Monday, October 17, 2011
MY OTHER JOBS by Jackie Lee Miles
When I’m not writing I do various things like cooking and cleaning and laundry and grocery shopping. Very exciting, yes? But the job that takes all of my energy is property management. Twelve years ago we bought eight houses to rent. The market was ripe. Real estate was soaring. We’d make a fortune! As the years rolled on things looked pretty good, property values were going up, we were paying down mortgages, having good luck with tenants and estimated we had quite a bit of equity as a result of our investment.
Then the crash came. We should have seen it coming, but we kept thinking (early on) that it would recover. So we didn’t sell our properties. It would have been hard to, anyway. Even though the tenants were paying their rent on time, most of them tended to be very messy. It’s hard enough to sell a rental property, let alone one that’s in total disarray. In the end we were stuck with all of the houses.
Things got worse. Recently we found out we are “upside-down” on all of them. We owe more money for each and every one of them than they are worth. Yikes! What happened to our fortune? It went down the tube like it did for so many others. What makes it even harder is we no longer have good luck with our tenants.
Two ran out in the middle of the night without paying the rent. One of them owed for the month before as well. (I tend to listen to sob stories and commiserate.) If running out wasn’t bad enough, they left the houses in shambles. It cost a small fortune to get them back into shape in order to re-rent them. I also found out the newspaper ads, which used to be inexpensive were no longer inexpensive. They wanted hundreds of dollars to run a short one to entice new tenants.
I was able to get a contract signed on the one that had the most damage (after spending my children’s inheritance to get it in shape.) Finally, things were looking up! Not so fast. The very next day the air conditioner compressor conveniently located on the outside of the house was missing. The guy I hired to mow the grass and trim the bushes to get the lawn in perfect shape for our new tenant, pointed it out. To make matters worse the compressor had components that were no longer compatible with the actual air conditioning unit itself so we had to purchase the whole enchilada, to the tune of two and a-half-thousand dollars.
Recovering from that we discovered the roof of one of the other homes was beyond repair and needed to be replaced. Once we had that done, the front stoop and staircase of a tri-level collapsed (nobody got hurt, thank the Lord and all his angels.) and had to be rebuilt.
From there it was all downhill. Dishwashers, ovens, septic tanks, garage door openers and rotten siding took over. We were clobbered with repairs bills every time we turned around. All of this makes me very thankful that I have another job: that of a writer. I can bury myself in a story and pretend that my real life is not really happening. Just last week, a tenant called and told me her toilet was backed up and had flooded the bathroom floor.
“Don’t bother me, now” I told her. “I’m in the middle of a very important scene. Call me later when you finish mopping up the mess.”
She did call later. I called the plumber. It was her fault. She’d flushed a yogurt lid down the drain and it didn’t quite make it. We added the cost of it onto her rent and I went back to my manuscript, feeling ever so happy. Maybe things were looking up in the real estate market!
Well, I can always dream. In the interim, I’ll just keep on writing.
Jackie Lee Miles is the author of Roseflower Creek, Cold Rock River, Divorcing-Dwayne, All That's True and The Heavenly Heart, which is available as an e-book. Write to the author at Jackie@jlmiles.com. Visit the website at http://www.jlmiles.com.