Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Picking Your Poison

Picking your poison is never an easy task. The right blend can paint a bright horizon ahead with limitless opportunities. The wrong combination might cause you to choke on financial ruin. I’m talking about choosing investment opportunities if you are fortunate enough to have a few extra dollars to invest. Only after you’ve swallowed your choice of investment do the real repercussions and results start to bubble up to the surface.

Financial advice always runs rampant whenever someone else’s money is involved. Advising others on which investment path to follow is rich fodder for money magazines, books, cable television shows, lectures, classes and a moldy assortment of financial gurus eager to answer all the questions you didn’t know enough to ask. The most slippery eels are those who come in with the latest and greatest scheme to help you separate from your savings. We’ve seen and heard from many of them throughout the years.

The most audacious are those charlatans who promise quick profits with no money down and even less effort on your part. ‘Trust me’ seems to be their siren call and disaster on the rocks their only results. ‘Something for nothing’ still results in nothing.

My wife and I were encouraged to invest in everything from gold and silver to diamonds and antiquities. There were penny stock opportunities and Australian currency markets to enter. Fortunately we declined those wonderful opportunities to lose our money. We did stumble a couple of times but never embarrassed ourselves when we should have known better.

In the beginning we escaped unscathed simply because caution and suspicion are my middle name. The key for us was recognizing our need for control and the hunger pangs I’d felt all my life. My own business, Sharden Productions, Inc., proved that I could manage resources and finances. It seemed to me that small apartment buildings weren’t that far behind.

I choose residential properties and management because I could be the one in charge of my own destiny. Despite the fact that as an introvert I had to deal with people this area of real estate seemed to suit my personality. But passive…it was not!

What I learned over the years was that to manage your investments you need to be at the top of your game and constantly vigilant to the ever-changing market conditions. But even before that stage you must establish a relationship with your tenants (I preferred to call them residents) that is fair and considerate.

Be firm but fair.

Another big part of that vigilance was understanding your residents and their daily lives. It’s like a tantalizing game of up skirt but with permission. You get to look into the lives of other people whether you want to or not. Snooping becomes an occupation like a dorm mother, RA, councilor or teacher. It became my insurance. A kind of early warning system in case any of my residents lost or found another job, got fired, were getting married or moving in together, having a kid, etc.

Writing a book on apartment management actually came relatively easy for me. I simply wrote down my experiences and many of the lessons learned over thirty years in the business. There were a fair number of stumbles and as many quiet success stories that overall made it an interesting business for all those years. I wanted to share those insights with anyone else who might be tempted to go down the same investment path as I did.

It takes disciplined entrepreneurship to build and grow a real estate business.  That happens through the proper execution of management strategies that really work.  You will be building a business to last while adding value to your holdings.  You will learn to avoid making costly mistakes while waking up your creative potential.
It’s about using your emotional intelligence as well as financial and managerial intelligence to best utilize your own strategic set of guidelines for managing your properties.  As an owner, you want to become an effective manager of buildings so that you can harness the power of thinking without thinking about it.  Your pattern of success will then become a regimen you follow automatically.  By doing so you will avoid critical mistakes that can be costly to your bottom line and might drive residents away.

It’s all about working smarter - not harder or longer.  It’s about using data to help you process information and create sustainability for energy usage in each property.  It’s about making the most of your time and being productive with the tools you will learn to use in my guide.
Most books on managing residential property are one part truth, one part fiction and one part mechanical.  They miss the most important point… the most important ingredient in successfully managing your apartments - the tenants or as I called them ‘my residents.’

During those thirty years in the business I never owned rental property.  I owned apartment buildings, single-family homes and resort property which people rented. Those renters were proud of their homes and I was proud to be providing that housing stock for them to live in.

The one truth I learned from the business of real estate is that the more I could do for my residents they more they felt inclined to do for themselves.  Simply stated, you do right by doing good.  Once my residents knew I cared, they cared…it was as simple as that.

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