Last night I had nightmare.
The dream was based on a question that has plagued me since long before I ever signed my first mortgage contract in 2002. Can a nice guy (or girl) be a successful landlord?”
I mean, sure, I have no doubts about learning how to acquire lots of property and how to make tons of money. I’m well on that road already. There are countless excellent resources (books and workshops and websites, etc.) which teach the fundamentals of buying and managing rental units. The amount of real estate a person can learn to rack up is only limited by her imagination.
Gaining the technical knowledge to be successful is not so hard. It just depends on how you measure “success.” I have no doubts that if I keep at this game I will become financially prosperous. The only thing I’m unsure of is this: Will I still have a soul?
You see, the business of landlording is not just about mold prevention and weatherization and calculating cash flow on a prospective new building purchase. Being a landlord is also about anticipating human behavior and protecting your own interests from other people’s problems, life situations and excuses. That’s where things can get really, really sticky. Especially if you’re a low-key, mild-mannered tenderheart just trying to make a living.
I’m sometimes told that I’m uncommonly preoccupied with showing kindness even when I’m not receiving that courtesy in return. This makes it even harder for me to believe some of the bizarre, outlandish, criminal things done by people who formerly rented from me.
Take a minute to think about the pop culture references. On the list of villains, landlords rank somewhere between the Grinch and Keyser Soze. Spending nearly fifteen years peeking out from the other side of the Curtain of Evil, regretfully, has given me a better understanding of the basis of some of these perceptions. Frankly, my change of perspective sometimes disturbs me.
Owning and managing real estate can flip your whole world view on its head after being on the receiving end of the outrageous acts some tenants commit. Landlords start to have thoughts like, "Sure, we know about Scrooge. But do we REALLY know what kind of a guy that bastard Bob Cratchit was? And have you ever noticed that sneaky little glint in Tiny Tim's eye? Nobody is THAT freakin' innocent! That guy has skeletons. I promise.”
This leads me to my nightmare.
Flash forward to Christmas Eve, maybe twenty years from now. I've become a wickedly wealthy, battle-scarred landlord standing in the front yard of a building I own. The sheriff is on my right, arms folded, while the moving men bring out one load after another. I’m rubbing my hands together in excited anticipation, gleefully taking the landlord stereotype for a ride until I run the wheels off. I’m yanking toys from their children, kicking their uncle and wiping my feet on the couch the moving men just put out on the lawn (a la Dave Chapelle as Rick James). The family shuffles out with downcast glances and heavy sighs.
It’s Eviction Day.
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