February Financial Update

Well, Mr. ODA didn’t like that I shared I didn’t know where our money was last month. They’re all kinds of Treasury accounts, and I’n just logging the transactions and leaving him to it. πŸ™‚ I don’t have a lot of bandwidth these days, but I’m learning to juggle 3 kids and our finances.


We bought a new van this month. We’ve been wanting a new one for a while now. We bought our 2017 Pacifica in September 2020. It was a great deal, and it was a necessity as we were about to spend 7 weeks “homeless” and AirBnB/couch hoping. The car had some defects. We decided we’d keep an eye out for a newer version. Suddenly, Mr. ODA found a good deal on a 2020 Pacifica that had more options than we were actually looking for. We drove to Ohio about 36 hours later. They made us a good deal for our trade-in, and we went home with a new van! We put some of the purchase on two credit cards and then the balance with a personal check.

We’re currently paying close attention to credit card deadlines and our savings account. Where I used to pay a credit card bill almost after the statement closed so that it wasn’t hanging out there and I wouldn’t accidentally miss a deadline, I’m now leaving money in our savings account as long as possible. Our savings account is now earning 4% on the balance, so we’re seeing a significant amount of interest each month. I’m juggling managing our bills as close to their due date as possible, while also projecting future bills necessary since there’s a limit of 6 transfers out of the savings account per month.

All that was to point out that our credit card balances are high right now because of the van purchase, but the credit card statement hasn’t closed yet. Instead of paying the credit card balances down right now, the money is sitting in savings earning interest for 4-6 weeks between the purchase, to the statement closing, to the statement’s due date. More directly, we put $3,000 on one credit card for the van purchase. That was on 2/7. That statement, once it closes, will not have a due date until 4/20. That means that the money put on the credit card can sit in savings earning interest for about 70 days.

We also had to pay the initial payment for the restoration services on the rental that had a burst pipe. So while the insurance company sent us a check to cover the cost of this work, it’s still $17k sitting on our credit card, not being paid until the last minute. I should also note that our cash balance is inflated by about $50k because it’s the money from the insurance company that we’re waiting to pay the contractor as milestones are completed.

Had I seemed nonchalant about the plan? Because I’m definitely not. πŸ™‚ I need to stay on top of how many transfers happen per month out of the savings account (while Mr. ODA randomly pulls money for investments), and not miss any deadlines and cost us interest charges or late payment marks on our credit. It’s stressful! Since we’re not doing anything that requires our credit to be pulled right now, it’s fine. If we were having our credit checked, having multiple cards nearly maxed out would be a problem. But we know we have the cash available to pay off all the credit cards if we needed to.


I finally got through to someone on the issue with the improperly installed water heater. He says he submitted all the paperwork to send us a check for $200 to cover the plumber we paid to fix their issue. I haven’t seen any paperwork, nor have I received the check, but I’ll keep it on my radar and follow up in a couple of weeks.

I made all the decisions on the restoration of our flooded house. We’re expecting to hear a timeline for work to start next week, and then it’ll take about 40 working days to get the work done.

I paid a warranty for termites on another house. We had an infestation when we purchased the house, but we didn’t pay the warranty information. Our tenants found swarmers, and when we called to ask about treatment, they said they’d let us backpay the warranty and invoke that. We have a good relationship with this company and appreciated that offer, so we’re staying on top of the warranty payments now. The payment is $98 per year.

We received a surprise in the mail – the tenant had turned off the electric in the flooded house back on January 12th. The power company is supposed to notify me. I received an email on February 6th notifying me of an action on the account. So this was in my name from 1/12 to 2/1 for me to be billed $255 without my knowledge. Not to mention, there’s a bill hanging out there from 2/2 until the present that I’ll also get billed for. Mr. ODA sent our property management excerpts from the lease indicating that the utilities must be in their name for the entirety of the lease, that they’re responsible for this bill, and that they must get it back in their name immediately. We’ll see how that plays out.


I picked up the keys from our property manager for the 3 houses I took over managing. I also worked on a rental here in town this week, which took about an hour including travel time, and I have another to work on later this week, which will be about 2 hours worth of work.

I sent a prospective tenant the pre-application we have, which he passed, so I sent him the application to submit. If all goes well, we’ll have that house re-rented with no vacancy period.

We have 3 leases that end at the end of April. We put a requirement that tenants give us 60 days notice, or that we give 60 days notice of any changes. That means that these leases need acknowledgement by the end of this month. So I ran the analysis on those 3 houses. We decided to increase the rent on 2 of them by $50 per month, each, and we’ll keep another house the same since it was increased last year. One house actually had an increase last year, but that house is well below market value, so we’re offering them to continue the lease with an increase because if they were to move out, we could get even more from the house based on it’s size and demographics. The 2 houses we’re increasing have a property manager, so she’s responsible for notification and signing an addendum before the end of the month. But once again, I need to manage the property manager and ensure we have action on time.


Rental Work

Every once in a while, I’m juggling a few rental property items, and I like to share the effort being put in. While it may be taking some of my energy now, it’s not something that happens often. Usually, Spring is our busy time because we have to manage leases ending or renewing. We have upticks in maintenance requests at the change of seasons each Fall and Spring (usually a plumbing or HVAC issue). For most months though, we don’t have to do much. I’m currently in a season (somewhat self-imposed) where we are busy and the rentals are requiring more-than-usual attention. Here’s that story.


One of the houses that I took over management for didn’t pay rent. I had to reach out to her on the morning of the 6th. She then asked to have until the end of the day. I told her that was fine, but if she didn’t pay by the end of the day, she’d have to pay a late fee (which is technically required after the 5th); she paid a few minutes after that message.

Another tenant let me know that they were sick last month, so they needed more time for rent. I let them know that was fine, and not to worry about the late fee. They paid a day earlier than when they expected to be able to pay.


Interestingly, several lease-related actions have been taken. I had to get 3 leases executed because I took over management of those properties (more on that below).

I had one tenant let me know that she won’t be renewing. She has been in that house since July 15, 2018. She sent me a text letting me know that she’ll be moving out on April 30th. Funny because her lease goes through June 30th of each year. But since she’s been there for so long, gave us ample notice, and so politely picked the end of a month, we’ll just go with it. It’s a 2 bedroom house, so we were surprised she spent as long as she did there. The first tenant we had in this house put us in contact with the current tenant. Ironically, the first tenant had recently asked if we had any 2 bedrooms coming available. At the time, I didn’t. But now we have the same house coming available, so I let her know. The person she knows looking for a house is interested in living there, so we’re going through the application process now!

I had another tenant tell me that they want to renew for another year. It’s for a house that I just took over management for. Since I don’t know them at this point, I didn’t want to agree immediately. Their notification deadline is March 31st, so we’ll revisit that renewal next month.

Then I had another tenant ask if they could renew. Their lease term isn’t up until April 30th, and their notification deadline is the end of February. Every year, they let me know their status some time in January. We reviewed their lease terms and decided to keep their rent at the same rate for another year. We typically increase $50 every two years, and their increase was at the beginning of this current term. She did play their hand and tell me they wanted to stay because rent is so expensive elsewhere, but we’re nice people. πŸ™‚


At the beginning of January, we received notice from a tenant in VA that their hot water wasn’t working. Being that it was really cold, it wasn’t surprising. However, the unit was installed in August 2021, so we weren’t happy to hear that. We called the company that installed the unit. They scheduled an appointment for the next morning. When the tech didn’t show, our property manager called them and was told they suspended all plumbing jobs and the scheduler shouldn’t have scheduled the job. So our manager got another guy out there that afternoon and discovered that the wires weren’t installed correctly. His report stated: Dispatched to home due to home not having hot water. Found burnt wires in electrical access due to improper installation. Two unlike wire materials, not joined together correctly. Cut and removed burnt wires and reinstalled the correct way.

Now I’m trying to get in touch with someone at the installation company to address this. We’d like our $200 reimbursed for having to call a different plumber out. I called to complain on 1/20. I was told that a service manager would have to call me back. No one did. I called this morning and was told I’d get a call back in a half hour. No one called this morning. At 1:15, I got a call from some guy who poorly introduced himself and wanted into the property right now. Um, no. I politely told him that I didn’t appreciate the way he was talking to me and that I’d speak with someone else. I called someone back in the office, and she had a different guy call me. I emailed him the paperwork from the other plumber. He agreed to process the reimbursement, and am now waiting on that confirmation.


We’ve had some issues with our property manager in KY. Perhaps their actions are completely normal, but they haven’t met our expectations. We were asked to reimburse a tenant for a high water bill because they dragged their feet on timely fixing it, and then took two attempts to even fix it. Our contract deleted the automatic 10% uncharge on all contracted services (meaning, if they hired a plumber, and the plumber charged them $100, then they’d charge me $110). We argued at contract negotiation that their hiring of a plumber is covered in their monthly management fee and removed it from the contract. Their system automatically adds the 10%, which is understandable, but I would have to review every single invoice and ask for the 10% to be returned. That’s a lot of managing-the-property-manager.

Then we had a huge issue with them last May. I covered the first part of the issue through the Tenant Abandonment post. The second part of the issue was how their accounting manager handled the rest of the conversation. They took their management fee off of the security deposit. I had questioned this on the last property turnover, and they agreed to give me that money back. I thought it was the same across the board – that it was an accident in their system, with it counting as “income” so they took their share. The conversation disintegrated from there. They claimed that since the security deposit was being applied as rent for the month the tenant abandoned, so they could take their share. I said that a security deposit’s purpose is to cover damages, and there was A LOT of damage that I need to pay for, so I shouldn’t be at their whim to decide how the security deposit is going to be applied (not to mention it was their lack of management and effort that created the vacancy). He then started to claim that their level of effort was more than the $90 I was arguing over (1. false. 2. that’s not how my paying you works… what about all those months I paid you $90 for you to do literally nothing). It turns out that I put all my effort to respond to this person’s initial statement of “This security deposit for the tenant has been applied toward rent.” While he said that, that wasn’t actually the reason they took a fee from it, and in actuality, our agreement would have allowed them to take their commission out of the security deposit. But where the relationship really went sour was when this accounting manager started looking through all our charges and decided to hit us with two $500 charges, that we had already paid. We got the owner involved, stating we didn’t appreciate this “desk audit” to try to “get us” on something, even though we had already paid it. Mr. ODA went to meet with them, and everyone apologized for this one person’s brash actions, but that was the last straw for me.

We now live here, so I can take on management of the houses instead of paying people who I have to argue with every time a charge comes in. Unfortunate for the timing, we then purchased a house that we put a lot of work into over the summer, and then I was very pregnant, so we didn’t terminate the agreement immediately. Mr. ODA decided that the beginning of the new year would be a clean break, but by the time I got the letter out, it didn’t terminate until January 31st. They’ve been great about turning over all the finances and information thus far.

So as of February 1st, I took on 3 more properties to manage. I had to establish my own KY lease agreements, which meant referring to the leases currently in place through the property manager and my own templates from VA. I then had to meet the tenants for their signatures. I went to each of the houses, which was a reason to see their living conditions. I didn’t call it an inspection, and I didn’t require a tour of the house. I simply used the initial experience as a gauge on how they’re treating the property. For one, we turned it over after the tenant abandonment, so we didn’t expect it to be too bad. But we hadn’t seen the other two houses since 2019.

Over two days, I met with the tenants and executed the new leases. Two of the meetings were a half hour each, and one was a while longer because we were talking about some of the issues they had with the management company’s maintenance. Of course, meeting with tenants in person usually ends with a to-do list on my end. So once I got home, I put together their leases and the to-do lists for me. I now need to schedule going out there to do their fixes.


On December 27th, I received a call from one of my tenants letting me know that water was pouring out of the house next door (that’s also ours). The tenants had turned off the heat… when it was 6 degrees for 3 days straight. The water heater is in the attic and a pipe cracked during the freeze. When it started to thaw, the constant water running filled up the house. Our property manager went to the house and found two inches of water throughout the entire house, along with a collapsed ceiling in the master bathroom. Over the next two days, the ceiling in the adjacent laundry room and the master bedroom also collapsed.

The tenant’s renters insurance was responsible for removing their belongings. They created quite the speed bump, and the tenant’s items weren’t removed for 5 weeks. We finally got their things out, and now we’ve been working with contractors to get the house put back together. We agreed to a contractor who worked with our insurance to get their full amount of work covered (there was about a $6k difference between the insurance adjuster’s estimate and the contractor’s estimate). The insurance company agreed to the new estimate.

We’re now working on the contract with the company who will put the house together. The initial contract required 50% payment up front, which we didn’t feel comfortable doing. Now we’re waiting on an updated contract with a new pay schedule that will split the payment into thirds.

Our next step once the contract is executed is to pick out all the replacement things. On top of them fixing the bottom 2′ of drywall throughout the entire house and all the ceilings that collapsed, along with replacing insulation, fixing the crawl space, etc., we have to make selections for new bottom cabinetry in the kitchen, new vanities in the bathrooms, and new flooring throughout the whole house. I’m hoping that once these selections are made, it’ll be smooth sailing. The contractor is 3 weeks out to begin, and the contract says it’ll take 40 days to complete.

While there’s a lot of things being juggled right now, it’s still not equivalent to a full time job. Since insurance is paying for the replacement of damaged items in the one house, it’s not a high spending month. It’s just requiring more brain power than usual.

May Financial Update

This has been a whirlwind of a month. Our crashing investment accounts have been offset by home values, so we’re still over $3 million net worth. But those investments are very low; it’s the first time I’ve seen a negative in my 12-month performance history for my ‘401k.’


A couple of months ago, we were standing outside playing with the kids when a neighbor walked by and introduced themselves. Being that we easily have $150k worth of equity in our house, we started talking about how we should open a Home Equity Line of Credit to be able to float a future purchase. The process was initiated, but not really started, when we made an offer on another house to be our personal residence. More to come on that. But we close on the HELOC today at $100k, which was the maximum she could do as an “administrative authorization” (for lack of a better term, and to pull on my government background), which essentially just meant no appraisal cost.


We’re about 3 weeks in being under contract on a new house. We’ve submitted all our files to an online bank that we’re using as our loan, and we’ve locked our rate at 4.0% on a 5 ARM. Closing is expected to be 6/15. We’ll need about $75k or 80k out of the HELOC for closing on that.

We found out that our appraisal that was ordered for this house got cancelled. A quick inquiry to our lender and we found out that they decided our credit profile doesn’t need one! They’re going to refund us what we already paid, which was a pleasant surprise.


I worked the weekends in April at the local racetrack. It’s good money and only required 8 days of me actually working. This meet’s experience was slightly different, and I didn’t enjoy it as much as the Fall meet, but I made more than I did in during that meet.


We had a tenant abandon a property on April 1st, so that was a lost month of rent that we weren’t expecting. Our finances aren’t in a position that we need that money. It also helps that we don’t have a mortgage on the property. But we still put over $2,000 into the house (including two appliances) and a week’s worth of our time in turning it over since it was left in poor condition. We’ve been fighting Home Depot on getting a dishwasher delivered and installed, and that still isn’t resolved.

We had our usual suspects not pay rent on time. One did manage to pay in full (not the late fee though) by the 7th. The other I finally told that paying on the last Friday of every month is no longer acceptable, and it needs to change. She sent a nice email back, but we still haven’t seen a dime from them this month.

We had one rent increase go into effect; it went from $1025 to $1100. That also increases our property management cost by $7.50 going forward.

We had an insurance company drop us by not renewing us since they found out we moved out of state. We told them we have a property manager, so there is someone available taking care of the houses, but they didn’t care. Luckily, not all insurance companies have such a requirement, and our agent was able to find someone with nearly the same price that accepted a property manager.

We have officially paid off one of the loans that we had with our partner. We had intended to pay the loan off this month, on our terms. Instead, because the balance was about $400, the loan company took it upon themselves to use our escrow and close the account. We were purposely waiting until after escrow paid the taxes due this month, and now we need to scramble and figure out the tax payment.



We now commence a very busy time of life. We have several trips planned, we expect to turnover a rental that we’re kindly asking a tenant to vacate, and we have a lot of work we want to do on our new personal residence. Hopefully the turnover of the one house goes smoothly, we get the house that was abandoned in April re-rented, and that there are no more surprises in our rental world. We also had our AC go out in our 18 month old house, so here’s to hoping there are no more surprises in the personal expense world too.

House 2: The Exclusivity Agreement

House 1 was purchased from a family member because we saw an opportunity when they were getting ready to sell their townhome. House 2 was purchased because we were looking for a way to make our profit from the sale of our first home to get to work for us. While in the process of purchasing House 2, the seller said he was interested in liquidating the house next door, which was a mirror image of House 2, and so that became House 3. Both House 2 and House 3 came with tenants, which was a big advantage, but delayed a few lessons in rentals for us.

After we sold our house outside of DC, we moved just outside of Richmond, VA. We spent a few months looking at the neighborhoods and analyzed the markets available in Richmond. I was more interested in the college area, where it’s a market I knew well, having been a college kid who rented in an old house that was sectioned into apartments. Mr. ODA was more ambitious (in my opinion), looking into neighborhoods that families would rent in. Many investors are looking to rent in areas of Richmond that fit the quintessential Richmond mold (e.g., walkability to restaurants and shops, bike routes). However, these houses don’t come close to hitting the 1% Rule.

We’ve purchased several houses on the east side of town, and they’ve worked out very well and most don’t have turnover. The value of House 2 since we purchased it has increased by about $70k as the neighborhoods in the area continue to decrease crime and increase value. Both houses are about 13 years old, 1200 square feet, and have 3 bedrooms and 2 baths. All of the rooms except bathrooms and kitchen are carpeted, which is something we’ve since tried to stay away from.


After we saw House 2 and wanted to make an offer, our Realtor relationship went downhill. We had a Realtor for our home purchase when we moved to the area, and we continued the relationship to have access to the MLS. After we purchased our home and started looking for rentals, we soon learned that our Realtor 1) had an agenda to get the most commission, regardless of the best deal or our interests, and 2) kept pushing areas she knew versus areas we were interested in. We had made it known that we wanted to buy several properties, and I believe by the time we wanted to make an offer on a house, she realized we weren’t looking to further this relationship after this deal. Since she had shown us a few houses, we expected to see this deal through with her. That’s when the straw broke the camel’s back. We received the offer to review, and it came with an exclusivity agreement.

An exclusivity agreement is a contract established by the Realtor to protect their interests. If the client signs it, then it means that the client is committed to that agent for the terms in the agreement (e.g., a single purchase, a period of time). We hadn’t needed one in Fairfax, and the one we had for our personal home contract covered a month’s time. When we received the contract for House 2, the exclusivity terms were until October 4, 2016, from the date of the contract, which was May 4, 2016. We requested the date be changed to match the “close no later than” terms in the contract, which was June 17. That’s when the bs-ing commenced. I’m sure the average buyer wouldn’t have noticed nor cared. We saw right through it, and she kept digging in deeper with holes in her story and guilt.

First, she claimed that she made it 6 months (although it was 5 months) so that it gets through closing and we didn’t have to sign again. We countered with three pieces of logic: 1) the field can accept an address, so change it to the house’s address to cover us for the entire time it took us to get to closing, whenever that may be; 2) the exclusivity period on our personal residence’s contract expired long before we actually closed (because it was a new build, and the contract was signed before construction began), but we never had to re-sign an agreement; and 3) we never experienced a 6-month closing on a routine purchase.

Instead of addressing that the field could accept the house’s details rather than a period of time, she said: I’m committed to helping you guys look for houses and make offers, are you committed to working with me? Red flag. When we said we wanted it changed to the house address, and that we didn’t mind signing on for each property we made an offer on, she furthered the guilt with: We have know each other for almost a year and I honestly didn’t think it would be such an issue. If you are not willing to sign it I am not going to be able to work with you. If it’s not supposed to be a big deal for us, why is it a big deal for you/your broker?

One of the first things we learned in the real estate market was to not sign an exclusivity agreement. It eliminates your rights as a buyer and ties you unnecessarily to an agent. On the Realtor’s side, I understand that a lot of time and effort goes into working with clients, and there is a possibility that one Realtor shows a client a house, but that client uses a different Realtor to sign the contract, which causes the agent who showed the property to lose the commission. However, I believe that if there’s a good relationship with the Realtor and client, it shouldn’t need to be in writing that they’re committed to each other. I also don’t believe that it’s routine that a Realtor shows several houses to a client, and then that client finds someone else to make an offer. I was also surprised that it’s at the contract stage in the process, and not at the showings stage.

When she wouldn’t write the offer without us signing an unnecessarily long exclusivity agreement (again, we were willing to sign it as associated with this offer/property), we called our old Realtor and asked if she could write the offer for us even though she didn’t cover that area. (An Agent’s license covers the whole state, but typically their access to the MLS is confined to local metro areas unless they want to pay for other regions.) She wrote the offer for us. She also introduced us to a loan officer who we have used for every property purchase since then, and recommended to others.


This house is relatively new, so we haven’t had any major expenses. We had a couple of HVAC service calls, one was a legitimate concern and one was a misunderstanding by the tenant on how it works in extreme temperatures. What we haven’t paid for in physical house repairs, we’ve made up with in learning new things about tenants.


We had a tenant move in right before we closed on the house. She had gone through a divorce and was living on her own. At the end of the year, she got back together with her ex-husband and moved out. We touched up the paint, cleaned the carpet, cleaned the kitchen and bathrooms, and then listed the house for rent. We chose two ladies, one of which had a criminal record for forgery a few years prior. Other than that, they were the best qualified financially.

Our only issue in the first year was that they had a ‘friend’ look at our HVAC unit. We told them that it’s not their property, and had anything been wrong, it would have been on them to fix because we didn’t authorize tinkering with our very-expensive property. The issue was that it was 100 degrees outside, they had the thermostat set at 60, and it wasn’t getting to that temperature. That’s not surprising. Our technician went out, checked the unit, and explained to them that when it’s that hot, you can’t expect it to get to such a different temperature in the house. He suggested using fans.

They moved in June 1, 2017 and one of the ladies is still there.

At the end of their second year, we increased their rent by $50/month to $1100. This is still under market value for the house, but not having to turnover the unit was more important than a drastic increase in rental income.

In February 2020, we learned a new aspect of the law – domestic disputes. One of the ladies reached out to us and requested to be released from the lease because she had a restraining order filed on her roommate. We researched the requirements associated with restraining orders (because the two she gave us were expired) and then her rights as it related to being a tenant. She had paid her portion of the rent each month, so we weren’t aware of issues. We released her from any responsibility immediately and notified the roommate. Per Virginia Code, the remaining tenant is responsible for the entirety of the lease from then-on. We gave her the opportunity to vacate the property within 30 days if she could not pay the full lease amount going forward, but she chose to stay on the property.

The world shut down a month later. Other than an issue here and there with our other properties, this one has been the most affected. She doesn’t communicate up front anymore when she won’t be able to have rent on time. We received a letter from her stating that she had been furloughed, but things in the letter didn’t look professional and piqued my interest (recall the forgery charge). I called her employer who informed me that her hours were cut, but she was not furloughed; the woman who answered the phone sounded exasperated and indicated she had explained this to our tenant several times. I informed the tenant that I had done an employment verification and that we could be flexible, but rent was still expected. Then a few months later, after she didn’t pay rent or tell us what was happening, she claimed she couldn’t pay rent because of an issue with a check showing up. We requested her employment information again, and I verified she was fully employed. When I asked her what was going on, she stated that she wasn’t required to tell me where her rent was coming from and whether she was employed didn’t mean she could pay rent. Fun.

Then, a few months later again, I received an email from the Commonwealth of Virginia asking me for my tax identification number and other information because our tenant had applied for rent assistance. I was confused because the rent assistance program was for unpaid rent balances, and she was fully paid. I watched the rent assistance program training and attempted an application myself so that I could see how the process works before I questioned anything more. I verified that the program was indeed for past due rents and couldn’t be requested for future rent. I contacted the State office to gather more information, and the tenant had submitted that she didn’t pay January 2021’s rent, which she had. The State made a note in her file. I informed the tenant that the program was for past due rents, which she had none, and that she was not qualified for such a program, but we were willing to work with her if she had any problems paying rent timely in the future.

Each time she’s not paid full rent by the 5th of the month, she has paid rent in full before the end of the month. After she took full responsibility of the property’s rent and lease, we had her sign a new lease with just her name. That lease ends on June 30 this year, and we’re currently decided whether we’ll offer her another year at an increased rate (last increase was 2 years ago) or we’ll request her to vacate the property.