Thirty years ago, A.V. Abraham quit his job as a health care specialist to pursue another career as a landlord, realtor and owner of American Home Realty Center. The housing market was where the money was. Realtors were making more money than medical physicians.
At American Home Realty Center, located on 5601 N. Second St., Abraham sat behind his desk signing some paperwork. “Back then, people were moving into the area excessively. Business was very good. It is why I quit my job as a health care specialist and started this job,” he said.
Abraham, who lives in New Jersey, saw Olney as the golden neighborhood to run his business.
“Olney is filled with row homes, which is very good for me. It means more people, more business. It is very populated. People need a place to stay and I can provide them that,” Abraham said.
Like everywhere else, the market is either steady or going downhill. People are renting rather than buying homes.
“The market is slow, but people are still moving in. They are mostly renters,” Abraham said.
He manages about 100 houses. People who rent usually look for three bedrooms, one and a half baths, a kitchen and a living room for an average family. Monthly rent cost estimates from $800 to $1,000.
Abraham explained that people who move into the area are typically families. Single people are interested in condos, which Olney does not have a great deal of.
Renting out homes is keeping Abraham’s business alive. Of course, there is always a matter that comes with the territory.
“Renters’ demands are high. They know what they want. So I have to find the most suitable home for my clients. I want them to be satisfied and happy. I do not want any trouble and I do not want to hear them complain about this and that,” Abraham said.
To keep and get his clients interested in renting, Abraham and his company have done a lot of remodeling. “The houses are in decent shape. They only need some improvements and fixing up,” he said.
Remodeling costs are more equitable than rebuilding an entire house. The average cost to remodel a home that includes a new kitchen, finished basement, new baths or some accessories varies from $10,000 to $40,000.
“Houses in Olney are beautiful. Most of them are 60 to 80 years old and they are still standing. When we remodel and decorate the place, it looks as if it’s brand new,” Abraham said.
One of Abraham’s tenants, Robert Stephenson, has been renting one of Abraham’s homes for seven years.
“Abraham is a good landlord. He is always there when I need him. If something is wrong with the heat, plumbing or whatever, Abraham comes up with a solution. He is a good guy,” Stephenson said.
The hardest part of the job Abraham finds being a landlord is evicting his tenants when they are unable to pay their rent.
“It is the worst thing ever. I hate evicting my tenants. Everyone who lives in Olney are working-class people. They work very hard to keep a job, feed their family, pay their bills and keep a roof over their heads. I give my tenants more time if they need to, but when the time has come I have to be tough or else they will take advantage of me,” Abraham said.
It is cheaper to rent or buy a house in Olney, compared to other neighborhoods.
“Olney is an excellent neighborhood. Housing cost here is better than living in the city. People should live here because rent is lower and it is only a [short] drive to the city,” Abraham said.
If Abraham were to sell or rent a house to homebuyers, he will “not be like a car salesman.” He will answer all his clients’ questions truthfully. Abraham likes being asked hard questions.
“I like a challenge. I will answer any questions my clients may have. I do not like to push them to making a decision that they are not sold on. I provide them as much information as I can,” he said.
Armando Suarez, who works in Olney, is in the market to buy a house and settle down with his family.
“We want to move to a place where is it quiet and relaxing. I do not want to worry about my kids making too much noise that might annoy the neighbors or fight about parking spaces. We want a single home and maybe outside of the city,” Suarez said.
Olney has its share of busy traffic, arguments over parking spaces and noise levels, but there are peaceful areas in the neighborhood for families, like Suarez.
“People do not have to move out of the city to settle down. There are places here that are just like the suburbs. They have to do their research, search for singles homes in the region, look at the land and come ask me questions,” Abraham said.
Regardless of the housing market, Abraham said he enjoys his work. “Being a realtor is not a steady economic job. I have seen two economic downturns. It is difficult, but I love what I do. It is why I left the medical field,” Abraham said.