A room being remodeled with ladders and scaffolding.

Sweat Equity

October 18, 2021

As I sit down to write this, it is Sunday around 7:30 pm, and I’ve just returned from another long weekend of working on my house in Greenville. Some of you will know that I’ve been renting out my house for the past 2 ½ years and have periodically been driving back up to check on things.

Four to five hours on the road during a two-day weekend is exhausting, so I decided to sell the house about a year ago. After months of my tenant promising to find financing during the pandemic real estate boom, I realized I needed to get the house on the market a quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, despite my quick walkthroughs, the house ended up being left in a complete mess. Evidently, during the last few months, my tenant moved out without telling me and let another family member move into the house. I found a strange name on the mail in the mailbox, clear evidence that a dog had been living in the laundry room (even though I had a no pet policy), everything was dirty, and the garage was full of boxes and furniture. The strangest of all was that every one of the seven smoke detectors in the house was chirping when I walked in. I cannot imagine how someone could sleep with all that noise.

It has been a month of weekends already, and I am still not finished with all the work. I am lucky to be handy, but everything is taking twice as long as I think it should. Thankfully, the house is now clean and empty, some walls have come down, and new ones have gone up. I am getting there.

While I have been busy getting my house ready for sale, the market has started to cool down. In Greenville, homes are now selling in an average of 60 days (list to close), when that was around 15 days two months ago. Even so, I remain confident the house will sell quickly. I am very excited at the prospect of discontinuing my adventures as an absentee landlord. This experience has illuminated the benefits of passive investments in real estate, provided you have access to such investments, of course. I would be happy to give up the blood, sweat, and tears shed of renting out one home for multiple property type exposure and greater geographic diversification. Reasonable fees may well be worthwhile if you can manage to lower your risk and your headache.

The tricky part will be to now find a new house to purchase in metro Atlanta, where the market shows no sign of chilling at all. There’s a shortage of single-family homes at certain price points, which continues to push up prices and incite bidding wars. I will have to be patient and maybe even consider building if the inefficiencies continue to drag on. Here’s hoping that all these weird changes subside soon.

Whitney Butler