Investing in Real Estate? Steer clear of speculation, focus on cash flow.

This week I had the privilege of attending a ‘Lunch and Learn’ put on by one of our team’s partner lenders, The Dorman Team at Evergreen Home Loans.  I took down lots of notes and learned so much that I immediately had to share with the rest of my team and also emailed some notes to a few clients that I know are either already investing in real estate or are considering investing.  So, I figured I’d share a tidbit here as well because I think the information is very simple but also very useful.

So the Lunch and Learn was covering the topic of “How to Qualify for Multiple Investment Properties”.  Mike Dorman lead the class and instructed us based off of his personal experience.  He’s purchased a lot of investment homes since his early twenties and made a lot of mistakes along the way. His first intro speech was about focusing on current cash flow only, not speculation of being able to buy and sell and make a profit. If you are planning to flip and sell, you must be very strategic and know your numbers if planning on doing that. Also, hire a great inspector and Real Estate Agent.

There are many things to take into account when looking to buy an investment property and accounting for cash flow.

To begin with, Mike said that you absolutely should NOT even consider buying an investment property unless you have $50,000 in the bank. This is a good starting point of financial security in knowing you are in a good place to begin investing.  You can purchase with less than 50K, just put enough down so you are making at least $200 per unit a month in cash to cover expenses. If you have a 4-plex, you should shoot for $300-$600 depending on the age of the property. You don’t want to be strapped to where you cannot take care of the home. The more down-payment you can apply, the better your cash flow will be because your monthly payments will be lower, obviously. Mike gave some examples in a spreadsheet of a $250,000 home with a $50,000 down payment vs. a $100,000 down payment. The home with $50,000 down had a cash-flow of $66/ month after all expenses and the home with $100,000 down had a cash flow of over $300/month.

He said that a conservative estimate on vacancy and what the underwriters use is to assume you will always have 25% vacancy. You should never assume less than 10% vacancy.

On average, account for one month’s rent to be used towards maintenance of the home annually and consider deducting this into your rent amount itself.

You really should hire a property manager. The money spent on a property management company will pay for itself both in the rental amount charged and your time spent managing it otherwise.  Property managers will help you get higher rent amounts similar to an agent selling your home vs. selling on your own.   They do a much better job of screening tenants. Mike gave an example of two brand-new homes in Orting that prior to hiring a property manager, he had to replace carpet and re-paint three times costing him 7K each time a tenant moved out, and this was because of his poor choice of tenants.  Since hiring a property manager, that hasn’t been a problem. For a good property manager, expect to pay 10% of your rental amount.  He mentioned that you shouldn’t try to find the cheapest property manager because you get way you pay for; he wants his property management company to be successful so that they can also do a good job at property management. (Good lesson for anything we hire out!)

He said, do NOT buy ‘nice big homes’, because every time a tenant moves out, the expectation is to clean the place up to be a ‘nice big home’ again, which is costly. Buy simple family homes, 3 or 4 bedrooms with 2 bathrooms. Do NOT buy homes with Septic tanks because of the costly maintenance and issues that can arise with septic tanks.

Mike also supplied us with some breakdowns of the differences in requirements with Freddie Mac vs. Fannie Mae for investment properties, what the down payment requirements would look like, and more.  I would suggest that if you are interested in investing at this time, reach out to Mike and his team and he can help you look at your options.

Hope this was helpful, it certainly was for me!





De-cluttering my life

I recently joined a Real Estate team, Press Play Realty and they required that I read the book ‘The One Thing’. I had heard a lot of “The One Thing” lingo talked about at the office so I had a general idea that it meant focusing in on the one thing that you should do to make your life easier and more successful.

I love this quote from Gary Keller in the book:

“The doors to the world have been flung wide open, and the view that’s available is staggering. Through technology and innovation, opportunities abound and possibilities seem endless. As inspiring as this can be, it can be equally overwhelming. The unintended consequence of abundance is that we are bombarded with more information and choices in a day than our ancestors received in a lifetime. Harried and hurried, a nagging sense that we attempt too much and accomplish too little haunts our days.”


This really resonated with me in the sense that I often try to do too many things at once but I am also easily distracted by my surroundings. I actually didn’t at first connect this to my home and wanting to minimalize here too, but oddly enough I’ve ended up in this place where I want to get rid of all the clutter and distractions at home to make life more simple here as well.  My husband asked me what got me started on all of this just yesterday and I told him I wasn’t even sure. He likes the idea of getting rid of stuff too, but I have an inkling that he may think I’ve gone a little cuckoo as I’ve slowly torn apart our home little by little in the evenings this week.

I’m a total YouTube and podcast junkie, I’m always listening to something inspiring when I’m getting ready for my day, so I think I first heard the idea of minimalism from another YouTube entrepreneur but I’m not totally sure. Actually now that I really think back, it may have gotten recommended in my YouTube feed after looking up how to pack everything in a carry-on for a two week trip because the concepts are similar (we are leaving for Europe in a couple of weeks and want to take everything in our carry-ons).  In general, I think it all just kind of connects with ‘The One Thing’ for me because no matter what you do in life, the more you can simplify it, the easier it will be and the more likely you are to accomplish whatever it is you’re trying to get done. Whether it be picking out your outfit in the morning or trying to find your next real estate client 🙂  I also think the inner desire for this goes along with wanting to have a farm someday and live “the simple life” …if there is such a thing.


I envision this being really great for our finances overtime too if I can keep up the minimalist efforts. Let me tell you about my shopping habits.  I have always have been a bargain shopper. I go straight for the clearance racks, I never pay full price for anything except maybe food, and I love to thrift shop. The bad thing about this is that I shop too often so even though I spend really small amounts at a time, it still adds up to a lot. I also have a tendency to buy things just because they are cheap but then they don’t get used because it wasn’t something I actually needed or wanted, which is super wasteful.It certainly doesn’t help that Target and TJ Maxx are both within a five minute drive from my house!

The purge.  That’s what I’m calling it.  Sounds like a scary movie and it kind of looks like one in our spare room right now where I’m storing all the stuff I’m getting rid of. We will be having a yard sale in two weekends before we leave for Europe because why not try to make some money off of our junk?!

Here are the types of questions I’m asking myself as I go through everything in my house:

Have I used this in the last six months?

Why do I have this?

Am I saving this “just in case”? If so, can I re-purchase it later inexpensively for one-time use?

If I were to go shopping now, would I still buy this?

Will my friend/family member that bought this for me actually be mad if I got rid of it knowing that it would make my life less stressful to let it go?  Or would they even know?

Does seeing this item make me feel guilty? (i.e. my scrapbooking supplies because I never scrapbook anymore)

Do I have multiples of this same thing?

Would someone else be blessed with this at our yard sale or at the thrift store?

And a final reminder I always tell myself…none of these things go with me when I leave this Earth so really none of them matter 🙂

Have you been trying to live a more minimalist lifestyle? If so, have you been successful at maintaining a de-cluttered home? How has it impacted other areas of your personal, spiritual, or work life?

Some Pinterest inspiration to leave you feeling inspired to de-clutter too:









Honey for Days!

Before I start, please remember that Daniel, my husband, is the beekeeper of our household and I just help with photographing the journey and in the honey extraction process, so my terminology and expertise is limited but I’ll do my best to explain the extraction process. I’m also going to include links to equipment used (or similar) on Amazon for those who are looking for the different tools they might need if they are considering beekeeping. Most local farm stores will have your basic supplies as well.

With that being said, we extracted honey on Sunday and ended up with about 4 & 1/2 gallons!  We were hoping for at least 2, so this was really exciting. This is only our third season of honey extraction: Spring 2015, Fall 2015, and now 1st day of Summer 2016. What a perfect way to kick off the first day of summer this was!

The process is a bit time consuming (and sticky) but so worth it once you see the “liquid gold”as my brother-in-law, Dimitry, would say.

Daniel has been keeping an eye on the hives all spring, checking the individual frames within the boxes to see how full they are getting and how many of the cells are capped by the bees, indicating they have filled the individual cells with honey and they are ready.  The pictures below will better explain 🙂

Here you can get a visual of what inspecting the boxes looks like. Daniel doesn’t always suit up, it just depends on whether or not he’s actually pulling out the frames for a thorough inspection. He’s pretty brave! He uses a smoker that helps to calm the bees before moving around the frames. Similar/same here  He uses the quickstart pellets with the smoker to create the smoke. Similar/same here


This standard hive tool as pictured below is used to move around the frames inside the box during inspection.  Similar/same here


We have a couple of different types of frames inside of our boxes, some that are handmade and the individual cells are made from actual wax, some that are plastic with wax coating. The cells are the little octagon shapes in the frames that you would normally associated with a beehive. I suggest looking on Craigslist or OfferUp for frames/boxes, we’ve found some pretty good deals in the past!

The image below shows a frame that would not be ready for extraction. The bees have only begun to fill the cells with honey. This picture was taken earlier this spring.


Now, don’t be confused with capped honey cells and cells that have baby bees or “drones” in them.  The babies are basically cocooned inside the cells and covered and as they hatch or are opened, you can see their white larvae-like bodies take form, as you can see below in this image from the bottom half-up. The lower right half corner of this image is covered cells with honey…see the difference? Drone cells look similar to the baby cells except they are much larger. I’m not going to go into explaining the role of the drone bee here since the purpose of this post is to go over extraction, but you can read a general overview about them here.


So ideally, the frames you want to extract honey from should look like the one below, almost entirely capped and filled with honey.

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So Daniel goes through the hives and pulls out all the frames that he finds are ready for extraction.

We use this extractor  and it does the job. It’s a two-frame extractor so you can extract from two frames at once. The struggle we have found is that because you’re putting two frames in the barrel at once, there can be an imbalance in the spinning process. Also, we’ve experienced the handle falling off of this extractor, not sure if all of them have that defect, but it’s something to be aware of. It’s more of a nuisance than anything, but still usable.

So, before putting the frames into the extractor, you have to individually un-cap all of the cells that the bees have so lovingly capped. (Sorry bees!) There are a couple of ways this can be done. You can use a comb like we did here, or you can use a hot knife which takes some skill and we haven’t tried yet.  We’ve heard that some people prefer the knife, but some prefer the comb, so “to each his own” 🙂

As Daniel uncaps the cells (which is bee-created wax), we scrape that off into a bowl to strain excess honey from later. That wax can also be used to create candles and other fun things, but Ain’t nobody got time for that right now in the Topov household!


So once either side of two frames are totally uncapped, we drop them into the barrel cavity and spin them really fast so all of the honey is EXTRACTED and goes to the bottom of the barrel. Getting a good visual yet?  Here’s a better image of the inside of the barrel from the manufacturer’s site.


Once we’ve completed spinning all of the frames to empty the honey cells, the honey is at the bottom of the barrel and there is a spout to simply pour it out. Now, there are always going to be chunks of wax that end up in the honey so you really do need to strain out at least all of the big stuff if you just want straight honey. We use a very basic method for this, with a straining pan. Similar/same here It just drains through the strainer into a bowl. You can actually use this strainer over a 5-gallon bucket but we never have a sanitary one of those lying around. Who does, really?!


Once strained, that’s really it. Honey doesn’t need preservatives and DO NOT BOIL it to kill bacteria, it’s totally unnecessary and it will actually kill the health benefits of honey.  I’m sure most people know that, but just in case 😉

I think I covered basically everything for the process that we use, but please feel free to ask questions further.

One last quick mention, because people are generally misinformed about bees. Honeybees are NOT aggressive and if we can do this process, so can you. We live in a cul-de-sac, not on a farm. Just check your city’s regulations and make sure your neighbors are comfortable with the idea but if you’re giving them honey, they probably won’t mind as we have found. This is so much less scary and simple than I ever imagined. Give it a go!


I’m really terrible at being consistent with this blog already. A lot has happened since my first three posts. If I’m being honest with myself, I would say that I’ve been avoiding writing because of addressing the life update from my second post about my cousin and his battle with cancer.

Nathan went to be with the Lord on April 20th. I’m still not 100% confident that I’ve mourned his death yet. When he passed, Daniel and I were only into our second day of our anniversary vacation in Mexico. Everyone in the family just told us that we should enjoy our vacation because Nathan would want us to, and so we did. I tried to not let emotions take over our trip. Nathan’s death, though he had been battling cancer for several years and most recently, shingles, still came as a surprise.  From everything we had been told prior to us leaving for our vacation, he was on the road to recovery from the shingles and his regular cancer treatment would carry on once that was resolved. So when his body decided to stop fighting, it was unexpected and happened really fast, from what I’ve come to learn.  My Aunt Beth was in the room with him when he passed, and I’m glad she was there with him through those last really hard months. Their relationship needed that bonding time before his time here was over, and I’m so grateful they were able to have that.

I’m rambling…I don’t feel like I’ve mourned his death because I didn’t get to be around family when everything happened, and by the time I returned from vacation the following week, the worst of the mourning for everyone else was already over. The day after we returned, they were having Nathan’s viewing service so I drove to Yakima for that and went with my Mom and spent time with family there. Nathan looked very peaceful and I let out only a few tears here and there when I would see others crying too.  My emotions came out most when Ray, Nathan’s best friend, mentioned that Nathan had recently told him how proud of me he was. That was hard and good to hear all at once.  I felt at peace in the fact that his physical body was no longer suffering and that his soul had moved on and is now in the arms of the Lord. That following weekend we had a celebration of life for him in the mountains, just as Nathan would want. It was a beautiful day, so many people gathered to celebrate Nathan’s life. I got to lead prayer in front of everyone there which was honestly intimidating for me with it being the largest crowd I’ve ever publicly spoken in front of, but also an honor.

I keep thinking that I’m going to be visiting Nathan in the hospital again one of these days, but have to remind myself of reality. Reality is better though, even if it’s a hard truth because I’m selfish and I want Nathan to be here still. “Eternity mindset” I keep reminding myself, I’ll be seeing him again.

I was supposed to write a blog about our honey extraction today, but I needed to get this one done first, so I’ll do the honey blog post tomorrow.


In loving memory of Nathan Voyles (Jan 11, 1987-April 20, 2016)

(Left to right) Me, Nathan, and Daniel early 2015.



His garden, her garden

I dream of having our own farmer’s market stand. One with the best variety of tomatoes and peppers, various jar sizes of honey, and farm fresh eggs!

Only with my husband’s amazing passion for gardening and beekeeping will this ever be attainable. Otherwise my stand would probably only sell eggs, and even that is questionable.

By the way, I should share that Daniel uses the ‘Back to Eden’ Gardening method, you can learn more about it on their site. A gentleman from church recommended it to Daniel last year and all I’ve heard since is “woodchips” this and “woodchips” that…. you can learn about it here:

Today, Daniel was doing some damage control of the greenhouse due to the heavy winds we had. We have this unique greenhouse that Daniel built and it works well for him, not so much for me. I don’t do well squatting or bending over for a long period of time, so I look forward to a bit warmer weather when it comes down which is hopefully just around the corner.

I thought I would share what Daniel is growing this year so far.  I help throw out ideas of what to grow and occasionally buy him plants or seeds of things that I would like to eat. I did help plant corn today though, go me!  We cleared out a raised area around where we had a huge tree cut down last year. By cut down, I mean the tree guys cut off all the limbs and left us a 20 foot stump. We were a bit peeved at first, but have grown to like the odd stump. I intended on just planting flowers and lavender there but Daniel thought it would be fun to try growing some corn, so we are giving it a shot. That’ll be a site to see…. small garden bed of flowers, lavender, and corn along the fence-line!


Lavender, Ornamental Kale, Succulents, and other lovelies.

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Stuck somewhere between winter, spring, and a lumberjack.

Here is the list of what is currently growing in our greenhouse, I’ll list the varieties of each and colors for the ones that we don’t have name labels for  i.e. purple potatoes 🙂

Eggplant (Varieties: Shikou, Ichiban, Satin Moon)

Cucumbers (Varieties: Sweet Slice, Burpless, Pick a Bushel, Burpee Hybrid)

Peppers (Varieties: Golden California Wonder, Chocolate Beauty, Giant Marconi, Golden Bell, Cayenne, Jalapeño)

Tomatoes (Varieties: Early Girl, Yellow Pear, Beefsteak, Striped German, Black Krim, Patio, Sunsugar)

Lettuce (Varieties: Salad Bowl, Red Sails, Parris Island, Iceberg)

Cabbage (Variety: Golden Acre)

Cauliflower (Variety: Snowball)

Potatoes (Red, Gold, and Purple)

Asparagus (Purple and Green)

Onions (Variety: Walla Walla)

Spinach (Variety: Space)




Herbs: Coriander Cilantro, Parsley, Dill

Outside of the greenhouse, we have the following:






Fig Tree

Quince Tree

Concord Grapes (Purple)

Flame Seedless Grapes (Red)

Niagara Grapes (Green)

Fantasia Nectarine Tree (not doing so well this year)

Sun Grand Nectarine Tree (also not doing so well this year)

Grafted tree #1 has the following: July Elberta Peach, Fantasia Nectarine, Blenheim Apricot, and Santa Rosa Plum

Grafted tree #2 has the following: Empire Apple, Gravenstein Apple, Yellow Transparent Apple, Fuji Apple, and Red Macintosh Apple

Grafted tree #3 has the following: Bing Cherry, Rainier Cherry, Royal Ann Cherry, and Montmorancy Cherry

and lastly….corn 🙂


While walking around the garden tonight, making sure I didn’t miss anything, I was taking pictures of the buds on the fruit trees. They are so beautiful.  I can’t begin to tell you which ones go to which fruit, but here are a few of my favorites:

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I wrote this blog post about a week and a half ago and just saved it because I was hesitant about posting it, but I decided today that I should go ahead and share. It’s not relevant to Urban Homesteading or Real Estate, but I think it will resonate with others who have lived through cancer or walked alongside someone during the fight.  Also, a very positive update to the status since I originally wrote this- Nathan’s liver is NOT failing, praise the Lord!  His shingles just decided to attack his body from the inside-out so everything was struggling to keep up. After several weeks in the hospital, he is expected to be discharged hopefully this coming weekend and can finally go home. He still has an unknown road ahead cancer-wise, but this shingles setback is almost behind him.

Here is my original post:

I don’t think I’ve really established the intent of this blog yet, but my first post said I would share tidbits about my life, so this is a tidbit I suppose. Life can be a lot of things…


For Nathan-


Kool-Aid Stands

Lincoln Logs

Sand Boxes & Centipedes

Matchbox Cars


Climbing Tree (with our own designated sitting spots)

Make-believe houses made out of leaves

Bicycle Races

Radio Flyer Wagon

Cowboys and Indians

Road trips to Oregon in the back of Grandma and Grandpa’s Buick

Hidden fort among the trees

Baseball (and trading cards)

Hide and Seek

Ticking Clocks



Picky Eating


Grandma and Grandpa’s front porch swing



These are all the things I remember when I look into the eyes of my cousin Nathan, who is now fighting the tough battle so many of us know as cancer.  My cousin is just 29 years young and I still see my childhood best friend beyond those tired eyes.  He’s been at war with this disease for the last four-ish years. I still remember the voicemail my Mom left me telling me the news, where I was when I listened to it, and the anger and emotions that swarmed the depths of my being at that moment. I also remember calling him for the first time after getting the news to see how he was feeling and what the next steps were.  He told me about how his grandma (on his other side of the family) prayed over him and he felt the presence of God for the first time. It’s hard to understand what a relief and comfort that is if you don’t believe or have a relationship with God, but this gave me hope and peace back then and it still does now.  I don’t know what lies ahead for Nathan in his current state, lately it seems like one step forward, two steps back, but he hasn’t given up the fight and I don’t expect that he will.


Nathan and I were the only grandchildren to our Grandma Polly and Grandpa Troy for the first 7-8 years of our lives, so we were more like brother and sister, attached at the hip. I’m pretty sure we actually thought the world revolved around us during those years. Even beyond that, Nathan and I were very close until my Grandma Polly passed away when I was about 11 years old. She was the glue that held the two of us together.  After she passed, we didn’t get to see each other as often and our lives went their own ways as we traveled into our teenage years and adulthood. However, there is something so significant about a childhood best friend that forever leaves it’s mark, and Nathan is that to me.

If there is anything positive I can say about this cancer, it’s that it’s brought us back to a point of understanding and cousinhood friendship.

If you pray, please pray for Nathan. He has Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He’s been through so many different chemo treatments, radiation, two stem cell transplants, and he currently has shingles due to his weakened immune system and potential liver failure, which we are currently waiting for the results from the Biopsy for.  Pray that the cancer hasn’t spread and that full restoration is ahead.

HELLO WORLD, a little about me, etc.

I decided to create this blog so I could have one platform to share tidbits about my life, my interests, and my career. Lately, I’ve been anxiously wanting to connect with others in my community that also have honeybees or chickens in their backyards and/or are growing some of their own food. If I’m being honest, it’s my husband, Daniel, who led us in this adventure and does most of the hard work and I basically just reap the benefits and brag about him…

I hope to one day have the same passion about gardening and bees as my husband does. I’m just busy being obsessed with our four chickens at the moment. Their names are Buffy, Chappy 1 & Chappy 2 (lookalikes),  and Snow White. They produce the best eggs in town, in my opinion.  We actually tried to buy a real farm a little over a month ago, one called “Sweet Briar Farms” that came with 135 chickens and the prettiest greenhouses Daniel ever did see, but our offer was outbid by another buyer. It would have been a big risk for us anyways and a lot to maintain, so I think it all worked out for the best. Having gone through that experience though and spending hours dreaming of “what could be”, we now have a vision to someday move beyond just our backyard homesteading operation.

I also have a cat named Tesla that hates everyone except Daniel and me so the only way I can show her sweet side is through Instagram, which I just might do a little too often. Sorry followers.


We moved to Kent, WA from Spokane, WA in 2012. The transition was hardest on me with leaving our family, friends, and church home behind, but after almost four years living in a suburb of Seattle, I think I kind of like it here.   The rain can seem over-redundant at times but all the green around us makes it a reasonable tradeoff for me.  I’m grateful to be a few hours drive from our Washington coastline. I always tell people that “nothing is more beautiful than where the mountains meet the ocean” and that place is basically in our backyard. So, I gladly endure the rain.

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La Push, Second Beach


My husband is an Electrician for Local 46 in the Union (I think that’s the right Local, but don’t quote me) and I am a Realtor with Keller Williams Puget Sound.  “Do you know anyone that is looking to buy or sell Real Estate?” is what I should be asking, so hey, do you know anyone that is looking to buy or sell Real Estate? Kidding, but seriously though. I may occasionally share Real Estate news and statistics if I think it’s relevant to my community or just crazy stories here and there about a day in the life of a Realtor.

I started dabbling in running about this time last year and ran my first half-marathon in July 2015 and am registered to do the same one again this year (See Jane Run, Seattle). I don’t enjoy running, but I appreciate running, if that makes any sense. I like the way I feel after a run and the discipline it teaches me to endure something that is not pleasant knowing that it will have a positive outcome for my health. While we are on the topic of health and me,  I also like doing a Whole30 every now and again. Look it up if you don’t know what it is. I think everyone should know about it and try it.   #itstartswithfood

I just put a hashtag in a blog post, am I supposed to do that? No idea.

I’m not sure where exactly this blog is going. I’m not much of a writer at all, I tend to over-use commas and parentheses.  I’m also terrible at organizing my thoughts and my emotions, which may have already been evident from this post alone.

Anyways, it’s almost 12pm and I usually go to bed much earlier, so I need to wrap this up before my head falls on the keyboard and I accidentally delete all that I’ve written.  Thanks for reading the splatter of thoughts and ideas above! Comment if you have any questions about me, our backyard operation, or… anything I suppose.

Be Blessed!