August 3-the sign of the loyal Leo. It is a special day for me and has been for the past 23 years. I started my catering business on August 3, 1998 (which I sold in 2018). Martha Stewart was born on August 3 (I always felt that was a bit nostalgic considering she was the greatest caterer of all time) and I had a very dear friend who was born on August 3.
I often joke I was born in another life on this day because it always comes with reflection, reminiscing and a time when I think about my current and future state of being.
I have had a very stressful six months and like I used to do in my past life as an owner of a very busy catering company I put a couple of things on the back burner-the main one being my blog. As many of you know I built my first new construction project (a four bedroom/two bath duplex) to add to my rental portfolio. The process felt like it took me to hell and back a couple of times. My personal real estate agent, now colleague and one of my best friends (Jason Kierce) told me over lunch a year ago, “Melissa, this will be one of the hardest things you ever do.” I internally rolled my eyes at him because I thought to myself, does he forget all the stories I have shared with him over the years and the time we went through yoga teacher training together and shared our deepest pains and memories…he must not remember any of that. Well, he was not joking! Looking back, I should have journaled the whole process, but I was so in it at the time that when the days ended, I just wanted to half study my Spanish before bed or scroll social media and tune out from my reality. Mentally it was so much. I have always struggled with the 3:00am panic wake up and these months were no different. In lieu of making this an article more suited for the Elephant Journal, I will highlight the lessons I learned building for rent.
- Find the right professional team. Your team should consist of your lender, your accountant, your lawyer and your general contractor. I found an amazing lender at United Bank about five years ago. He is nothing short of perfect. His personality works well with mine. He is a straight shooter; he uses very little emotion, and he gets things done. He knows everything about me financially but nothing personally and I am fine with that. I think this is his way of doing business, creating boundaries and I like that. You want to run your ideas by your accountant and ideally you should have one that is well versed in rental property. I had an accountant for a very long time that was so strait laced and often saw the glass half empty. I reunited with a previous accountant, and he is fantastic and always gives me the push to go for it and guides me strategically with an edge and I like that. My attorney is like my lender although he knows a lot about me because our kids go to school together and are the same age. Then there is the General Contractor (GC). Unfortunately, this is where a lot of my stresses and anxiety came from. I can not reiterate to you enough to find the right GC. This is a post that I will focus on next time.
- Whatever the timeline you had in mind-double it. I thrive in a project management setting and like to get things done so when I would show up to the construction site and no one was there, for days, it would literally feel like I was being eaten alive in anxiety.
- The City of Charlotte is not your friend. I am a local news junkie and have been following the need for affordable housing for years. This is a big reason why I wanted to build a duplex this large. The encounters with the city were disappointing to say the least. When I ran my catering company, they were my biggest client, and I had such a love for our city administration. This took me down a whole other path. I felt like I was dealing with the DMV every time I had to interact with them. I felt they did everything in their power for me not to build. I did have to change my project because of rules and regulations. Personally, I will not build alone in this city again. I would consider a partnership or an equity stake but as a sole owner/individual I would not.
- Consider having a partner. A partner for you may be a spouse, a financial partner, the GC. It was super hard to do this alone. Although I was the only owner at my catering company, I had a team to rely on. Doing this solo was often lonely and scary. See #7.
- Bigger is not always better. I am a housing provider for local nonprofits that house folks coming out of homelessness, and I am also a provider of the housing voucher programs. I knew there was a need for four-bedroom properties. Looking back, I would have done three-bedroom units. The programs would like to see the provider of four bedrooms house between six and eight people in the unit (two people per bedroom). In my experience the more people the harder they are on the house and the more wear and tear and work for you when they move out.
- Security, security, security. Whether it’s real or fake cameras, a hired off duty police officer, posted trespassing signs, do something. It may not work, and a thief is going to try regardless but at least take some precaution. With all the crime in Charlotte, new construction is a big target. Whether it is Southpark, Myers Park, Ashley Park, Hidden Valley—crime happens so please don’t think it won’t happen to you. I suffered gang vandalism and a break in where they stole brand new appliances. The more you put yourself out there the greater chance you will be a victim of crime. Be cautious and aware always.
- Have the right friends or family in your corner. For me it’s friends that offer me my support. You will need them there to ride the highs and lows. They don’t have to do what you do for a living-although one or two of these friends is also helpful. There is nothing better than the friend that asks how your project is going and genuinely cares and is so excited to hear all about it. They bring you back to the excitement and joy of the process. They also remind us of our why. This is priceless.
I feel there is so much more to share around this, and I will commit myself to writing more about my experience(s). I am here for you and if I can ever do anything at all for you, or simply just listen to your ideas, please reach out.