Tips for Renting to Traveling Nurses

The demand for quality healthcare is steadily increasing.  Now more than ever, communities need qualified health practitioners.  Many hospitals have turned to “Traveling Nurses”, health practitioners like RNs and physical therapists who rotate from hospital to hospital to serve short term needs.  

This represents an opportunity for landlords, and carries many benefits.  Traveling nurses stay longer than the typical short term renter, but shorter than a standard annual leaser.  Their travel is paid for by the hospital, in the form of a sizable stipend.  And they are typically favorable tenants / guests, as they spend most of their time either working long shifts or recovering from those long shifts. 

I recently had the opportunity to speak with a recruiter who places traveling nurses in hospitals and coordinates their housing needs.  She shared with me some interesting insights which I thought you might find valuable too. 

MONEY

The weekly housing stipend a traveling nurse receives can vary, based upon vocation and the location.  Typically RN’s receive $600 a week for housing (this is in addition to their normal pay, and potentially food stipends as well).  Certain occupations, like physical therapists, will earn a lower stipend.  Since the traveling nurse gets to keep whatever they do not spend on housing, most are price conscious.   They may also have preconceived notions of reasonable housing rates if they are from an area that enjoys a lower cost of living.  

One comment I found particularly interesting was that most traveling nurses don’t have enough money for a large down payment.  As such, landlords may need to be flexible in terms of their required up front commitment. 

ROOMMATES

The number of traveling nurses who are willing to share a space with another person versus those who want their own space is split evenly.  With that said, most all of them want at least their own bathroom.  Many family oriented traveling nurses will travel with their family, and as such want their own space – normally a single family home with enough rooms for each person in the household versus an apartment. 

AMENITIES 

Since they are working long hours, traveling nurses appreciate amenities that save them time or money.  One of the most popular amenities is a weekly maid service.   This isn’t a requirement, but it is a nice bonus which helps differentiate your property from others. 

PARKING

Most traveling nurses have their own vehicles, and consequently prefer housing that includes parking.  The obvious exception to this is if the host location is in a highly urban area where everything is walkable – like New York City for example. 

DURATION

While most employment contracts are 13 weeks, traveling nurses look for weekly or monthly housing.  They avoid housing with long term commitments.  

ADVERTISING 

The most popular sites where traveling nurses look for housing are Furnished Finder, VRBO, and AirBNB.  

Renting to traveling nursing can be very lucrative.  Hopefully you’ve found the insight I’ve provided helpful. 

Buying A Home For Your Parents

I was recently approached by two friends (let’s call them Celeste and Mary) for some advice on buying a home, and I found the situation interesting enough that I wanted to share it with you.  

Celeste and Mary are sisters.   Now in their 30’s, they want to find a way to give back to their mother Gloria, who is closing in on her 70th birthday and rents a room in a home.  Gloria lives primarily off of her social security benefits and has never owned a home.  

The three ladies are wondering if they contribute jointly, could they purchase a home with a low enough monthly payment that Gloria could afford to pay the mortgage.  Gloria’s brother, a handyman, might move in to this new home as well, helping to offset the mortgage payments and help with repairs around the house.  

Here are some of the questions posed, and the advice that I shared.  Of course, your situation might be entirely different, but my feedback might be something you’d want to consider as well. 

What Should They Look For In A Property?

My recommendation is to look for a single family home, in need of a little fixing up.  A mobile home, in particular one where they do not own the land, wouldn’t be a good investment.  Typically the home itself depreciates, and the land appreciates.  A townhome is an option, but it would prevent them from converting a garage into an Accessory Dwelling Unit which could be rented for additional income.  

In my opinion, the best option would be a single family home with a detached garage, on a relatively large lot.  To keep her taxes down, she should aim for a home as inexpensive as possible, being mindful of the repair / upgrade costs.   With family and friends who are handy, she can fix up the home over time into something that might be very livable.  All work, when required, should be permitted by the city. 

I would look for a home in an up and coming part of town.  Since she is over the age of 65, I’d recommend a single story home.  

Who Should Purchase The Home?

Celeste, Mary, and Gloria think that they should all purchase the home together.  But I pointed out that when Gloria passes away (as we all will do), that the property might be subject to a step up in property taxes as the title transfers from Celeste, Mary, and Gloria to just Celeste and Mary.   Celeste and Mary are Gloria’s only children, and as such the likely beneficiaries in the event of Gloria’s passing. 

A better option would be for Celeste and Mary to purchase the home, and then rent it back to Gloria at a reduced rate.  In this scenario, Celeste and Mary should craft an investor agreement, and think about putting the home into an LLC to further protect their investment. 

Celeste and Mary will have the added benefit of maximizing the tax deductions and depreciation on the home, which is something that Gloria, with a limited income, wouldn’t be able to fully capitalize upon. 

How Much Of A Downpayment Should They Put Down? 

Their first inclination would be to put as much money down as possible to make the mortgage manageable given Gloria’s limited income. 

But given that mortgage rates are amazingly low, and as first time home owners they qualify for very low rates, I recommend that they only put down 20% towards a 30 year fixed mortgage.  This will help them avoid PMI, and allow them to maximize the buying power of their money.  

There are a lot of things to consider when buying a home – and certainly Celeste, Mary, and Gloria will have more questions.  But I found the exercise exciting, especially because it allowed me to test my real estate investment deal analysis skills against a real life scenario.   Who knows, I might just end up purchasing a home as well ! 

What To Do When Your Home Warranty Company Won’t Respond

Several months ago, on one of the hottest days of the summer in Las Vegas, Nevada, one of my tenants phoned to tell me that one of the air conditioning units went out in the house. 

It took me one week of arguing with American Home Shield, the home warranty company with whom I had a policy for the house, to get them to fix the problem which was covered by their policy.  My experience might be helpful to anyone else who has the same problem getting American Home Shield to respond promptly. 

The Home Warranty

What is a home warranty?  It’s an ancillary policy that you can purchase for a home, offering extended coverage on items that your normal insurance policy doesn’t cover.  While I used to get these policies to cover the forced air heater and the air conditioner (HVAC) in the home, they cover other items inside the home (such as the appliances, ceiling fans, etc) as well.  The policies usually run between $350-$900 per year depending on what you have covered.  There is typically a call out fee for each incident which ranges from $0 to $125, depending on your policy.  Most home warranty policies do not cover normal wear and tear or misuse (one real life example is a washing machine that broke because it was consistently overloaded).  

As a landlord, I would often buy a home warranty to cover the unexpected issues which may arise with my rentals (refer to my previous post on this topic:  How I Simplify Being A Landlord http://scottgordon.com/2020/08/14/how-i-simplify-being-a-landlord/).  

The Process

The process for submitting a home warranty claim is fairly straightforward.   

  1. You simply call their 800 number or go online to their website.
  2. Provide your policy number.
  3. Tell them the item which is broken.
  4. Pre-pay the call out fee, if any, with a credit or debit card. 
  5. The home warranty will assign a third party service technician, based upon the problem you’re having, the location of your home, and the availability of the technician.
  6. You’ll receive a confirmation email with the third party service technician’s contact information.   This confirmation email usually also includes a phone number for the home warranty company as well, allowing you to check the status of the order (which you can also do online). 
  7. The third party service technician will contact you to schedule an appointment.  They usually provide a four hour time frame in which they’ll arrive. 
  8. The third party service technician will evaluate the issue, determine the problem, and if the problem is covered under the home warranty. 
  9. If parts are required to do the repair (for example, an air conditioner compressor), the third party service technician will contact the home warranty company to order the parts.   
  10. With the proper approvals and the parts in hand, the third party service technician will schedule another appointment to repair the problem.

The Problem With The Process

In my experience, the problems with the process typically happen in steps 7 and 9 above. 

In Step 7, you may learn that the third party service technician will deprioritize service requests that originate from a home warranty company like American Home Shield.  In one recent incident, an air conditioner at one of my rentals went out at 7PM on a Sunday.  Even though I was able to contact the third party service provider (using the phone number in the confirmation email, in Step 6 above) at 9:30 PM, I was told that all home warranty requests had to wait until the following morning.   The third party service technician only took non-warranty requests after hours.  

In Step 9, you may learn that the home warranty company routes all purchasing through a central purchasing team.  In the case of the air conditioner problem, the third party service technician wouldn’t (or couldn’t) order the part directly; it had to come through the home warranty company.  Even though the part was available at the parts supplier, the third party service technician couldn’t get it without a PO number from the home warranty company.  I even offered to guarantee the purchase with a credit card, thinking that they could get the part now and if for some reason the home warranty company didn’t send the PO number that they could charge my credit card.  No dice.  I asked how much it would cost to do the work outside of the home warranty company, but the third party service provider would only offer to replace the entire air conditioner (estimated cost:  $3,000).   There is no creative way around this bottleneck; your job will not move forward without the PO number from the home warranty company.

How I Got American Home Shield To Respond 

It was late Friday afternoon, almost six days since I’d submitted the original request on the previous Sunday.  Each day that week (multiple times each day) I’d called the American Home Shield phone number provided in the confirmation email.  Each time I was routed to an overseas call center, where they answered, asked for the home address, then put me on hold for 3-5 minutes to “look up the account information”.  The result was the same each time – “I’ll put in a response to escalate, sir”. 

Asking for a supervisor didn’t produce any results.  Advising them that I was in violation of the Nevada statute (which I really wasn’t … as you’ll see below I’d already installed a temporary air conditioning window unit to replace the broken unit) which requires a landlord to fix an air conditioner within 48 hours if the temperature is above 90 or so degrees didn’t speed the process either.

The only thing that worked was this: 

  1. Instead of calling the number provided in the confirmation email, I phoned the sales number on the American Home Shiled website, and spoke with a US based sales person. 
  2. I plead my case, advising him that based upon their delays I was in violation of at least one Nevada statute.   I also told him that my tenant was elderly with health issues (a small but necessary fib). 
  3. I reminded the sales person that I held several home warranty policies with American Home Shield, and while I didn’t blame the sales person (it wasn’t his fault, of course)  if I didn’t get a resolution immediately I would start cancelling my policies. 

It was at this point he gave me the “secret number” to reach the American Home Shield parts approval purchasing team.   He said “Dial 1-800-251-1608.  When prompted, enter #4 then #2.  You may have to wait a while, but you’ll eventually get someone who can help.  Give them this Dispatch number ” and he rattled off a long alpha numeric reference code. 

I called the number, and waited one hour and fourteen minutes on hold.  I spoke with a friendly US based American Home Shield rep, explained my situation and provider her with the dispatch number.   Within 3 minutes she had the part approved.  Problem solved!

Other Things You Can Do When Your Home Warranty Company Won’t Respond 

When I look back on this incident, there are a few other things that I could have done to make it go smoother. 

  1. Maintain Mission Critical Items
    I relied on the home warranty to fix any problems that might arise at the home.  But if I’m being completely honest with myself, I should have had the HVAC inspected and maintained annually.  This might have identified the problem before it became an urgent issue, inconveniencing my tenant.  Yes, the home warranty wouldn’t have covered the maintenance nor any pre-emptive repairs, but it would have saved me hours of sitting on the phone with American Home Shield and kept my tenants from being inconvenienced, … which is worth the extra cost. 
  2. Have A Backup Plan
    Having a back up plan is very important – and sometimes it only comes from experience.  I was able to rent an air conditioning window unit to keep the home cool while I was sorting out this issue.  This is now part of my emergency checklist; if a tenant has an A/C issue I can get a temporary window unit installed ASAP.  
  3. Be The Squeaky Wheel
    As I reflect on the issue, being a squeaky wheel helped solve this issue.  I kept escalating until I found the answer.   I never accepted “no”.   I used every option available to motivate American Home Shield to approve the part.  

I hope that this is helpful to you.  Now more than ever it seems that home warranty companies are over indexing on sales, and under indexing on customer service and support when you have a problem.  I recently (intentionally) let the American Home Shield home warranty on one of my properties lapse.  Immediately I started to receive phone calls and emails multiple times a day from the American Home Shield sales team, reminding me that the policy had lapsed and asking if I wanted to renew.  Where were these people a few months earlier when the air conditioning in that unit went out?   It is clear where their priorities lie. 

Where I’m Focusing My Real Estate Investing

It’s no surprise that the real estate market is challenging for investors.  With prices at a long term high, finding deals has become increasingly more difficult.  While I am in no means a formal real estate advisor nor fiduciary (consult your own experts before you make any final decisions), I did want to share where I’m currently focused in case it might provide you with inspiration. 

I’ve long been a fan of investing where others are fleeing.  But I’m also a proponent of investing in areas you know well.  If I lived in a large urban city I would be looking at acquiring rental apartments … the same ones people are fleeing to buy / rent in suburban and rural areas.   So investing in New York, Chicago, or even Los Angeles (which arguably will recover more slowly than the previous two I mentioned) isn’t a viable option. 

I also don’t think that commercial real estate is at a “rock bottom” price point sufficient to warrant my attention.  In my opinion, we have a bit further lower to go before the day comes where I’m willing to put my feet in the water.  With that said, if I saw a nice laundromat or a storage unit I might be convinced to pick it up!

But there is one area that does have some near term upside, and is just unattractive enough to a mainstream real estate investor to catch my eye:  land. 

Land is the ugly duckling of real estate investing.  But acquired at the right price point, it represents a great hedge against inflation and potentially a lucrative long term investment.  As I explained in my previous post, Camp Hacking is just one way to make money from investment land.  Of course, just as with any real estate investment, you must buy carefully.  But as commercial real estate plummets and residential real estate skyrockets, vacant land offers (in my personal opinion) a great opportunity to take advantage of future growth. 

Again, this is simply my opinion.  Your research will help guide your own opinions. 

Happy investing!

Sneak Peak: I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about when I should say “enough is enough”. When I should pivot my focus from planting to harvesting, and enjoying the fruits of my labor (and investing). As I align these thoughts to concrete ideas, I’ll share them here. In the meantime, if you have any thoughts, reach out to me on social media. LinkedIn is usually preferable!

The Benefits of Financing Your Next Home Sale

Selling financing, where the seller is in effect the bank loaning the buyer the money to purchase the property that the seller is selling, isn’t particularly common (especially in times like now, where the monetary policies have eased and interest rates are low).  But it does have its place and time, and knowing the pros and cons of seller financing can be helpful in your next real estate transaction. 

Let’s start with the cons of seller financing, as the list is short.  

  1. As the seller of the property, you’re foregoing the immediate payment of funds which could be invested elsewhere at a higher interest rate. 
  2. If the buyer fails to make payments, you (the seller) will be forced to foreclose on the property, which could be expensive.   This can be a lengthy process, during which you’ll need to pay for the insurance, taxes, and any HOA fees.  Then you’ll need to make the repairs to bring the property up to a condition where it can be resold.  
  3. You could become subject to regulatory restrictions, such as those which prevent foreclosures during the current pandemic and require mortgage forbearance. 

If those potential downsides haven’t dissuaded you, let’s talk about the benefits of financing your next property sale.  

  1. Since you’ve sold the property, you are no longer responsible for the costs of the home.  The new owner is responsible for the maintenance, taxes, insurance, HOA fees, etc. This leaves you potentially with a very high ROI. 
  2. You can secure a downpayment against the loan, which helps mitigate the risks associated with future repairs and maintenance you might need to make should the property go into foreclosure. 
  3. You might be able to sell your home at a premium, to a homeowner who otherwise might not be able to finance the home purchase. 
  4. You can earn a premium interest rate.  In today’s market, I know real estate investors who are earning 7% to 15% on the outstanding balance of the loan. 
  5. Seller financed loans are typically 5-10 years, which means that you’ll get your full balance sooner than a typical mortgage. 
  6. You may be able to defer some if not all of the capital gains from the property sale over the term of the loan.  

So how do you know if seller financing is right for you?  Let the numbers answer that question.  If the downpayment and interest rate offer a better return than you can find elsewhere for the same risk, then it might be the right choice for you.  Of course, each situation is different … and everyone should consider consulting legal and financial advice before making a decision.   If you ultimately decide that seller financing is right for you, there are plenty of online resources to help you navigate the process of setting up and maintaining the loan. 

Buying A Home In A Sellers Market

Thanks in large part to our current pandemic situation, there is a broad flight from living in urban areas to suburban and rural areas.  This has led to an increased demand for single family homes, exacerbated further by a decrease in housing supply as homeowners, leary to allow strangers in their homes, are reluctant to list their homes.  The end result is a sellers market; some may say a severe sellers market. 

All of this begs the question, how does a home buyer acquire a home (or homes) without simply succumbing to the sellers price?  Fortunately, there are a few things that one might do, some “tricks” you might say, to make the most of what some might say is a less than advantageous negotiating position. 

  1. Align with a realtor from the best broker.
    As I’ve mentioned before, realtors wield immense power and influence.  One such power, in some areas, is the pocket listing.  By aligning with the best broker (as measured by the number of open and closed listing in the area where you’re looking to buy a home), you give yourself access to the greatest pool of pocket listings.  

    Pocket listings are a home listing that hasn’t hit the Multiple Listing Service (the “MLS”), the public listing of homes for sale. 

    In a seller’s market, having access to homes before they become openly available to the general public can be a tremendous advantage.  And aligning with the best broker is your ticket to that offering.
  2. Join forces with the selling agent.
    In a traditional sale, the buyer and the seller’s real estate agent share the commission.   When a seller’s real estate agent bring a buyer, that agent potentially doubles their commission.

    By aligning with the seller’s real estate agent and having them represent you in the purchase, you instantly make your offer more attractive to someone who might arguably be the most influential person in any real estate transaction … the seller’s real estate agent.
     
  3. Be open to being the back up offer.
    A real estate deal isn’t finalized until escrow closes.  And the journey between an accepted offer and the close of escrow is fraught with potential pitfalls.  In a seller’s market, being a backup offer is almost as powerful as being the primary offer. 
  4. Take on someone else’s problem.
    Some of my most successful real estate deals have been when I’ve was willing to take on a problem that the seller didn’t want to address.  Deals like this have an added benefit of discouraging potential competitors from creating a price war. 

  5. Be patient.
    Most importantly, be patient.  Clearly identify all of your criteria, and wait until they are met.  Once met, be ready to strike with determination and conviction.  Have your financing secured, and be prepared to utilize it.  No one ever made money by chasing the wrong deal. 

The Value of Data & Insights

The saying that knowledge is power has never been more true than it is today. Today, brands can collect (in a privacy compliant manner) a tremendous amount of information about their existing and prospective customers.

But does “more” data really make a difference? Is quantity more important than quality?

The answer is: it depends.

I’ve been in the data industry for over 10 years. During that time, I’ve learned that data, ethically applied, can be of tremendous value to an organization. I’ve also learned that it is easy to fall prey to the concept that more is better, when in reality sometimes better is better.

While data collection should be vast (after all, it is easier and more cost effective than ever to collect data), data interpretation should be mindful and deliberate. Your process should start collecting as much data as possible, then on a case by case basis utilize that data to answer very specific questions which help improve your organization.

This process sounds much easier than it is. I’ve found it is easiest to start with a basic question, and work backwards through the evaluation process to find your answer. As you work backwards through this process, you’ll be able to stress test a set of assumptions that will ultimately derive an answer based in fact – not assumptions.

Take for example the simple question “who are my best customers?”. First you must decide upon the metric that you’re assigning the term “best”. Is it your longest customer based upon time? The customers that generate the most revenue? The customers that generate the most profit?

With that question answered, you must now determine why you’re trying to answer that question. Do you want to find those customers in other media channels? Are you looking for customers like your best customers? Do you want those customers to spend more than they do today?

As you can imagine, the number of questions can be seemingly endless. It is very easy to slip into a data vortex, where you are paralyze by the sheer amount of data you need to analyze to derive your answer. But if you’re diligent, and thoughtful in your approach, you’ll be able to derive answers that bring exponential value to your organization.

Truth be told, this process is part science and part art. And quite honestly the only way to improve your results is to practice. Build, Test, Repeat. But with time, practice, and careful iterative improvements, you’ll be able to yield results that drive your business beyond the competition.

As a side note, one good resource in your journey is the Google Thinks series. Here is a recent related episode that you might find interesting.

Happy learning!

Scot

Politics – It Is Not What It Seems

Both in my personal life, and in this blog, I try to remain non-political. It seems with all of the people driven to vocalize their opinions on topics that they know little about, that adding my voice to the conversation would do little to bring any clarity to the topic.

With that said, I do have an opinion on one political topic that I feel will be beneficial to some. It’s an opinion not based in fact, but rather solely on observation. I’ll be the first to admit that I my statement is an assumption, and worse yet an assumption that entirely void of any factual evidence. But I believe it as much as anything I know.

Politicians get along more than they’d like for us to believe.

If you compare the levels of angst that politicians from opposite parties hold for each other to the animosity that voters from the same competing parties hold, its no contest. Voters have more distain.

I base this opinion from years of closely observing politicians and the actions of voters. Especially in this election, we hear stories of families and friendships being torn apart simply because of different political views. Mothers who won’t talk to sons. Fathers who threaten to “block” texts from daughters. As voters, we’re often conditioned to look at things in a binary fashion. “You’re either for me, or against me”. This leads to associating politics with an ideology. And this blinding faith only benefits one group of people: politicians.

Comparatively, politicians seem to have learned that while passion wins the race in the short sprint, collaboration wins the marathon. We often hear stories of politicians from different parties getting together for drinks after the election. We see the comradery ex-Presidents share once they’ve left office. It’s as if they know something we don’t know …. that perhaps they don’t want us to know. Simply put – it’s going to be alright.

So as we wrap up a long election evening, and wake with some more answers than we had the night before, let’s not take things more seriously than the politicians who are running for office. After all, that’s what we’re electing them to do!

Home Warranties – Are They Worth It?

For those of you who follow my blog, you know that I’ve recently been questioning my strategy of having an active home warranty policy on each of my (single family) rental properties. 

As you can read here [insert link], I’ve had several challenges with my home warranty service that have caused to me to reassess their value. 

With a little help from an appliance lifecycle guide I received from [insert website name], I created the following tab which calculates , for a given home, whether it is better to have a home warranty or not.    It compares paying for the home warranty vs. maintaining and replacing the appliances on a frequent basis. 

The Cost Of A Home Warranty

A home warranty will typically cost between $500 and $600 per year.  The factors driving this cost include how many homes you have under warranty (you can receive a multi property discount), the price of the call out fee (which ranges from $0 to $150 or more), and the number of claims that you’ve made in the past.  

For the purposes of this calculation, we’ll assume an annual policy at $525.  My leases state that the tenant must pay the per incident call out fee , which is typically about  $125.  

What The Home Warranty Covers

While each policy has its own “exclusions”, the home warranty typically doesn’t cover normal wear and tear (a recent example is an old dryer where the bearings went bad), and has certain allowances which may require you to pay an additional fee.  For example, if your air conditioner requires freon, the home warranty company may only cover a small portion of that cost. 

What Is The Alternative

The alternative is to apply the money that would have been spent on the home warranty to a fund that covers the repair of appliances in the home. 

This would be in addition to any similar allocation you maintain for the general upkeep of the property (roof, exterior walls, landscaping, etc. ). 

Given that savings rates are effectively at zero, I am not calculating any interest that may be earned on that money while it is sitting in the bank account.  Nor am I calculating any potential inflationary pressures on the cost or installation of the major appliances. 

How Do You Calculate This 

I listed all of the major appliances that the home warranty covers in each home.   I took a list of average appliance lifespans, and the average cost for the appliance installed.  I also included any annual maintenance that I might pay for, if I didn’t have a home warranty. 

I then summed the average cost for the appliance with the annual maintenance cost, and then divided that total by the lifespan to come up with an annual number.  These gave me an annualized replacement cost of each appliance, and the summarized annual number for all appliances. 

It looked like this:

Total$688
Major Home Appliance Life Expectancy Chart
ItemLife Span LowLife Span HighAverageCost (New)Yearly Maint.Cost Per Year
Air Conditioner102015$4,000$100$367
Trash Compactors712110
Dryers, Electric111814$0
Dryers, Gas111613$750$58
Dishwashers91612$475$40
Garbage Disposals101513$120$9
Freezers1220160
Microwaves5108$400$50
Ranges, Electric1320160
Ranges, Gas152319$500$26
Ranges, Hoods919140
Refrigerators, Compact4128$0
Refrigerators, Standard101814$1,000$71
Washing Machines81612$800$67
Water Heater102015$600$40

It Seems Straight Forward, But It Isn’t 

On the  face of it, my company’s out of pocket cost of $525 for the home warranty seems like a good purchase.   

But, if you take into account some other factors the economics shift:

  • The home warranty doesn’t pay for the replacement of the item.  So that becomes a neutral cost which is similar whether you purchase the warranty, or not. 
  • The manufacturer covers a warranty for the appliance for the first year.  Most major credit cards extend that warranty (albeit for personal use, but we’ll leave that point aside) one to two years more. 
  • The out of pocket expense for a repair person could be less. 
  • You’re not getting any better rate by going through the home warranty company. 

Calculating The Cost Of Repairs 

Across our several rental properties with home warranties, we see between zero repairs and two repairs related to the home warranty per year. 

With a call out fee of $125 per visit, and $525 per year per policy, in the worst case that equals $387.50 ($775 / 2). 

Putting aside major repairs like air conditioners, most other repairs can be done for less than $775 per year.  

Hedging Your Bets 

All situations are not equal.  If you recently purchase an older property that has the potential of having numerous problems (two or more per year), or you haven’t identified resources in the area of your rental property such as appliance repair people who can fix the issue, then perhaps a home warranty might be a good investment. 

It’s Just Like Any Other Insurance Policy  

At the end of the day, home warranties are just like any other insurance policy.  While they offer some protections, they have numerous exclusions, and at the end of the day you should measure your risk against the costs.  If you enforce a “first fee” with the tenant, where the tenant pays the initial cost of any repair, you can further de-risk and mitigate the need for a home warranty. 

Each case is different.  My best advice is to run the numbers each year, and adjust your strategy accordingly. 

My Email Manifesto …

I think that we can all agree that time is one of our most valuable assets, and anything that wastes our time should be avoided.  

I’ve been assessing those areas of my life, both work and personal, where I’m wasting time.  I’ve been carefully looking for inefficiencies in my own life, including instances where I create inefficiencies in the daily lives of others, and I’ve identified one of the most common sources of wasted time: 

email.  

Consider this my Email Manifesto.  I’m documenting my email best practices that can save all of us time and energy!  I practice these methods today, and find that they enable me to communicate more clearly and efficiently, and help minimize the back and forth that is common when communicating by email. Not only do these email best practices save me time, but they save time for the recipients of my emails as well.  

Like many of my best practices, I consider this a living document.  I encourage you to make it your own.  Include your own best practices on how to use email more efficiently.   Share them with coworkers, colleagues, and friends.  And share them with me !

THE TO: LINE

Choose Carefully

Email efficiency starts with choosing the right recipients.  While it may not take much to add another recipient to your email thread, it takes time and energy for the recipient to read through your email. 

Be thoughtful in who you choose to email.  Only send an email to those who need to be included in the conversation.  There is nothing more annoying than receiving an email with the lunch menu for the New York office, when you work in the Chicago office.   

Consider: Should you be emailing this at all ?

Not every document should be emailed.  Far too often we send emails, when they really should be documents which are posted in a shared drive.  Instead of emailing that status sheet to the entire company, consider posting it to a shared drive.  Not only does this ensure that it is available for everyone at any time, but it also removes one more redundant email from the inbox.  

(Don’t) Reply All 

A majority of the unnecessary emails I receive are from colleagues who are replying all to an email.  Replying All to the email from Frank in facilities letting the company know that the air conditioning has been fixed says more about you than it does about Frank.  Do everyone a favor; just email Frank and his supervisor.  You may think that you’re showing your “company spirit”, but what you’re actually doing is diluting the value of the other emails that you send that are actually important.  Quite frankly, no one cares if you agree or not, and no one wants to know what you want to have for lunch.  You can help others avoid “replying all” by putting your recipients on BCC, making it impossible for them to communicate with anyone else but you, the sender. 

Use CC properly

Similar to carefully choosing the right email recipients, it is also important to signal to the recipients your expectations of them.   Beyond giving clear instructions in the body of the email,  a good way to provide a “hint” to the recipients is in your use of the To and CC fields.   

I use these fields very intentionally to signal to the recipients my expectations of their role.   The “To” line is meant for people who should have an active voice in the conversation, or have specific action items.  The CC line is meant for those people who are “just there to listen”.  They just need to know about something, but have no actionable next steps on the topic.

It may take some time to train those with whom you actively communicate, but once you do you’ll find this similar process can save hours of time reading and answering emails.

Don’t Micromanage

Don’t require your reports to CC you on everything.  Trust them to do their jobs; then check in on them regularly to make sure that they are hitting their goals. 

THE SUBJECT LINE:

The subject line is arguably the most important part of your email.  It should be clear, consistent, and succinct.  

Want to get encourage more response to your emails?  Use powerful subject lines

Subject Line : 

  • IMPORTANT 
  • URGENT
  • INTERNAL CONFIDENTIAL
  • CONFIDENTIAL 
  • QUICK

These will help recipients prioritize your emails against their other daily action items. 

THE BODY:

Avoid pronouns

I often say “Pronouns Kill”.  It’s my way of exaggerating a point; using pronouns more often than not leads to miscommunication.  So in business, I try to limit their use. It takes a little effort to structure sentences without abusing pronouns, but once you get the hang of it you’ll eliminate any chance that your email will be misinterpreted and that the recipient might ask for clarification. 

Provide clear summaries and next steps  
If your email is lengthy, provide a short overview up top, and then a “background” beneath it.   I like to provide an “Overview:”, or use “TL:DR” (too long: didn’t read) to summarize the topic.

Future Proof Your Emails
Write each email as if there was no way for the other person to respond.  Concisely include all of the relevant information (who, what, why, when, and how), and include the dates by when you need the response.  

Include those attachments
Don’t expect the recipient to go digging through your emails to find the latest version of the document you attached four emails prior.  Think in terms of what will make the email easiest for the recipient, and just resend it. 

Maximize the Features
Have a question for the company?  Use the Survey feature instead of emailing a response.  

It’s not what you say; it’s what people read.  

Be thoughtful with the words you choose.  Always include all of the relevant details.  Don’t assume that someone remembers the topic, or your previous thread.  Provide recaps to keep it easy on the reader.  Don’t make the reader dig through threads to understand context. 

Guide the Reader

Use Highlight to help the reader find the section where you have questions. 

I hope that these tips help save you, and others, a lot of time!