Archive | April, 2014

How to Repair a Clogged Garbage Disposal

16 Apr

Repairing a jammed garbage disposal is easier than you think. We recently needed to fix a disposal while preparing a vacant unit for new tenants. The disposal emitted a soft hum with no movement, and then the motor shut off completely – suggesting some blockage had tripped a circuit breaker inside the unit. Our garbage disposal is a Badger, but I suspect this method would work for other brands too.

How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal:

1. First, the secret ingredient – baking soda. Fill the sink half-way with hot water and then mix in 1/4 cup of baking soda.

fix garbage disposal

2. Drain the baking soda/water mix so it can help wash away food buildup inside the pipes and disposal.

3. Underneath the garbage disposal is a hole that fits a hex key wrench and a red button. Insert the wrench and turn at least one full revolution. You may have to wiggle it back and forth a bit to dislodge the jam before a full rotation is possible.

repair garbage disposal

4. Carefully reach into disposal and remove any objects. Some kitchen tongs could come in handy here.

5. Push the red reset button to reactivate the motor.

6. With the water running, turn on the garbage disposal.

If the breaker trips again, wait 3-5 minutes and then repeat the steps above.

The ex-tenants had never reported the issue, so who knows how long this garbage disposal had been stuck. Steps 3-6 might be enough for the average jam, but I wasn’t making much progress until I tried the baking soda wash. In my experience a lot of “home remedies” don’t work, but this one was recommended by the manufacturer and I noticed an immediate difference when turning the wrench afterwards. I also used a plunger for good measure, but I can’t be sure whether it helped one way or another.

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30 Day Notice of Non-Renewal Letter + Move Out Instructions

9 Apr

Because necessity is the mother of invention, I recently created this 30 Day Notice of Non-Renewal letter. It was posted on the tenant’s door and an identical copy was sent via certified mail. Feel free to use or modify as needed, but please be mindful that landlord-tenant laws can vary by location.



[City], [ST] [Zip code]

30 Day Notice of Non-Renewal


Our records indicate that your lease terminates as of [Date], at which time you will begin leasing the premise on a month-to-month basis. This letter is your 30-day notice that your month-to-month tenancy will not be renewed. Please make arrangements to vacate the property by midnight on [Date].

When you are ready to vacate the property, return all keys using the included lockbox (left on porch) and attach the lockbox to the fence gate. Lockbox code: [XXXX]

The expense of cleaning or repairing damage, if any, will be charged against your security deposit of $xxxx. To ensure the maximum security deposit is returned to you, please return the premises to the same condition as you found it upon move-in, normal wear and tear excepted.

You may use this list as a guide to help reduce security deposit deductions:

• Thoroughly clean the unit
• Repair any damage
• Replace burnt out light bulbs
• Replace HVAC filters
• Lawn care – mow, trim, and remove weeds
• Remove all food, debris, pet waste, and personal belonging
• Utilities must remain connected in your name until March 31st, 2014 regardless of the date you vacate the unit
• Leave the provided fire extinguisher in kitchen

If you end up needing a few extra days, please contact [Name] at to coordinate an extension. You may also use this email address for any questions.


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How Many Rental Properties Do I Need to Retire?

3 Apr

I’ve been contemplating our long-term financial goals, prompting some reading about early retirement and financial independence. I find many of the concepts inspiring – including “The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement” by Mr. Money Mustache.


(photo by Steven Depolo)

Financial independence means different things to different people. The “extreme” retirement movement focuses on above-average savings and below-average expenses, allowing some to retire in their 30s. Personally, we want to travel and have some splurges in our retirement – including a higher standard of living than what we’re experiencing today.

What’s Our Financial End Game?
Being a dreary Monday morning, I decided to calculate the minimum number of paid-off properties we’d need to acquire before that was a legitimate possibility.

I started with averages from our existing properties to create these assumptions:

  • $160,000 purchase price per property
  • $40,000 down payment per property (25%)
  • Financed with 30-year fixed loans at 4.5% interest
  • $400/mo. in positive cash flow per property

Your inputs will vary depending on geographic location and investment strategy. We really don’t know if we can expect similar performance from future properties. Did we get lucky? Will interest rates rise? For now, we’ll use these numbers as a baseline to compare our progress against.

An online mortgage calculator tells us a $120,000 loan will have a $608 principal and interest payment. So once the mortgage is paid off, this amount can be added to existing cash flow for a total of $1,008 income per month per property – net of rental expenses but not income tax.

Next, we can see how property count affects retirement income:

# Properties Monthly Income Annual Income
1 $1,008 $12,096
2 $2,016 $24,192
3 $3,024 $36,288
4 $4,032 $48,384
5 $5,040 $60,480
6 $6,048 $72,576
7 $7,056 $84,672
8 $8,064 $96,768
9 $9,072 $108,864

Our Conclusion
This exercise intentionally ignores our retirement accounts. We maximize our Roth IRAs contributions, but could hypothetically be financially independent before reaching the age for qualified distributions (59 1/2) and social security (62-70).

Given that, our initial gut check is that we need at least 5-6 paid off properties before we can even consider celebrating. Those contemplating retirement often have the temptation to work “just one more year” so I would not be surprised if we feel the need for “just one more property” too. 🙂

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