That was the entry for June 4th in the book I read every day for inspiration, which combines words of wisdom from Napoleon Hill’s Think And Grow Rich and The Law Of Success. It’s amazing how those words were printed on a day when I needed most to see them!
Two weeks ago we made a business decision to take back management of our rental properties. The responsibilities of that
decision have landed on us with a thud.
It’s been nearly a year since we’ve managed our own properties. We thought handing over management to professionals would free us up to pursue other opportunities. That’s what all the real estate gurus told us in their books and seminars. That was not our experience.
When you hand your properties over to management professionals, they manage your properties the way they manage properties, which is not the way we manage properties. We tried to understand this. We tried to just hand them over and walk away. But our long-term tenants still had my husband’s cell phone number, and they would call and complain that things weren’t getting done. That’s how we found out that the professionals have the same problem with unreliable maintenance people that we had while self-managing. Either they wouldn’t show up at all, or they would show up and do substandard work. We thought we were getting away from that by hiring a pro, but we were not. At first we thought we picked a bad management company, and dissolved that contract after just three months. But then we had the same issues with our next pick. And she was a good manager! Nobody has solved this problem. It’s just the way it is. If we were moving out of state we would have had to accept that’s just the way things are, that maybe we’re the problem – too picky and controlling. But we’re not moving. So we’re taking it back.
A New Chapter
We opened a new LLC for managing the properties. We’re calling it Good Homes Rentals, because We Fucked Up The First Time, LLC might be too offensive for some, and WFUTFT just isn’t a good acronym.
I’m going to start binge watching Game of Thrones because I intend to rule this new empire with an iron fist!
Several people have told me they admire my sense of humor about the situations we find ourselves in with this business venture. Investor’s Note: Get a sense of humor. Without one you will lose your damn mind.
Now we’re off to work, setting up our systems to run our business the right way this time.
Helpful tools for successful real estate business systems
We set up Google Voice numbers for our three main business modules – the rental office has one number, the maintenance hotline has another, and Steve’s We Buy Houses number is the third. Google Voice is great – it’s free, and it gives you a local phone number with your area code – in our case (570)
You need to have a Google gmail account for each number you set up. You can then set your Google Voice number to forward those calls to your phone if you like – Steve has the maintenance number forwarded to his cell phone before he goes to bed so the ringing will wake him up in an emergency.
You can also just have the Google Voice phone number ring directly to voicemail, which is what we do at all other times. The reason we do this is to have a written record of all maintenance requests, and all calls to the manager in the rental office. Our tenants are instructed to leave a voicemail, including the best time to call them back. Google then transcribes the voicemail onto an e-mail, and will even text it to your cell phone. There’s also a Google Voice app you can download on your phone where the transcribed message will appear. With the app, I can then return the tenant’s call from my cell phone, and the rental office or maintenance phone number will appear on their caller ID, as opposed to my personal cell phone number.
Did I mention this is all free?
Steve has worked with Podio before. It’s project management software that you can customize for whatever business you need it to organize. It can send e-mails with assigned tasks to different members of your team, such as your General Contractor on the house you’re flipping, or the handyman who tends to your tenants’ maintenance requests. There is also a Podio app for your smartphone or tablet.
I don’t know a lot about Podio. It’s on my list of systems to learn – Steve loves it and finds it very useful so it’s a priority for me to learn it. He’s been spending a lot of time customizing it. There are apps you can download to accomplish this – some are free, some are not. Podio itself is priced depending on how big you want to go. We’re on the least expensive plan, paying about $8/month. We’ll upgrade when we need to.
This is an app I downloaded to my own Android phone to help me with my terminal vagueness around accounting. I did a search for simple income and expense tracking apps, and this one appealed to me. You don’t have to link it up to your bank accounts for it to work – that scares me, and I won’t do it. I needed something where I could manually enter income and expenses, and My Wallet lets me do that.
You can set up separate accounts within My Wallet – I have one for Business and one for Personal, because I need to keep this very simple right now. But if I wanted to I could have an account just for the rentals, another for the house flipping business, etc. I’m not sure if I could set up an account for each property – there may be a limit to how many accounts this free app will let me set up. But if I ever feel the need to do that, I will probably be ready for Quickbooks anyway. It’s a learning curve, and I’m starting slowly and simply.
It’s cool – whenever I collect a rent, I hit the green plus sign (+) and it pulls up a list of income categories. Rents are a pre-loaded category. But if they weren’t, My Wallet will let you add a new category and give you a list of cute icons to choose from. I entered a $30 tax refund check into a category I had to create - “Tax Refunds.” I gave it a little Lincoln Memorial icon.
The same goes for expenses – I hit the red minus sign (-) and enter the info. I can make a note of which property this expense was for, which will be extremely helpful at tax time.
The My Wallet app is also free. My favorite price right now!
Setting weekly goals. Sometimes when there are fires burning all around you, it’s hard to even know where to begin. Where do I focus my time and energy? If I spend it putting out this fire, will the one over there burn out of control? Is it better to spend a little time on each fire, or put out just one at a time? These are the questions I’m dealing with this week! Good thing I have that sense of humor.
My instinct tells me to keep calm and focus on building the systems that will ensure I will never find myself in this situation again. Take it one day at a time. Don’t let the business run rough-shod over my life – I still have to take care of my 6-year-old daughter. I still have to get adequate sleep and nutrition. I don’t have to make my house a showplace, but I have to keep it to a minimum standard of order. I have to strike a balance between work and self-care so that I don’t snap at my husband, who is also my business partner and is in as much stress over this situation as I am.
My goal this week is to sit down with my business partner and make a list of the Next Best Actions we can take to get our rental business under control. We have several empty units, in various stages of readiness (or not) to re-rent. The curb appeal of many of our properties desperately needs attention. We have much work to do.
It’s all on us. The people we hire – managers, consultants, contractors, handymen, lawyers, accountants – they don’t run our business. We do. If the work isn’t getting done to our satisfaction, that is on us. And I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty.
I learned how to use a hedge trimmer this week. I’ve never done that before, but the hedges were growing into the sidewalk and I just couldn’t take it anymore, so I asked Steve to show me how. And you know what? Hacking those branches was like therapy to me!