Filing Taxes

We filed our taxes. It just takes so long, but it’s easy. This year I recorded what I did and how long it took, so I wanted to share.

I’ve shared that I record transactions all year long. Inevitably, a few things slip through a crack. So I go through everything I have on file to make sure I can support a charge I’ve recorded (e.g., receipt) and that I haven’t missed entering something in my spreadsheet (e.g., I have a receipt for work, but didn’t put it in my spreadsheet).

DC TAXES

Mr. ODA works for a DC office, but lives in KY. The paperwork information got crossed, and he ended up paying taxes to DC for a little while. Apparently DC is used to this mistake. There’s a form he filled out, attached a copy of his W2, and mailed it to DC. He received a full refund within a couple of weeks! I couldn’t believe the timing of it and how it easy it was!

STEP 1

My first step was to load all my mortgage documents for the houses that we still have mortgages on. I need to know the mortgage interest for the year and what they paid out in taxes from escrow. For some reason, it never tells me the insurance payments made on the tax document, so I need to go through my email or look at the line-by-line escrow to see when and how much was paid for insurance. I estimate the mortgage interest each year, but I don’t have the final amount until January.

STEP 2

Then I go through my email files. I try to get most of my receipts via email (e.g., Home Depot and Lowes are good about tying your credit card to your email address so I keep everything filed electronically). This took me just over 3 hours. I went through each email receipt to see if I had it recorded properly. I found 2 or 3 transactions that I had receipts for, but they weren’t recorded in my spreadsheet. I also found out that I didn’t record any of my final December transactions (i.e., stormwater utility bills and property management).

STEP 3

After I go through everything I can electronically, I move on to my paper files. We have a lot of our insurance through State Farm, and they don’t email me receipts for payment, nor can I look up previous payments made on their website. So I keep a paper copy of all the insurance documents for each house. We had a huge debacle with two of our KY houses and insurance last Fall, so I had to make sure I had all of that recorded accurately. I used to rely on the paper stormwater utility bills that I pay directly, but this year I just went into our checking account and verified the amounts that I paid against what I recorded. Since most of my transactions are kept electronically (especially with having property managers, so they’re sending me the bills they receive electronically), the paper checking was only about an hour this year. It used to be longer, but I’ve streamlined my electronic filing so mostly everything is in there.

STEP 4

After just over four hours of “prep” work, we move on to the tax software.

Mr. ODA entered our W2 information, we both pulled up all our investment account statements, and then we got into the investment properties. It’s tedious, and each year we have to remember how we matched our terminology to the system’s terminology (why can’t I keep better notes on this?!). We got into a groove and knocked out half the properties in about 80 minutes before taking a break. We focused on the 3 properties that we received one 1099-MISC for first, which involved going back and forth on some screens. Then we knocked out some of the easier houses. The next night, we finished off the rest of the houses in about an hour.

We usually call it complete at that time, but we don’t submit right away. We take a few days to see if we think of something we may have missed (whether investment property or personal finance), and then we submit. We usually owe Federal and State tax every year, so we’re never in a rush to get this done and pay. Somehow, we get a refund for Federal this year, but we still owe the State.

SUMMARY

About 6.5 hours of tax work, after being pretty on top of it all year. People ask us why we don’t use someone to do it instead of putting all that time in. It’s not that easy. If we had to send our information to an accountant, we still would have to gather all our receipts and send them over. I think it’s easier to look at my receipt and record it, rather than gather all my emails and send them to an accountant (not to mention Gmail is not a great mail system in this regard because you can’t easily add emails to new emails). Then we have to field all their questions regarding the documentation that I send, which will inevitably be frustrating to me. It’s all around cheaper and easier to do it this way.

Year in Review: Part 1

Just over a year ago, I decided it was time to put more effort into sharing what we’ve been through. When I’m looking to learn something new, I like to find examples of how other people handle it. I want to know the places they struggled and how they learned. I find it a better way to form my opinion than by reading an article that doesn’t have any meat in it, only providing an outline.

In the last year, I learned that blogging wasn’t as easy to keep up with as I thought it would be. I have a list of topics still to cover, so it wasn’t a matter of content. But raising two kids hinders my ability for an uninterrupted thought process to write an article, unless I get to it before they wake up.

The blog was started by Mr. ODA in 2018. He wrote a few posts, and then it sat for two years. I decided to pick it back up in January 2021. During 2021, we published 65 posts. Each month, I wrote a post about our financial update; I included any major expenses, how management of rental properties was going, and how our personal spending may have changed month-to-month. I shared our purchase of 11 out of 13 of our properties, our sale of one property, refinancing mortgages, paying off mortgages, renting properties, maintaining properties, etc. I also shared just general life decision making along the way.


Part 1 for my year in review will address what happened with our rental properties. I’ll dive into our personal finances in Part 2.

As a quick recap, we have 12 rental properties. Nine of them are in Virginia, and three of them are in Kentucky. Two of the houses in Virginia are owned with a partner because we still had cash available to buy more houses, but at the time we had the maximum number of mortgages allowed by Fannie/Freddie (max is 10). The houses were purchased between February 2016 and September 2019. All 3 houses in Kentucky are managed by a property manager, who gets 10% of the monthly rent each month. I manage 5 of the Virginia houses personally, and then we have a property manager who manages the remaining 4, who also gets 10% for each house.

RENTAL PROPERTY MORTGAGES

In January 2021, we completed a refinance of one property, and then in December, we completed three cash-out refinances. The loan balances on these 4 properties increased; one increased because closing costs were rolled into the loan balance, and the other 3 included $190k worth of equity taken out from the houses and creating new loans.

We went from 11 mortgages (two of which are actually owned by a partner) down to 8. House 6 had a balance of $26,447 coming into 2021, and that was paid off by June. Two other houses had a total balance of $157,500 at the beginning of the year. Their balances dwindled through regular monthly payments and one lump sum payment right before we completed the cash-out-refis and completely paid them off.

We have been working on paying down another mortgage that is owned with a partner. Between the two of our families, we paid off about $44,000 additional principal for that mortgage. We’re matching each other’s additional principal payments so that the math is easier to follow, so we can only make additional payments in line with what he can do also. We each owe about $10k on this mortgage now.

Even though there were so many mortgage-related transactions in the year, our overall loan balance only decreased by $6,000.

The market has continued to rise due to the limited supply, and so our home values on the rentals actually increased over $500k over the last year.

RENTAL PROPERTY LEASES

We turned over 1 property the whole year! The tenant that was living there had already told us that they were renting until they found a place to buy, so we knew they wouldn’t be long term tenants. We had a relationship with them from a previous house, when they had moved out of the area and then back. They had a poor experience renting in another area and reached out to us since they appreciated us as landlords. They found a house towards the end of their first year, but we let them out of the lease early. Their lease was slated to end October 31, 2021. We don’t usually have leases that start/end in the Fall if we can help it, but we had let the previous tenant out of her lease early to purchase a house also. The tenant said she was able to be out at the end of August, and we preferred moving the lease closer to the summer months anyway.

We raised the rent on 6 properties.
– The one house that was turned over went from $1200 to $1350 per month. However, we added a property manager who gets 10%, so our cash flow only increased by $15 per month.
– Two of our properties have long term tenants; the rent is significantly below market value, but we value not having to turn over the house. These houses are on a cycle where we increase the rent $50 every two years.
– Our KY property manager tried to increase rent on the 3 properties she manages. One was increased by $25, another by $5, and the other one cried that she couldn’t afford an increase. That’s the one where we plan to increase by $75 next month, and if she doesn’t accept, we’ll turn it over and get $75-$100 more per month.
– We increased rent by $150/month for one of our properties that we have with a partner. It was a risk, but this is a house that claims 3 people live there, but they have 5 queen size beds in the house. We figured either they leave and we get several big things fixed up that have been deferred because of all their things in the way, or we make up for all the years that we didn’t manage their rent and didn’t increase it. They accepted the increase.

RENT COLLECTION

We were very grateful that we made it through those initial months of the pandemic without tenants not being able to pay rent. We had a few people let us know that they were laid off or unable to work (e.g., restaurant business), but we learned most of our tenants worked in the health care field. So while we made it through 2020 without many issues, 2021 brought more challenges. Nothing was insurmountable, and it wasn’t debilitating financially, but it was still something to manage.

We had some big struggles with non-payment of rent on one house. She was 31 days late paying August rent, then she didn’t pay September’s rent, and then she applied for rental assistance to cover September, October, and November, which we didn’t receive until February 2022. That was all on top of her generally being a week late in paying through the beginning of the year too. She doesn’t maintain employment, she doesn’t communicate, and we’ve just had something new and different pop up as an issue every few months. We eventually received January 2022’s rent, but we still haven’t received all of February’s rent – just in time for March rent to be due.

We have another property (the one that was raised $150 per month) that is perpetually late. They eventually pay, and they’re getting better about actually paying the late fee (when they pay rent 20+ days late…), but they were late for 10/12 months of the year.

Everyone else paid their rent on time. In general, we’re lenient with late fees and issues. If you reach out to us and mention that there was a hiccup and you’ll need one more pay check to pay rent, our response is typically: please pay what you can now, pay the rest next week, and don’t worry about the late fee. However, when you don’t communicate and/or you’re consistently weeks late and we’re having to carry the expenses, there needs to be a consequence to incentivize you getting back on track.

RENTAL EXPENSES

We replaced the flooring in House3 ($4,000), hot water heater in House9 ($1,500), HVAC in House10 ($3,300), washing machine in House10 ($250), and HVAC in House12 ($3,900). We also had various electrical and plumbing work that needed to be done in several houses. We also spend about $7k per year in property management fees.

Usually turn over is an area that requires us to put a lot of money into a house. Luckily, the one house that we turned over this year only required some paint work, and we didn’t have any other turnovers.

While it’s nice that our assessments have increased and our housing values have increased in our net worth calculation, it comes at a price. Our taxes have increased on all the properties. In total, they’ve increased over $2,500 in just the one year (meaning, that doesn’t include all the previous years worth of assessment increases that have occurred!).

GOALS

In this year, we hope to add one more rental property to our portfolio. We’ve been actively working on it, but this market is crazy! We’re not willing to overpay on a property and get into a bidding war just to be done with the search. It’s interesting to see that we haven’t bought a new rental property in almost 2.5 years, when we had purchased so many all at once. We had gone back and forth with saving for another down payment or just paying off more mortgages after we paid off House6 in June. Once the cash-out-refi was a possibility, we decided to go ahead with purchasing another property. We’ll self-manage whatever we acquire. We had been looking in Virginia and Kentucky, but have started to settle into a Kentucky property (I like the laws for tenant/landlord relationships better in Virginia) so that we can save the 10% management fee and the expensive leasing fee, since housing prices are significantly higher than what we’d prefer for the rent ratio we’d be getting.

We have 8 houses that still need negotiation and/or lease termination coming this year. Two houses have already agreed to their rent increase, and we just need to get the new lease signed. Five houses will be offered a new lease term with a rent increase (averaging about $50 per month on the increase). One tenant will be asked to leave at the end of her lease term.

We want to remove the tenant from House2 at the end of her lease term. She has been a concern in numerous legal ways, does not hold steady employment, and the house is well under market value rent. Turning over that property will require us to go to Virginia to work on it. It’ll need repainted, the carpet will probably have to be replaced, and I worry that she’ll do some damage when we tell her we’re not interested in renewing her lease.

SUMMARY

I like to look at the details of the rental properties all at once in this format. Sometimes, I get caught up in all the things that I need to get done, and I feel like it’s so much work. In those moments, I forget that there are most days of the year where I don’t even think about the properties. Even when expenses seem to be piling on top of themselves, to look back and see that our expenses totaled less than $15k over 12 houses is encouraging. We’ve also reached the point where we’ve replaced most HVACs and several roofs, which are areas that can create problems that compound on themselves, whereas a replacement is expensive, but then I don’t have to get all the calls that something went wrong.

Escrow Analysis Update

I posted about how one of our houses updated the escrow calculation and claimed our new mortgage payment needed to be $185 more than it had been to cover an escrow shortfall. Our escrow balance was negative, so it wasn’t a surprise that the amount was increasing, but that seemed to be a drastic increase. Most of what I said was right, but I did the increasing math incorrectly. The concept was there, but not the details.

Here’s the current escrow analysis from the mortgage company. It’s similar to what I did on my own. I knew that the new escrow amount to cover just what we owe in the year is $199.25, which is the same. I knew that there would be a shortfall in May of $256.89. This next step is where I was wrong in my calculation.

I took $256.89 and divided that specific shortfall by 12 months to come up with $16.60. Instead, I needed to take that shortfall and add it to the required balance of 2 months worth of the escrow payment. Therefore, $199.25*2+$256.89=$655.39. Take that number and divide by 12 to get the monthly payment to cover the shortfall, which comes to $54.62 (rounded).

The new payment is the new base amount plus the shortfall coverage. So our payment actually increases by a total of $96.95 because our previous escrow payment was only $156.92.

House7 Escrow Analysis

We received a notice that our escrow needed to be increased by $185 on this account. That seemed to be a huge jump, considering this was a new account for this year (we refinances January 2021). Our taxes went up about $35 per month, so the $185 increase stood out.

Mr. ODA’s brain works best in these scenarios, and he quickly noted that the analysis double counted our tax payment (they claimed it to be paid in December 2021 and January 2022). My brain can figure it out, but I need to write down every step of the math to understand it. 🙂 Since I took the time to analyze the escrow changes, I thought I’d share it in case anyone was interested in knowing how their analysis works.

They double counted our tax payment, so the increase truly should only be $58*. As someone who needs to see the details and can’t think in the abstract when it comes to math, I ran my own escrow analysis.

First, you need to know your taxes and insurance total for the year. Take that total, and divide it by 12 to get your monthly expense. This is because your escrow additions occur monthly. For this property, our monthly cost of our taxes and insurance comes to $199.25 (green). The old escrow amount of our monthly mortgage payment was $156.92 (orange).

The ‘Escrow Needed’ column is increased each month by $199.25. The ‘Required Balance’ is double the monthly expense for our account (199.25*2). Then the difference between the ‘Escrow Needed’ and the ‘Required Balance’ is the column in blue. The escrow shortfall is determined by the greatest negative. Therefore, I took the difference for that month (May 2022) and divided it by 12, getting $16.60*.

The escrow analysis then results in an escrow increase of $199.25 (the amount needed to cover projected expenses), minus the old escrow contribution amount of $156.92, plus the shortfall amount of $16.60*, bringing the increase to $58.93 per month and making the new monthly escrow payment $215.85.

EDIT: *These numbers are not right. For a detailed edit, see this post: https://onedollarallowance.com/2022/02/14/escrow-analysis-update/.

Refinance Results

There’s a company in Virginia that offers $0 closing costs for refinances. That applies to personal residences being refinanced. They still cover most of the closing costs associated with investment properties, but there’s an investment property fee that we need to pay. They also have a fee associated with taking cash out as part of the refinance. Another stipulation is that the new loan has to be at least $100,000 after the refinance. I spoke of the initial details in a post last month, and now I can discuss the details and results of the refinance.

We first talked about taking $50,000 out for each Property2 and Property3. Then we added Property8 into the refinance. The opportunity to use this company to refinance a loan is only available in Virginia. We decided it was best to pay off both Winchester, KY houses instead of just one. The appraisals came back higher than anticipated, so we decided to increase each loan to the max amount of 60% loan to value ratio.

Note the change in value on these houses. We’ve owned 2 and 3 for 5.5 years, and we’ve owned 8 for just over 4 years. The value of these houses have more than doubled in that time, with minimal effort on our part, all the while having a tenant cover the mortgage and maintenance costs.

CASH FLOW

At first, the thought of going from $60-70k to $123k-138k worth of loan payments is an overwhelming sight. I’m a visual person, so I broke it down to a place where I felt comfortable with this move. That comfort is in the cash flow.

With the $190k cashed out, we paid off two loans. Due to a huge issue with our insurance payments, our escrow accounts were substantially negative. Therefore, the payoff required making the escrow accounts whole. Our bank that held these loans used to have such a great online system. Through the course of 3 updates, they killed it. They took away loan history in an easy-to-view format, they took away options to make principal-only payments same day, and they removed the payoff request concept (they had made it difficult in the last update by making it a request that you would have emailed to you, and then in this update, they took it away all together, forcing me to call an automated system that just kept telling me about covid-relief options….. I’m not bitter).

After these two loans were paid off, we were left with just under $50k in cash. This will be used for a downpayment and closing costs on a new rental property, which is a search underway.

To the cash flow part – the removal of those two loan payments was worth $1,184.62. The three properties refinanced had their mortgage payments increase by $1,117.70. The change in my monthly cash flow is now $67 more than I had been netting. I’ll note that the cash flow also involves one of the houses going from a 20 year mortgage to a 15 year mortgage, which increases the monthly payment disproportionately to just an interest rate change.

That’s the black and white, month-to-month change; there are some caveats though. Previously, Property2 hadn’t been escrowed, so I was paying that on my own. Now, with the two houses paid off, I’ll need to pay those previously-escrowed costs on my own. When I factor those details in, my annual cash flow actually decreases, and my out of pocket costs for the year increase by about $700.

While the monthly cash flow increase of $67 isn’t a drastic difference, the fact that we have cash left over and $50k of the new loan balance will be used to create more cash flow with the purchase of a new rental-producing property benefits our portfolio.

MANAGING BILLS IMPLICATION

With the payoff of the two houses in Winchester, KY, I now am responsible for paying the taxes and insurance on the properties (instead of escrow). In October, Kentucky sends the owner as of January 1 of that year the tax bills (meaning, if you own the property on January 1, 2020, then you receive the tax bill on October 15, 2020). It’s frustrating. It’s on the old owner to forward to the new owner if there was a sale during that year. They also send it to the owner even if there’s a mortgage with escrow. So every year, I need to call the mortgage company and make sure they received the bill themselves. Even though I need to stay on top of paying the taxes and insurances now that there’s no escrow, it’ll actually save me time because I won’t have to call these companies to make sure they received the current tax bill. Oh! They also give an incentive for paying early, so I’m always worried that the escrow payment won’t be released to give me that incentive and that they’ll focus on the due date.

Property2 had not been escrowed. There was a screw up in the paperwork that I capitalized on because I don’t like that escrow keeps my money tied up without any incentive to me. Well, Mr. ODA thought I had said I preferred things to be escrowed, but I don’t remember ever definitively saying that. I may have said a comment like “gosh, it’s nice to not have to remember to pay this bill,” but not that I’d prefer to see my monthly payment go up each year because of an escrow reanalysis (I feel like I wrote a post about this……). Property 2 is now escrowed through the refinance.

I removed two tax payments to Virginia and one insurance payment, but then I added back 4 tax payments and 1 insurance payment for each year. The one insurance payment for two properties is what caused me to have an escrow fiasco, so now we’ll avoid that mess by paying it ourselves. Plus, when we pay the insurance ourselves, it can go on a credit card where we earn cash rewards.

SUMMARY

In 4-5 years, we’ve more than doubled the value of these houses that we purchased. While that isn’t immediate cash in our pockets, that’s a substantial increase in our portfolio’s net worth. That increase in value costs us more in taxes in each year, but it also provided us with this opportunity to refinance and take cash out to purchase another property. With two houses paid off, we have also increased our monthly cash flow by about $67. On top of all the near-term gains for this transaction, there’s also the interest payment gains we received. All 3 loans dropped their interest rate, and one loan transitioned to a 15 year loan from a 20 year loan, which decreases the interest owed as well.

House 11

Our 11th purchase was a 4 bedroom and 2 bathroom house, which we were excited about. We only had one other 4 bedroom, and it only had 1.5 baths, so this was a new demographic we could meet. We again needed a mortgage, but we were tapped out (max of 10 mortgages allowed per Fannie Mae), so we went to our partner. I went through the process of establishing the partnership in the House 10 post.

The house had been listed for sale in July 2018, dropped the price in October 2018, and we went under contract on it on December 1, 2018. We went under contract at $129,000, which meant, according to the 1% Rule, we would look to rent it for at least $1290.

The house required a lot of cosmetic work (relative to our usual purchases) before we could rent it. The biggest hold up was the carpet replacement, but we had to do a lot of cleaning and painting also. We closed on February 4, 2019; got to work on the house on the 6th; and then had it rented on March 3, 2019. That’s a longer turnaround time than we’d like, but we thought the long-term benefits of a 4/2 house would be worth it. Plus, with our goal being $1290 based on the 1% Rule, we were happy that we rented it at $1300 and through March 31, 2020.

LOAN TERMS

We were given two options from the loan officer. Both options required 25% down. We could do a 15 year mortgage at 5.05% or a 30 year mortgage at 5.375%. The 15 year mortgage payment was $865, while the 30 year was $640. Since both options required 25% down and we aren’t concerned with our monthly cash flow (as in, we’re not living off of every dollar that comes out of these houses right now), we chose the 15 year. Escrow changes over the last few years have increased the mortgage to $941, unfortunately. However, we’ve been paying off this loan with pretty substantial chunks of money thrown at it. The loan started at $96,750, and the current balance is $21,350. We would have liked to have this paid off a few months ago, but we need to time our payments with our partner, who recently paid for a wedding, renovations to a new house, and a new tear-down property adjacent to his personal residence that he’s going to build a garage-type thing (city living = street parking for him).

We went under contract at $129,000, and the house appraised at $140,000, so that was a nice surprise. The current city assessment is at $148k, but it would likely sell for more than that.

PARTNERSHIP

Since the LLC was already under way when we purchased House 10, we needed to add this one to the LLC. We contacted our attorney. He processed all the paperwork, and we showed up just to sign everything in a quick meeting. At this time, we also requested an EIN be established for the LLC. To process adding this to an established LLC, it cost us $168 (which we paid half of since we’re split 50/50 with our partner).

PREPARING TO RENT

This house was probably the second most effort we had to put in to prepare it for renting. We had to replace quite a few blinds that were broken, do a deep clean of everything, install smoke alarms, paint, replace the carpet, and do some subfloor work.

We had to paint nearly every room (one room we even painted the ceiling the same color as the walls because the ceiling was in rough shape, and it wasn’t worth the time for precision of the edges).

The floor at the front door was rotted by termites. The guys had to cut out the floor and replace the wood before the new carpet could be ordered. We needed the house treated for termites at that point since there was an active infestation that we found. Depending on time and price, I’d rather replace carpeted areas with hard surface flooring for easier maintenance. Since we were already losing time with all the maintenance on this house to get it ready to rent and it was a small area, we just went the easy way out and put new carpet in. The carpet was only in the living room and hallway; all the bedrooms have hardwood flooring.

FIRST TENANTS

We were able to get a family in the house fairly quickly after we finished our work. We rented it at $1300. They signed it on March 3rd, and I had set the terms until March 31, 2020 (this comes into play later). The family had been renting with a roommate (and the husband’s boss!), and that guy had wanted to leave the house. In January 2020, the tenant said, “we signed the lease on March 3rd, so we want to be out at the end of February.” That’s not how leases work. The lease signed said until March 31, 2020. Some time between us telling him that he was in our lease until the end of March, not February, and the end of February actually coming, they decided they wanted to renew their lease. They signed a new lease with us on March 11 to cover 4/1/2020 through 3/31/2021.

In April 2020, the tenant received a job offer in Texas. He asked about a lease break, and we offered an option. All the communication was done via text message, so it was technically in writing, but there was never a “wrap up” text that identified all the agreed upon terms to allow for the lease break. I used this as a teaching opportunity for the 3 of us in the LLC that clearly documenting agreements in writing (preferably with signatures) is important.

The tenant offered to pay May rent without prompting, so we thought that was covered. The part that needed to be detailed was what was considered a “lease break” fee. We had agreed to 60 days worth of rent, and the security deposit couldn’t be used to pay that. Mr. ODA tried to contact the husband on multiple occasions to get rent paid at the beginning of May, but there was no response. I finally sent an email, detailing that they agreed to pay May’s rent, and that technically, they were on the hook for the entire year’s worth of the lease (quick aside: while that’s what the lease says, I think a caveat in the law actually means they’re not really liable for the whole amount because once the house is vacant for 7 days, it defaults back to our ownership, and then we have to show due diligence to re-rent it, leaving them liable for only the gap period). Well, as usual, the landlord gives us a guilt trip (their daughter was in the hospital in TX) instead of separating that from the concept of “pay your debts owed.” As a person, I feel for you on this; as a business owner, it’s not my responsibility to manage your finances and personal life.

The tenant called Mr. ODA and yelled at him. A few hours later, presumably with a more clear head, we received a fair response via text. He even apologized for yelling on the phone. He paid the last few hundreds that were owed, and we all moved on.

SECOND TENANTS

After our first tenants vacated the house, we had to get the house turned over. There was a good bit of work that needed to be done for just a year of someone living there. They had also left stuff behind that became our responsibility to get out of the house. We listed the house for rent. Our partner showed it to 3 younger people who would rent it together. They seemed great until we ran their background and credit check. They had evictions they didn’t disclose (claimed they didn’t know), so we shared the report with them and continued showing it.

We ended up showing it to a couple, and they liked it. After we accepted their application, we were able to get the lease signed on May 7, 2020. Since this was at the very beginning of the pandemic, we had to get creative. I signed this lease on a street corner (hadn’t realized that the place I had selected with outdoor seating was closed!), and they paid their first month’s rent, security deposit, and pet fee in cash that he handed to me in a sock (with a warning that told me this wasn’t the first time he handed someone cash like this haha). They’ve been great tenants, and they renewed their lease.

MAINTENANCE

The new carpeting when we first bought the house cost us $700. Between the termite treatments and other general pest control, we’ve spent $950.

Once the first tenant moved in, we learned of some other issues that weren’t apparent by us just working there and not living there. We had the plumber come out to fix several issues with the hot water that cost us $1450! Then we found out that the master bathroom shower wasn’t installed properly, and it was missing a p-trap; that cost us $325.

Our insurance carrier didn’t like that there wasn’t a handrail for the front steps of the property, so in March 2020, we had to have one installed at $190.

We had to replace the washing machine in April 2020 for about $500. As I’ve shared, we try to not include any ‘extra’ appliances because then maintenance and replacement are our responsibility. This was a fun one – we replaced it just to make the tenants happy and not deal with maintaining it, and then those tenants left right after that, and our new tenants brought their own appliances (so they just have two washers and two dryers in their kitchen).

We had an electrical issue with the master bathroom that cost us $150.

Luckily, I did the inspection over the summer, and nothing came of that initially. We did end up replacing a fan in the master bedroom because the light part of it stopped working with the switch. Since we don’t live near the house anymore, and our partner was in the middle of getting married, we went through Home Depot to have it installed, so all together (fan/light and install) it was about $175.

SUMMARY

This has been a good house. We didn’t realize that the house is located outside the city limits, so we needed to figure out trash pick up in the county (not included in the taxes). Other than a few maintenance hiccups, things have been smooth sailing. We’re happy with the tenants who are there, that they’re maintaining and cleaning the house, and we’re getting our desired rent amount (that they pay on time every month). The street is in a decently nice neighborhood with a lot of original owners, which helps it keep (and increase) its value.

Escrow Payments

A theme I stick to in this blog is that you need to watch your money. I’ve talked about ways that I’ve fought to get money back where it wasn’t billed correctly (e.g., medical bills), and today’s warning is about escrows.

An escrow account, in the sense that I want to talk about it, is tied to your mortgage. Your monthly payment includes an amount that goes into a separate account held by your mortgage company, and they manage paying out your taxes and insurance on your behalf.

The benefit of an escrow is that you don’t have to manage your insurance and tax payments. You don’t have to pay out a large sum of money once (or twice) a year because you’re paying towards this account every month that will manage that billing for you. The downside is that this escrow account requires you to maintain a balance, so it’s holding your money where your money isn’t working for you. Another downside is that your money movement is less transparent, and you just expect that the payments will be made accurately. The bank basically takes on the administrative burden of paying these bills on your behalf, in exchange for continually holding this money without paying you interest.

Each month your mortgage payment includes principal, interest, and escrow. For example, I have a mortgage payment that is $615.34. The P&I total will remain the same amount each month, but the principal portion of each payment will slowly increase while the interest slowly decreases. In my example, the total P&I is always $428.11, but the breakdown of what’s principal and what’s interest changes (e.g., October’s payment due included principal of $119.58 and interest of $308.53; November’s was $120.03 of principal and $308.08 of interest). The escrow amount each month for this mortgage is now $187.23; this number stays the same until there’s an escrow re-analysis.

An escrow analysis is conducted once per year to verify that the escrow account will have sufficient funds to pay out the bills received (typically taxes and insurance), while maintaining the required minimum balance. Sometimes the increase is known ahead of time because you can see that the estimates for the initial escrow contributions were off (or in our case, new construction uses estimates based on last year’s tax payment, which only included land value and not the final sale of the home, so we know there will be an escrow shortfall in our future). A shortfall may also occur when there’s been a drastic change in your property value assessment, causing taxes to increase more than an expected amount (like in 2021!), or when insurance costs change more than projected.

Below is an escrow analysis of one of our accounts. The highlighted row shows that when our taxes are paid, the balance will fall below the required minimum. The document says that the minimum “is determined by the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), your mortgage contract, or state law. Your minimum balance may include up to 2 months cushion of escrow payments to cover increases in your taxes and insurance.” If you are projected to dip below the required minimum, they’ll offer you the opportunity to make a one-time contribution to the escrow account or your monthly payment will increase to cover that projected shortfall.

The increase is calculated in the image below. My payment to escrow at the time of this analysis was $126.18. They take my insurance and taxes owed, divide by 12, and come up with my monthly base escrow payment ($149.81). At the lowest point in my escrow balance (highlighted in yellow above), the account will be -149.43. The difference between this balance and the required balance of $299.62 is $449.05. Divide this number by 12 to get the $37.42 in the image below indicating the monthly shortage for the account.

The new escrow payment is added to my P&I payment (which stays the same), and this is my new monthly mortgage payment.

An escrow analysis showing that we’ll fall below the balance required inevitably means that my monthly cash flow will decrease (because we always opt for the change in monthly payment instead of a one-time contribution). As taxes and insurance increase, so does your requirement to fund your escrow account. While the reason for the escrow increase is to cover the taxes and insurance, which I would have to pay anyway, the escrow increase is higher because of the required minimums. One of our houses started with $766.96 as the monthly payment, and it is now $802.96 due to the escrow analysis. Another one started at $477.77, and it’s now at $537.60.

SO WHAT HAPPENED?

Honestly, the only way I’ve checked my escrow balances in the past is at the end of the year when I’m verifying the insurance and tax payments “make sense.” I’m not even verifying the details behind the numbers, just that it was similar to last year’s amount as I update my spreadsheet. Well this time, I logged in to update my spreadsheets with the new mortgage balances for the October Financial Update, and I saw my escrow account was negative by over $1000! That makes no sense because these accounts are reviewed annually through an escrow re-analysis to ensure you’re not projected to dip below their required minimum balance, and if it were to be negative, it would only be by a much smaller amount.

We had recently changed our insurance. Usually when we change insurance providers, we pay the current year on our credit card (to get those points!), and then all future billing goes to our escrow account. I don’t know why we didn’t do it this way for the most recent change, but I’m inclined to blame the fact that the process took months to get new insurance because this company hasn’t been responsive, so we just wanted it done and weren’t thinking. Since we didn’t get the new policy issued before our old policy was billed, both insurances were paid out by our escrow. Sure, that should have affected our escrow balances, but still not by $1000.

One house had a policy that cost $573.31 and the other had a policy that cost $750.06. The new policy includes both houses under one policy (this becomes annoying and it makes me uncomfortable for reasons I can’t seem to articulate to the agent) and costs $1,180.87. Each mortgage escrow paid out the original policy amounts since we didn’t execute the new policies timely. After these were paid out, the mortgage company received a bill for $1,180.87. For reasons I can’t quite figure out, the company paid $1042 from each of our escrow accounts, and then one escrow account paid $138.87 (which is the balance of 1180.87-1042). The $138.87 covers the policy fees; so someone realized that there was a separate line item for policy fees, but didn’t realize that the $1042 should have been split between two houses (even though they knew there were two houses because they took from both escrows).

I questioned the process with the new insurance company, but he didn’t take responsibility for it. He claimed that the mortgagee had to know to split it and they don’t manage any of that. I explained that I’ve had multiple houses insured by one company and have never been given one policy number for it. He acted surprised. My gut says this is wrong and isn’t going to work, both for future billing and the possibility of a need for a claim. We did receive a check in the mail for $903.13 (the difference of $1042-138.87), but we still have paid the $138.87 and want it reimbursed. I sent an email this morning explaining again that I’ve confirmed with my mortgage company that this insurance company was paid $1042+$1042+$138.87. He again responded that the $138.87 is the fees portion of the bill, and I again said that I know, but it’s been paid twice, and I’d like it back. So now I’ll stay on top of that $138.87 to make sure we get it back.

You need to fight for yourself. You need to know what companies are owed and know what you’ve paid. Then don’t back down to keep asking for an update. I recently discussed how I had to fight for medical bills (multiple times) for a year at a time to get the money reimbursed that I was owed. I even recently had to call on another medical bill that I paid before realizing it hadn’t been submitted to insurance (I would love to understand why this keeps being an issue that my medical bills aren’t submitted to my insurance before billing me). Then they submitted it to insurance and sat on my reimbursement until I called twice asking for the reimbursement (that both times they agreed I was owed and it was “in process.”). Manage your money. Especially because that $138 that I’m waiting for now could mean a big difference to a family in need or living paycheck to paycheck.

Risk Mitigation – LLC or CLUP

Not that I expect you to know these letters right away, but bear with me.

There’s a common question that comes up with rental properties: have you formed an LLC? An LLC is a limited liability company. This is a business mechanism in which you create an official business for your properties, thereby separating them from your personal finances.

That’s the positive to an LLC – an LLC separates the rental properties from your personal finances. This protects your personal finances in the event of a tenant suing you through one of your properties. However, for this protection to really work for you if you have multiple properties, each property would need to be within its own LLC. For example, if you put 12 properties in an LLC, then yes, they’re separated from your personal finances, but they’re not separated from each other. Meaning, if someone sues you, they can go after your entire portfolio.

Mr. ODA and I have discussed grouping a few houses in different LLCs, but we don’t see the benefit of the costs that go along with it. There are fees to form the LLC, put properties into the LLC, and then an annual fee ($50 in Virginia). We have an LLC for the two properties we have with a partner, but we went a different way for the properties that we own ourselves. We pay $250 annually for a Commercial Liability Umbrella Policy (CLUP).

CLUP

A Commercial Liability Umbrella Policy (CLUP) extends the limits of your primary liability insurance policies. Our CLUP is through State Farm, but our individual policies are not necessarily through State Farm. There are many nuances to how it works; for instance, you cannot have a CLUP on top of commercial liability insurance. We have individual personal insurance policies on all our houses, required to cover $500k, so we can have the CLUP extend those coverages. Each property is listed in the CLUP, even the ones we have with a partner because our ownership had to be at least 50% for it to be covered (which it is).

While the cost will vary based on each scenario and coverage, we pay $250 annually for a $2 million policy. Every 3 years, we’re expected to weigh in on our policy, which includes sending individual homeowners insurance policy documents, each policy’s 3 year loss report, and current pictures of the front and back of each house to our agent. We’ve only had one claim on a property, and that was a car accident that took out our air conditioner in House 1.

CREATING A PARTNERSHIP

We do have an LLC that has two houses in it, but that’s because we own them with a partner.

There’s a cap of 10 mortgages that an individual (or a couple, in our case) can have. When we reached that threshold, we asked our friend and Realtor about other houses we were interested in. Our Realtor purchased two houses as an individual, and then we put them in an LLC to give us ownership. After the first house purchase, we had our real estate attorney set up an LLC. Then after the second house closed, we just had to add that house to the same LLC.

When our partner went under contract on the first house, we created an agreement with him. We owed him half of the down payment and closing costs to be 50% partners on the property. At the time, we didn’t have the cash liquid, and he agreed to allow us to pay him monthly, with interest. So he paid the funds-to-close, and we structured an amortization schedule at the market rate to pay him back. It only took us two months to pay him the balance based on our cash flow, which equated to about $44 in interest for him.

I now manage most of the maintenance, collect all of the rent, pay all of the bills except the mortgage payments that our partner has on automatic billing, and pay him out his 50% share each month.

SETTING UP AN LLC

To establish the LLC, we paid our real estate attorney $393 (split 50/50 with our partner). We answered a few questions, and then we met in their office to sign the paperwork during a half hour meeting. The attorney handled filing all the paperwork with the state and were set up as the “Registered Agent.” A Registered Agent is an individual or business entity that accepts tax and legal documents on behalf of your business.

A year after the LLC was established, I received a bill from the attorney’s office. The bill was for $100 – comprised of $50 for the LLC fee from the state and $50 for the attorney processing the payment. If you’ve read more than one of the posts in this blog, you’ll know that wasn’t going to fly; we don’t pay extra for things that we can do ourselves. I started researching the purpose of a Registered Agent and who could serve as such a person, and I found out it’s not required to be an attorney.

I outlined my proposal to our business partner, and he agreed that we didn’t need to have the Registered Agent as the attorney. He would prefer his other LLCs be managed through them so nothing gets missed, but since I keep a pretty well organized business, I have mechanisms in place that will trigger a reminder of payment if I don’t receive the bill in the mail. We paid the $50 processing fee that year, and then I filed a change with the State Corporation Commission to eliminate the middle man.

LLC AFFECTS

One of the concerns with putting a new mortgage into an LLC was that the bank could “call” the mortgage through the “due on sale” clause. A due-on-sale clause is a provision in a loan that enables lenders to demand that the remaining balance of a mortgage be paid in full if the property is sold or transferred. Transferring a mortgage to the LLC risks triggering the “due on sale” clause, although there were historically very few times a lender would call the mortgage due to an LLC transfer.

Another weird nuance to owning a property in an LLC is that homeowners insurance companies charge more for the same house, with the same human clients, simply because its ownership is placed in an LLC compared to in personal names. For example, after we transferred one of our properties to LLC ownership, the same company increased our annual rate from $484 to $874. We have not been able to figure this one out. Presumably, the biggest source of risk to an insurer is the fact that the people living in the house are not the owners, although when we don’t have a house in an LLC, the insurance company still knows that it’s used as a rental. If there’s anyone out there that can help us understand this behind the scenes insurance nuance, please drop the info in the comments. We were able to find an insurance company with a reasonable price, but it’s still an odd nuance.


For our risk tolerance, we’ve decided that a CLUP is enough coverage in the event of a catastrophe ($500k in regular insurance plus $2M in umbrella). We haven’t established any other LLCs because the cost of establishing individual LLCs is more than we want to take on. However, we did use an LLC where we needed to establish a joint property ownership and be able to legitimately claim expenses for tax purposes. We have two houses, both of which are with the same partner, in one LLC.

Medical Bills

Here’s something different. Medical insurance isn’t something I’m going to pretend I understand fully, but I know enough to protect my money. So here’s two quick stories about how due diligence saved us hundreds.

First, an overview.

When you see a provider (e.g., doctor), they bill your insurance on your behalf. The claim that’s submitted is reviewed by the insurance’s benefits administrator, and any coverage is paid out. Your insurance will likely have a “disallowed” amount (what your insurance deems is too expensive to be billed for the given service), a benefits paid amount (what insurance pays on your behalf), and then a member responsibility amount (what you owe). Once the claim is processed, these are outlined in an explanation of benefits, or an EOB. If and when you receive a bill from the provider, verify against your EOB to ensure that it aligns with your insurance benefits.

Here’s an example of an EOB. By using a provider that is in-network (in a negotiated agreement plan with my insurance company), the doctor and the insurance have agreed costs for services provided. My insurance’s “allowances” are negotiated with each provider who participates in the network. Allowances may be based on a standard reduction or on a negotiated fee schedule. For these allowances, the provider has agreed to accept the negotiated reduction and you are not responsible for this discounted amount. In these instances, the benefit paid plus your coinsurance equals payment in full. So here, for the services that I received, the insurance company is saying, “I see you billed for $115, but we agreed that this service only costs $65.34, so that’s what we’re allowing.” You, as a covered member, are not charged for the ‘disallow’ amount of $49.66.

In our case, we have a high deductible plan, which means we have to spend a certain amount of money on covered services before the insurance pays out benefits. Ours is $3,000. This means that for the first $3,000 worth of doctors visits to in-network providers, we’re paying the total allowed amount (e.g., our son had to go to the ER, and we paid $609 for the visit, which is the fully allowed amount). There are plans out there where you don’t have a deductible, but you have a copay (e.g., I had a plan where I paid a flat $20 for each doctor’s office visit and $125 for each hospital visit, but I was also paying a higher premium for that coverage type). In a future post, I will share how we compared our plan options and chose a high deductible plan.

After we meet the deductible, most of our services are covered at 95% (i.e., we’re responsible for paying 5% of the allowed charges). In the example above, we had to pay 5% of the $65.34, or $3.27.

There are tons of nuances to insurance though, but hopefully this broad overview helps understand how to read the EOB. I have more stories of where my interpretation of the coverage in my brochure doesn’t seem to match the benefits administered, but those are for another time. For now, here’s how we protected hundreds of dollars by staying on top of our coverage.

MR. ODA’S STORY

Speaking of nuances, here’s one of those. Preventative care is covered at 100% (e.g., maternity screenings and annual physical exams). Mr. ODA needed a physical to qualify for his agency’s wellness program (they’re given 3 hours per week to exercise). When he went to get the physical, it got coded as a sports physical because the doctor had to sign off on a paper that said he was healthy enough to participate in the wellness program. A routine annual physical is fully covered by insurance, regardless of deductible. Apparently, a sports physical is not the same concept and regular coverage requirements apply.

Mr. ODA had to call back to explain that the exam was routine with a signature on paper, and not any more in depth to be considered a sports physical. The doctors office offered a reduction in the amount owed, twice, but eventually realized they were spending more in postage and phone calls than the bill was worth while Mr. ODA fought the coding, and they wrote it off.

MRS. ODA’S STORY

I saw a doctor in December 2019 when having pregnancy complications. In February 2020, I received a bill, which I promptly, and erroneously, paid. A few days ago, I received a check for the amount I paid a year and a half ago. So it wasn’t a quick resolution, but I wasn’t going to let $300 go.

The bill said:
Charges to Date: $451.00
Payments/Discounts to Date: $157.85
Remaining Patient Balance: $293.15

I had seen multiple doctors in a short period of time, so I was just in auto mode to pay all the medical bills that I had. After I paid it, I realized that on the back of the bill there were more details about that “payments/discounts” line item. There were three columns: Insurance Payments, Patient Payments, and Adjustments to Date. The total $157.85 was in the Adjustments to Date column, and the insurance column said $0. I checked into my insurance claims online and didn’t see this date of service. Well, I’m insured, so this should have been submitted to my insurance for review first. I called the hospital to indicate that there was an error made, and I shouldn’t have paid this in full, even with an “uninsured discount” they graciously offered me.

I called the hospital to ask why this wasn’t submitted to my insurance and discovered that my name was spelled wrong, my insurance was entered wrong, and this claim wasn’t tied to all my other hospital-related claims I had processed. Supposedly, they updated my information and resubmitted. I still didn’t see it on my online claim history after the 30-45 day window they told me, so I called again in April 2020. I was told they would resubmit. Two months later, I was managing a newborn and we were just deciding to move, so this fell off my radar. Then all of our things were in storage for two months. By the time I got this paperwork back out, it was March 2021.

I explained my story to the hospital again and asked for it to be properly submitted. I was again told they would submit the claim, but this time they’d submit by paper handling. Again, nothing showed up in my insurance. I called in April 2021 and was again told that they would try submitting again. This time I escalated to a supervisor. I said that this was unacceptable, and I didn’t want to keep being told they would try again, delaying my reimbursement by another 30-45 days each time I called. The supervisor said she would ensure the paper claim was sent out and call me back in a week. I never got the call. On May 18, I called again, immediately asking for a supervisor. This supervisor said that my account showed a refund was approved, but he needed to issue it (why couldn’t that just have been done?!).

Well, on June 1, I received a check in the mail for $293.15. That’s the amount I paid back in February 2020 for a December 2019 date of service. I could have written this off in my mind a year ago and not made these five or six phone calls, taking about 90 minutes of my time in total. I could have said to myself, “I called. There’s nothing more I can do.” But we wouldn’t be in the position we’re in now with our finances if I kept saying “oh well, that’s all I can do.”

The moral of the story is that you should be an informed consumer. If you know how to determine your benefits and calculate your coverage, you can make sure the proper payments are made to the provider, and that you aren’t overcharged.

Prepare for a Closing

We have purchased 16 properties directly (3 personal residences) and 2 properties indirectly (partner); we’ve sold 3 properties. All houses have been mortgaged because we choose to leverage our money rather than own them outright (at least at first). This post covers the closing process in terms of clearing the loan processing.

Your loan must pass through underwriters before being approved and issued. The underwriter is evaluating your financial statements to determine risk and credit worthiness. While you’re given a pre-approval based on your credit score and report, the underwriter is verifying there are no other risk factors in the details. I’ll probably never cease to be amazed at what an underwriter focuses on – sometimes they want every account’s statement and several explanations, and sometimes they want you to confirm you don’t own a property that you never did own while ignoring the accounts you do own.

While a deadline is rarely given, you should provide the paperwork within a couple of days. The longer you take to gather the required documents, the more you jeopardize being able to close on time (the timeframe is set within the purchase agreement).

The are several documents that are going to be requested every time that you can keep filed away or know to start gathering them when you make the offer (some need to be more current than having them filed away). Inevitably, there will be follow up requests from the underwriter, so it’s best to get these files to them as quickly as possible.

  • Most recent 2 years of tax returns
    • Usually we just hand over the PDF version of our tax returns. One time, we actually had to fill out a transcript request form on the IRS page.
  • Proof of income (e.g., W-2)
  • Most recent paystub(s) (e.g., cover 30 days)
  • Color copy of drivers licenses
  • Most recent 1 or 2 bank statements
    • At the beginning of our purchasing, we had to provide a statement for every account (e.g., retirement, investments, banks). Over time, the request has become more focused on showing the statements associated with the accounts that will be used for funds as closing. I don’t know if this is related to our credit worthiness, or if it’s simply how they’ve streamlined the process. Here’s an example that shows they only requested accounts that make up our closing funds.
  • Proof of paid earnest money deposit (EMD)
    • EMD is a deposit made along with the signed contract. It’s the buyer’s showing of good faith to purchase the home. There are different expectations on the amount of the EMD. Sometimes it’s 1% of the purchase price, sometimes it’s a flat rate. We’ve just followed our agent’s lead on the amount to put on there, and it’s usually $1000 or $2000. The EMD is held by your Realtor’s office and credited to the total due at closing. If the buyer breaches the contract, the buyer may forfeit this deposit to the seller (e.g., backing out of the purchase without invoking a clause within he contract, such as the home inspection clause).
    • Proof is usually given by showing the check image along with the bank statement from the account it cleared.
  • Insurance agent contact information
    • This isn’t always known at closing, but you’ll need to provide your agent’s information before closing so that escrow can be set up. If the property won’t be escrowed, then you’ll need to provide proof of an executed policy before closing.

When investment properties are involved, you’ll need to provide documentation associated with those properties. For instance, a mortgage statement may be sufficient if you have the taxes and insurance escrowed. If you don’t have it escrowed or don’t have a mortgage, then you need to provide the current tax statement and insurance declaration. You’ll also be asked whether the property is subject to an HOA, and, if it is, you’ll provide a statement or coupon book showing the payment schedule. Neither Mr. ODA nor I are patient when it comes to illogical requests. For example, we were asked to give mortgage statements for all of our properties, as well as tax documentation and insurance policies for every property. Well, if the property is escrowed, then I don’t have tax paperwork because it’s sent to the bank, nor should I have to prove that the taxes are paid since it’s managed by the bank. I eventually provided all the tax documents though – it just took a while.

There may be large deposits or withdrawals that you’re requested to explain. For instance, I had to sign a statement that the deposit in our account was from the sale of our house. While it can be tracked with paperwork, there are many instances where the underwriter wants the details explicitly stated, versus making assumptions. For the example below, I provided the corresponding withdrawal from our main checking account.

Our first home purchase was at the same time as our wedding (we closed on our house on July 15 and got married on August 4!). A NY wedding isn’t cheap, and we were attempting to pay 20% down on our DC suburb home ($$$), so there was a lot of money movement around this time. Since my parents were helping pay for the wedding, we had large cash deposits into our account that had to be explained. We also had several investment account liquidation transactions. The underwriter had a hard time following the flow of money, and it took me several, very detailed, emails to show how each liquidation entered our checking account. We also had to provide gift letters, which stated we were gifted these sums of money and there was no expectation of paying it back (thereby creating another liability). That’s probably been the hardest closing in terms of our financial status, to date.

You may be requested to provide updated bank statements closer to the closing date, especially if there’s over a month between the initial documents given and the closing date. When you go into a closing, you’re told that it’s not a good idea to open new credit cards, make large purchases, or do anything along those lines that would affect your credit worthiness. They run a recheck of your credit before closing to ensure your credit card balances are about the same, and that there’s been no new credit opened in your name. Verification of more recent bank statements accomplishes the same.


We’ve had two closings delayed.

House 5‘s sale was about 6 weeks delayed due to the buyer’s lack of responsiveness. They didn’t respond to information requests quickly and struggled to provide the necessary documents to underwriting. Unfortunately, as the seller, our only ‘play’ is to take their EMD and walk away. If it’s bad enough, this is worth it. But it brings you back to square one. This was an off-market deal, which is enticing to see through rather than attempt to list and sell it. If we decide not to sell, we’re now looking at January or February before we had a renter; it could be even longer since we struggled in the summer to find someone for the house. Plus, the EMD doesn’t cover the lack of rent we experienced while under contract, where we expected to lose only one month of rental income, but it turned into 2.5 months. We had our Realtor (who was a dual agent, unfortunately for this matter) lean into the attorney on the buyer’s side after already being weeks beyond the contract’s closing date. By the time their delays were acknowledged, it was Christmas, which delayed closing into January, unfortunately.

Houses 12 and 13 were purchased together (and not yet discussed here). That closing was delayed a week, and it was completely the loan officer’s fault. We, the consumer, obviously get no restitution for their mishap. He didn’t order the appraisal timely and then had to put a rush on it, but it still didn’t come in on time. He created several errors in our paperwork (including the house number of one of the purchases). It got so bad that we just worked with the title agency, and she was awesome at getting all the documentation in order, even if it was a week later and Mr. ODA had to be my power of attorney!


Be prepared and be responsive. Understand that the bank is doing their due diligence and you want to be able to close on the loan and purchase that property. While there will be several requests for information, keep in mind that it’s over a short period of time and will soon be over.