Everyone who is in business for themselves will tell you that persistence eventually pays off. Or not! It depends on if there is a call for the service. Obviously I’m confused. Let me explain a little more.
When I’m leasing there’s nothing I like more than listing a place and renting it within a few days. It makes me look like a hero. I also make the most dough doing it this way. I pay for less ads, less gas and time going to show the place. Owners are much happier then when things drag on.
The problem is that my most loyal customers tend to be those that live in the home and are very selective. Like I explained in my post The Zen of Leasing, this is much harder and involves showing the place until the right tenant appears. I had three such places for rent and they were hanging around. Every once in a while I would do my mental checklist to make sure I was doing the right things with these properties and I was. Then last week I rented those three properties in the same day! That was a good day for me.
Then someone asked me about vacation property management. I’ve been offering this service since I started my business. No one ever got me to do it. I offer a bunch of services no one hires me for. The other day I was complaining that no one hires me to do the footwork to go look at at properties in the Toronto area and find promising ones. I was complaining at Canadian Money Forum (an awesome place to learn about investing) my friend Mike of Money Smarts Blog replied and said “If your business model isn’t working (ie nobody is buying your product/service) then you need to change it or offer something else.” This hurt my little feelings because I have a few services I offer that no one has taken advantage of.
Why do I offer them anyways?
I see the value in them and want to. Plus it doesn’t cost me any extra to offer them. It’s a few extra lines on my website these days. One day someone may ask me to do it eventually. Let’s take Vacation Property Management for an example. I figure that quite a few landlords would see the value of having someone competent take care of their property while they’re away. I don’t advertise this service at all. Maybe I should change this and I would get more customers.
Sometimes I’m a Business Idiot Too
I offer vacancy consulting too. No one has paid me for this service. That doesn’t mean I haven’t done it! I get calls for it. For example a building owner with four buildings called me to find out why her apartments weren’t renting. So I went to check out her buildings. I went out on a rainy day around 6 p.m. One of her buildings was pretty full with almost no vacancy. The super was nice and showed me around. The other three buildings I was turned away! So I went and told her that the most likely reason her suites weren’t renting in those buildings was because potential renters were being turned away at the door and I could help her. She said thank you! Then she stopped answering my calls and I never got paid a dime to figure out why her suites weren’t renting. So what did I learn from this? Nothing because I give out tons of free information out on my website. No one else does this that I’ve seen.
Does this mean I will never get hired to do this service? No it doesn’t. I’m a lot smarter in person then on my website, I believe my service would add value and this another service I don’t advertise.
I’m Getting Smarter Though
Not too long ago I had an investor contact me about buying income properties in Toronto. She’s in Vancouver. I’m of the opinion that to get a measure of the property you have to go see it. MLS listings are really crappy. They all promise unlimited riches as a result of buying real estate. Most of this is total crap. You’ll never know unless you look. Looking takes a lot of time. Making appointments, driving there, looking at building financial statements and talking with real estate agents.
Real Estate agents don’t go out and look at properties, they don’t even know what they are going to look at when they show you. Plus because they’ve never managed an income property, they have no idea what they are looking at.
So this time I got smart and asked for a retainer up front, I already spent about 2 hours talking to the lady, and a couple more looking over every single MLS listing in Toronto in her price range. I asked her for a retainer and never heard from her again. I followed up and she still never emailed me back. This actually made my day! A few months back I found a very profitable building and took about 25 investors to this building and no one wanted it except of course one smart investor who wanted to start too low and offered $900,000 which the real estate agent refused to write up. The property listed for 1.8 million and sold for 1.2 million. In this case I made no money at all, wasted gas and time and generally made myself crazy.
Lots of people will use my service if it’s free. I’ve decided that figuring who is willing to pay for my time and expenses early on in the process is a great idea! Here’s another big secret, I like going around and looking at properties, I like evaluating property. If that lady had emailed me back and offered me 25% of what I’d quoted her I would have done it anyways!
Employment Guide Equation
I developed a ratio regarding work years ago. It determines how I charge for services. If I like doing something then I charge less. If I don’t like it I charge more. I like writing. I make very little money doing it. That’s OK. Most of the time I spend writing now is time I used to use watching TV and looking around the internet. I wasn’t being paid at all for that time, now I make about 2 bucks an hour writing. Plus I figure there are intangible benefits such as keeping investors from making expensive investing mistakes, keeping landlords out of trouble and getting my name and business out there for people to know about and possibly hire me. Advertising is very expensive for businesses. Landlords are really hard to advertise to because they come from all walks of life, don’t go to a specific place and do most of the work themselves.
The biggest problem with being a small company is that it is very difficult to get people to know about your services. You don’t have the budget for TV or print advertising. I decided to advertise with Viewit.ca a few years ago. Everyone who uses their service gets an envelope with a piece of paper in it with my business name and phone number on it. The program cost me about $2000. It didn’t work very well. In the past I used to get a decent response from an couple ads on Craigslist. Now all I get is spam. Will writing about real estate pay off for me? Will I find new clients by doing this? I have no idea. You have to try things.
I’m self employed but I have to support my family.
That means I can’t really go around working for people if they don’t pay me. I like making money, more than anyone I know. I get pleasure from the act of finding a deal, making money where other people don’t etc. I gnaw on difficult problems until they’re solved. I’ve rented commercial spaces that were vacant for over 5 years. I fill vacant buildings. I used to tell one of my bosses who had 80 empty units that we only had to convince 80 people in a city of millions to rent our apartments. It took about a year. We also raised our rental rates by over $100 per month during that time period. That’s not what I was most proud of though, I really got a blast out of charging the government for allowing them to hold elections in our building. FYI We couldn’t charge them for the space but you can charge them for renting tables and chairs and staff time for security.
John T. Reed says that if you’re really good at things you aren’t really aware of it. I get that. It’s taken me most of my life to figure this out. Mostly I was wondering why things that were so obvious to me were revelations to other people. I have excellent reading and retention skills. For most of my life I read a book a day. I remember most of them. I’m also really good at spotting patterns and picking up on things that stick out. I spotted an extra charge on an Enbridge bill. It turns out that Enbridge had been charging the owner for a piece of equipment used to convert oil boilers to gas. That boiler had been decommissioned about 10 years before and the owner got back $5000 bucks. What do these skills do for me? Not too much it turns out. They are not marketable skills unfortunately.
Working on this website and writing about the truth of real estate is my latest mission. I like it. Most people who write about real estate and make money doing it are lying. They talk about the power of positive thinking and how any idiot can do it. They like to tell you that you don’t need any money down. They sell expensive and useless seminars and coaching. I can’t imagine myself doing that. I’m a horrible liar and believe in offering real value to people. Plus I don’t like lying. My mom even gave me crap about this. She told me that I need to be nicer. I told her that I’m pretty sure enough people are sick enough of being lied to and those people will be glad to hire me. I’ve been wrong about this kind of thing before.
In the meantime hopefully persistence will pay off. Being in business means believing in yourself and putting one foot in front of the other when times are tough. For me it’s a commitment to myself and a dogged determination to bring value to the market and do a good job.
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