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How I became a landlord during COVID

My last article about how I bought a house for under $50K got a lot of attention. People have been asking me to write another follow-up of where I am at in my homeownership journey. So, by popular demand, here is my follow-up article to my initial house blog.

I officially closed on December 5th. My first major thing to do with the house was to get the furnace fixed. In a place where it gets in the -25 without wind chill, it was my priority. I opted to get things fixed than replacing the whole thing because I wanted to be sustainable. The biggest problem I’m having to deal with is owning a 30-year furnace that it keeps on breaking down. After the first repair of around $1200 and the second repair of about $500, I thought that was it. But when I got an invoice for another repair of $800, I was about to lose my sh*t. This is when living quite a distance from the house can be tricky because I’m depending on the word of the tradespeople that the work is needed and is actually getting done. There were several phone calls, emails, and text messages because I wanted to get the story straight.

And because they use oil as their source of fuel, something we “down south” don’t even use, I’m really relying on their expertise in this area. But I’m at the point that I should have just bought a new furnace. First, lesson learned…replace everything.

The reason, why I’m now stressing about the furnace is because I now have tenants in the house. That’s right, I went from homeowner to landlord in 2 months. It wasn’t planned, it just happened.

How did I find a tenant? Well, when you have a home in a small town and your property manager knows everyone in town, word gets around. So about 6 weeks into being a homeowner, my property manager texts me and asks if I would consider renting my house. My plan was to renovate in the spring so I could turn it into an Airbnb, so I asked how long they would stay? Because it was a teacher in town they would stay until the end of June. With the rate of the lockdowns delaying everything, starting renovations in July might not be such a bad idea. So I said yes.

But my house was in no condition for someone to live in it. This is why I didn’t move in and why renovations were on my mind. I bought this house “as is, where is” which is a huge risk. They told me that the house was winterized. When I had to turn the water on, we found out that it wasn’t. So, what did that mean? It meant, that I had to replace almost all the pipes because they had holes in them. Once again, because it gets so cold up there everything will freeze and break. And this is what happened to my pipes, the toilets, and the shower. So, something I was delaying until the spring got fast-tracked. Second lesson learned…trust no one.

Now for some fun stuff? Do you believe in the law of attraction? At the beginning of the year, I set out to make extra income. I didn’t know how I was going to do and then I landed a tenant. Crazy right? Third lesson learned…ask and you shall receive.

I guess at this point I’m “learning on the job”. Luckily, my background and current experience as a design strategist is paying off. I’m constantly following up with my property manager to make sure things are being delivered as required, project management skills. I’ve let my furnace guy know to just text me with a heads up if there are more repairs so I’m not blindsided, communication skills. And I’m always planning and looking ahead to the next thing, strategy skills.

My plan is to use the rent to pay for the roof in the spring and see where things progress from there. Seeing that the pandemic may slow some things with travel, I’ve let my tenant know that they can stay longer if they just give me a heads up. What’s that saying: “a bird in the hand beats two in the bush?” I would rather have passive and consistent income that is confirmed than “what if” scenarios at the moment.

Richelle Sibolboro
Richelle Sibolboro

Design strategist and content creator for hire with a passion for arts and culture specifically in design, architecture, and travel. She has produced content for designboom, Azure magazine, Open City Projects, Digifest, and World Design Weeks. Follow her on Instagram and LinkedIn.

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