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Article of the Month for April 2009 Printer friendly version

House Sitting

by Ward Hanigan

Years ago, when I began buying property at our local foreclosure auctions, I needlessly shied away from bidding on foreclosures in the “tougher” areas of town. I feared getting bogged down in the grind of a lethargic resale process rather than my usual quick flip routine. That’s because I supposed that blighted neighborhoods came with an undue amount of vandalism, crime, gangs, higher unemployment, etc. that would result in a lot slower turnaround time.

But, lucky for me, I discovered that most of my worries were groundless. That came about when I contracted with an out-of-town investor to oversee the rehab and resale of one of his San Diego REOs that was located in a very tough neighborhood—the kind that I had routinely avoided.

As a result of his house remaining vacant for several months, it had been thoroughly stripped of everything remotely usable, even such mundane items as the interior doors and doorjambs!

So, being forewarned of the presence of pillagers in the area, we drove over to Home Depot and made an arrangement with two of their “driveway greeters” to bunk down in our empty house every night for free (during the two months it took to complete our rehab process). And of course, we showed them where the nearby McDonald’s or Jack-In-The-Box was so they could attend to personal matters whenever the need arose.

All we had to provide were two new sleeping bags with foam pads from the local Army surplus store and a few lamps to provide a nightly signal that our abode was now occupied. During the day the lamps and sleeping bags would be stowed in a closet or the garage, out of the hurly-burly activity of rehabbing.

When we completed our rehab phase we segued to a different, more formal, house sitting arrangement.

That involved renting out our market-ready, finished house for half rent to a pet-free, childless couple (because they were either too young or too old to be raising kids). We discovered that footloose couples were much more agreeable to moving around on short notice to entirely different neighborhoods than almost anyone else. They had to have their own furniture, though we might have provided a refrigerator if the need arose. And they paid for their own utilities.

Nowadays, two free web sites that’ll readily disclose the current rental value of nearly any residential property in the U.S. are Rentometer (www.rentometer.com) and Zilpy (www.zilpy.com). Between the two we can establish the current monthly rent, which we cut in half in exchange for our tenants’ adherence to our house sitting rules and their willingness to move elsewhere on short notice.

The paperwork involved is simple. We just execute a standard rental application and lease with our tenants…to which we attach our purpose-made House Sitter Addendum.

Information provided by this website is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Please consult your investment advisor and/or attorney before entering into any transaction. Read our privacy policy.

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