Is being a land lord a "meaningful" job?

34 Replies

So right now I work in the back office of a bank, financial processing. Pretty boring, all day I'm buried in excel. Very unexciting. Every day is the same. I feel like a drone, very little decision making. It's cushy though, I'm paid pretty well etc.

Right now I'm investing in real estate. Sometimes I daydream about becoming a full time land lord. 

Would that be preferable to what I do now, or should I just accept a lower return and get a property manager?

LL have a bad rep. If you're a good LL to your tenants (as long as you aren't a pushover), I think it would feel good. You're making big decisions. You get to see run down apartments get renovated and look beautiful. You're up and about talking to people (I'm a cubicle monkey). You "wear many hats" (to use a term used too much.) Yes there's crap you have to deal with, but that comes with any job.

What do you think? Am I just being too idealistic? 

@Alex Silang Take my words with a grain of salt as I've never been a LL, but I would say you're being too idealistic. There's a reason the CEO of the bank you work for isn't the one buried in excel like you are. He/she has bigger decisions to make in regards to growing the business and making strategic expansions. The same thing applies to real estate in my mind. If your goal is to receive all of your income at some point in the future primarily from real estate, being a full-time LL will make it very difficult for you to scale.

You need to be worrying about acquiring new properties and scaling more so than doing the work of a PM. Also, why learn a new business in PM when you can outsource that to a PM business? @Brandon Turner has discussed this often in the podcasts: sometimes your time is better leveraged focusing on the strengths - and if your strengths are in excel and crunching numbers, you should be able to run the numbers on a lot of deals to find the good ones.

Personally I wouldn’t consider being a landlord a “meaningful” job. I own multiple properties and I can literally go MONTHS without doing anything other than cashing checks and making little entries in my accounting journal. Hard to find any real meaning in that. 

Completely unrelated to real estate, I do volunteer work with disadvantaged youths. It isn’t a full time (or even part time) job, and I make no money doing it. In fact, it costs me money to do it. But I get satisfaction from doing it and I would definitely consider it meaningful. 

My advice to you is, if it’s meaning you’re after, forget about being a landlord and find something you’re passionate about where you can give back at the same time. 

Just my two cents. 

Property manager is top20 for career satisfaction according to careerbliss...

@Alex Silang It depends on your goals. Do you want to work for yourself? Or for someone else? There's no right or wrong answer. Working for yourself has its pros and cons. So does working for someone else. You just need to weigh your options. Good luck! 

@Alex Silang I’ve been a landlord for about a year now and like @Kyle J. Said I go months without doing anything besides cashing checks and responding to emails about small maintenance requests.

The act of being a landlord is not meaningful. Now if you’re buying lots of property or doing extensive rehabs jr both then I think that would be a fun and interesting job. But the actual act of just managing tenants and repairs is not. Not for me anyways

I love being a landlord. I love working for myself. I love dealing with tenants and the issues that come up. I love improving my properties. I feel like I am doing a good job and providing meaningful service and a high quality product. I especially enjoy the project management aspect of the work.

I am able to say this in the midst of dealing with a situation that is likely to result in my first eviction.

For me it is immeasurably better than writing code or doing system support as a cog in the wheel of a giant corporation.

We are in the business building stage where we are aquireing and renovating  properties

In business school, I learned how to do a SWOT analysis.

SWOT = Strentghs, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats

By figuring out what I was good at doing (STRENGTHS), not good at doing (WEAKNESSES), and what was coming my way that could potential help me (OPPORTUNITIES) and potentially hurt me (THREATS), I was able to come up with a set of goals and a plan for how I was going to achieve them.

My plan is written in a word processing program rather than carved in stone because I review and update my plan as the need arises.

The CEO of your bank is doing this at the bank level, but there is nothing to stop you from doing a similar thing at your household level. When the income from your investments exceeds your living expenses, your job becomes a profitable hobby and you have the high-class problem of deciding whether to continue working at the bank or doing something else.

I wonder if there is a gender line here. I intended to major in social work almost 40 years ago, was set straight about my idealism as a freshman, ended up with an MBA and the idea to earn money at whatever and then volunteer at what made fulfilled me. In the end I stayed home with my kids and volunteered at various things. 8 years ago when first kid graduated H.S. we started investing in condos. I DO end up remodeling most of them, and I enjoy finding ways to make the place look great without spending tons of cash (while remembering tenants are hard on properties as well.) I DO enjoy dealing with tenants, and while not a pushover my husband and I both feel that sometimes you take less rent from someone who struggles otherwise. (In fact, one of our tenants pays $200 below market because they are in their 80's and were our neighbors until the husband started failing and they are like second parents to us.) This is related to our faith which I won't get into here. We don't raise the rent on tenants just because the market says we can. My husband has a high paying W-2 job and we have what we need and want in life. The REI is more about him being able to retire when he wants and a legacy for our kids and other loved ones. So yes, while I still volunteer a lot, I would say I find being a landlord fulfilling. I did have to grow a thicker skin, though, as not all tenants are of good will! I'm happy to have learned that, it serves me well in life outside of REI. I wish you well as you figure it out. Think about if it's maximizing money or something else that matters most.

@Alex Silang meaningful means different things to different people . Sounds like you are burned out in your current job maybe there is a way you can use your experience and skills for a different position that is more rewarding for you than your current job?
Maybe working for a real estate related company instead of banking ?

I am the worlds worst landlord and I admit it.. I see the good in everyone or try to .. I beleive all the sob stories all the excuses.. and i have finally realized those sitting on the side of the road that will work for food really wont

If I never talk to another tenant in my life i will be a happy camper and i wont as i will never buy rentals again.

but I am in the vast minority.. and just don't have the skill sets or personality for it.

you must be very tough .. you can have some compassion but end of the day your tenants do you not look at you that way..  those that do well in landlording that i see are pretty matter of fact.. and by the book.. 

Perfect example of landlording by Jay 101  rental in Indy  cold in winter in Indy.. tenant just had baby.. I have 7 grandkids and one due in 10 days..  they say its cold.. they cannot afford rent and heat.. and dont know where they would go.

I say no problem just dont pay me for 3 months make sure the house is warm for your new baby we can add it to the rent come spring and pay it off over a couple years..  well spring came and they up and left.. not even a thank you note and left all their junk that cost me money.

for me its all about owning debt.. and not dealing with the street level tenant.. i am just no good at it.. debt IE be the bank you take the emotion out of it and you fund those that are GOOD at being landlords which i clearly am not.

I would not give up a good paying job to be a landlord if you are young, maybe if you are looking to retire early on pension, otherwise no.

A job is a job, if you love it you might be happy for a long time but usually the excitement wares off any job and it becomes routine and humdrum.

Personally I valued my regular job for the pay check and the pension. At the same time it did not interfere with my real estate investing...best of both worlds. Remember the only function of any job is to trade your time for a pay check to be able to afford to do the things you want out of life. It is the easiest money you can make. Far easier than being self employed.

Not sure what you are looking for as far as being "meaningful". The only meaning you should look for any job, employee or self employed, is the paycheck. When you are gone you will only be missed till your replacement arrives.

I worked in a profession for 25+ years that, looking back, with 20/20 vision,  by all accounts, was a complete and utter waste of time/money. I had a lot of fun, and worked with hundreds of awesome people, but the work itself was futile. 

Now, I own and self manage a 39 unit apartment complex full of working class people and retired people. Although I only really "work" a couple of hours a week, it is 100% more rewarding than my lifelong career. 

In my prior career, I never got the benefit of the doubt. As a landlord, I nearly always get the benefit of the doubt. These people (tenants) appreciate and REMEMBER what you do for them. Its pretty awesome and it makes me feel good. 

DL

p.s.  I do not do Section 8 or any other type of government aid. That may be good for other landlords, but it is not for me. 

I think it can be meaningful inasmuch as you have an impact on people's lives. You are calling the shots so you can be as compassionate as you want. On the other hand some landlords get off on the ego trip of it and lord it over their tenants. (No pun intended) I've been doing it for ten years and have seen the good and bad but I feel like my tenants think I'm fair and that's all I strive for. Of course it works both ways and I hold my tenants to a high level of responsibility and I think that's good for everyone. I explain to them that we are essentially partners in a business and if we both hold up our end of the deal we'll both be successful. So I think landlording can have some meaningful qualities to it but mostly it's just managing money and people. Some people are good at it and like it, some not so much. Good luck in whatever you choose to do.

Yea, sometimes it make you feel good when the rental check roll in. It gets boring so I want to find a boring real job as well. Like a job that get people’s movie tickets, it looks fun, it feel like handing a adult a candy, they seems excited lol

Your viewpoint is so over-broad as to be incorrect.

You can own class C SFR’s in good markets, get decent cash flow and appreciation and choose low maintenance tenants that rarely bother you making land lording easy.

Or you can get into some class D property in the Midwest , make great cash flow, have zero to negative appreciation and have to hire security guards to collect rent on the 1st and 15th. While doing janky repairs and being a slumlord. This is actually a good business model for some and profitable.

Also everything in between. So much for one size fits all landlording

Originally posted by @DL Martin :

I worked in a profession for 25+ years that, looking back, with 20/20 vision,  by all accounts, was a complete and utter waste of time/money. I had a lot of fun, and worked with hundreds of awesome people, but the work itself was futile. 

Now, I own and self manage a 39 unit apartment complex full of working class people and retired people. Although I only really "work" a couple of hours a week, it is 100% more rewarding than my lifelong career. 

In my prior career, I never got the benefit of the doubt. As a landlord, I nearly always get the benefit of the doubt. These people (tenants) appreciate and REMEMBER what you do for them. Its pretty awesome and it makes me feel good. 

DL

this reminds me of a 45 space MHP I bought back in 06 ish.. the owner was the original developer of the park.. hand picked every tenant . and boy did she run this tight as a tic..  she was not in a hurry to just place a tenant.. everyone had to have 700 plus ficos  .. etc etc.

so by the time I took it over what a super duper park that was..  the reason I bought it though is she had not kept up on space pad rent..

so I was able to take the pads from 200 a month to 450 a month in 2 years..  They need money to expand her husbands motorcycle parts bizz and owned it free and clear and we paid cash and closed in a month.. paid 1.2  exited 2 years later at just under 2 mil.. And my buyer paid cash.. that property never had a mortgage on it in 35 years.. this is why I think our current cycle is so strong so MANY are paying cash.

Originally posted by @Steve B. :

Your viewpoint is so over-broad as to be incorrect.

Or you can get into some class D property in the Midwest , make great cash flow, have zero to negative appreciation and have to hire security guards to collect rent on the 1st and 15th. While doing janky repairs and being a slumlord. This is actually a good business model for some and profitable.

Good Lord. Talk about "over broad as to be incorrect"..... 

I know many D class landlords and do not know of one single landlord who hires a security guard to collect rent.

Further, I worked as a police officer in some of the worst neighborhoods in Long Beach, CA for over a DECADE and not once was I ever dispatched to a robbery of a landlord, attempted robbery of a landlord. 

Generally speaking, landlords who decide to play the D Class landlord game have a very good idea what they are getting into. Further, her in the Midwest, nearly everyone has a concealed carry permit and they actually do carry. Two of my closest friends are ER Doctors and they both carry.  Neither of them are landlords, but I'm just saying, guns are not a dirty word here in the Midwest or in the South. 

DL

I think it can be rewarding, but I don't refer to it as a job. A job to me is exchanging your hours for money.  Your time for a fixed and finite return over and over.

When I'm in the trenches, down in the muck of damage or drama (which I rarely have anymore, but did plenty early when I was a sucker and didn't screen properly) I think of the people I provide quality, affordable housing to.  My mission statement says that and it's only one sentence.

 The thank you notes I get from time to time and genuine smiles I get when my residents see me makes my work rewarding.  I left a career job on purpose 16 years ago to do this and have no regrets.

I think you are being idealistic as well. There are bad apples in any profession and no matter your dream job, there are going to be things that you don't like about it. Is it meaningful work? You determine that because it is based on your goals.

Originally posted by @Jim K. :

Being a landlord is nothing like being a priest. Look for meaning elsewhere.

 I think a good book to read would be the Monk and the Merchant. Not to spoil the book for you (which is a quick read) but both of them find meaning in their professions and find that both are important.

Refreshing thread with so many people liking time spent as a landlord. I want to add that being a owner and property manager for your properties is not only rewarding financially but would be meaningful way of spending your time. 

Regardless of what I ever did for a living, as I got older, my money-based focus shifted to the peace of mind created from having enough regular cashflow from investments to cover my living expenses.

When I found myself in a sticky job situation (such as working for a boss who thought I should be taking my career in the direction he wanted me to take rather than the direction I wanted to take), I had the means and confidence to vote with my feet. When someone asked me why I left my previous job, as a contractor working through a temporary help agency, I could say I completed my contract (I never used the "take this job and shove it" approach to moving on).

As my wealth grew, I became confident enough to open and contribute regularly to a donor-advised fund and make anonymous donations to various 501(c)(3) charities to satisfy my need to be a Secret Santa. Other people I know, however, prefer a more hands-on approach to helping others.  I've also made small crowdfunding investments when I thought the startup had a mission I wanted to support even though I believed its chances of survival were nil.

For me, perhaps it boils down to the separation of wealth and philanthropy.  It's just that philanthropy is easier when one has the money to give away.

Balancing the Benefit and the Burden of Wealth

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/08/your-money/wealth-happiness.html