We Become a Slumlord

Tree Langdon

Our Motto was - there is safety in numbers.

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Old Building by analogicus from Pixabay

Over the years, we dallied a bit with local real estate, buying old houses and renovating them.

  • Sometimes we would flip them for a quick profit.

More often we would rent them out to locals with nicknames like SqueGee and Lunky.

Many small streams of income trickling in each month was our strategy to slowly build our retirement fund.

There was a lot of work involved in taking care of individual houses and we soon realized that combining more rentals in one building might be a better way.

We wanted to be able to increase our holdings but we wanted to keep the rents low.

Being a frugal landlord was our goal.

After a bunch of number crunching, we realized we had to spend more to get where we wanted to be.

It was a stretch, but the numbers worked out better for everyone, even the tenants to be.

  • We decided to try to find a way to buy an apartment building.

After searching for something we could afford, we found a really old (but cheap) seven-unit apartment building in our neighborhood.

We sold everything else and put all our money into this one basket. A basket of trouble as it turns out.

Now we were slumlords.

We didn’t know it yet but our spare time for the next two years was now fully booked.

The two-story building was done in an attractive greyish stucco with dilapidated wooden balconies hanging off the second floor.

  • There was a large bulge in the stucco surface on one exterior wall which we were worried would be a building envelope problem, a money pit.

Our building inspector reported these items, but our realtor told us that the owners would not discuss it. The price included adjustments for the condition of the building.

  • It was a 'take it or leave it moment'.

We decided to take the risk. We put a contingency in our renovations budget for what we called ‘the bulge’.

The offer was accepted and we were slumlords.

The carpet in the hallways was the original orange shag carpet from the ’80s and it smelled like sour cat urine.

Nasty crawling things were living in it.

You could have smoked salmon in the blue haze in the hallways.

It seemed like someone had used the walls in the building as a game of door kickers.

The entry doors had no locks so the building was wide open to anyone that wanted to wander in.

  • And wander in they did.

There were more animals living there than people.

Stray cats roamed freely in the hallways because of a two-way cat door in the front entrance.

More animals lived in the crawlspace.

One tenant had several parrots that flew freely in their suite. The birds had painted the walls in charming white streaks.

The tenants had a really effective, informal co-operative arrangement going on in the building.

They all knew each other and helped each other out with repairs and other challenges like finding money for beer, or rent.

  • It was not unusual to find someone roaming the halls wearing their pajamas, visiting their friends.

Most of the tenants were behind in their rent and all of them were scraping by to make ends meet.

It was just a matter of time before one of them self-destructed.

Emergency repairs were the first drain on our meager funds.

All the second-floor decks were rebuilt.

The cats lost their convenient revolving door.

The crawl space creatures were closed out with heavy mesh screens. That put a cramp in the style of some of the local varmints.

Securing the outside doors angered a few of the tenants because they kept forgetting their keys and locking themselves out.

Others were pleasantly grateful for increased safety.

Neighbors and passersby waved and cheered over a bit of paint on the outside and some yard cleanup.

The painters said they’d never experienced such gratifying feedback on a job before.

Once the basics were care of, the next step was to have a suite we could renovate.

‘Plan A centered on renovating the units one at a time without completely emptying the building so that there would still be some cash coming in.

This investment dance had begun as a foxtrot with buildings. We had now moved into a more dramatic tango with the people in the apartment.

In reality, we balanced our time between dealing with crazy people and keeping ourselves safe and sane.

  • There were several years that neither of us would go into the building alone.

Our motto was ‘There is safety in numbers’.

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A merchant of dreams. ♡ I love to connect humanity to technology. I write news, and fiction, exploring Worldview plots. Was a CGA/CPA in a past life. I have a lot of life experience. Parenting, Art, Finance, Investing, Auditing, Project Management, Writing, Story Grid Method, Science, Forensic Anthropology, Extensive overseas travel including Asia, Greece, Thailand.

Seattle, WA
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