I have never worked so hard or so much or been so exhilarated in my life! Of course, I hadn’t become a mother yet, so I really had no idea what working hard meant!
I was still the Assistant Program Director/Music Director/Midday On-Air Personality at WKRZ. I was voicetracking another radio station in Pensacola, Florida (the joke was could I just move to Florida and voicetrack Wilkes-Barre?) I was bringing bands onstage at the Hardware Bar downtown every Friday night while hanging out in the DJ Booth with another DJ/Investor, my good buddy Dan Taylor. And I was managing 16 rental units and looking to buy more! Does it make you tired thinking about my schedule? It was grueling, but I was exhilarated!
I remember my birthday week, which I took off as a vacation. Steve and I were at his brother’s lakeside cottage in Ossipee, NH. It was on my brother-in-law’s speed boat skimming across the lake that I started visualizing myself as the Real Estate Mogul I was sure to become. This was my speed boat and my lake house, because I’d made it. I retired from radio at 40 and grew my empire to 400 rental units, and built a management company staffed with competent employees to take care of them all while I skimmed Lake Osipee! But for some reason I felt real nauseous when I got off the boat.
The next morning, too. Stomach bug? Something I ate? My boobs hurt. I looked puffy in my swimsuit. I’m getting my period. I must be due for it. When was my last one? August, right? Did I have one in August? I wonder if… nah! I’m turning 39 for chrissake! Doesn’t your uterus dry up and blow away at 35?
I slept the whole ride home from the lake. Why was I so tired? Well I’d better buck up – it’s back to work next week and then we gotta ride to New Jersey to pick up the F250 we just bought for our one-man maintenance department!
That Friday night at the Hardware Bar was brutal. For some reason the smoke really got to me. The only relief I felt was when Danny had a break while the band was onstage and we could walk over to Dunkin Donuts. Those 3 Boston Cremes got me through the night! I’d better stop eating like this or I’m gonna get fat.
We rode to New Jersey to get the truck. I made Steve grab me one of Wegmans’ pastas-to-go, something with a lot of cheese in it. We ended up getting a hotel in Edison because I was too tired to drive home. I thought if I don’t get my period by next Friday, I’ll call the doctor.
I didn’t bother with the stick at Rite Aid. I went right to the doctor and got the blood test. I was either pregnant or I had cancer. I was pretty sure I had cancer.
Unplanned, but very much wanted. Someday very soon my brilliant little daughter is going to learn how to read. I don’t want her finding this blog post and getting the wrong idea so I’m going to get everything out in the open. My pregnancy was not planned. But once I found out I was having a baby I was sure that a) – my baby was a girl, b)- she would be amazing, c)- I’ve never wanted anything more in my life, and d)- she would be my whole world. I was right on all four counts.
A baby changes everything. I quit working at the Hardware Bar and starting going to bed at 9pm – I was just so tired! Thankfully the Pensacola radio station changed format, saving me the trouble of quitting. My husband had volunteered to be first in line for the layoffs at WVIA earlier that summer, so he could devote himself full-time to our real estate business. By New Year’s 2010, 5 months pregnant, I let go of any involvement in our business. I could work the job-and-a-half that was KRZ and bring a child into the world, but that was it.
We met with a couple of property managers about taking over my role, but Steve decided he wanted to do it all himself. He didn’t do too badly – by the time Entercom Communications laid me off in 2012, he had purchased 4 more double-blocks as rental properties from the Luzerne County Tax Sale, plus a couple houses he re-sold to other investors.
Baby’s First Flip. I was still on maternity leave when Steve and I walked through the house in Swoyersville he was thinking of buying to flip. It was a 4 bedroom, 1 bath Colonial with a nice big lot being sold in an estate sale for $45,000 in a neighborhood where houses went for around $125,000. It was hopelessly outdated, with tiny little rooms and a gross linoleum kitchen out of the 1960s. But the kitchen was a nice size, and I could see an open-plan living room in place of those 3 tiny rooms. I could envision a large, luxurious bathroom in place of one of the 4 bedrooms upstairs. There was a walk-up attic with an exposed brick chimney that just screamed ARTIST’S SPACE!
I walked through the house with Savannah in her Graco infant carrier that snapped into a base and became a car seat. She was 5 weeks old. But I saw her at around 5 years old in a little pink bike helmet riding a little pink bike with training wheels on that street. Steve, we are going to buy this house. We are going to flip this house. But we are not going to sell this house.
It’s a good thing we didn’t sell it – it took us over two years to flip it! First Steve tried doing everything himself. He hired out some local construction-types to knock down the walls for my open-concept first floor, and ended up taking most of the house down to the studs. That made it easier to completely re-do the electrical and plumbing, and install HVAC – central air was something I had lived without for far too long and will never be without again! We ended up hiring contractors to finish the job and went through about 3 of them. We insulated the walls and installed vinyl siding. We installed bamboo flooring, tile and granite in the kitchen. The downstairs bathroom was fitted to double as a laundry room. The upstairs bathroom had a soaker tub with tile surround. The place is truly amazing! A few silly little things need to be done before we can sell it – like the shower surround that was never installed in the second floor bathroom. Oops, how did that get forgotten? We’ve been here almost 3 years now and we’re still taking our showers downstairs. But with that soaker tub I usually just take a bath, so I’m in no hurry.
We made all of the beginner mistakes with this flip, and that’s why it took us two years. But it gave us the confidence to flip houses for real. The next house we flipped only took us 6 months from start to finish, and 3 more months to sell it, but we made a decent profit, just shy of $30,000. Not bad for a couple of newbies! And I discovered I have a talent for interior design. I’ll write more about flipping houses in future blog posts.
When we finally moved in, we sold our half-double in Pittston to GPGH Investments, LLC, and that became our 25th rental unit.
Working Mom becomes Unemployed Mom becomes Momtrepreneur. I was getting a half-priced massage at Vive in Kingston when they first opened and were doing a special. They had a survey they wanted me to fill out. One of the questions was “occupation.” At the time, I was laid off from Entercom and my 11-year job at WKRZ. I didn’t want to put “unemployed” down for reasons having mostly to do with my ego. But really I didn’t feel unemployed. I jumped back into our real estate business almost immediately after being let go. I was the mother of a two-year-old. I was working hard enough to need this massage! So I wrote “Momtrepreneur” in the blank space.
I’m not the first one to think up that term. In fact, Angelina Musik-Comp has Trademarked it. I’ll post a link to her website here in hopes that she won’t sock me with a Cease & Desist. http://www.momtrepreneurs.com/
But I will tell you with God as my witness I thought up the term Momtrepreneur all on my own sitting in that waiting room at Vive. How else to describe what I was doing with my time? My little daughter was my #1 priority. But the business was going to give me the means to raise her, so I had to build that up as well. We had to do something soon to build this business. 25 units was great, but it wasn’t enough to provide salaries for both Steve and myself. My unemployment would run out after a year. Health insurance premiums (this was pre-Obamacare) were running us about $700/month. I wasn’t about to go without health care, break a leg and end up having to sell a building to pay for it.
We had to do something.
Have you ever wondered about paying for one of those Real Estate Guru Training Programs? Read my blog post next Sunday, and I’ll tell you the real scoop on that, at least from my experience.