Landlord Interview #1: Margie Conrad on how to succeed as a landlord, the value of a like-minded community, and her go-to property management system

Written By Alexis

In the world of real estate investing, some individuals stand out for their remarkable journey and accomplishments. Margie Conrad, the founder of 55+ Properties LLC, is one such landlord who has achieved substantial success in the industry.

With almost six years of experience as a landlord, Margie’s passion for real estate investing has led her to build an impressive portfolio of properties totaling over 3 million dollars.

In this exclusive interview, Margie shares insights into her journey, her strategies for success, and valuable advice for aspiring landlords.

How long have you been a landlord, and what got you interested in real estate investing?

It has been almost 6 years. We had “dabbled” in it in 2002 but sold the 3 we bought. We always knew we wanted to do it again.

How old are you and do you have a family?

I am 61 and I have a husband, 4 boys, and 3 grandkids.

Are you a full-time or part-time landlord? Do you have a job?

Once we had 6 units it became apparent that if we wanted to do this seriously I would have to quit my “day” job, so I did.

Tell us about your properties (type, doors, $ value)? What area of the country, urban/rural?

We have a pretty diversified portfolio. We have multi-families, single family, Condo, Mid term rentals and short term rental. We have a total of 31 doors. The total value of all our properties is over 3 million. The bulk of our properties are in South St. Louis but we also have some in Lemay, University City, Florissant, Ferguson, Lake of the Ozark and we had a condo on nightly rental at Branson MO.

How did you find your propertyies and what made you decide to buy?

The majority of our properties were bought off market, and a very few were MLS. When asked where I find them I say “everywhere” and it is true. I have found some on Facebook marketplace, from wholesalers, other investors, word of mouth, and once by just making an offer.

What is the value of your property(ies)? Do you have any mortgages?

The value of all of our real estate is over 3 million dollars. We do have mortgages and they add up to 1.2 million.

How much money do you make today as a landlord?

We bring in $24,000.00 per month.

Do you use a property management company? Did you in the past? Tell us how you found them and how it’s going.

I manage our properties. We did use a couple of property management companies in the past but were never satisfied with the outcome. Either they did not want to take care of the building the way we wanted or they would charge us for things that the tenant should have been charged such as clogged sink, broken window etc. We did have a management company for a multifamily in Cape Girardeau. We did that because it was too far for me to drive regularly.

What is your application process like for potential tenants, and how do you screen them?

We have made our own application that asks for all information that I want to keep such as their full name, social security number, driver’s license number, and date of birth. I then run my own check through casenet and if it looks good then I have them pay the $40 for the official background check. This way I will have that information should I ever need to evict. If they just do the $40 background check you get the results but you never see what their social security number or driver’s license number is.

How do you collect rent? Do you use an online system or software?

We use Tenant Cloud where tenants can pay rent, send maintenance requests and send messages.

How do you handle maintenance and repairs on your properties?

The tenant calls me and I try to troubleshoot it over the phone if able. If not, we send a maintenance person right away if it is a water issue or gas leak. Otherwise it can take 24 hours for maintenance to get to it. We try to take care of maintenance calls as quick as possible. We do charge the tenant for items that were caused by them, it states it very clearly in our lease. We do not let them use other maintenance persons as we do not know their credentials and they could potentially break something or make it unsafe. Our lease also states that if new equipment has to be purchased we charge the cost plus 5%.

How do you determine rent prices, and do you raise rents and how often?

We like to give tenants a nice place to live and bring friends and family over so we try to push the rent up to upper edge that the market will allow. Every quarter I print a list of the tenants whose lease is coming to an end. I then look and see what the rents are in that area with same rooms, square footage etc. I then inform the tenant that they have the opportunity to renew and what the new price will be, they can then decide if they want to renew. If a tenant wants to stay on a month to month or just does not sign the new lease we charge and extra $50.00 per month.

What’s your approach to renewing (or non-renewing) leases? What about security deposits?

When a lease is coming up to being renewed, if the tenants paid rent on time and did not cause any problems, we will inform them that they qualify for renewal. If not, we send a standard form that informs them that we will not be renewing the lease and insert the date that they have to move out and what is expected to be done upon move out (clean unit, etc). We will then schedule a walk through for the day of or day after they move out. If all is good we give them the deposit back. If there are any items that need attention we give them a detailed itemized list and cost and we deduct that from the deposit.

How do you deal with problem tenants?

Each situation is different but for the most part I sent a 10 day notice to quit and explain what the lease violation is and that if it is not fixed in 10 days they are to be evicted. It also states that if it is the 3rd notice, we will start the eviction process. Multi-family buildings is where you will have more of these issues. You cannot take sides with one tenant or the other; you can only go by facts. If it is a noise complaint you can ask some of the other tenants if they heard the noise or I tell the complaining tenant to take video/audio of it.

Have you ever had to evict a tenant? How did you handle it?

Yes, I had to evict a woman who I inherited as a tenant. She was selling drugs. I was able to get her out and low and behold a squatter got in and so I had to evict him as well. I also had to evict another tenant once. Use a good local lawyer that who’s niche is evictions. It will get done quicker and go a lot smoother. Also, never wait until the tenant is months behind; they get to where they owe you so much they just cannot catch up. Start the eviction papers as soon as they are 15 days late. If they pay up before the court date, great; if not you will get your unit back to making money quicker than if you let months go by.

What are some key legal considerations that new landlords should be aware of?

If your tenant lets someone stay there and they have brought their clothes or other items, you will have to go through the eviction process to get them out. For this reason, our lease has in big bold letters that no subletting is allowed and any guest who stays longer than 5 days has to go through us to have them vetted. If they do not vet out they are asked to leave immediately and tenant is given a 10 day notice to quit. Make sure that your lease is in plain english and put major items in bold. I ask them to take 24 hours to read it before they sign it.

I make sure that all maintenance requests are through the software so that there is a record of it. I also ask that they text me instead of calling so there is a record of our conversations. There are more things you can do but I would need a lot more time to go over them.

Have you ever had a natural disaster or other emergency? What happened?

We did have huge limbs fall from the neighbors house and it broke the fence. Other than that, no natural disaster. I have had broken water lines, broken water heaters, flooding from an upstairs bath into the unit below, having to replace all the sewer lines under the building and relocating tenants while the work is being done, a fire that destroyed a house, an evicted squatter that came back and trashed the unit along with writing threats on the wall with red sauce and other types of emergencies. You have to learn that this is part of owning multiple properties and you cannot let it distress you.

Tell us about the craziest/most unusual story or situation that we almost wouldn’t believe?

An inherited tenant broke into one of my empty units and broke the gas line and was trying to break open the electrical box by the stove to create a spark to blow up the building. He had also stolen all the materials and tools that were in there. About $4,000 worth of cabinets, a sink, faucets, a bath vanity and all of my tools. He said that he wanted to die so he was going to blow up the building. I took the big wrench that he was using to try and break the electrical box and called the police. It was a surreal event.

Have you ever dealt with a situation where a tenant was subletting or using the property for something other than its intended purpose?

Yes, and he was a Section 8 recipient so he got his rent free and was then charging this young couple and their baby to stay with him. I managed to get them out of there without having to go through the eviction process and I got the tenant to lose his Section 8 voucher.

Can you recommend any resources or tools that have been particularly helpful to you as a landlord?

For sure. Tenant software is a life saver. We use Tenant Cloud along with Quick Books. Tenants pay their rent through it, can send maintenance requests, etc and it does have nice reports. I also use Mile IQ to track miles.

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out as a landlord?

Do your research and familiarize yourself then call your mentor. Don’t have one? Call someone from the InvestHer group, let them know what is going on and what you need help with. Trust me when I say this is your strongest asset . Know what you want and stay focused. Don’t over analyze. If the numbers work they work; if they don’t then move on. Don’t get bogged down with the negative, take it as a learning experience. Don’t get wrapped up in others success and compare yourself to them; someone will always have more than you so it’s a losing battle that will just get in your way. Focus on your success and your personal goals. Each one is a win and you are successful. Be happy with what you have and who you are.

How do you stay organized with multiple properties and tenants?

Staying organized is a challenge. Make sure you have a good software where tenants can pay rent and send maintenance requests. Having the right people around you is critical; not just a handyman, but also a plumber, electrician, tuckpointer, HVAC, etc. It may take you going through a few to find the ones that will be a right fit.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a landlord?

Wearing so many hats. I am a hands-on person and I love being at the properties and being part of the process and putting my touch on things, but the clerical and admin things then start to bog me down. I am seriously going to get a virtual assistant and see where I can free myself up.

What is the key to managing a rental property successfully?

Whatever system you find works for you, stick with it. Vet your perspective tenant heavily, no sad stories accepted, no evictions or convictions. Make sure that the tenants are aware of what they can and cannot do. Hold them to it. Be a good landlord and address maintenance issues quickly. Keep the property in good repair and updated.

What’s the most rewarding part of being a landlord?

Giving people a nice place to live. Not just a place to sleep, but a place that they can bring their friends to.

What are your plans for the future?

Continue to buy more properties as we find them. Right now I am finishing a very large house in Princeton Heights that will become a short term rental.

I feel like I could write so much more but I hope that what I did will help you, inspire you, or make you get creative thoughts on what to do with your business. Its your baby and you can create it however you want.

Margie Conrad 55+ Properties LLC

Margie Conrad’s journey as a landlord is a testament to the rewards and challenges of real estate investing. Through her dedication and hands-on approach, Margie has transformed her properties into comfortable homes and nurtured a thriving rental business. As she continues to expand her portfolio, Margie’s commitment to providing quality housing and building strong relationships with tenants remains at the core of her success. For anyone embarking on a similar path, Margie’s advice to stay focused, seek guidance, and embrace the learning process serves as a valuable compass in navigating the world of real estate investing.

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