Last month at a local investor club meeting, I was asked by a fellow investor why I preferred investing in Victorian and Edwardian homes (built circa 1840-1920). He couldn’t understand why I would prefer properties that were older in age, most definitely contain lead paint, and usually come as properties protected by the state or local municipality. He’s not the first one to question my attachment to such homes, especially as rentals. There are some that understand my attraction to the properties but not in a capacity of renting them out. I have yet to meet an investor who shares my high level of passion for renting these homes out. I’m usually referred to as passionate, dedicated, and even crazy. What are my reasons for going through all these hoops and complications for my rental business?
For starters I am an avid history lover. My ideal vacation is to a destination of high historical significance. I’ve followed that passion to Spain, London, Paris and Washington D.C. and have a vacation to Montreal next September. One of my favorite things to do is to tour palaces, castles, estates and mansions. If allowed, I love to touch the walls, banisters, and doors hoping to feel some affinity to people and time periods.
Something that has been drilled into my head since high school is to find a way to incorporate your passion into what you will do for living. When I was entering the world of real estate investing I wasn’t sure how I would do this. At first I didn’t see how I could bring my passion to this. Then I felt so silly when it finally dawned on me. I could use my history passion to increase my excitement and drive for investments by specializing in Victorian and Edwardian homes. Even after I got into and realized all the possible deterrents, I was still convinced it was the real estate path for me.
When I drive around towns and cities, it breaks my heart to see older homes neglected and in severe disrepair. I often like to imagine what I could do to restore the home to its glory. It’s not easy to do things like restore a neglected building, especially to be as period accurate as its future purpose would allow. Your creativity is often limited by your desire to keep things like pocket doors intact, original doors and doorways in place, etc. Yet for me, I invite the challenge. If I can rise to the challenge it means I have saved a part of history all while giving someone a place to lay their head and call their own.
The Victorian homes known as “Painted Ladies” require 3 or more distinct color choices. Usually one for the largest portion of the home, another for window trim, and at least a third for the porches and embellishments. It’s a lot of coordination and decisions to repaint the exterior but the beauty in what you have created is irreplaceable. It’s a hugely satisfying sight to see it in its final state, especially when it may have modern homes as neighbors on either side. A well finished Painted Lady towers above the homes in the neighborhood in stature (and usually in size).
On the inside, details bring character unseen anywhere else. Each property is usually incredibly unique because of the personalization that happened when they were built. Most everything was handmade, which made personalization easy for the homeowner. In ways that today’s generic and pre-drawn homes can’t compare, each Victorian or Edwardian home is personal statement down to every detail. Those statements are what allows my property to stand out. When I renovate I keep as much of this character in place as I can.
It used to annoy me to see these large homes subdivided into triplexes and quads, but I eventually realized it was a better fate than the properties being razed in favor of newer housing. Give me the “headaches” of older foundations, cellar walls, and out of date electrical any day compared to buildings created after World War II. Sure they may be easier, but the joy and spark isn’t there for me.
Passion and joy are important as real estate investors. If you don’t love your property, your tenants won’t. I know they say not to buy with your heart, but I believe to a certain extent you have to. Your heart has to be in the property you are buying, but the numbers have to make sense as well. Don’t buy it just for heart. Love goggles in real estate won’t get you anywhere but a sad place with no extra cash flow.
Owner Brio Propeties