Back on the Horse

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You’ve no doubt heard the expression that if you “fall off the horse”, the best thing to do is to “get back on the horse again.”  OK, that’s cute, we get it’s “insider meaning”, which refers to anything that you’ve done before that you’ve failed at for any reason, the best thing to do is to try again.

It’s a little subtler than that, too, of course.  It also refers to things that you may have been doing and were interrupted from doing for events outside of your control.  In other words, no so much that you failed at anything, but perhaps you were just stopped, for whatever reason.

So, this is my one-year celebration of pulling myself back on the horse – the horse of life.  You see, one year ago, a team of surgeons, acting as a team of rehab experts that included a framer, a plumber, and an electrician, rehabbed me.  They took my heart out, re-plumbed the feed lines, and put it back.

How I got to that point is anyone’s guess, and the team of cardiologists who looked at my heart muscle and say that it’s a strong as a horse’s, just the feed tubes got clogged.  They believe that there is a large amount of heredity in that equation.  Who knows, really.

I never actually fell off the horse, either.  I stopped the horse, I said “something’s not quite right”, got off the horse, and sought assistance from my health-care coaches.  No one forced me to “do” anything, but what they did do was make strong recommendations for that rehab I described above.

Once that was done, they told me to go home and let the automatic processes of the body rebuild the damage and the trauma caused by the surgery.  Then I got handed off to another set of coaches that guided me back to re-building physically.

They were called the cardiac rehab team, and they did a lot of stuff that I was already familiar with from my exercise and training background.  But this time it was different.  This time I wasn’t just showing up at the gym to get buff and look good – I was rebuilding my systems just to stay on the planet.

That’s a big “why”, don’t you think?  Because my “why” was so huge, I heard every ounce of instruction in a new way – I was completely and entirely coachable, and I took on the instruction with vigor and big intent.  And as a result, I got better faster.  My recovery was fast, and my coaches remarked on that.

One year ago, I discovered the issue that had me “get off the horse” when, after a pretty intense cycling training session, I had heartburn that would not go away.  Today, one year later, I am back on that horse with my bike, getting my proverbial butt handed to me in training sessions.  No more heartburn.

My cycling coach knows all of my health details.  Now she knows what to look for, and exactly how to coach me for the fastest and safest recovery and restoration of my power.  We measure this stuff on a computer, and I have a ways to go to recover the muscle and breathing, but it’s coming.

Because I can’t see it in the heat of the training session, she will come up to me and ask if I am feeling this or that, check my power, my heart rate, cadence – all of it, and make training corrections for me.

All of this had me realize that my swift recovery, my returning excellent health, and my happiness in life has all been at the hands of people I entrusted – my coaches – to lead me down this path of recovery.  And it’s also made me realize that there are a lot of areas in my life that could use a coach.

I am on a quest to fill those gaps.  While I already knew the value, I see it more clearly now from my distinct vantage point back on the horse.


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First, Do What You Love

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I’ve had many a conversation with people who believe that they want to step into real estate investing, and the topic of “why” ranges widely.  Many people have seen the shows on HGTV, read Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kyosaki, or otherwise have been exposed to this real estate thing and got interested.

There’s a real problem with finding what you want to do in your life on T.V.  Realize that the very first priority with a television show is to generate viewership and, hence, advertising dollars.  When that show happens to be one about rehabbing or, as they call it, “flipping”, things can really go sideways.

Real life often does not make for the best television viewing.  For example, talk to health care professionals and ask how much of the T.V. show “Grey’s Anatomy” reflects the real world.  Often, eyeballs will be rolling upwards.  Staff at Grey Sloan Memorial goes through more of their own trauma than they are servicing.  And it makes for great television – I am an admitted addict myself.

So, what’s “off” about the HGTV rehabbing shows?  Well, they only show the three most exciting things about a rehab:  1) an awful distressed property, 2) construction that goes smoothly, usually done by one star of the show (Chip Gaines comes to mind), finished on time (yeah, right), and 3) a completed project that blows your mind.  Throughout, they find points to add extreme drama, like when the mold is detected, or they need to add a $5,000 furnace -  the music gets ominous and we break for commercial.

Oh, and they always seem to net about $70,000.  “On to the next one”, the star barks.  It’s no wonder half the country thinks they can do this stuff and be a millionaire in under a year.  What you don’t see is the dozens of regular craftsmen and trades that descend on the property off-camera and do the work in a day that would take Chip over 6 months to do alone.  And have you ever seen one property that is not shown gloriously decorated and staged?  No, you have not.

As for cost, most of it is underwritten by HGTV sponsors like The Home Depot and other big-box stores and suppliers.  If Chip utters “go to Home Depot and pick that up”, it’s worth tens of thousands to them.  And most of these shows are not HGTV productions – they are massive advertisements PAID FOR by the stars’ production companies, because at some point, they will send their minions out to the Sheraton in Madison to sign you up for coaching to do this rehabbing yourself, “as seen on TV”.

Reality in this industry is far more boring.  Acquiring properties at the right price can be difficult, rehabbing can be challenging (don’t get me started on dealing with all the trades), and the finished product, while usually pretty great in comparison to the start, doesn’t blow your mind and cause potential buyers to wet their pants.  And, no, Joanna Gaines is not coming to decorate.

All in all, it’s still a rewarding business to be in, if you enjoy aspects of this stuff.  You can generally hire out those things that are not enjoyable, and tailor your own personal involvement to fit your needs.  If you are crazy enough, every so often you can strap on the tool belt and do some of the work yourself.  I do this every so often when the memory of the last project I worked on has faded.

You can also make a good living from it, and the nature of the work gives you a lot of flexibility in your schedule.  It takes someone who is self-disciplined and will get up every day and do what needs to be done.  Sitting on the couch eating Bonbons and watching Oprah is not the best use of your flexible time.

So if you’re someone kicking the tires about this, hang out at the REIA more, ask questions and maybe even come to our first property tour to get a live taste of things.  We’ll help you figure out if this is a good match for you.

 


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What’s Next for You?

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Used to be that when you found what you did in life, that was that.  The cobbler was a cobbler until he died.  The blacksmith was a blacksmith, the engineer was an engineer, the doctor was a doctor – all until they retired or died.  Well, it’s just not that way anymore.

Some years ago, I knew somebody who was a great electrical engineer.  He was a whiz at circuit design and worked for a company around Chicago that designed and built small controllers.  One day I met up with him and he told me he was back in school.  I assumed he was going for his masters in EE.

Quite the contrary, he was in pre-med and had already arranged for an internship at a hospital across the country.  Wait, what?  No, seriously – what are you up to, I asked.  That was it – he was serious, and he actually did it.  Years later I heard from him and he was a surgeon somewhere out west.

You see, something called to him and he acted on it.  He didn’t allow himself to be pigeon-holed into being an engineer forever, even though he excelled at it.  As a surgeon, the hours were long, the disappointments huge, but the successes were massive – for him.  And if you think about it, those two worlds are not that far apart.  He spent a lot of time diagnosing and fixing circuit problems before.

What really struck me was the conversation he had around money.  It figured somewhere near the bottom of the list for him; his happiness was up at the top, and he was fully prepared to take a position at a rural hospital in a poor area of the country or even practice in a far-away land where money was no object because there really wasn’t much.  And still he would survive – probably thrive – on his joy.

What about you?  Do you feel stuck where you are?  Think that you’ve invested too much educational or life capital in what you’re doing to make a change?  Reconsider that position.  Open your mind to the wild possibilities that exist that you might like to do.  I did it, and I’m having fun.

I started out as an electrical engineer myself, with a specialty in software development.  I did some hardware work, even some power systems work, but gravitated toward software.  This eventually led me to starting a software company with 2 other guys and we thrived during the internet boom time.

While at that company, I went to a local fitness center to stay healthy, and became fascinated with this new indoor cycling craze called “Spinning”.  Somehow, I found myself becoming an instructor in this national program, then really got into outdoor cycling.  Loved it, had no idea where it would take me.

I loved the notion of cycling and teaching others to do it safely and well, so I kept learning and growing in the practice until eventually becoming a USA Cycling Coach, a division of USOC, the U.S. Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs.  While coaching with the U.S. Youth Triathlon Team, I met lots of new people, and the owner of that team and I became good friends.  He was a real estate investor.

Oh, yes – I still had my day job at the company I started, it just didn’t involve the technical heads-down work anymore, so I had lots of time to pursue this new passion.  Flying all over the country with the kids’ team and helping to grow a group that eventually because the U.S. National Champions. Eventually a few went on to be world champions, and one competed in the 2016 Rio Olympics.  I helped do that.

What I found is that I absolutely love coaching.  So, as I grew in this new real estate investor practice, getting educated, doing deals, and still working the tech side, I saw that I loved showing others how to do that and, for some, how to ride a bike efficiently.  It’s a long ride from circuit analysis.

What about you?  What do you love?  What could you do, WOULD you do if you didn’t worry about the money?  Consider it, because there’s an old saying: “Do what you love, and the money will follow.”  I can tell you that this is true.  You just have to step off the curb.


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Must Do, Should Do, Could Do

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When you’re rehabbing a house for re-sale, you’re faced with deciding which approach to take to make that house sellable without overbuilding.  How do you do that?  Well, largely, it comes from experience and mentorship, but there are some general “rules-of-thumb” that you can employ to help you choose.

We break our rehab lists into three categories; the “Must Do” list are those things that would prevent a retail buyer from obtaining a loan (FHA restrictions), or something that will surely be caught on a house inspection that we would have to fix anyway.

These things include an old (15+ years) furnace, an old (10+ years) water heater, a fuse box or a breaker panel manufactured by Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) or Wadsworth, a decaying or “frito-ing” roof, broken or damaged components such as doors, walls, windows, flooring, cabinets, or countertops, or certain “handyman special enhancements” that are clearly code violations, just to name a few.

The next list is the “Should Do”, and it includes things that are likely to sway buyers into the “buy it” camp.  Since kitchens and bathrooms are the biggest factors in house-buying decisions, these are things like updating the kitchen and bathroom cabinets and countertops, faucets, sinks, and lighting.

This is where things get a little fuzzy.  Depending on the current market, some of these things can slide between the “Should Do” and “Could Do” list.  If the market is strong and houses are flying off the shelf, you don’t have to do quite as much, although doing so can cause a house to move fast.

This is, of course, where your mentors and REALTOR partners come in – they can help advise you on what is appropriate in the current market in the neighborhood where you are working.  Keep in mind that you’re not trying to do the least amount of work to get by; you’re trying to do the appropriate amount of work to have a good product without overbuilding.

The final category, the “Could Do” list is reserved for markets with high competition and/or low retail sales.  These are the things that, when done, make a huge difference in the property.  And, like I talked about above, some of these could slide into the “Should Do” list in certain situations.

For example, removing a wall to create an open floor plan is potentially a pricier option that has the possibility of creating a big “wow” factor and thus selling the house quickly.  Or you could use higher-end finishes in the kitchen and/or baths, adding unexpected features like a steam shower or a beautiful backsplash in the kitchen.

All of this, of course, is subjective.  Each investor needs to analyze the situation to determine what is necessary for the rehab, and considering the time of year that the property will be entering the market.  But how can you be sure of any of this?

Until you’ve gotten the experience under your belt to just “know” the answer, you must rely on your REALTOR partner and your mentors or colleagues to help you understand.  Even more accomplished investors are always checking-in with others on this point, just to remain neutral.

The final word on this is to make sure that YOU are the one ultimately calling the shots on what’s needed for your rehab.  While builders can be awesome assets in the design department, remember that their price goes up right along with features.  So don’t let “feature-creep” crater your budget.

 


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Market Condition

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I was talking with a friend the other day, and she said something I hear a lot: “oh, you must be having a tough time in real estate with this market”.  I’m not quite sure what aspect of the market that she was referring to, but I assured her that in my area of the real estate market, there’s never a tough time.

How can that be?  Interestingly, where people get their “data” is from news reports, and we already know that the news outlets love nothing more than bad news.  It’s sooooo dramatic and sometimes sad, but somebody’s got to get the word out there, right?

Well, we know that the RETAIL real estate market has its cycles.  First, there’s the micro-cycle of local seasonal conditions where a lot of real estate is transacted in the spring, and not so much in the fall and winter.  Of course, this seasonal cycle depends on where you are in the country, too.

Then there’s the macro-cycle of the housing industry at large.  The best recent example of this was the precipitous descent we took around 2008 when prices crashed through the floor.  People were trying to dump their houses left and right – some from fear, some for legitimate reasons.  Didn’t matter.

And that visibility is about the retail side of real estate – the buying and selling of homes by people who occupy those homes.  That’s not our side of real estate, where we look at a different cycle and different market conditions.

Now, it would be folly to say that those retail conditions have no impact on what we do – they surely do.  But those conditions don’t dictate an “up or down” market for real estate investors.  When you tell that to people, they don’t understand how that could be.

The reason is simple – we look for properties that are in a distressed situation.  Not necessarily that the property itself is distressed, although they frequently are, but the situation is distressed.  What exactly does that mean?  Distress is created by many factors – loss of job, death, divorce, unwanted rentals, inheriting a property – just to name a few.

These factors are not exclusively related to the state of the economy, either.  There are external forces that come to bear on people that create untenable situations.  And when selling their property is key to them moving forward, that’s where we can step in and help.

And while it’s true that more distressed situations are created with economic downturn, the fact is that these situations are constantly happening, and with good marketing, a real estate investor will come across more than he or she needs to eke out a good living.

Some people accuse real estate investors of “preying” on people who are down.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The truth is that we offer a service that can bring immediate financial and emotional relief to people when no one else can.  Banks would happily foreclose on these people, and selling with a REALTOR is expensive and can take a long time.

Like with any profession, you need to be steeped in the practice of what you do to truly understand the intricacies of the process.  I hope this brief explanation has you understand a little better.


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What About the Sellers?

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There’s so much to write about in the world of real estate investing, I could go on forever.  But the one aspect that we don’t talk about too much is the impact we have on the seller of a property.  Many people assume that the seller is a faceless bank and that this is just a financial transaction.

In fact, most of the property sellers that we work with nowadays are just normal folk, and their need to sell ranges from “I am desperate and need to sell NOW” through “I’m looking for a more easeful way of getting this done” and everything in between.

For example, last year we purchased from someone in Baraboo that had listed her property twice over the prior 18 months, got plenty of offers, and even got two of them accepted.  The first one fell through at the bank, then the second one did the same thing.

The problem was viability/insurability.  While it was of little or no immediate impact to her, the furnace and water heater were on their last legs, and the electric panel was all fuses.  These are things that, when the bank does its due diligence, can cause the deal to fall through during underwriting.

Clearly, she was frustrated and a little worried.  There was no way that she could afford, or even want to afford, replacing those things.  And to make matters worse, the house used to be a duplex and had two (2) electric meters.  She got two electric bills each month, one for upstairs and one for downstairs.

We did our numbers, made her an offer in March and, while she would have liked more money, she was OK with it.  However, her kids got emotional about the property and convinced her to keep it.  I told her that I understood, and that we would be here to talk again should she ever want to.

Well, come September, she wanted to talk again.  Regrettably, I had to lower the offer because of the time of year, and she would have needed to bring $2,000 to the table to close.  Again, I apologized and told her that I completely understood, but it was the best we could do, given all the circumstances.

She called back in a day and said that she could make it work if my offer was still on the table.  When you have someone over the barrel like this, you can either take advantage or be straight.  We teach all our coaching students to be 100% on the up-and-up and to NEVER take advantage of anyone, no matter how “plausible” or how easy it would be.  Of course, I chose the high road and honored my offer.

We closed about 10 days later and, even though she had to bring 2-large to the closing table, she was so extremely grateful to just be done with that property.  She had purchased something better outside of town and couldn’t be happier.  She sent a thank-you card and everything.

My partner and I spent some time and dollars on the place, replacing the furnace, water heater, and the electrical panel, painted every wall, replaced every window, sanded the maple floors, carpeted the stairs and bedrooms, replaced woodwork, and sprayed out the basement.  With a lot of sweat equity, to boot.

We felt pretty good about the whole project; it became a great house for a family within walking distance of downtown Baraboo, and it sold quickly because of the attention that we had given it.  Most of all, we felt great about the former owner that we helped get out of a situation that would have cost her twice as much to fix as it did us.

In our experience, for most sellers that need help, how much money they make is lower on the list of priorities than just getting out of the situation.  Ultimately, it can be about the money; about how much is being lost daily just holding on to a property that they don’t want anymore.  But mostly, we alleviate emotional distress for people; providing a service that few others are able to do.


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Push the Reset Button

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This week, I’m waxing philosophical on perhaps the most important “pillar” of our little association here in Madison – it’s the “Life Pillar”. The Madison REIA is built on the three pillars of Networking, Education, and Life and we always have some great things to say about the first two, so it’s time to focus on that third pillar of living life – a life that you love.

When your PC or phone or other device starts acting wacky or not doing what you expect it to be doing, most experts will advise you to simply reboot and that will clear everything out and start fresh. We would all be well-advised to do the same thing for ourselves from time to time. And there’s nothing like a good slap across the back of the head by the Universe to get related to this, as I did this past January.

Imagine, here is a former racing cyclist, training 3 days a week at super-intense cardio levels having “bad heartburn” that wouldn’t go away during training. What’s that about? At first, the good folks in the E.R. couldn’t figure it out either. Heart strong as a horse, EKG perfect (later, I found out that they call this “non-ST”or “NSTEMI”), but blood work-up showed a marker called Troponin, an indicator of heart muscle damage. Turns out, I had hereditary heart disease that blocked enough coronary arteries that I needed to be cracked open and fixed up. Filleted like a walleye.

I was remarkably calm all that week in the hospital from Tuesday through Friday, the day of the surgery. I just continued working (have laptop will travel) and all was good. The first real eye opener was meeting all the good folks in the O.R. at St. Mary’s Madison when one guy said that he operated the heart and lung machine to keep me alive while they removed my heart to work on it. Wait, what? It’s like dropping the engine of a ’57 Chevy to pull the head and change the rings. My humanity and mortality became quite present in that moment. And in the next moment, I was out like a
light for what seemed like 3-5 seconds when it had been about 7 hours.

Today, back at it full steam, I still work hard, mainly because I love everything that I do, from coaching people on real estate investing through writing, to developing business processes and programs for our
REIA. Oh, and the occasional construction project or two, just to keep my fingers in the mix. But I have learned that I need time off the grid, off the projects, walking, riding my bike, vacationing, doing whatever I darn well want to – if it is enjoyable and completely different from what I normally do.

This is my reset button and I love pushing it. Not only does it keep me recharged, it makes everything else that I do so much more powerful and effective. It’s a hard thing to wrap your head around – that if you stop working, when you come back you’ll be working better and more effectively. Of course, this only works if you really take the time to really do a reset, and not just some other kind of work. Kick back, relax, enjoy, live life with your loved ones. And the key is to do this reset frequently; a small version once a week, a bigger version once a month.

I am blessed with the ability to do just this because of my career in real estate investing and the freedom that this brings in my life. I am grateful that what I do allows me to stop and relax pretty much whenever
I want to. And it helps to love the stuff that I do when I’m not relaxing. Still, doing that with a passion means that I put a lot of energy and responsibility into it. Relaxing is relaxing. Brainless. No thinking. Whatever YOU do in life, look for ways that you can hit the reset button. It can be tough with a 9-5 job, but there are things that you can do that, if you look hard enough, will give you the reboot you need.

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Be Careful Out There

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I’m on a safety and protection kick this month, so going to roll with it.  This time, let’s talk more about liability protection for your awesome rehab.  This is especially poignant right now because it’s a little difficult to find general contractors (they’re all booked solid), so the natural instinct is to find anyone that can fog a mirror while operating a worm-drive Skilsaw.

I know, I’ve been there.  It’s frustrating, the clock is ticking on your rehab and you can hear the money flowing out of your pocket into your private lender’s.  Not that you don’t just love your private lender to death, it’s just that you want to get on with the next one and keep things moving, right?

Here’s the potential problem with hiring Ted & Ed’s Most Excellent Carpenters, Inc. for your project.  You may have scored a good new find for your projects, but each and every time that you get a new contractor on your projects, acting as a general or a specific trade, you have to check a couple of things.

First, make sure that YOU write the contract between you and your contractor(s), otherwise the terms will all be in favor of the contractor.  If S/he refuses, hard as it may be, you should walk.  You have not experienced pain as difficult as having your contractor not showing up on your job site because s/he has taken on other jobs along with yours and there’s no contract language.  Tick-tock on that private money.

That’s a whole world of discussion and exploration to talk about contractor agreements; we spend an entire class session discussing it in our REI Blueprint Course.  But the one thing that you must have and must follow-through on is your contractor’s liability insurance or bonding, along with that of the subs.

The best first step to get this assurance is that your agreement makes it clear that your relationship is an arms-length 1099 sub-contractor arrangement, and that no one is your employee.  Then you must act in this manner – you can’t go buy materials and drive them to the job site.  This is a no-no and can constitute an employer-employee relationship if things go bad and lawyers get involved.

Secondly, you need to require (a) proof of Wisconsin licensure as a Dwelling Contractor, and you can check this yourself at the DSPS website at https://app.wi.gov/licensesearch.  You should also require that your contractor provide a copy of his or her liability insurance for your project files.  Make sure that you check the expiration date.

Wisconsin requires that Dwelling Contractors show proof of insurance or file a $25,000 surety bond with the state as proof of financial security.  Your best bet is to require that liability insurance certificate, because a surety bond will not do much good if someone falls off the roof and breaks a leg.  When that happens, people tend to sue everyone in sight, and you need to be protected from that.

This also calls into play how your company is organized and the protections that you have set up, including your own liability insurance.  If you’re in an LLC (typically recommended), be sure that the operating LLC for your rehabs is not the same company that’s holding any rental properties, or they are potentially exposed to reach-through liability if something happens in the rehab company.

As always, I’m not a lawyer or an accountant and, even though I’ve seen them on T.V., I wouldn’t dare advise you on what to do except to tell you to go get a good attorney and accountant to set all this stuff up for your company or companies.

If you’d like to find out more about all this stuff, drop in on our Real Estate Investor Blueprint informational dinner meeting on September 20th where we talk about the topics that we cover.  Go here for information:  REI Blueprint Intro

 


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Shifting Gears a Little

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We’ve been talking about safety over the last couple of these little chats, which is under the risk umbrella of “liability”, so I’ll hang here under that cover for a little bit.  First of all, if you’ve got an established entity, probably an LLC, you’ve already started the basic requirements of liability protection.

If you’re touring a vacant OR an occupied property and “something happens”, your first level of defense is going to be your LLC which, by the way, assumes that you are visiting that property as someone doing business in that LLC.  So what kinds of things could possibly happen during a property visit?

Wow, well – any number of things, many of which you may not have caused, or inadvertently so.  Like turning on a light, but the fixture is shorted out and wires heat up and a slow-burning fire begins to smolder,  only to burst out long after you’re gone.  Did you do that?  Well, yeah – but did you cause it?

Or you test a kitchen sink and it’s difficult to turn on the faucet.  Finally, you get it to turn, but no water comes out, so you shut if off again.  However, something broke inside that faucet and long after you’re gone, water starts leaking and eventually turns into a massive flood.  Did you do that?  Cause it?

As you can see, there’s an unlimited number of wacky things that can happen that someone can attribute to your carelessness or neglect, and property owners may be looking for someone to blame.  Now, in these simple examples, homeowner’s insurance should cover it all, but what if there is no insurance, or the property is bank-owned or corporate-owned without that kind of insurance?

Another area of concern with occupied properties or properties that may be in a probate situation is that there may be valuable possessions in the property.  If you are someone that has gone through the property then something turns up missing, you could be called out, questioned, or charged with theft.

So having that LLC protection is a good start, but it may not be enough.  Talk to other investors and ask them about their Business Liability Insurance – who do they use and what kind of policy they have.  It may be something you’ll want to look into.

Over and above these “instruments” of protection, nothing does it better than common sense.  For example, while it may be fun to take friends and family members through properties that you are looking at, if they are not part of your LLC, it may not be a good idea.

And it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyways – you absolutely need to be above reproach when it comes to integrity and honesty.  It doesn’t matter if the property has been vacant 4 years and all of the owners are long gone, do NOT ever remove a single thing from a property until you own it.  Yes, we often see cool stuff just lying there, but until you own it, it’s still someone else’s stuff.  Period.

If you maintain the highest level of integrity and ethics in your dealings with everyone, whether they are watching or not, your business will be far better off.  And you’ll sleep better knowing that’s how you do things, whether it’s YOU or someone that works for you.  Be safe, be honest.


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Danger, Will Robinson!

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A select few of you will immediately know that unobscured reference to a favorite television show of the mid-to-late 1960’s called Lost In Space.  The show’s helpful robot was programmed to protect the young man of the family, Will Robinson, from the dangers around in their space travel.

But what if the only space you get lost in is that trashed-out vacant property?  Well, I’m here to tell you that there’s plenty of things to watch out for – plenty of danger – to you and anyone named Will in your party.  Continuing with the thread we started last week, let’s talk about a few more ways you need to be alert and careful when looking at these kinds of properties.

This warning does not generally apply to properties that are inhabited, as any dangers there would likely already be identified and, if not fixed, at least marked somehow.  So, we’ll focus on vacant properties that you may come across in your travels through space.

One of the most prevalent dangers of a vacant property is mold and toxins.  It’s remarkable how fast a property degrades when people leave, and many times this is because when humans move out, critters move in.  Most critters don’t abide by proper bathroom etiquette, so their biological output goes just about anywhere, and frequently everywhere.

When these bad boys and girls move it, they generally don’t knock either – they love chewing through soffit, fascia, or even roofing to get in.  Of course, that kind of damage also lets something else come in quite freely – the rain.  And soaking wet drywall, studs, carpeting, and other building materials are ideal breeding grounds for black mold.

Mold is everywhere, but when it’s allowed to proliferate and grow, it’s starts showing up as dark spots on surfaces.  I once toured a property where one wall by a leaking roof looked like it was wallpapered with black fur.  Yes, that is quite frightening.

You can protect yourself to a large degree from these things by wearing a respirator.  If you get into a property where basic respirator technology is insufficient – get out.  In particular, and this is really important, if you find yourself in a Meth lab property, run – don’t walk – to the nearest exit.  The only remediation for a Meth property is complete demolition and soil-incineration.

In many cases, a particulate nuisance mask like a 3M 8200, cat N95 is sufficient for dusts and light mold if you’re going to be in a property for under 30 minutes.  If the airborne toxins are strong or really offensive, you may want to step up to a cartridge-style unit like the 3M 6191 cat P100 that has two screw-on discs on either side of your face.

Any of these half-face style masks only protect you against inhaled irritants; they will not stop gasses or vapors, and if you encounter a property that would require something serious, you should reconsider even looking at that property.  There are plenty more in better condition, and the costs of repair of such properties may be prohibitive.

The bottom line is simply this: use common sense when walking through vacant properties, and be vigilant for lurking dangers like mold, animal feces, structural problems or that cunning Dr. Smith.


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