Fall, Backyard Ideas


the perfect time to enjoy your outdoor space. Gather your friends and family and make the most of the cooler season with one of these fun outdoor ideas.

Gather Around the Fire – From a portable fire bowl to an elaborate built-in structure, there are fire pit designs to fit every budget. (Your town may have rules on where or if you can build a fire pit, so check ordinances first.) Use your fire feature to roast marshmallows or stay warm while you swap stories under the stars.

Host a Movie Night — Revive the drive-in movie concept in your own backyard. Prepare for your outdoor movie night by stringing a crisp white bed sheet between trees or tacking it to a fence. Then find a clear spot for the projector. Once the sun sets, grab a blanket and a few snacks, and let the entertainment begin.

Enjoy Fall Grilling – There’s no reason to write off the backyard grill just because there’s a chill in the air. Have a few friends over for a fall cookout, complete with grilled seasonal veggies and a potluck dessert. An outdoor heater or chimenea can supplement the warmth from the grill, or spread out a couple blankets for friends to cozy up with if necessary.

Throw a Tailgate Party – Fall weekends belong to football, so why not host a backyard tailgate party? Broadcast the game outdoors by setting up a TV in the garage or under a small tent. Then plan a simple themed menu, decorate in team colors, and create a playlist with feel-good tunes.



New York Real Estate Experts Facebook

Rummy Dhanoa - Broker with New York Real Estate Experts


Rummy Dhanoa - Broker with New York Real Estate Experts

Is It Now Easier to Qualify for a Mortgage?

Is Qualifying for a Mortgage Getting Easier? | Keeping Current Matters
There has been a lot of talk about how difficult it is to get a home mortgage in today’s lending environment. However, three recent reports have revealed that lending standards are beginning to ease. This is great news for both first time buyers and current homeowners looking to move or buy a second vacation/retirement home. Let’s look at the three reports:

The MBA’s Mortgage Credit Availability Index

This index, issued by the Mortgage Bankers’ Association, measures the availability of credit available in the home mortgage market. A decline in the MCAI indicates that lending standards are tightening, while increases in the index are indicative of a loosening of credit. We can see that the index has been increasing nicely this year: Mortgage Credit Availability Index | Keeping Current Matters

Fannie Mae’s latest Mortgage Lender Sentiment Survey

This survey revealed that more lenders report that mortgage lending standards across all loan types are easing. The survey asked senior mortgage executives whether their company’s credit standards have eased, tightened, or remained essentially unchanged during the prior three months. The gap between lenders reporting easing as opposed to tightening over the prior three months jumped to approximately 20%. This represented a new survey high of “net easing.” In addition, the share of lenders who expect their organizations to ease credit standards over the next three months also ticked up this quarter. Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae, addressed this easing of standards:

“For the first time in seven quarters, we see a pronounced increase in the share of lenders, particularly medium- and larger-sized lenders, reporting on net an easing of credit standards … This is a significant result in light of public discourse on credit availability and standards … Overall, we expect that lenders’ tendency toward easing credit standards, together with relatively low mortgage rates and a strengthening labor market, will continue to support the housing market expansion.”

Ellie Mae’s latest Origination Insights Report

The easing of credit standards is also confirmed in this report which showed that the average FICO score on a closed loan fell to its lowest point in well over a year. Here is a chart of average FICO scores on closed loans so far in 2015: Ellie Mae FICO Scores | Keeping Current Matters

Just keep an eye on interest rates…

Although this is all great news, there was one challenge in the recently released data. Ellie Mae reported that the average interest rate on closed loans is beginning to inch upward: Ellie Mae Interest Rates | Keeping Current Matters

What this means to you…

If you are a first time buyer or a current homeowner thinking of moving up to a bigger home or buying a vacation home, now may be the time to act. Mortgage lending standards are beginning to ease and interest rates are beginning to inch up. 

Successful People’s 5 Motivational Secrets

Motivational Success Tips

Some make success look easy but the truth is that when a person who has reached the brass ring is noticed it’s only after the most difficult steps have been traversed, and not when they are struggling, which all people who have worked hard have done.

Luckily for those who want to follow in their footsteps, the secrets to success are not secrets at all. In fact, there are five things that all successful people do in order to achieve their dreams.

1. Successful people take responsibility for their actions and inaction


Have you ever wished for success but never put forth the hard work? If you can admit it, then you are on your way to becoming successful, because a person looking to become something bigger than he or she is will be honest enough to say ‘I made a mistake,’ or even ‘I was not totally committed to my dream.’

Most people would rather lie to themselves. They’ll buy new gadgets while on the brink of bankruptcy, eat out when they should be on an at-home budget, and sit around playing video games and eating snack foods while they tell themselves that they are going to be in a bodybuilding contest.

2. Successful people are willing to sacrifice in order to achieve their dreams


Sacrifice is a must for success. Sometimes it is spelled out like the amount of time it takes to finish college. Other times it’s not, like the amount of rejections one must go through in order to publish a book.

The length of time that it may take is of little consequence when you want something badly enough.

3. Focus and Determination


When one is chasing a dream the pursuit must be a single-minded focus at times, which requires immense determination.

Aspiring pro athletes will be in the gym when they are not in class, and some will let their grades slide in order to ensure that their bodies will be able to operate at a higher level. Like these athletes, musicians will spend countless hours perfecting their technique and compositions, and this does not come but with the focus that brings about time allotted for practice.

Abraham Lincoln was noted as having practiced his speeches repeatedly. From this, he was able to overcome being unsure of what to do with his hands and keep his voice from breaking into a high pitch.

4. Focus leads to field expertise


From this focus people become experts in their fields. A musician knows all of his scales. Business people know all of the proper terminology, such as gross and net income, ROI, ROE, and billable hours.

Without focus, people who want to be successful may find themselves in embarrassing situations.

5. Successful people have a written plan as well as a personal mission statement


Without a written plan, it is unlikely that success will be achieved because goals are not reached in a day, but daily. Every day must involve something that helps a person achieve their goals.

Over time priorities change and so do people, but a good plan should not. If it is not readily available along with a personal mission statement then it will more likely than not be forgotten like so many other dreams that were really just wishes.




New York Real Estate Experts Facebook

Rummy Dhanoa - Broker with New York Real Estate Experts


Rummy Dhanoa - Broker with New York Real Estate Experts

Adopt These Habits and Your Bathroom Will Always Sparkle

8 Things People With Spotless Toilet, Shower and Sink Do Every Day
If the bathroom is your least favorite space in your entire home to clean, we hear you. It’s messy, germy, and sometimes smelly. But what if we told you by adopting a few daily habits you can actually clean this room less often and it will be ​way ​easier? These are a few of the things people with clean bathrooms do every day:

1. They make a point of emptying the trash can.

Even the smallest amount of garbage can leave a room smelling foul and looking cluttered. Instead of letting trash pile up, do as Patty Vila does: “I have never been able look at a full trash can, so I empty it in the bathroom every day.” Much like making your bed each morning, an empty garbage bin sets a good intention for your daily bathroom tidiness.


2. They spray shower walls after they wash up.

Now that you’re so fresh and so clean, why not take an extra minute to give your shower the same treatment? “Every time I get out of the shower I spray the walls with a vinegar and water mixture,” says Bonnie Dewkett from The Joyful Organizer. Skip the vinegar on natural stone surfaces, but also squeegee the tile after your shower. Whisking away excess moisture can minimize time spent cleaning later.


3. They use their dryer to keep towels fresh.

“I put the towels from the bathroom in the dryer for about seven minutes every night before I go to bed to get all the moisture out,” Maryam Ghaffari​ says. She says this quick task helps keep her towels fresh longer. Just be careful not to over dry them — this could shrink or damage the fabric overtime. And toss them in the wash every three uses or so.

4. They turn on the exhaust fan when they enter their bathroom.

It’s the first thing Womanantics blogger Surabhi Surendra does when she enters her bathroom — and flipping off the fan is the last thing she does before she leaves. “This helps keep the air inside the bathroom fresh,” she explains. Plus, it keeps mildew at bay. 


5. They do the gross chores before they become BIG chores.


Try simply wiping off soap from the counter at the end of the day — before it hardens and becomes more annoying to clean. Or try Amy Metherell’s tip and tackle the least popular spot in the bathroom each and every day: “I pour a little baking soda into the toilet and scrub with my toilet brush,” she says. Since she does it so often she says it’s super fast and easy. 

6. They keep a clothes hamper at the ready.

If you strip down pre-shower in your bathroom, don’t let your shirts, pants, or socks end up in a pile on the floor: “I keep a clothes hamper in the bathroom to place the clothes in and I have a rule that all clothes must be placed in a personal hamper or put away after showering,” says Debra Johnson, national home cleaning expert and training manager for Merry Maids​.


7. They multitask while brushing their teeth.

Don’t waste those precious minutes when you’re stuck in the bathroom just starring at your reflection. Use ‘em to clean like Leticia Pfeiffer, President of the National Associate of Professional Organizers: “I swirl water around the sink while rinsing my mouth out to keep the sink clean and free of toothpaste clumps.”

8. They reach for the vac (often).


We all know the pain of finding our hair all over the shower drain and tiled floors. Instead of letting it turn into a bird’s nest, Leslie Reicher who’s known as The Cleaning Coach, uses a battery operated broom vac to suck it up every day: “If you do this after you’re done getting ready, your floors will stay nice and clean,” she says.


New York Real Estate Experts Facebook

Rummy Dhanoa - Broker with New York Real Estate Experts

Rummy Dhanoa - Broker with New York Real Estate Experts

Easy Ways to Improve Your Home’s Curb Appeal

Just as every mother believes her son is a handsome devil, we homeowners tend to see the best in our houses—or at least we become comfortably familiar with the way they look.

yellow victorian style house

Cosmetic fixes can put a prettier face on a plain-Jane home, and the bill doesn’t have to hurt.

But let’s face it, to the objective eye, not every man is George Clooney and not every house is a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece. There are a lot of drab, even downright gloomy façades out there, especially among homes that were built shortly after World War II, when many builders abandoned traditional architectural styling to streamline costs and mass-produce housing.

Thankfully, the cosmetic surgery required to put a beautiful face on your home doesn’t require a big-ticket construction job. “Creating curb appeal isn’t about trying to transform the house from a plain-Jane ranch into a grand Victorian,” says Charlotte, Vt., architect Ted Montgomery. “Just changing one or two little details is all it takes.” It’s an investment that will boost your home pride, endear you to the neighbors, and generate a lot more interest from buyers someday.

To find inspiration, you can hire an architect (about $100 an hour) to offer ideas and maybe sketch a plan (expect these to take a few hours each). Or look at similar homes in your area while keeping the following strategies in mind.

Subtract Flaws

Assuming the house and yard are already well maintained, job one is to get rid of blemishes left by a penny-pinching builder or the misguided efforts of previous owners:

Replace the garage doors. The most prominent facial feature of many homes is a pair of big garage doors, which all too often are flat, lackluster slabs of steel or vinyl. Trade them for more visually appealing doors with moldings, windows, or an old-fashioned carriage-house look ($3,000 to $8,000 a door, including labor).

Remove siding. Sometimes ugliness is only skin deep. “Peek under dreary aluminum, vinyl, or asbestos siding and you may find well-preserved wood clapboards,” says Asheville, N.C., architect Jane Mathews. If so, remove the siding, repair the old wood, and give the house an attractive paint job ($10,000 to $20,000). If not, you could paint the siding or replace it with fiber cement siding, a no-maintenance product that looks like real wood ($15,000 to $25,000).


Lose the funky railings. Swap out bad porch or stoop railings, such as black iron bars or chunky pressure-treated decking components, for visually interesting banisters and spindles that are worthy of their prominent placement ($1,000 to $10,000).

Add Character

Like a dimple or a cleft chin, the addition of an interesting architectural element can give your house some distinctiveness.

Install a salvaged door. The typical post- war front door is decidedly dull, but the entry should be your home’s focal point, says Corvallis, Ore., architect Lori Stephens. For interesting replacements, look in an architectural salvage yard (see page 26). Consider a recycled mission-style oak door, a six-panel Colonial with blown-glass windows, or arch top French doors ($400 to $1,600; more if you’re converting a standard opening to an arch top).

Add moldings. Many newer homes lack exterior trim; the siding just butts up against the windows and doors. A contractor can give the house a more sophisticated, traditional look by cutting back that siding and slipping in wide, flat moldings around the openings and possibly at the corners of the house and between its stories ($3,000 to $4,000). It’s best to use a synthetic product like cellular PVC for your new moldings, since it looks like wood but will never rot.


Enhance the roof. A straight, unadorned roofline makes a house look about as interesting as a shipping container. So consider adding windowed dormers (a.k.a. gabled peaks) or extending the eaves (the roof overhangs) a few feet beyond the front of the house with detailed moldings on the underside ($2,500 to $10,000 per dormer or eaves extension). This is major surgery, though; do not attempt it without first getting an architect’s input.

Enhance the Effect

Invasive procedures aren’t always necessary. Just adding the right accents can transform your home’s outer look—not unlike a pair of stylish new specs or a good haircut.


Replace light fixtures and hardware. Lose generic shiny brass or black house numbers and mailbox and porch lights (especially bare-bulb fixtures) and substitute something unique and substantial, perhaps made of antiqued copper, bronze, or brushed nickel. 

Plan for a nonstop flower show. Most of the flowers in your yard probably bloom in the late spring, which makes for a beautiful May—or whenever the big show happens in your climate—but leaves you with a bland yard for the other 10 or 11 months of the year. A local nursery can help you choose and plant additional bulbs, shrubs, and trees with different bloom times (as well as plants with colorful autumn foliage and winter berries), so there will always be something performing ($50 to $250 a shrub, $500 to $1,500 a tree).


Add color. A paint job ($2,000 to $10,000) in pleasing hues can make any structure appealing. “But don’t choose a bright, high-contrast color scheme—that only exaggerates a house’s flaws,” Montgomery warns. For subtler suggestions, check out the book House Colors by Susan Hershman ($26 at Amazon) or go for the colors of nature—muted greens, deep reds, and pale yellows—and keep the body and trim close in color. That will give your home a friendly, peaceful look rather than make it say, “Hey, look at me!” Sort of like an average-looking guy choosing a simple charcoal suit instead of a flashy powder-blue one that only a Hollywood star could pull off.


New York Real Estate Experts Facebook

Rummy Dhanoa - Broker with New York Real Estate Experts

Rummy Dhanoa - Broker with New York Real Estate Experts

Tips in Buying A Second Home or Vacation Home

Having a second home for getaways sounds glamorous – and it can be – and many times, it’s even a really good long-term investment. But don’t jump in blindly. Here are eight considerations to make before plunking down on a vacation home:

Spend Time There First

Don’t even think of buying a vacation home until you’ve visited the area a few times. It sounds basic, but you better be sure you simply adore and can’t get enough of that beach town, ski village, or country ranch before you commit to buying there, since you’ll be spending a great deal of your free time there in the future. Unlike hotels and timeshares, owning a vacation home doesn’t allow you the option to change destinations if your tire of the scenery.

Know All Your Costs

Just like your primary residence, you have to understand the totalprice of ownership including property taxes, insurance, and any other carrying costs.  Remember, even when you’re not there, you’re still being charged for water, gas, electrical, trash removal, landscaping, and other maintenance services. Be sure to include all these overhead costs into your budget, because nothing ruins a ‘perfect vacation home’ like being in over your head financially.

Who Is Going To Watch When You’re Away?

Speaking of costs, there’s one more expense specific to a vacation homes: management fees. If you plan to visit infrequently – and are even considering renters while you’re away – make sure you find a local property manager that will maintain your home. It will cost extra, but so will the damage from those frozen pipes or leaky roof, especially if it goes unnoticed for a long period of time.

Not Every Day Is A Vacation

For me, the entire first weekend of the season becomes an unrelenting (and very un-relaxing) spree of vacation home maintenance and repairs.  In fact, a good number of your ‘vacation’ days may spent at the local home improvement store.  It’s a house, not a hotel, so it needs just as much year-round upkeep as your primary home.

You’ll Want A Rental Income Option

A smart vacation home purchase is one that incorporates rental potential into the equation. If managed correctly, some of your costs can be offset by allowing renters while you’re away. And from a long-term investment standpoint, rental income may allow you to build equity and eventually pay the property off.  Analyze nearby vacation homes, talk to local agents and vacation rental companies, and look online to see what’s renting (and for how much).  And don’t forget to research occupancy rates; how often people are renting is important, too!

Holidays Could Be A Battle

Many popular vacation spots are areas that have a ‘high’ season.  For instance, in Florida, high season is winter, and in most ski towns, visits spike from December to February. This type of seasonality becomes a battle when the rental demand for your vacation home collides with the timeframe you want to use it.  So if you’re planning on maximizing your home’s rental income, be prepared to give up some of that peak-season vacay yourself.

Safety Never Takes A Vacation

Check crime in the area on Trulia before you buy, especially if you’re going to leave the home unoccupied for long stretches of time. A break in or other crime at your vacation home can be particularly frustrating when you’re not around.  And don’t forget to add the cost of a security and alarm monitoring systems to your budget.

Getting There Is (Not) Half The Fun

How easy will it be for you to get to your new vacation home? Your best options are accessible ones. For me, it’s a two-hour drive door to door.  While it may sound romantic to have a cabin high in the hills of the Carolinas, if it takes you two flights, a rental car, and a three-hour drive to get there, I can promise it won’t get much use.


New York Real Estate Experts Facebook

Rummy Dhanoa - Broker with New York Real Estate Experts

Rummy Dhanoa - Broker with New York Real Estate Experts

Fresh New Ways to Landscape Your Yard That Can Help Sell Your Home

Use these 10 tips to increase your home’s curb appeal and find out how an attractive and well-maintained landscape can add as much as 10 percent to its value.

Cottage Style Front Garden
A light blue house with arched front door at the end of a brick walkway also boasts a front-yard cottage-style landscaped garden, complete with various flowers and plants, and a white picket fence.

Potential home buyers form their first impression of a home from its curb appeal. Yet often a home’s outdoor landscaping is overlooked, or underdone, in the preparation for the sales process. An attractive and well-maintained landscape can add as much as 10 percent to the value of your home.

Ideally the time to get started cleaning up your yard is about a month before you plan on showing your house. That should give you enough time to get everything looking just right and not leave the impression that you simply waited until the last minute to put things in order. Follow these tips for sprucing up your yard to help your home sell quickly.

Spruce up outdoor containers.
Container plants, especially large tropicals, add considerable interest to patios and doorways where would-be buyers enter and exit the house. Such displays also demonstrate the endless possibilities for designing with container plants.

Touch up the mulch.
Nothing spruces up a place like a new application of mulch, so apply a fresh layer in all your garden beds. The color enhances the contrast of the surrounding plants and makes everything pop. What’s more, mulch is relatively cheap and easy to apply.

Plant some instant color.
Seasonal color makes the landscape pop as well, and flats of annuals are also relatively inexpensive. Go for a splash of several colors or a more monochromatic scheme, whatever fits in with the look of your home.

Traditional Water Fountain Surrounded by Stone Wall
This water fountain sits next to a garden patio, so the sounds of the water can be heard while relaxing in the sun. A beautiful stone wall and lush green plants surround the fountain, making it pleasant for the eyes, as well.

Shape unsightly or overgrown trees and shrubs.
Regardless of the season, it’s a good idea to tackle any overlooked pruning chores because nothing says neglect like a bunch of dead branches. The idea is to show how well not only your house but your garden has been maintained. It’s okay to prune deciduous trees and shrubs any time of the year.

Tend to perennial beds.
Tidy up herbaceous plants, such as annuals and perennials, that don’t look as good as they should. If a plant is in such bad shape that it needs to be removed, either replace it or stick a decorative pot in its place.

Now is also a good time to dig up any plants that you want to take with you to your new home. If you intend to remove any landscape plants and haven’t already done so, you have an obligation to inform the buyer exactly which plants you plan on digging up. That’s only fair, and in many states there are restrictions on removing plants from the landscape.

Clean up water features.
Get rid of any visible algae, remove leaves and clean filters so that the water is crystal clear. After all, a water feature that doesn’t look good or function properly can be an instant turnoff.

Take care of any irrigation issues.
If there are any problems with an irrigation system, fix them. Irrigation system repairs can be expensive, and you don’t want to lay the cost of those repairs on the buyer. Provide information about your irrigation schedule, especially if you have an automatic system. Include instructions as to how the system operates and recommend the same watering schedule that’s worked for you.

Repair faucet leaks.
A leaking faucet suggests that there may be other problems elsewhere in the plumbing, and that can be an instant turn-off to buyers.

If you receive sufficient notice that your home is about to be shown, water a half-hour or so before the appointed time. The water reduces the glare of paved surfaces and also sends the message that your plants are well-maintained. You might even consider running your irrigation system just to show that it’s working properly.

Consider labeling as many plants as possible.
That way the buyer will at least know the name of each plant and can then research their growing needs. Also consider creating a complete plant inventory in scrapbook form and leaving it out on a table for prospective buyers to browse through as they tour your home. This relatively simple step can have a powerful effect on buyers, whether they’re gardeners or not.

Power-wash dirty surfaces.
Consider buying or renting a power washer to clean paved surfaces. With very little time or effort, you can make grungy, grimy surfaces look brand-spanking new. Power washers also do a great job of cleaning fences, as well as brick and vinyl siding.


New York Real Estate Experts Facebook

Rummy Dhanoa - Broker with New York Real Estate Experts

Rummy Dhanoa - Broker with New York Real Estate Experts

How to Avoid Becoming the Victim of a Real Estate Hoax

real estate hoax

Don’t Fall For Real Estate Scams and Hoaxes

The public is often warned to watch out for things like identity theft and Internet scams, but there’s a good chance they don’t think much about the risk of becoming a victim of a real estate hoax. Looking for just the right place to live, whether you’re renting or buying, is stressful enough without having to worry about the possibility of being swindled out of your hard-earned money too.

Unfortunately, there are many dishonest people in the world that are just waiting to rip off anyone that will fall for their fraudulent ploys. Shady real estate deals are more common than you think, but there are several things you can do as a renter or homebuyer to make sure you don’t get caught up in this kind of situation.

Do Your Homework on Internet Rental/Sale Listings

The Internet supplies us with a wealth of information every day and can be a great source for finding real estate listings, however, it’s also a great place for scammers to find their prey. Online schemes often involve people pretending to be a real estate agent representing a property for sale or someone who is renting out a residence.

The problem with this is they will find genuine listings and then switch out the contact information on the ad to be their own. Be wary if your contact will only agree to meetings away from the listed property or if they seem unusually hurried to get the paperwork signed and take a deposit. If possible, check out all listings you’re interested in with a licensed real estate agent.

Be Cautious of “Too Good to Be True” Listings

Too good to be true circumstances in real estate usually involve listings that boast low-cost or no-cost financing, promises of high returns or a selling price that seems like a steal. Look for these keywords and don’t get too excited without further examination.

Don’t Try to Become a Property Investor Overnight

Numerous people have found a legitimate way to make a lot of money by investing in property, but it definitely wasn’t done overnight. There are many schemes out there related to property investment that will claim to make you millions almost instantly if you just take their workshop, class or seminar – for a substantial cost, of course.

While there are some expert investment advisors that you could surely learn a thing or two from, you won’t hear them promising that you’ll get rich quick. Stay away from courses that declare “sure-fire” results and seem excessively priced.

Proceed Carefully When Offered a Loan Modification

Foreclosures and short sales have become a familiarity in the real estate market in recent years, and con artists have found a way to capitalize on it. This can come in the form of lender bait-and-switch tactics, leaseback programs, bogus foreclosure counseling, fake forensic loan auditing or phony government modification programs.

Beware of any occasion where you are suddenly approached with a solution to your foreclosure or short sale woes, especially if you are ever asked for money in exchange for assistance.


The most important thing to do, whether you’re in the market to buy or sell, is to do as much research as you can before committing to any transaction of money. Of course, the best way to avoid becoming involved in a real estate hoax is to work with a trusted agent that will do most of the legwork for you and will know what kind of situations to keep their distance from.


New York Real Estate Experts Facebook

Rummy Dhanoa - Broker with New York Real Estate Experts

Rummy Dhanoa - Broker with New York Real Estate Experts

Things I Wish I Knew Before I Bought a Rental Property

Ever think about becoming a landlord? Read these tips first.

Anything can and will happen as a landlord, from destructive tenants to bursting water heaters. So save up for maintenance and probable expenses — and surprises, too. 

In early 2006, my husband and I decided to purchase our first home in my hometown of Greenfield, Indiana. With 1,300 square feet, a few nice-sized bedrooms, and an open kitchen and living room, our first “starter home” was practically perfect for us. And since we had moved there from a one-bedroom apartment with only two windows and a total of 500 square feet, it practically felt like a mansion to us.

But, despite the fact that we loved our new home, our plan wasn’t to live there forever. You see, we had somehow set our sights on becoming landlords at a young age in order to reach our dream of financial independence as quickly as possible. And that’s exactly what we did.

A few months after the purchase of our own home, we put 10% down on a brick ranch nearby and turned it into our first rental. Shortly after that, we converted our “starter home” into our second rental and purchased a larger home for ourselves.

We learned most of what we knew about finding and screening tenants, creating and signing leases, and managing our properties on the Internet. Everyone we knew thought we were crazy, until they finally realized that, despite our lack of experience as landlords, we were, in fact, making it work somehow.

Here’s What I Wish I’d Have Known

Fast forward almost nine years, and our properties are still standing and as profitable as ever. Not only that, but they’re on the fast-track to being completely paid off on a much faster timeline than we ever anticipated. In fact, I’m expecting to make the final payments on our properties in a little less than 12 years from now. We’ll be 46 years old.

Of course, family members and friends who once thought we were crazy have changed their tune over the years. Once we pay off our properties, we’ll have at least $2,000 per month in somewhat passive income on a monthly basis. All the while, our tenants actually paid off the properties with their money – not ours.

Still, it hasn’t been a painless experience, and we made many mistakes along the way. And there are plenty of things I would do differently if I could. Unfortunately, it’s true that some things need to be learned the hard way. Here’s what I wish I would have known before we became landlords:

Your Property Taxes Might Explode

One of the first lessons we learned about owning rentals came as a huge, scary surprise and ended with a night of tears and weeks of stress. I’ll never forget the day I opened our property tax bill for our first rental and realized that our property taxes had gone up 300% overnight.

I actually knew that our property taxes would go up somewhat — my state offers a homeowner’s exemption on your primary residence, and I knew that it wouldn’t apply to any properties we didn’t live in. Still, I was unaware that property tax caps on rental properties were a full percentage point higher than those on homesteads and your primary residence.

The problem was, I had based the rental price on our old mortgage bill – not the new one. So, for the first year we rented that home, we merely broke even instead of pulling in a profit. Fortunately, we were able to readjust the rent and raise it to take the higher property taxes into account once the first year’s rental lease came to an end. Lesson learned there, but it was definitely learned the hard way.

Renters Can Do More Damage Than You Realize

If you talk to anyone who has owned rental properties, you’ve likely heard a few horror stories about the kind of damage they can leave behind. I was fully aware that these things happen, but not quite prepared or expecting to live through it myself.

Unfortunately, I would soon find out how stressful it can be when one of our tenant families broke their month-to-month lease abruptly and moved out in the dead of winter. When I showed up at the house to do the final walk-through of the property, I honestly couldn’t believe what I saw.

All of the doors in the home were missing — gone. The carpet, which had been new when they moved in, looked as if someone had poured a giant can of motor oil all over it. The front door had been broken into and the door frame had been haphazardly glued back together in an attempt to hide it.

But the worst was yet to come. The giant picture window in the front of the house had been broken — and replaced with a window that didn’t even fit and didn’t match the rest of the windows in the house. What?!?

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The house had been in great shape the last time we visited, which was only eight months before. Unfortunately, I later found out that the mother of the family had packed her stuff up and left several months before, which left the father and kids to figure things out on their own. He worked long hours and left the two teenage boys alone during that time, which led to the total destruction of the home in a relatively short amount of time.

We ultimately fixed and replaced everything in the home, and even got the tenants to repay us for most of the damage. Still, I learned a valuable lesson from the experience: A lot of damage can happen in a short amount of time if you allow it to, and the only way to prevent it is to visit your properties frequently.

Good Tenants are Worth Their Weight In Gold

Spending $6,000 to repair our rental property taught us that we needed to be more careful when selecting tenants. However, it also taught us to appreciate the really good renters we had the pleasure of doing business with. You know the kind, and maybe you are one yourself: The renters who take immaculate care of the lawn and keep the home clean. The ones who decorate for the holidays and take pride in their rental as if it was their own home.

One of our homes has been rented to the same family for five years at this point, for example, and I have grown to be very fond of them. We only drop in once every six months or so, and the property is always immaculate inside and out.

Because they are such good tenants, I’ve pledged to never raise the rent as long as they are there. And, even though we’re losing out on some revenue by not raising rent, we get the peace of mind that comes with having a tenant that takes excellent care of our property. To me, that feeling is worth more than the incremental rent increases we could charge as time goes on.

I also wonder if we will end up ahead anyway. After all, excellent tenants like them tend to require fewer repairs and will leave far less wear and tear behind when they do finally move out.

Repairs Will Be Expensive and Unexpected

In the nine years we’ve owned our homes, we’ve replaced a furnace, an air conditioner, a refrigerator (twice), and a stove. We’ve paid for a new sump pump and underwater drain system in one of our crawl spaces. We’ve spent hundreds of dollars on drywall repair, paint, and carpet. And that doesn’t even include the $6,000 we spent repairing the property our renters practically destroyed one year.

Fortunately, most of those funds have come straight from our renters themselves. Since both of our properties bring in a tidy profit each month, we are able to use the overages to pay for things like repairs and upgrades and whatever else comes up.

Still, some of the money has come straight out of our own pockets, and those surprise repairs always seem to come at the most unexpected (and worst) times possible. When we first became landlords, we didn’t have a huge emergency fund to deal with unexpected repairs and would often need to dip into our personal savings to pay for anything that popped up.

Everything always worked out fine, but I definitely realized over time that we needed to set some funds aside for what we knew would eventually happen. And now that we have an emergency fund big enough to handle nearly anything, I no longer stress out about those things — like the roof that needs replaced in the next year or two, or the 17-year-old furnace that will eventually die.

Instead of letting the unknown control us, we’ve learned to take control of the situation ourselves over the years. Stuff happens.  The difference is, now we’re prepared.

It’s Okay to Set Rules and Stick to Them

One of our tenant families was constantly five to 10 days late with their rent for two years straight. And even though the lease said I was technically allowed to charge a $10-per-day late fee, I never did. Not once. What happened? I was simply being too nice.

It all started with the first month they were late. It didn’t seem like a big deal to me, so I told them not to worry about it. “Just pay when you can,” I said. And that’s exactly what they did.

Unfortunately, they continued to pay when they could, every month after that. And because I had been so nonchalant about it those first few months, it became harder to put my foot down as time went on. I was also non-confrontational at first, which is almost the worst thing a landlord can be. As a result, they were late with their rent for two years and I spent countless hours stressing out over the situation.

I’ve learned since then that it’s okay to stick to the terms in the lease – even if those terms end up costing someone else money. In fact, setting firm ground rules is the best way to let tenants know that the rules matter, and that there are consequences for late rent payments, damages, or anything else.

Buying Rental Properties Was an Excellent Choice… For Us

Although we were far from experts when we got started, I strongly believe that buying rental properties is one of the best financial moves we have made. First of all, we bought our properties near the bottom of the market which means they have already increased tremendously in value. And second, we’ve secured a future income stream that is separate from all of our other retirement accounts and not necessarily subject to the same risks.

Although our properties do bring in a monthly profit, we currently use that money to pay for repairs and maintenance. Meanwhile, any overages go straight toward the loans in order to speed up their potential payoff dates. Our properties currently rent for a little under $2,000, but I do expect them to rent for significantly more in the next 10 years. Once they are paid off, all of that money is earmarked to help our girls pay for college and finance part of our early retirement dreams.

Becoming a Landlord is Not for the Faint of Heart

Buying the right rental properties is a challenge in itself, but the act of being a landlord is by far the hardest part. However, owning rental properties can be the key to a great deal of profit and financial freedom if you do things the right way from the start – or at least learn from your mistakes along the way.

I wouldn’t change anything about our story, but I do wish I had known more about the business before we got started. If you are considering buying rental property, I hope you can learn from my mistakes instead of learning things the hard way.

My best advice is this: Screen your tenants carefully and keep an eye on your property at all times. Don’t be afraid to lay down the law if needed, yet be respectful of your tenants and their families — especially the most reliable ones. Also, save for the repairs you know about… and for the ones you don’t.

Because, when it comes to being a landlord, anything that can happen probably will.



New York Real Estate Experts Facebook

Rummy Dhanoa - Broker with New York Real Estate Experts


Rummy Dhanoa - Broker with New York Real Estate Experts

What is the True Meaning of Labor Day

For many of us, Labor Day means one more short vacation after summer ends and before we hit a long stretch of hard work until Thanksgiving gets here. Unfortunately, many people don’t get the day off from work – even though

Labor Day is a celebration of the changes that were made over 140 years ago to stop the practice of ultra-long work hours and dangerous conditions for workers.

If you ask many people these days, most of them don’t know how important Labor Day is in the history of the United States after the explosion of the industrial revolution.

Today, we have laws, rules and requirements that govern how we work and are protected at work. And we have the people who fought for them years ago to thank.

To many Americans, Labor Day marks the end of the summer, a day off from work and school, and one last chance to relax. But Labor Day is much more than just a day off. It represents a very important victory for laborers everywhere. The holiday is a celebration of the social and economic achievements of American workers.

Fighting for Change

More than a century ago, workers were forced to deal with harsh conditions. They were paid very little, and they often worked 10- to 12-hour days. Men, women and even small children were forced to work even when they were sick.

Tired of long hours and dangerous conditions, workers began organizing themselves into labor unions. On top of fighting for higher pay and shorter workdays, they also fought for the rights of children. The workers wanted employers to place limits on the age of their workers so that small children were not overworked or hurt in factories.

Peter McGuire is often called the “father” of Labor Day. He came up with the idea for the holiday in 1882.


A Holiday for Workers

A New York City carpenter named Peter McGuire is credited for coming up the idea for Labor Day. In 1872, after working many long hours under poor conditions, McGuire rallied 100,000 workers to go on strike. The workers marched through the streets of New York City, demanding a better work environment.

McGuire spent a decade fighting for worker’s rights. In 1882, he proposed the idea to create a special holiday for workers. On Tuesday, September 5, 1882, more than 10,000 workers hit the streets of New York City for the first ever Labor Day parade. Two years later the celebration was moved to the first Monday in September. And in 1894, Congress passed a law making Labor Day a national holiday.