Archive | January, 2013

Creating a Customized and Inexpensive “For Rent” Sign.

31 Jan

In anticipation of 2 new vacancies to fill, I’ve been preparing some marketing materials in advance. I actually have 2 signs for each unit: an arrow sign that will go at the entrance of the street with only the address, and a rectangular sign that will be posted in front of the property with the property website and my email address.

This short tutorial simply demonstrates my method of creating a homemade sign that still looks professional and is easy to ready from the road. I originally discovered this technique when creating driving direction signs for my wedding guests.

1. Purchase a blank “For Rent” sign from home improvement store. These are typically made from a corrugated plastic material. Measure the personalization space on the sign.

For Rent Sign 1 - Copy

2. Open Word, and type the text you want displayed on the sign – for example: a phone number, address, email address, or website. Thicker fonts tend to be easier to read from a distance – I used Arial Bold in my example. Use the ruler guides in Word to eyeball how tall and wide your phrase will be printed, and then adjust the font size up or down to make the font as large as possible while still fitting within the personalization space on the sign. Print and cut out your text.

For Rent Sign 2 - Copy

3. Now take a pencil, and scribble the back of the text paper – focusing particularly on the outline of the words. The smaller the font, the easier it is just to scribble on the entire backside. Your primary purpose is to create a thin layer of graphite.

For Rent Sign 3 - Copy

4. Flip the paper back over, and position the text where you want it to appear on the sign.  Tape the corners and some middle edges so the paper won’t shift while you work. Now take your pencil and trace over outline of the text. The light pressure of your pencil on the front of the text will cause a light outline of the word to get transposed on the front of the sign.

For Rent Sign 4 - Copy

5. When you’re done tracing the customization text, remove the paper and tape from the front of the sign. You should now a faint outline of your word.

For Rent Sign 5 - Copy

6. Trace the outline of each word with a dark sharpie, and then fill in the interior of the word. The sharpie is fairly forgiving, so you can effectively scribble in the filling of the text without regard to stroke direction.

For Rent Sign 6 - Copy

Wa-lah! A personalized For Rent sign. So far I’ve found the sharpie ink holds up well to the elements.

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Kicking Off 2013 with a Second Investment Property

4 Jan

We did a lot of saving in 2012, and we’re pleased to announce that we’re now under contract on another duplex!


We’ve become more confident since our first investment purchase in 2011, as evidenced by our willingness to realize greater risks for greater rewards:

The Risks

  • Empty Units to Fill – because this property was a foreclosure owned by Fannie Mae, the previous tenants’ leases were not renewed – which means the duplex will be unoccupied at time of closing. This will be my first attempt at filling a vacancy, which is a little intimidating but also an interesting challenge. Which brings me to…
  • Smaller Population – this property is located in a much smaller town, which means a much smaller pool of prospective tenants. This is my largest concern about the deal, but I do think this property shines compared to others in the area – so I’m still confident it will rent regardless. I might just have to get a little scrappy when looking for a tenant. 🙂
  • Distance – located about 45-60 minutes away from our apartment, the location will change the way we manage this property. Definitely more outsourcing of labor and repairs, but it is nice that we can visit nearby family when we do make the trip. We will have the option to hire a property management company if we get to that level of frustration, but I’m not so sure we’ll need to anytime soon.

The Rewards

  • Better Cash Flow – compared to 2011, the real estate investor market has really heated up in my area. There are fewer properties to choose from and prices are increasing. We considered ourselves lucky with the cash flow of our first property, and chalked it up to great timing never to be seen again. But surprisingly this deal exceeds the cash flow of our original investment property! I’ll be sure to post the full balance sheet after we close.
  • Newer Construction – built in 2007, you can’t hope for much better in a duplex consider our low-maintenance landlord strategy. The tenant-friendly, stained concrete floors on the lower level are a nice perk.
  • Future Appreciation – as I mentioned before, the town is quite small – but growing rapidly. The population of the metropolitan area is expanding outward, and particularly along the I-35 corridor. The are also indications that the city leadership is investing in infrastructure like water, schools, and post offices to anticipate a growing population. We intend to keep our properties for decades, so we may actually be able to reap the benefits of this projected growth, and it could later help mitigate the risk of a smaller surrounding population. 

At the time of this writing we’ve finished inspection and are working towards a late-Jan closing date. More to come!

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