“True Religion is the life we live, not the creed we profess.”
-J. F. Wright
The above quote is one I scrawled on a post it note and taped to my computer monitor years ago, intending to make a lovely little wall plaque of it, for it embodies an enormous part of my life philosophy. Due to my overly busy life, it remains a (rather grimy) post it note attached to my monitor, but nonetheless is as true today as when I stuck it there.
Our business philosophy is simple: we treat people the way we like to be treated: with respect, honesty, decency and fairness. It’s served us well during our 30 plus years in the real estate business and while we were plying the residential construction trade as well. We strive to do the best we are capable of in any endeavor, and the results are apparent in the cross section of comments that are posted on our Testimonials page.
Landlord. My word, what negative emotions are called up by that word. Ask anyone and they’ll likely have a horror story or two to tell you about the landlord from hell they had to deal with at some point. Certainly I never intended to be a landlord; had you asked me in college what I was going to do when I graduated, I would have told you I was going to be in agribusiness. AKA farmer.
My husband Charlie grew up on a dairy farm, I was raised on a farmette with two veterinarians as parents; we met at Cornell College of Agriculture. We fully intended to run our own dairy farm together when we graduated. And we did, for five years, and did well, too…until Reaganomics poisoned the dairy industry. Even with trickle down voodoo economics in place we would have survived except for an unfortunate accident that made it impossible for Charlie to work.
His surgeon told him it would be 2 years before he would be fully capable of heavy work again. As I was unable to care for 130 head of dairy cattle, 2 toddlers and an invalid all on my own, we sold the cows and moved back to the Ithaca area where I had grown up. Charlie went to work as a carpenter, something he knew how to do well, as farming entails a lot of do it yourself projects. Within a few years, he had started his own business, Artisan Construction, which did nicely providing an income for the day to day things, but simply wasn’t enough to provide for retirement.
Here is where the apartments came in, and all that is entailed with being a landlord. Sandwiched between paying jobs and on nights and weekends, we built our first building, 405 Main Street Extension Freeville, in 1990. In 1991, we built 409 next door. In 1992, 207 Irish Settlement was put up. Building budgets were really tight, interest rates were on the high side (12%) and we made little to nothing on these places (other than equity) and believe me, you can’t eat equity! As anyone who has ever started paying on a long term loan knows, equity doesn’t build up much at first. Our retirement savings is a combination of “sweat equity” (we didn’t charge for our labor to build these places when taking out a mortgage) and enforced savings in the form of the principal paid in the monthly bank payments.
I resolved from the first to be the best landlady anyone could ever ask for. Maintenance is always a top priority, the lawns are kept mowed, the driveways plowed quickly in winter. Landscaping entails a lot of “passalong” plants as the trees and shrubs from a nursery are costly, but nevertheless, our entry gardens are lovely. They are a lot of work, but they are lovely. We accept people’s pets, (with few exceptions) as we both feel life without animal companions is diminished.
Without telling a lot of horror stories from a landlord’s perspective (and I could tell you a few that would curl your hair) suffice it to say we took some hard knocks early on in our career as landlords. Imagine building something brand new and really lovely, only to have to turn around after one year tenancy and spend over $3,000 to repair that same place! Buckets of fun. But we learned, and over the years, I hope that we have become better landlords. Certainly, our lives have been enriched by the people who have come into it through our places, and we hope that in some small way our tenants’ lives have been made better as well.