July 1st was a day on our calendar that we had circled in big red sharpie…Or, at least we would have if we still used a physical calendar. On our Google Calendar it looked like a giant list of meetings and to do items. It was a day when all the chaos of our lives converged into one 24 hour period.
I mentioned that we were selling both of our rental houses (the housing market in Seattle is on fire and while we think that it will continue to go up, we are quite happy with where it is now and plan on jumping ship while buyers compete for the privilege of buying from us) and it just so happened that both tenants gave notice at the same time.
In order to reduce vacancy loss, we needed to get the houses fixed up as quickly as possible and ready for the market.
Have you seen a rental house after the tenants move out? Everyone is messy, but there is something about living in a rental property that gives people the freedom to be just a little bit more messy. I really wish I had taken a before picture of our houses. One of them was piled high with stuff everywhere and puddles of dog pee all over the ground. The other was a patch work of miss matched painted walls and childhood graffiti. This is not a dis on our tenants at all! We had amazing tenants who were kind and always paid the rent on time, but people are messy.
So, we had one day to meet the contractors and fix up all the little things to get the houses ready for the market….and of course I was working all day that day.
I have the best job in the world in that most of the time, I get to choose my hours and make my job fit with the rest of my life, but there are times when that just isn’t possible and Friday the 1st was one of those times. I was shooting an 11 hour wedding. I thought about asking the couple to reschedule but figured they would probably say no.
This left Adam and Ilya to take care of all that house stuff while I was taking care of my work stuff.
We were dishing out money right and left: new floors, new paint, wall repair, tile repair, cleaning and staging. I felt like that person in movies with a giant wad of cash who haphazardly peals $100 bills from the top and tosses them around. Except I don’t carry cash. And it actually looked more like handing over a credit card every five minutes, but you get the idea.
A ton of time and energy went into the preparation of July 1st. I had to call flooring people, call painters, call contractors, call the stager, and coordinate with them and the renters to set aside times for them to come give me a quote. Then I had to drive all the way up to the properties. Not a big deal, you might think, but then you obviously don’t live in Seattle. It was at least an hour drive each way and that was if I was lucky! Then, most of the contractors never even got back to me or if they did, they charged way too much so I had to do it all again. It took a solid month of coordinating people to get everyone lined up and ready to go.
We even ate out several times this month because we were both working so much. All of this meant that I was dreading actually looking at our finances.
Could we have done things even cheaper than we did? Absolutely. Would it have been worth the utter exhaustion and misery it would have put us through. Nope. Being frugal is a balance. Your health and well being are valuable. I hired a contractor to repair a wall and tile entry way for $250. It took him all day and he used all sorts of fancy equipment that I don’t have. When he was finished it looked like new (something that would NOT have been the case had I attempted this project myself). Worth. Every. Cent. Same goes for the new floors and the painting of our incredibly high ceilings and the staging.
I sat down to look at our finances for June with a heavy heart and was floored when I got the results. For all the thousands and thousands of dollars we spent on rental properties for the month we only had to dip into our savings to cover $1500. Our regular monthly income covered the rest of it. I can’t even image what this would have done to us if we lived paycheck to paycheck. We would have gone into huge amounts of debt and spent years paying it off, but because of how we live, we were able to cover the entire cost of fixing up both houses using just our monthly income (and $1500 which we will pay ourselves back next month).
If there was any doubt in my mind that living simply and focusing on our saving rate was the way for us, they have been obliterated. Once we sell these two rental properties, we will hopefully be able to pay off our mortgage and be debt free! One step closer to financial independence!