Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: BACK TO BASICS (02/16/17)
TITLE: Weighing the Cost
By Francie Snell
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I wondered …
I remembered my father’s words like an echoing voice from the past. “Real estate will always be a sure investment” he’d say in a confident tone. Dad was a broker when I was growing up, and I deeply respected any words of wisdom or advice he had on any issue.
Later in life, my new husband and I (mid-life newlyweds) agreed on almost everything including real estate investing. Business was booming in a buyers’ market. Anyone could get a loan by just signing on the dotted line. So, the starry-eyed entrepreneurs that we were, ventured out and obtained a whopping line of credit for a down payment on some prime rental properties, and with a strong dose of mindless ambition, plunged into the murky waters of rental home ownership.
The responsibilities of being landlords wasn’t too tedious at first. That is, if you don’t consider the credit checks, criminal back-ground checks, employment confirmations, income verifications, interviewing references, and securing first and last month’s rent along with a cleaning deposit (pet deposits extra) before the renters moved in.
Then the years dragged by having to deal with late rent payments, costly repairs, legal costs … dishonest renters. The investments were all consuming and more expensive in more ways than we ever imagined. Property management was like a persistent thief stealing our money, our time, and our precious peace, year after year. Over the course of time it became apparent that our investments owned us more than we owned them.
After years of working through the insecurities and frustrations, the real estate bubble burst and our homes values plunged below the purchased price.
Dismayed, we saw no way out of the mess we were in and nothing to show for our efforts except a sizeable loss and write off on our taxes. Bitterly disappointed, I looked back over the years, grieving the waste of time and money spent on those houses. It was a sobering wake- up call: Time to simplify things and get back to where we started.
First off, we decided to get rid of the headaches keeping us awake at night. We tried selling the homes. But even though we were willing to sell below market value, they sat empty and for sale for months. No offers.
We groaned watching our finances being sucked dry. In painful humility we stopped making mortgage payments and said goodbye to any equity we might have had. Yet there was a strange sense of relief as I watched all the furniture in our fully furnished rental being carried away, one piece at a time, from our never ending, 5-day garage sale.
“It’s just stuff,” I said with forced cavalier, hands on my hips.
My husband nodded slowly with a sigh. “Yep, it’s just stuff.”
The banks seemed to drag their feet through the foreclosure process and it was almost a year before the homes were finally out of our possession. We could finally say goodbye, goodbye to frustration and wasted efforts … and finally say welcome to peace and simplicity.
Our worries are much fewer now that we have only one house to manage, one mortgage to pay, one insurance policy, one roof to replace, one carpet to clean… and no dishonest renters promising, “The check’s in the mail” .
I’ve learned to be content with what I have and be much more discriminating when purchasing anything these days. Do I really need this? I scrutinize. How much is it really going to cost me? ”. But most of all, I’ve learned the most precious treasures I have are the gifts of life, time, and the wonderful freedom to invest them all in a relationship with my God.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Mat. 6:19-21
We are back to where we started, and blessed daily with everything we need. Knowing God has a perfect plan, I no longer live with a knot in my stomach.
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