Is Owning Rental Property, For You?

For some individuals, owning, and operating, rental, real estate properties, is a great idea, while, for others, this might not be the case! The difference, not only applies, to the specific property, but, also, each individual’s personality, attitude, and personal, specific strengths and weaknesses. Some factors include, of, course, financial ones, including the necessary reserves, needed, for purchasing a property, starting with the down – payment, closing costs, reserves for repairs, upgrades, renovations, and contingencies. In addition, some individuals are better – suited, for, owning rental property, than others, because some, do not want, the stresses, and tensions, involved, in this type of commitment. With this in mind, this article will attempt to briefly consider, review, and discuss, a few of the key factors and considerations, one should thoroughly explore, in – depth, prior to taking the leap.

1. Personal financials: Do you have the necessary funds, and will you qualify, for whatever financing, might be required? Obtaining a mortgage on a non – owner – occupied property, is significantly different from the process, regarding, one for a personal home. In most cases, a larger down – payment is required (often 25% – down, instead of 20%). In addition, the requirements differ, because not only, must you clearly demonstrate, the same things, you do, for a personal loan, you must also demonstrate, the property is viable, from a financial standpoint, and the rents, will handle the cash flow. It’s important, to have, several reserves, including: a) repairs; b) renovations; c) upgrades; unanticipated contingencies, etc.

2. Property financial issues: I am a believer in the 6% – rule, which means, the net return, should be 6%. For example, one factor is the cash flow, while the other is the overall rate of return, or return – on – investment/ ROI. Therefore, if you purchase a $500,000 property, put $125, 000 down, and have a $375, 000 mortgage loan, and the rate is 5%, your principal and interest, on a 30 – year, fixed – rate vehicle, will be approximately $2,000 per month. If the real estate taxes, and other escrow items, including insurance, etc, are, for example, $12, 000 per year, or $1, 000 per month, your total, out – of – pocket, each month, is approximately, $3, 000. If you estimate, upgrades, repairs, etc, are another $12, 000 per year ($1, 000/ month), you should use this $4, 000 per month, figure, for your preliminary calculations. In addition, base you revenues, on having each unit, unoccupied/ vacant, 2 months per year, to proceed conservatively. This means, you should collect a rent – roll, total, from all units, of at least, $4250 per month. In addition, you should be ensured, your net income, must generate approximately $32,000 per year.

3. Dealing with maintenance issues: Are you comfortable with these challenges and responsibilities?

4. Dealing with tenants: Are you ready, willing and able, to deal with tenants, and collect rents, enforce leases, meet the needs of a tenant, and the personality issues, involved?

5. Opportunity costs: How does the owning of these properties (remember to factor in appreciation, depreciation – benefits, and net income, compare with how, you might do, with other investment vehicles?

Is owning rental properties, suitable for you? Consider the advantages and obstacles, and proceed wisely.

Guide to Buying Hi-Fi Micro and Mini Systems

When considering to buy a new micro or mini system, you needs to look for various aspects components. Given here is an outline that can help consumers make the right decision.What is a Hi-fi system?These audio units are designed in a manner that they allow individuals to listen to music at different places. There are several components that need to be purchased separately but it can also be bought as a complete packaged system. The three major components of a mini or micro stereo system are as follows:1. Audio source: The audio source could be anything from a CD player, radio device, and cassette player, to auxiliary port, iPod dock and turntable. Majority of systems have two or more of these sources.2. Amplifier: The function of the amplifier is to control the balance and the volume of sound.3. Speakers: Hi-fi systems generally have two speakers for producing stereo sound. With some extremely advanced systems, you will get up to seven speakers, creating the setup of a home theatre.What are the different types of Hi-fi systems?These stereo systems are available in two sizes: Micro and Mini• Hi-Fi Micro systems: These units are small and have a compact size suitable for office spaces or lounge rooms. Most often, they come with an AM/FM tuner, a CD player and an iPod dock in the latest ones. The speakers of a micro system will not be very powerful because their range is between 10 and 30 watts per channel.• Mini systems: These systems are larger and are suitable for bigger houses or public spaces. They come with a multiple-disc CD changer that has the ability to change between three to five CDs at a time. Speakers with this system are extremely powerful and they have a range of 30 to 100 watts per channel. Some mini systems have an unattached subwoofer to amplify bass reproduction.Commonly, Hi-fi Micro systems as well as Mini systems come with speakers. Audio sources will differ depending on the model you choose. The essential components of a system are dependent on your purpose of use and what you want the system to do.Hi-fi systems can playback music from several formats:1. CDs: Almost all systems have an in-built CD player that plays both CD-R and CD-RW format. Many latest systems can playback MP3 as well, making it possible for you to play music from CD’s containing files copied from your computer.2. Radio: Hi-fi systems commonly have an AM/FM tuner. Latest models have a DAB radio tuner making it possible for you to listen to digital radio broadcasts.3. iPod: An iPod docking station is included in some systems. Songs from your iPod can be played through the stereo speakers. You can also charge your iPod by keeping it docked.4. USB drive or MP3 player: Some systems have a USB input. These inputs allow you to connect your MP3 player or iPod for playback. Systems capable of MP3 playback are preferred these days, because they allow you to copy songs to a USB flash drive from your computer and then play them through the stereo system.What more should you look out for?• Output power – 20 watts is optimum for clear sound in a medium-sized room, while 100 watts is required for audible sound across a large house. When you buy a system, check if output mentioned is per channel, or total output.• DVD playback – An in built DVD player is ideal if you want to enjoy quality sound movies, without spending extensively on a home theatre system.• Radio pre-sets – Radio channels can be saved as pre-sets. You can switch from one channel to the other without having to tune the frequency again.

Building a Bicycle Sound System

Bicycle Sound Systems (BSS) are growing in popularity. Anyone who has gone to a festival, seen or participated in a Critical Mass ride or watched the Skyride events in the UK will have seen a BSS in operation. The following is a description of what I have learnt over the years in the art of building a sound system attached to a bicycle.Please note that all this is just my opinion; there are no rules. If it works and you or someone else is happy with the result then that is great. Duke Ellington once said, “There are two types of music, good and bad. If you like it, it’s good music.”The first consideration before building a bicycle sound system is to ask yourself exactly what is it for? Now this may sound like a stupid question but consider:

Is the music for your own enjoyment, other cyclists riding with you, or members of the public watching?

Will you be riding the bike whilst the music is playing? (probably answered in the first question)

Would you like to play just your own music or have facilities, i.e. mixing desk, microphones, to make the system more flexible?

Would you wish to hire out the system at festivals and other events?

Where would the system be stored when not in use?

How would you get the system to the events?
Hopefully you can see the reason for asking these questions first. Once you know what the BSS is for, there are now a few more questions.

What is the budget?

How loud is the system to be?

Will you want to operate it in the rain?

Is it to be self-powered?

Would you want to use a trailer?
I am going to presume that the BSS is designed to have the music playing whilst being ridden. I have seen ‘static’ systems but I feel the whole idea of a BSS is that we have mobile music.A top of the range BSS could run into thousands of pounds, especially if everything needed was bought new.The volume of the system is probably the key to everything. The amount of power needed outside is far, far more than is needed inside; most of the sound from speakers inside a building is actually reflected sound. Take the walls away and the volume drops massively.There has to be a balance between what is audible, the fidelity of the reproduction, what can be afforded, and what is practical. A super loud system can not only annoy the neighbourhood and attract the police but it becomes really heavy and is impossible to move. Remember there is not just the weight of the speakers, there are also batteries and amplifiers that have to be carried.Again, how loud depends on the use, if it is just yourself and a cyclist next to you, 50 – 100 watts could be enough. In my opinion, 100 watts would be the absolute minimum. If you want many people to hear you and you want a proper bass response, the wattage must increase. I believe 600 watts is somewhere around the maximum, for both volume and weight.Critically the amplifier must not be overdriven. This usually happens when the output of the amplifier is not enough for the situation. Everything is turned to max to compensate and there is distortion. We have all heard it, in cars, clueless DJ’s, PA systems… The crazy thing is that turning it down just a bit will reduce the volume very slightly but everything can now be heard properly without distortion.The question of waterproofing has to be considered from the outset. Placing plastic bags or sheeting over speakers, amps and players does not work; not only does it look terrible, water WILL get in. Another issue is at what point do the covers go on? In case it looks like rain or when it starts raining? The latter means carrying covers to hopefully quickly throw over the system (whilst it is running!) in the hope that nothing gets damaged. Although there are waterproof players out there, the connections are not waterproof. Waterproof speakers do not sound that good, they are small and low powered. I have never seen a waterproof amplifier.Self -powered or not? This will come down to the volume of the system. An average cyclist can develop 100-200 watts for an hour. Moving the bike and sound system is going to use a certain amount of that power. There are losses involved in converting that power to usable electricity. Taking these factors into account, never mind the engineering problems in generating the electricity, we do not have much left for powering the amplifier. It can and has been done, the systems are not that loud and, in my opinion, are not that good.Whether or not to use a trailer is again down to what the BSS is for. We have all seen the ghetto-blaster strapped to the side of a bicycle. It works but the sound is not too good and cannot be heard from more than a few metres away.The main problem with getting a decent sound without a trailer is one of weight. That is why all the good sound systems I have seen use a trailer.If it is decided that batteries will power the system, we then consider the amplifier. Although the best amplifiers, in terms of fidelity are the domestic, Hi-Fi amps, they run on mains, 110v or 240v AC. This means the battery voltage, most likely 12v DC, must be converted.This causes all sorts of problems. The worst is that cheaper converters, or inverters, convert the DC into a square wave AC, this makes an amplifier hum. The other problem is the idea of having high voltages running around the system.Even if these considerations were overcome, the next, probably terminal issue is that a domestic or PA amplifier would probably fall apart in a short time due to the battering bicycle sound systems get. And they do get a battering; cobbles, pot holes, kerbs, speed humps, all give these rigs a hard life.These reasons are why every BSS I have seen use 12v automotive amplifiers; they are relatively cheap, easy to bolt down and provided a reputable make is used, are very reliable.The fidelity of an amplifier on a BSS is not that critical. What is discernable inside a quiet living room will be lost outside. As long as there is no distortion, the most critical component of a bicycle sound system is the speaker(s)The most important consideration when building any music system, whether a domestic Hi-Fi, car audio system, or public address (PA) is the choice of speakers. Over half your budget should go on the speakers. If top quality speakers are used, you can get away, to a certain extent, with cheaper amplifiers. Do it the other way round and there will always be a poor sound.Speakers are difficult to get right. The different drivers, e.g. woofer, tweeter, must be matched with each other and they also must be matched with the correct crossover (the device that splits the signal into high and low frequencies). Not only that, the cabinet, or enclosure must also be matched to the drivers and the crossover.A sound engineer told me that he once worked for a top speaker manufacturer in the UK. His first project was to discover why their latest speaker did not work as well as their previous model. In theory it should have sounded better but mysteriously sounded worse. After a week of messing about he discovered that the screws holding the rear cover on were slightly shorter in the new speaker. Changing the screws for the longer ones magically brought the speaker to life.It is that story alone that makes the idea of building a speaker from DIY plans very much hit or miss. Yes, the speaker will work but will it sound fantastic, just OK or dreadful? The only advantage of building a speaker cabinet is that it could be made to fit a trailer, or be an integral part of the trailer.The choice of speakers is massive. Generally, speakers can be divided into three types, Hi-Fi, car audio and PA.Car speakers can be a popular choice for BSS as they are cheap. The biggest problem with them is that they have to be fitted into a cabinet. Often seen is the ‘sub’ bass, a 15” speaker already fitted into a cabinet. The problem is that a ‘sub’ bass is just that, subsonic, or very low frequencies only. Great for certain types of music and a cinema surround sound system but not good enough on its own for a sound system. There will be a need for proper bass drivers as well as a sub. Generally a sub is not needed, not only does it require huge amounts of power to drive it, most music sounds good without one.Hi-Fi speakers can and are used. The disadvantages with them are:

To mount them properly they must either be strapped or screwed down. Screwing them means introducing screws into the cabinet, the cabinets are not designed for this and the material can be weakened. Also see above for the effect of the ‘wrong’ screws.

They are meant to be used in static situations. The electronic crossovers in them are not rugged enough for mobile use and can fail.

They are vulnerable to damage.

The connections are unreliable for a mobile application.
I believe the best speaker for a BSS are professional PA speakers for the following reasons:

They are very robust, built for a life on the road. The cabinets are usually made from tough ABS plastic and the speakers have protective grills over them.

They often have handles built into them which makes assembling and transporting the system easier.

The crossovers are built in and are made for rough use and to handle high power.

They have professional Speakon connectors, these are very quick to connect and cannot work loose.

A speaker from a quality manufacturer will have designed the drivers to work well together at high wattages reliably

The cabinets usually have threaded inserts making it easy to fix them to a trailer. (remember the story about the wrong screws; start screwing into a domestic Hi-Fi speaker at your peril. That is why speaker wall brackets just clamp onto the speaker).
Another aspect of speaker choice comes back to the intended use. Stereo or mono? Stereo only works when the speakers are in the correct position in front of the listener. This is not going to happen with a BSS. Another consideration is placement. Front, side or rear facing?An advantage of a mono sound is that the amplifier can be bridged. Most car amplifiers can be bridged. Bridging an amplifier has the effect of increasing the output of the amplifier. When bridging an amplifier into two speaker cabinets, extreme care must be taken to ensure the impedance of the combined speakers does not go below the minimum rated impedance of the amplifier otherwise a sorry mess of blue smoke will ensue.Having carefully chosen the amplifier and speakers. The question of getting it all to fit together must be considered.There is the choice of trailer and battery. The trailer often comes down to budget and availability. Just make sure it is strong enough to support the combined weight of everything.Do not use 12v car batteries. They are designed to give a large current in a short burst to operate the starter motor. They are not designed to go flat – a flat battery is anything less than about 12.5 volts. Once they have gone flat they will never recover. Each re-charge will result in a lower and lower final voltage until the battery will fail.The cheapest form of usable battery is the lead acid ‘leisure battery’. These are designed for caravans and wind charger and photo-voltaic systems; they can be re-cycled (recharged) many times before failure.Always use a fuse after the battery!Use proper crimped connectors, battery terminals etc. Try to avoid jamming wire under bolts. The vast majority of failures in all electrical systems are loose or bad connections.Try to use locking compound on screws and other fittings.Large output amplifiers that are bridged running in an enclosed space can be prone to overheating. A good amplifier will have an automatic shut-down if this happens. Overheating can be easily avoided by using computer cooling fans blowing across the amplifier. Stick-on heat sinks can help. Computer fans operate at 12v and can be found very cheaply on eBay.Put all the electrics into an enclosure that is waterproof. Have an air inlet at the bottom to let cool air in and an outlet at the top for the warm air to escape.The speakers can be protected by a cover over the top and some sort of material (printed fabrics are cheap and look good) across the front of them. As long as the material is a few inches from the front of the speakers they will remain dry.The music player for simplicity and water protection can be mounted near the amplifier. The obvious disadvantage is that it cannot be controlled from the bike. One solution is to mount it in a small box on the handle bars. We have found the best way is to use a plastic lidded box turned upside down with the box attached to the lid with a hinge. As long as the player is mounted above the base (lid) it will remain dry. Obviously if it is raining hard try to avoid opening the box!Finally, appearance. Briefly, if the system is just to please you and your friends probably the last thing to worry about is its appearance. After all, there is something to be said about the aesthetics of a functional device. However, if you want to hire the system out or use it on paid-for events, the appearance can be a more important consideration than its performance.So there you have it. I hope you have found this interesting and informative.Thanks for reading this!