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.


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 basem*nt downstairs with its own door. The basem*nt 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.


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.


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.


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.

As someone deeply entrenched in both the tech industry and real estate investment, I can attest to the multifaceted challenges and rewards inherent in both domains. Ursula Lauriston's narrative provides a rich tapestry of experiences that resonate with my own insights garnered from years of practical involvement and study.

Firstly, let's delve into the core concepts touched upon in the article:

  1. Real Estate Investment Strategies: Ursula Lauriston's approach to real estate is astute, viewing properties not just as residences but as assets capable of generating income. She embodies the ethos of leveraging her resources to create wealth, showcasing a strategic mindset essential for successful investment in real estate.

  2. Rental Property Management: Lauriston's journey encapsulates the nuances of managing rental properties, from initial acquisition to ongoing operations. Her transition from short-term Airbnb rentals to long-term leases underscores the importance of adaptability and finding the right fit for one's investment objectives and lifestyle.

  3. Financial Literacy and Wealth Building: Lauriston's emphasis on generational wealth underscores the broader financial principles at play. Her strategic use of her tech career's financial stability to venture into real estate exemplifies the intersection of financial literacy, career success, and wealth accumulation.

  4. Market Research and Due Diligence: Throughout her journey, Lauriston emphasizes the importance of diligent research and analysis in real estate decision-making. From scouting potential properties to understanding market dynamics, her experiences underscore the significance of informed decision-making in investment ventures.

  5. Property Management Challenges: Lauriston's encounters with various challenges in property management, such as dealing with unruly guests in Airbnb rentals, highlight the operational complexities involved. Her transition to long-term rentals reflects a pragmatic response to mitigate such challenges while maintaining a steady income stream.

  6. Location Selection: Lauriston's strategic choice of locations for her investment properties, such as the Anacostia neighborhood in Washington, DC, and Richmond, Virginia, demonstrates an acute awareness of market trends and growth potentials, factors crucial for long-term investment success.

  7. Asset Quality and Long-Term Value: Lauriston's focus on acquiring properties of good quality in desirable locations aligns with the fundamental principle of investing in assets with enduring value. Her long-term perspective emphasizes the importance of sustainable wealth accumulation through prudent investment choices.

In summary, Ursula Lauriston's journey as a real estate investor and tech professional offers a wealth of insights into the intersection of these two domains. Her experiences underscore the importance of strategic thinking, market awareness, and adaptability in navigating the complexities of real estate investment while concurrently pursuing a demanding career in the tech industry.

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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