In 2015, I followed some advice I received from an unlikely source.
I chose to get connected.
After another financially-traumatic maintenance call to stand-up guy who just happens to be my contractor, I shared with him my frustrations with some of the challenges of being a landlord. I told him that as hard as I worked to take care of my properties and keep tenants satisfied it still always seemed like I was just treading water. Not only that, but often it felt like I was losing ground.
He patiently listened as I wrote yet another check to support the expensive operation of maintaining a rental property. He looked at me thoughtfully and said, “It sounds like you’re just too isolated. You need to get out there and connect with other landlords.”
It was like the clouds parted and the sun was shining down on the spot where we were standing. It was such a simple and logical idea that I experienced momentary confusion about why I hadn’t thought of this before. For a second or two I just stared blankly while I processed it.
“At least, that’s what I do,” he offered to bridge the awkward silence. “That’s how I spend a lot of my time.”
He explained to me that he owned several rental properties, too. Even though he is a licensed and bonded professional contractor with excellent skills, the jobs he performed were really just a way to focus on his main goal of buying more property.
As quickly as I recognized the uncomplicated brilliance of his advice, the doubts started to creep in. Just like people often do when presented with opportunities to improve I looked for ways to take myself off the hook. I tried to think of all the excuses why this simple wisdom wouldn’t fit my situation.
“Well, I wish I could do more networking,” I protested, “but I work two jobs and I have other responsibilities. I'm just too busy. I can’t afford to take the time to meet with people.”
“You can’t afford not to,” he said with a shrug as if this was the final word he needed to say on the subject. And that was that. Drop the mic.
When I thought about it, I realized that whenever I saw him he always seemed so relaxed--like he didn’t have a care in the world. When I called him for jobs he never tried to gouge me or up-sell me on unnecessary added services. He didn't carry that hungry, vaguely predatory look of some contractors. In fact, he would sometimes talk me out of jobs I thought I needed when he determined they could be delayed without harm. This was a guy living with the peace of mind of financial independence. If I couldn’t benefit from his perspective, who could I listen to?
So I took his advice.
I did a self-assessment. I realized that I had been just trudging forward with my head down for years, not looking left or right. This year I chose to poke my head out of my landlord shell and I noticed the big wide world of other people trying to do the same kinds of things I’m trying to do. And guess what? A lot of them are really cool and really smart. I wish I met them a lot sooner and maybe I could have avoided some of the mistakes I made.
While there have been other years where I made a lot more money, had a lot fewer maintenance issues and fewer tenant conflicts, 2015 has been one of my best years as a landlord for the people I’m meeting and the things I’m learning. Sometimes the best advice is the simplest advice.
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