A Millennial Was Renting. Then He Bought His House From His Landlord.

  • Dom Guerra, 27, was renting an apartment in a duplex near Cleveland while he tried to buy a house.
  • After other deals fell through, he ended up purchasing the duplex from its owner in 2024.
  • He’s now a first-time homeowner and landlord, but he has no plans to raise his neighbor’s rent.

This essay as told is based on a conversation with Dom Guerra, a 27-year-old computer scientist and veteran from Parma, Ohio, a small town south of Cleveland, and his experience purchasing the duplex where he previously rented. . The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

About four years ago, when my landlord purchased the property, I was his very first tenant. I rented it with my daughter and my girlfriend.

There is one upstairs unit and one downstairs unit in one building. I live downstairs and share a basement with the upstairs tenant.

Before the pandemic, I had been in the market for quite a long time and was looking to buy a house. The houses I was looking at just didn’t speak to me. I didn’t have time to say, “Hey, I love this house.”

I was buying with a VA loan, and the realtor I mentioned told me it wasn’t attractive to sellers because sellers wanted cash or no restrictions. It kept scratching me out.

When I signed that first rental lease with my landlord in May 2020, I took myself completely out of the market. About a year and a half ago, I decided to get back on the market and asked my landlord to offer me a month-to-month lease.

My owner decided to sell, it was tempting

In December 2023, I went into contract on a house a few blocks from where I currently live, and it collapsed.

After being disappointed, a few days later my landlord texted me saying, “Hey, I’m putting this house on the market. Just letting you know there will be people coming in and out.

He actually owned two duplexes – they’re right down the street from each other. When I moved into this house, he was living in another duplex that he owned and rented above.

He told me that he had bought his own place and was no longer going to live in that house. He said he just didn’t have time in his life to take care of four units, so both were up for sale.

I was still trying to get over the fact that the deal to buy that other house had fallen through, and I just wasn’t sure what I should do.

The upstairs tenant and I were not comfortable. We didn’t know what the situation might be. There were many scenarios that could happen with whoever was going to become a landlord, especially because I had a month-to-month lease.

They could have asked me to move so they could occupy the accommodation, or they could have increased my rent. I was paying rent well below market value. When I first moved in, my rent was $750, and about two years later my landlord only raised it about $50 more. Especially having a child, it wasn’t a very stable situation.

I decided to make an offer – and it was accepted

My girlfriend had become a real estate agent, so she was the one who helped me with all this. She kept pestering me and saying, “I think you should do this. You already live in this house and we know the tenant upstairs. If we make a decent offer, I think we We could really fix this.”

A man and a woman posing for a photo with their daughter.

Guerra, his daughter and his girlfriend, Selena Tovanche.

Courtesy of Dom Guerra.

Even my upstairs neighbor said to me, “I don’t see why you wouldn’t try that.” »

I thought about it for about a night or so, and then I was like, “Let’s do it.”

We made an offer and that week it was accepted. My landlord had it listed for $200,000, I offered him $210,000 and asked for 4% seller’s concessions to pay closing costs. In addition to this, it provided a one-year home warranty. I received a check that covers both the security deposit for the floor and my unit as well as my neighbor’s prorated rent for the month of March.

My payment will be around $1,700 per month and the upstairs tenant pays $850 per month in rent.

When we were talking about the house, my girlfriend said the market value for rent should be between $1,100 and $1,200.

For me, it wasn’t really a decision to try to make money.

My neighbor knew that if I came in, I didn’t have any bad intentions, like trying to raise his rent or change the situation. I didn’t want any of that. I just wanted us to continue living as we were under the previous owner.

There is an Ohio Housing Finance Agency program that applies to military veterans and civil service veterans. The program offered a reduced mortgage rate, so whatever rate I had initially, they would buy me a point for free.

I paid $0 down. I didn’t need to move. I now own a duplex with a tenant upstairs with whom I have an excellent relationship. I have this one year home warranty. I took the lead with this deal.

After four years of living here, I can finally make it my own

When the house closed, I didn’t know what to feel – I’m still, at this point, a little scared. It’s a big jump, but it’s a very exciting feeling knowing that everything went according to plan.

Especially with a child too. She is six years old and in kindergarten. Having to move and possibly change schools – and we are in the middle of the school year. So it was a big relief off my shoulders to know that I didn’t have to do all that and put my daughter through that.

A man taking a selfie in a mirror with his daughter on his shoulders.

Guerra and her daughter.

Courtesy of Dom Guerra.

I’m very grateful for how this turned out and excited that it doesn’t necessarily involve moving. My stuff is here, and now I can make it mine. I can paint or decorate, I can add things to the house. I can just really make it a home for me.

As a tenant, you never really feel like it’s yours. When you make changes, you have to subconsciously think: if you ever leave, this needs to be undone.

Even in my daughter’s room, I didn’t try to put too many items on the wall. I knew that if I ever had to move, I would have to take everything apart. So I didn’t feel at home yet. So I didn’t do anything – and my girlfriend kind of gave me so much shit about it.

I’m a first-time homeowner and first-time homeowner

First, you own a home – that’s a big step if you’ve never owned one. And then take the leap and become an owner And an owner.

It’s a very scary thing. I have to tell myself, “You’re in there now, so you’re going to have to figure it out.” »

I had to have a very long conversation with my girlfriend and talk about all the pros and cons: “Here’s the situation: what do I get out of this and what do I give to others?” It came down to: no risk, no reward.

There are so many codes and ordinances that we have to follow. As a tenant, you don’t have to worry about this. You don’t even think about it: you just pay your rent and everything is taken care of by you.

But now that you’re the one paying the mortgage and property taxes, you have to take care of it. And with the election approaching, tax levies may affect your payments. It’s more than just a payment.

It’s not just about getting the keys and generating cash flow from this property. From the start, I knew that wasn’t going to be the case. I knew I would have to be involved in every device that runs both my unit and the one upstairs.

There are two of everything for the whole house. There is not just one water heater, there are two. I don’t have one oven, I have two. I have a washer and dryer, and there’s another one for the person upstairs too.

My upstairs tenant is a really great guy. He’s more than willing to work with me and even take on some of the burden and say, “Let me help you here so you don’t have to pay to do this.”

He’s a guy who is very knowledgeable and knows more than me, so I take the opportunity to listen all the way and help. I learn everything from all the resources around me.

Initially, my goal was not to make money, but I might be able to buy another duplex in the future.

I think the long term goal is to make it a cash flow asset. If the market changes and leans more towards buyers, I’ll try to repeat the cycle: buy another duplex, live downstairs, rent out that unit and turn it into a cash flow asset.

The long-term goal is to bring it permanently to market value. I don’t think I want to be one of those landlords who just raises the rent and doesn’t value it. I think I would like to improve a few things in the house – give a reason why it should be that much.

This is the same approach that the previous owner had. I learn from him and try to do more of the same.


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