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.

 

 

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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.

Misadventures in DIY: Closet Organization/Conversion

(Disclaimer: I’m no handy man. I hope I can inspire other people who are complete DIY novices to try, even if it’s not perfect. That’s why I always mention my terrible errors and sloppiness.)

One of the things about humble beginnings is making them more livable: case in point, our duplex. One of the other complaints that Melanie and I have lobbed is the super crowded closet. Our bedroom closet is 64″ wide with a 30″ opening and it’s only 22″ deep. Melanie couldn’t even reach all the way inside the closet to grab some of her clothes because one of the sides of the closet went back so deep. The crowded, cramped clothes jutted out of the entrance, making it hard to close the closet door. It had this terrible Lowes metal wire shelving that was poorly installed. I understand why the previous Owner did this, because it was a rental unit, and we usually don’t spend too much time making those super nice.

But when Melanie casually mentions that something is inconvenient, I, of course, go to work on a plan that is way more than is necessary to cure the ill by hacking and screwing wood that would make most home improvement professionals cringe.

Onward!

Forgot to take a true before pic, so this one after I got the first part up. FYI: I know these photos suck… I may need some photography classes if I’m gong to keep doing these blog posts.

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I Googled solutions and I came upon an idea to make 2 levels of perpendicular clothing racks and went to work designing it. The plan was to use 1x4s to make strips around the perimeter of the closet to attached the clothing bars to. This would also give me a way to put wood shelving in the top of the closet for storage.

Step 1: I took measurements and drew up a plan

Closet Plan Front003 Closet Plan Side003

Materials:

  • 32′ of yellow pine 1×4 (2 at 16′ lengths)
  • 8′ of round closet rod
  • 1 4’x8′ A/C Plywood
  • 5 Wood closet rod holders (I like the look of wood more)
  • 2-1/2″ Square drive screws
  • 1-1/2″ nails
  • 5 #20 Joiner Biscuits
  • Wood glue
  • Scrap 2×4

All of my lumber was purchased from Siewers Lumber & Millworks, my employer’s supplier here in Richmond, VA. Siewers is a local, family-owned business since 1888 and their lumber is infinitely better than the crap you have to dig through to find only slightly less crappy lumber at Lowes.

Also, I only needed 4 closet rod holders, but I messed one up when I split it in half trying to hammer a nail on it to hold the rod on. Thus, I had to buy another.

Tools:

  • Measuring Tape
  • Pencil
  • Speed Square
  • Level
  • Circular-saw
  • Electric drill/driver
  • Hammer
  • Chop saw
  • Table saw
  • “F” Clamps
  • Saw horses
  • Plate joiner
  • Headlamp

I had access to my employer’s workshop and thus nicer tools than most novices, but a skil-saw can do what any of these saws that I used can do, it just takes longer because of all the steps to make sure you don’t mess up.

Step 2: Cut the 1×4 support band

I cut the 1x4s to the appropriate lengths. To do this, I used the chop saw at the shop.  (I took pictures after the fact, so yes, that is not a 1×4, that is a piece of plywood.)

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Step 3: Installing the band around the perimeter.

First, I used my trusty stud detector and found the studs around the closet.

Once that was done, the first problem that came up is that (like it is all over the house) the walls and floor were uneven, the floor was not level, and the doorway was crooked. None of it uniformly so. With Melanie’s help (and patience) I did the best I could to give a sense of balance and symmetry to the thing.

IMG_20151213_104132[1]So, with sort of a weird un-level, but straight base line using the doorway and floor as a guide, I began screwing (with 2-1/2″ square drive screws) the upper and lower bands around the closet. I had to toe-screw some of these 1×4’s in place to be able to reach the stud. I’m not sure if that’s suppose to be done or not, but I did it anyway because it seemed right!

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I used that shelf to try to make the bands even and contiguous for when I put the top closet shelf in.

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A skilled carpenter would have mitered the corners, or made some other joint to lock the 1×4’s together, but skilled carpenter doesn’t describe me, and the project needed to get done without spending 10 hours and 30 extra linear ft. of 1×4 to finagle a half-decent joint of some kind.

Step 4: Closet Rods

Next was the closet rods. I opted for wood ones, because I feel that they look nicer. I cut the rods to length (and re-cut when I screwed up twice) and then installed the brackets.

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In order to make sure the closet rod didn’t come out when clothes were pulled off it, I hammered a small nail into the bracket to hold it in.

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Step 5. Melanie’s lower closet bar leaving room for longer articles of clothing to hang

The other issue that I had to find a solution for was mounting the clothing rod for the lower level of of the closet while leaving some space for the longer articles of clothing (dresses) to hang down freely from the top bar. The solution was a (shoddily) homemade bracket using a piece of the plywood for the shelving and a 2×4 ripped in half to be a 1×1.

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That 90 degree line right there was to notch it so that it fit around the 1×4 band.

I didn’t have a jig saw, or any fine woodworking tools really, so I just had to make due with my circular saw and coping saw leftover from trimming out my water heater closet…..which is why it looks so sloppy. (1st photo)

I split a 2×4 into two then, once again, use a circular saw to cut a notch for the band. (2nd Photo)

Then I hammered a nail through both sides to attach the 1×1 flanges to the plywood. Ignore my messy nightstand. (3rd Photo)

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It’s bulky, ugly, and, yes, I didn’t make the plywood wide enough and had to add another, wider piece of ply to make the clothing rod mounting bracket line up with the other one, but I didn’t have to spend money on any extra materials; which I consider a minor victory.

Yes, the rod is slightly tilted. It’s an…um…err….  aesthetic choice….

For the other side, I actually found a better method for making the bracket.

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I added a shelf in case we need it for whatever reason. I used 1-1/2″ trim nails to make sure it doesn’t go anywhere.

I actually should have done the upper closet shelves before we put Melanie’s clothes in the closet, but I didn’t want her to have to leave her clothes in the living room closet and on the couch while I waited until the next week to finish the closet.

Step 6. Closet Shelves

The next order of business (before installing my clothing racks) was getting a shelf in the top of the closet. this was made immensely difficult by uneven walls, and studs making drywall subtly bulge out.

The thought was that I could use the 1×4 band as support for the shelves. The only problem was that I had to make the shelves in 3 parts to make a “C” shape and one corner would be unsupported.

So I used the table saw in the shop to cut 3 boards (one all the way across, and 2 smaller panels to go in the sides of the closet):

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Now, how to join the 3 boards? Our cabinetry subcontractor (Joshua Cooley Fine Carpentry) and I were talking about this one day during work and he showed me how to use biscuits, a plate joiner, and wood glue to make it into one unit. (These illustrative photos are actually of two scrap boards because I had already joined my shelving and was waiting for the glue to dry.) Descriptions are in creepy Silence of the Lambs speak for my own entertainment.

Photo 1: It lines up the two boards that it wants to join and draws a line (hopefully more straight than mine).

Photo 2: It clamps the board to its work bench/surface/precariously placed saw horses, lines up the plate joiner and makes the hole on both boards.

Photo 3: The hole

Photo 4: The #20 biscuit

Photo 5 & 6: It puts wood glue in the hole and then puts the biscuit in the hole on both boards. It also glues the surfaces of the boards that will be touching.

Photo 7: It uses “F” clamps to hold the boards to the table and flat, and also to hold the boards together.

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Then I put the boards in the closet, and hacked, cut, and maimed the sides so they fit into the uneven closet. Because I’m a jack-leg I used a hammer to tap the corners down to get the shelves flush.

That dividing line in the side and the main shelf is because I didn’t glue them well and the joint started to come out, but I had no glue at the house, so I just said screw it and left it. The biscuits will hold it together enough to hold towels and pillows and stuff that will be up there. The other side stayed together perfectly.

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Step 7: My lower rod (get your mind out of the gutter)

The final piece of the puzzle was to make a lower bar for me using a panel, rather than a bracket (you know, to hide old shoes and stuff behind) as well as to leave room for longer articles of clothing.

First, I notched the board to accommodate the 1×4 band and the trim at the bottom. I also had to cut the bottom side at an angle to account for the slope of the floor.

Next, I made a new and improved bracket by nailing a piece of 1×4 to the plywood panel and then nailing that to the band. It looks much better than the 1×1 flange type thing that I used on the other side. I did the same at the bottom.

I also put a shelf there which I forgot to take a picture of.

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And voia-la! An ugly bit of closet customization that is nonetheless effective at making it so we can access all of our clothing, as well as reduce crowding of clothing. I only put a pic of my side, since I don’t know if Melanie would be too thrilled with me displaying her wardrobe on the internet.

Also, the answer is yes, that is my red suit with gold trim and buttons, custom made in Hoi An, Vietnam.
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There’s a bunch of empty space in the middle of the closet now, so we’re thinking we can put some hooks to hang stuff from, and maybe some sort of shoe cubby.

My workstation set up on the front porch when I do these projects along with the most important tools of the trade: measuring tape, square, and pencil. Along with my cheap, plastic saw horses that have served me well over 3 projects.

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and my Skil-saw (that is actually Skil brand).

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Thinking that my next project (aside from covering squirrel holes around the roof line) will be a rail for this front porch.

I hope you enjoyed fuddling my way through this project!

 

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!

Good Coffee, DIY , Wedding Planning, WWE, and other musings

Since I feel like writing a blog post, this one will be filled with random thoughts and observations.

Wedding Planning

Planning a wedding is a lot of work. I’m lucky that my fiancee is really taking the lead on a lot of this stuff; her mom has been a big help in keeping us on track and task. We’ve got a date, photographer, location, DJ, Caterer, bridal party, almost flowers, and a bride and groom.

So much goes into a wedding. When I started getting asked about table centerpieces I was like “Wait, that’s a thing I have to decide?” Or whether or not to give away custom chocolate bars at the reception. How about: where to have the rehearsal dinner? How about planning for out of town relatives? I suppose I should get to work on an itinerary; being that almost everyone is coming from out of town.

But, I am looking forward to spending the rest of my life with the woman I’m about to marry, and I’ve heard the wedding is one of the best days of your life and I can’t wait!

Good Coffee

I largely quit drinking coffee (except on weekends) because it gave me terrible acid reflux and stomach pains. I will have the occasional cup of Cafe Bustelo at work, but for the most part I don’t drink it during the week. The coffee that I have at home is basically store-brand coffee. It’s serviceable, I suppose.

So, my friend Greg and his girlfriend came to visit Melanie and I a couple of week ago. They both work at Starbucks and brought us a couple bags of Starbucks coffee: an Ethiopian blend and a Guatemala coffee. We ran out of coffee in the office, so I got one of the bags ground, put it in the Mr Coffee and tasted it and just as I had feared:

It was awesome…. and my taste buds have been forever spoiled by the smooth, rich tastiness of good coffee and I won’t be able to experience the savings of drinking Kroger brand coffee at home ever again.

Do-It-Yourself

Since we purchased the Duplex, and it was not renovated with great precision back whenever it was renovated (2009, I believe) there are some quirky things which I have been doing around there. One is masking the water heater in the kitchen corner with a closet which was the subject of my last post. The other project was an 11″ x 7′, 2.5 foot deep recess in the bathroom wall. We lacked cabinet space, so we purchased a thin cabinet from the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store and put that in.

It’s pretty satisfying building something, even if it isn’t perfect ( and lord knows it isn’t), but by trying to do things on this future rental property, I can learn and be much more well equipped to do things on our settle-down house.

The rough part about all this is that we keep having to buy new tools. Many of these are pretty basic, so we need to have them anywa: circular saw, plumb bob, drill/screw driver bits, framing square, speed square, saw horses, pry-bar, paint supplies, nails, screws, stud-detector, coping saw, clamps, etc. Then there’s the yard work stuff, lawnmower, weed wacker, rake, etc. We have spent more money at Lowes in the past 2 months or so than I have in my previous 29 years. We’ve still got a few more basics to acquire, but the bleed of money toward tools and equipment has slowly clotted.

But what about these nails, screws, etc.? You can’t buy them by the pound anymore, you have to spend $6-9 on a box of fasteners when you only need like 6 of them. So now, we have to figure out where to store this stuff in our small apartment.

My upcoming projects (after the wall) will be cleaning up the yard and trimming back the growth, cleaning out the shed (which was full of old building materials, spider-webs, and spiders) and putting a floor down (simple, 4×4’s and plywood), and building a handrail for the front porch.

Thoughts on WWE

Seth Rollins is out for 6-9 months and one of the best parts of WWE TV is gone. Shaemus is the champion and it really couldn’t be more lame. Roman Reigns is a very mediocre flag bearer. Randy Orton is out having shoulder surgery. John Cena is out to host a reality show.

It’s pretty bad.

And the lowest raw-ratings since 1996 illustrates this.

Kevin Owens is great on the mic and in the ring, but he’s not established enough to carry the company.

Dean Ambrose is awesome, over, and way, way, way under-used. How is this guy not the main guy for WWE? He always gets the biggest reactions.

NXT is almost always awesome. The women’ division is lacking a bit at the top since Charlotte, Lynch, and Banks left, but otherwise has a good crop of wrestlers coming up.

I like Finn Balor as a champion. He acts and carries himself like a Champion should… a true professional. It’s like he brings that Japanese “we take this sport seriously” aspect. And he has great matches. Main roster material? I’m not so sure…

Samoa Joe is not very over with the NXT crowd.

Currently Reading

The Book on Real Estate Investing With No and Low Money Down by Brandon Turner  It sounds like some cheesey sales pitch, but he’s pretty realistic in what to expect from these efforts. this is the guy who co-hosts the Bigger Pockets Podcast.

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.