This month I closed a chapter in my life playing a role I didn’t specifically chose for myself—the landlady.
My husband and I were young professionals when we met and fell in love, but along with the storybook romance came the reality. We married in 2009 after the real estate market began to plummet. We couldn’t sell our properties to buy a home together. So we rented out my condominium, and I moved in with my husband and Boulder (his 130-pound Rottweiler).
His house was not the newlywed house of my dreams, but as I look back, I have happy memories so I forget that. When I first moved in, neighbors used bowling balls to decorate fence posts, stacked boxes outside their house, and parked cars on the lawn. A car remained parked in front of our house for two years before we finally mustered the courage to call the non-emergency number and mention it to the police. This is ironic considering we are both attorneys.
There was a tenant down the street who drove a lime green monster truck so high off the ground my mid-size sedan fit underneath it. Another house had constant yard sales Thursday through Sunday. One night when we noticed them unloading items in the back alley after dark, we realized this was not a case of hoarders on a slow recovery plan. I still tease my husband for supporting a criminal enterprise by purchasing a Time Life series on Vietnam there. When we drove by and saw the fire department battling a fire that engulfed their house, we weren’t surprised. Between the plentiful stock of junk and the appearance of the tenants, which we both sized up as meth users, we could only imagine what had happened.
We never intended to stay as long as we did in my husband’s house. We spent the first few years of marriage looking for another place, but with foreclosures and short sales inundating the market, we were too picky or too slow. We kept missing out. Finally, in 2013, my husband had a job opportunity in another area, so we found a renter for our little house and moved.
Over the years, my husband has thought the rental business was great for us. We were stewarding our bad investments, and his neighborhood was on the up and up. The riff-raff was leaving. The cars were now neatly parked on driveways, and the houses maintained their 1950s charm.
In our rental business, however, my husband had no responsibility. I handled unhappy tenants, maintenance, and emergencies. I readied the properties and found new tenants. These things seemed equivalent to doing the laundry or paying the bills. I didn’t really think about them. It wasn’t until this year when our tenants gave notice, that I realized we could sell, and I also realized I wanted us to. So I pushed my husband to do it.
The rental business can be great if your heart is in it. You’re sitting on an asset that’s often appreciating, providing a steady income stream, but now that we’ve officially sold both properties, I can say with confidence that less responsibility is extremely liberating and the freedom is invigorating.
Sometimes life delivers chaos, and you have no choice but to roll with it. Other times, we have the power to minimize. Seeing my role as the landlady in the rearview mirror has me focused on my theme from last month—simplicity—and enjoying the richness of the present. I’m happy that my role has shifted. I find myself the tenant with a new lease on life.
Have you ever taken on a role and then realized you got in over your head? How did you handle it?