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The Heaviest Corner on Earth Was Once in Birmingham, Alabama

With a nickname like the Magic City, it’s understandable Birmingham would hold unusual and interesting things within its boundaries.  One of the more interesting tidbits is the fact that at one time, Birmingham held the distinction of having the Heaviest Corner on Earth.  In the early 1900s, four of the South’s tallest buildings were constructed at 20th Street and First Avenue in downtown Birmingham. In 1911, an article was published in Jemison Magazine that was titled “Birmingham to Have the Heaviest Corner in the South.” This corner was later widely referred to as the ‘Heaviest Corner on Earth,’ which is what it’s still known as today.



A marker at the site reads: “At the turn of the 20th century, Birmingham was a small town of two and three-story buildings with a few church steeples punctuating the skyline. During the industrial boom from 1902 to 1912 which made Birmingham the largest city in the state, four large buildings were constructed at the intersection of the city’s main streets. The Woodward Building (now National Bank of Commerce), constructed in 1902 on the southwest corner, was the city’s first steel-frame skyscraper.   A good example of the Chicago school style of architecture, it brought a dramatic change to the vertical scale of the existing Victorian city. In 1906 the 16-story Brown Marx Building rose on the northeast corner; in 1908 an addition more than doubled its size.  Long the South’s largest office building, its principal tenant was United States Steel Corporation. The Empire Building (1909, northwest corner) and John A. Hand Building (1912, southeast corner),  completed the ‘Heaviest Corner.’ Sheathed in marble, limestone, and terra cotta, they exemplify the more ornamental neoclassical style. Along the cornice of the Empire Building (now Colonial Bank), ‘E’s’ stand for the Empire Improvement Company, which built the tower.   At the time, the height and mass of the buildings were so impressive that the intersection of First Avenue North and 20th Street was proclaimed the heaviest corner on earth. Today these buildings represent the most significant group of early skyscrapers in the city.”

All four office buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Woodward Building, which is now known as the National Bank of Commerce, was placed on the list in 1983. The remaining three office buildings were listed in 1985.

The Woodward Building was built in 1902 (photo circa 1904).  This building stood 10 stories and is located at the southwest corner.  It is now the National Bank of Commerce building.

The Brown Marx Building was built in 1906, stands 16 stories and is located on the northeast corner.

The Empire Building was constructed in 1909, stands 16 stories and is located on the northwest corner.

The John A. Hand Building (now the American Trust & Savings Building) was built in 1912, stands 21 stories and sits on the southeast corner.

At the time of the construction of these four buildings, the south had never seen such skyscrapers.  The vast majority of commercial buildings in the south were between 2 and 6 stories at best so when these buildings were built, this was understandably a huge event.  Nowadays, with the possible exception of the John A. Hand Building which stands at 21 stories, the other three buildings wouldn’t be considered skyscrapers.  But back in the early 1900’s….they were impressive indeed.


Decas Gives Back

Giving back to the community not only makes good business sense in that it gets your face and name out there, it also makes you feel good.  But even more than that, it changes the lives of others. It makes your employees feel good.  It certainly makes the people that you help feel good.  Many of the people that you help just need that helping hand.  They just need that temporary support in order to make their way in the world.   Community service is a win-win all the way around.  Decas Realty would like to use this week’s article to spotlight one charitable organization that is near and dear to their hearts.  That organization is called The First Light.

Decas Realty was first introduced to the First Light Organization by Heather Benoit who has volunteered for this organization and has helped with fundraising for approximately the last 10 years.  Once Decas decided to volunteer, there was no turning back – they were hooked – and this Thanksgiving will mark the 4th Holiday season that has seen Decas involved.

When I asked Mr. Jonathan Benoit of Decas Realty recently why he felt the First Light Organization was the charity for his company to focus their efforts on, he replied that Decas likes to serve the needy and give back to the community.  He also felt strongly about the First Light Organization because they “allow women and their children a safe place to sleep for the night when nobody else is willing to help them.  It also provides them with a hot meal, a shower, and a bed.  It gives these ladies peace of mind while in the transition from a bad life.”  It should be noted that not all shelters will allow women to bring their children with them.  First Light does.


Back in the early 1980’s area ministers had noticed a dramatic uptick in the number of homeless people who died.  A group of area ministers decided to do something about it and in 1983 they started an emergency night shelter that was located in the basement of the First Presbyterian Church located at 2100 4th Avenue North in downtown Birmingham and was staffed entirely by volunteers.  This shelter could accommodate up to 15 women and children but would sometimes provide safety and shelter to over 40 women and children.

First Light was incorporated on March 13, 1998 and a capital campaign was begun to renovate the old Granada Hotel, which was located just two blocks away from the church and had recently burned. The old hotel was renovated to accommodate more women and children, to provide space for social services and day programs, and to have living space for permanent residents who were unlikely to live independently again. Since its inception, First Light has grown considerably due to the generous support of local faith communities, corporations, individuals, foundations and civic groups.  First Light was able to move into the fully renovated Granada Hotel in May, 2000.

The old Granada Hotel was renovated to accommodate more women, to give families a private space during their stay here, to give the guests a place to stay during the day, to provide space for social services and day programs, and to have living space for permanent residents who were unlikely to move out of the shelter.  The new building holds up to 70 women and children and the First Light Organization has approximately 65 apartments throughout the Birmingham area to house the women and children who are ready to live independently.

Below are a few success stories from First Light:

Ms. Jane is a woman whose tenure is the longest of all First Light guests. She was among the first to move into the basement of First Presbyterian Church when it was still an emergency night shelter. She became a kind of mother figure to all other guests, nurturing new arrivals, keeping laundry done, and tending to most housekeeping matters. It became clear that Ms. Jane had found her place in life at the shelter. Matters outside the shelter in the community at large, however, were problematic. She preferred not to go out at all. It became apparent that there was a defined need for permanent housing for women like Ms. Jane… a place to call home, but with assistance from a professional social work staff. To this day, Ms. Jane lives on the fourth floor of First Light as a permanent resident. Things have changed… Jane is happy, stable, and makes monthly visits to Wal-Mart. She has even attended the ballet with other First Light guests- and she had a wonderful time!

Valerie came to us, not because of alcohol, drugs, or domestic violence, but because she had been laid off and subsequently lost her car, her apartment, her two sons and all sense of pride. Immediately upon entering the emergency shelter, Valerie began to seek employment and educational opportunities. Four months later, she had a full-time job, was enrolled in Virginia College and moved out into her own apartment. Several months after leaving First Light, we received an invitation to her graduation ceremony! A few months after graduation, she sent us a card with a picture of her and her two sons! She had regained custody and they were living happily together.

Due to severe mental illness and drug addiction, Susan lost her marriage, her home, and the affection of her sons. During her first stay at First Light, Susan stabilized with the assistance of psychiatric care and then left the shelter to live with her eldest son. This happened two more times. It is very difficult to stay on a healthy plane without professional assistance. It was Susan’s third arrival at First Light that made a lasting difference. Determined not to fail, Susan applied herself in every way to achieving mental health, sobriety and full independence.  Presently, Susan is living in an apartment under our Bessemer HUD program. She sees her sons regularly and has the warmest of smiles when she returns to First Light for group therapy.

I recently spoke with Ms. Ruth Crosby, Executive Director of the First Light Organization.  She has been with First Light since 1998.  Speaking with her is like speaking with a friend that you’ve known for decades.  I can certainly understand the enormous success of this amazing organization with her at the helm.  Ms. Crosby shared that the First Light is unique in that they have volunteers who bring dinners every night of the year.  She also told me that volunteers spend the night in the emergency shelter every night.

The First Light is a true hospitality center and they log over 10,000 volunteer hours a year.

The folks at Decas Realty had a great time serving food to the guests at First Light.  Here are a few pictures of them hard at work.

The First Light Organization has a sign that pretty much sums up their attitude.

For more information on The First Light Organization and how you can help, please view their website:


How to Say Goodbye to Your Full Time job and Make Real Estate Investing Your One and Only Job

Have you ever run across a help wanted post that asked for a real estate investor?  Me either.  Truth is, no one is advertising to hire “a real estate investor”  but there are plenty of people who would like to trade their full-time job for real estate investing.

So how does that happen?  How can you say goodbye to your 9 to 5 job and work full-time for yourself as a real estate investor?

First, you should know that it takes time to build up your real estate investment business so it can sustain you without the need to have a traditional job. How quickly you get there depends on a lot of factors. An investor looking to replace a monthly income of $10K through single-family rentals will have a longer road than say the wholesaler who’s trying to replace a $40K per year income and is fine with the income clock resetting to zero at the end of every month.

How do you know when to quit your 9 to 5?
While there are no magic, universal formulas to know when to quit your job, there are a couple of tested and true formulas that while generalized, can be extremely helpful when making your decisions.  In other words, knowing when comes down to numbers and risk tolerance.  Everyone’s situation is different.  Everyone’s ambitions are different.  What works for one simply will not work for another.  With this in mind, it’s best to sit down early in your real estate investment career and figure out exactly what you need per month, or per year in order to sustain not only your personal livelihood but the livelihood of your real estate investment career as well.  Add those numbers together and you will find the magic number.  Oh yeah, don’t forget to add a little padding for unexpected expenses on both sides.

Let’s look at a couple of scenarios.

  • The first scenario is the Buy and Hold Investor.

The accepted formula for this scenario is as follows:  Target Monthly Income ÷ Average Monthly Cash Flow per Rental = # of Investment Properties

In this scenario, we’ll say you’re looking to earn $6K per month passively and your typical cash flow is $300 per property AFTER expenses.   In this case, you will need a portfolio of 20 cash-flowing units to walk away from your 9 to 5. How much you leverage your properties plays a major role in the number of properties needed, so know your numbers and leverage well.
  • The second scenario is the Wholesaler  (aka the quick flipper)
The accepted formula for this scenario is as follows:  Target Annual Income ÷ Average Profit per Wholesale or Flip = # of Yearly Transactions
For the wholesaler a.k.a. quick flipper, you’ll need to figure out what you need to earn per year and divide it by your average profit per deal. If you average a wholesale fee of $5K and want to earn $50K this year, you’ll need to close 10 deals. Working backward from there, consider the number of leads you need to generate in order to close 10 deals.  That should become your primary focus as well as the “wash, rinse, repeat” system of marketing for leads to get you off the boss’s time clock.
If you look a little closer, you’ll notice that for the buy and hold investor, the target income is broken down per month, whereas for the wholesaler and flipper, it’s based on a yearly basis. The reason for this is because rentals are typically consistent.  Other than some vacancy between tenants, your monthly income is fairly stable.

Before considering going the route of becoming a Wholesaler you should fully realize that the income can be inconsistent. You may go for three months without a good deal. Then suddenly two fall into your lap from marketing you did six months ago. For the fix and flipper or wholesaler, it’s a little harder to close deals each and every month, especially if you’re just starting out. So breaking up your income goal on an annual basis is a great way to stave off a panic when you have a few dry months.

Getting yourself ready to walk away from your job starts from the very first day you decide to take that leap.

You have to build your business into one that has replicable and repeatable systems that will allow you to scale up as your experience and capital allows.  This is a process of failures and wins.  The difference between a successful investor and an unsuccessful investor usually is the fact that a successful investor sees their failures as a learning experience and their wins as proof that they were able to learn from their mistakes and modify their system accordingly.

If you’re able to create one closed deal by marketing and speaking with a few distressed sellers, you should be able to repeat that success. Documenting the steps you took to close the deal and repeating those steps is how you grow.
In addition, the professional investor has quality resources in place to help close more deals than the competition, including:
  • Motivated Seller Leads
  • Title Companies
  • Standardized Contracts
  • Referral Partners
  • General Contractors
  • Access to Capital
  • Insurance Agents
  • Appraisers
  • Buyers Lists
  • Mentors

All of the resources listed above are essential tools to the professional investor. You simply can’t do it all by yourself and understanding this from day one is crucial to your success.  To be successful, you must invest in the relationships and resources that propel you toward success.  At the same time, you must make note of the missteps, relationships, and resources that didn’t help you and strive not to repeat those mistakes.

Making the transition from being a 9 to 5 employee to being a full-time real estate investor is the dream of most people who get into this business. Getting to that point takes planning, dedication, and hard work. Taking the time to understand both your financial needs and what it will take achieve them within your chosen niche is crucial.

If chasing deals monthly isn’t your idea of the perfect real estate investment job, you should know that in today’s real estate climate, no matter what your chosen niche is, at some point, you will have to start building your investment portfolio and that may involve chasing a deal or two.

A wholesaler or flipper can still do deals while adding a few rental properties to their portfolio. Doing this over time builds consistent passive monthly income for living expenses while reinvesting proceeds from your flips. There’s nothing tying you to one niche or strategy as an investor; this is your business and you can expand and tap into opportunities across the real estate investing spectrum as you see fit.

As you get some experience under your belt, every property should be considered for it’s highest and best use.  As an example of the term “highest and best use”, how to get the most return of every property using a variety of strategies. Of course, this is dependent on where you are in your investment career at the time. But when you take the time to give each property careful consideration about how you can maximize your return, you’ll find yourself seeking creative deal structuring, new partnerships, and funding possibilities.
Being tired of the 9 to 5 grind is a problem many have or have had at some point until making a permanent change. You have everything you need in front of you to turn your side business into your main one if you’re willing to dedicate the time and effort to make it happen.

Alabama Ghost story published in Philadelphia in 1892

A true ghost story from Marion Junction in Dallas County, Alabama that made it all the way to Philadelphia in 1892


Have you ever heard of the ghost who pulled his coffin in Marion Junction, Alabama? This story involved many respectable, local citizens of the town and made the newspaper all the way to Philadelphia in 1892. He is the transcribed version from the Philadephia Times of 1892.

Alabama Ghost story published in Philadelphia

September 18, 1892

From the Philadelphia Times

Marion Junction, Ala., August 29. –

That there are such things as ghosts, even the more intelligent portion of the community about here is beginning to believe, while the excitement among the negroes and the more ignorant of the people is something incredible. This belief comes from the singular occurrences that are taking place on what is known as the old creek road, leading from this town to Uniontown, and which is well-nigh abandoned roadway, having been superseded in use by the country people by a new turnpike. It is said that the old creek road is haunted by the ghost of a man, who is to be seen nightly, pulling after him his coffin.

Tramp who killed Nancy Pratt?

This phantom is thought to be that of a tramp who was lynched near here in 1889, and who was thought to have committed a murder, the victim being an old lady living on the creek road. This woman, one Nancy Pratt, was found in the creek with various marks and wounds on her head, and it was thought that she had been killed before she was thrown into the stream, and the tramp, who behaved in a suspicious manner, was captured and hung for the crime. This much is certain, that he was found in possession of some jewelry that was identified as having belonged to Mrs. Pratt, though in defending himself he declared that he saw the old lady run out of her house and throw herself into the creek, with her head all bleeding from wounds that were self-inflicted, and that, satisfied that she was drowned, he entered the house and robbed it.

Map of Marion Junction, Alabama

This story, however, won no credence, and and he was hanged to a tree not far from the spot where the body of his victim was removed from the water, but it subsequently developed that the old woman had threatened time and again to take her life, and doubts began to assail the lynchers as to the justice of the deed, though no measures of reparation were possible. A story was soon in circulation that the ghost of the tramp had been seen on the road, though little faith was put in it by the intelligent country people, and the road, soon becoming deserted for the new turnpike, the whole affair was forgotten.

Dr. Hardeman was the first to encounter the ghost

But recently the story of the ghost has been revived by the experiences of a number of responsible citizens and farmers of the vicinity, who are ready to vouch for the strange sights they have witnessed on the old road, which has of late been traveled owing to work being begun on the other. The first to renew the old tale was Dr. Hardeman, of this place, who, returning from the bedside of a patient late one night, was amazed to see issue from a clump of trees just ahead of him the figure of a man. The night was a very dark one, and the doctor wondered at his being able to see the man so plainly, for he was able to make out the figure’s dress and features. It was clad in a dark suit and wore a wide-brimmed straw hat, but no coat and vest, while about his neck was coiled a rope, which trailed behind it several feet and which was so tightly drawn about the throat as to swell it to three times the natural size and to give the face a horribly bloated appearance.

This struck the doctor as most remarkable, though as he was a newcomer in the neighborhood, and had never heard of the tramp’s death, he did not take a super-natural view of the figure, but hailed it several times. The figure looked back at him with a sort of unearthly light in its puffed out eyes but made no reply. The doctor whipped up his horse in an endeavor to overtake the phantom, but the horse began to rear and snort as if in mortal terror and refused to go forward, and upon being whipped and spurred by his rider finally threw him into the middle of the road and galloped off in the opposite direction, leaving the doctor to walk home.

He was resolved to discover the mystery

The phantom vanished from view in the timber that bordered the road, and unnerved by the terrible appearance it had presented the physician decided not to follow it, but proceeded to go home, though resolved to find out the mystery the next night. So, arming himself well with both shotgun and revolvers, together with a bull dog and a young man named Looseman, he took up his stand close to the spot where the ghost had issued the night before, and waited until the hour for it to make its appearance. But this it did not do, though the watchers heard a loud moaning or lamentation coming from a large tree growing close to the road and from which the figure had come the previous night. The dog evinced the same terror the horse had, and at last made a frantic dart at some invisible body, which sent it flying back over heels, but the animal, returning to the attack with every appearance of uncontrollable rage finally was thrown at the feet of the watchers, who on looking closely at the animal saw that it was dead with a broken neck.

Nothing was to be seen, however, and at daylight the doctor and his companion returned home, resolved, though, to keep watch again that night. This they did, and were rewarded on this occasion by seeing the ghost glide from the clump of trees before referred to, this time dragging after it its coffin. The doctor called on it to halt, but there was no response. whatever, though the phantom turned and looked at him with a grin, which increased the horror of its appearance. Young Looseman gave it one glance and broke and ran toward the town, leaving the doctor alone with the ghost. Lacking the courage to accost it at a nearer distance, he also turned about and made for home, arriving there breathless and full of his story, which was received with ridicule. But on the persisting in it a party of townspeople was made up to go and watch the spot for the ghost.

A large group from town turned out

These, comprising Col. Nugent, John Young, George Fuller and several other well-known citizens, repaired to the haunted locality the next evening armed with guns and pistols, as from the doctor a earnestness in relating his narrative it had come to be thought that a hoax, at any rate, had been attempted on the young men, and it was resolved to ferret out the jokers. As the night advanced the watchers dispensed themselves along the road so as to command its length, and, weapons in hand, waited for the coming of the hoaxers. It was a little after midnight when the moaning sound was heard from the tree.

The sound increased into a sort of bellowing or tremendous crying that resounded through the woods, striking terror to all that heard it. But, resolved to stick it out to the last, the crowd hung about for nearly an hour longer, and at last saw the ghost come walking past them carrying its coffin on its shoulders this time. The rope was twined about its neck and trailed on the ground.

Seeing this Col. Nugent stepped forward and placed his foot on the length only to be violently thrown to the ground the next moment insensible. It was some hours before he recovered sufficiently to describe the sensation he had experienced on stepping on the phantom rope. He said that he was thrilled through and through with a shock something like an electric current, and which was severe enough to deprive him of consciousness. He declined to meddle any further with the phantom which he is persuaded is a ghost. On the colonel falling insensible, the others of the crowd fired upon the figure, which vanished in the smoke with a loud laugh of derision, and was seen no more that night.

Judge Blackmore accepted a wager

These stories are confirmed by the experience of Judge Blackmore, of this neighborhood, who is a noted skeptic on spiritualism and who accepted a wager that was made that he could not face the phantom of the creek road without fear. The judge, who is perfectly fearless, armed himself well and took up his station even a few nights ago to watch for the spectre, which he defied to frighten him. He soon found that his horse was very restive, and kept starting at every sound, so as to compel him to keep a tight rein on the animal. Had it not been for this the horse, he would most certainly have thrown him by the sudden start gave when the judge saw almost under his forefeet a man looking up at him. The man’s face was swollen fearfully by the rope it had about its neck and was grinning up into the judge’s with a hideous sort of mirth. The judge, started in spite of himself, reined his frightened horse back and struck at the figure with his riding whip, but his arm fell to his side well-nigh paralyzed by the stroke.

The figure then walked alongside of the judge’s horse, continuing to grin and snicker to itself as if mightily amused at the judge’s attempt to solve the mystery of its being. At length the judge made another cut at the phantom, which he refused to believe to be such, when the spectre threw its long arms about the gentleman, dragging him from his horse, which broke away down the road whinnying terror. The judge fell to the earth with the ghost, which clasped its fingers around his throat in an endeavor to choke him, but the judge, being a very powerful man, grappled with the fiend or whatever the thing may be called, kept its talons from his throat and finally threw it off.

Judge Blackmore paid the wager

It returned to the charge, however, and laid hold of him once more, but stumbling over the coffin that it dragged after it, fell to the ground, when the judge, who had had enough of the affray, ran down the road in the direction of the town. Pursued by the phantom, he ran all the faster until he came to the first house, against of the door of which he fell panting and half fainted. The inmates opened the door and received him into the house, though the spectre said to have hung about all night peer into the windows and knocking loudly at the doors. It vanished at daylight, however, and has not been seen since. The judge will not talk about his adventure though he has paid his wager and no longer holds in open derision the belief of the country people in their ghost.

Note: If you enjoyed this article, head over to Ms. Causey’s site because there you will find so many more amazing stories about Alabama and its history.

Quick Money or Steady Money?

Before the first dollar changes hands, an investor and/or potential landlord should ask themselves “Do I want steady money or do I just want quick money”?

I can only speak for myself, but if I was asked, my answer would be steady money.  I think this is the one area that will  (and does) quickly break a lot of investors and/or landlords.

You can double the market rate on a house and eventually you will rent it to someone.  True. How many months will that house sit vacant before that happens and how long will the tenant stay there once you get it rented and what kind of condition will they leave it in once they move (or get evicted)?

Personally, I would prefer to have a tenant in place for 2 years paying $800 a month ($19,200) than a tenant in place for 6 months paying $1,200 ($7,200).

If you’re willing to take someone with less than stellar credit, you will be able to get a higher than market value on that property….for a month or two anyway.  People with bad credit expect to have to pay more for everything than those with good credit.  Sadly it’s a fact of life these days that those who don’t have the means to pay high prices are forced to do so because of their credit histories.

Let’s say you find what you believe is a perfectly lovely person to rent your house at the inflated price.  One of three things is going to happen.

(1)  Renters are just as price savvy as buyers.  Good renters know about what to expect to pay for rent in any given neighborhood.  A good renter will know right off the bat if the property in question is overpriced and will move on down the road.

If they don’t – you may have just rented your property to a meth cooker or some other sort of criminal who has nefarious plans for the use of your property.  Plans that down the road could land you in some very hot legal water and might even end up costing you your property.  Believe me, renters who set up meth labs or grow houses are more common than you would like to think.

(2) If someone pays a higher rent on your property than they could go down the street and get, there’s the chance that you’ve just rented your property to someone who is on the verge of getting evicted from their current property and they just need somewhere to put their stuff for a month or two while they look for a more affordable property to get into.  I know, sounds ridiculous doesn’t it that a person would pay the deposit and first month’s rent just for a temporary solution.  Trust me when I tell you that this too is a much more common occurrence that you might think.  I have witnessed it on more than one occasion.

But how can they do this if they are about to be evicted?  Won’t that show up on their background check or when references are called?

If the eviction hasn’t been filed yet, nothing will show up on a Court search or on their credit history.  As for the reference checks, when you call the landlords number shown on the application how do you really truly know you are talking to a landlord and not the applicant’s sister, brother or best friend?  You don’t.

People like this know how to work the system and they associate with others who know as much about the topic as they do.  I can pretend to be anyone’s landlord.  All I have to do is tell the caller that I own the home privately and the tenant has been a wonderful tenant that I hate to lose but I’ve decided to let my son move into the house so the tenant needs to find alternate housing.  See how believable that sounds?


(3) You have just been suckered by a career non-rent payer who is going to give you the deposit and first month’s rent, move in and never pay another penny.  They are going to string you along with all manner of sob stories and bad luck and get you to wait until the 15th, then the 1st, then next week…..but next week never comes and one day you awake to discover that you’ve allowed them to live in your house for months…..for free.

These folks are cagey.  They will throw you a bone from time to time.  $100 here, maybe $200 there but never anywhere near the whole rent.  Just enough to make you think that they are at least making an effort.  But the thing is, those bones are very few and very far in between.

But never fear.  They will move.  After you’ve spent time and money paying someone to evict them and after you have waited the required period of time before you are allowed to go into your property to put their things on the curb.

Putting their things on the curb….now we’re getting into the part that lets you know where all that “extra” money you got for the deposit and first month’s rent is going to go towards.  You thought it was going to go towards your retirement or your child’s college education or maybe paying off your own personal debt didn’t you?  Sadly, it won’t.  It will all be spent (and then some) on paying to get the tenant evicted, loss income while the tenant is living in the property for free and getting the rental ready for the next tenant – which could take a couple of months realistically.

Why a couple of months?  Because when you run across this type of tenant, you might as well cash out your 401K because by the time you clean up the yard, the house, repair the damage they caused and get it ready to rent again….you’re looking at some serious time and money.

I managed a house a few years back.  The landlord accepted a tenant against my recommendation.  “She’s awesome” I was told.  She had marginal credit but a steady job and loved the house!  Within a month after moving in the house, this “awesome” tenant had been fired from her job (for stealing), her car had been repoed (goodbye marginal credit and hello bad credit) and then came the sob stories and bad luck songs.

The landlord kept thinking it would be cheaper in the long run to take the $100 here and there that this tenant dished out sporadically than to go through the eviction proceedings and miss a month or two on rent altogether.  After all “she was trying”.  It turned out to be more like 6 months.

By the time I finally talked the landlord into allowing me to evict the tenant, the damage had been done.  The tenant fought the eviction pushing the process from 1 month to 3 months. When I was finally able to go inside the house, I almost fainted.

Fleas EVERYWHERE.  Feces in every room.  Newly refinished hardwoods destroyed. Doors clawed and chewed by the 4 large dogs that she kept in the house (which were not included in the lease).  4 broken windows. 2 busted doors. Massive holes in the walls and even in some of the ceilings. Roaches everywhere.  Grass was literally as tall as the house. Weeds had choked the life out of the numerous flowers in the flower beds.  Concrete retaining wall looked like someone had repeatedly run a truck into it.  Mountains of garbage in every room and all over the back patio. As if all of that wasn’t bad enough, they had their water cut off for nonpayment several weeks before and had decided to go ahead and use the toilets anyway and once the toilet was full – they used the bathtub.  Now add to all of this the fact that needing money to move, she and her boyfriend (who wasn’t on the lease) stole the central heating and air unit and sold it.  Only they didn’t disconnect the unit.  They ripped it out.  Electrician bill to go along with the cost of replacing the units.

I tell the specifics of this story to illustrate my point that while the landlord did initially make about $600 more on this property than it was worth on the market, the cost of evicting this tenant and getting the house ready for the next tenant was a grand total of $13,000 (and change) and that total doesn’t account for the lost rent.  On top of that, she only received the deposit and a grand total of 2 months rent from this tenant.

You may be thinking, “I’ll sue them for the damages and also have them arrested!”.  Good luck with that.  Many states don’t allow landlords to actually have a tenant arrested for damage to their property.  They consider it to be a civil matter rather than a criminal matter.  As for suing the tenant for money damages, you can do that in all states.  But what are you going to get in return?  Nothing.  For one thing, in order for this to really impact the tenant’s ability to rent (especially from a private landlord) you will need the judgement to show up on their credit report.  Unless you are willing to pay for a membership to all 3 of the reporting agencies (which is not cheap), then it isn’t going to show up on any credit report.  Secondly, you may indeed have a judgment against the tenant.  How are you going to collect that money?  These people are what lawyers call “judgment proof”.  Meaning they don’t have anything for you to take – or at least nothing in their name.  They typically either don’t work at all or only work for a short time and only sporadically at that.  Remember the old saying “you can’t get blood out of a turnip”??

Everyone deserves a place to live.  Rich, poor, good credit or bad credit.  Everyone should be able to have a roof over their heads.  However, do you really want to trust your property to someone who is going to do this to you?

My rule of thumb is to set the rent at a reasonable price and rent it to someone who checks out. Maybe they have bad credit but their rental history is stellar.  At the end of the day if a person pays their rent on time who really cares if they don’t pay their VISA card on time?

The key phrase in the above paragraph is “checks out”.  Pictured ID so you know if the person applying is using their info and not their infant child’s info.  Get the last 6 paycheck stubs from them and don’t accept copies or printed versions.  Those are far too easy to forge.  If necessary, get the employer’s address and mail the verification form to them.  If the applicant gives you their landlords info and it appears to be a private individual – go to the tax collector’s website.  There you will be able to search by address and that site will tell you exactly who owns that property.  If the name or contact info doesn’t match – chances are you’ve been given bogus information.

At the end of the day, you won’t get rich quick by accepting reasonable rent.  But chances are, you won’t wind up in bankruptcy court either.

Collecting the Rent for Your Birmingham Rental Property

Rent collection should be a glorious time for you; it means your rent is being paid and your investment is proving profitable. However, not all tenants pay on time. This can be frustrating for landlords who have their own financial obligations to meet. We’re sharing some of the best things you can do to ensure you’re collecting rent effectively and efficiently at your rental property. (more…)

10 Haunted Places in Alabama

It’s October again!  Time for my list of places in Alabama that are rumored to be haunted.  Let’s get started!

Haunted Highway 5 near Lynn, Alabama
Highway 5 Ghost – Lynn, Alabama…Supposedly, years ago between Natural Bridge and Jasper, Alabama on Highway 5, a teenage girl had been to prom with her boyfriend. It was a rainy night. On the way home from prom, they got into a fight and she told him to let her out because she could walk. While she was walking along the side of the highway, she was struck by an 18-wheeler. The driver drove off, and the next morning she was found dead in a ditch. They say if you drive an 18-wheeler down Highway 5 on a rainy night, she’ll climb onto the side of it and peek inside to see if you’re the driver who killed her.  Not wanting to experience the sight of this angry apparition, many truckers bypass this stretch of road, choosing instead to take Highway 13. Truckers admit that driving down Highway 5 in a truck is still undeniably eerie.
Tutwiler Hotel, Birmingham, AL



The Tutwiler Hotel is said to be haunted by a mischievous spirit who likes to turn on lights and appliances inside the building. Some have suggested that the ghost belongs to Colonel Tutwiler himself, however, the current hotel is not actually the original building that once bore his name, and is in fact located in a different location which had previously been an apartment complex. It is possible that the ghost belongs to a former resident of the old Ridgeley apartments who lived there before they were renovated to become the new Tutwiler in the mid-1980s.
Guests, as well as staff in the hotel, have many ghost stories to tell. A bartender who once worked at the hotel had several ghostly experiences in 1995. The lights in the bar were left on for a week and the boss got quite angry with him. After all, it was his first job to turn off the lights in the bar and the kitchen during closing time. He started turning the lights off but they would turn on by themselves. After turning the lights off four times, he left for the evening.
The next day the manager asked why the lights were on. The bartender tried to explain but the manager would not believe him. This happened for five nights in a row and on the sixth night, the manager called the bartender and told him to come to work immediately. When he got there, there was a complete multi-course meal with candles and a bottle of wine. Many people believed that it was the ghost of Colonel Tutwiler, for which the hotel was named after. In order to stop the Colonel from making a mess again, he would call out to the Colonel each night to tell him a good evening and not to make a mess, and they haven’t had that experience since. A very respectful ghost indeed!
Other reports are of knocking on doors in the middle of the night. Several guests have reported loud rapid knocks on their room door, only for them to quickly jump and open it to see nobody standing there. This ghost is known as the knocker, it is believed to be a male spirit because he wakes women up with his knocking during the night.

The Drish House in Tuscaloosa, Alabama
According to The Lineup, Tuscaloosa’s Drish House has officially been named the most haunted place in Alabama. It was built in 1937 by Dr. John R. Drish over a 450-acre plantation. Apparently, Dr. Drish, who loved gambling and drinking, died in 1867 from falling down a stairway while drunk. His wife, Sarah, became obsessed with planning her husband’s funeral, so much so that it became an overly elaborate event. She even kept the candles from his funeral with the intense hope that they be used at her own funeral. When she passed in 1884, her family searched the house endlessly to find the candles but could not. This is said to have angered Sarah so much that she has come back to haunt the house, even allegedly causing a fire in the third-story tower by lighting the candles. The Drish House has been featured in the short story “Death Lights in the Tower” in Kathryn Tucker Windham’s popular book of ghost stories, Thirteen Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey.
As you can see from the pictures above, over the years, this once magnificent mansion was used as a business and was deserted for a long period of time.  Thankfully, it has been completely restored and is now a venue for receptions and events.
Jemison Center or Old Bryce Hospital in Northport, AL







A former insane asylum, Old Bryce Hospital had a reputation for treating its patients horribly, even verging on torture.  Built in 1861, and considered a progressive facility for treating mental health, the institution’s reputation deteriorated significantly by the early 1900’s. The building is a designated historic site, but was in use until 2009.  For nearly 150 years, visitors to this site claim to feel hot and cold spots, see items moving of their own accord and hear ghostly sounds and footsteps. Some have even seen the tail of a doctor’s coat travel through the halls. Screams, scuffling of feet and unexplained creaking of doors have been reported.  It is slowly being demolished and is often patrolled by the police, so if you are thinking of doing any ghost hunting in this location, you might want to be extremely careful.
Redmont Hotel, Birmingham, AL




When the Redmont Hotel in Birmingham, Alabama opened in 1925, no one knew it was to become a haven for assorted ghosts and ghost hunters alike. Ghost stories are part and parcel of many old hotels, the Redmont included. Opulent ballrooms and meeting places reflected the much sought after New Orleans style of over the top extravagance. Huge chandeliers and heavy silk curtains drape the public rooms. Elaborate musical performances went on as the couples swirled around the dance floor. It was a hot spot of the Roaring Twenties elite; the place to see and to be seen.
The Redmont drew the famous and the notorious, lured by the hotel’s sometimes scandalous reputation.
But the most legendary guest – and soon to be ghost- was country singer Hank Williams, well-known for the hit song, “Your Cheatin Heart.”  He spent his last night on earth in Suite 301; although present-day desk clerks and bellhops decline to confirm this unless you specifically request that room.
The story of Hank Williams final journey through Birmingham is told in the 2011 movie “The Last Ride.” It tells how Hank hired a young man, Charles Carr, to drive him in his 1952 blue Cadillac (Now called the Death Car) from Tennessee to Ohio through a snowstorm for a New Year’s Day performances in Charleston, South Carolina. He appears to have died in the back seat in Oak Hill, West Virginia, as Charles discovered when he pulled into a gas station. The Cadillac can be seen today in a Hank Williams Museum in his hometown of Montgomery, Alabama.
Hank was only 29, dying of heart failure due to a mix of alcohol and drugs, and a lifetime of abuse. His last night at the Redmont appears to have been a fun one. Three women joined Hank for a while when he said: “You are from heaven, but you are going to send me to hell.” Hotel guests soon after his death reported seeing figures, hearing disembodied footsteps and strange sounds.
Hank Williams is not the only ghost you will encounter at the Redmont. Visitors claim to feel and see the eerie presence of long deceased Clifford Styles, who purchased the hotel in 1946 and died in 1975. Doors have opened and closed seemingly by themselves. Baggage and furniture appear to move without any earthly assistance.
Also, a woman who was killed in the hotel stalks the halls in an appropriately misty white dress at night, specifically on the ninth floor. There is a small ghostly dog who roams around the hotel. Some say the dog is searching for his murdered mistress.
The hotel was very modern for its time in the 1920s. Each room had its own private bathroom, ceiling fans, and chilled water, very much the hippest place in town.
Alabama politicians have used the hotel as campaign headquarters including Governors Jim Folsom and George Wallace in the 1950s and 60s. Sports celebrities were also interested in the Redmont. A group of NBA stars, including Kareem Abdul Jabaar, purchased the hotel in 1983. Plans for a major 2006 renovation were scrapped after the global economic downturn.
Author Alan Brown chronicles the hotel’s history in his book, “Haunted Birmingham.” The Redmont is also a focus of the “Birmingham Ghost Walk” and “Birmingham Trolley Tour.”
Jack Cole Road, Hayden, Alabama



Rural Hayden is home to the most cursed stretch of road in Alabama. Since the 1890s, residents of densely-forested, unpaved Jack Cole Road have reported strange sightings of mysterious animal-like creatures. Since 1890, 68 deaths have been reported on Jack Cole Road, 60 of which were due to an outbreak of Cholera in 1900. The other eight were caused by stranger events, including murder. People claim to see things like lights in the woods, to hear loud sounds, to glance ghostly figures walking along the road and, strangest of all, to see a deformed Bigfoot-like animal that looks to be half-wolf and half-man.  In the 1940s, the mummified remains of an old woman were discovered at a home hidden deep in the woods along the road. Adding to the macabre history, there have been numerous disappearances, murders and unexplained deaths in residences along this remote street. Homeowners tell stories of eerie lights in the woods, and a constant sense of something disturbing. The cursed nature of Jack Cole Road is hard to ignore, even today.
Gaine’s Ridge Dinner Club, Camden, Alabama




The Gaines Ridge Dinner Club has been named the “Most Haunted Restaurant in Alabama.” The popular restaurant is located in an 1820s Antebellum home and is well known for its family of ghosts. Several guests have reported hearing screams, the aroma of pipe smoke when no one is smoking, a floating woman in the windows, the cries of a baby and apparitions in mirrors of a tall, bearded man in black. The owner reports her experiences with the ghosts as “ghost truths” rather than ghost stories, because she has absolute conviction that they happened to her. She says she heard the mysterious screams of a co-worker who denied calling out to her even though they both heard the yelling.
St. James Hotel, Selma, Alabama








Located just an hour away from the Gaines Ridge Dinner Club and built in 1837, the St. James Hotel is one of the oldest operational facilities in Alabama. During the Civil War, soldiers used the hotel as a place to discuss battle strategies, and when the Battle of Selma took place, the entire town of Selma pretty much burned to the ground, but the St. James Hotel remained standing. After the Civil War ended, a man named Benjamin Sterling Tower became the new owner and allowed a group of outlaws, led by the famous gang leader, robber and murderer Jesse James, to stay at the hotel one night. Several guests have reported seeing the spirits of Jesse James and his girlfriend, Lucinda, as well as a man fully dressed in clothing from the 1800s in rooms 214, 314 and 315. Lucinda, a lover of the scent of lavender, allegedly leaves the lovely scent in her path, alerting guests to her presence. James’ black dog also haunts the halls of the hotel, as evidenced by guests accounts of incessant barking with no dog in sight. You can book a room at the St. James Hotel today, and if you’re brave enough, request room 214, 314 or 315.
Fort Morgan, Gulf Shores, Alabama






The Fort Morgan area has become a vacation spot for beach-goers hoping to relax and enjoy the sand and surf. Little do they know, Fort Morgan has a rich haunted history dating back to the Civil War. The fort took heavy fire throughout the bloody Battle of Mobile Bay. It is rumored that visitors can hear the cries and screams of men late into the night, and they have seen the ghost of a solitary woman searching for justice after being killed at the fort. If you visit Fort Morgan, look out for men in Confederate uniforms hidden in the shadows!
Ghost Bridge, Florence, Alabama





Last, but most definitely not least, is the haunting of Jackson Ford Bridge, properly nicknamed “Ghost Bridge.” This spot already appears terrifying and haunted simply by its dilapidated and decayed appearance. There are also several rumors from locals of a white mist that rises from the creek and lies atop the bridge as well as sightings of a strange orb of light, the apparent sound of footsteps and monster-like beings walking the bridge at night.  Sadly, the bridge has been demolished but I doubt removing the bridge will remove the spirits….right?

What Property Management Fees Can You Expect in Birmingham, AL?







One of the most popular questions we get from owners and investors who are thinking about using our services is: how much does it cost? As a rental property owner, you’re going to be concerned with the cost of professionally managing your home. Today, we’re discussing what kinds of property management fees you can expect in Birmingham, and how your property management company may collect them. (more…)

Getting Started as a Landlord – Part Two

Getting Started as a Landlord – Part two

In Part One of this series, we discussed the various types of rentals as well as, the pros and cons of being a landlord.  In this part, we will discuss the importance of Zoning laws, preparing your rental for tenants, and whether hiring a property management company is the best way to go.

Zoning Laws

Zoning laws can have a significant impact on a landlord and their rental property.  In a nutshell, zoning laws keep residential and commercial areas separate from each other, so residents aren’t living in the middle of a noisy industrial area.

Before purchasing a property, it’s important to investigate your local zoning laws to see whether or not they will affect your rental property.  An area zoned for one type of land use may later be changed, so be aware of future developments that could affect your property.  for example, property in a residential area might be changed from one zone class to another, due to factors such as sprawling, which could impact your property value and your ability to find tenants.

Preparing your Rental Property for Tenants

Once you have chosen to rent your property, you must take steps to prepare it for tenants.  The condition of your rental will affect whether or not it’s ready for occupancy.

In order to remain competitive, you’ll need to make your rental unit appealing to tenants.  this should include fixing any known problems, complying with your local zoning laws, and upgrading the property to make it more enticing, comfortable, or aesthetically pleasing.

From the foundation to the roof, check to make sure everything is working and that your property meets municipal and state housing codes.  It’s better to tackle renovations before a tenant moves in, both for safety reasons and to avoid coordinating improvements around their schedule.

Below is a list of thing you should do to get your property rent-ready:

  • Check all appliances to make sure they work, including the oven, dishwasher and washer/dryer, if applicable.
  • Test smoke detectors and CO2 detectors.
  • Repair any problems, such as holes, water leaks, pests, etc.
  • Give the walls a facelift with a fresh coat of paint.
  • Replace or clean flooring
  • Upgrade fixtures and/or window treatments.
  • Clean each room thoroughly, including hard to reach areas such as cabinets, vents, and other storage areas.
  • If you have porches, decks, steps or stairs in the unit, ensure they are strong and safe to use.
  • Ensure that all exterior doors, gates, and windows have working locks.
  • Eliminate any bad odors
  • Landscape front and back yards.
Above all, the rental property must be safe for a tenant.  If you are renting a basement suite, you must adhere to specific safety regulations.  For more information about setting up a secondary suite, contact your local municipality.
Insuring a home you live in is different from insuring a property you use for rental purposes.  As a landlord, you may already have homeowners insurance on your rental.  While this may provide some protection, a landlord insurance policy may be more aligned with your needs as it may offer coverage for liability on the property or damage by the tenant.  Contact your insurance provider to ensure you are getting the correct coverage for your property and that it’s classified as a rental.
Should I Hire a Property Manager?
By now it’s clear that managing a rental property can be hard work.  You must be available to your tenants in case of any problems or emergencies, as well as take care of the day-to-day landlord tasks, such as collecting rent and paying property bills.  Most new landlords also work another 40+ hour a week job.  Doing both can quickly become overwhelming.  Toilets and air conditioners don’t always break and basements don’t always flood during normal business hours.  This means that, as a landlord, you will need to get up out of bed or leave your families holiday gathering early so you can get these things repaired before you go to your day job.
Here are a few other reasons you might want to consider hiring a property manager:
  • You live far away from your rental property
  • You’re not interested in managing a rental property
  • You don’t have enough experience to successfully manage the property.  In that case, a property manager can help ensure you are renting legally.
So….What is a Property Manager?

A property manager is an individual or firm who is hired to oversee and manage a rental property and its tenants.  They are actively involved with the property and perform such tasks as:

  • Screening tenants and negotiating lease terms
  • Discussing leasing and property rules with a tenant
  • Collecting rent or other fees
  • Arranging for repairs, maintenance, and upkeep
  • Paying bills, assisting with taxes, and managing a budget.
  • Enforcing rental rules and policies.
  • Setting rental rates and advertising the property.
  • Issuing notices
  • Handling move-in and move-out inspections.
  • Record keeping.
A property manager handles all fo these responsibilities and more.  They do charge a fee for their services, but depending on your availability, it can be worth the money to avoid daily landlord duties.  Whether you choose to hire a property manager will depend on your financial situation and the amount of time you can dedicate to managing your rental.
Although a property manager might not be feasible if you are only renting out one property, landlords with several rental properties find them useful for shouldering a large portion of the responsibility.
Our next installment will cover the subjects of how to find tenants, how to screen them, and what to do once you’ve found one.

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