Saturday, March 21, 2020

Tough Times Don't Last...

Robert Schuller was fond of saying “Tough times don't last, tough people do.” Thomas Paine told us, “These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” We aren't fighting an enemy trying to kill us with muskets and swords, but we are fighting an enemy that can destroy lives and our economy – our way of life.

Many have chosen to complain and obstruct honest efforts to get us through this time. They are the nay sayers who would rather point out their perceived problems than do what is necessary to fix the situation. For the forseeable we will be inconvenienced by efforts to stop the spread of this Chinese virus. This is much like we are inconvenienced here in Pinellas County as every where we go as streets are torn up and traffic rerouted in an attempt, they tell us, to provide a higher capacity storm sewer system to handle the massive rainfall we see during the frequent tropic storms and occasional hurricane. I hope the local efforts are worth the annoyance.

Fortunately, for the first time in many years, it looks like the direction coming from DC is taking us to the solutions we need. However we still see far too many people hurt by our disinclination to travel, congregate in larger groups and got restaurants. These choices are either our own or by decree. They are the right things to do and sometimes those who can least afford it pay the price. The government is trying to ease the burden with some cash, but by their very nature cannot take care of everybody.

Personal Cost

There are hospitality workers who are simply not needed for sparsely populated hotels. There are waitresses and waiters dependent on tips employed by empty restaurants. Clerks in shuttered stores. The list goes on. There are people hurting financially, emotionally and spiritually now. Like the government, we can't help everyone, but perhaps we can help a few... like those of us who we have the privilege of providing housing.

Among the suggestions is that people should be forgiven rent on their homes. This is a fine suggestion by someone with no skin in the game and nothing to lose or mortgages to pay. Like pretty much all give away schemes, they are proposed by those who think someone else should pay the bill. There may be some large corporate property owners with free and clear properties that could do this but many have mortgages to pay and simply cannot forego the monthly revenue.

Staying Afloat

That said, within the bounds of economic realities, it will not hurt work with tenants who have been with us all along but have run into some tough times. In doing so we have to remember that taking care of tenants includes keeping lenders fed who have financed the rental properties. This is not the kind of thing that Paine's sunshine patriot would do. The summer soldiers would throw up their hands and tell everyone there is nothing they can do. Taking care of people is the right thing to do and, long term, is good business. However, it can not be done to the point where your business can no longer function and you cannot take care of your other tenants.

Many small businesses cannot afford to be shut down or work without sufficient revenue for long periods. The real estate business is no different, some allowances won't be too damaging long term. I am suggesting that rather than cursing the darkness around us in the form of the Chinese virus, we can light a candle and pitch in and help where we can.

Other ways we can help ease the burden of our separated lives is to do such things a buying gift cards from our favorite restaurants to help them with some cash flow while people stay home. This isn't charity as these cards are fine to be cashed in when the virus is defeated and we start going out again.

Overcoming Adversity

One thing I have learned over time is that we aren't bothered nearly as much by all our inconveniences and annoyances when we are helping someone else. Americans came together after the War Between the States to become one country again. Americans defeated the Axis powers in World War II. Americans put a man on the moon. Americans developed much of the technology we use everyday. And we will defeat this virus in spite of the bellyaching and carrying on by the whiners among us. Each of us has a choice we can join the whiners or we can be overcomers.