We never meant to be landlords.
It was an accident, actually. Chris bought a house when he shouldn’t have. When we got married, we outgrew it quickly. The housing bubble burst, and the mortgage went upside down. So it became an investment property that never made us any money. Every year we did our taxes, we sat at a loss, having to replace the water heater or the air conditioner or the furnace or the air conditioner again.
While we never made any tangible income from year to year, our tenants were paying the mortgage payment each month and we were earning equity.
This went on for eleven years.
A few years ago, we realized we wanted to sell the property, but we had renters in the house who told us they never wanted to leave and kept renewing their lease each year. We didn’t want to kick them out so we just kept being landlords.
In May, those never-going-to-leave tenants abandoned the property without finishing out their lease. The wife texted me on a Tuesday afternoon, said they moved out the prior weekend, and would not be paying the rest of the rent due.
We got a lawyer, a lot of extra bills, and a disgusting house to care for.
Eight years of tenants who never did any upkeep or let us know when things were leaking or falling apart left us with an overwhelming mess. After the stress of the last year and how horrible last summer was, we were looking forward to quiet rest with a low key summer. Swimming, reading books, grilling on the patio for dinner–nothing loud or stressful or time consuming. (I even wrote about how lazy our summer was going to be here!)
But suddenly we had a second mortgage to cover, a 30-minute drive to a house that needed a complete overhaul, and no spare time.
The last two months have been hard. Between the financial stress of another mortgage and the investment fixing the house took, things have been tighter than I planned. Chris and I (and my dad) are more than capable of remodeling a house, but it takes time and energy–things we didn’t have much of with Chris working ten to eleven hours a day and kids home from school for the summer.
But we did it. Two months of long weekends and evenings at the house got that shithole into a beautiful, cozy house ready to sell. It was a blessing in disguise our renters disappeared when they did. While I would have said we didn’t have time or the resources to do this, we had exactly what we needed at just the right time to take care of everything that needed taken care of.
You’d think by now I would understand that’s how God works, but I am a slow, skeptical learner.
We listed the house last Thursday night as we headed out of town. We got showing requests almost instantly, and by Sunday afternoon we had an above-listing-price offer. We accepted and are now in the midst of inspections and appraisals and closing on the house.
The weight is slowly being lifted off. I don’t think I’ll believe it’s really over until we hand off the keys, but that we’re so close to being done with landlord status feels hopeful.
Often I don’t feel safe. I’m asked to do things I’m not ready for. I’m required to make choices without clear vision. I’m pushed to live outside my comfort zone and quiet safety.
This house has made everything feel unsafe and stressed. It felt physical, emotionally, and financially draining. We hoped it would sell quickly so we wouldn’t have to keep making two mortgage payments, but we didn’t actually know if it would happen. We just made daily choices about construction, remodeling, and bills hoping we were making wise choices that would benefit us later.
There’s a huge life lesson in that.
DANG IT. Why does everything have to be so hard and full of struggle and teachable?
Whatever. All I wanted to do was share some before-and-after pictures of the house. All I wanted to do was show you where we’ve been the past two months. All I wanted to do was show off some fresh paint and God was like, don’t forget what I did for you in this moment, and so I had to tell you that too. I can’t do anything without Him. Success or fail, He’s there. So, yes, here are some house pictures. But what didn’t show up on the images is God’s faithfulness in the unexpected journey of being landlords, and getting a house ready to sell.
OKAY. Pictures. Here’s what the house looked like once we got it cleaned out. It took us two weekends to empty it of trash, boxes, mattresses, junk, and filth. We paid a cleaning service to come and clean it before we even started work because it made me gag to be in there.
And the afters. These pictures are by Huff Photography so they just look better in general, but also, the house isn’t gross anymore so that helps too. We hired people to fix walls, ceilings, and paint everything, because it would have taken us weeks to get all of that done and professionals were able to do it in a week.
Want details? LUCKY YOU, here they are:
Interior paint: Every room is painted the same Olympus Gray SW 6253 from Sherwin-Williams. All trim and ceilings are just a standard, contractor white paint also from Sherwin-Williams.
Painters: We hired Mike Berry from All-American Painting. If you’re local, I highly recommend him.
Lighting: The kitchen light is from Home Depot (here). All other lighting is from Lowes. Master bedroom ceiling fan here. I can’t find the second bedroom light anywhere online; we got it in the store. Living room ceiling fan here. Patio light here.
Bathroom: We patched the existing tile and grout then painted Rust-Oleum Tub & Tile Refinishing Kit on it and the tub. It made it look brand new. It took two cans to complete the area; I originally ordered one hoping it would be enough. Don’t make that mistake, order two. From Lowes: toilet, vanity, faucet (this is the brushed nickel version; we used oil-rubbed bronze, but I can’t locate it online), mirror, vanity lights, vent. The flooring is American Olean Tranquil Stone in Warm Gray from Lowes with MAPEI Flexcolor Warm Gray Premixed grout (we also used this same gallon in the kitchen backsplash area).
Wood floors: We didn’t have in our budget to refinish the floors even though they were in desperate need of it. We used the Bona Hardwood Floor Care System to get them looking as good as we could. I cleaned everything with the Bona Hardwood Powerplus Deep Cleaner and then sealed them with the Bona Pro Series Hardwood Refinisher. I only had time for one coat, but each coat improves the shine and finish. This stuff is magical. (I strongly encourage you to buy the mop kit if you’re going to do this. I have it but accidentally left it at home so I scrubbed the floor and refinished it on my hands and knees. Please don’t do this. Just don’t.)
Kitchen flooring: Many of the original tile we put down in 2006 was damaged or coming up. We repaired or replaced all the broken pieces and then used a commercial-grade floor epoxy from Sherwin-Williams. This is not available at your local store, you have to visit the commercial warehouse to have it tinted and mixed. Also, it is NOT very cost effective. Ripping up the existing floor and redoing the whole thing would have taken us days which we didn’t have. So the extra money saved us tons of time. I would say just replace the floor if you have that option, but if not, this is what we used.
Kitchen countertops: The countertops were structurally fine, but were really worn and faded in spots. We used Rust-Oleum Countertop Resurfacing Kit in Sandstone to paint them. It went on easily and as long as you use a foam roller to apply it, it goes on seamless and dries perfectly. If you don’t have new countertops in your budget, use this for an easy fix. (Disclosure: I don’t know how long these will hold up. Review sound favorable, but we are selling this house so we won’t actually live with this to see how the wear and tear goes.)
DISCLOSURE: AFFILIATE LINKS USED.
MAKE SURE YOU SUBSCRIBE TO MY NEWSLETTER! USE THE POPUP WINDOW OR THE BAR AT THE TOP OF YOUR SCREEN TO GET MONTHLY BOOK REVIEWS & SUGGESTIONS, SURPRISE GIVEAWAYS, SUBSCRIBER-ONLY POSTS, AND THE MONDAY BUSINESS MEETING EMAIL WITH ENCOURAGEMENT, NEWS, & FREE STUFF.