Side Jam Interview #5 – House Hacking to Save and Make Money
Hey everyone, welcome back! This week’s Side Jam Interview is all about house hacking.
You’ll be hearing from Riley, who blogs at Young and the Invested. His writing focuses on younger professionals who are just getting started with their careers.
Delivered from the Millennial perspective, Riley highlights the shift from more traditional financial advice to meet the unique needs of the younger generation. Also, he’s a super nice guy, and an all-around professional.
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And now, here is more about Riley:
Riley is a licensed CPA in the state of Louisiana, and works as a Senior Financial Analyst for a Fortune 500 company in New Orleans. He also has a personal finance blog called Young and the Invested, where he helps young professionals discover financial independence.
The Interview Questions
Tell us about a fun, unique, or interesting Side Jam you’ve tried:
My wife and I house hack to offset our living costs. We live in a duplex I co-own with my family. It has long-term tenants on one side, and a lock-off unit behind us we use as a short-term rental.
Between these two sources of rental income, my wife and I pay the mortgage and associated housing expenses. This allows us to live for free.
We’ve had a lot of success over the last 2 years using the savings toward making a down payment on our first house together.
How/why did you get started with house hacking?
We got started by recognizing the need to save money for a down payment, by dramatically reducing our housing costs.
What are the basic responsibilities of being a landlord?
Essentially, maintenance is the biggest item. I’ve become quite handy since transitioning into a landlord. We’ve handled refrigeration problems, HVAC failures, shower head breaks, ceiling collapses, drainage clogs, dry rot, painting, and some other odds and ends.
Being available 24/7 is a best practice and one I personally abide by. This is because I always attempt to place myself in the tenants’ shoes. Were I renting from someone else, I’d want to know my concerns were not only being heard, but also acted upon.
Because of this, I always make myself available for maintenance or repairs. It’s important that my tenants feel respected and know they’re getting a fair deal by choosing to rent from us.
How much time do you think you spend per month on physical/tangible landlord-related duties?
It can vary, and often happens in bunches. Typically, I’d say I spend 4-8 hours per month handling landlord duties. Depending on the specific need & skill set required, this might include the time to schedule a repair or service by a technician.
When you factor in the AirBnB in the back of our unit, that adds an additional 4-8 hours, depending on the time of year. In total, we average 8-16 hours per month with physical landlord-related duties.
How do you seek out potential tenants for your rentals? Do you advertise, or is it strictly word of mouth & recommendations?
When my wife and I look for new tenants, we use a variety of social media platforms and sites. In particular, we use Zillow, HotPads, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and Apartments.com.
We’ve also used word-of-mouth referrals, but haven’t had much success converting these into tenants. In addition, I use the same vetting process for my condo. We don’t use paid advertising through any of these platforms.
Whether it’s my condo vs. apartment next door, we only use free marketing platforms. So far, we’ve been pretty successful by relying on these outlets.
How do you evaluate potential tenants? Do you have a vetting or interview process?
We always want to meet and interview our tenants before agreeing to have them sign the lease agreement. In our duplex, we want to make sure the rental apartment is occupied by people we would want to have as neighbors.
We do interviews, ask them about their current employment status (all have been graduate students at Tulane University), and even ask for references. On our first set of tenants, we did a call screen to their previous landlord and determined the tenants to be worthwhile.
Further, we do background and credit checks using TransUnion’s customer vetting services. The service costs the tenant $35 but provides us with adequate info for making the decision to offer them a lease to sign. We do the same for tenants interested in leasing my condo.
Are there any general insurance considerations to be mindful of for house hacking? For instance, ramping up your liability coverage, or encouraging tenants to obtain a policy for their personal property?
We researched this before starting our house hacking journey. We already had an umbrella liability coverage policy which exceeded any amount we ever thought would be necessary. The policy covers multiple perils and costs next to nothing, in the grand scheme of things.
However, absent the umbrella coverage, my wife and I would’ve purchased supplemental liability coverage to guard against any mishaps or issues which could arise from renting. We don’t require our renters to obtain insurance, but do strongly suggest they carry a renters’ policy to protect their property from potential theft or damage.
Were we staying in this arrangement long-term, the insurance would make it harder to save money and maximize our ability to save for a down payment. However, it’s smarter to pay the cost for umbrella coverage in the short-term, rather than risking a loss through litigation.
We enjoy house hacking and have recently started a journey into travel hacking to get more out of life while paying less. We look for as many ways to save as possible without forgoing worthwhile experiences. It’s an ethos for us, and one we’ve enjoyed exploring.
In general, how profitable has house hacking been?
We’ve managed to save the $1,000-$1,500 per month it would otherwise cost for my wife & I to live in an equivalent rental in our neighborhood. Saving that dollar amount each month has gone a long way toward helping us meet our financial goals.
We’ve also learned a great deal about being landlords and short-term rental hosts. The two responsibilities can involve a lot of effort but pay off handsomely, if managed well.
What type of research or learning curve is required for this Side Jam?
We researched the real estate market in our area, and settled on a promising neighborhood where we could afford to buy a house as a family, and also be near local universities.
Our goal was to target graduate students enrolled at either Loyola or Tulane University, since we are of a similar stage in life.
What tips would you have for someone who is looking to get started with house hacking?
Make sure this arrangement is something you’re sure you’ll enjoy long-term. It isn’t something you can easily get out of if you change your mind. Once you’ve made the commitment, you need to be willing to put in the work to make house hacking successful.
Overall, what did you learn by doing this activity?
We learned the value of being good landlords and hosts. Making sure your tenants or guests are satisfied is always important. You need to always have the “customer” on your mind.
This requires soft skills development, being proactive with your communication, and always being mindful of privacy.
Is this something you would like to continue doing? Why or why not?
After we move into our new place, it’s doubtful we’ll continue to pursue the house hacking arrangement. We’re likely to begin a family and will need more than the 650 square feet we currently occupy.
That isn’t to say we wouldn’t continue if it were practical. We’ve enjoyed the experience and are very grateful to have used the house hacking situation to our advantage.
Thank you so much, Riley! Please remind us again where readers can find you online —
Riley’s blog: https://youngandtheinvested.com
The Wrap Up on House Hacking to Save and Make Money on the Side
Wow, that was a ton of useful information! Riley and his wife have definitely done their homework to make their house hacking venture a success. And I wish them the best of luck for when they start the next chapter in their journey.
So what can we take away from this interview?
- House hacking can be a great way to save money, plus earn an extra income.
- It also requires a lot of work, since you’re basically on call 24/7.
- Putting yourself in another person’s shoes can provide invaluable perspective.
- Always try to plan for your future. But also have some sort of insurance, because you can’t always plan for everything.
Thank you again to Riley, for being so awesome about responding to my questions, and providing such great detail!
And stay tuned for next week’s post, and another Side Jam Interview!
So what’s your perspective on house hacking —
Is it something you’d be willing to do? Or do you think being a landlord might be too much of a headache?
I’d love to know what you think — Hit me up in the Comments!
Missed my previous Side Jam interviews? Click on the Related Posts below —
#1 – Cricket’s Plant Selling and Worm Farm
#2 – Nelly’s Online Forum Contribution
#3 – Robert’s Digital Marketing Business
#4 – Cheryl’s Exercise Class Instruction
#5 – Riley’s House Hacking
#6 – Marc’s Product Selling on Amazon