This season on Working, we took a trip to Baltimore to chat with some of the city’s residents about how they make a living there. We’re hoping to learn a little about the ways Baltimore shapes their work—and the ways they’re shaping Baltimore by working.
Listen to this episode of Working with special guest Damon Walker:
In this episode of Working, which you can listen to via the player above, we spoke to Damon Walker, who describes himself as a “concierge” to real estate investors. As he puts it, “Whatever needs an investor has, I try to fit the bill,” whether they’re trying to figure out where to buy or how much they should charge. He wrangles contractors, ensures that a property’s documentation is up to date, and handles any other needs those landlords might encounter.
In particular, as Walker explains it, he specializes in subsidies, which effectively guarantee his clients a check from the government. “It makes it more attractive to deal with me because I have a niche of tenants [who] are going to pay rent every month,” Walker says. Many of those tenants receive housing choice vouchers under Section 8, and part of Walker’s work involves helping investors figure out how to ensure that properties will qualify for the program.
“Every jurisdiction is different,” he says of the formal approval process. “Some places they just come in and … you pass. Other places, they’ve got a microscope, looking at everything.” He tells us that his job is to know the parameters and guidelines, allowing him to ensure that properties he’s helping with will pass the inspection standards, whatever they may be.
But Walker is also committed to ensuring that those locations meet his own standards: When he first began, he noticed that some property investors were trying to place people in “bottom of the barrel” type homes. “If they’re getting a great rate from these tenants, they need to get a great product,” he says.
Throughout this episode, Walker leads us through the details of his work, from his initial contact with investors and investigation of new properties to the process of finding tenants. He also touches on some more difficult topics, including dealing with business relationships gone wrong and handling evictions. There are pleasures in his work too: “You see families stabilize. … At the end of the day that’s what I’m there for. I want people to be happy.”
Though his day-to-day responsibilities vary, Walker stresses the concrete realities of his complicated job. “Finding someone a house is a practical as it gets. Everyone needs a roof over their head,” he says.
Then in a Slate Plus extra, Walker talks about looking after his own home. If you’re a member, enjoy bonus segments and interview transcripts from Working, plus other great podcast exclusives. Start your two-week free trial at slate.com/workingplus.