Apr 08

We recently expanded my wife’s Event Decorating Academy to sell wedding and event decorating supplies to students and professional decorators.  We were buying from distributors who supply various retailers and small wholesalers such as ourselves.

End of last month my wife and I attended the ASD retail merchant trade show. This trade show is held in March and August in Vegas. They also have one in NYC in September.

As a result of  attending the ASD show are now buying directly from the same sources as many of our suppliers, cutting 35-40% off the distributor price we were paying.  Many of these items we buy by the pallet so savings is huge.  The largest example is curtains used for fabric draping at weddings and events. We sell thousands of these a month.

Cool, but what does this have to do with landlording?

A lot actually.  At the show I found a number of products that we buy in quantity for the properties we own and mange at prices that were surprising.  For example passage sets and deadbolt locks for $3.00 a piece.   These are steel latch ANSI Grade 3, similar to the Defiant or Legacy brands at Menards and Home Depot.  We actually upgraded to the “off brand” a number of years ago when Kwikset changed to a plastic latch in their 200 series that would break and lock tenants in their room.

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Aug 09

Fellow landlords

What services, tools, resource, supplies, innovations, changes in laws, grants, education, support from fellow owners etc. do you find lacking, unavailable, too expensive, too difficult to obtain, change etc.?

You get the idea…what do you see as the three, four or twenty things that would make your business more successful? Skies the limit. If it has to do with landlording or real estate investing throw it on the list.

Don’t worry if you think it is “doable” or not, Wild Ideas welcome and encouraged. But also don’t put off posting the more pedestrian needs and wants either.

You can leave comments, here or via private email to me at Tim [at] JustAlandord.com (makes sending the truly wild and innovative stuff easier for shy folks like me.)  I’ll compile the list for all to see.

Some will have readily available solutions that will be posted and shared, I’m sure.  Others are things our industry should be working on finding, changing, designing etc.

Some rather thought provocative comments below. Many of these were sent via email or posted on one of the list serves and reposted here as a central collection place. Please throw yours into the mix — Thanks Tim

Mar 09

As of April 1st all  three families and larger buildings in Wisconsin  that have  attached garages or “fuel burning devices” –gas heat, oil heat, gas dryers, gas stoves etc. will be required to have CO detectors.  A similar law just passed the legislature for ALL one and two family buildings including owner occupied, effective February 2011.

And you will need a lot of them

CO detectors must be within 75 feet of all fuel burning device and within 15′ of each bedroom. One is required in the basement if there is a “fuel burning device” down there.  They are also  required in common hallways spaced no more than 75′.  So a 149′ hall could get away with one, just as a 6 foot hall would need one.

There is an exemption if there are no attached garages and the only “fuel burning device” is a sealed combustion chamber unit, i.e. 90+ furnace or high efficiency water heater, that is under warranty or inspected annually.

Battery and plug in units are okay.  Mount them on the ceiling or wall.

Laws such as this and lead paint are never reversed so preparation is the order of the day.

This is an area that we should collectively work on pricing.  I’ve gotten them down to the mid thirteen dollar range for my volume.

Reference resources for Wisconsin’s CO detector Law:

Wisconsin Department Of Commerce CO detector Pamphlet

Installation Requirements For Carbon Monoxide Detectors as outlined in 2007 Wisconsin Act 205

2) INSTALLATION REQUIREMENTS. (a) Except as provided in par. (b), the owner of a residential building shall install a carbon monoxide detector in all of the following places not later than the date specified under par. (c):

1. In the basement of the building if the basement has a fuel-burning appliance.

2. Within 15 feet of each sleeping area of a unit that has a fuel-burning appliance.

3. Within 15 feet of each sleeping area of a unit that is immediately adjacent to a unit that has a fuelburning appliance.

4. In each room that has a fuel-burning appliance and that is not used as a sleeping area. A carbon monoxide detector shall be installed under this subdivision not more than 75 feet from the fuelburning appliance.

5. In each hallway leading from a unit that has a fuel-burning appliance, in a location that is within 75 feet from the unit, except that, if there is no electrical outlet within this distance, the owner shall place the carbon monoxide detector at the closest available electrical outlet in the hallway.

(b) If a unit is not part of a multiunit building, the owner of the residential building need not install more than one carbon monoxide detector in the unit.

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Jan 10

You say “Okay, this is a scam!’  …  but it is not.  Rather it is another way of looking at purchasing, perceptions and true cost

A month ago Jeff, a buddy of mine who also uses an iPhone, tells me to try out a new app called Red Laser.  This $2 app allows you to use the iPhone/ iPod Touch camera as a barcode scanner.  The application then looks for the best price for that product locally as well as on the Internet.

I have since used it to price out both business supplies as well as stuff we personally use.  Some of the better prices I found were more than 30% less than what I was going to buy. The first few day’s savings exceed the $200 that the phone cost.  Over the rest of the month the savings well exceeded a year’s worth of cell phone service.

And the savings that you can achieve with the iPhone and other similar technology  isn’t limited to purchasing.  Using your phone’s camera to document tenant damage and be able to support your deposit claim. Take another photo to show a contractor or employee what you want fixed and save the hassle of miscommunications. I even use the camera to take quick notes  such as taking a picture of a for sale sign to get the broker’s number or while shopping to text a photo to my wife to make sure that I am getting the thing she wanted.

All of this makes you more efficient. If utilized to its potential tools such as an iPhone saves you, rather than costs you.  I would make the same argument about hiring employees, but that is another story for another day.

Dec 08

Every year around this time people focus a bit more on planning, all part of that New Year’s Resolution thing.  While planning should ongoing and not be restricted to the last month of the year, I too kick off the beginning of every year with a “big” project with the intent of fundamentally changing some aspect of our business.

This is the first of a handful of ideas that you could use to make 2010 more productive than 2009.

Document Imaging / Scanning instead of paper files

One of the biggest changes in the operation of our business occurred at the end of 2007 when we went from paper filing systems to full document scanning and digital storage.

The scanning project is so cool that I couldn’t help but share it with the readers of the ApartmentAssoc email list.  It is a project that a mom and pop operation working from their kitchen table to large multi person offices.  And it’s relatively cheap. You can get into it for under $200 and quickly save more than that in time and aggravation.

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