summer sacrifices ~ thoughts on owning a rental

In these parts our home is called, a 2 family house. Where we are from originally this type of house is called a "house with a suite or mother-in-law apartment". Regardless of what it's called the idea is the same; part of our house is an apartment/suite/flat that we rent out.

In our case it's a finished basement with a separate entry. We've lived here for 4 years and have just finished the third and most recent upgrade. We do renovations each time tenants leave to improve and maintain our property. Eventually, our dream is to have that space available for offering extended hospitality to friends, family & strangers. But that dream is in God's hands because we need the rent to help pay our mortgage and can't foresee how we will ever not need that extra income.

Buying a house with an apartment has been just one of the many decisions we've made so we can live on one modest income, in a nice-ish house (Damien's work has improved it greatly) not in the boonies of Maine . Technically, at least according to our mortgage company, we can afford this place on our own. But if that was the case we couldn't afford a lot else, like trips to Canada to visit family and everything else we need to save money for.

But this decision is not always easy, nor does it necessarily simplify our lives. These last tenants stayed for a mere 5 months and we hadn't planned on using August's time and tapping into our savings to do more renovations. I've spent all the spare time I could squeeze out the last 3 weeks painting in the basement, preparing ads, answering phone calls, following up tenant applications. It's been a lot on top of my regular day job and I feel a little cheated out of summer. I haven't even picked any blueberries. Sigh...

But that's sometimes the way it goes. And I can't really complain too much because although owning a home this way does add a certain complication to our lives it also allows us to save more money than the average one-income household, remain debt-free (minus the mortgage) and live 5 minutes from Damien's work. All of those things help us own one car, have more money to share and to buy local veggies.

In short, renting an apartment in our house helps us live out some of the values that really matter to us. So missing 3 weeks of summer I suppose is a small price to pay for that - or at least that's what I'm telling myself.

Of course I'm actually only able to sit down and write about this because I'm done the work now. That was something else I gave up last week, my afternoon writing time. But it's done. I finished the painting yesterday, the apartment will be tidied (from all the reno mess) this week and this weekend we're off to backpack in the mountains. I gave up summer for a couple weeks but I'm full-on summer again and because we homeschool the back-to-school scene is not looming over us, cutting our summer short. Whew.

Last Saturday afternoon, after a FULL day in the basement while Damien "manned" the kitchen and starting packing for our weekend, I came up exhausted but happy to be one day away from a completed project. Damien went to a movie with a friend and I cooked an easy supper for the kids and then my sweet son offered me a massage. It was heaven! Half an hour of loving touch and muscle relaxation. That's paint on my toe from the day's work. Then we walked to the neighborhood ice cream shoppe, jumped on the trampoline, listening to the crickets and read stories. Summer... returning to me for these few remaining weeks.


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  • nicola

    nicola on Aug. 24, 2009, 10:45 p.m.

    oh, renee. i knew this was what you were doing and why. i do not envy it. it is rough enough working on one's own home, but to have that kind of deadline and not get the visual benefit from it later....yuck. painting will commence here soon, too. i just told mike "i can't deal with the prep this week." a luxury, i realize, to be able to procrastinate. hugs and give that boy a kiss. he's a smart one isn't he?! nicola

    nicola's last blog post... on thrifting...


    • renee

      renee on Aug. 24, 2009, 11:01 p.m.

      Yes, he's an amazing kid. I was so appreciative of his gift. Prepping is the worst part of painting. In fact I think painting should in fact be called "prepping" since that is what you spend the most time doing.

      Yes, for our own projects we procrastinate and don't let them get in the way of living life - hiking, being outdoors, afternoons at the beach etc. But for the rental we really can't do that. It's like a job that way.


  • Kika

    Kika on Aug. 25, 2009, 11:46 p.m.

    Time and time again I'm reminded that just because something is hard (or has hard moments) doesn't mean it isn't right for us or a blessing in our life. A friend of mine just had her third baby and is so exhausted and we had this conversation only this morning - yes, there is hard work and sacrifice involved but the rewards are also great. Like you, we live with one vehicle and my husband walks to work almost every day (takes 12 minutes). We bought a rental property; this doesn't come without stress but we frequently remind ourselves that it has also brought benefit (cash flow). We love being parents and homeschooling but of course there are moments that we NEED A BREAK or feel we won't overcome the present challenge. All of us know, too, that anything wonderful in life requires work and determination (physical & financial health, relationships...). So we stand with you and cheer you on! I am happy, too, that because you homeschool you can recreate your schedule somewhat to allow you to build in required breaks as life throws you unexpected challenges.


  • Shawna

    Shawna on Aug. 27, 2009, 11:42 p.m.

    wow. this is something i'm considering for the future - i'd love to have extra space to meet people and learn of their lives. of course, this is the reality of it. someday when we get to the deciding point, your experience here will definitely factor in!

    (and the massage? oh boy, that gives me hope. even if my husband won't do it, there's hope for the future...)

    Shawna's last blog post... the catch up letter


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