Monday, October 10, 2022

What's the Plan Now?

 Now that one rental house is sold, I technically have enough money in the bank to retire with a $2,000/month allowance until I am old enough to access my 401K. There are a few things that make me hesitate to take the plunge though. 

1) My job has been work-from-home since Nov. 2019. I really like the convenience and so do my dogs.

2) Inflation. Now doesn't seem like a good time to stop adding to my savings.

3) The wobbly stock market. Very hard to watch the dips but I am still investing new money.

4) Health insurance. I am in the process of getting a tooth replaced. Can a handle a big medical/dental bill if I stop working? Plus, my nephew is on my health insurance for another 3 years.

5) My propensity to spend money on new hobbies and habits. I bought a lottery scratcher ticket for the first time. Spent $10, won $10. I should probably stop while I've broken even. The local horseback riding business has a "buy 6 rides, get 1 ride free". That's a goal I would like to reach but at $50/hr. I probably shouldn't. On the other hand, if I can't afford a "fun money" category in my budget, I don't think I should retire yet. 

 And there are a few things that make me want to quit the full time job now.

1) Time is not unlimited.

2) Both of my parents died from dementia related issues after years of ill health in their 70's. 

3) How much money do I really need? Is it worth the trade-off?

4) Peer pressure from my friends in the 55+ community where I live even though I am only 50.

For now, I will keep working and do a few little things like weekend trips. First trip: Lockhart, Texas to visit my sister. She visits me twice a year (ok, so my house is kind of on the way to her vacation destinations) and I have never seen her house or met her dog. I am also stopping in Houston and dragging my college roommate with me. I haven't seen her in over 5 years and it is my turn to visit. It will be just like old times only a little grayer, with reading glasses.

After that, I want to go to Spokane, Sacramento, Portland, maybe Cincinnati, and Hungary. I am lucky that my nephew is willing to be my house and dog sitter. Hopefully he won't have too much trouble although all of my dogs are old, half blind, and prefer if someone accompanies them out to the yard.

One of my old dogs barking at the road runner who was pecking the glass.

It's even more fun to make plans now that I am closer to my goals. My dad retired at 55. I definitely need to retire before that! Maybe 54. 

Friday, September 23, 2022

Busy Summer Months of Sweat equity

That was an exhausting summer. I know summer isn't officially over but I'm calling it done. The two bedroom rental was trashed, of course. Yes, I know that is my fault for not inspecting it once in a while. I bought it trashed and had 3 tenants who trashed it. Cleaning it out 4 times was my limit. 

My realtor saw it at the same time I did and recommended listing it as-is for $125,000. I said no. A little clean up and I want $160,000. She was skeptical. I bought it in 2017 for $65,000. I also said I wanted to make it available for VA and Fannie Mae loans. My intent was to sell it to someone who would make it their home. This area of South Tucson is low-income and investors are buying homes and raising rents.  I could have kept it and waited for gentrification to move in. It is located close to downtown and homes sell for $300K and up in the right area. But I wanted out. Less stress. Time to move on.

They left me a car and a trampoline. No thanks. The car was towed for free. My realtor gave me the name of an awesome junk hauler and yard guy who took the junk away and trimmed up the shrubs.

A friend helped me bag up the trash. I helped her clean out her house and she helped me with mine. Win-win.

Looks like the tenant enjoyed his beer. His dog enjoyed eating holes in the drywall. The mice were living safely under the refrigerator.

You can't see it but the ceiling and walls were coated in nicotine yellow. Actually, the ceiling was still coated in nicotine when I sold it. I tried a few methods to clean it but I didn't want to damage my neck. Scrubbing a ceiling is hard.

More presents left behind.

From the oil on the kitchen walls, it appears he only knew how to deep fry. You are lucky this blog doesn't have smell-o-vision. The cigarette smell was very strong.

I tried a few different methods to clean this hard water stain. Ended up using sand paper.

That's much better.

Tried scrubbing the grease off the walls. Finally used oil based stain cover. I wish I had skipped right to the paint. It would have saved a lot of time and frustration.

Love this paint. It stank but even that helped improve the over-all smell of the house.

I couldn't pass up the chance to add a little bit of color to the kitchen. I had never tiled anything before. I spaced them so that I didn't have to make any cuts and used grout from a tube. I don't recommend grout from a tube. It was messy and probably too thin. I think it turned out ok though. I did touch up the grout with some white caulk. I bought a fancy kitchen faucet but took one look at the 1950's water lines and gave up on that idea. 

My sister came out from Texas and painted this room for me. I was so happy for the help. It looks (and smells) a lot better. I bought a paint sprayer but she opted to roll it. She probably got less paint in her hair that way.

In order to get it on the market as soon as possible, I bought a quart of the adobe color and touched up the living room paint.

Dining room end of the living room area. The house is 950 sqft. I've never liked the layout but originally it was a 1 bedroom 1 bath and then they made a second bedroom out of the back porch and added another porch.

The bathroom didn't need much work except...the tenant had disconnected the drain under the sink because the drain was clogged and had a bucket under there to catch the water. I never did find all of the parts. The plumber charged $800! to unclog the sink, put the drain back together, and replace the shower control. That was the cheaper plumber than the first one I called. I poured drain cleaner down the shower drain and bought a low-flow shower head for $15. I think it worked because the inspector didn't mention the water backing up in the shower.

This side of the house has always had a stucco peeling problem. I painted it for the third and last time. It started pouring rain but it didn't seem to bother the wet paint.

The landscape rock was well worth the $350 for a finished look. A few weeks later the weeds came back with a vengeance.  Paid the yard guy another $100 to weed-whack and spray weed killer.

I got the house on the market at the beginning of August. Google kept suggesting articles about the housing market crashing. Thanks, Google. Inventory in this area was very low with only 2 other houses as my competition. I got 3 offers within 24 hours. 1 from an investor for $130K cash, 1 Fannie Mae for $160K and 1 VA for $165K. I went with the VA loan person and decided see what hoops needed to be jumped. The inspection report took 2 weeks and the appraisal took 3 weeks. It was a nerve-wracking time wondering what they would want and whether I would have to dump them and re-list. 

The inspection list was long, as expected, but my realtor said to wait until the bank tells us what has to be done for the VA loan. The buyer wanted a new roof, a home warranty for the appliances, the stove fixed or replaced, a grounding bar added to the electrical panel, water damage fixed on the two porches and a termite warranty. 

After the appraisal came in acceptable for the loan (they didn't share what the appraisal said) the bank said that they only needed the clear termite report which included the water damage on the porch. My realtor was able to recommend a guy to replace the wood. I had to convince him to just replace the damaged parts because he wanted to do more. We had to extend the closing for 10 more days because The wood guy wasn't available yet but it finally got done and he did a good job for only $350.

I somehow fixed the stove by wiggling the wires (one burner wasn't igniting) and agreed to buy the home warranty. I had already paid for the termite warranty so that just got transferred to the new buyer. I tried to get an electrician but no one was available for such a small job. I took a gamble and said no to the new roof. The buyer accepted my terms, the house closed and I have a much bigger retirement nest egg. Whew. I am very happy. $3,500 in repairs, 1 month of Saturday cleaning and projects. It was a lot of work but worth it and I'm so glad it is over.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Is It Still "Early" After 50?

I turned 50 this week and I'm not retired yet. Something must be wrong. Or not. Plans change. Lifestyle inflation happens. I can retire at a basic level, I just don't want to quite yet. I work from home, I love staying home with my dogs all day. My investments haven't reached their goals yet. Next year though, I am taking my birthday off, at least. Working on my birthday was depressing.

 I have given notice to one tenant to vacate so that I can sell the home. It's the 2 bedroom, 1 bath near downtown. I was fine with keeping it rented until I found information that makes me think the tenant has moved out and left her adult son to live there alone. There have been a few issues with the air conditioning unit needing service and a water leak. Repair people are harder to find and replacement parts take longer to get. She was patient, her son is not. When he called me on a Friday night to yell at me to get a repairman there instantly, I suddenly wanted to sell the place. They have 7 weeks to find a new place. It will be tough since he has a dog and a project car in the backyard. I have kept rent low through the pandemic. It's $700/m and I was planning to raise it to $900 over the next couple of years. Now I like the idea of cashing out. Hopefully, they will leave without causing damage. I don't know if the housing market will still be favorable in July but I'm going to see what happens. I can always rent it out again.
My nephew says that he is planning to move out of the mobile home and into an apartment with a friend. I think that will be a very good experience for him. I am not going to sell that property yet because that is where my tiny house is and I still want to finish it. I consider the tiny house my "vacation" home even though I haven't stayed there since March of 2020.

My other rental home is ok for now. It has needed some repairs but the tenant is very nice and patient. It helps that her nephew runs a handyman company so I can call him for some of the repairs. 

I spent all of the money that I earned from winter tenants at my own house to pay for a new A/C heat unit. It was 20 years old and I didn't want to risk it going out while a winter tenant was there.  The crane was fun to watch. $7,400 for that. I hope it helps my electric bill since this unit is supposed to be more efficient. My maintenance account is low right now. All other projects besides the house I want to sell, are on hold.

So, that's the latest. Still plugging along and working on my short and long term plans. I'd like to say I can take the summer off from big projects but that house is not going to fix itself up. It will be a relief when it is cash in the bank.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Spring and Wind and Bills

It's a very windy day here in Arizona. Still sunny and 70's so I'm not complaining. My last tenants of the snowbird season arrived on Tuesday. Hopefully, they will have a great time and no problems. So far I have had a few issues but nothing major. 

My big TV decided to only play Netflix. Luckily, the tenants were happy with Netflix. I was able to do a factory reset after the tenants left and it works fine now. Cost $0, well, it took 45 minutes on the phone with Vizio help desk so not exactly $0 if you count my time. 

My dishwasher died. I bought a new one rather than try to get a used one mainly because the tenants use the dishwasher a lot and handymen and spare parts are in scarce supply. Cost: $550. 

The February tenants forgot to lower the patio umbrella during one of our wind storms. It blew over taking the glass-top table with it and shattered everywhere. They were really nice, cleaned up the mess and replaced the table before they left. Cost $0 for me. 

One of the hose connections froze during our 3 days of winter. The drip system connection was rusted onto it and it couldn't be replaced but I figured out how to use part of the garden hose to replace the whole thing. Cost $25. I was proud of myself for figuring it out and my rose bushes will be very happy to have water. Wait time for an appointment with my plumber of choice is 5 weeks. My handyman got a full time job so he is not available either. I'll find a new handyman eventually. 

A new HVAC system is still a priority and they do not have a wait list so I will make an appointment in April when the current tenants leave. 

Another extra cost that I added was an exterminator to spray for bugs twice a year. I've never had a bug-guy before but after the great cricket invasion of 2021, I hired someone when the tenants saw a "bug" and bought cans of Raid. The bug-guy assured them that the house was not infested and it was just a harmless cricket. I didn't bother to tell them about the giant sewer roaches or Huntsman Spider that I saw on the ceiling in the Summer or the increase in Black Widow spiders up against the house. They don't need to know that. Most venomous stuff is sleeping in the winter.

I cleaned and set-up the house 4 times this season. Of course, I was the messiest person to clean up after. The tenants have all been very neat and courteous. The dirties thing has been the carpet in the back bedroom. I've had to scrub it twice. I don't know why people track stuff in there but I am very glad that the carpet is brown and that it cleans fairly easily. I'm glad that is the only room with carpet.

The one room with carpet.

I'm still trying to beautify my little yard. In the summer it is green with flowers. In the winter it just looks like everything is dead. Maybe I need a mural on the block wall.



My little princess was having issues walking so I made her an appointment at a new vet office. 5 week wait for an appointment. 2 weeks before the appointment she starts crying and holding up her front paw. Of course I rushed her to the emergency vet. 7 hours later, all the tests were negative. She was on pain meds for a few days and was better than before. I think she sprained her shoulder when her feet slide on the polished concrete floor. She won't tell me where it hurts. Then, her brother's eye swelled up. I got him some ointment from the feed store and it was better after 5 days. I decided to take him to the long-awaited appointment. They said it might be a tooth infection but his bloodwork showed high kidney values so he is not a candidate for sedation and dental work. He's on special kidney food now. My pets like to remind me that I need to have enough money in my pet budget before I retire.

The princess and the pea

My retirement spreadsheet is looking pretty glum. It's doing the one step forward, two steps back dance. I suppose most people's investments are doing the same. Except for the housing market. That is still going up but it means nothing because I am not selling. Current projected retirement date is still 2 years away as it has been for the last 3 months.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Happy 2022!

 Another year full of hope and promise. So far this year I have gotten a raise, my sister agreed to let me buy her half of my house and my neighbor, who I live with during the winter, adopted a new dog. Of those three things, the one that affects me on a daily basis, is the dog. He is young and energetic and, of course, too cute. So far the other dogs are annoyed by him.

I am thrilled to be able to own the whole house. Although the paperwork isn't complete yet, it will greatly simplify my retirement calculations. Trying to manage a hybrid rental home with partners was too complicated. I should have known better since I don't even like the property management company that I have for one of my rental homes. I like making decisions alone.

This is a good time to review my properties:

1. House near the airport - rented through a property management company.

2. House near downtown- rented out by me.

3. Nephew in mobile home on 4.5 acres in the desert - I banished him there.

4. House that I live in but rent out in the winter- rented through VRBO.

5. Tiny house next to mobile home in the desert- currently unfinished inside. This is my emergency backup housing.

So, the exciting news is that I added up my account balances and I could safely retire in two months. The bad news is that I raided both of my maintenance funds to pay for half of the house so it wouldn't be prudent to quit yet especially since the house needs a new heat/AC unit ($6k).  I must focus on replenishing those accounts and keep working towards my backup funds of $1500/month. My spreadsheet says in 2 years I could do it. I bet I can do it quicker!

Friday, November 12, 2021

Autumn 2021

 Hello from the downhill side of 2021! It's been a generally uneventful year, just the way I like it. I have been keeping busy with my regular job, doing eBay sales for our animal shelter and working on puzzles with the neighbor. Add in home improvement projects and dealing with rental house issues and I don't have a lot of spare time left over.

Obligatory picture of one of my dogs. I've had her for a year now and she only tries to bite me occasionally. She refuses to look at the camera but she does like to be near me.

I bought some seeds from the local Native Seed/SEARCH company and grew these lovely Mexican Sunflower bushes. Both yellow and orange grew but mostly orange. I have never had so many butterflies in my yard! It wasn't only the flowers, it was also the extra rain we got this summer which caused a boom in the butterfly population. My sister bought me a hammock chair and I hung it off the back porch and watched them frolic.

I mostly saw Queens, Painted Ladies, Snout-nosed, Sulfur, and yellow and purple Swallowtails but sometimes a Monarch would come by too.

I decided to give the quail away. They went to live on a farm (at least that's what the guy told me).
Since I am still moving out of my house for the winter months it was easier not to have to move the quail too. Plus their food was expensive, they were messy and I only had 2 quail left.

One of my house projects was to paint the enclosed porch (aka Arizona room). And since no project is ever simple, I hired a handyman to replace the bottom 6" where it had been water damaged and crickets had taken up residence under the bottom of the wood siding.  Much better now and I am really tired of painting but I am not finished yet since I haven't painted the side with the white door.

The handyman also replaced the sagging porch beam so that I could hang my hammock chair, installed a gutter and added this rain chain which goes to a 50 gallon barrel. It hasn't rained since so I don't know if it will work in an actual storm. I did try it with a hose and it worked well.

Both of my rental houses are rented with good tenants who pay on time. One of them did fall behind last year when she lost her job but caught up again with the help of the eviction prevention funds. One house needed painting because the HOA said it was time. It was faded so, yes, it needed it. It took me 4 months to secure a painting company because the first guy strung me along and then got overwhelmed with the rain delays. The other company was faster and cheaper so in the end it worked out. Then the A/C started having issues and I paid a lot for those repairs. It's a good thing I have a maintenance fund for those houses.

Regarding my early retirement plan, well, I'll be 50 next May so if I keep working like this my "early" retirement plan is just going to be a regular retirement plan. According to my calculations, I am still at the 1 year 10 month mark. It never seems to get any closer. I blame lifestyle inflation which is completely within my control.

I did not do anything with my tiny house. I think about it often, designing and redesigning the interior in my head. My nephew still lives in the mobile home next to it and reported a big rattlesnake at the front door. He doesn't maintain the fence that I built to keep snakes out and isn't too concerned with keeping the gates closed. He might be a little more concerned now. I found a baby rattlesnake in my walled yard a few months ago. I hadn't blocked off the drain holes and there was also a gap under the gate. I'm glad that I saw it before the dogs did. The fire department came and took it away.

In two weeks I will move in with my neighbor again and rent my house to snowbirds from December through March. The eBay stuff and packing supplies make the move a lot more difficult. I will have another two weeks to clean the house and finish up my projects before the first tenants arrive. I hope there won't be any surprises like the leaking roof of last spring or Covid of the year before. Nice and predictable, that's what I'm hoping for.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

New Year Update

Hello to my friends in internet-land!

I want to check-in to let you know that I am alive and well.  I hope you are all too. It's been almost a year since I posted last. The world sort of imploded since then. Here are some highlights and lowlights of the past year:

A LOT of puzzles have been done.  My neighbor and I work on them every night. 

Let's rewind. I was living out at my tiny house and my Canadian friends were renting my house back in March 2020. When everything started shutting down because of the pandemic, they decided to go home.  Too bad.  The weather was lovely and golf courses never closed but they would lose their health coverage if they stayed once the borders shut. I moved back to my house.

The animal shelter thrift store that I was volunteering at closed until June.  I brainstormed how to help without being so hands-on (I was previously collecting the donated goods) and asked if I could help list items on eBay.  I didn't even know they had an active eBay site.  They had one person listing a few things as she had time.  She was happy for the help and we started bringing in over $1,000 net a month for the animals.  My house also started filling with eBay stuff and shipping supplies. This was a cat collection from one lady. Most of it has sold.

My big dog Baloo left us in June.  I tried to keep him mobile and happy for as long as I could. He was 14 (I think) and in the end he had dementia. It was very sad and we miss him.  Well, I miss him.  My little dogs probably don't.

I got a new dog in July. It wasn't planned but I saw her on our county animal shelter's website and recognized her as belonging to my previous tenant.  You might remember the homeless man who stayed in my 2 bedroom rental house for a few months while I was having a fence and driveway added. I made an appointment to meet her and she was a mess.  They told me that her owner had a stroke and was hospitalized and she was left alone.  A neighbor broke in and caught her.  She bit him as well as the other shelter workers. She had been in the shelter for a month on hold, to see if her owner could come and get her and also for her bite-hold. I was willing to take her on so they put her directly into a crate after she was spayed and had her teeth cleaned. I took her home and let her relax. I waited 3 months before arranging a haircut. She survived it and so did the groomer. She lost some weight and we are taking short walks now.  They told me she was around 9 years old. She fits right in with my old crew. That's her on the right.

Work has been very busy. Although some business dropped off because of the pandemic, my job wasn't affected much. I've reworked my early retirement calendar and 2-3 years is still looking do-able. I added in paying my sister for her half of the house based on the current real estate prices.  That way I am aiming high.  Health insurance for early retirement is still a question mark. I haven't researched it lately because policies change too quickly.

My nephew who is living in my mobile home next to my tiny house lost his dish-washing job.  He did eventually qualify for pandemic relief so he has money but he misses his job and his friends there. Hopefully he will get hired back this summer.

I haven't done anything to my tiny house. I was just arranging to hire someone to insulate and put in drywall last March but I put all that on hold.  I did clean off the porch a bit more than this and store things in the shed so that they wouldn't get ruined.

This snowbird season I rented out my house for 4 months, December to end of March. Here is a picture of the shower stall improvements I tried to do until I have enough money for tile.  I spray painted the chrome handles and door and added the stick-on tiles. My neighbor offered to let me stay in her guest room and move all of my eBay stuff to her garage. I couldn't pass up a generous offer like that (plus hot showers, running water, sidewalks) so that is where I am now with my 3 dogs, her 1 dog, and my 5 quail outside in their cage.

Oh, I didn't mention my quail. My elderly quail eventually died and I wasn't going to replace them but then the pandemic hit and the egg shortage and I got more quail. 5 that get along and 1 who is a different color and gets picked on so it is in a separate cage.

That's all for now. I need a nap.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

I'm Still Around

A lot of things have changed and not just in my head this time.  The biggest thing is that my office closed ahead of schedule.  We had to be out by November.  I now work at home and my position has changed from engineering to purchasing.  It is interesting getting to know new people in the company and finding out what the other plants do. 

Also, I bought my mother's house with one of my sisters and I am trying to do the "rent it out to snowbirds" plan.  A couple from Canada is scheduled to move in next week and I am running around trying to get the house ready.  My tiny house has electricity, one interior wall framed, and a porch as of this week.  Hopefully it will get steps next week.  I have a new handyman and I have learned that his time estimates should be multiplied by two, at least.  My sister and her family stopped by last weekend and helped me move a truck load of stuff from the house to the tiny house.  I will go out this weekend and try to arrange it in a convenient way for me and 3 dogs.  Baloo is going to be the most challenging since he is 15 and has hip dysplasia,  I need a ramp asap.  I just bought an 8'x10' carpet for the inside.  I was planning to use vinyl flooring left over from the mobile home project but it will be too slippery for him.  I also need insulation, at least for the bedroom, and to completely enclose the dog area with fence panels and a wire roof.  I will be there most of the time since I work from home but I don't want to worry about them every time I need to run an errand.

Ok, time just sped up and I have moved to my unfinished tiny house for 6 weeks, at least, and a couple more weeks if my tenants find a golf course to sell them a two month membership.  I just want to show you pictures of my patio furniture though.  One of the things people asked about when they looked at my house was if there was patio furniture available.  I saw this patio set, minus the cushions and umbrella, for $60.  I asked the lady if she could wait for me to pick it up on the weekend when I had the U-haul truck and she said yes.  That was a great deal.  I had the umbrella and I bought the cushions for $20 for 6 at the thrift store that I volunteer at on Saturdays.

Then I had this 4 seat patio set out at the tiny house for years.  The cushions were falling apart and the metal was a greenish grey.  I was able to bring it to the house with the help of my sister's family when I had the Uhaul truck and they were helping me bring some things out to the tiny house.  Then I spent way too much time spray painting it and searching for the perfect cushions.  First ones from Walmart were too big, second ones too small.  Finally, I found the right size at Home Depot.

So, here is a picture of the tiny house with the new deck before I dragged everything out from inside and put it on the deck so that I could move my stuff in.  Mostly wood boards, trim, metal gutters, things for future projects.

Inside the front door is the fridge that I got for free when our office closed.  I also got a sink, microwave, and toaster oven.  This is not where I want the fridge to stay but it works for now.

Here is a picture of the flooring.  I had one day to throw this together so I used scrap vinyl  from the mobile home and rugs that I bought from the thrift store.  The rugs were a great idea because Baloo can get up easily and doesn't slip.  My office area is to the right.  I brought a folding table and my office chair.

This is the kitchen area.  Again, a temporary set-up.  My handyman build the wall that separates the kitchen from the bedroom and added two outlets.  I have two induction cooktops but I haven't done much cooking yet besides microwaving.

The weather turned cold with a low of 25F last night.  Last weekend I put some foam board in the bedroom walls.  It is warm enough for me but I worry about my big dog on the floor since it is much colder on the floor. 

My chiweenie just buries his face in the blanket.  I have ordered another heater which should get here tomorrow.  It will be back in the 60's this weekend but I am sure the cold weather will come back again,  The insulation is only 1".  I plan to put another 1" board in the gap before paneling.  I don't know if I will get to the project while I am here.  It makes such a mess everywhere.  It will be much easier to do after I have moved back to my house.

My handyman built one set of stairs but ran out of time to build stairs on the side that the dogs use.  I quickly put together some stairs made of blocks and covered them with blankets for padding.  My little dogs like to lounge on them.  My big dog doesn't like them but he is getting better at using them with my help and not falling.

Just a picture of my big dog in the little dog bed after the little dogs took all of the big dog beds.  Poor boy.

So, that's what I am doing.  The endless list of projects have shifted from the house to the tiny house.  Lots to do.  I don't have water or drains yet.  My nephew is still in the mobile home and his bathroom is available.  On sunny days, I put the camping shower in the sun to heat up.  I have an aquarium pump for hand and dish washing which goes to a bucket and I dump it outside.  It's really quite nice on warm sunny days.  I'm glad that I am finally living out here after so much planning.  So much to do but I'm having fun.