You may have noticed a few recent references to stressed-out Mr. Smith. I commented in response to Mrs. Groovy’s positivity challenge, that I really wanted to find a way to help my husband be a little more thankful and relaxed. The key was figuring out the root of his anxiety. As with anything, there are usually a number of factors worthy of some blame, but I think we were able to single out one of the major ones: our rental property. Now, we’re strategizing to adjust our plan, so that everyone can be a little happier for this part of our journey.
The History Of Our Rental Property
Once upon a time, we were an engaged couple. I had just finished undergraduate school and we decided to buy a house together. Mr. Smith provided a small down payment with some inheritance from his mom (she died when he was five). We purchased a two-bedroom Cape Cod in a small suburban city (approximately 850-900 square feet). We took out a 30-year mortgage for $83,000. It was 2004.
Mr. Smith and I got married the following year and then proceeded to enjoyed our cozy home for eight years. In 2012, Goofball celebrated his second birthday and soon after, I was pregnant with Tornado. We decided that it was time to move.
We found a new house that was perfect for a growing family, three houses down from Mr. Smith’s childhood home. Let me tell you firsthand, there are tons of benefits to having Grandpa and Uncle as neighbors. We weren’t quite on the path to financial independence just yet, but Mr. Smith had always wanted to manage property. We crunched the numbers and found out that we could afford both mortgages (well, kind of, we did continue to build up consumer debt for a while longer). However, we needed to rent it out right away.
The problem with immediately putting our house on the rental market was that it needed a lot of work (this was another reason why we opted against trying to sell the old house). Mr. Smith had started remodeling the kitchen, but there were mismatched cupboards and unfinished drywall. The huge attic was promising for another bedroom or two, but it still needed to be finished. The bathroom needed a ton of updating. There was even a small hole in one of the bedroom floors.
How were we supposed to finance these repairs while taking on two mortgages? Thankfully, our friend came along with a solution. He was a bachelor and excited about getting a whole house to himself. He’s very into music and liked the freedom he would have to make noise, in comparison to his previous living quarters in an apartment building. He agreed to put up with the not-so-great aesthetics and with Mr. Smith coming in to do repairs from time to time. In exchange, we gave him a really good rate on rent.
This really good rate was less than our mortgage payment. We decided to go forward with the arrangement because we would be (1) helping out a friend; (2) building equity in the property; and (3) creating an asset that could be used for income in our future. And, the arrangement was only supposed to a short-term one. It all seemed like a good idea, back then . . . almost four years ago.
We have not done much at all to the house in the past four years. Our friend is still there, happily paying us rent, but the property has even more issues now. Mr. Smith has removed most of the dilapidated siding, but now the house also needs to be sanded and painted. There is a front deck/concrete slab that needs to be fixed up. All of the shutters need to be repaired. And, the list goes on and on.
We were overly optimistic about finding time to do work on our rental property. Mr. Smith has all of the tools and know-how, but none of the time. He sometimes has trouble getting over there just to mow the lawn. But also, it’s kind of hard to buy materials when you’re battling to pay down tens of thousands of dollars in debt. The only real positive (besides our content friend) is that the mortgage has continued to decrease. We now owe less than $50,000 on this property.
I could tell that Mr. Smith was becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress on fixing up the rental property. He has it all planned out, but never has the opportunity to do any work. Instead, he’s just watching it deteriorate even further. Mr. Smith takes on a lot of responsibilities for both houses and extra money-saving chores like car maintenance and collecting and splitting firewood. And, I need his help with much of the day-to-day tasks in order to work my bread-winning job and do all of my freelance work on the side.
A New Plan
We’re adjusting our schedules so that Mr. Smith can have at least one day per week to work on the property without kids in tow. He’s cutting back on working his job. In fact, it’s going to be more of a side hustle for him now, something for when he has extra time. His boss was very flexible to begin with and has agreed to give Mr. Smith some time off to work on this big project. The new arrangement will allow him to take care of things around the house, handle more child-care responsibilities (like daycare drop-off and pick-up), and work on the rental property. As for me, his extra help will give me more time to complete work for my main job and pick up more side hustles.
Mr. Smith has been over at the rental property for the past two days sanding the back of the house, to be painted. Yep, it doesn’t look so hot right now. But, you can look forward to lots of before and after pictures 🙂
What Does This Decision Mean For Our Finances?
Our new situation creates several problems, including less income from Mr. Smith and needing some money to pay for materials. And, there is costly daycare to consider as well. They go three days per week right now. He can’t bring the two little ones with him to do the remodeling work, but he can do many other chores with them (and maybe even convince Tornado to help him). We’ve run the numbers and the financial effects are manageable. Mr. Smith did not make that much money working as a construction apprentice. I may need to do a bit more freelance side work, but the assignments seem to be picking up lately. There is also another term life insurance cash-out coming our way in the next month or so.
We shouldn’t face a financial setback, mainly because we’re finally out of that danger zone of just having enough money to to pay the bills and all of the minimum amounts due. We did refinance all of the larger-interest rate credit cards and still expect to only have that debt consolidation loan left by the end of the year (no more credit cards!!!). But our progress might be slower for a little while. Once the repairs are complete, we can work on finding new tenants. We’re anticipating an increase of at least $600-$700 per month in rental income. Once we reach that point, we’ll be in a much better position to up our game of paying off all of the debt, including student loans and mortgages.
This decision really comes down to the realization that we can’t just live life for the future. Mr. Smith is unhappy and disappointed right now, by the lack of progress on the rental property. We’re going to make this work for him, and the end result will help us reach our goals. Sure, it might make more sense to unload the property for whatever equity possible, so we can pay off debt. However, I know that such a decision would make Mr. Smith feel like a complete failure. This whole plan is based on the ideal of a more-meaningful life for everyone in our family. Fixing up and managing the rental property is important to Mr. Smith, so we’ll just have to find a way to make it happen.
What do you think? Are we being stupid and stubborn? Want to come over and help us do some work on the place? I’ll make food for you 🙂