In an effort to reduce our expenses and get into the real estate game, E and I recently bought a duplex and plan to rent out our house. We have learned few lessons.
1.) Always use at least 3 lenders! Never rely on one bank to do your loan and it go smoothly. When we bought our house, which cost twice what the duplex cost, we had 2 or 3 lenders competing for our business. Every time one offered us a rate, the other told us to "check this, and check that, because I can offer you this". This forced the underwriters to hurry up and do their job (well). Our closing went perfectly.
Buying the duplex, we used only one lender and had no such luck. You would have thought we recently filed bankruptcy or something! They kept wanting to check and recheck everything at the last minute - and when I say at the last minute, I mean AFTER the scheduled closing date. The underwriter even forced E to install air conditioning units BEFORE they would lend us the money! Is that the craziest thing? Who invests 5 THOUSAND dollars into a property he doesn't own? But we did it - because the lender said that after this, we will definitely get the loan. They STILL wouldn't even give us that loan (an owner occupied loan) because they didn't believe that we actually move out of our house into the duplex. We ended up having to get an investor loan. While the duplex is not as new as our house, it is (in my opinion) very nice. Well, it has a lot of potential. We are getting contractors to upgrade it. Which brings me to my next lesson.
2.) When using contractors, have a VERY detailed contract! While our contractors are doing a great job so far, they are taking their time doing the work. When I saw that it was taking a longer than I expected, I asked the main contractor on Friday when they would be done. He asked me when I wanted it to be done. I told him, Monday, hesitantly - because I figured it would be hard to do - seeing how long it took so far. But, he told me that they could finish it by Monday. So I scheduled some people to come and clean the place on Monday night. Well, come Monday - they haven't even put the toilets back (they had to remove them in order to do the tile).
So, I call the main contractor and he tells me he forgot that I told him I was getting it cleaned on Monday, but says that he is going to go back and put in the toilets that night. Well, he doesn't. He doesn't put them in until the next morning. Now, had I had a contract specifying the time it would take and putting in some penalties for taking too long ($50-$100/day) or bonus for finishing up before the deadline - I wouldn't have to worry about it. Because his pay is not dependent on time, he has no incentive to hurry up. Furthermore, they don't even tell me when things are running behind! They tell me Monday at 6 - the reason I know they are not done at 6 is because I am there and I see it isn't done. The reason I know the toilets aren't installed is because I am there and the toilets are not installed.
3.) Overestimate the amount of time it will take to pack and move. The guys renting our place are supposed to be moving in on Saturday. And I am not even half-way moved out! I would take off work, but my project at work is on a strict time line.