What I’ve learned from my first year of home ownership

I walked off the wobbly porch of my new home, after struggling to pop a bottle of champagne with friends and family, to greet my upstairs tenant for the first time.

She was walking up the front stoop, and I stopped her to introduce myself as her new landlord. She looked me up and down, asked how old I was, and said wow, my new landlord is half my age?!

She laughed and carried on, and I went back to the porch to celebrate with the small community of friends I had begun to build in this new place.

That was one year ago today – the day I closed on the purchase of my first home, a multifamily brownstone in the beautiful city of Troy, New York. My tenant’s reaction was completely understandable – I was only a quarter of the age of the century-old brick structure that would become my new home.

Being a young landlord has pushed me to learn and grow in more ways than I can keep track of, and I’m so grateful I’ve had this experience so far.

Most dramatically, I have become aware and in control of my finances in a way that I never excepted. With the help of many podcasts and books, I’ve set myself on a path to financial freedom that I once thought unimaginable for someone my age. I’ve come to realize the power of investments and think beyond my job as a primary source of income.

That’s been the easy part. This past year has also been a crash course in home maintenance and renovation. 

It was fourteen degrees, the night before Thanksgiving, when a furnace stopped heating my tenant’s apartment. I was in the middle of a workday when our sewer line backed up and started to flood through shower drains. I was heading out of town when a refrigerator went bad and spoiled weeks worth of food. And the leak that trickled through the roof was hidden deep in the attic, requiring a grueling crawl through insulation dust and … well, I’ll spare you the details.

Most of these things, due to urgency and my own ineptitude, were fixed by professionals. But slowly I began to learn on my own. I can now handle minor furnace and appliance repairs. I am an expert attic-crawler, too.

I can also lay wood floors, paint a room, hang a chandelier, cut and stain wood moldings – skills I gathered during my one vanity project, a renovation of my front hallway. 

But I’m still learning. Trapping rouge groundhogs has been the challenge of the summer, as I desperately try to protect my vegetable garden. (Related skill: releasing an accidentally-trapped skunk without getting sprayed). 

These projects taught me something else too – about my relationship with my father. He’s been alongside me for all of the renovations, and only a phone call away when something breaks and Google isn’t giving me the wisdom I need. Working on the house together has proved to be a beautiful way to deepen our connection.

I’m also happy to report that all three of my original tenants remain. The push-and-pull of our tenant-landlord relationships has mostly settled, and our interactions mostly amount to a passing “Hi, how are you?” or a message when the rent is paid.

Sometimes, though, I still long for the days when I was just a tenant. Financially naive, sure, but without the responsibilities of fixing and maintaining and organizing. Wasn’t it so easy?

But then again, I’ve always found the most growth in life happens when I’m outside my comfort zone. And let’s just say a dusty attic or scary boiler room are not my comfort zones.

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