This is the first post in my new Home Story Series, where I interview local people about how they bought their home, why they chose the home they chose, and what their home has meant to them.
For this first installment, I interview Suzanne Goldberg* who lives on over an acre of land on a private road in Shelburne with her husband, two children, chickens, dogs, and an assortment of short-term and long-term tenants who provide her family with an incredible secondary source of income.
Pallas: How did you end up in Vermont?
Suzanne: We had moved to VT in 2015 on a whim from out of state to be closer to family.
What kind of property were you looking for?
We were staying in a furnished rental until we could find something that worked.
We told our agent we wanted a place with 2-3 bedrooms for kids and two acres under $300,000 but hoping it would be closer to $250,000.
Did you find what you were looking for right away?
We had looked for homes in October-Nov 2015 so the inventory wasn’t great.
We were mainly focused on Hinesburg and Williston. Our top choices would have been Shelburne and Charlotte, but we couldn’t afford what we wanted in our price range.
We were looking mainly in rural neighborhoods as we wanted property.
I feel like we looked at every home out there and my agent told me to hang tight as spring would lead to a higher inventory.
Flash forward to spring of 2016 and we have until May 1st to find a place so we needed to be under contract by February.
We actually found our home on Zillow.
There were a few extra factors in here that my real estate agent didn’t know about.
One, I had lowered my acreage range, and two, the listing agent didn’t list the place correctly. If you typed in the address it showed up as acreage, and it was way out of our price range (listed at $495,000).
What allowed you to consider a property in that price range?
The place was a duplex, with a built out apartment downstairs, and a 3BD/2BA house upstairs. It also had a large 2000 sqft garage on the property.
Once you saw it, how fast did you make the decision to make an offer?How did you know it was the right fit?
I found the place on a Tuesday. My agent got me in on Wednesday after contacting their listing agent who said there was another seller placing an offer.
We had our offer in Friday morning.
Our home was affordable, because we could use the rental income to help offset the price of our mortgage.
I think the only doubt was that I couldn’t keep my horse at the property.
Did anything unusual happen during the buying process? How did you deal with that?
A few things were missed on the inspection that were found by other professionals later on after the purchase.
There was a lot of trash the original owners pitched off the property that we didn’t see until we walked around back.
How does your home complement your lifestyle?
The house has allowed us to live in a town we wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.
If it wasn’t for the rental, I doubt we would be able to afford daycare for our children.
I’m a huge believer in early education, and I’m grateful we’re not slaves to our mortgage.
The house is on 1+ acre tucked in on a private road.
I have chickens and gardens.
We don’t mind tenants at all. They’ve all been great people.
You have done some pretty amazing things to maximize the income potential of your home. Can you explain a little bit about that?
We rent the [unit] upstairs. We also rent out garage space in the winter for cars. We built a studio in the garage as well for extra space.
What has it been like being a landlord and/or short-term rental host?
We rent the duplex [upstairs], and for a while tried it as an Airbnb. We received a full years rent in about 5 months on Airbnb.
It was a nightmare though. People are ridiculous. They want to pay ghetto rates, but have 5 star accommodations.
95% of guests would give us 5 stars, then someone would just go off the deep end.
One memorable guest ripped us a part because there was a “spider on her ceiling” and she couldn’t sleep.
I found that Airbnb is pro-guest, but really hard on hosts. I will never do it again.
Now that you have switched to longer-term tenants, how much income are you able to generate?
We cover a good portion of our mortgage.
I would like to add that we are an extremely frugal family.
We document all of our expenses, and have a small budget for “luxuries” like ordering a pizza. We meal plan, cut coupons etc.
What do you like most about your home?
Everything. I’m so grateful we found our place.
It’s one of a kind.
The income it generates along with our strict budgeting has kept financial stress at a minimum.
If you could change anything about your home, what would it be?
I would have added more soundproofing between units. We don’t mind noise, but apparently some of the Airbnb guests had.
How do you imagine this home will serve you down the road?
When we are done paying for daycare and can save more, we will move into the larger unit.
The home is part of our retirement plan as our mortgage will be paid off when that rolls around.
We plan on moving out of state and retiring to a place where the property taxes aren’t ludicrous.
*Not her real name
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pallas Ziporyn is a Realtor based in Burlington, VT. She is the founder and head writer for The Vermont Real Estate Blog, and she works with both buyers and sellers in Chittenden County and surrounding areas.
In addition to her real estate pursuits, Pallas enjoys serving on the Winooski Planning Commission, skiing, writing, and spending time with her husband Chris and their two small children, Leander and Hugo.