Cash out refi

There’s a company in Virginia that advertises no-closing-cost-refinances. If it’s your personal residence, then this holds true. For investment properties, there are some closing costs, but it’s cheaper than the usual refinance. We used them for two other loans – one at the beginning of the pandemic when we signed the paperwork in a tent in the parking lot, and another where we signed the paperwork at our kitchen table in Kentucky with a traveling notary (that’s a thing!).

There was a threshold requirement in order to qualify for this refinance, and that was the new loan had to be at least $100,000. Only 2 of our houses had a loan originated for over $100k originally, so that limited our abilities.

Mr. ODA came to me and said he wanted to do a cash-out-refinance. This company had changed their policy, and they’d allow a cash-out-refinance to get us to the 100k threshold. The first two Virginia houses we purchased (2016) had balances of about 70k and 60k. We had enough equity in these houses that we could take a substantial amount out in the refinance, but Mr. ODA chose $50k each.

Here’s a run through of the thought process on how to do this and why it’s a benefit. I personally like seeing the details behind other’s decisions, so hopefully this will help someone or help make the concept click and open up an opportunity. This process was only just initiated, so I’ll do an update after we execute the plan to see how it changed.

The original goal was to use that money to pay off another loan. We’ve made our decision on which loan to pay off based on the highest interest rate. Right now, our highest interest rate is a loan with our partner at 5.1%, but this is also the loan that we’re actively paying off (leaving a balance right now of 26k, which we’re responsible for half). Since we need to time our principal payments to be matched with our partner, we can’t just dump money into this loan without really complicating things. So our second-highest interest rate is 4.625%. This loan originally was $89k in 2017 and has a balance of $62k. If we paid this off, that would leave about $35k in cash (based on the other two loan refinances that we’d take $50k out of each) that we could use to pay towards another loan or earmark for another purchase. As this discussion happened, Mr. ODA pivoted.

This company is only available to refinance loans in Virginia. Instead of paying off that $62k loan for a Virginia property, what if we also refinanced that loan and paid off one of two loans remaining on our Kentucky houses? I’m a visual person and needed to see how this would actually play out.

The terms were that if we picked a 15 year loan, that brings the interest rate down to 2.5%. With a 30 year loan, it’s 3.125%. I compared the current amortization schedule to the proposed amortization schedule, and here they are. Note that the interest isn’t a one-to-one comparison because we’ve already paid 4-5 years of interest on these loans.


HOUSE 2

The original loan terms were a 20 year at 3.875%.

The new terms would create a new 15 year loan, reduce the rate to 2.5%, and increase the loan to about $123k (pay off old loan, fees for closing, and $50k cashed out). This decreases our monthly cash flow, on this property, by $294.38.


HOUSE 3

The original loan terms were a 15 year at 3.25%.

The new terms would create a new 15 year loan, reduce the rate to 2.5%, and increase the loan to about $113k (pay off old loan, fees for closing, and $50k cashed out). This decreases our monthly cash flow, on this property, by $155.89.


HOUSE 8

The original loan terms were a 30 year at 4.625%.

The new terms would create a new 30 year loan, reduce the rate to 3.125%, and increase the loan to about $ (pay off old loan, fees for closing, and $35k cashed out). This is slightly off because the new loan isn’t showing at exactly $100k, but for all these the final numbers will be slightly different. This decreases our monthly cash flow, on this property, by $84.87.


In these projections, we’ll receive $135,000 cash in hand. With that, we’ll pay off the higher loan in Kentucky, which has a balance of about $81k. That mortgage has a monthly payment of $615.34. These three loans have increased their monthly mortgage payments by $535.14 in total. Since we’ve eliminated a monthly mortgage with the cash from these new loans, our total monthly cash flow actually has a net increase of $80.20. In addition to this net positive cash flow, we also have over $53k in cash in our account.

Now, if you know us, cash in our account isn’t a preference by any means. In my last monthly update, you can see that we have almost 20k in cash and that’s abnormal. Add $53 to that, and that’s just too much money sitting in a checking account. At this point, the goal is to buy another house. With the way the market is, we’re probably not going to hit the 1% Rule we strive for (the expected monthly rent will be at least 1% of the purchase price – $1000 rent for $100,000 purchase), and we’re not going to see the margins that we’re used to. It’s going to take a lot of effort to get our psychology right for this next purchase. We’ll have to hold strong in knowing that our other houses have great margins, and at least it won’t be negative cash flow.

At this point, we’ve started the refinance process by signing our initial disclosures and providing all the many, many documents needed to originate a loan.

House 9: Hoarding leads to mice and eviction

This is a good one. This is the one we use when people say “how can you handle all those properties,” and I respond, “if we survived this one tenant, we know we can handle whatever gets thrown at us.” Hoarding, mice, court dates, eviction. But its not always like that. The sun shone down on us for the current tenant though, who signed a two year lease and take care of the house (like, even power washed it on their own accord). The stories below show that you need a thick skin and a smooth temperament to be a landlord. Treat this as a business.

LOAN

This house was purchased ‘as-is,’ but we still had a home inspection contingency in the contract. It was listed at $139,500; we purchased for $137,500 with $2,500 in seller subsidy. We went under contract on 8/14/2017 and closed on 9/22/2017. The appraisal came in at $141,000, so we were content with our decision.

We refinanced the loan in May 2020. Our original loan had a balance of $105,800 at the time of the refinance. We rolled closing costs into the new loan and cashed out $2,000, making our new loan amount be $111,000. The refinance reduced our interest rate from 4..875% to 3.625%, shaving $104.25 off our monthly payment. I went into detail about the refinance in my Refinancing Investment Properties post.

Following the 1% Rule, we would be looking for $1,340 in rent (net of seller subsidy), but we haven’t received that yet. The first tenant’s rent was $1,150 and the second at $1,250. For the third potential tenants, we listed at $1,300, but the new tenants negotiated to $1,280 for a 2-year lease.

TENANT #1: OUR WORST

The application. It’s hard to not give someone a chance when their application is borderline, but I suggest letting the information on the screen speak to their character. Before the official application was run (which includes a background check), she admitted to a felony that she served 2.5 years for, and she filed bankruptcy due to a stolen identity while she was incarcerated. It seemed like she paid her dues and was building a new life. We got her application about two weeks after closing, so it wasn’t like we were desperate to rent it at that point. But she was quick to fill out an application and provide necessary documentation, so we decided to give her a chance. She moved in on 10/1/2017 with her 3 children, one of which was born days after she moved in. Her rent was $1,150.

We didn’t have any unreasonable situations with her in the first year. We did have a maintenance call for a leak under the kitchen sink, and we noted that the house wasn’t tidy. It seemed like she was a coupon-er, where she stocked up on a few items and probably resold them, which supported how she kept wanting to pay us in cash. The house wasn’t to my standard, but I didn’t look close enough to notice that it was dirty in addition to cluttered. I wanted to say something, but didn’t know my place at that point. Hindsight: I should have told my property manager and had her issue a written notice. This won’t matter down the road for legal proceedings, but perhaps we could have saved ourselves some headaches if she took the notice to heart; I was just afraid of offending her. But, other than that small concern at the time, we had no issue renewing her lease for another year.

The tenant complained about seeing a mouse around February 2018. We informed her at that time that pest control was up to her because of her living style that was attracting the pests. She claimed to have a quarterly treatment through Terminex. She complained further of mice in November 2018, but I wasn’t part of that conversation. It appeared to be that she was upset that there were still pest issues while she was paying Terminex. Well, that’s an issue to take up with the pest control company, not us. Our property manager gave her the information to our pest control company and shared that it would be a bit cheaper for the quarterly plan too. We heard nothing more until all hell broke loose in April 2019.

She sent pictures of mice poop all over the house on April 9, claiming that she had been out of the house from March 31 through April 8 and came back to this sudden mouse infestation and would be leaving the house. Well, that’s not how it works. She claims that was her ‘prompt’ notification, as if mice set up camp in a lived-in house that’s well maintained out of nowhere (news flash: it wasn’t well maintained and clean). She claimed that because of the living conditions (that she perpetuated), this would be her last month in the house. We knew we had the lease to fall back on, so we continued to remind her that this wasn’t on us and she couldn’t leave us with the financial burden and walk away. We had our pest control company go to the house as soon as possible, and we received their report on April 12.

But wait! While complaining about the condition of the house (that she caused), she wanted to know if she could buy the house!!!! Logic always seems to abound in these situations; it’s hysterical. We offered her to purchase the house from us at $148,000. She ignored it after that offer.

Both the pest company and our HVAC person noted a dog on the premises, which was in violation of the lease. HVAC was called out to fix a wire on the outdoor HVAC unit that the dog had chewed through. She also wasn’t taking care of the yard, and the City of Richmond was fining houses that violated their weed and grass clauses, which we notified her of on May 9.

She didn’t pay April or May rent, so we had a court date set for May 10. We had told her that she had to pay all overdue rent and late fees for us to cancel the May 10 court date. She didn’t pay, so our property manager went to court. The judge awarded us possession of the property, but since there was such outstanding rent and damages, another court date was set for July 1 to award us the money owed. In front of the judge, the tenant handed the keys over to our property manager, saying she was moved out. Immediately after leaving the court house, the property manager arrived at the house to do a walk through, only to find several people inside. She called the police.

The officer assessed the situation. He said that since they’re still moving things out (and there was a lot to move out), that it was a benefit to us that they were still working on it. He suggested asking their input on when they thought they would be done. One guy said at 3 pm. We agreed to let them stay, and I would go by after work to change the locks.

I showed up at 4 pm to change the locks, only to find people still coming in and out of the house. I called the non-emergency police line and waited for the cops to show up. It’s officially trespassing, and we were prepared to press charges. The officers knocked on the door and asked the people inside (none of whom were the tenant on the lease) to leave. One woman started a whole spiel about how she’s on probation and everything that she’s been arrested for, so she didn’t want to be arrested. The officer was funny to watch, and he just kept saying, “I’m not arresting you. I just want you to leave.”

After they drove away, the officers let me walk the property to ensure everyone was out. The place was destroyed!

By Virginia law, we are required as landlords to make every attempt possible to get the unit re-rented and let the old tenant “off the hook” for unpaid rent. Meaning, we can’t hold them to the entire term of the lease and have a vacant house. Regardless of this, we wanted to get everything fixed and replaced in the house so that we had an exact amount to claim during the July 1 court date.

The linoleum replacement was the critical path. She had destroyed it (looked like some chemical ate through it) beyond repair and it had to be replaced before we could re-rent the house. Home Depot’s timeline was really behind, and they weren’t able to get us scheduled for installation until June 20th (after she had “vacated” May 10th).

I compiled a list of lease violations with my documentation to support the claims in which she violated the lease on top of the obvious (e.g., dog on premises, smoking in the house). We had invoices from the pest company, the HVAC company, the trash removal company (over 40 cubic yards of garbage was left in the house when they finally vacated), and the “hazmat” cleaning company, all corroborating an unclean and unkempt living condition.

We went into court with a claim of $9,250. This was unpaid rent for 3 months, late fees, junk removal, pest control, HVAC fixes, professional cleaning that included a ‘hazmat’ charge, and all our paint and flooring charges.

We won the first judgement in court, simply because the defendant didn’t show up. We were awarded $9,250 plus the court fee and 6% interest. Well, somehow the court accepted her plea of needing another court date after not showing up to this one, and that was on July 10th. The judge that day reduced our rent and late payment owed by one month, and reduced our reimbursement total by a bit more than the security deposit we had already kept, bringing the judgement to about $6,600 plus the court fee and 6% interest.

Per the court process, we were required to work with the ex-tenant to develop a payment plan. We offered her a payment plan via email that was never responded to. From there, the next step is to retain an attorney for wage garnishment.

I contacted the attorney we use to help with wage garnishment, but he wasn’t experienced. He referred me to someone, who let me know that he’s already representing someone who has a claim against her. He said that he could still represent me, but I’d be second in line to any money they get from her. He offered me another attorney’s name to see if that one could help me instead, but that attorney said he couldn’t represent me because he already has another client looking for money from this woman. Interesting that two attorneys had different answers, but we went with that first. We haven’t seen a dime. Once the money was spent and we paid off the credit cards, it wasn’t on our radar anymore. Anything we get from this woman will be a bonus at this point.

TENANT #2: BLISSFULLY UNAWARE OF HOW LIFE WORKS

Two kids just out of college were our tenants that came in after that mess. They were great tenants, but a bit unaware of how the world works. They didn’t get the utilities into their name timely, so we charged them for the bills that came to us. After that, they paid their rent on time, and even when their restaurant jobs shut down at the beginning of the pandemic, they prioritized paying rent over other things they could have spent their limited income on; I was impressed. At the end of their lease, they were a bit lost too. Our lease requires 60 days notice of your intentions – either leave, or renew. Our property manager reached out to them at the 60 day mark, and they said they weren’t sure what they wanted to do, but were looking for other places. Since, realistically, we weren’t going to list the house for rent at 45 or 60 days, we told them that was fine. They came back after a week and said they were going to move out.

We moved forward with listing the house for rent and vetting new tenants. We had our property manager show the house on June 10 for what would be a July 1 lease. About a week later, the current tenants asked if they could stay longer because they didn’t get the place they were looking for. Sorry, but that’s not how it works and it’s already rented. The new tenants were OK with moving in July 15, so we allowed the college guys to stay until July 10. Then we hustled to get the house put back together before the new tenants. Specifically, one of the tenants was an artist, and he hung a huge canvas on one of the bedroom walls to paint on. Well, the paint bled through.

They also didn’t tell us that the range wasn’t working. When we asked about it, they said something to the effect of, “oh yea, we smelled gas, so we just cut it off. That was back in March.” Goodness!! So we quickly ordered a new range. We also had to have the carpets professionally cleaned, which was especially frustrating since they were only a year old. Luckily, the ladies who came to clean the carpets worked their magic, and they came out looking good as new. The microwave handle was broken off, and when we looked to buy a replacement, it was essentially the same cost as a new microwave, so we installed a new one.

While we were working in the house, we noticed that the air conditioner wasn’t keeping the house cool. We had an HVAC tech come out to the house, and it was either $1,400 to repair (after we had already previously put money into the HVAC unit), or $5,000 to replace it. We decided to replace it after it died shortly after the third tenants moved in.

TENANT #3: SOME OF THE BEST

These tenants have been wonderful. They’re both pharmacists at the local college and have been very self-sufficient. They’re great about alerting us of issues, but not in a way that it seems like they’re nitpicking. For instance, they wanted to store their lawn mower and other things in the shed out back, but the handle was broken off it. We told them that if they wanted to purchase a replacement, we would reimburse for the cost. Then they noted that the closet dowel was broken and they replaced it. I told them I would pay for that, so just take it off the next month’s rent. When they sent me the receipt, they had only taken the rod itself off the rent, but not the brackets to hang the rod. I immediately sent them the rest of the cost!

They’re one year into a two-year lease, and we’re very happy with them. They always pay their rent on time, they communicate regularly, and they’re taking care of the house.

MAINTENANCE AND REPAIRS

Since I’ve covered a great deal of the repairs we’ve managed in this house through each of the tenant stories, here’s a quick summary of other items.

Shortly after the third tenants moved in, they politely let us know that their dishwasher wasn’t cleaning the dishes. They very clearly identified the problem and the steps they had already taken to attempt to fix it, but it wasn’t working. We purchased a new dishwasher the day after they let us know. So in the matter of a month, we replaced the built in microwave, range, dishwasher, and HVAC. The only appliance we haven’t replaced in this house now is the refrigerator.

There was an electrical issue that we had sort of noticed before, but hadn’t pinpointed it without having things to plug into all the outlets. We had an electrician go out and fix the switches and outlets that weren’t working in master bedroom.

AN OVERALL LOOK AT THIS HOUSE AS AN INVESTMENT

Remember how real estate investing provides multiple avenues for wealth building? Here’s how they’re looking for this property.

Cash Flow – As we have had to replace nearly all appliances, including HVAC, and all the flooring among several other smaller issues, our total cash flow on this property is nearly nothing. But, like mentioned before, we shouldn’t have any big purchases coming and will start to be able to pocket the profits on this house once again.

Mortgage pay-down – The tenants have paid our mortgage for us, but due to closing costs of refinancing and choosing to take $2,000 cash back from that refi, our principal is actually higher than when we bought it.

Tax Advantages – We always depreciate the cost of the structure for paper losses that help offset profit on properties for tax purposes. All those repairs and appliance replacement expenses that eat into the profit margins are written off. So come April 15, the silver linings of those expenses are realized.

Appreciation – This one is good for us. This house is in a developing neighborhood and the area around it is being revitalized. Coupled with standard appreciation and the *hot* real estate market we’re in now, the value of the house is 150% of what it was when we bought, in less than 4 years.

SUMMARY

We’ve put about $10,000 into this house at this point. But that means we have a lot of brand new things in it. Now isn’t the time to give up on the house, since we should be in a position to not deal with many maintenance requests. Rent continues to climb, increasing our cash flow, while we just brought our mortgage payment quite low with the refi, and the property will continue to appreciate in value.

We learned a lot about the eviction process, even dealing with local police officers in the process. The court system and law enforcement are fairly simple to work with, as long as you are a fair and respectful landlord, keep documentation, and follow landlord-tenant laws. When the tenant doesn’t live up to their end of the bargain, justice will be served.

Refinancing Investment Properties

When we purchased the majority of our investment portfolio in 2016/2017, primary mortgages with excellent credit were sitting around 3.5% and investment property mortgages were about 4.5-5%. We thought these were amazing rates. Fast forward to a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. A new baseline for low rates is created: We closed on our primary residence in November 2020 at 2.625% with nothing special about getting that rate.

Let’s go back to early pandemic days in the spring of 2020. Mr. ODA is always watching the market, but was particularly interested in the mortgage interest rates because we were coming up on the 61st month on our primary residence’s 5/1 ARM. Just a couple of months into the pandemic, we decided to move, so the ARM refinance (refi) became moot. But since rates were so low, he looked into refinancing our investment properties.

There are a few caveats. With the first company, we couldn’t refinance loans that had a balance less than $100k and be able to maximize the pricing structure they advertise so proudly ($0 closing costs). There was also an investment property fee, and took a long time for both of these to close.

As with the original loan, you’ll want to weigh the financial cost of refinancing against what the new rate will save you. When we looked at the variables, only 2 of our loans were worth pursuing a refinance.


In 2020, we refinanced House 9 from 4.875% to 3.625%. Our monthly payment went from $778.80 to $674.55.

The original loan amount on this property was $110k originated on 9/22/2017. We had paid it down to about $105,800 (shows how slowly the amortization schedule works for you in the early years), but with the closing costs rolling into the new loan (and cashing out $2,000), the balance became $111k. Eek, seems counterintuitive to refinance to a higher balance, but it’ll save us in the long run. We have greater cash flow each month with the lower mortgage payment, a larger percent of the monthly payment goes toward principal vs interest (amortization schedule again!), and we’ll save ourselves over $9k in interest over the life of the loan, if we make no additional principal payments.

We refinanced through a “zero closing costs” type entity. However, there are stipulations to what counts as $0, and investment properties aren’t exactly that. We had to pay an ‘Investment Property Fee’ of $2,358.75. The company paid the closing costs (e.g., credit report fee, title fees, recording fees) worth $548.91. We paid our prepaids, but also received a lender credit of $300. Essentially, we paid a slightly higher rate than the market would offer because the company rolls its closing costs into that rate, akin to paying points or receiving lender points to shift your rate up and down.

Mr. ODA initiated the refinance through an application in the beginning of March. We were quickly informed that we wouldn’t even be assigned a loan officer for two weeks. At the end of those two weeks, we were told they still didn’t know if they could move forward with our refinance. A week later, Mr. ODA followed up, and they had approved us to move forward. We were patient through the process, but it wasn’t until mid-May that we finally closed (in a parking lot, under a tent = pandemic closing #1!).

We rent this property for $1,280 and pay a property manager 10% of that. Minus the $674 mortgage and we’re still sitting quite pretty. While we reset the payoff clock by 3 years by starting a new 30 year mortgage, the extra money working for us in future years will far outweigh the costs of refinance.


In January 2021, we refinanced House 7 from 5.05% to 3.375%. Our monthly payment went from $664.31 to $559.34.

Our loan balance was $85,616, and the closing costs of $3,108 were rolled into the new mortgage. We also cashed out $2,000, so our new loan amount was $91k. The $2,000 was the most that could be cashed out during the refinance; we chose to take the cash out because we could make that money work elsewhere (e.g., pay down a mortgage with a higher interest rate). Even with the higher loan amount, the interest rate is so much lower that we’ll save over $15k in interest.

An appraisal was required as part of the refinance, which is how we learned that the house that we purchased for for $110,500, is now appraised at $168,000!

So, we rent it for $1,200 and self manage but only have to pay a $559 mortgage now? HELLO cash flow!

This closing was done at our kitchen table in KY through a VA-based loan officer. Mr. ODA initiated this loan in November, and we closed in January. A notary came to our house to go through all the paperwork, but it was all wrong. I enjoyed the “we never make mistakes” type of response from the Title company, and I pointed out that their paperwork did not match the lender’s paperwork that we had sitting at the table. Since the closing was at 6 pm, it was after hours for everyone and we couldn’t get an answer quickly, so we sent the notary home. We spoke with the loan officer an hour or so later and pointed how how each closing document had different numbers on it, and she went to work fixing it.


Theoretically, every investment property we own could’ve benefited from a refinance. And we would have with the “zero closing cost” company over time without their own pandemic policies getting in the way. If the loan amount was less than $100k, they would make you pay the closing costs AND would arbitrarily add 0.375% to the advertised rate. BUT, they wouldn’t let you pull equity out as cash to get the loan back up to $100k. So, that crushed our dreams a bit.

With options limited to “traditional” lenders’ pricing structures, we had to evaluate our future goals for the property and where the loan balances and rates already stood. Not to mention, there’s the time and complexity that comes with refinancing while hoping rates continue to stay low.

The lender we normally use has closing costs around $3k. This means that with the extra principal proportion and smaller monthly payment resulting from a refi, we need to balance against $3k to determine how long it will take to break even. Properties with small balances and properties with decent rates (mid 4%) would take longer to break even. Since we pay down our mortgages relatively systematically to achieve greater portfolio cash flow, some of our 30 year loans won’t be around for 30 years. And what if we wanted to sell the property to ‘1031’ to a different one? Our portfolio also has 15 and 20 year loans with great rates that wouldn’t be beneficial for us to pay to lower that rate.

There are a lot of moving parts when deciding whether or not to refi, and its very rarely free, especially with rental properties. But if the numbers work, it should be a no-brainer to pull the trigger and make it happen. Your future self will thank you!

Two Years of Changes

On the surface, a jump of $1.1 million in just over 2 years seems impossible, but here’s the break down of how things changed in our finances during our child-rearing hiatus.

The highlights:
– Mrs. ODA left her job;
– We purchased three new properties;
– We sold one property;
– We paid off two mortgages and significantly paid down two others;
– Our investments grew based on market fluctuation, as well as our continued investment; and
– The value of the properties we own appreciated.


401K

Since I met Mr. ODA, I maxed out my Thrift Savings Plan (TSP, the Federal government’s 401k) contributions each year. Before that, I had been putting money into the TSP, but hadn’t maxed it out. I left my career position in May 2019, at which point I stopped contributions to my TSP. However, we put in as much as we could for the year before I quit (if Mr. ODA has his way, we’d have maxed out my contributions); I contributed $13,070 over the first 4 months of 2019. My balance on June 30, 2019 (it’s a quarterly report) was $300k. I have gained $127k over 19.5 months based on my investment strategy for the account with no new contributions. Mr. ODA continues to max out his contributions of $19,500 per year. His account balance has increased due to annual contributions, a loan repayment, and market fluctuations.


IRA AND TAXABLE

A Roth IRA has maximum contribution limitations per year. For 2019, 2020, and 2021, that amount is $6000. We each put $500 per month into the Roth IRA to max out the contributions. We have maxed out the contribution limitation every year we’ve known each other (10 years), and Mr. ODA had done so before Mrs. ODA knew such a thing. We don’t time our contributions throughout the year because we don’t want to stress about when the perfect time is and then possibly end up throwing five grand in when December rolls around. We have taken the ‘set it and forget it’ (essentially dollar cost averaging) approach to the Roth IRA investment.

Dollar Cost Averaging – Since we know we want to put $6,000 in for the year, we break it down into $500 a month and contribute on the 30th of every month regardless of individual pricing. This eliminates the need to pay attention to, and the effect of, volatility in the market. Some may say that dollar cost averaging is not a prudent idea because the market always goes up over time (essentially you’re setting yourself to pay higher and higher per share as the year progresses, on average), but I just can’t handle the psychology of dropping $6k on January 1 and not having anxiety for the rest of the year that it was the right decision.

As for the taxable accounts, this includes accounts we have set up for our children – UTMAs (however, the growth of these funds are not taxable to us because they are taxed at the minor’s rate – 0% for us). An UTMA is the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act. It allows an account to be set up in the child’s name without the child carrying the tax burden of the money. The IRS allows an exclusion from the gift tax up to $15,000. We put $50 per month, per child, into the account. This is also ‘set it and forget it’ with automatic deductions from our checking account.


CASH

Our cash balance really has no meaning. We bring in income and we pay our bills. We don’t purposely keep a savings account balance (as I shared in the Leveraging Money post, we’re not interested in maintaining 3x our monthly income in a savings account at 0.01% interest rate). We don’t purposely project how much to put towards mortgage principal.

We currently have a larger-than-normal cash balance, which is left over from selling our primary residence in September. It hasn’t been dwindled lower yet because we have a fence install that needs cash and we were paying down the last of our large credit card. Now that most of these things have happened, we’ll put more of our cash balance towards the investment property mortgage we’re currently paying down.


PERSONAL MORTGAGE

In October 2018, we had been living in our previous house for just under 3 years. In January 2021, we had only made 1 mortgage payment on our new home. While our current home cost slightly less than our last home and we put 20% down for each house, we had more years of principal pay down in October 2018 than we currently have.


PERSONAL RESIDENCE AND VEHICLES

We sold our Virginia home for $400k in September 2020. The valuation of that home rose significantly over the 2019-2020 years due to lower inventory with high demand in the Central Virginia area (probably all over the country, but I don’t know those details).

Also in September 2020, I traded my vehicle in for a van (and I couldn’t be happier :)!). That increased our vehicle valuation since the van is 3 years newer and a higher cost than my previous vehicle.

Even though my vehicle value rose slightly, Mr. ODA’s vehicle’s value continued to decline, and we purchased a home in a lower cost of living area, therefore having a lower value.


INVESTMENT PROPERTY VALUES

Since October 2018, we’ve purchased 3 properties, increasing the total property value of our portfolio. Additionally, all of our properties continue to increase in value. The Virginia homes have increased significantly over the last two years. In the table below, I’ve provided each property’s change in value from January 2020 (oldest snapshot per property I have) to February 2021.

Note that this is a projection based on the internet’s valuation and not an exact science. The only house that we have a recent appraisal on is the one that we refinanced in January 2020. That house’s appraisal was $168,000; we paid $112,500 in July 2017.


INVESTMENT MORTGAGES

Of the three most recent purchases, one was purchased with a partner, split 50/50, and the other two were the last two KY houses purchased. These three added $215k of new debt. However, you see that our mortgages on investment properties have only increased by $27k, which doesn’t exactly say “we bought 3 new houses.” That’s because we’ve paid down (and sold) about $150k of mortgages in addition to 2+ years worth of mortgage payments going towards these loans.

In May 2020 and January 2021, we refinanced two properties. Quick tidbit – we signed the refinance papers in May under a tent in a parking lot, and we signed the January refinance at our kitchen table with a traveling notary. While the interest rate and monthly payment decreased, the loan balances increased because we rolled closing costs into the principal and took $2,000 cash out (the maximum allowed) in each case.

We sold one property that we had been paying down the mortgage on; in October 2018 it had a balance of $11,142, and we sold it in January 2019. We had been paying down the mortgage because it was our lowest balance. When we made that decision, selling the house wasn’t in the immediate future. An opportunity presented itself, and we sold it.

We’ve paid off two mortgages during this period. One was in January 2019 with a balance of about $44k, and another was in April 2020, which also had a balance of about $44k in the October 2018 calculation. Our intent to paying off mortgages was two-fold. It increases our monthly cash flow that helps Mrs. ODA stay home with the kids, and it gets Mr. ODA closer to being able to leave his job. Plus, due to Fannie/Freddie requirements of having no more than 10 conventional loans, it creates the opening for us to get a new mortgage if the opportunity arose. The downside is that it de-leverages the house’s financials and creates a smaller cash-on-cash return for the property.

We have also paid down 2 mortgages over the last two years that aren’t completely paid off.
– One of those properties is the one that we purchased after October 2018 with a partner. It has our highest mortgage rate. The affect on the numbers here just shows that the principal balance of that mortgage is smaller than it was originally, thereby not increasing the mortgage total ‘fully,’ if you will. The principal pay down on that mortgage has been $44k total, but we’re only responsible for half of that.
– On the other mortgage, we’ve paid almost $28k towards principal between October 2018 and now.


CREDIT CARDS

We open new credit cards with 0% interest for an introductory period when we have large purchases looming. Not only is the 0% interest beneficial to us for an introductory period of 12-15 months, but we strategically choose new cards that come with a welcome bonus (points or cash) when you reach a moderate spend level in the first several months. Given the strategic timing of a new card before a large purchase, this bonus is easy to achieve. When we have large balances on credit cards, it’s because we’re purposely carrying a balance month-to-month at 0% interest. We have never paid interest on a credit card balance.


LIFESTYLE

Despite Mrs. ODA leaving the workforce, our net worth increased for all the reasons listed above. The one unmentioned piece, because its not directly tied to any accounts, is lifestyle. While our net worth, rents, and investments have increased, our lifestyle has not creeped. We still make strategic decisions, spend money mainly on needs, look for wants that provide our happiness without breaking the bank, and generally keep our financial future at the forefront of our daily lives. We live like no one else does so eventually we can live like no one else can.

Living intentionally allows us to get to where we want to be.