental #1 Has Been Sold

Well, in a rather depressing turn of events, Rental #1 closed escrow last Monday and I sold it for a loss. I haven't run the exact numbers yet, but it looks like I lost about $30,000 on the deal. As always, the last day of escrow was not without its drama. This time, I got a call saying the escrow company had not received my funds that I had to wire to them to make up the difference between what was owed and what I sold it for. Those funds were wired the previous Friday. At the time, I was in Las Vegas, so I had none of my paperwork with me. I called my bank and was told the wire did indeed go out on Friday. I then called the escrow company back and before I could give them my news, they told me they did in fact, have my funds. I guess the escrow officer who was handling my case was gone that day, so someone else had to step in.

Some final items still remain to be taken care of: I called my insurance agent today and told him I sold the property. My insurance coverage will be canceled effective last Monday and I'll be getting a refund of the unused premium. I also contacted my management company. To date, I have not received any kind of statement or receipts for charges incurred. I sent them $3,000 to handle some repairs and management fees two months ago. I asked them for an accounting of all expenses and a refund of the unused funds. They said they are working on that and need to wait to make sure all the bills are paid. Truthfully, I should have been asking for this after the first month, but I knew I was selling the place soon, so I let it slide for a month.

So, what lessons did I learn from all this? Several.

  1. The adage is true: Real estate is all about location, location, location. I did not make a trip out to visit this property before I bought it. I relied on another person's opinion and since that person was the seller, there was an obvious bias. Because she got it rented quickly, I assumed I would be able to do the same when it came time for the next tenant. I did not know the property was in gang territory and would be difficult to rent.
  2. I assumed the seller, who rehabbed this property and several others, worked the same way I worked - namely, that she had a professional inspection performed in order to see what needed to be repaired. This is what I have done on all the properties I rehabbed. I looked back through all the documentation the seller provided to me and I did not get an inspection report. Nor did I have one performed before or after I bought the place. Shame on me. Again, I assumed the seller did this and her rehab would have fixed whatever turned up on the report, especially since her husband is a contractor. The problem with the roof would have either been fixed or at least brought to my attention had this been the case. I did find the seller's disclosure statement and she indicated she knew of no problems with the roof and no repairs to it had been done under her ownership.
  3. Property management companies are a mixed blessing. On the one hand, they free up your time by managing your property for you. On the other hand, they won't do anywhere near as good a job as you would. Obviously, each company is different, but it seems property management companies don't work too hard to find tenants for your property, especially if you only have one single family home listed with them. Nor do they seem to care about the condition of your property. Of course, I am sure there are exceptions to these trends, but they are probably hard companies to find.
  4. The declining real estate market hurt the resale value. While the property location is likely the main cause for my loss, the collapse of the real estate market did not help me when I needed to sell quickly.
I think this will be my last investment in single family homes. Not because I lost money - if you invest enough, that's bound to happen at some time. Several months ago, I decided that multi-units are the way to go with REI. You don't have to worry about the income dropping to zero when a tenant moves out. You'll get better service from a property management company. You can get into bigger deals if you partner with others and can leverage their experience and learn from it. The benefits of multi-units are too great to overlook. And in related news, I just got the first month's financials from my investment in Multi #1. More details on that later.

But just to end things on a positive note, while I was in Las Vegas, I did do some winning. About 15 minutes after I sat down on my first day, I got this:

The rest of the day, I kept getting screens like this:

At the end of the first day, I was up about $1,600. Of course, I gave it all back, but it sure was fun!


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