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.

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