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Adventures in Housing: The small-time landlord

Maria Hollenhorst Sep 13, 2019
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California landlord Beverly Wilcox laying sod at one of her properties in 2001.
Courtesy of Beverly Wilcox

Welcome to our new series. We’re calling it Adventures in Housing. Because more and more, that’s what finding and affording a place to live has become. These will be your stories. About the workarounds and compromises. About buying, selling, renting and moving. About the dorms and shacks and money pits and houseboats and yurts and … you get the picture. Today, we’re hearing from a small-time landlord who used rental income to launch a second act. Share your story using the submissions box below. 

Small-time California landlord Beverly Wilcox

My name is Beverly Wilcox and I am a small-time landlord.

I became a landlord out of economic necessity. In 1990. I had just gotten divorced. I was worried about my ability to afford a house by myself, and so I bought a 1930s bungalow that had a backyard cottage. The cottage was a mess, hadn’t been lived in for years. But I put in a kitchen, cleaned it up, painted, did the floor and I’ve been a landlord and ever since.

You know, we’re in an affordable housing crisis and I try and buy and manage properties that will be affordable. Currently, I’m living in a condo (sort of upscale place where nothing needs fixing) and I’m starting to hanker for another project.

I’ve bought a modular house in a senior’s only mobile home park, so I can continue my do it yourself doing stuff with upgrading cabinets and floors and stuff like that. Real estate has gotten completely unaffordable here in Davis [California]. It may be that mobile homes are going to be where I take my affordable housing business next.

Rental income gave me a life I could never have dreamed of. When I rented out that that first cottage, it was simply because I was afraid I couldn’t afford a mortgage. But as the years have gone by and rents have gone up and my houses have increased in value, it’s become something that I can I can depend on, especially now that I have several properties. If one goes vacant, I will have rental from the other two. So what that meant was at age 54 I was able to retire from my career job, and use that opportunity to go to grad school. I have a PhD now, and I’m in a second career that I really love. It has meant a totally different life to me to have rental income.

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