Katie VandenBerg: VanHaus LLC

Katie VandenBerg: VanHaus LLC

“I really like the story of how we started this business.

“My husband, Ben, and I started out 12 years ago. At the time, I really wasn’t expecting that we’d become full-time landlords. For me, it was a way for us to buy a house with the space we needed, plus cash flow. I come from a business background, my family owned businesses. I thought if I can buy something that pays for itself … wow that’s a great buy.

“Back then, my husband was a teacher, making probably $30,000 a year. I owned a new coffee shop. We didn’t make much money at all. But then this duplex came up for sale. I said we should buy it: We could live in one unit and rent the other, and that would cover our mortgage. So we did it. Then, a few years later, there was a triplex for sale near Bradley University, so we bought that. We grew that coffee shop and I sold it to an employee. We used the proceeds to buy some more rental properties. By that time, we had proved to the bank we knew what we were doing.

“Today, we own 28 units.

“We like to grow slow. Four years ago, we bought a 20-unit building. We have a contract on another 13-unit building, but I’m not sure how that’s going to progress with everything going on. We got an extension on the contract, so we have until July to do the inspections. Luckily, the sellers aren’t moving fast, either. We’re just waiting.

“I want to feel confident in most of my tenants … I’m really hopeful they all continue to pay. But I think most landlords have this fear about politicians and leaders halting evictions. I had one college student who rents from us message me last Wednesday night and she didn’t know if she could pay rent. We said, pay us when you get your stimulus money. But now it could be a long time until that money makes it to people’s bank accounts. I try to be flexible with payment dates already, and I’m hopeful that because I’ve been empathetic before that this pays me back now. I’m riding on the idea that tenants will remember that I’ve always treated them well. And that college girl paid me earlier today, so I’m hopeful.

“I have $46,000 worth of property taxes due this summer, and jeez, I hope I get my rent because if I don’t, we are going to be in a hard place. Our biggest expenses are the mortgage payment and the property taxes. My property taxes are about two-thirds of what I spend on mortgages.

“I’ve always tried to plan for the worst when things are really good. We have a couple of lines of credit that can float us for a little while. If this goes on for too long and people decide not to pay, this starts to get really scary. What if this goes on for six months? That’s a lot of money to make up.

“There are loans and grants for other small businesses, but landlords like my husband and me, we fall through the cracks.”

Katie VandenBerg
Owner of VanHaus LLC
Morton, Illinois

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