• Florence Travel Guide

    I’m finally getting around to writing about our trip to Italy. We went near the end of March – it ended up being colder than I had anticipated.

    Before you get too far into this post, be sure to listen these amazing street performers in Florence. I’m kicking myself for not buying their CD while we were there.

    About my packing decisions: I don’t think I understood what the term “layering” meant. I took it to mean various random jackets all to be worn at once. No, just no. Horrible decision. My “uniform” on this trip consisted of a long sleeve cotton shirt, fleece jacket, hoodie, and wind breaker/rain jacket.

    This was not a comfortable combination of clothes and I was a fashion nightmare. Okay, so with my biggest mistake out of the way, I’ll get on with trip details.

  • Analyzing Rental Property

    One of the most important elements of real estate investing is knowing how to properly analyze a deal. This one task is what holds a lot of people back and what causes many to succumb to “analysis paralysis”.

    To get comfortable with analyzing properties, set a goal to analyze a certain number per week. A good way to do this is to simply go to a website like Realtor.com or Zillow.com, type in the area where you would like to look for rental properties, and pick a few to start with. Once you go through this process for a few weeks, you’ll be able to scan through a listing and almost instantly know if it’s a good deal or not. Of course, whether it’s a good deal pertains to the location in which you are looking and certain market factors based on that location, but what I will describe here can be used as a general rule or metric to strive for.

    I will note that I invest for cash flow and don’t really incorporate potential appreciation into my considerations. Although it would be nice if the property appreciates, I count it solely as a bonus, not as a deciding factor when purchasing real estate.

  • Wild and Wonderful West Virginia

    A few weeks ago I decided that we would take a spontaneous road trip to West Virginia. I was partly inspired by the popular John Denver song which has the lyrics, “Almost heaven, West Virginia”. Plus, we were within a couple hours drive so I thought, “why not?”

    Since this trip was partly spontaneous, I didn’t have as much time to do as thorough research as I would have liked, but, for what time I did have I think I did pretty good. We went the last weekend of September which was unseasonably warm. If I could plan the trip again I would probably come when the fall foliage is out in full force.

    Before we left, I had made a fancy google map which had our entire route inputted. I knew there would not be good cell phone service but I thought if I pre-loaded the map then it would be fine. Warning, do not hit the “arrived” button when you get to the first destination. I did this and it erased all of the remaining stops plus we happened to be in a no cell service area.

    The map below details the route we took, starting with our first destination, Glade Creek Grist Mill which is located in Babcock State Park. To get a sense of direction, this area of WV is located near the southeast of the state.

    On our way to the Grist Mill, we passed through a lot of old coal towns which were very depressing looking. It looked like there was nowhere to work and houses were falling down or looked uninhabitable. Later, I looked up houses for sale in these towns and you could buy a house for around $15,000-$20,000.

    Onward to our first stop!

  • Lazy Days & Thinking

    Mike has had to work the last few weekends so that usually leaves me at home by myself. Over the years, I think I’ve gotten pretty good at entertaining myself. Here’s my schedule of what I did today:

    5:15am – wake up and eat breakfast

    5:45-8:30 – read and watch news

    8:30-10:30 – fold laundry and clean

    11:30 – lunch

    12:30 – drive around different neighborhoods to get a feel for what’s going on; I find this a good strategy for knowing  how good a neighborhood is whenever a potential investment property comes up for sale.

    2:00 – grocery shopping

    3:30 – short nap

    4:00 – 2 mile walk

    5:00 – relax with wine & watch the rain

    6:00 – write this blog post


    So, there you have it. My entire Saturday. A part of me wishes I had been more productive but there is appreciation to be had in relaxing and just being happy with your own company. I expect some people would be mortified when given the prospect of spending the entire day alone with their own thoughts.


    “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.” – Henry Ford

  • Hike to Angel’s Rest

    I recently got back into hiking and thought it would be interesting to feature some of the hikes I go on. Angel’s rest is located in Pearisburg, VA and is part of the Appalachian Trail. Getting to the trail head may be a little tricky if it’s your first time going. Starting from the Dairy Queen in Pearisburg, begin on Johnston Ave. Turn right from Johnston Ave. to Morris Ave. Morris turns into Cross Ave. and the road soon becomes enclosed by the forest. Total distance from Dairy Queen to the trail head is about 0.9 miles. There is only room for about 5 cars to park alongside the road so I always try to get there early. Here are the approximate coordinates that can be typed into your GPS: 37.329303, -80.751666

    View of the parking area

    Quick Summary of Hike

    Out & Back Distance: 5.2 miles

    Elevation Gain: 1,781 feet

    Total Time: 2 hours, 2 minutes (2.6 mph)

  • Marriage & Money – The Maker or Breaker of Success

    We’ve all heard that statistic that says “The most common cause of divorce is disagreements over money.” While this may very well be true, it doesn’t have to be true for you.

    Mike and I have always been on the same page about money and finances from day 1. A month after we started dating, I gave him the Dave Ramsey financial peace CD set for him to listen to on his way to work. Maybe we are both just weird, but somehow, he did not run away from me.

    He started to really get into the whole Dave Ramsey way of life and even read a couple of his books. Whenever we were in the car together we would listen to Dave’s podcasts. It became normal for us to say “What would Dave do?”

    Being so open and forthcoming about financial topics early on in our relationship opened the door for conversations about our own personal finances, goals, and ideas.

  • The Reality of Being an Introvert in an Extroverted World

    Team-building. Networking. Meet and Greet. If you’re like me, these phrases make you cringe; wishing you could just curl up under a blanket and forget about the outside world. To be successful in life, you will have to endure these events and activities. You don’t have to like them, but you have to do them. 

    The Difference Between Introverts and Extroverts

    If you read the first three words of this article and felt a sense of energy and excitement, then you are definitely an extrovert. You get your energy by being surrounded by other people. Those kinds of events fuel you up so that you can run all evening long. If you read those first three words and you thought, “Ugh, not again”, then you are probably an introvert. Introverts get their energy by being alone and away from the buzz of the outside world. Being in a room filled with the drone of multiple conversations and trying to conjure up small-talk with a stranger is not an introvert’s idea of a good time.

    The word “introvert” has been getting mentioned a lot more lately than it has been in the past. I had actually never really heard of it until a couple of years ago when I read Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

    For a lot of people, including me, hearing the definition of introvert is somewhat a sense of relief; relief to know that you’re not in the boat alone; relief that there are millions of other people out there who feel the exact same way you do. Being an introvert is not a bad thing.

  • Year 1 Landlord Report

    It has officially been 1 year since we rented out our first rental house! I can’t decide if we’ve just been lucky by not having any issues *knock on wood* or if my diligent screening process has really paid off.

    For the entire year, these tenants were never late with the rent check and only called me once. Zero 2am toilet calls. I’m not just going to assume this is how it will be forever because something is bound to go wrong in a house that’s 60+ years old.

    5 months ago, we increased our rental portfolio buy purchasing a duplex. One unit was vacant and we inherited the tenant in the other unit. The rent was definitely below market value but I didn’t want to upset the tenant and risk her leaving by raising it. She keeps the place in pristine condition and pays like clockwork. I think it’s fine that I’m forgoing a bit of extra money to not have to risk finding another high quality tenant.

    Okay, now what you’ve been waiting for: The numbers!

  • 6 Success Tips for Work & Life

    “For every person climbing the ladder of success, there are ten waiting for the elevator.”

    “Success can only occur when opportunity and preparation meet.”

    “Some want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.”

    1. Wake Up Early & Implement a Morning Routine

    “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”

    The majority of successful people I’ve read about get up very early. For a lot of people, this is the only time of the day they get to themselves. Your morning sets the tone for the remainder of the day. If you’re stressed and running late then chances are, this is how the rest of your day will go. However, if you wake up early, you have a leisurely morning where you get to conquer the morning, the morning doesn’t conquer you.

    Reading various memoirs and biographies of successful people, I’ve learned most of them wake up about 3 hours before they start their days “work”. In addition to waking up early they also get caught up on news, eat a healthy breakfast, exercise, meditate or pray, and write in a journal.

    I’ve been practicing this same routine for the past 3 years and I can attest to the fact that it really does work. 5-8am is my favorite part of the day and I’m happy to say that I’ve never had to hit the snooze button.

  • 7 Tips on How to Avoid Nightmare Tenants

    You seem to always hear about a landlord talking about their “nightmare tenant”.

    I have an acquaintance who is a landlord and is constantly telling me the latest tenant horror story.

    Tenant in jail for cutting a woman’s head with a machete, drugs being made in the house, dealing with evictions; it seems to be never-ending. All of these stories are followed up with, “see what you have to look forward to?”

    We have officially been landlords for about one year now and do not yet have our horror story and I hope that we will never have one. So far we’ve gone through the tenant selection process with 2 units and have 1 unit that was an inherited tenant.

    I think a major part of us having good luck so far was the selection process I went through to find the tenants. I didn’t just welcome in the first person to inquire about the property.

    1. Diversify your advertising sources

    In order for more people to see that you have a property for rent, you need to use a variety of advertising sources. I’ve had the most luck with Craigslist and yard signs.

    I’ve also used Facebook groups and Zillow. Facebook definitely had a lot more views and inquiries but nothing that really led to anything promising.

    The more serious people seemed to be on Craigslist and calling my phone from seeing the yard sign.

    I considered using a newspaper if the vacancy lasted too long but it was more like a last resort type thing since it seemed pretty expensive.

    The yard sign is great because a lot of times older people won’t have access to the internet and the only way they find out about it is seeing it from the road.