The First Step to Becoming a Slumlord

I have taken some concrete steps towards renting my house.

First, today I asked somebody to please email me the phone number of the Housing Office on the marine base. Supposedly marines make good tenants: they get a living allowance so rent is always on time; and also the marine base holds them accountable for the house. If there is any damage the marine base will pay and the marine gets in trouble (supposedly).

I talked to somebody over at First Choice Management, a local property management company. (They took over Glen Realty’s property management division.) After three phone calls, I finally reached Robin and got the skinny on How to be a Landlord: or Dear God, This is Too Stressful.

They have two management options.

  1. 1-Time Management – costs 100% of the first month’s rent. This option only takes care of finding a good tenant. The homeowner takes care of all subsequent house maintenance and rent collection.
  2. Full Management – costs 50% of the first month’s rent and then 10% of every month thereafter. The management firm takes care of all repairs (at homeowner’s cost) and collects the rent every month.

Then I asked the wrong question. I asked, “So, how’s business these days?”

Robin answered the fateful, “The rental market is very slow at the moment.”

Gulp. I investigated further, “How many rentals do you have right now?”

She said, “I have ten 3 bed/2 baths ranging from $750 to $1150. Most have been sitting for a while. The lowest one’s in Joshua Tree on Jadeite and the highest one is a brand-new 1,600 square foot home in Sky Harbor. I have one on La Mirada for $1050, that has been vacant for 3-4 months.”

Gulp. “How about the real estate market – that’s slow too, right?”

“Yes, it’s slow.”

“You mean I get to choose between very slow and slow?”

“Ha, ha, I like the way you put that.”


Do I use a property management company? Or do I just advertise with the military myself? She says that if I listed at $950, I would be the lowest 3bed/2bath (except for the house on Jadeite which is on a dirt road in Joshua Tree) and that the house should rent pretty quickly. But that means $475 to the company and then again $95 to them every month. Since my mortgage is $1150, I would coming out red $295 every month.

Then again, if I were doing it myself, I would have the headache of learning all the lease stuff myself, the calls from the tenant for repairs, and still be losing $200 every month.

see what I mean? a choice between not good and worse.

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