Owning a four family home in Brooklyn can be a lot of work. Of course there’s the hassles of accounting…collecting the rent, and remembering to pay all of the bills on time, which for me means I write my rent to the house out of my personal account, then the mortgage out of the house account. I pay cable and internet for all four apartments, 4 electric bills, and 3 gas bills every month, plus the less frequent water bills, taxes, and insurance. Then there’s the entering of everything into Quickbooks, which isn’t difficult, but takes some time.
General maintenance includes vacuuming the hallways and staircases (occasionally the basement, I slack on that one), keeping the laundry area clean, sweeping the sidewalk and stoop area, raking the back yard, and making sure the drain is clear. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings are trash pickup. So the cans need to be out on the street the night before. Monday is also our recycling pickup, so that goes out Sunday night as well. What’s annoying about Monday recycling, is that every time there’s a holiday on a Monday, our recycling piles up for an extra week, which is usually in excess because of the holiday, and makes the front look messy.
On top of the regular responsibilities of a landlord at Jewel Street Paradise (coined by Megan Paska AKA Brooklyn Homesteader), I’ve also taken on chicken overlording with Megan. She deals with feeding them and letting them out in the morning, and I deal with closing them up at night. During the months with longer days, I’ll let them run around in the yard for a while when I come home from work. In winter when it’s dark, they’re already snuggled close in the coop when I come home, so I just close them in, check for eggs, and take the water in so it wont freeze overnight. This spring, however, Megan will be working at a farm upstate for half of the week, so I’ll be dealing with them the mornings she is not around as well.
During the spring through early fall there’s garden work such as starting seeds, planting, weeding, pruning, and watering to be done. I usually water the garden and the yard (or lack thereof at this point) when I close the chickens up for the night, and Megan does it in the morning before the sun has hit the plants. Eating the fruits of your labor is of course the best part of a successful year. Last year was not a fruitful one, this year, I am determined to make it so. I would so love to have a full yard of grass as well, but I just don’t see it happening in the near future…I’ll just stick to the fruitful plants this year…tackle the grass growing war the next season.
When the weather changes from warm to cold, I make sure that the boiler is working and ready. By the time freezing temperatures come, I’ll usually have turned off the water outside for the winter, leaving the spigot out back open so the pipes have no chance to freeze. The broom behind the front door gets replaced by a shovel and salt, so no one busts their ass on my property when its snowy or icy. On occasion, it snows enough for the chickens to have to be dug out as well.
There’s always a project that could be started or completed. We’ve made a lot of changes to the house over the past few years, but there’s still much that could be done. The basement bar could be made beautiful and put to use more often, one of our garden planter beds needs to be dis-assembled, and 3 new smaller ones erected in it’s place this spring, we’ve discussed making a poor man’s green roof, I would love a door straight to the back yard from my apartment, which is also in serious need of a new bathroom (it’s really falling apart at this point). And that’s just to start with, there’s all kinds of great ideas floating around this house.
So managing the house is really all about keeping a tight schedule, while also being prepared for those things that sporadically go wrong. Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday trash out. Every night, chickens locked up (with a few days a week letting them out when Meg’s gone), and some playtime for them after work when it’s light out, if only for 20 minutes to a half hour. Watering of the garden every night in summer. Cleaning of the hallways once or twice a month, cleaning of the basement the same. Sweeping the front of the house once a week (when there’s no snow on the ground). Paying bills, collecting rent, and doing Quickbooks at the beginning of every month. Making sure leases are renewed a few times a year. Turning the boiler off and on, and changing the hallway light timers twice a year. Making renovations when possible. Dealing with the occasional crisis. That’s really all there is to it. It’s not so bad, with discipline it’s actually all quite easy, it’s just a matter of sticking to the schedule so as not to go crazy and get confused, unfocused, and as a result, lazy.
The only thing that I feel I need to do now is to refinance on my loan. We purchased the house in July 2007, at the height of the housing boom. As a result, our interest rate is kind of on the high side. Refinancing would save a good amount of money, which could be useful to balance the other rising costs of home ownership, as well as be put towards some other projects. This is one of those things that I’ll have to fit into my schedule somewhere in the near future, as money saved on the house could be the money that will be able to pay for a property manager when I’m ready for my 6+ month trip a few years from now.
Oh how it all comes together!