Renting in Portland – Why are the rents so damn high?

Renting in Portland

One of the big problems people are complaining about right now are the cost of renting in the Portland Oregon Area. Portland has been on a huge number of “best of lists,” the climate is mild year round, and let’s face it, the nature nearby is awesome. Economically Portland is also growing as major tech companies move operations from the Bay Area, or local startups start hitting the big time.

All of this is leading to historically low vacancy rates in Portland’s rental market! The last time we saw vacancy rates this low, was soon after the second wagon train on the Oregon trail reached it’s destination.

Why are the rents so damn high?

Rent is too damn high
Jimmy McMillan of the The Rent is Too Damn High Party

So lets examine this in detail by “purchasing” a new property and working out the numbers. Currently, 4149 NE 82ND AVE is on the market for $1,095,000. It has 13 units, 12 of which are 2 bed, 1 bath. The last unit is 1 bed, 1 bath and is probably the property manager’s unit. For sake of argument, lets assume we are renting this one out too.

Since this is commercial real estate you have to have 20% down to purchase. That is $219k, leaving us to finance $860089. Commercial real estate comes in at about a point higher then residential so let us assume at today’s rates an optimistically low 5.25% interest for a 30 year loan. The reality is that it may be higher and for a shorter loan time.

That comes out to monthly payments of $5873.49. But we don’t have insurance or taxes in that. I’m going to ball park about $12000/year in insurance because it is a nice round number, but it is probably on the low side. The listing says that taxes are $14624.29 a year.

So with these two costs the owner’s monthly debt is now $8292.18 a month. Divided by 13 units, rent is $637.86. Sounds great doesn’t it?

Wait. I forgot management fees that typically run about 8% a month per a unit, assuming we don’t have onsite management who lives in that small unit for free. So we are now at $688.88/month.

But that totally ignores other factors. A rule of thumb is to have 4 months operating costs on hand. That is $33168.72 total, and lets generously say we’ll save that over a year. That is an additional $212.62/month bringing our rent to $901.51 a month.

Now, we still have another factor, the original $219k down. Since this is an investment property we need to recoup this cost. Typically we want these to be paid in 5-8 years, but lets assume ten years. That comes out to $140.38 per an apartment per a month. So our monthly is now $1041.89 per an apartment.

Another cost we haven’t thought about is maintenance. It costs about $500 to rehab an apartment for the next tenant. New paint, patch holes in wall, cleaning, etc. We also have about $200 in legal and advertising fees to rent an apartment out. That is comes to another $58.33 a month bringing us to $1100.22 a month assuming we are doing 12 month leases.

I happen to know that this property has been on the market for some time though, so I can safely surmise that in this market it must have a large number of problems that will add at least another 20% to the purchase cost. Otherwise it would have been purchased months ago.These are typically roof and foundation issues. A roof on a building that size is going to cost about $30k. Foundation issues can be $20k to $100k depending on the issues. We probably also need major renovations in each unit which typically come in at about $8k per a unit. Those include new carpet, appliances, and basic kitchen/bathroom remodeling. I would not be surprised to find it also needs major electrical and plumbing. Lets just say renovations to this property is going to cost $200k total which needs to come out of pocket up front or be financed.

That brings our original price back up to the $1million dollar range and is going to add another $93 month per a unit over 30 years. So our total is now $1193/month, per a unit just to break even on all the costs. Don’t forget that we are putting $33168.72 per year into our emergency fund. Lets assume we only spend about half of it for emergency, basic maintenance and to cover months without tenants. We could probably drop rents $106.31 per a unit after the second year to account for this. Either way, under this scenario we are not making money until year 11 of ownership.

Now, that all being said there are landlords who are skimping on maintenance and gouging on fees and rent. We could also probably talk the price down $100k or so but that is only going to change the monthly cost per a unit by $50 or so. Interestingly, Zillow.com estimates the rent on this property to be $1191 per a month so I’m pretty much in the ballpark.

After buying a home; Things you should do

After buying a home

So you just purchased a home! Congratulations! Now all you need to do is move in, unbox your stuff and you’re good to go, right? Wrong!

After buying a home there are a number of things you should do to make it habitable for yourself. Doing these steps will make your home buying and move in experience go much smoother. You’ll also be aware of any defects (that you can claim on your home warranty if you purchased one,) before they become big expensive problems.

After buying a home

Exterior

– Rekey or replace all locks. You don’t know who might have keys to your new house. Lock and door knob sets are about $100-$200 per door for decent quality ones.

– Mow (or hire a one time lawn service.) Frequently a house sits vacant for several weeks before your move in. Having a landscaper come out can cost as little as $50, but can make a world of difference.

– Clean and Check gutters. Usually a home inspection will catch any problems but you want to check downspouts for leaks and where they drain. Leaky gutters are one of the biggest causes of basement and crawlspace leaks. A simple fix here can save you headache and money later. A lot of leaks are caused by gutters not being cleaned out properly!

– Find the water main shut off. In a lot of newer homes this is easily accessible through the crawl space. Older homes may not have them at all. If you don’t have one, a couple of hundred dollars for a plumber to install one could be a lifesaver down the road.

– Find the gas shut off. This typically requires a wrench. The valve is usually easy to find as the follow image shows. I personally like to have a standard crescent wrench stashed in a kitchen drawer with a painted red handle for this reason, but there are specialized tools that work too.

After buying a home
In an emergency, just rotate the service shut off valve.

Interior

– Paint the interior! Do this before you move in and have stuff in the way. If you do this yourself it’ll just be the cost of supplies which is about $300 for supplies and paint in an average sized 1500 square foot house. If you have someone paint it for you, prices can vary widely depending on the skill of the contractor. Use this calculator to get a ball park figure when approaching professional painters.

– Replace light switches and faceplates. Light switches are only a couple of bucks each, even less if you buy a ten pack. Faceplates are frequently less then a dollar. Make sure to check for lights that are turned off by one or more switches. You’ll need to get a three way switch which are more expensive for each of these. Lastly, fire code in most areas mandate putting CFI outlets near sources of water like sinks. If they get wet they’ll trip and shut off power instead of potentially starting a fire.

– Test and label each switch in the electrical panel. You’ll need to switch power off to replace the light switches anyways so this is a good time to test the breakers. Use a small table lamp to test each outlet and figure out what rooms each breaker controls. Clearly label them with a label maker because I can tell you out of experience nothing is worse then trying to read a faded label written in bad hand writing while your power is out and you only have a weak flashlight for illumination.

– Install smoke detectors in each bedroom. Get the combination smoke/CO2 detectors if you have gas and install another one near any appliances that use gas. They can get expensive, but are good for many years as long as you test the battery on a regular basis. They can also save your life, so I would scrimp on only having one total.

– Clean and maintain the HVAC system. This can be done yourself, but I personally recommend having a professional do this for you. This usually only costs a couple of hundred dollars, but they can look at a system and see problems that you may not notice. A simple replacement of bad parts now can save replacing a several thousand dollar system later. While doing this, go ahead and replace the filter too. If you suffer from allergies it is a good idea to get a HEPA filter.

– Have the ducts cleaned. This seems to be one of the most often overlooked things but can make a huge difference. Dirty ducts will affect the efficiency of your HVAC system and can prolong allergies. Try to get someone who has the proper tools to do this. The $99 duct cleaning service coupons in your mail are not the way to go. A good cleaner should be $300-$500 in most areas. They will also be able to tell you if you have any loose ducts and if you have closed dampers that might also being affecting HVAC efficiency.

– Replace the HVAC thermostat with a programable one. Set it to be cooler during the days when no one is home and at night when everyone is asleep. This will save you a lot of money in the long run and usually pay for itself in only a couple of years. If you can afford it, get the Nest Thermostat.

– Clean everything else! This is another minor thing that can make a huge difference. Steam clean carpets. Clean windows, window sills, doors, etc. Scrub bathtubs and showers.

Moving in

So now that you have done all of that it is finally time to actually move in!

– Before packing, donate or sell anything that you don’t need or want.
– Label and pack boxes for which room they are going to. Do not label for what is in the box.
– If you have boxes that just go into storage, have shelves ready to receive them. High quality industrial shelving for garages and basements can be had fairly cheaply.
– Break down boxes as you empty them and put in a corner. This will make the unpacking process go faster and smoother when you aren’t stumbling over empty boxes.

So this is my standard list. What do you do when you first move into a new place?

IRS Phone Call Scam

IRS Phone Call Scam

Here is another particularly scary scam. Someone from the IRS calls and says that they need to talk you right away or they will forward the issue to the courts and have you arrested. If you call them back, they strong arm you into going down to Western Union and sending a Money Order. They won’t let you off the phone until you send the money order, once you get to that point, it is too late!

I theorize that they are getting information from one of the recent credit card or data breaches. Since I’ve been subject to four of them in the past year alone, I’m pretty resigned to the fact that I’m going to see more of this. (Yes, I’m signed up for the free Credit Checking reports.)

“Steve Wilson” has been working pretty hard to get a hold of me. So far he has called me from three different phone numbers:
773-672-3238
203-340-6914
347-308-7891
347-688-5901 (Added 04/01/2015)

The first day he did this, he must have been new on the job. I got five calls from the 773 phone numbers, and three voice mails following the same script. Since then he’s varied the script a bit but it is essentially the same.

Unfortunately for Steve, the IRS is well aware of these, but there is little that can be done about it. While the IRS might call you to discuss an issue, it is more likely they will mail you first. Even if they did call, they would not demand immediate payment over the phone, and certainly not via Western Union.

Please do not fall for this one!

How to Find your Adsense ID Number

How to Find your Adsense ID Number

This topic is written specifically for potential writers on Girl Gamer and Anime Girl, but can be applicable to anyone who is guest authoring on other blogs, or is a contributing author and needs their Adsense Publisher ID. This is used specifically in the Sexy Author Plugin for WordPress that allows authors to get paid via Adsense based on the number of view their articles get.

Step 1.) Create an Adsense Account at http://AdSense.Google.com. If you do not have an Google or Gmail account, create a new one.

Step 2.) Under Step 2, Google asks “I will show ads on:” This field is either http://GirlGamer.org or http://AnimeGirl.org. Content Language is “English”

How to Find your Adsense ID Number

Step 3.) Fill in your Contact Information

Google Adsense Page 2

Step 4.) Wait for Google to approve your request

Step 5.) Once they have done so, log in to your Adsense Account and click on the sprocket icon in the upper right hand corner.

Google Adsense Page 3

Step 6.) Click on “Account Information” on right side of the screen.

Google Adsense Page 4

The Adsense Publisher ID is at the top and starts with “pub-“. So that is How to Find your Adsense ID Number! Pretty simple!

How to: Fix Kenwood Stereo MP3 file errors

I recently got a new (well, apparently from 2012,) Kenwood Stereo. The exact model number is the KDC-X498, but from my research most of the Kenwood stereos are pretty similar. It’s a pretty cool stereo as it has a USB port on it. I can plug in any phone with a USB cable and it’ll play music from it. It will also play MP3 files from a USB Drive.

Unfortunately there are a number of caveats to make this possible;
– The USB Drive is limited to 32GB in size
– The USB Drive must be formatted in Fat 32. Most are from the factory, so usually not a huge deal.
– Audio files must be in .mp3 format or .wav format. Some stereos will accept the .acc format also.
– Some stereos can only see a certain number of MP3s per a directory on the drive. It’s roughly a thousand files, but on a 32GB drive that is easy to reach. If this happens, separate the files out into subdirectories. Or as I do, but Artist then Album.
– MP3s must be in 192k format. Not 320k VBR or some other format.

Despite all of this, my stereo (and several other models,) will suddenly display “NA File” while reading a USB drive full of MP3 files. After a lot of searching on the internet, most said to make sure that it’s in the right format. Well, I run a Mac, and spent several hours downgrading all my files to 192k yet still had the problem. After several more hours of searching and no answers at all, I finally figured out the problem.

The Kenwood Stereo’s firmware does not “skip” over the Macintoshes .DS_Store files like every other operating system has been doing for years. Modern OSes see any file starting with a . (or period,) as a system file and ignores it, or processes it as appropriately. Not the Kenwood!

So to fix this, these can be disabled in the command line using these directions I wrote years ago.

Or, it’s easy to open up Terminal in OS X, and type ‘rm -rf ._*’ (without quotes.) This will delete all the .DS Store files and everything will magically work!