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The Landlord Chronicles: Investing in Low and Middle Income Rentals

The Landlord Chronicles: Investing in Low and Middle Income Rentals

Barb Getty

Bio – Barb Getty was born and raised in Gary, IN and graduated cum laude from Purdue University. In 1992, her family’s world was shattered when her 17-year-old son Todd was killed in a car accident. His sisters, Anne and Allison, were 16 and 14 at the time. Sadly, Getty’s 21-year marriage ended eight months later. After fixing up a small home she bought to live in with her girls, she decided to try her hand at real estate investing.

With little money, no credit and no experience, Getty purchased her first duplex 10 months following her divorce, hoping she had the wherewithal to be a landlord. Today, she owns and operates 27 rental units in Indianapolis – a mix of single and multi-family homes, both low and middle income demographics. Through the years, property management and consulting have been added. interviewed Getty recently for an article on multi-family investing, and it also appeared in USA Today.

Barb Getty began her real estate investing career at the lowest point of her life, but has reinvented herself and is a successful entrepreneur and businesswoman who is financially and emotionally invested in her work.

The Landlord Chronicles: Investing in Low and Middle Income Rentals

Synopsis – Written in a lighthearted, conversational tone, The Landlord Chronicles guides the reader through every phase of buying rentals and landlording: finding a good neighborhood and a home with great potential, financing, rehabbing, attracting and keeping wonderful tenants, managing and maintaining the rental, evictions, record-keeping, selling/exit strategies, etc. Getty shares tips, tools, products, and rental forms that simplify the whole process, and shows how start-up costs can be kept to a minimum.

Why did I Write it? – I wrote this book because I saw a need for a simply written, very complete guide on buying rental properties . As an English major, I knew I could write a concise, educational how-to guide that was also a fun read. People who’ve read The Landlord Chronicles say it’s as if I’m sitting across the table from them, having a conversation.

Why buy it? – The current real estate market presents tremendous opportunity for the smart investor. The rental market is very strong and that trend will continue. For those who want to buy rentals for income and long term investment, The Landlord Chronicles can jump start the journey!

. . . Because NOW is the Time to Buy!

Real estate investing was never part of the plan. I began my journey at the lowest point in my life, following the tragic and unexpected death of my teenage son. I was desperately in need of income and had recently completed a cosmetic rehab on the small home I purchased for my daughters and me.

What is the one thing you did right?

I prepared well. Prior to buying my first rental, I joined the local landlord association and began networking with people who were already involved in the business. You learn so much by asking questions and discussing issues with other investors. I also bought several books about real estate investing and landlording.

Financing is always an issue, but it was major for me. I hadn’t established a credit identity for myself when I was married, so the banks wouldn’t touch me . . . I couldn’t get a mortgage, so I bought my first duplex with $19,000 I’d received from my divorce. I spent another $7000 on the rehab and kept the rental for a year before deciding to sell it. In less than a week, I sold that home for more than twice the purchase price, and bought two more! I was on my way . . .

Fear is the biggest barrier to starting a new business. Reading about the business and networking with others who were experts helped give me the confidence to move forward and walk through the fear.

Do you have a blog?

My blog is In it I include rental news and commentary, personal tips about landlording, tenant stories (heartwarming, heartbreaking, omg, tenant of the month, etc.), products for pest control and cleaning, foreclosure commentary, smart lease ideas, etc. I post video and pictures quite often and, of course, there’s a lot of humor sprinkled throughout.

Do you speak to groups?

I’ve done some presentations to service organizations and lately, to realtor and investor groups. My talks include commentary on the real estate/rental market, my life and journey I took to becoming a landlord, and a very cool video, which has been posted on YouTube (The Landlord Chronicles), that shows scenes I face as a landlord in the inner city. take a look here . . .


. it’s very compelling. When time permits, I also do a PowerPoint presentation showing before and after pictures of some of my rentals. My talks are both informative and inspirational.

What does it take, personality-wise, to be a good landlord?

I believe three attributes enable me to be an excellent investor, landlord and property manager, and a truly happy and peaceful human being as well:

  • Faith and a strong sense of humor can get you through almost anything!
  • I have the ability to stay in the day. I don’t look back (except to learn from it) and I don’t look ahead (except to plan). I take care of today and make the very most of it. When you’re obsessing about your past management mistakes or worrying about the future, you’ve lost the only thing you have – today.
  • I don’t worry about the stuff I can’t control. In my personal and business life, there’s been so much of that. If we’re constantly trying to control people and situations, we drive ourselves and everyone around us crazy. Know your business, know what you can control and take care of it, and let the rest go.

What was the biggest challenge or transition you had to make?

As a person who tends to believe the best in people, I trusted my tenants too much in the early years. They promised the rent would be there next week. I waited and believed. Well, next week never comes! I was struggling to make ends meet, while my tenants were living rent free . . . what’s wrong with that picture? My lease stated that if the rent was more than five days overdue, eviction would be filed. But I wasn’t following through.

You can have the finest lease in the world, but if you’re not willing to enforce it, why have a lease at all? I had to toughen up or give the management responsibilities to someone else. I toughened up and my financial issues disappeared. (Whew!)

What advice would you give to someone who wants to invest in rentals?

There’s so much . . . but if I had to simplify, I’d include these points:

  • Keep your ownership of the rentals private. My tenants think I’m the property manager, which of course, I am. But they don’t know I’m also the owner. When things get rough, I can always say, “Let me talk to the owner and I’ll get back to you.” My tenants see me as the fair-minded go-between.
  • Keep excellent records. Accounting can be a nightmare. When I started my real estate investing journey, I kept my records on 13-column ledger sheets and did everything by hand. Now I’ve moved to Excel spreadsheets. But whatever way you choose to do it, make sure you have a separate credit card and checking account for your business, and file receipts separately for each rental. It’s easy when you only have one, but as the numbers increase, so do the record-keeping headaches!
  • Find a local landlord/real estate investing group if possible. These groups are a wealth of information and you also find great sub-contractors by attending meetings.
  • As I said above, don’t stress about the stuff beyond your control. “Stuff” happens. Learn from it and move on. If you’re a “Type A” personality in all areas of your life, you may need to give the management responsibilities to someone else.
  • Don’t become overly friendly with your tenants, but do treat them with kindness and respect. In my 16+ years in this business, I’ve never been threatened with a law suit and have never had tenants vandalize my property out of retaliation for my treatment of them.
  • Have an airtight lease and enforce it.

I haven’t had an easy road but I love what I do; armed with a positive attitude and a strong sense of humor, I’m making a difference in my tenants’ lives, the neighborhood and the city as well. I never thought – 20 years ago – that I’d become a real estate investor/landlord, but this career has provided stability in my life (income and long-term investment) and I highly recommend this path to other entrepreneurs, especially now.

So . . . prepare well, trust yourself, and go for it!





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