We’re Rich-Poor or How We Bought 3 Houses in 3 Years On the Border of New York City


For the last month I’ve been working every day

It’s my fault.

I’m greedy

For security.

My husband and I have bought three 4-bedroom houses in Jersey City in a 3 year period.

Not our house, but I have dreams to cover the fronts of our two rowhouses that form the 8-bedroom Bnb with Ivy.

“Buying your first home in New York City is a daunting task. The median price for a Manhattan apartment recently reached nearly $1 million, with reports from major brokerage firms placing the price at $999,000 and $998,000, sums that would buy a mansion in many parts of the country. Competition is fierce, and bidding wars are practically the norm for anything that is halfway decent. Not to mention the level of scrutiny buyers must endure if they want to live in one of the city’s co-op apartments, which make up roughly 75 percent of Manhattan’s nonrental housing stock.”

The New York Times

Does that make us sound rich?

Jersey City, right across the Hudson River from Manhattan, fortunately is cheaper, but the average home sale price is $559,000.

We’re not in the gentrified area…yet, so our homes all cost less than that to purchase.

Real Estate Deals

Before this I bought a condo in Hoboken for $360,000 with my ex boyfriend that values for nearly $500,000 4 years later. But I sold it because I’d rather have a house than a condo, as condos, at least that one, came with a board of people I disagree with, and a hermit neighbor below who doesn’t like to hear the sound of footsteps above her head. (Why are you living in a bottom unit then crazy?).But within a decade they’ll each all be worth more than that.Or maybe within a few years, as they’re all within 8-12 minute walks of the Journal Square Path train station that leads directly into Manhattan within a 15 minute ride.

So we’re rich poor.

Because eventually, when the 15 year mortgages are paid off, we’ll perhaps be sitting on $3 million in property.

It’s like Monopoly, but earned through blood, sweat, and tears

It’s been a frustrating process at times, renovating a roach motel, a house that had the house leaning on it (the neighbor was a literal cat lady with 24 cats roaming her house with her), and now a beautifully kept home that is need of updates.

Some of the rising values of the home come with a rising real estate market in our neighborhood, but some of it comes with the amount of money we pour into each house to make them more tenable.

House 1: $100K – AC, new siding and insulation to make the home more green, complete landscaping of the backyard, new deck and shed, new kitchen, new closets, new bathroom on the ground floor, etc.

House 2: $50K? New floors, reconfiguration of top floor,

House 3: $150-190K – reconfiguration of all floors, AC, new siding and insulation to make the home more green, complete landscaping of the backyard, new deck and shed, new kitchen, new closets, 3 new bathrooms, etc

For the future: solar panels on Houses 1 & 3

So in addition to buying the homes, that is $350K in repairs to scramble for.

$$ How do we pay for it all? $$

Yeah! Do it!

My husband and I make decent salaries, but it’s all about the savings.

We’re cheap, and we’re workaholics.

The Secret: We have a high tolerance for insubstantial situations

For years my husband worked 16+ hour days, to the point where having to commute home took too much of his time, so he started sleeping on the roof of his office building (in a hammock), and I’ve always been the queen of real estate deals (remember when I lived in Brooklyn Heights for $650/month, all utilities included, with a 65 year old cab driver in a tiny 6′ X 8′ room that had an inch of dust collected on every surface, that I merely coated with paint as there wasn’t time to properly clean it) and tutoring or admissions consulting when not working at the FT job.

And then we’ve been living rent-free pet and housesitting for 3+ years, so that’s savings of $30K+ a year

Back to Our Current Status: Rich-Poor

As we purchased House 3 a couple months ago, and are at the point of connecting contractor quotes, we have in our hands a speculative $150-190K of renovations ahead of us.

We’re not completely tapped from paying the deposit to purchase the home because I sold first half, and then all, of my ownership of the Hoboken condo to my ex, so we had that $ to put towards it and renovation costs, but we’ll both need to work our asses off over the next couple to ensure the home is completed in aesthetically pleasing (we rent the bedrooms on Airbnb), sustainable, and sound fashion, so we can take off from NYC for a few years once the renovations are complete, and know the house won’t seriously deteriorate while we’re away.

So.. ta-da!

3 houses in 3 years.

Is it worth it? All the saving and working?

For us, yes.

For most people, probably not.

We like the work we do. I love problem solving and working with families, children, and teenagers. I find my work rewarding, even if it kicks my ass at times. I’ve met worlds of interesting and inspiring people working as a family assistant, governess, and teacher.

My husband feels the same way. His work has led to the playing of many interesting documentaries.

We’re masochists a bit, so we relish tough situations. When I’m sweating on Day 7 of 16-hour work days, my mind has blown, but I keep trucking away, as long as I’m operating under circumstances that are respectful and productive.

We also love the adventure and challenge our life provides. We never know where we’ll be sleeping one month to the next, and it’s fun trying to live off $5-10/day in a foreign country when we travel. We like to be humbled and not to live ostentatiously. We have what we need, and we try not to want more than that.

Question for the reader: Would you like to spend a month living like us?