Sunday, April 26, 2020

How’s It Going As a Landlord During the Pandemic?

My mobile office

Perhaps the most common question I get during the COVID pandemic has been, "How's it going as a landlord?"

It makes sense I'd get asked this given that I left my job at the end of last year... just enough time to almost get settled into a new normal before everything came down.

For starters, Jessi got sick right away. It seemed like pneumonia at the time, but in retrospect, it shared very similar symptoms to COVID. However, she was never tested. When we called our doctor, he said the advice would be the same no matter which illness it was - stay home and rest - so there was no need to get tested. All that to say, our family's life ground to a halt for a couple of weeks.

And I LOVED it!

(Jessi was miserable, but I never showed any symptoms of anything.)

It was like a staycation where nobody had any real expectations for me. I got to focus on my startup and playing with the kids. I pushed back all maintenance projects and canceled all scheduled lunches, meetings, and trips. I even stopped tracking my schedule, todo list, and turn off my morning alarm for two whole weeks!

Not too bad, right?

Elinor & Vinnie, a lot of sleep happened around the house

At the end of those two weeks, Jessi was feeling better, we were all working/playing in the garden, and I was figuring out how to get back into doing some rental work... It hit that those two weeks would have looked entirely different at my old day job.

You see, my job was already 100% remote, so sheltering in place wouldn't have impacted me. However, since I was on the forecasting team, it would have been all-hands-on-deck to try and quantify the impact of COVID on the business. How bad would it be? For how long? What do the different recovering scenarios look like? Which drivers would be impacted? What happens when millions of kids are suddenly at home with school worksheets to complete? What about millions of employees not going into an office, or not working?

Those are some immense unknowns! I'm sure every medium-to-large company has a cadre of people trying to come up with plausible scenarios. They're combing through all available data, no matter how sketchy, to find some sort of useful insight. That's the job, and it can be enjoyable. But, it can also be stressful when senior managers are clamoring for answers now.

As a small landlord, I didn't need to do any of that. Either people would pay their rent, or they wouldn't. I sent out an email asking folks to let me know if they were going to have any issues so I could work with them. That was all there was to do, and by God's generous blessing, I didn't have any extra-ordinary non-payments (just the usual issues). We'll see what happens next month, but I'm choosing to trust that God will take care of us again. It also helps that each of our residents are awesome, responsible people!

I suppose, if I was actively growing my business, I'd be a lot more interested in figuring out the potential impact on the real estate market. But since I'm not looking to buy or sell any time soon, I'm not stressed out over it. I do think about it a little for Majordomo, but it's such a new company that it's really only a question of growth rates. And, the product fits well with social distancing: instead of asking contractors to go through a house to tell you how much repairs will cost, upload your home inspection to Majordomo's website and wait 24 hours for estimates.

Samson, hanging out in my garage office

So, how's it going as a landlord?

Really well. I dare say, possibly better than if I wasn't. By having a diversified income (~80 checks vs. 1), it takes a lot of the risk away, and I'm able to take time off as needed instead of doubling down on the workload during uncertain times. It's not perfect, and the monthly budget is much tighter, but that was by choice, and I'm genuinely grateful for all of the Lord's blessings in our life.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Jumping Up In Age

As it turns out, I'm getting older.

Shocker. I know.

I think we all know it intellectually, but sometimes we have a moment when it smacks us in the face. For me, it happened this week.

Jessi and I have been talking about getting a trampoline for the kids. I had a 16' one (from Costco!) growing up, and I jumped on it all the time.

[Fun fact: my parents originally purchased it so my brother could learn how to fall. You see, he had broken his arms three times in 18 months, and they determined it was because he would close his eyes while falling, and not catch himself. The trampoline seemed to help!]

For a while, our kids seemed too young. Then we visited some friends who had a trampoline, and the kids played on it for a super long time! And they loved it! And they slept exceptionally well that night. Double bonus!

Well... with shelter-in-place in effect because of COVID, we started looking. This time, Walmart came through with a sale on a 14' trampoline and the ability to pick it up without having to go into the store.

We set it up - in the rain, we do live in Oregon after all - but the next day was perfect, and we all bounced. The kids loved it. I loved it! They enjoyed it when I bounced them high. We took turns doing tricks, like jumping on your bottom and then on your feet again.

I got back into my high school days and started doing flips, twists, and combinations. I got winded, like in a real workout!

Then we got off...

And my back was killing me with what felt like a muscle knot.

My shoulders and neck were sore.

My knees felt wobbly.

...Oh yeah... I'm not in high school anymore. In fact, I'm twice as old as when I was in high school!

And my body feels like it. I usually don't think about it too much, but I suppose that's because I don't try to do the things I used to do in high school.

Man, what's it going to be like when my kids are playing sports? At what level will I be able to participate?

For me, this was a good warning since my kids will soon start participating in sports, and my role isn't to be a fellow player - to chase hard after a ball and go 100%. Instead, it makes sense to trend closer to a coach (that still runs around!) Kind of like in Cars 3.

I love being a player, and it'll be hard not to be on the field with them, but like I've found joy in being a parent, and I'm confident I'll find joy as a coach too.

Oh, and don't worry: I recovered enough to get back on the trampoline the next day.