Steve was in TV101 because he had transferred from Worcester Poly Tech, and even though he worked for one of the biggest production houses in the city Emerson wouldn’t let him test out of the intro course. I quickly identified him as the smartest dude in the class and latched on accordingly. Plus he had kind eyes. Tall and ginger, he reminded me of Tigger from Winnie-The-Pooh, and I still call him that occasionally. Our first project was to produce a one minute live-switch production with special effects. I decided to produce a public service announcement for safe sex. So my opening line to Steve was something like, “Hi, would you like to produce a condom commercial with me?” Thus began our working relationship.
Fast-forward two decades. Steve and I were two full-time media professionals dealing with jobs that we once loved, but that were becoming less fun every day. Big corporate ownership of media really spoiled the party. We were okay with working the long hours, handling the stress of impossible deadlines, all for about what a good manager at Subway would make. But that was when working in radio and TV was fun. By 2007, the stress and crappy pay were just getting on our nerves.
We went to one of those get-rich-quick-in-real-estate seminars and decided for the money they wanted for their program, we could put a down payment on an apartment building. I started reading books and online articles about rental real estate and management. I had visions of being part of the renaissance in the old coal town of Wilkes-Barre, PA – taking the boards off blighted buildings and bringing positive change to the neighborhoods with the families who would move in. Good People Good Homes was born. Building that business became a passion, much like radio had once been.
Working with my husband on a shared dream has brought us closer than ever before. But there have been times it has threatened to tear us apart. We’d argue about the direction of the company, like most business partners inevitably do. But it would get personal. Insulting. We knew where each others’ buttons were and exactly how to push them!
A hint to anyone considering going into business with your spouse – have a good marriage counsellor on speed dial!
Seriously, it has saved us from divorce at least twice. I’m sure it’s prevented mariticide. I love this man and would never leave him, but working together is a whole new set of dynamic challenges. Marriage counselling has taught us how to argue productively and communicate effectively, without the insults and hurt feelings. It’s been especially challenging for us since we worked in media, a profession rife with sarcasm where it is common practice to curse like a sailor in front of your coworkers. The marriage counsellor would ask, “would you talk to a co-worker at your job that way?” And we’d say, “Well, actually, yeah!”
When we made the decision to take back the self-management of our rental properties, we made a standing monthly appointment with our marriage counsellor. Even though things are humming along great marriage-wise, I like having that ounce of prevention. Because stuff is going to come up!
I know it’s working, because my husband is still alive after an incident that happened last week.
House flipping essentials: the model home
We met with an investor from New Jersey to walk through our latest flip. He was deciding whether he wanted to fund the project. His name was Offer – his real name! Israeli. Sharp guy. He walked through the property with our contractor and the building inspector, taking meticulous notes, asking lots of questions. After all, he was about to drop $65,000 on faith. After that extensive walk through, Offer said he wanted to see some of our past work. Oh I’ll be happy to show you the pictures right here on my phone!
Nope. He wanted to see an actual property we flipped. He wanted to walk through it that afternoon, before he went back to New Jersey.
The problem is, we sold our last flip in Avoca. We have a flip we decided to keep as a rental, but we couldn’t show that on a moments’ notice – people were living there, and they’re at work in the middle of the day. That left… our house.
As a business person, I knew that was the only logical choice. I knew I had no right to be angry with my husband. He didn’t know this guy wanted to walk through a model home! Had he known, we would have had a few days to declutter and hire my friend to come in and clean it for six hours. But he didn’t know. So our Israeli investor was about to be treated to Chez Rafuse-Franco in all its messy lived-in glory. Even though I knew this wasn’t Steve’s fault, I could barely contain my enthusiasm. As I was writing the check to the building inspector for his time, Steve came over and sheepishly asked, “Are you going to kill me later?” “I’m going to kill you now!” I must have been convincing, because the inspector took a few steps back.
Luckily, we took separate cars. I drove home while everyone was still standing around chatting. My mission: to at least scoop the litter boxes and spray Febreeze to lessen Eau de Kitty Cat. Another lucky break – I had recently put myself on a house cleaning regimen, where I clear the clutter and surface clean every room of the house between Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It was Wednesday afternoon, so only three days of clutter had reaccumulated. Our six-year-old’s toys were charmingly spread about the living room. I’m not above laying my poor housekeeping habits on an innocent child. Sorry, got a kid – never gonna look like a magazine layout in here!
I brewed our investor some java from my Keurig while Steve showed him our bamboo flooring, granite countertops and the bathroom with the giant soaker tub that had once been a bedroom. Then I sat him down in my “office” – at the dining room table and showed him all those gorgeous pictures of our last Avoca flip.
And you know what? That investor decided he wanted to fund our flip!
It’s going to take a lot more money than we have right now to turn our house into a model home. We never re-did the driveway. Its crumbling asphalt is reverting to nature. But as soon as I get a spare five grand, I’ll get a concrete driveway poured, along with the foundation for our garage we’ll put in when we get another spare $10k. And I want to pay someone to maintain a classy landscape design.
There are a few things a bit more within our reach. After writing this blog I plan to head over to Ollie’s Bargain Outlet and find a replacement for our beat-to-Hell living room area rug. Next, I’ll be looking for a microfiber (kitty proof!) living room set to replace the 10-year-old sectional cat claws have laid bare.
That will be fun. I’ll use the new Magic Plan app I just downloaded on my phone. I need to learn how to use that anyway – I’ll be using it to design our new flip!
Hopefully I’ll have more to tell you about that flip next week.