Like many of us, I’ve been following the COVID one-year anniversary stories and discussing with friends the awe of this milestone, whether to vaccinate or not, and the hope that we are reaching its end with anticipation.
In the spirit of sharing, here’s my COVID story.
Growing up, I watched HGTV religiously, and like my mom, I dreamed about houses and their infinite possibilities. From layouts, designs, fixtures, furnishings — you name it — I thought about all of the wonderful ways to create a beautiful, livable space. It was definitely one of the reasons my mom knew I was gay before I told her a decade later, but that’s another story for another issue. My house dreams were an outlet for my mind to wander and wonder. I wonder what a home might look like if I were to design and maybe even build it myself?
Fast forward more years than I’d like to disclose to 2020 when COVID hits, and I suddenly find myself with a lot more down time. One month passes, and I’m still in denial. This will pass quickly, right? Two months pass and boredom really starts to set in. Three months pass, and I feel like I’m wasting my life away. After four months, I make a resolution to myself.
This will not be a waste of a year of your life, Bennett.
This summer with zero experience, I start playing around with the idea of buying and flipping an investment property. In the shadow of COVID, self-doubt was becoming my best friend and my confidence was lacking. Mind you, I do consider myself somewhat handy. I can put together IKEA furniture, paint a wall, hang curtains/blinds, and fix a running toilet. But the idea of a purchase for resale was a whole new level including the threat of risk. I knew in this moment that if I didn’t at least try, I’d regret it.
I worked with a realtor and submitted an offer on a property in Hilton Head. Unfortunately, it was purchased out from under me from someone paying cash. Damn. My agent explained that because of the super-hot market, we needed to pounce on a property before others had the opportunity. At the time, I honestly felt like I was getting the hard sale, but I had just enough trust in my agent to heed her advice.
I found a clean but dated beachfront property. Right before I put in a bid, another wave of doubt hit. Did I, a gay corporate event planner, really have the skills needed to bring a 1980s condo into the 21st century? My close friends call my “Lumber Zack,” but I know full well that wearing flannel and boots doesn’t make me automatically knowledgeable about even construction, let alone real estate, design, and permitting. Yes, I was completely lacking the experience, but I dug deep, breathed in an air of confidence, and took a leap of faith.
I started to run the numbers. I figured the worst scenario would be to break even. And I would have gained both the skill and the experience. It would also satisfy a curiosity after years of dreaming and wondering. Head first and chest out, I signed and submitted the paperwork after only seeing a video of the condo. The offer was accepted, and I was now under contract for a fixer-upper … a fixer upper I had not yet stepped foot in.
On closing day, my friend and The Gayly Dose co-host Dante came with me to start the renovation. I remember walking through the front door and feeling simultaneously excited and utterly overwhelmed. Thank God Dante was there to be a calming force. He grounded and helped me get the ball rolling. First task: scrape the popcorn off the ceiling. First lesson: hire someone for the popcorn scraping unless you want a headache and breathing issues.
Weeks progressed and some things I knew how to do, and others were a learn-as-I-go-on-the-job. Thank you, YouTube! It was a whirlwind of painting walls, adding laminate floors, swapping light fixtures and outlets, treating mold, adding tile backsplash, building a kitchen island, hanging wallpaper, and choosing appliances and countertops. Plenty of long days and longer nights.
Finally ready, I listed my condo and accepted an offer within 10 days. It was an offer that was thousands of dollars more than the price of any unit that had sold in the building. From start to finish, I bought, renovated, and sold under 90 days flat. While all of that anxiety and worry washed away, I also realized how critical it was to my journey. I want COVID to go away, but my newly discovered side hustle is here to stay.
Bennett is the Founding Chief Sound Editor and Co-Host of The Gayly Dose, an Atlanta based podcast hosted by an all-gay cast. Purposefully candid and brutally honest, the cast speaks on a range of topics including monogamy, body issues, coming out, dating apps and growing up gay in the church. Listen at thegaylydose.com