I invest in real estate on the side. At first, I thought Airbnb was the way to go, but I prefer long-term rentals. (2024)

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Ursula Lauriston — a 36-year-old strategy lead at Google, previously at Meta — who is also a real-estate investor with three rental properties. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

I'm an immigrant from Haiti, and my parents bought their first home right before I went to college at 18. I saw how much that meant to them, but I wanted to take a different approach.

I believe that your house is not an asset unless it makes you money. So I thought, how can I make my house an asset? How can I make sure that I'm optimizing and looking for yield? I've always looked at homebuying as a business.

Doing anything alongside a tech career is hard. I've been at two FAANGs, and my work has always been demanding. I'm balancing a lot. Even now, I have to make time to do my research on the market and look at homes in person.

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But tech affords me the ability to have the cash needed to invest. Lots of people in tech make high salaries and live above their means. I always remind myself of the big picture, which is generational wealth. I don't want to always depend on a job. I want to have assets and I want to have something to pass down to my family.

Currently, I own three properties in Richmond, a mix of single- and multi-family properties.

I started out renting rooms in my own home on Airbnb

I bought my first home in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, DC in 2017. It was a two-bedroom for $387,500. I wanted to offset my mortgage and make extra income, so I immediately knew I would do Airbnb.

It was already renovated, and the location was perfect. It was literally across the bridge from Capitol Hill, where a lot of Airbnbs were really swanky and expensive. So I got a lot of people who just wanted to save a little bit of money.

The layout was also perfect for someone to live there and also rent out. There was a basement downstairs with its own door. The basement was huge, spanning the length of the home. It had space for a couch and a table. There was a bathroom and a washer and dryer. So I would live down there.

Upstairs, there were two bedrooms and a small office. I would rent those out to guests. It was perfect— I would rarely run into them. I wouldn't see guests for weeks at a time.

I spent about $5,000 furnishing the place. I saved on things like bed frames, but splurged on linens and towels. I think if those are uncomfortable, the guest notices. I found deals at Macy's for couches and dining sets.

I met some great people, but Airbnb guests can drive you crazy

Even though we could pull in around $3,000 in revenue per month, I had many frustrations with Airbnb.

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Some guests were headaches. It was clearly outlined on my Airbnb when you were renting a room versus an entire home. I had this one guest who rented just one bedroom for himself, but he showed up with five people. So they took two people to a bed and then I think put a mattress on the floor. He was upset and left a bad review, even though it was clearly marked.

I had one guest who was roughhousing for some reason and truly destroyed both of the beds. I don't know how this person did it, but I just heard a huge crash that was so loud I jumped up. When I got up there, the beds were destroyed and he had torn down the curtains. He was apologetic, but I was just like, "What are you doing?"

I did meet some phenomenal people. I had a lot of students and interns because they were looking for cheap housing. I wasn't too far out from graduating college myself, so we would talk about working on The Hill.

I had guests who left reviews that I felt were unfair and I didn't have a chance to respond. I had one guest who argued with me about pricing, saying it was actually a lower rate. I had proof and messages about what we discussed, but Airbnb took the guest's side.

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I didn't like running a business like that.

I turned to long-term rentals, which I like more

At the start of 2020, I moved to San Francisco for work. I sold the DC house for $475,000.

San Francisco was a complete disaster. I realized really quickly I didn't like the city and didn't want to live there long-term. Plus, it was the start of lockdowns, so I was inside for a year.

I chose to buy a new house in Richmond, Virginia. It's this town outside DC that's growing. They're getting a lot of headquarters and companies moving there. But it still has this really small-town feel.

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I bought a three-bedroom, one-bathroom house for $210,000 and put 20% down. I charge $1,800 a month.

Richmond is great for couples and families. I've had two tenants over the past three years. It's been easy to find renters, and I've hardly heard from them. It's been quiet.

I'd tell someone thinking about Airbnb to first make sure they've done their research and the financials make sense. But also, it's a lot of work. There's physical labor. I was coming home from work, doing all the cleaning, all the turnover, messaging people. I was just simply exhausted.

Right now, I'm focused on long-term rentals, but my strategy is to buy things that are of good quality in good locations that I can hold onto or pass down.

I am an expert and enthusiast assistant. I have access to a wide range of information and can provide assistance on various topics. I can help answer questions, provide insights, and engage in detailed discussions. If you have any specific questions or need information on a particular topic, feel free to ask!

Now, let's discuss the concepts mentioned in the article you provided.

Real Estate Investment:

The article mentions that the author is a real estate investor with three rental properties. Real estate investment involves purchasing properties with the intention of generating income or profit. Rental properties can provide a steady stream of rental income and potential long-term appreciation. Investors often consider factors such as location, market conditions, rental demand, and property management when making investment decisions.

Airbnb Rental:

The author initially started renting rooms in their own home on Airbnb. Airbnb is an online marketplace that allows individuals to rent out their properties or spare rooms to guests. It provides a platform for short-term rentals, offering flexibility and potential higher rental income compared to traditional long-term rentals. However, managing an Airbnb rental requires effort in terms of cleaning, turnover, and communication with guests.

Long-Term Rentals:

The author later shifted their focus to long-term rentals. Long-term rentals involve leasing a property to tenants for an extended period, typically six months or longer. This approach provides more stability and reduces the need for constant turnover and guest management. It can be a preferred option for investors seeking consistent rental income and fewer operational responsibilities.

Property Selection:

The author emphasizes the importance of selecting properties of good quality in good locations. This is a crucial aspect of real estate investment. Factors such as neighborhood desirability, proximity to amenities, rental demand, potential for appreciation, and property condition should be considered when choosing investment properties.

Financial Considerations:

The author mentions the need to ensure that the financials make sense when considering Airbnb or any real estate investment. This includes evaluating the potential rental income, expenses (such as mortgage payments, property taxes, insurance, and maintenance costs), and the overall return on investment. Conducting thorough research and analysis is essential to make informed investment decisions.

Balancing Investments with a Tech Career:

The author highlights the challenges of balancing real estate investments with a demanding tech career. While a tech career can provide the financial means to invest, it also requires time and effort. Managing investments alongside a full-time job may involve dedicating time for research, property visits, and property management tasks. Finding a balance between work and investment responsibilities is crucial.

These are the key concepts mentioned in the article. If you have any specific questions or would like more information on any of these topics, feel free to ask!

I invest in real estate on the side. At first, I thought Airbnb was the way to go, but I prefer long-term rentals. (2024)
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