How Our First Property Turned Into an Eviction and Rehab 5 Months In
My name is Elenis Camargo. Like most of you on BiggerPockets, my husband and I spent the last two years listening to podcasts and reading blogs while saving money for our first deal. We finally took the plunge in February 2018 and purchased our first single family property in Florida, sight unseen, while living in Brooklyn, New York.
We are originally from South Florida and had planned on moving to NYC for years. In 2016 we finally did it and had big dreams of purchasing an apartment in Brooklyn to call our home. The problem is that one-bedroom apartments here go for a minimum of $600,000 and that’s for a tiny, cramped space without any views and a building without an elevator or any amenities. After a few months of saving we were talking about when we lived in Gainesville, Florida during college, how the homeowner was an out of state landlord. He used a company to list his property and then self managed. We felt it was best to put our money to work, making us more money in return, rather than putting it into an apartment that would not be our forever home. Since our current city is so expensive to buy in we decided to be out of state landlords ourselves in the state that we felt most comfortable: Florida.
Our First Property
After a few months of searching online and one deal that fell through due to a house with wobbly walls and a closed off attic, we settled on a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom single family home in North Florida. The property already had a tenant and a cash flow of $266 per month. One of our good friends is a real estate agent in the area and was able to tour the property for us. She sent us videos, pictures and spoke to the tenant that came with the property. Everything seemed great, so we went for it! Here are the details of the deal:
- Listing Price: $100,000
- Appraised Value: $106,000
- Purchase Price: $90,500
- Down Payment: 20% ($18,100 plus $5,200 for closing costs)
- Monthly Mortgage (Including Taxes & Insurance) and Operating Expenses: $723
- 30 yr fixed rate of 4.875%
- Monthly Rent: $1,075
- Vacancy Loss: 8% annually
- Monthly Cash Flow: $266
Since someone was already living in the property we did not have to worry about fixing anything before getting it rented. The tenant, lets call her Amy, complained to our realtor that the previous property managers took days and sometimes weeks to address a simple issue. This is when we knew we were going to self-manage from 1,000 miles away.
We Inherited our First Tenant
We bought this property before reading any of the BiggerPockets books, although I had just ordered The Book on Managing Rental Properties by Brandon and Heather Turner. We asked the seller for a copy of the lease and we thought that was enough due diligence on the tenant. On our second week as landlords Amy reported that the AC was not blowing cold air and a few days later there was a broken pipe spewing water in the backyard. We were able to ask our realtor for references of companies who could help and get the issues fixed quickly. By the time we were ready to receive our first rent check I had finished the Turners’ book. Reading on inherited tenants scared me, but Amy had been very communicative and friendly so far and that made us feel comfortable. She was open to allowing different vendors enter the property to give us pricing on a few minor things that we wanted to fix from the home inspection report. We felt like we had a great tenant. What we did not do: verify Amy’s income beforehand, have her original application with emergency contact information, and ask for an Estoppel Agreement (a simple one-page form that tenants fill out letting you know the terms of their lease to the best of their knowledge).
A Great Tenant Gone Bad
After the purchase in February we quickly learned that Amy was a full time student with no income who was having her family help her pay the rent. This is something we should have learned during our due diligence. A couple of months in, Amy was late on a few payments due to new personal problems she was having. In July she was late once again and communication was almost non-existent. We called, emailed and texted her but her phone was off for several days. She finally re-appeared saying she could not pay on time this month and would pay “soon”. We asked when exactly “soon” was, which she said would be by July 8th. I’ve heard of landlords that go months without collecting rent and continue to let the tenant stay living rent free. Being firm and making her set a payment deadline showed her that we would not be that kind of landlord and also gave us a timeline on when we would need to take the next steps if she missed her payment again.
An Eviction turned into Abandonment
July 8th came and went and we did not hear from Amy. We emailed, texted and left voicemails. Her phone was off once again. We turned to our closing attorney, who also handles evictions, and had our friend post the 3-Day Pay or Vacate Notice on July 9th. I emailed, texted and left voicemails again letting Amy know about the notice anticipating she was still having personal troubles and might not be home. The next day my lawn guy sent me a picture of the freshly cut lawn and I saw the notice was still on the door. We waited to hear from Amy, certain that she would appear and pay on time. By July 13th we still had not heard from her and proceeded with the evictions filing the same day. The night after our attorney filed the eviction Amy sent us an email stating she had moved out of the property and that she was aware we would keep her deposit. With this email our attorney was able to cancel the eviction and we were allowed to re-enter the property. Fortunately, this email also avoided wasting several weeks in completing an eviction and more money on attorney and court fees.
Re-entering the Property
Two months before our property was abandoned, I met a like-minded investor and contractor on BiggerPockets. I truly could not have asked for a better connection! I had been in contact with him letting him know about our current situation and that we might need some minor work done on the property. We knew the property had carpet that might not be in great condition and that it would need a fresh coat of paint to get it in good renting condition. Our contractor was able to enter the property, change the locks and sent us pictures of what the property looked like after abandonment. Here are a few, just for fun:
Although Amy said in her email that she had moved out, there were still many of her belongings inside the property. Our attorney assured us that in Florida, we are able to put the tenant’s belongings on the curb whereas in some states you have to store a tenant’s belongings and pay for the storage yourself. We did not expect to receive pictures of such a mess, but then again Amy did break her lease and abandon the property. We took this as an opportunity to make the property an even nicer rental in order to increase the monthly cash flow.
Rehabbing from Long Distance
The mess could easily be cleaned but there was more work to be done. The carpet was disgusting, the exterior was unappealing and the lighting in the house was very dark. Since we were not anywhere near our property, we had to rely on our contractor to do all of the work. He worked with us to make a list of what should be done to bring the property up to par with other rentals in the area. We did the following:
- Removed all of Amy’s belongings that were left behind (of course)
- Removed old carpet and flooring throughout the house
- Installed new vinyl plank flooring
- Fresh coat of paint on the interior
- Changed the exterior and interior door knobs
- Removed a strange piece of wall on the exterior of the property that was blocking a window to the living room
- Changed light bulbs throughout the house
- Pressure cleaned the outside and painted the door and shutters
- Replaced the rusted metal carport supports with new wood posts
- Several other minor issues that needed to be fixed throughout the house
A few surprises along the way:
- One of the tubs seemed to have water underneath it when our contractor stepped inside. It ended up being a tub fitter and the water had seeped in between the tub fitter and the original tub. Luckily, we were able to have the tub refinished for much less than getting a new one.
- Water had damaged some of the cabinets in the kitchen, most likely from the tub issue, but we were able to resurface the outside of the cabinets for a minimal cost
- There was a strange smell of cigar mixed with incense in the laundry room. Our contractor ran an ozone machine in there for several days and was able to get the smell out.
- One of the bathrooms had a large mirror installed over what used to be a medicine cabinet, making for an unsafe installation due to the large opening behind the mirror. We had the mirror removed and installed a new medicine cabinet in its place.
The total cost of the project was $8,000 with the flooring being the largest expense. At first, we were considering either tile or laminate flooring. Our contractor opened our eyes to vinyl plank flooring. It was much more cost effective than tile and had the durability that a rental property needs. I called several local flooring companies but in the end our contractor had a flooring contact that was able to give him better pricing than I could get myself. This project gave us the ability to test our contractor and ourselves to see if we could work together on future projects, as well as learn about new materials we had not heard of before. Although we ran into a few unexpected surprises with the property, it was a big learning experience and now we have someone we can fully trust to rehab our future properties. You can see the pictures of the final project at the end of this post.
Listing the Property from Long Distance
We really wanted to list the property ourselves but found it impossible to do so since we would not physically be there to show the property. I had already started interviewing property managers a few weeks before Amy abandoned the property in anticipation that she would not renew her lease in October. I was specifically looking for someone that would take great pictures, show the property, vet the applicants and get the property rented as quickly as possible. I would continue managing the property myself after this. Here are the questions I asked the property managers I interviewed:
- Do you offer tenant placement services?
- Do you take pictures of the home?
- Do you handle inspections before and after the tenant moves out?
- What is your procedure for qualifying tenants?
- Which strategies do you use to fill vacant units quickly, but without sacrificing tenant quality?
- How long do units typically stay vacant after turnover?
- What are the fees associated with the above?
I chose the listing agent that made me feel most comfortable and that took the time to answer all of my questions via email and phone. It took approximately 4 weeks to get a qualified applicant to sign a new lease and move in.
This rehab was completely unexpected but it raised the value of our property and brought us a significantly higher cash flow. We are now renting the property for $1,200 per month for a cash flow of $381, an increase of 43%. Our estimated 10-year net Internal Rate of Return (IRR) is 13.4%. We also have an estimated $50,000 in equity in this property that we can tap into using a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) for future deals.
Amy’s security deposit was two month’s rent plus a $250 pet fee. We used $555 of that to pay for the evictions attorney fees and $1,800 to pay part of the rehab. The remaining $6,200 of the rehab went on a 15-month interest free credit card that will be paid in one year with the new cash flow from the rent. Our out of pocket costs also included three months of mortgage payments and maintenance: the first month was from Amy’s missed payment, the second month from rehabbing and the third month since the rent payment went to the listing agent for finding a new tenant.
The big question: If we could foresee this going in, would we do it all over again? Absolutely. We decided to build a long lasting business in real estate and know evictions are part of the territory. Preparing in advance and building contacts along the way truly made this experience a lot less painful than it could have been. We now have an evictions attorney we can depend on, an amazing contractor for future deals and a property manager to quickly get our properties rented. We just closed on our second single family property this month with another inherited tenant. We went into our second deal knowing the extra due diligence we needed to do to learn more about our future tenants. Our next focus is to do our first flip using a hard money lender and save the profits to purchase our first multifamily property next year.
Update: Here is my next blog post on How We Purchased Our First 3 Rental Properties Out of State in 1 Year.
The End Result
Before and After: Side by Side
Entrance of home:
Hall bathroom with medicine cabinet issue:
Laundry room with weird smell:
Tub that needed refinished, floor redone, wall tile painted
Happy rental property hunting to all, and thanks for reading! Feel free to ask any questions you have about rental property investing or real estate, I’ll try to answer as best as I can.