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Couple Takes on Small Projects with New Rental Homes

Chris Ryan and his wife, Jan, had always planned to turn their first home into a rental when they moved to a larger home as they watched the housing market collapse.

“The market was down, and we didn’t want to lose money on the house, so we decided to move forward with the plan to rent it out,” Ryan says.

Like many young investors, the couple, now co-owners of Ryan’s Rentals, tackled their renovations by themselves. When Ryan lived in that first rental home, he had taken the time to do some renovations, including adding a rec room, bathroom and laundry room in the basement.

And when the couple bought a second rental property in late 2012, they had learned how to do their own work to the home to get it ready to rent.

One of the first things on Ryan’s mind when he was looking for a new property was a home that had enough work to build equity but that wouldn’t break the bank.

“With small children and other obligations, I only have weekends free to work on rental properties, so I can’t spent months rehabbing a property,” he says. “When I purchase a property, I’ll clean, paint, install smoke detectors and blinds and new appliances if necessary. I’ll basically do any minor handyman work.”Ryan 5

Ryan says he tackles common projects include clearing out any underground storm drain lines; removing and trimming trees; grading the property, if needed; and replacing exterior doors by himself, choosing to only hire out the bigger, more complex projects.

He takes the same approach when doing repairs. “If a tenant complains about something, I’ll investigate and diagnose the problem. If I can fix it quickly, I will. If I can’t resolve the problem quickly, and I know the cost of the repair will be low, I’ll hire someone to fix it so as not to inconvenience the tenants.

“If the cost of the repair will be high, or if there aren’t any tenants currently living in the property, I will do the work myself,” he says.

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When it comes to where Ryan shops for his home improvement products, he says he turns to big boxes and the Internet­—which should catch the attention of independents, who have long coined the market on young home owners conceding they need the help of independent retailers. As shown by Ryan, many young consumers are finding convenience and help at the competition.

“I am really just looking for availability of the product and a good price,” he says. “Any product knowledge can be found on the Internet.”

He also shops online—“Amazon has specialty and hard-to-find products, and I’ve been turning to craigslist more and more for the items I need”—and even relies on the Internet for appliance-repair resources.

Ryan is currently looking for a third rental property, preferably one in turnkey condition, or close to it.

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“The recession didn’t affect my rental business, and our area has recovered,” he says. “It did drive down mortgage rates. Low mortgage rates were part of what prompted me to purchase another house to rent.

“The demand for renters has always been strong here. I’ve never had a problem renting out a house.”

About Liz Lichtenberger

Liz is the special projects editor for Hardware Retailing magazine. She reports on news and trends, visits retailers, and attends industry events. She graduated from Xavier University, where she earned a degree in English and Spanish and was a member of the swim team. Liz is a Louisville, Kentucky, native who lives in Indianapolis with her husband and two children. She enjoys swimming, reading, doing home improvement projects around her house and cheering on her two favorite basketball teams, the Kentucky Wildcats and the Xavier Musketeers.

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