Rental Houses, Comforts, Vices, & Letting go to Pursue

 Back in 2005 my wife and I decided to jump into the wonderful and stressful world of owning rental property.  Our first property: a 2-family flat with no work needed and already occupied with tenants seemed like a decent/conservative investment for our first time out.

The tenant on the bottom flat was named Dianne.  She lived there with her 3 children, husband, and her rent was covered by the government’s Section-8 Housing Program.   She was nice, sneaky, friendly and conniving all at the same time.  Her portion of rent was less than 100 dollars and it seemed there was always a reason, trade-off, or excuse which she felt rent shouldn’t be owed for that month.

In a rare instance of candid conversation she told me that she had been on government assisted housing for over 25 years.  All the hours at her job were kept low so it wouldn’t interfere with her Section-8 and her husband (who technically wasn’t supposed to live there) did odd jobs for cash only. 

It occurred to me that her whole life (from a financial perspective) was built around keeping her “Section 8”going.  “What a handicapped way to live?”  I thought.

Over the years we’ve rented to some with the exact same mind state as Dianne as well as those with the opposite.  I’m not writing this to make fun of Dianne or contrast to her myself but; I would like to “compare” her to all of us.  All of us have “vices” that masquerade themselves as “comforts” that we refuse to let go of and find ourselves building our lives around.  That’s what Section 8 was to Dianne – it was a vice, it was comfort.  Her rent was paid every month and that was too comfortable to let go of even if it meant not pursing a better way of life.   

It also could be a person that is dieting to loose weight but has built her whole diet around keeping ice-cream in the diet because that’s her “comfort” food when in reality the ice-cream is what’s hindering her weight loss goals.

The unhappy spouse who refuses to leave her partner/mate/live-in because that person is taking care of them financially and they don’t want to have that burden.  Thus the spouse plays the same role as “Section 8” did with Dianne.

The man who is sitting on million dollar dreams but is afraid to cash them in because he’s terrified of quitting his job and starting all over.

The neighborhood kid who doesn’t want to go away to college because he wants to be close to his old friends from the “neighborhood.”

I remember not wanting to move out my house in the city because I had been there my whole life and it was my ultimate security/comfort blanket.  It was so comfortable that I was blinded by how moving into a bigger house and nicer area would be good for business and family until I actually DID IT!

That sense of comfort is strong.  The sense of “just not having to worry about certain things” can be hard to walk away from.  But you gotta’ have dreams?  Are your dreams worthy of leaving a sense of comfort and consistency (at least temporarily)? 

I remember going on a date with a very smart and cute young woman when I was about 21.  She lived on a poor side of town in a 4 family flat, and had a small 13 inch TV on a 3 legged stool in her living room.  She worked 2 jobs, had no kids, and drove a car that was single handily destroying the ozone layer (lol).  It wasn’t her living conditions that disturbed me but how happy she was with them that did.

 I remember Dianne’s oldest daughter was in high school, she was very intelligent.  She had gotten accepted into various colleges, and won opportunities to travel .  I’ve always wondered what drove her?  Did Dianne push her to be better than herself? Was she actually able to see outside the bubble that her mother never did?  Was it just wanting more out of life than she currently had?

Again; “Comforts” can be mental prisons, painted sun glasses        dead weight at best anchoring all of us down for too, too long.


Love your life