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:

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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…

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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:

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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.

 

How to Survive and Thrive at a Business Networking Event (A Guide for Awkward People)

Photo credit: FollowUpSuccess.com

Photo credit: FollowUpSuccess.com

Networking is very important for success. This is pretty common knowledge. It’s not what you know as much as it is who you know. LinkedIn and other social networks are good up to a point, but nothing can replace planting your mug in front of folks.

Up until about 6 or so months ago I hated going to “networking” meetings. I was MORTIFIED at the thought of
  • Awkwardly making small talk with complete strangers
  • Ending up in awkward conversational pauses
  • Getting caught in conversations with people who aren’t that interesting
  • Not knowing what to talk about
  • Not knowing anybody
  • Possibly being the guy standing alone in the corner looking at and swirling their drink

It’s an entirely nerve wracking experience.

Through a lot of research and sucking it up and attending some of these things, I have learned a thing or two. I am now perfectly comfortable in these types of environments.

So, in an effort to reach out to those who need to do this in-person networking type stuff, but have all of the same fears that I did, I am making this guide to assuage those anxieties and give you some tools to function well at these type of things.

I am by no means a master networker/connector/anything like that, but I have been in the shoes of people who are terrified by the prospect of having to attend something like this and want to help.

I will put forth that I am working from a base line of general extroversion and thriving pretty well in small groups, even if it is strangers (events with 7 or more people still intimidated me to the point of not attending). I get that I was a little higher up on a comfort scale than many who will have to attend these things, but we all start from somewhere right?

1. Many of the people at these events feel the exact same way

Yes.

The number one thing that I learned from looking up the abundance of articles on how to cope with these anxieties was that I’m obviously not the only one who has them. Most of the people at the event that you are attending aren’t social butterflies who can shake hands, slap backs, and work a room like a politician during election season.  A lot of them have the same anxieties about working a room full of strangers that you do.

Take solace in that. You are not alone.

2. Consistency in attendance. Don’t try to meet everyone in one night.

A popular misconception about these events is that you have to “make the sale” right then and there. You have to go there, pitch your product/service, and hand out business cards to everybody in that room before the nights done.

It’s not a one and done prospect.

Your best bet is to choose 1 or 2 groups/organizations, show up to all of the events, talk to a few people at each event until either the event is over or the conversation dies (more on striking up conversation later), leave.

If you hit it off, or have something further to talk about with those folks, then follow up after the meeting and set something up (more on that later). If you don’t have any interest in a relationship with them, then don’t follow up. Say hi to them at the next event. You should try to remember people’s names (I am not known for being good at this), but if you don’t, it’s fine. They probably didn’t remember your either. And if they do, it means you were memorable and interesting.

Hopefully the event has name tags that you can try to subtly check out.

At the next event, do the same exact thing. Have good conversations with a few people. Follow up or don’t.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Over time you’ll have met several people at these events and a lot of people will know you.

The important thing is to not spread yourself too thin over several random groups. I already sort of have issues with this because I have real estate investor groups as well as history-based groups that I try to balance, but they can be somewhat related since I work for a General Contractor.

 

 

3. How the f*** do I get into a group of people to talk with them?

This is always one that made me feel the most awkward. A couple of people or a group of people is standing around having a conversation and you don’t want to just stand there and be weird.
Here’s a simple guideline

1) If the group is a closed circle or two people are facing each other square, then they’re really deep into a conversation, do not go in.

2) If there is an open space in a group, or two people are standing and talking in sort of like a V with their bodies angled out into the space in an open sort of posture, then they are INVITING somebody else to join.

Just stand in that spot and start listening. It’s not awkward, that’s just how you insert yourself into these conversations. Eventually somebody will introduce themselves to you which is your invitation to meet the group, shake hands, exchange names, and make with the chit-chat (more on what to chit-chat about later). If no one introduces themselves to you (odds are slim that they won’t) wait until a conversational lull, throw out a hand and make an introduction.

It definitely feels weird at first, but when you try it once and see that it works you’ll be like “Oh…. that was easy.”

You just have to get over yourself.

Personally, I prefer groups of 3 or more. The conversation is less likely to die down when there are more people.

One thing that I always try to do as a former Networking-ophobic is to always make space for someone who even kind of looks like they are alone and trying to join the conversation circle. Even going so far as to invite them in.

It’s actually a really interesting dynamic. The group will expand into a circle, and as it reaches critical mass to where there’s like 8 people in a giant circle, side conversations begin and the circles divide like a single celled organism splitting itself.

If you see a person standing by themselves they are fair game. Go and strike up a conversation about whatever. If anything, they may be that awkward person who isn’t sure how to approach people and you have made the event much better for them. And they might have a lot to offer and be an interesting person.

4. What do I talk about? NOT yourself.

What am I suppose to talk about with these people? Well, you aren’t suppose to talk. People don’t really care about what you have to say, but they LOVE talking about themselves. Just ask them questions about them. Always ask open-ended questions

Here’s some questions:

  • What brings you here today/tonight? This is pretty obvious. The one thing that you and this other person have in common is that you are both there for some reason. This can lead to all sorts of off-shoots of topics.
  • What do you do? : Basic questions. It’s a baseline. Sometimes they can give you enough with this where you can riff of of with questions for a while. For example “I’m an architect” can be followed up by “What sort of buildings to you design?” “What got you into that?” “Where did you study” and you can just go on asking questions.
  • Where are you from?: You could share something you know about it and ask them about that, talk about a place that’s somewhat close and ask if they’ve been, you can ask why they left, where they went to college, etc.

The important thing to remember is to have a genuine interest in the person’s story. Personally, I love knowing people’s stories and all about them. You can ask a ton of questions and go pretty deep without touching on sensitive subject matter. If they mention that their parents passed away, I wouldn’t ask “how?” Or something along those lines.

This is a basic tenet of the seminal self-help book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It’s a classic and everybody should have read this at least once.

Also, if the person really has nothing interesting you can probe about… see the section on ending conversations.

Of note, unless it’s a political event, or a religious event, don’t talk politics, religion, or anything that could possibly put you at odds with someone there on a personal level.

5. Conversation Enders

A lot of time you get caught up in a situation where you guys have nothing left to talk about. You can both tell that the conversation is ending, but not quite sure how to separate.

You look around to try to bring somebody else in to freshen up the conversation…nobody.

This simple phrase works wonders:

“Well, it was great talking to you!” And move on.

Yes, it’s that simple. You are both looking for a way to end the conversation and move on to something else, it just takes someone with the balls to acknowledge that the conversation is dead and rip the band-aid off.

You will be relieved, they will be relieved.

If you want to be non-confrontational about it, or this seems too sudden then the following solutions are available to you. (These also work if it’s someone who is just yammering about bullsh*** or is uninteresting).

1) “It was nice talking, I have to get with so-and-so to follow up about (X)” And go join another group or person. Even if you don’t know them or have anything to talk about, just start a new conversation. It’s much better if it’s somebody you’ve met before though, so you can catch up.

2) “I have to run to the restroom.” Go to the restroom. If you don’t have to go, just look in the mirror and make sure your tie’s straight. Also, maybe wash your hands since you’ve probably just shaken a bunch of hands.

You can only go to the well with this one so many times before people have seen you run to the bathroom 4 times in an hour.

3) “I’m out, I need to go grab a drink” Keep a small amount of drink in your glass, finish it, and use the old bar excuse. Get caught up in a conversation with someone else at the bar.

Once again, I emphasize, everybody is at these things to network, so most people will be on the same page with you of trying to talk to more than one person, or ending a conversation that’s going nowhere.

6. How to Follow Up 

Okay, so you’ve made a connection.You and the other person either get along great, or can potentially do business.

This is probably the most important part.

Admittedly, since I’m new to the whole networking event thing, I have substantially less experience with follow up. This is also an area that I need to work on getting better at. Thus, I present to you this Forbes article that I have found to be accurate based on experience and podcasts such as the Art of Charm that I have listened to.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/yec/2014/09/23/how-to-master-the-art-of-networking-follow-up/#1d206c60602c

7. Be a Connector

If you have met someone earlier in the event, or during a different event for the group and meet someone who they might have a common interest with, introduce them! Even if you don’t connect with these folks automatically, they will remember that you are the one who introduced them. Even if they don’t associate their acquaintance with you, you have helped some people out and have built up some good karma.

8. Don’t Drink Too Much

Enjoying a cocktail or two is fine, but don’t be that guy/girl who gets drunk to deal with the fact that they can’t handle social situations. It’s a social lubricant up to a point…. break up your drinks with water to hydrate.

That’s about the gist of it. The most important thing to remember is that anything that you’re feeling as far as anxiety, awkwardness, whatever.. you’re not the only one.

And once you are comfortable moving about a room at a networking event, be sure to make room for or talk to the person standing by themselves awkwardly staring down at their drink and introduce them to some other folks.

2016 Richmond Jewish Food Festival

(Original Posted on the Richmond Tour Guys blog)

It is the 7th year for the Richmond Jewish Food Festival… and it gets better every year.

The festival had it’s beginnings in the Kiniseth Beth Israel Temple… after 5 years, it got crowded and moved to The Weinstein Jewish Community Center. I had never been to this festival before and was expecting long lines to get the food. The line was long, but it went by swiftly.

As for food, they of course served traditional Jewish food of Eastern European origin, but also offered some Israeli food, which is more Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern in flavor. I opted for the traditional food: Brisket Dinner which was Brisket and 2 sides (a steal at $15!):

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Cholent, Knish, Brisket, cabbage rolls

My plate: Cholent, Knish, Brisket, cabbage rolls

On the left is Cholent, which is a traditional Jewish stew made as an end-around of not being able to cook on the Sabbath since this stew could feed everyone for the whole day. It’s ingredients are as varied as the people who make it and can include, lentils, beans, rice, various meats (not pork, of course), rice, barley, oats, etc.

On the right is a Knish which is a filling inside of some dough that is either baked or fried. Mine was filled with what looked like Potato, but I guess it can contain everything from rice, to meat, to veggies.

There is of course the brisket, which is smoked beef.

The other sides that I got were the Cabbage Roll…. a ground beef, tomato, rice mixtures stuffed inside of cabbage which has become to underdog hit of the Jewish Food Festival over the years.

Also, no Jewish food festival is complete without Latke’s, the famous and delicious potato pancake.

Latkes and Israeli Sampler

Latkes and Israeli Sampler

We also got the Israeli sampler which was Shwarma (meat grilled on a rotating stick and shaved off and stuffed into a tortilla type thing) and Falafel (Mashed, fried Chickpeas). All with a bit of Hummus.

Entry to the event is free and the total for all of this food (and it was A LOT of food) plus two beers was $47. The Brisket Plate with 2 sides is only $13. A steal.

Bubbie’s Bakery  provided lots of sweets and treats. Personally, I can’t go without some Baklava and a couple Macaroons.

What really struck me was how organized the whole thing was. There was a really long line that moved very fast. Once you got to the front, you were sent to a certain numbered booth (all of the booths sold the same thing) with your group to get your food, then there were 6 or 7 registers set up to take payments. It was all very streamlined which I’m sure was developed over several years of trial and error.

There was also several vendors selling various items, Jewish music, and some information on the Jewish culture.

Richmond actually has a long history of a Jewish population, but that’s another story for another post….

If you’re a local, or you are visiting Richmond, it’s definitely worth checking this delicious food festival out. You will not find good, homemade Jewish food like this anywhere else in Richmond.

And if you do… tell me where! at Matthew@richmondtourguys.com

Real Estate Resources/Tools I Use

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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.

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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!

Mis-Adventures in D.I.Y.: Building a Water Heater Closet

Melanie are doing what many investors would call “house hacking.” We bought a duplex (that use to be a single-family home), rent out the lower unit, and live in the upper unit. One of the things about property ownership is that you get to try your hand at being handy.

(You also get to know the layout of your local hardware store very well.)

I have never been particularly handy, but one thing that my Uncle taught me (when I was 23 and helping me get my condo rent ready) was that you just have to try, because even the handiest of people don’t always know exactly what they’re doing.

So I try.

And I thought it would be amusing to present my attempts at home improvement as an almost complete novice in a segment titled “Mis-Adventures in DIY Home Improvement.”

Often, home improvement blogs are done by experts.

Not this one. And I will tell you all of the problems that I ran into that were either my fault, or something I didn’t ever know could occur. I work for a construction company (never having worked in the field) and so I had a lot of people to lean on and ask for advice; but a lot of my learning came from Youtube.

I should also note that my work is not an indicator of the construction company I work for. I’ve never been trained as a Carpenter and have never done field work.

Now, one of the things about doing this in a rental property is that the remodels haven’t always been done to super high standards by past Owners.

One detail a landlord wouldn’t care about is this water heater in the corner of the kitchen… out in the open.

We decided this was ugly and if we were going to live here for a year or two, we should do something about it. So I built a closet. And in the process greatly built up my meager tool collection.

1st: I spent about 3 weeks with a stud detector, plumb bob, chalk line, framing square, tape measure, level, pencil, and step ladder trying to get all of the future walls plumb and square.

My first issue is that the house is 100 years old, balloon framed, and crooked! Being that I’m not skilled enough to compensate, I decided to just go ahead and do it by the book, plumb, square and level. I messed up the chalk line a bunch of times. I marked up our walls with pencil that was nigh impossible to erase. I even used permanent marker to mark the floor that I thought would be covered by a bottom plate that ended up not being the right spot.

Never the less, I lined it up the best I could and started framing.

2nd: First, I nailed the bottom and top plates. The shorter side has no bottom plate, because a pre-hung door was going to be put there and pretty much take up that whole side.

Because of the location of the ceiling joist, my top plate positions were pretty limited in options. The longer side in the picture was parallel to the ceiling joist and the shorter top plate is screwed (with 3″ square-drive screws) to the other ceiling joist that is above the existing wall.

I had to use the same joist for each top plate, which is why the top plate on the longer part of the closet isn’t the same length the bottom plate.

The bottom plate was screwed in directly through the linoleum to the sub-floor with 2-1/2″ square drive screws (so as not to poke through our tenant’s ceiling!).

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3rd: Next was placing the two main studs on the walls. You’ll notice that on one wall the base trim is gone and on the other, the stud fits much more neatly. That’s because I ripped off the trim and shoe mould of the one wall before a carpenter friend of mine recommended that it would be easier to just use a Multi-Master tool to slice a spot in the trim for the stud and drywall. He let me borrow his.

He was very correct as it took me 20 minutes of painstakingly and awkwardly cutting and nailing trim behind that stationary table that the water heater is setting on. When I finished, it still didn’t look good. The multi-master took about 2 minutes and looked great.

The studs (somewhat bowed and arched because Lowes sells crappy lumber and I didn’t know any better) were screwed into the top and bottom plates. Since there was no stud behind the wall where these were placed, no supporting screws were put between the top and bottom plates. This might be a problem if this was a load bearing wall, but it’s just cosmetic.

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4th: Next was putting in the corner. I did this by putting two studs together in an “L” shape and screwed them to the top and bottom plates. One regret I have is that I sort of jammed and tapped these stud into place since I cut them about 1/8″ too long, so they were kind of bowed. This is sort of a no-no, but I needed to make progress.

Then I put in a jack stud for the door to fill in that inside corner of the “L.”

Generally, you’re suppose to put  studs 16″ on center, but I just opted to put one stud in the wall since it wasn’t structural.

It ended up being way off because I didn’t measure 16″ correctly. I honestly don’t know how that happened.

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I toe screwed the studs to the plates. Toe screwing is putting screws/nails/fasteners in at an angle.IMG_20151013_190514 IMG_20151013_190520 IMG_20151013_190528

5th: Next was the door. It was a cheap, 6 panel, pre-hung door Lowes…and my studs were a little tight. With a bit of finess, I jammed the door (and the jamb) into its’ spot. The door doesn’t shut flush because the jambs aren’t even, but with the bottom and top plated being slightly off (due to my slight mis-chalk-lining), it’s what we were stuck with. I had to carve a sliver of wood to get it to close right. It’s definitely not the best installed door.
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But it opens and it closes!
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6th: I put cross studs (obscured by the drywall) and the jack stud over the door. Traditionally, there would have been a jack stud on either side of the door for that door header to rest on, but the wall left no space, so I just had to toe screw it right into the king stud. This would be a deifnite no go if this were a load-bearing wall.

7th: Time for drywall! I basically screwed a 4×8 sheet to the cross-studs which I didn’t get a picture of and then just cut along the wall.

One of the problems that I had was that I didn’t saw off enough of the trim with the multi–master to fit drywall, so I had to carve out a notch in the drywall to make it sit right.
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I pretty much just cut along the corner stud to make the piece of drywall fit. Then used that for the thin parts next to the door.
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8th: Drywall tape and mud: after I finished cutting and fatsening drywall to the rest of the frame, I needed to tape an mud the joints. I had done this once before on my bathroom cabinet project and I used the pre-stuck mesh tape rather than using mud to afix traditional drywall tape to it. Despite my better judgement due to my not-so-great results on that project, I did it again.

It still proved troublesome.

But by the time that I put some mud over it and realized I had made a mistake, I was too far to go back, so I just kept at it. I’d put 1 layer, wait 24 hrs….IMG_20151017_194437

Another layer.. wait 24 hrs.

IMG_20151017_194500 And finally a 3rd layer of mud!
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This outside corner proved especially tricky because of the aforementioned tape issue. Despite my best efforts, the mesh part of the tape kept peaking through in parts of that corner.

I was later told by a Carpenter friend that you’re suppose to put a “corner bead” on the corner which avoids that problem. Well, I didn’t know that and it’s too late to go back, since I’d already finish painted it!

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9th: Prime and paint. Did this on a Sunday. Managed to erase all of my bad pencil marking on the existing walls by matching the paint very well.

10th: Trim-out: I had run base trim, very much ugly base trim, in the bathroom project before. This time, it would be different….

And after messing this up 3 times and having to buy more base trim than was necessary, I did it! I coped the piece of the base-trim that connected to the existing wall’s trim, and mitered the corners to match with my skil-saw. Not too shabby…

Then came caulk. Lots and lots of caulk around the door trim and the space between the wall and the base trim.
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My coping of the meeting of the trim… I’d give it a 6.

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The final step was shoe mould which I messed up..ohhh…probably 7 or 8 times because the corner isn’t a perfect 90 degrees. Finally I just cut the base mould at a weird angle, and filled the 1/8″ space at the outside corner with wood putty…

One day, I will install shoe mould well!!!

I painted the trim and voia-la!IMG_20151112_073529
Our kitchen looks a tiny bit smaller and the closet wall’s a little off, but now we don’t have a water heater hanging out in the corner in plain sight. We also now have a place to stash our tall trash and recycling cans (which use to just be next to the water heater out in the open)…paper grocery bags… cleaning supplies (brooms, mops, etc.) and I have a sense of accomplishment having done a job in spare time over 6 weeks that would have taken a decent carpenter an afternoon to do!

Kudos to Melanie who put up with 6 weeks of tools, lumber, etc in the kitchen ever so patiently and our tenant who had to deal with my going up and down the stairs 80 times to make cuts on the front porch.

Tools used:

  • Stud detector
  • Plumb bob
  • Chalk line
  • Framing square
  • Tape measure
  • Level
  • Pencil
  • Step ladder
  • Skil-saw Circular saw
  • Sawhorses
  • Swanson Speed Square
  • Black and Decker corded drill and driver that I’ve had for 10 years.
  • Utility knife
  • Assorted hand screw-drivers
  • 2″, 4″, and 8″ Scraper Blades for drywall mud
  • Coping saw
  • Hammer
  • Bosch Multi-Master Tool
  • Paint brushes
  • 9″ Paint roller
  • 3 Spare rags
  • Swear jar

Materials:

  • 2x4x10s (11) I actually only would have needed 8, but I messed up a lot…
  • 4x8x3/8″ drywall (2 sheets)
  • 2-1/2″ and 3″ square-drive screws
  • 2-1/4″ Drywall screws
  • 1 2’8″ x 6’7″ pre-hung door
  • Roll of drywall tape
  • Pre-mixed drywall mud
  • 10′ beaded base trim (I used 20, but that’s because I messed up so many times!)
  • 10′ Shoe mould (I used 2, but that’s also because I messed this up a couple of times)
  • 1″ Trim Nails
  • 1 tube of general caulk
  • .3 gallon primer
  • .6 gallons of finish paint
  • Old newspaper (during painting and caulking)

 

Podcast/Book Recommendations: Overcoming Being Overwhelmed and Over Worked.

Feeling Overwhelmed: “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (And It’s All Small Stuff)” by Richard Carlson

Right now is a big time of transition for my girlfriend and I. We are about to close on our first Duplex (we are so super stoked); The Richmond Tour Guys is experimenting with charging for tours (this coming weekend is the first of that); and my girlfriend started a new job this week. Between all of this, making time for each other, and my full time gig; it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

For a week or so after we got back from our trip to the West Coast trip, I started really stressing and panicking. There was so much to do. Will paid tours be successful? What if I fail? What if I don’t make the flyers in time? What if I don’t have the tour script memorized? What if the Duplex which seems like an awesome deal from my due diligence, turns out not to be? What if I am not a good landlord? What if I’m neglecting my girlfriend? What if I’m losing connection with my friends and family? What if, what if, what if!?!

Well, I decided after suffering these pangs of anxiety that I needed to stop worrying so much; but needed some tips on how to do (other than Buzzfeed posts). I was listening to an episode of Entrepreneur on Fire (Sorry JLD, I can’t remember which one) and one of the guests recommended “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (and it’s all small stuff)” by Richard Carlson. I bought the AudioBook and listened to it for the next few days repeating certain chapters that resonated with me. The book helped me put all this anxiety into perspective. I mean, I was overwhelming myself so much about what wasn’t getting done, that I paralyzed myself into inaction which created tons of inertia.

The book said a some stuff that I already knew (being present, realizing that things aren’t that big of a deal, etc.), but it’s sometimes necessary to have it hammered in again. Repetition is invaluable.

I suppose the point of this is if you feel constantly overwhelmed, anxious, angry, etc: “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” is a must-read. It’s a good healthy dose of perspective.

Overworked “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiosaki

I finally read (well, listened to) Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I totally see why so many people refer this book. It is really mind blowing. As someone who’d always looked with interest upon getting passive income, this book greatly helps expand as to how to make that possible and reminds me of why I want to produce enough passive income to where dictate my lifestyle rather than trading my time for dollars.

The biggest take away for me was to constantly be learning. I already do that, but the book made me realize that almost everything even if it’s not obviously an educational experience, is an opportunity to learn something; be it my day job, giving tours, or writing a blog post.

After having my girlfriend listen, we decided to take our futures into our own hands and we are purchasing our first duplex.

This book has changed the lives of a lot of people and it’s easy to see why.

New Podcast Recommendation: Get Rich Education with Kieth Weinhold

In continually learning; Podcasts help me a lot with this. Via Entrepreneur on fire, which I recommended a couple of months ago, I found a new Podcast that has shot to the top of my list of Podcasts that I regularly listen to:

Get Rich Education With Kieth Weinhold: He is a successful real estate investor who pretty much gives away incredible information for free every week on his Podcast. Listening to it from the beginning is almost like an education series in that he builds off of earlier topics. He starts general with mindset and principles of ways to think about things, then gets into very specific details about tools and strategies. My mind has been expanded a lot since listening to his Podcast. As someone with a fledgling real estate portfolio, having someone give me this information weekly in digestible form is priceless.

I’m still kind of waiting to see what the catch is. One thing is that he invests in Turn-Key real estate in Memphis, and gets $1,000 referral reward if people he refer use their services. Although, the company gives anybody who refers someone $1,000 so it’s not like they are a sponsor of the Podcast (that I know of).

I am currently doing my own due diligence on this Turnkey Real Estate service.

Website/Podcast Recommendation: Bigger Pockets

The other things I’ve discovered since my last post is a social network for real estate investors called Bigger Pockets. It’s completely free (although some extra features require membership; but it’s reasonably priced and totally worth it). It’s a way to connect with other real estate investors, both local and nationally. It also has a blog, a podcast, forums, calculators for flips and buy and holds, and a lot more.

For the last month, my girlfriend and I have been in contract for a duplex and I posted questions on this forum and got answers. There is no way I’d be able to get these answers otherwise. People help you analyze deals, tell you about the market, help with land lording strategies, tax strategies, asset protection and even give advice on specific situations.You can also search the forum and the blogs and find a lot of your answers.

The Buy and Hold calculator alone was worth paying for the Plus membership. I highly encourage anyone even remotely invested in real estate to sign up and get involved in this website; listening to the podcasts; and reading the blogs. I can’t stress how invaluable this resource has been for me over the past 2 months.

The Ups and Downs of Business and the Path to Success

One moment your on top of the world and then the next, life hands you a heaping helping of humble pie.

What Success Really Looks Like

What Success Really Looks Like

Maybe it’s just me and I’m inclined to have big emotional upswings and downswings, but life is a just a crazy roller coaster. Success is less like climbing a mountain and is more like climbing a series of hills that turn into a mountain range, with more hills in-between. Some of these hills and mountains will then have groups of trolls at the top trying to throw you back down the other side and make you start from the beginning, or to the bottom of a mountain that you’ve already climbed.

I will give you an example of this based on events happening solely this past week:

That trolley tour that I was suppose to guide got cancelled. I was very disappointed. The disappointment didn’t stem so much from not getting paid for it (although I’d be lying if I said that didn’t play a part), but stemmed more from the work that I put into mapping that tour route, memorizing the script, and practicing it once per day for 2 weeks all being for naught. True, it helped me write my Church Hill Tour script, and gave me something that I might be able to use if we do this sort of thing down the road; but that’s a tiny consolation.

I found out about this on Monday. On Tuesday, I get a call to give a private tour (which pays pretty well) that evening and execute it almost perfectly.

Success! Up the mountain.

Saturday comes and it’s time for the morning tour and I get one guy who doesn’t tip me anything for the awesome 2.5 hour tour I just gave him.

Well that’s a kick in the pants down the hill.

Granted, I didn’t expect a big turn out because of all of the cool stuff going on for the 150th anniversary of the fall of Richmond at the end of the American Civil War; but seriously; one guy?

Down we go.

So, the inaugural Church Hill tour was that evening as given by one of my new guides, JJ. I didn’t hold high hopes for turn out because of all of the Civil War living history and reenactment stuff going on at the State Capitol. It’s a tough competition, but Lo and behold…..

Inaugural Church Hill Tour

Inaugural Church Hill Tour

19 people show up for the tour!

Back up the mountain.

It’s not easy, but it sure is an exhilarating climb.