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  • Writer's pictureKaleigh Sullivan

House Hacking Ain't Always Glamorous

Updated: Mar 30, 2022

Picture this: David and a six-month pregnant me wobbling around in a 450 square foot basement unit with a tiny, uncomfortable couch that might as well be sitting on the floor; a stove/oven that wasn’t hooked up to the gas; every room filled with boxes from our baby shower to the point where you only had little pathways to walk from place to place. This was our life for months.

House Hacking ain’t always glamorous.

Don’t get me wrong, I love house-hacking. The pros HEAVILY outweigh the cons and that’s why I have been doing this strategy for over 6 years. Some were great, and some were like what I am about to share with you!

House-hacking is one of the major reasons why I am where I am in my investing journey. For those of you who may not know, house hacking is a real estate investing strategy where you live in a portion of house/multi-unit and rent out the other portion to help pay your mortgage and expenses. You can read more about my first house-hack here. In my opinion, house hacking is quite possibly the easiest & safest way to get started in real estate investing. I understand that it is not always the strategy a lot of people want to do – but it is how I got started and it is how I recommend others get started too.

Ok, back to the story to the not-so glamorous side of this house-hack.

Here was our plan:

- Live in the basement unit for 2 months while an upstairs unit gets renovated/before the baby gets here

- Move upstairs to the smaller, newly renovated unit while we renovate our final destination

- Move to the final, largest, newly renovated unit.

Here is what happened.

We moved into the basement unit in July of 2019. I packed up all of my belongings from my previous house hack and tried to squeeze it in this tiny apartment that we bought together back in 2018. I was 6 months pregnant. We had NO space. All the things from our baby shower were piled on top of each other in the kitchen/living room area. We looked like hoarders and if you know me, you know cleanliness and organization is my middle name – so this was TORTUROUS. We were supposed to be out before our son arrived, but renovations in another unit took longer than we planned - story of my life LOL

The apartment before everything was in there!

We started the renovation in the upstairs unit in September of 2019 and it was supposed to be completed by October 2019. Welp, the renovations took until the beginning of December. My son was born on November 6, 2019 so we all spent about a month in the basement unit all crammed together. I can laugh about it now but boy when I tell you how stressful this was!!!!

There was no nursery. I put a changing pad on top of some boxes to use as a changing station. We didn’t have enough space to put out some of the baby things – like his swing or play mat. And we definitely didn't have any space for visitors. We would all co-sleep (don’t kill me), but we never really slept. We had no washer or dryer, so I would have to drive to David’s moms house to do our laundry when I could. The gas line for the stove didn’t work so I couldn’t cook like I like to. Luckily, all a baby needs is love (well, and milk and diapers 😉) – We were definitely able to give that!

David Jr. was a tough baby too. I realize that now after having our daughter, Brynn. He was a colic baby and would keep me us most nights, all night!

I can’t tell you how happy we were when the upstairs unit was ready to get moved into. It was about a month after my c-section in the beginning of December. David was at work and I spent all day moving furniture because I could not wait to get out of the basement! You would’ve never known this mama just had surgery.

Here are some pics of the upstairs unit pre-reno - I know, try not to cringe.

Here are pics of the renovated unit.

Finally. I thought.

Even though the new unit was smaller, it was cleaner, renovated and brighter. I remember I packed two duffle bags because we were told the last renovation in our final unit would only take 4 weeks.

WOOP WOOP, 4 weeks until we could realllllyy be settled in. We packed up the rest of the stuff in boxes and put it all in storage. Things were looking up!

And just when you think you’re seeing light at the end of the tunnel – BOOM. One of the contractors hit a pipe connected to the radiator and didn’t notice. It caused this to happen in the basement unit where a new tenant had just moved in and where we had just moved out of:

We stayed up till 3 in the morning cleaning this up. We had to turn the water off so I couldn't even shower right after. Ew, I know.

We had no heat for a few days – in the coldest months of the year. I wrapped David Jr. up in layers of clothes, blankets, coats and hats, and we layered up too. We had to shut the water off for a few days until the radiator/leak was repaired. Because we had tenants in other units, we had to pay for hotels for all of them until the water and heat could be turned back on.

You’re probably thinking “why on earth would you stay there”. And when I look back, I think the same thing HAHA. It's funny because when I am in situations like this, I am rarely thinking negatively about how bad it is. I kind of just roll with the punches. In my head, at that time we had multiple head ache flips going on, these renovations happening that were clearly problematic and costing us a ton of money that we wouldn’t see an immediate return on, problems at a different rental, paying for the hotels for our tenants, plus the unexpected repairs that had to be made from the water leak – I did not want to spend any more money!!! I can live through anything, and I knew this was only temporary. You know the saying “in order to get rich, you must live below your means”? Well I think I take that saying to heart a little TOO much. I am so committed to growing and investing that making sacrifices like this just seem like part of the process.

This delayed everything a little bit. Why am I always so optimistic about renovation timelines?!?! When will I learn!??! I was immediately regretting my two duffle bag packing. We couldn’t move into our final unit until some time in February I believe. The best feeling in the world. We moved out of the upstairs unit and we were finally in our final destination of the house-hack. We started Airbnb-ing the upstairs unit for immediate income. David Jr. was still a terrible sleeper so on the rare occasion that the Airbnb was available, David and I would alternate going upstairs to get a good night’s rest and a little break. We were so exhausted that it was like a little get away from all this stress. See, there was a benefit to this!!!

Here are some pics of the final unit before reno:

And then some afters:

I don't want this story to scare you away from house-hacking. My first house-hack was nothing like this. It was easy! I feel like I always share the highs in real estate and often times not the lows. And honestly, when all of this was happening, we didn't realize how bad it was! We were still so happy and excited about the future. We understood the sacrifices we were making now were all part of a bigger picture. That's one thing about David and I - we know we are in it together!

But nonetheless, it was all worth it! We were finally settled in. We could finally breath again. We were adjusting better to being parents and we were comfortable in our home. Things were going back to normal! My maternity leave had just ended so I was beginning work again. And then, this happened:

It was time to find another house to hack!!

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