Friday, October 26, 2007

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

(This is my last post about the fires. We are experiencing much smoke here in Wine Country Temecula due to the Poomacha fire on Mount Palomar. It does not seem to be a threat to us in any way. Due to the decrease in wind, it appears as though most of the fires will be contained soon. Then begins a boon for contractors in rebuilding the devastated areas. If anything changes, I will let you know.)

Everything seems to have stopped this week due to the fires. I think that if I were marketing one of my rental homes today, it would stink that no one would be calling. Another week with a vacant property--and probably too late for anyone to move in by the first of November and the next mortgage payment. I am not in this position now, but I have been in the past.

We closed our second property just a couple of weeks before 9/11. The entire world seemed to stop for a month after that. I was worried that everything would change and no one would be calling about the rental. I was wrong and someone moved in during the month of October. Whew!

My preferred mode of advertising was the paper. It is kind of costly. I would put an ad in the largest paper in this area that covered many cities in the Inland Empire. I placed the ad only in the weekend editions. Back then, it cost almost $40 for those two days. If the house was vacant for 6-12 weeks, which some were at times due to the glut of investment properties, it could get costly.

We started using signs at one point. We didn't know any better, so our signs read, "For Rent, 4 Bdrm, 2 Ba" and our phone number. Can you tell what's wrong with that sign? We were inundated with calls from people looking for a $1,200 rental. It was $1,595. We wasted our time, royally. When you have seven kids, and everything needs to stop when you answer the phone, you don't get too happy about dead end calls. So I learned my lesson.

The next sign we posted said, "For Rent, 4 Bdrm, 2 Ba, 1985 sf, $1,595." Did we get less calls? Yes. But we also showed it more and were able to rent it. The only problem with the signs were that we would lose many of them. Either gardeners removed them or the wind blew them away.

Signs in a prime location for one of our rentals kept disappearing. One day my husband and I were driving past the area when we saw a kid from the school near by walk over and pull it out--and chase another kid with it. We followed the boy in our car to his house in the same neighborhood as our rental. My husband knocked on the door. No answer. As he returned to the car, he noticed the sign laying on the lawn. He just picked it up and returned it to its place on the street. Note to self: don't place signs in the path of a school.

We closed on our third house directly before a neighbor's young girl (Danielle van Dam) was kidnapped and brutally killed by another neighbor of mine in Sabre Springs in the beginning of February, 2002. Our street was turned upside down for months, with our house being searched over and over. We also provided moral support for the parents during this trying time, all the while doing our best to dodge the ever-present media.

Again, I agonized over whether or not I would have the time and the energy to rent out the house. It was a resale and needed a little bit of touch up here and there. It was also in Temecula, and I lived 45 minutes south. However, even with all of the upheaval, I was able to find tenants. It's just took a bit longer.

Now that I write this, I should have seen a pattern with disasters happening around the time of the last two homes we purchased. I can tell you that the road blocks didn't stop us from buying more. By the end of 2002, we had contracts on two new homes in Lake Elsinore, one of which we still own. I'm glad that I'm not superstitious. These two homes were 60 minutes away from our house in San Diego. That meant that if someone stood me up for a showing, I would have wasted a total of three hours or more, depending on traffic and how long I waited in front of the rental. We would always try to price the rentals just at or below market so that they would not be vacant long and I didn't have too much driving to do. Sometimes we missed the boat and would have to bring the price down until we hooked a live on.

In my next post, I'll tell you about one of the more interesting prospective tenants I've come across during the marketing of our rentals.