New Quotes I Live My Life By

Anybody who knows me knows that I am big on self-improvement. I pick up a lot from the lessons of Freemasonry. I also listen to a lot of Podcasts. Some of them are light podcasts on historical topics, but a lot of them are  self-improvement (Art of Manliness, Tim Ferris Show, Art of Charm) and real estate education (Get Rich Education, Real Estate Guys, Bigger Pockets) and I pull a lot of platitudes from them that seem to stick. I posted about a bunch of them 2 years ago So, here are some of my more recently adopted maxims.

“Do the math and the math will tell you what to do.” Russel Gray of The Real Estate Guys

This is one that I get from the Real Estate Guys and also my good friend and mentor, Charles, who dropped some knowledge on me recently. This applies to any negotiation or deal, but I apply it to a BRRR (Buy, Rehab, Rent, Refinance) real estate strategy. When examining a deal, you have to plug numbers into your Bigger Pockets calculator (or other calculation device) to see how much to pay for the property for based on how much it will cost to do the rehab and how much you can safely pull out of it once the rehab is done. And don’t pay a penny more.

If you have taken the time to work all of these numbers out and you get to the bargaining table and the price goes beyond that point, you should just walk away.

Of course it’s not always that easy because there’s a lot of emotion involved, there’s the myth of sunken costs of time invested, and a whole host of distractions.

A good example of this was given to me by Charlie via anecdote. He was in a meeting with his client who was trying to sell his business. The client had carefully examined the books and the business, and had formulated a valuation of how much he thought the company was worth. When negotiations started, he saw his client getting caught up in the moment and was edging toward taking less money than his valuation. Charlie pulled his client aside and said (I paraphrase) “What about your calculations have changed from before this meeting to now?”

Boom.

His client was ignoring the math screaming out to him to walk and if not for Charlie’s wise counsel, would have walked away from the table feeling pretty bad about taking less than his company was worth.

“Overestimate your costs and underestimate your profit.” Charlie

I’m sure this concept was not coined by my mentor and Masonic Brother Charlie, but he put it  so succinctly that I felt I should use that phrasing. This is such a simple concept. Sometimes when analyzing a deal, it is so tempting to give your calculations slim enough margins to try to make the deal work on paper. “Oh, well, I can shave $4k off the budget if the roof ends up being fine for another couple of years,” or estimating that you will receive the high end of the rent range for that market. (I know, I’ve done this.)

Do not do that. Avoid this line of reasoning at all costs.

If you use conservative estimates for your deal and it’s still a good deal, then if the worst case scenario happens you are still profiting. And when the best case scenario happens, you are all the more in profit.

“Be Willing to Walk Away”

This one is hard for me. How do you just walk away from something that you really want? I’ve definitely made boneheaded concessions because I wanted something so bad. Then there’s the flip side. There’s something that you don’t want all that much, but are kind of interested in, so you make a super low, almost ludicrously low (but still somewhat reasonable) offer and when they push back you just walk away.

Then, as you’re walking away, they say either they’ll take your price or counter-back at what is still a screaming deal… for something that you could have lived without in the first place. So you got a great deal!

The point isn’t to offer on things you don’t want, but to go ahead and make the low ball offer on something that you only want at really low price even if you don’t think they’ll take it.

So, to apply this to something that you do want, you just have to convince yourself that you can do without it. That will give you leverage at the negotiating table.

“Don’t count on motivation; count on discipline.” – Jocko Willink

I was listening to the Tim Ferris podcast while hanging blinds in one of the rentals and the guest was a ex-Navy Seal Jocko Willink (who is a super-human, FYI). One of the people who wrote into the show with questions asked how he stays “motivated.” To which he responded:

“Don’t count of motivation, count on discipline.”

And this totally rocked my world because we always see things about getting motivated and staying motivated, but “not being motivated” is just an excuse to be lazy or put off something hard or that you don’t want to do, but need to. It needs to get done, so you need discipline to hunker down and do it.

 

 

Real Estate, WWE, the Tour Business, and recent podcast listens

I feel like writing a blog post, so this is just going to be random stuff about what’s up with my life right now.

FYI: Married life is awesome.

Real Estate

First off, for our next rental property purchases we chose the “hard” difficulty level. We have purchased two single-family homes (one partially with proceeds from a 1031 Exchange sale of the condo in Reno). So for property number 1, aside from carpet paint, and various other minor repairs (replacing treads and risers on front steps), putting in appliances, and vinyl floor we have encountered these difficulties:

Rotted back door, frame, and part of the sub-floor and joists (Taken care of for a very reasonable price by BWB Construction)

Appliances in place, paint, carpet, etc. complete I then spent a week showing the house every evening to roughly 16 people (well, 16 appointments, half no showed).

Finally we get a renter and I show up Sunday evening to do some last little repairs and…..img_20161009_143225 img_20161010_173403 img_20161010_173424 img_20161010_175834and a tree fell. Luckily it just did some minor damage to the back deck guard rail.

But man!

And the Housing Authority is suppose to come and inspect maybe as early as this week.

So I got to do my best lumberjack impression and cut of the three with a much too small chainsaw borrowed from a fellow Mason.

Looks like I’m spending part of my Saturday repairing the guardrail.

Our other property is in the middle of a renovation loan (also with BWB Construction doing the work) and all was going okay until we needed to drop the power line to complete the fascia repairs and Dominion (the power company who also happens to own every government official in Virginia) says they can’t come out until October 24th… when our rate lock on the loan expires.

Sigh.

Luckily BWB got on the phone with them to come out earlier (although they were suppose to come out 2 days ago, but still haven’t).

Otherwise, things are going well there.

Wrestling

One of the best things about living in Richmond, VA is that the WWE comes through here 3 or 4 times per year for live events, TV shows, and sometimes PPVs.

Last Friday, Melanie and I went to NXT at the Altria Theater. This was the set up for those who are curious:

img_20161007_183853

The event was fun. We went to the PPV “Backlash” in September, but that’s a lot more casual fans and less hardcore “smarks” (referenced in a previous article).

Best match of the night was Austin Aries vs. Cedrick Alexander from a wrestling match perspective.

The most entertaining matches were Samoa Joe/Bobby Roode vs. Shinsuke Nakamura/No Way Jose and Asuka vs. Aaliyah because of the personalities of who were involved.

The Smarkiness of the event led to much more fun crowd and lots of chants, singing along, and all the things that us rasslin’ fans like to do.

Backlash, the WWE PPV, had two really awesome matches in Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz for the Intercontinental Title and AJ Styles winning the WWE title from Dean Ambrose.

For any long time wrestling fan, AJ Styles holding the WWE title seems like some fantasy land as of 5 years ago.

By the way, we sprung for the nicer seats for the PPV…

img_20160911_191821 img_20160911_191817

49ers

How about them 49ers? Man, we are terrible. Chip Kelly, Blaine Gabbert… our team is like the frickin’ Island of Misfit Toys.

Richmond Tour Guys

The tour business is a little on auto-pilot as I have turned my attention to getting these two rental properties together. Luckily I have an incredible guide in Michael Thomas who has been massively taking up the slack. It’s impossible to convey to him how much easier he has made my time management.

So far this year, we have given tours to over 825 people between regular walking tours, private tours, and custom tour packages. I swell with pride knowing that something that I started has been apart of 825 people’s vacations. They could spend their visit to Richmond doing anything… and they chose the Richmond Tour Guys.

We are Number 3 on Trip Advisor for “Tours in Richmond” behind only a bike tour and food tour.

Also, we brought on a new guide, Ray. He will start doing tours on weekdays, which is an area that I’ve longed to explore since the Tour Guys’ inception in 2014. Unfortunately it’s starting in October and November, which are traditionally less well attended.

As for the bad:

I had a couple of good private tours lined up including an Executive tour complete with an Executive Coach that cancelled; and a tour for a retirement home that I spent 10.5 hours routing, writing a script for, and practicing for them to cancel and thus, the Richmond tour guys has a new policy:

20% or $50 deposit for all specialized private tours!

New Phone: Blue Life One X2

I just got a new phone since the screen on my old phone (Huawei P8 Light) got shattered by an errant phone drop.

I don’t sign contracts for cel phones after I signed a 2 year contract with AT&T and submerged the phone I got from it in the river. So now I just buy unlocked smart phones by lesser known companies and I have not had a bad experience yet.

After cruising cNet, I ended up getting the Blue Life One X2 Android phone which has an octacore 1.4ghx processor, 4gb of memory, 64gb storage, 16 mp back, and 8mp front camera.

All of which the internet tells me is good.

I bought this one for $180 (normally $200, $180 special pre-sale price).

So far the phone is great. It’s way faster than the old one, I don’t have to worry about running out of space for podcasts, and the screen is bigger. The camera is also twice as good (literally, the old phone was 8mp). CNET rated it the best smart phone under $250 and honestly, since I’m not gaming or doing anything intense with my phone, I don’t really need the Samsung Awesome.

Freemasonry

In August I was all about working on Historic Mason’s Hall, the 1785 building in Shockoe Bottom that is the oldest lodge in the US continuously used for Masonic purposes. Then everything else took a back seat to real estate for the last month or so and probably will for 2 or 3 more weeks.

Efforts for the lodge are going strong.. slow and steady, but strong. We recently got a donation from the Sons of the Revolution and have embarked on a Facebook Ads fundraising campaign that has had some success. We have a great core group of guys who care about the building and are willing to put in the time to make saving it happen.

One of the things that we’re finding is how a little cleaning can go a long way:

2016-08-20-cleaning-masons-hall img_20160826_113044

I also recently discovered podcasts about Freemasonry. The one I’ve been listening to most is Masonic Roundtable. It features two Virginia Masons, so it’s got a lot of relevance to me.

I especially like the historical episodes such as on the Morgan Affair, the Baltimore Convention of 1843, and the episode on Prince Hall Freemasonry which is the traditionally African American branch of Freemasonry (we are working on bringing things together).

It also covers some more esoteric topics such as “memento mori,” or reflecting upon death and how we should make the most of the time we have on this plane of existence.

I reiterate as I did in my post about Freemasonry that Freemasonry is not a religion or cult, and it is non-denominational.

 

Real Estate Resources/Tools I Use

FullSizeRender

Most people who know me know that I am into real estate. I’m very much a novice, but I see a lot of people wanting to get into it. Some have even asked me about it, or where to start. I have done a lot of research. I listen to a lot of podcasts, read a few books, and read websites. To that end, I thought I would share what I have learned and throw some resources out there that I use and have used for other people to use.

What I have learned so far through my small amount of experience and advice that has helped me:

1) First step is to figure out your goals.

Do you want to flip houses? Do you want to Buy and Hold? Do you want to develop and sell? Do you want to build on vacant lots and rent them out? What’s your income goal? Do you want to replace your income and stop there?

The steps to do this are listen to the podcasts that I recommend later in this article. The recent Bigger Pockets one about the “freedom number” was good for me. It will help you figure out your goal.

For example,you might have a goal of 2 properties per year cash flowing $200/month or something like that.

2) At the same time learn all you can about your market. If you’re willing to travel, what about other markets around you? I am in Richmond, and know nothing about, say, the tidewater region, but your local REIA groups or other meetups should help you there. Talk to people (in person, you can only do so much on-line).

3) Talk to a lending professional. Figure out if you can get financed and for how much. Knowing your own ability to get financed can tell you where to start.

4) Easiest (but not easy) way to get started is to use an FHA 3.5% money down loan to buy a duplex/triplex/4plex and get tenants to pay your PITI (Principal, Interest, Taxes, and Insurance). Once again, I don’t know what market you’re in and if that’s feasible. Use some sort of Calculator for real estate investing (such as Bigger Pockets calculators, for paid subscribers only) to figure out if the numbers work.

The things to account for in a Buy and Hold property are Principle, Interest, Taxes, Insurance, Vacancy rate, a percentage for repairs, possible HOA dues, etc.. The books I recommend later in the article will define all that for you.

5) Other successful investors, especially the ones younger than you and your same age, can be intimidating to someone who is working full time, making family time, and trying to make Real Estate work. A lot of these people who are constantly flipping and making deals happen are light years ahead of you in their real estate portfolio.

Don’t compare yourself to other people. Know what your personal goals are and reserve engineer them to lay out a rough outline (that will inevitably change over time).

6) Get started. NOW. There will never be a perfect time or the perfect property. The best way to learn is by doing imperfectly and learning.

Resources:

Number 1: Bigger Pockets (www.biggerpockets.com)

Bigger Pockets (BP) is basically a social network for real estate investors and the best starting spot. They have a free course called The Beginners Guide to Real Estate Investing. They have a weekly Podcast where they interview successful members of the website. Both of these are awesome ways to get educated. They have a blog where members write posts. They have calculators for rentals, flips, etc. to analyze deals (real estate transactions are referred to as “deals” by everybody for some reason). These are mega important for due diligence prior to investing.

The most important resource BP has is the BP Community. There are forums, ways to connect, etc. and it basically is a place for you to go give and get advice; share stories and information; and read through to learn. You can post your deal on the forums and ask people to analyze it, and they will usually look at your analyses and help you figure out whether it’s a good deal or not simply because they enjoy real estate. I have asked questions down to something about mudding drywall for my water heater closet.

Everyone wants to help other investors because real estate is not a zero-sum game and when you put good things out in the universe it pays you back with interest.

Also, totally worth it to pay for Plus, if not Pro membership if you are at all serious about real estate investing.

Podcasts

Aside from Bigger Pockets podcast, the number one tool that I use for Real Estate (RE) education are podcasts. I have 3 real estate related podcasts that I listen to religiously every week:

Bigger Pockets Podcast

I mentioned this one earlier. This is not the best quality podcast, but it is probably the most informative for just real estate. It is good for all levels of investors and covers a wide range of topics. One of the hosts Brandon, while very knowledgeable and nice, is very annoying to me (I think it’s his voice), but not so much that I won’t listen to this podcast. They interview Bigger Pockets members of varying levels of success and by listening to this you can learn strategies, see how other people off their investments, as well as be inspired.

The Real Estate Guys Podcast

Easily the most well-rounded, professional podcast out there. Robert Elms has been hosting a radio show for something like 25 years and has an enormous well of knowledge and contacts that he leverages to help investors, from buy and hold to flippers; and from novices to experts.

They cover all topics real estate related. They will also sometimes interview people about the Federal Reserve or other markets, just to give perspective to how economic news will affect real estate.

GRE-logo

Get Rich Education w/ Kieth Weinhold

This is the podcast that reminded me about wanting to invest in real estate. I heard him interviewed on Entrepreneur on Fire with JD and started listening to his podcast. That is what prompted me to FHA loan and house hack (a fancy term for living in one unit and renting out the other) a duplex. A lot of his episodes are just him telling you about a specific strategy, or part of a strategy. He outlines how to do the FHA loan on a multi-unit property. He takes concepts such as total return on Real Estate and breaks it down over an hour episode. He also does some inspirational episodes and interviews with people. All of his interviews are strategic and cover specific topics.

He’s big on using turnkey investment providers who buy, rehab, rent out, and some even manage a property for you out of your home market. I understand why he recommends certain ones on his podcasts, but sometimes it seems like his podcasts are a sales pitch for some of these companies. In my research though, I have found that most people have been happy with his turnkey providers, so maybe Keith is genuinely trying to refer people to good companies.

Books

I have to be honest in saying that I haven’t read a ton of books on Real Estate Investing, but these are ones I’ve read that were widely recommended.

Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiosaki

Of course there is the seminal Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiosaki, which I mentioned a few months ago that I listened to on Audiobook. It’s basically the catalyst for you. It will shift your mind and the way that you think about money. It will shake you out of the mindset that you work, save up a bunch of money, and live off of that fixed amount of money through retirement. Lessons such as “work to learn, don’t work to earn” and buying assets with the money you earn instead of consumer stuff.

Most real estate investors will tell you they have read this book ,and many will tell you this was THE book that changed their lives forever.

Land Lording on Autopilot by Mike Butler

Okay, so you’ve purchased your investment property… now what? This book is highly recommended by several folks. If you’re not going to pay a property manager, then this is the book you need. Mike Butler has developed systems to manage his some-80 rental properties. He gives systems on tenant screening, managing those tenants, managing the property, writing leases, etc. This helped me wade through a lot of BS when finding a tenant for the duplex. Also ,when you buy the book, he gives you all the templates you could ever need for managing your properties.

Book On Real Estate Investing With Low and No Money Down by Brandon Turner

Another Bigger Pockets related recommendation (sensing a pattern here?). Brandon Turner wrote this book on how to use almost no money to get started in real estate. Strategies such as syndication, leveraging portfolio loans from local banks, using private/hard money, etc. He also talks about the FHA multi-unit strategy for first timers. It’s a great read and luckily Brandon isn’t the one who does the audio book version.

Full disclosure: I mostly listen to Audiobooks.

Real Estate Investment Groups

For education as well as finding deals, these local real estate investment groups are the way to go. It is full of experienced investors, hard-money lenders, potential business partners, and newbies who you can learn from, make deals with, or even teach a thing or two. I found two local ones in Richmond (Virginia) that I attend on Meetup.com.

Mentors

The best thing you can do is to find a mentor. I have a great mentor who I met through my Masonic Lodge in Reno (who is also my realtor) who is happy to give advice. I can never really let him know how appreciative I am of him, but he has no idea how much I value him being there for me when I have questions.

If you can find a mentor (probably your best chance is working for someone for free) it’s the best way to go. It could be someone you meet at an REIA group, on the street, a friend, or family member. They don’t always have to be older either.

If you want to get into real estate, I’d love to talk to you about it as a starting point, so feel free to hit me up!